Kick It!

What am I kicking you may be asking. Well, it just so happens to be list making time. While I’ve never really jumped on the Party Your Face Off on New Year’s Eve bandwagon, I do like to use January 1st as a sort of stock-taking day. To scan both the vibrantly glowing and the dusty, cob-webbed corners of my mind in search of what I learned from the previous 365 days and how I choose to move forward through the next 365. An intriguing individual that I have come to know in the past year made a statement that hit the nail on the head, so to speak. I summarize when I say that he stated that each day is a new chapter not each year. Very wise, and the truth as I’ve always believed it to be. We don’t live year by year as those that seem to pivot their lives around New Year’s Eve would lead us to believe. We live day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second. Each fragment of time is unique and within it holds incredulous moments. When my eyes open each morning, I give thanks that I have another day to experience joy. This is always my first thought. Seriously. This may sound hokey to some of you but it gets every day started on a positive note and in a forward direction.

 

 

Kicking it means two things to me – getting rid of something that is no longer of use to me and my journey and to initiate action to the extreme. Those of you that know me well know that I can be a bit hardcore with certain things so kicking it up to the extreme means a whole heap of willpower has to be employed. Let’s  just get right to the list, shall we?

 

 

 

Kick It Style #1 – Don’t bring me down.

 

 

1. Usually external things get to us all and create unwanted stress. Little things like someone cutting us off on our way to work or plain old rude behaviour. I’ve worked on taming the tigress inside of me over the past few years as far as not allowing others to get to me and stress me out as much. I’ve noticed my tigress stretching occasionally  as of late with the desire to lash out (both internally and externally) over menial things to which I would rather use control and poise. I accept my inner tigress and value her greatly but there is a time and a place for her abilities and power. That said, I am all about allowing irritation from others roll off of me. Meditation comes in handy here.   Letting it go.  To realize that some individuals are just moody bastards or buzz killers and frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that! 

 

 

2. Don’t push your agenda or religion on me or others…we all have our own. Just yesterday a patronizing individual tried to verbally overpower me by trying to force their agenda on me. This is more than a simple ruffling of the feathers here folks. When “No, thank you” was not working I had to pull out the big guns…yup, inner tigress. See, there is a time and a place. No stress, no raised voice just simple eye contact and force of character.  Say goodbye to Mr. Irritating!   I would love to hear what others have to say and I highly respect your opinions. However, respect mine as well. Thank you.

 

 

3. Bad vibes. I will merely smile at you until you feel like a tool or scram. Complaining and whining is ugly. I need to mentally tell myself to stop if I head down this path too. There is no use for such things. Let’s just stick to good vibes or if that’s too difficult, neutral vibes.

 

 

good vibes only

 

 

 

4. I am nobody’s doormat. I love the quote by Pablo Picasso, “Women are one of two things, a goddess or a doormat.” I choose to be a goddess.

 

 

Photo from Pinterest

Photo from Pinterest

 

 

5. Goodbye laziness – hello action!

 

 

6. Coffee as the first thing that hits my stomach in the morning. I know, I know. I am a severe addict where coffee is concerned and this is going to command a LOT of willpower on my part. This practice is doing me no favours so it is being kicked. Simple as that.

 

 

 

Kick It Style #2 – Here We Go!

 

 

1. Since the end of the work season (landscaping ended at the beginning of December here), the ladies I call co-workers/friends and I have been discussing ways to stay strong and fit during the winter months. Interestingly we have all taken a different route. I have embarked upon a mixed martial arts style full body workout daily for three months. After this time, I will be back at work and I’m sure I will still be kicking my own butt at home. Just for the record, I am not sparring or fighting. I’m a lover, not a fighter. I just like the defined muscle and definition of a fighter’s physique which will be mine with much hard work and dedication.

 

 

2. The volume of Life is being cranked! I am ready to ROCK!

 

 

3. I am realizing a few dreams this year that I have carried in my heart for many years. I will share them with you as they come to fruition.

 

 

4. I love, seriously and completely, love to be silly and live and laugh with abandon. Not in an embarrassing immature fashion but in a “let’s not be so serious all the time” sort of thought pattern.  This is not new to me but is a must as this is one of my defining characteristics. It is refreshing to be surrounded by friends of a similar mindset. If they are going to stare, give them something to look at. Or as Bonnie Raitt so superbly stated, “Let’s give them something to talk about.”

 

 

Ooo...so tempting.

Ooo…so tempting. Photo taken by unknown.

 

 

 

5. Staying in touch with nature and spending time outdoors is vital to my wellness. I feel drained when the connection with nature has been severed too long…like more than a day.

 

 

 

Each and every day I plan to make a difference in some way. Whether it be putting a smile on someone else’s face, sharing limitless love, helping others when needed with no expectations, or simply being a shoulder or an ear when such is needed. By bettering ourselves, it becomes easier to be there for others. We have more strength, love and compassion to share when we feel good about ourselves. I challenge you to do something each day that makes a positive difference in your life or someone else’s.

 

 

 

Let’s KICK IT! 

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Tick Alert

There has been a subject that keeps popping up in a lot in conversation lately…ticks. Just the thought of these horrid wee creatures sparks frenzied responses from people, myself included. For good reason too. Ticks can carry disease and cause chaos within the body without us even knowing we’ve become a host.

