Life of a Bee

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“The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.”

– Jacques Yves Cousteau

 

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“The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.” 

– Saint Francis de Sales

 

Summer of Revelations

I have learned a lot this summer. About myself and life in general. I’d say that I am sad that summer is coming to a close but that would be a lie. I am elated at the prospect of change. Change of the season to Autumn, change of daily routine, and change in temperature. I respond well to change, I think. It keeps me on my toes and makes everything  fresh!

 

 

I never thought of myself as a Being of Summer. Boy, how things have changed. The heat and humidity are not high on the fun-factor scale for me but I can deal with it which I never used to be able to. This summer I have developed the look I always sought when younger but could never accomplish; hair bleached by the sun, tanned limbs and absorbing vitamin D in the form of sunshine like nobody’s business! This really hit home when my Grannie said to me a week or so ago, “You are definitely an outdoor girl.”  I used to be the girl who hid from the sun to keep my  pale skin from freckling and turning the shade of a cooked lobster. Now I work in the sunshine daily and am trying to be smart about precautions while maintaining reality. I certainly don’t spend my days off laying in the sun!

 

 

“I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things…

I play with leaves.

I skip down the street

and run against the wind.”

– Leo Buscaglia

Yesterday, I realized something quite extraordinary – I am only twelve pounds away from the weight I was throughout high school! Mind you, after having two children, the joy of passing time, and working a very physically-demanding job my body shape has changed significantly (for the better, I think). So, I plan on saying goodbye to those clinging twelve pounds before the end of this work season and accomplishing a task I had never thought was all that important until now since I am so very close to accomplishing it. Weight in terms of the scale is not all that important to me but how my body responds to exertion through work and play is paramount. I have become strong and more defined muscle-wise over the past two work seasons and am liking how I feel! I intend to keep getting better in terms of health and strength. My lazy and uninspired days are behind me.

The other day something occurred to me when I was listening to an acquaintance talking. This individual had mentioned how difficult and time-consuming it was to be environmentally friendly. WHAT? This came as a shock to me as it was in that moment I suddenly realized that I basically run on autopilot when it comes to issues of environmental responsibility. Sure, I’m not perfect and I sometimes make poor decisions but overall I feel responsible for my actions and have integrated this thinking into the every day so it is the norm in my world. It seems so archaic and offensive not to care about the planet we all share and its inhabitants. I seriously don’t understand the unconcerned mindset.

 

 

One of the biggest revelations this summer has been that sometimes, there is no going back home. Recently I went back to my hometown to visit family and friends. I quickly realized that this may be their home but it is no longer mine; I am merely a visitor. At first this thought made me uncomfortable so I dug a bit deeper to understand the reason for my discomfort. I think part of the parcel is that my parents are aging (as we all are) and I have moved in a different direction as offspring are supposed to do. When I first moved away from home at the age of 19 to St. Catharines, I knew no one here. It was not only an adventure but it was sometimes lonely and scary until I made friends and connected with others. Luckily, this was only a matter of days that I wound up in the company of good people. This city has become my home over the years and has replaced my hometown as the place I identify with. I no longer consider myself a Peterborough girl  and this puts a bit of a lump in my throat. Honestly though, the Niagara Region has opened its arms wide with welcome and I am now enfolded in its embrace. I love living here!

 

 

This summer has also shown me more of the incredible natural beauty that surrounds us here in the Niagara Region. We have such a diverse landscape that is teaming with incredible natural wonders. The Niagara Region is tucked between two of the Great Lakes – Lake Ontario (I live on the south shore) and Lake Erie. There are over 200 walking, hiking and cycling trails to be enjoyed and shared with incredible flora and fauna at every step. The Region has created many naturalized sites to encourage wildlife to do its thing and give a safe haven for many species. One of my favorite hikes/walks is up the escarpment by Niagara College. It has a feeling of such intense history to be with these particular trees and rocks and gives an all-encompassing feeling of being a part of Nature not just an outsider looking in. These photos were taken in the late Fall a couple years ago but the escarpment is beautiful in every season.

