Breaking of the Storm

The sun is finally starting to show its beautiful face again. We are getting small fleeting smiles from the sky before clouds drift in front again to continue the dismal grayness that colours today. Here in the Niagara region of southern Ontario we were very fortunate to have escaped the wrath of Sandy (A.K.A. Frankenstorm.) We had our fair share of rain, definitely, and high winds that whipped trees around as though they were licorice. I haven’t seen much in the way of damage or downed trees today while doing a few errands. I wonder if this is due to the last nasty windstorm we had in April 2011 that seemed to uproot and rid this area of weak or vulnerable trees. The region lost many trees in a day and schools were evacuated due to high winds. We even had a tree fall on our house almost directly above where I was sitting at the time. It was frightening…but I am getting off track.

Last night we were as prepared as we could have been under the circumstances. Most of the prep went unused, thankfully. The only thing used was the chilled beer and sadly, the submersible pump. The pump is still being used as I type. Nothing drastic, just a bit of water coming up through the drain in the laundry room floor from  supersaturation  of the ground due to how quickly and heavily the rain came. Nothing was damaged since the laundry room is a simple concrete floor and the water only surrounded the drain. The amount of rainfall in the time span was unusual so really, no surprise that water backed up. Thankfully it was a minute amount compared to what many others have experienced over the past few days.

This morning I took a few pictures through the windows of our house. You don’t think I was going to go stand out in the pouring rain and wind, did you? The photos, although not top-notch, give an idea of how the rain was pounding on the house. The colour of the sky is accurate and the pictures were taken mid to late morning. It felt as though it was evening it was so dark and dreary.

Sandy

Sandy/Frankenstorm

Frankenstorm

My favorite tree toughing it out.

My favorite tree toughing it out.

Driving rain on the walkway

Rain on the Front Walkway – I think I can put the garden hose away now.

Winter-ready Back Garden Being Hammered by Rain and Wind

I am very grateful that we made it through Sandy/Frankenstorm relatively unscathed as did friends and family. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those that were not as fortunate to escape the wrath of this storm.

I am sure many of you have seen some of these photos already. I included them to show the severity of this storm. See photos here: Affects of Sandy captured by others can be seen in these few photos.

This was yet another example of the power of Nature.

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”     Aristotle

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Frankenstorm!

What to expect…? It really is a mystery. We are told to be prepared for emergency conditions due to high winds and heavy rain here in Southern Ontario. This link  is the most comprehensive report thus far that I have come across today.

 

FrankenStorm on its way!

 

I have checked out the National Hurricane Center, Environment Canada and Emergency Management Ontario as well as The Weather Network looking for more detail. One source says huge amounts of rain, another states not much rain but heavy winds, and yet another warns of power outages. I don’t think I will be taking any chances. Better safe than sorry and all of the other clichés. Now I’m all worked up! OK , not really.  Mother Nature will do whatever she is going to do whether I stress out or not. I think I will just do the one thing I can do that I learned as a young girl in Girl Guides…Be Prepared. That’s really all that anyone can do.

At this point the following  things have been completed:

Rechargeable batteries and flashlights are ready to be called into action.

Extra water has been filtered and set aside.

Submersible pump is standing at the ready (fingers crossed that it never gets used).

Lawn furniture has been put into the garage or tucked away in safe spots.

Firewood has been brought inside.

A warm blanket set aside and beer chilled for drinking in front of the fire. I know, red wine would be preferable but I’m not about to make another trip out anywhere.

Car fueled up  because we all know that petrol prices rise out of control for any reason imaginable.

 

 

Hopefully the approaching “FrankenStorm” will not be as serious as predicted and there will be no further damage due to hurricane Sandy. My heart goes out to all those that have been affected by this storm already.

 

At this point, the wind gusts are starting to increase and the rain is steady after being sporadic throughout the day. Stay safe and use your common sense folks.

 

 

“Weather is a great metaphor for life — sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella.” ~Terri Guillemets

What IS Health?

I have been doing some deep thinking as of late. Thinking about quality of life in regard to health. What is health, I ask myself. How does my idea of being healthy differ from how others define this state. This forced me to dig a bit deeper as to what being healthy means. I came to the conclusion that being healthy is a compilation of many things. It is not as simple as “feeling good” since that state can be attained by unhealthy means in some cases. So, what have I come up with in regards to the definition of being healthy?

 

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”~World Health Organization, 1948

Proper fuel:  Without proper nutrition we become run down quickly and in some instances cause much more harm than good. I am of the train of thought that the closer to nature that we eat , and supplement, the more our body has to work with. When we pollute ourselves with junk food, our body spends time trying to deal with the invading pollution instead of necessary maintenance and renewal. By ingesting mainly quality fuel we are being diligent in preventing many conditions that are food-related.