 

 

 

One of my favorite walking trails on the Niagara Escarpment

One of my favorite walking trails on the Niagara Escarpment

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Within a short walking distance from my home is the Welland Canal. Even though I’ve lived in St. Catharines half of my life I still find the Canal interesting. It is fascinating that these huge freighters and  sea-going ships make their way through a system of locks up the Niagara Escarpment. For a brief description of the Welland Canal see this link. When my kids were itty-bitty, they used to love to go sit at the locks with me and watch as the ships went through. They were thrilled to bits when the workers on the massive ships would wave to them. Recently I have visited the Canal again a few times and realized that it doesn’t matter how old or young you are or where you come from the Welland Canal is an incredible feat of engineering.

 

 

I’m sure I need not dwell on the prominence of wineries in this region but seriously, they are worth a visit and the trip along the wine route. Wineries play a huge supporting role in the area’s mindset and activities. Good food and great wine are the specialties of an area filled with orchards, farms and vineyards. It’s easy to eat well here.

 

 

Another huge revelation for me and I think the most important of all – I need to live the life I envision for myself. We all have dreams, desires and are called deep from within our Soul to certain places, people and actions. Respecting someone else’s dream is essential to living our own.

 

 

Learning to love the Life we have and moving forward instead of stagnating or going backward is on my mind. I see movement in my future…I strive for joy each and every day through learning new Truths…to treat myself and others with kindness…to appreciate all that is on offer.

 

 

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open

where there were only walls.”

– Joseph Campbell

 

 

 

I Dream of Gardens

 

 

I am in a gardening frame of mind at present. I eat, breathe and sleep gardens during the summer months. Yes, I even dream of plants in my slumber. I am always grateful to get dirty and breathe fresh air.

 

 

Last weekend I felt the urge to get out into a garden that I could savor its beauty with no strings attached. To walk among the greenery, stop to smell whatever flower caught my eye, and sit still and let my senses lap up all that was on offer.  I figured that the best location to do this was at the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden that is about a fifteen minute drive on the highway from my house. I hadn’t been in this particular garden for a few years so I thought it was high time I check it out again. I am never disappointed by the gorgeous planters and urns that dot the walkways. They are a symphony of colour and textures that are pleasing to behold. Despite the plethora of planters, my timing was not great since many of the show gardens, the rose garden in particular, had just finished blooming and had been recently dead-headed. The Parks had planned well and planted adjacent flower beds with eye-popping colour in hopes of detracting away from the blah vista of non-blooming rose bushes. Candy-coloured annuals distracted me from disappointment.

 

 

There is one area in particular in this 100 acre property that calls to me through the treetops and beckons me to make a beeline directly into its inner sanctum – the herb garden. This garden is walled by cedar hedges that were planted in the 1940’s and still stand, perfectly manicured to create not only a mini micro-climate but also creates the feel of an outdoor room that quite honestly, I would be more than happy to stay in for hours.

Herb Garden

Herb Garden

 

 

 

After the herb garden, a nice stroll through the arboretum was in order. Don’t you just love the cool shade beneath the trees? My inner child wants to run from one shady spot to the next by the feel of the shades’ coolness alone while the sun shines in my eyes.

 

 

arboretum

arboretum

 

If you plan on visiting the Niagara Region, I highly recommend both the Butterfly Conservatory and the Botanical Gardens on your list of places to see.  Who knows, you may even bump into me taking in the gardens in every season!

For more info on the botanical gardens, visit this link.

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

 

 

I bid you farewell and many enjoyable hours in the sunshine!

“When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.”
– Minnie Aumonier 

If only…

 

 

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Despite the heat and humidity that envelops us at the moment, there is so much bounty to enjoy at this time of the year. If only I could stop a little longer and rest by this beautiful pond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Be like the flower, turn your face to the sun.”
— Kahlil Gibran

 

Visiting History in Niagara

Yesterday, my daughter and I took a few hours and zipped over to one of our local gems…Niagara-on-the-Lake. This quaint little town is a bustling zone of tourists this time of year which adds a bit more fun to the whole adventure. There were a few large groups of tourists there yesterday that seemed to want to huddle in the middle of the sidewalks, talking excitedly to each other or listening as their tour guide and interpreter gave them the historical low-down on the area. All the milling people gave me the opportunity to stop wherever I wanted, look like a tourist myself, and take a few pictures. The Niagara area is steeped in rich history. There is far too much to cover in one post but I will touch on the history of the region every so often so make sure you follow me so as to not miss a thing.

 

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake has had a few different names in its past, the first of them being Butlersburg after Colonel John Butler. Col. John Butler was a fascinating man who was both worshipped and despised. He and his son were known as “the devils of Niagara” by  Americans for generations. Butlersburg was later changed to Newark in 1781 when it became  a British military site and safe zone for Loyalists fleeing from the United Stated during the aftermath of the American Revolution. Once again changing its name, the town became known as Niagara. Niagara became the first capital of Upper Canada (now Ontario) and the site of the first provincial parliament in 1792. During the War of 1812 the parliament was moved to York which is now known as Toronto.  During the War of 1812, Niagara was a central location. The town of Niagara was captured by American forces and burned to the ground.  The citizens of Niagara braved the storm and rebuilt the town. The main buildings were rebuilt out of the firing range of the cannons across the Niagara River at Fort Niagara. Yet another name change occurred in the 1880’s to its present name of Niagara-on-the-Lake. If you are interested in British-Canadian-United States history, then Niagara-on-the-Lake should definitely be on your list of places to visit.

 

 

 

In honour of Colonel John Butler, this tablet can be found in St. Mark’s Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“Fear God
Honour the King
In Memory of Colonel John Butler
A sincere Christian as well as a brave soldier he was one of the founders and the first patron of this parish.”

Ontario Historical Plaque
Lieutenant-Colonel John Butler 1725-1796
By the end of the American Revolution John Butler’s loyalist corps, supported by British regulars and native allies, had effectively contributed to the establishment of British control in the Great Lakes region. After the disbanding of Butler’s Rangers in 1784, many of the men, including Butler himself, settled in the Niagara peninsula.

The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is a fusion of historical references and the bounty of the wine region that surrounds it. The Shaw Festival plays a pivotal role in the fabric of the community as well. There are grand homes of by-gone times that are lovingly restored and maintained as well as original inns and pubs known to be frequented by ghostly visitors. One of my favorites is the Prince of Wales Hotel that sits on one of the main corners of the Old Town. It’s too bad that yesterday was a rainy, overcast day and I only had my Blackberry to capture a few sights.

Prince of Wales Hotel, NOTL

Prince of Wales Hotel, NOTL

 

 

 

 

The Prince of Wales Hotel and the horse-drawn carriages are a beautiful representation of the history of the Town. Just up the street the wine industry makes itself known with the Shaw Café & Wine Bar. I must say, it always seems to be busy. I love the way the “new” presents itself in such a way as to blend in to the “old” to keep the image of the town historically quaint.

 

 

Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar

Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar

 

 

The rich history of the Niagara Region leaves me breathless sometimes. The realization that the area I have the luxury of living in is one of political and personal passion  for freedom as well as a battleground of war is almost surreal. Today the Niagara Region is known for our incredible wine and food industries as well as the gorgeous natural settings that surrounds us.

 

 

One of my favourite aspects of Niagara-on-the-Lake in the summertime is the copious amounts of flowers that the town is adorned with. Hanging baskets, gardens along the sidewalks, window boxes on many of the storefronts and a median down the centre of the streets that are filled to over-flowing with colourful blossoms. It is like candy for the eyes!