 

Movement:  Just move it! The more I move, the better I feel. It’s not rocket science.  Every little bit counts. I move a lot as a gardener when I am at work so I count these hours as part of my physical fitness time. I certainly feel way better lifting heavy objects, digging, planting, dragging, stretching, and so much more than I do when I am being stationary. Hard work is good for the body…and the soul.

 

Brain games:  Exercising the brain is essential to being alert and “with it”. Reading a lot keeps my brain active as well. No fluff reading here – I want solid material not the literary equivalent of a wet paper bag. I would hope that word and math games assist my brain in being in great shape. I would like to think of my brain as pumped, not limp.

 

image courtesy of Yahoo images

 

Spiritual practices:  I consider myself a spiritual, not religious, individual. Spirituality is unique to each individual and very personal.  I am not a fan of debate in this area for this reason. Spirituality is not about foisting your beliefs on someone else, it is about believing in something bigger than yourself and being a part of the flow of existence.  Being spiritual is instrumental to great health, I think. It encourages us to not be solely self-focused which can become detrimental to many other areas of our lives. Being in Nature helps me feel centered spiritually. All around us there is incredible life  going on in nature instinctively.

 

Positive thinking:  This is one of the greatest predictors of  being truly healthy. How we view everything around us or the things that affect us can either cause negative, stress-inducing reactions or positive  response. Stress = discomfort. No thank you! You know me – I love to try to stay positive!

 

Love:  Yes, I said love. We kind of throw the word around a lot. For instance “oh, I love that dress!” Not exactly what I had in mind when I said love. Love connects us to others through emotional channels. When we open our hearts by loving another we feel positive and joyous. Love can also be felt as a peaceful acceptance of existence. Allowing our soul to be in the moment and our thoughts to be gentle and accepting without being  judgmental. When our thoughts are bathed in loving energy we allow ourselves  to love and be loved with less resistance.

 

“The power of love to change bodies is legendary, built into folklore, common sense, and everyday experience. Love moves the flesh, it pushes matter around…. Throughout history, “tender loving care” has uniformly been recognized as a valuable element in healing.” ~Larry Dossey

Down-time: No person is an island, or something like that. If we are constantly running around stressing ourselves out we are not allowing ourselves the down time that we need…or deserve. I am not suggesting that becoming a couch potato is where it’s at, I am merely promoting some time spent relaxing.

 

Friendship: Feeling connected with others is a wonderful feeling. When we surround ourselves with others that are caring, fun individuals we gain the great benefit of camaraderie. The spirit of friendship  is a healthy state to find yourself. It is therapeutic. Next time you are feeling stressed out, have a friend or two over and be silly…you will feel like a weight has lifted. There is a special comfort zone with a fabulous friend that you just won’t find anywhere else. Your health depends on close friendships with others.

 

Life-long friendship is a gift.

 

Play: Please include play into your personal health regime.  Jump in a pile of leaves, go bowling, see if you can still jump rope like you used to, have a snowball fight…whatever you feel like at the moment. Laughter keeps us youthful and in touch with who we are. No need to be all stiff all the time – smiling and laughing makes everyone more beautiful; inside and out.

 

Yes, that’s me having fun, fun, fun!

 

In my mental quest for my personal definition of health, these are the areas I feel are imperative. I am certain that more will be added along my life path and my hours of mental musings. So, enjoy great health by giving your body, mind and spirit the respect they deserve. Health isn’t merely being free of disease – it is about living each moment to its fullest and being proactive!

 

 

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

The Menu

To follow-up the Thanksgiving themed posts, I will wrap it all up with one last post…the menu. Sadly, I have no pics to add to this delicious food bonanza except a photo of the last piece of gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin pie. I think I will be making another pumpkin pie in the near future since this was such a hit.

The  Menu

Butternut Squash Soup

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Garlic Whipped Potatoes

Rutabaga

Homemade Stuffing (no boxed stuff here!)

Vegetarian Gravy

Herb Roasted Whole Chicken

Vegetarian Baked Beans

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie

Real Whipped Cream sweetened with Maple Syrup

Butternut Squash Soup

I never use a recipe for squash soup. Or most of the soups I make, for that matter. I start by heating up a couple tablespoons of oil in a large soup pot and add in a couple of medium-sized, chopped  onions. I saute the onions until they are just starting to brown slightly to give some added flavour. At this point I toss in an entire butternut squash (medium size) that has been skinned and cut into large pieces of about an inch or so cubed. Drop in one large sprig of fresh rosemary (you will remove the stem before blending soup) or remove leaves from stem and chop finely. Pour approximately 8-10 cups of vegetarian stock into the soup pot and simmer for approximately 45 minutes to an hour until the squash is very tender. At this point, puree in small batches in the blender until very creamy and smooth or use an immersion blender. The silkier the soup, the better. This soup can be made to serve immediately or even a day prior to serving. I think the soup tastes better the longer it rests.