 

 

 

Sidewalk flower garden

Sidewalk flower garden

 

 

 

One of the flowerbeds contained this showy number – Brugmansia suaveolens. My heart skipped a beat when I spotted this specimen. I know, I know…I’m a plant nerd. It stunned me how many people walked by without noticing it until I stopped to take a photo. After taking my time inspecting this plant I turned to notice how many others were behind me admiring the plant’s beauty. Sometimes we are all so oblivious to the world around us that until we take note of someone else’s actions we miss the beauty around us. This majestic plant was putting on a show while no one was watching, simply for itself.

 

 

 

 

Brugmansia suaveolens

Brugmansia suaveolens

 

 

 

 

Brugmansia suaveolens

Brugmansia suaveolens

 

 

 

After a wonderful walk in the drizzly rain, scoping out the stupendous specimens along the way and the plethora of little shops we headed home while munching on one of my purchases…a bag of British-import Guinness potato chips.

 

 

On this Canada Day long weekend, I think of the history of not just the area I live but of the Nation I call “home” and all that came before.

 

 

 

 

 

“The upward course of a nation’s history is due in the long run to the soundness of heart of its average men and women.” – Queen Elizabeth II 

 

 

 

MidSummer’s Eve

This past Sunday, three of my fabulous co-workers and I had the opportunity to volunteer for a garden party event  for the Niagara Symphony Orchestra. What a day we had! It has been a long time since I have both volunteered and been immersed in the classical music scene. I loved the uniqueness of everyone we met throughout the evening. So much for the cliché of orchestra audiences being stuffy. These music lovers were wild with passion for the arts! I was intrigued by the colourful outfits, hats and the beautiful smiles that everyone brought with them. I felt very honored to volunteer at an event that nurtures the love of music.

I have included a brief video clip by CogecoTV (a local channel). This gives some background about the event and the Niagara Symphony Orchestra (NSO). * Just a side note – at 3:38 in the clip I am walking across the background. I look like I was on a mission! Eyes peeled for the navy blue long dress and blonde hair darting across the background headed to the back right. Woo hoo! I’m on TV!

Midsummer’s Eve

The lovely ladies I work with and myself had the task of putting together arrangements of peonies for the tables as well as looking after raffle ticket sales and being spotters during the auction. Each of these jobs made for a fun day. The peonies were gorgeous large blossoms that were oh so fragrant.

Midsummer's Eve Peonies

Midsummer’s Eve Peonies

Appetizers and dinner were prepared by chef Oscar Turchi of Savoia in St. Catharines, ON.  My mouth still waters thinking about how amazing everything was. OK, Ronni and I were less than impressed by the goat’s cheese appetizers, I must be honest. We thought we’d break out and try to be adventurous. I actually had a hard time swallowing it without gagging. It wasn’t the appetizer itself but the fact that I know I don’t like goat cheese but thought I’d try it again anyway. I know now that sometimes I don’t have to try, try again until I like something. How Chef Oscar and his staff managed to pump out the amount of food they did in such a short time while working from a tent is beyond me. Kudos to the chef and his team! All of the food and beverages were top-notch. Here is the menu featuring the companies who provided each item which was presented at our place setting:

Midsummer's Eve Menu

Midsummer’s Eve Menu

The evening wrapped up with a performance by the NSO which was beautifully executed. The sound under the tents made for a unique listening experience. Close to the end of the performance people were starting to get a bit fidgety since the mosquitos started to come out for dinner in full force. Slap! – scratchy-scratchy. The next morning I noticed that I certainly got my fair share of bites. The only drawback to the day , other than the mosquitos, was the excruciating heat and humidity. I was flushed from the heat and feeling as though I was melting. I know I wasn’t alone by the amount of programmes that were fanning the attendees and the comments by my friends. I was relieved to lay down in air-conditioned splendour at the end of the evening, that’s for sure!

The Midsummer’s Eve event was made a success by many people but there were a few that worked tirelessly to make this event truly memorable for all.

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

Sunscreen Dilemma

Lately, I have been thinking a LOT about sunscreen. To wear, or not to wear…that is the question.

 

 

The scale inside my brain is balancing slightly to the side of “not to wear”. Here is my logic as to why there is some confusion. My entire life I have not had a great track record of gorgeous tanned skin. A few folk refer to me as Ghost Girl because I have an extremely pale skin tone. I scare even myself in fluorescent lit change rooms with the blinding whiteness that is not my arms, neck and face. Fluorescent lighting is extremely unforgiving. As you have probably gathered, I am a rather health conscious individual that questions every product I allow into my home or on my body. Of course, I make a few exceptions here and there but only after knowing what I am dealing with. I am not paranoid but I choose to be informed. I question why sunscreen usage increases while skin cancer rates continue to climb. Should the outcome not be that skin cancer rates drop as sunscreen use increases? Therefore, sunscreen and all its pros and cons weighs heavily on my radar.

 

 

 

I am not interested in dealing with skin cancer. Let this be known. I knew someone when I was a teen that had part of both ears removed due to skin cancer and this really scared the ever-loving out of me. It made me aware of the risk factors that I am dealing with as a pasty, white girl who historically turns lobster red after 30 minutes in the sun. I slathered on sunscreen like nobody’s business through my 20’s, making myself even whiter than I’m naturally predisposed. Not a good look.

 

 

 

Unluckily for me, I am in a medium to high risk group for skin cancer.

 

Fair Skin  Having less melanin in my skin gives me less protection from UV radiation. Not only do I have fair skin, I also have light blue eyes, freckle easily, and burn easily. Strike one.

 

 

History of Sunburns  Childhood sunburns that resulted in severe burning and blistering. Yup, had a few of those. Strike two.

 

 

Excessive Sun Exposure  I spend a considerable amount of my time outdoors in the sun at work. I do try to find shady spots whenever possible but that isn’t always an option. Strike three.

 

 

Sunny and/or High Altitude Climate  I can scratch this off my risk list. Phew! Yes, it is sunny here in southern Ontario but not like it is closer to the equator that’s for sure.

 

 

Moles  I have my fair share of freckles but no moles. Another all-clear.

 

 

Family History  Another risk factor bites the dust.

 

 

Weakened Immune System  I work hard at keeping my immune system strong through healthy eating, stress relieving meditation, fresh air and supplementation.

 

 

Exposure to Certain Substances  Substances such as arsenic and certain pesticides. These aren’t always as easy to avoid as we would like. Even being vigilant within my own home, there are still those in our communities that don’t take these risks seriously and put everyone else at risk.  This risk factor is a tricky one.

 

 

How do you rate on the risk factor list? Do you take the risk of skin cancer seriously?

 

 

Now that risk for skin cancer has been determined I find myself reaching for a 50+ UVA/UVB sunscreen only to stop mid-reach to question the efficacy of such products.

 

I question the ingredients in each sunscreen. Yes, there are harmful ingredients in many sunscreens on the market. Just because it is on the store shelf does NOT make it unquestionably safe. It is when we start to question the safety of ingredients that the world of hidden substances starts to become apparent. Think back a few years to when it became a talked about subject that oxybenzone in sunscreen may mimic estrogen. While both sides of this argument have a valid point, I always cringe when I hear the FDA or medical community say “there is no solid proof to suggest it is not safe.” Um, I am curious where the solid proof to suggest its complete safety is then. Another questionable ingredient is retinyl palmitate. This is used as a stabilizer and has anti-aging qualities but can make skin more sensitive to the sun and may actually promote skin cancer. Like other consumers, I find this confusing and frankly, quite maddening. Isn’t the whole point of sunscreen to protect?

 

 

What about the fact that some researchers say sunscreens with octinoxate, oxybenzone, parabens, or camphor derivatives are killing hard corals which could negatively impact biodiversity and reef ecosystems? I don’t want to inadvertently cause damage to marine life while trying to protect my skin! There has to be a better way.