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts

I really love Brussel sprouts. They have always been one of my favourite foods but until recently I have always had them served boiled. My sister made them a couple of years ago sautéed and caramelized with brandy. Oh…my…GOSH! I learned to love them even more!  I have made them since then a few times following her method but for Thanksgiving dinner I simply steamed them in a saute pan then removed the lid, added a bit of ghee and let them do their thing until they were nicely golden and sweet. Mmm, mmm,mmm.

Roasted Garlic Whipped Potatoes

Early on the morning I would be needing the roasted garlic I sliced of the top off of  a head of garlic, set it  on a square of foil, poured a bit of olive oil over top and sprinkled with  freshly ground black pepper. I then wrapped the foil tightly around the garlic and popped it in the toaster oven until it was fragrant and soft. I set it aside until dinner prep time when I squeezed all of the luscious soft cloves from the bulb and dropped them into the pot of cooked and drained potatoes.   I got busy and whipped the potatoes and garlic  with vegetarian stock instead of milk and butter to make them lighter and much easier on my figure.

Rutabaga

Yummy, sweet rutabaga…how I love thee. Usually I hear mass rebellion at the presence of rutabaga at our table so I don’t serve it often. I decided to go “old school” and boil and mash it but with the twist of real Canadian maple syrup and ghee added instead of butter and brown sugar as my mom prepares it. The kids decided that rutabaga can be delicious so I will no longer have the entire bowl to myself. For this, I am grateful.

Homemade Stuffing

Of course the recipe for stuffing that I have made in the past that I love had conveniently disappeared right before I needed it, so I had to wing it. A loaf of crusty, day old bread was ripped into bite-sized pieces and put into a 13 x 9 Pyrex dish. In a frying pan I sautéed cubed celery and onion until translucent then poured them over the bread.  I also added in herbs (dried thyme, marjoram,  as well as fresh chopped rosemary) , one egg, salt/pepper and some hot stock until it seemed moist but not sloppy and drowned. Stir everything around gently so the bread doesn’t turn into mush. The pan was covered with foil and put in the oven at 350*F for about 40 minutes. I then took off the foil to crisp the stuffing slightly for another 20 minutes or so. Watch that it doesn’t burn.

Vegetarian Gravy

Sometimes I add onions or mushrooms to gravy but I opted for no-fuss good old plain gravy that is certainly not boring. I start with either coconut oil or ghee and add about a tablespoon of quinoa flour into the hot pan and stir so as to not burn the flour. Once the flour starts to colour slightly, I add about 2 cups of vegetarian stock and stir with a whisk to remove any lumps. Stir until the gravy thickens. Voila…easy homemade gravy!

Herb Roasted Chicken

After acquiring a whole chicken, which wasn’t an easy task at a time when turkeys are all the rage. I am rather squeamish when it comes to dead animals so this was the tricky part for me. The bird was rinsed under running water then a mixture of dried herbs (fresh lemon thyme and rosemary), about four slices of lemon, and a couple of cloves of garlic were put into the cavity. I brushed melted butter oven the outside of the chicken for an extra layer of flavour. The chicken was lovingly placed into my cast iron casserole with lid and placed into the oven at 350*F for about and hour and 20 minutes. I had to hunt down the proper amount of time for cooking a whole chicken since it is not something I do regularly. I learned that a chicken needs to be cooked for 20 minutes per pound for a perfect roast chicken.  After the allotted cooking time, I removed the lid of the casserole dish to brown the skin slightly. The house was really smelling amazing at this point.

Vegetarian Baked Beans

After reading a fantastic post with a recipe for homemade baked beans by a fellow blogger, I knew I had to try her recipe. Wow, I’m so glad I did! It was scrumptious! You can check out her recipe here: Homemade Baked Beans.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie

This was another “first time” recipe for me and I am so glad I decided to give it a try! It was excellent and has already claimed a place in our Thanksgiving meal for next year. I highly recommend this recipe – Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie.

Real Whipped Cream Sweetened with Maple Syrup

Is there anything more nostalgic than pumpkin pie and whipped cream when it comes to Thanksgiving? Not in my mind there isn’t. To make my life easier I always use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer to do whipped cream. This way I can do my usual ten other things while the cream is being fluffed full of air. Pour the whipping cream into the mixing bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of real maple syrup (no fake maple-flavored crap here)  to the cream as well as about a half teaspoon of real vanilla extract then turn on the mixer and leave your hands free for other tasks. Once the whipped cream is the desired thickness turn off and place in a bowl for those around your table to serve themselves their desired amount instead of dolloping it on top of the whole pie before serving. I find the amount of whipped cream varies from person to person so allowing others to do their own is not only fun for the kids but for the adults too.