 

 

 

26 seconds

 

 

 

UVA/UVB Issue  UVA rays are present all year round. While UVB rays are responsible for sunburns, UVA radiation damages the underlying skin cells to cause premature aging, sun spots, and that leathery looking skin that honestly, who would want? So although sunburns are no treat (and I know from numerous experiences), premature aging due to cell damage is very unpalatable as well.

 

 

Chemicals + Heat = baked in exposure! Not only does everything you put on your body’s largest organ (that’s right, your skin) get absorbed within seconds but combine that with the heat treatment from the sun and we are literally basting ourselves with chemicals or unknown substances.

 

 

Skin Function  Our skin is an amazing organ. I am curious as to how well it performs its job of heating/cooling effectively, ridding our body of toxins and being receptive to detecting threats such as pain or insects and other assaults due to numbing our sensors (hair and follicle reception of unwanted things) while slathered in goop and the hair stuck to the skin.

 

 

Discomfort  I can withstand some discomfort in the name of safety and wellness but seriously, try to slather on a second (or third) application of sunscreen to skin covered in grass clipping, dirt, and mulch bits and sweat.

 

 

 

I continue on my quest for the perfect solution to the sunscreen debate. I now wear coconut oil on my face mixed with a tinted moisturizer made with organic ingredients. This keeps my face from drying out and/or becoming seriously sunburned. As for the rest of my exposed flesh I struggle with the idea of slapping on a product that I am uncomfortable with. I go between a few sunscreens that I am alright with but I still question long-term safety. I will always be on the lookout for an optimal skin protection regime and question, question, question everything I come across. It’s in my nature, I can’t help it.

“I was raised with the notion that it is OK to ask questions, and it was OK to say, I’m not sure.” – Peter Jennings

Garden Goddess Strikes Again

It’s that time of year again! The annual planting of my veggie garden. My green thumbs are twitching and I’m ready to get dirty…again.

 

 

 

Last weekend, I made the trek to the “local” heirloom plant sale and stocked up. There were a few things that I couldn’t get my hands on like kale, so I am still on the hunt for a few items. Fingers crossed that I’ll find good quality heirloom plants. The garden centres seem to be either picked over, sold out, or they lost mass amounts of plants due to the frost we had last week. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled.

 

 

 

In order to prep the garden, I needed a rototiller. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to ask the neighbour that helped me last year. This year I wanted to do it myself. It looked like to fun of an opportunity to pass up. Who doesn’t like crazy, loud engines attached to tines that clutch hungrily at the soil? I just couldn’t resist the temptation. The last time I used a rototiller was in Horticulture college. It was not a positive experience, although I did laugh like crazy when a friend of mine wanted to be the first to take a crack at it. Having no clue what she was doing she quickly lost control and was dragged along behind it. I seem to remember that being the last time I ever saw my beautiful, off-white fisherman sweater…she had borrowed it. This year’s garden prep was the perfect opportunity for me to have at it. Luckily, I have a fan-flippin’-tastic boss that just happened to have a rototiller I could borrow. I was in luck! This machine kicks butt! I seriously need one!

 

 

 

The Machine That Won My Heart

The Machine That Won My Heart

*if you look to the right of the rototiller you can see my new spade mentioned in a previous post (that I did not dance late into the night with).

 

 

 

The only problem with me having a rototiller of my own would be that I would feel the need to dig up every bit of unused space on my property. Plus, I’d like to be less petrol-dependent so this would be seriously counter-productive.

 

 

 

Let me just say that the time I spent rototilling the garden has been the most fun I’ve had all week. And I’ve had a good week so far. Is that sad?

 

 

 

I worked up a serious sweat working in this crazy heat we’ve been having. It’s been above 32 degrees Celsius the last couple days. I thought it would be great to go with  breezy, wavy beach hair this morning which was not well thought out. My hair is super thick as it is so this made it even thicker feeling. Looked great before I started gardening though. I tried an easy  beach wave spray recipe that uses sea salt, coconut oil, water and hair gel. Oh…my…gosh. Why this is a good idea while hot out I won’t ever understand. It made me even hotter. I will not be hanging out on a beach after spraying my hair with this concoction, let me tell you. Mind you, I don’t normally hang out on beaches anyway since sand in my bathing suit makes me cranky.  This hair technique must be reserved for days when I will be trying to sport a carefree look while in air conditioning.