I have always found it curious that Canadian and American Thanksgiving celebrations are so far apart on the calendar.  I am looking forward to hearing how our friends to the South celebrate their Thanksgiving once it rolls around.


“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” ~Voltaire

Snippets in Time…Thanksgiving

I think this year’s Thanksgiving weekend ranks at the top of my Thanksgiving memories. The weather was incredibly beautiful and autumnal. One evening being cool and rainy was a great excuse to bundle up inside with a glass of red wine, a cozy blanket and an interesting documentary. What? I love a good documentary! Monday morning  the sunshine and crisp air beckoned us outside to get the garden prepped for winter. There was raking to be done and the removal of the veggie garden plants. The whole family chipped in on the task which made it so much more enjoyable. We had some good laughs while working as a team to accomplish a goal. Things went slightly awry when the kids thought it would be fun to chuck green “grounder” tomatoes at each other. They quickly realized it wasn’t as intelligent as originally thought once put into action. A learning lesson was had – being pummeled with green tomatoes is like having rocks thrown at you! Those shenanigans died down without me even having to pull out the “safety first” speech.

 


We indulged in our quiet Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday evening and reported to each other something we were thankful for. I stated that I had a few things on my list and was quickly shut down after three. Well! (Insert huffy breath here.) I was trying to keep it brief. I didn’t even ramble. I guess everyone was just incredibly thankful for the good and plentiful food set before them that waiting to consume it was a hardship.  I had prepared everything  healthier and  lighter with a  whole food mindset although I don’t think anyone even noticed that all the “unnecessary  stuff” was absent. All I heard was a resounding “thank you for a great dinner”. Chalk one more up for eating clean.

 

 

After mentioning in my last post that I would be making a wheat-free, dairy-free pumpkin pie there was some interest shown as to how it would turn out. Truthfully, it was delicious. I have made pumpkin pie in many variations over the years and I think this has to be one of my favourite methods. I didn’t feel that drive to overeat or the icky feeling from too rich of a dessert. I have tried everything from store-bought to tofu pumpkin pie to made from scratch using local pumpkins. This year’s was the winner! A co-worker/friend of mine came across the recipe and thought it looked like something I would be into so she posted it on my Facebook page. So glad she did…thank you.

 

 

There seemed to be a lot of kitchen activity this weekend and I even managed to stock the fridge with lunches and snacks for the next few days. We started the day yesterday with quinoa crepes with fresh, hot applesauce and real Canadian maple syrup… Mmmm. Yesterday I whipped up another new recipe to me – Banana Prune Cake. Very yummy and not too sweet. The prunes were supposed to be dates but I only had prunes so I substituted. Last night’s kitchen adventure was a speedy home-made hummus with extra garlic. Sorry to every one of you in advance that I am in close proximity to over the next few days. I pumped up the garlic amount in an effort to try to rid myself of the lingering sinus/ear annoyance I have been fighting for the past week.

 

 

All in all, this Thanksgiving was wonderful and reaffirming of the blessings of Life. Sharing healthy, delicious food, enjoying nature, and being with those I love has made beautiful memories and a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart.

 

“Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.”   – William James

Giving Thanks

Here in Canada, Thanksgiving weekend has arrived. I love this time of year. After Christmas I would have to say that Thanksgiving is my favourite “holiday”. The chill in the air, the delicious smells wafting from kitchens and the incredible autumnal colours. This year, Thanksgiving is shaping up to be different from in the past. I have decided to lie low this year and simply take it easy at home with my kids. No huge dinners, no crazy running around, and definitely no travelling on jam-packed highways for hours only to spend a few hours at a table stuffing ourselves silly. We are enjoying each others’ company and loving the simple things like raking the leaves together, choosing a pumpkin, and cranking the tunes and singing like lunatics. Good times.

Our Thanksgiving dinner this year is veering slightly from the traditional. After starting a healthier way of eating at the beginning of September, I am shaking things up a bit by losing the mass amounts of unnecessary sugar, wheat and dairy that usually accompany large meals.  Our Thanksgiving meal will start with a butternut squash soup followed by the main entrée. Instead of turkey, a whole chicken has been requested so I will be making a herb roasted chicken as well as homemade vegetarian baked beans for us veg-heads. The side dishes will be plentiful – carmelized Brussel sprouts, whipped garlic potatoes, rutabaga,  and homemade stuffing.  For dessert I have decided upon a gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin pie that my mouth starts to water at the thought of.  It sounds as though I will be busy in the kitchen slaving away. To me I am content and happy making healthy food to nourish my family. I have always felt that when we cook for our self and our family with love and kindness in our heart the food we prepare will be nurturing and full of love.

I have so much to be thankful for this year. I won’t bore you with my list that goes on, and on…and on.  Instead I will turn the corners of my mouth up into a smile and let my heart be wide open with love and gratitude for the goodness that I have been blessed with.

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”  – Henry Van Dyke