 

 

 

Soft soil after rototilling

Soft soil after rototilling

 

 

 

 

It took me all of about 15 seconds to figure out proper tilling technique and get serious. The soil in the garden is now so fluffy that it is simply dreamy. I was able to smooth it flat(ish) with a leaf rake afterward. That’s how soft it is. This is temporary since soon enough it will be tamped down by rain, walking around in it, and settling. I must get my vegetable plants in the ground when the soil is perfect. Not only does it make my life easier but the plants get a great start at getting their roots going with as little resistance as possible. I guess you know what I’ll be doing later this afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.”  ~Mirabel Osler

Beginning My Clean Food Journey

photo: agricultureresource.com

An incredible woman who is a dear friend of mine decided it was time for her to go further on her quest for great health through clean eating. She put it out there to the Universe, and her Facebook friends, that she was hoping that someone would take the journey of the Whole30 plan with her. In support of my friend, I offered to join her. I am so glad I did. I wasn’t the only one though that decided to rise to the challenge as a great group of people joined together to support each other and share ideas and experiences along our one month challenge. My friend started up a group page on Facebook called The Whole 30 Clean Month Poutine Detox. What a perfectly fitting title since poutine had become a bit  like a magnet for me (and her too by the sound of things) over the summer. I hadn’t had poutine in years since  it is prepared using gravy (which = animal product) and I am vegetarian. I decided to make my own poutine so my kids could taste this delicious Canadian treat. A poutine monster was reborn. Lo-and-behold a new poutinerie opened in my city which makes vegetarian gravy for their mouth-watering poutine and an addiction of sorts was formed. I am normally pretty careful about what I choose to eat but for some unknown reason when it came to poutine it was like I went into a hypnotic state and my will to resist vanished. I didn’t like this new addition to my thought (and eating) pattern. And here is where the Poutine Detox comes in! I must say this challenge could not have come at a better time. I was ready for positive change.

Each of us in this support-type group are dealing with our own food demons or lifestyle choices that could have been better surrounding food. We all start at different levels in our dietary choices with the same goal – to be healthier. Who doesn’t want better health? So it is the Whole30 plan that is the base to our month-long clean food poutine detox. It is interesting to hear how others are doing on their journey. My journey feels a bit unique as I think I am the only vegetarian in the group. If I’m misinformed, feel free to tell me. I have had to make my own plan due to the fact that the real Whole30 is basically a paleo-type eating style. I will not under any circumstances consume another Being. Unless of course I am ever lost in the wilderness with nothing else to eat or I would starve to death. Hopefully I will never experience this. So, instead of consuming meat I have included legumes and beans which I eat a lot of normally with no ill effects. I have also discovered a love for nut butters and tofu as alternatives to meat.

A few things I have learned along my journey thus far:

  • I no longer gag involuntarily at the thought of tofu.
  • Eggs are not my friend.
  • Sugar is nasty stuff that can control your mind until you break free of the cycle. I no longer crave anything sweeter than a fresh piece of fruit.
  • Processed food is not our friend. I knew this going into this journey but the past couple of weeks has really amplified this point.
  • The detox process (Day 2 and 3) were like having the flu. I seriously hate that feeling.
  • Exercise is not evil but fun! Yup, I said exercise is fun. Strange but true. Although I draw the line at certain forms of exercise.
  • The clothes in my closet are quickly becoming baggy. I don’t like saggy-bummed jeans. They are not at all attractive.
  • I don’t feel gnawing hunger like I did a month ago come mid-afternoon. I feel great when I eat small snacks throughout  the day that are fresh and wholesome.
  • I am losing my taste for coffee! I’m not so thrilled about this one. I always filled my mug about 1/3 of the way with soy milk and now I’m drinking it black. It is tasty but I don’t feel the need for cup after cup all day long.
  • My energy levels are pretty stable unlike they used to be. I would feel up and down in my energy all day prior to eating clean, whole foods only.
  • Eliminating wheat has been a God-send. I wish I had done this years ago! It is ridiculous how many things our society eats that are centered around wheat. It was a difficult process to break the habit of wheat-based meals such as sandwiches or bagels with cream cheese. I feel so much healthier not eating wheat.
  • Not eating dairy has been the easiest adjustment for me since I didn’t eat a lot of dairy anyway. Organic hormone-free dairy is a budget-buster for a family and I have no interest in the alternative of  funding the corruption of factory-farmed business and the propaganda of the dairy board. I love to support farmers and what they do but ethics trump all else on this issue for me.
  • I enjoy having curves, not jiggly bits. Being comfortable in my own skin is a great bonus to eating “clean”.

So I must give a big thank you to my wonderful friend over at Change My Body, Change My Life. Without her little push I would still be scarfing down poutine and pastries without a thought to how it affected the way I feel over the long-term. I found this approach of  “cold-turkey” elimination of offending foods easier than removing one thing at a time. This isn’t for everyone. Removing something as simple as one soda per day or the sugar in your morning coffee will make a difference to your overall health. I would like to clarify something. This lifestyle choice to eat whole clean food is NOT a crash diet. It is not all about losing weight or being brainwashed. I think it is just the opposite. Eating food in its original whole form is the origins of nurturing or bodies and feeding our need for sustenance. Our body will adjust accordingly and will find its true weight. We have all been brainwashed to believe that convenient non-food items are good nutrition. That because a package states that the product inside has less fat or sodium than it used to makes it a healthy choice. Our taste buds have been primed to want things taste a certain way; saltier, sweeter, or just more of whatever we happen to be consuming.  If we just stop to think a moment about the rates of obesity and illnesses that are diet-related it would become very clear that real food is superior to fake food.

“Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork.” ~ English Proverb

Say what!?

Two nights ago, my energetic daughter and I decided we would do something we haven’t done together since she was very young. We stopped by the Welland Canal while we were out running errands to watch the ships. We were fortunate enough to catch a ship just as it was coming out of  the lock. The two of us sat beside the canal to watch as the ship passed on what we now refer to as the “giant lemon”. The technical term I am at a loss for, so I will call it a cleat or mooring thingy for lack of a better term. It was lovely to sit by the canal in the early evening with someone so dear to my heart and chit-chat about nothing of pressing importance, just whatever came to mind.

 

After the ship passed us by we decided to walk along the path by the canal. Those of you that know me personally may be a little bit shocked at what I am about to reveal. Be prepared. Not only did we walk, but we went for a jog! Yes, I said jog. I know! Me… jogging! I shocked myself with how much energy I had before, during and after. I may just have to rethink my lifelong loathing of all things related to running. I have always loved the idea of running. The wind in my face, blowing my hair and the feeling of freedom people who run seem to have. I want those things. My body just has never cooperated. My state of cardio sucks – and I mean sucks, even though my body is strong. Truth be told, I don’t like the way “things” move around when I run either.

 

So, not only did we jog, we jogged barefoot. Now I understand why barefoot running is so popular. It is totally different from running in shoes and feels incredible. The connection with the surface is a unique feeling and the impact doesn’t feel as harsh. I am not a fan of having filthy feet though and trying to avoid the droppings of Canadian geese was interesting, to say the least. I guess we were not only walking and jogging but also dodging and springing around. It was very freeing, and we giggled together like a couple of kooks. It was such a great feeling to smile from ear to ear and have those that were sharing the path with us to smile back at us as we zipped by them.  We created memories that will last a lifetime with something very simple. We are both looking forward to the next  “jog” together.