 

Let me freak you out a bit with a couple of tick photos. You’re welcome.

 

 

blacklegged tick

 

 

 

 

 

tick sizes

 

 

 

 

Ticks generally reside in tall grass and bushes, but this year they seem to be popping up everywhere.  It is a common thought that ticks are found only in the country or in wooded areas but lately have been spotted in city gardens and lawns. A warmer than normal winter has encouraged an increase in the tick population. Great, now I feel itchy. Ticks do not fly but they seem to have, in my experience, a great ability to jump as though they were spring-loaded. Once on the body of a human or animal ticks will find a prime location (usually armpits, groin area, scalp and the nape of the neck are preferred locations) and make themselves at home by boring into the flesh. Scratch-scratch. Tick bites are generally painless so aren’t always detected quickly which gives ticks ample time to get to work. For your viewing pleasure, I present to you a burrowing tick.

 

 

burrowing tick - source unknown

burrowing tick – source unknown

 

 

 

 

Once the tick has started to burrow into the flesh, there is a proper technique for removal. Trying to flick the tick off or scratch it off is the wrong method as the mouth-parts need to stay connected to the body for proper removal. If the head and/or mouth-parts separate from the body the bacteria will remain possibly causing infection. Removal with tweezers by holding as low on the head as possible and pulling back gently to extract the tick is the correct method. Removing with dish soap or Basic H on a cotton ball also facilitates proper removal, or so I am told by those that have tried this method. Putting a squirt of dish soap or Basic H (see side link to my website Live Love Be Green for more info) then placing the cotton ball over the tick for a few minutes will supposedly draw out the tick by making it stick to the cotton ball and make it slide out easier. Hope I don’t have to try this method out. I have however, had to use the tweezer-method. Last summer I had a tick attach itself to my shoulder blade. Of course one of the only spots not easily accessible for me to remove it myself. I had been working at a place known for ticks and had performed a tick check on myself before jumping into the shower after I got home. I was good to go – or so I thought. The next morning while getting dressed for work I had an itch on my back. I turned and looked in the mirror to see something dark stuck to my shoulder-blade. Ack! Thank goodness help was close by to remove the tick easily for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a diagram of the proper tick removal method using tweezers:

 

 

tick removal-courtesy of yahoo.ca  images

tick removal-courtesy of yahoo.ca images

 

 

 

Ticks can carry bacteria that leads to such illnesses as Lyme disease. Be aware of any strange symptoms you may experience if you have been bitten by a tick and report them to your doctor immediately. Early detection is vital with any illness. If possible, keep the tick in a jar with a lid after removal in case you develop strange symptoms. Your local Public Health will test the tick for Lyme disease if necessary.

 

 

 

 

A few rules to deter and detect ticks while out and about:

 

– wear light coloured clothing to be able to easily detect ticks

 

– wear long pants and tuck them in or secure if possible to avoid ticks climbing up inside your pant leg

 

– spray boots/shoes and legs with DEET or a natural tick repellent. You want ticks to think you smell unappetizing.

 

– check yourself and family members for ticks after outdoor activity

 

– keep your grass cut short and dispose of unnecessary debris

 

 

 

Don’t let ticks deter you from getting out and enjoying the beauty of Nature. Simply be aware and be proactive. Now quit scratching and go enjoy some fresh air and sunshine!

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t make us bite you in hard-to-reach places!” – The Tick (comedic superhero)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

I Am Enough

This has been a tumultuous year for me. There have been far too many bumps along the road for my liking. For the most part I have managed to keep my chin up and smile even when I feel like crying. To be strong not only for myself but for those around me. This is exhausting, let me tell you. I know it’s okay to let down my guard and cry – I do. I am not without emotion. If anything it’s quite the opposite and I wear my heart and thoughts on my sleeve maybe a little too often. My close friends know instantly when I am struggling internally and call me on it. For these friends I am ever so grateful. We all need great and caring people in our lives. Friends are essential for a feeling of belonging, wellness and joy as well as a sounding board that we can truly trust. One thing though that has become clearer than a full moon on a cloudless night is that we need to be our own best friend first and foremost.

 

“I exist as I am, that is enough, If no other in the world be aware, I sit content, And if each and all be aware, I sit content.”  – Walt Whitman

We have ourself and only ourself at every given second during our lifetime. Yes, people come in and out of our lives. We have families and friends, coworkers and acquaintances but only I am with myself all of the time. I needed to learn to love myself. To be my own best friend. Sometimes reaching within is the best resolution.

 

 

This journey to becoming my best friend hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been painful either. I think if I could capture the essence of learning to befriend myself in one word it would be sublime. When I altered the way I thought about myself, things became either intensely clear or absolutely unneccessary. Learning to befriend oneself isn’t conceited or narcissistic. It’s about finding your self-worth and trusting yourself with your thoughts and actions. I have discovered that the more I trust in who I am, the more I enjoy those around me. I don’t feel like I need to compete for attention or gain recognition. I have become happy just being Me. Growing up and maturing isn’t something that happens overnight, it is a process.  When I was younger I always struggled with self-worth and self-confidence, concerned that people would think I was a snob or conceited if I ever patted myself on the back. I thought I didn’t care what others thought of me but it was all just an act. A decoy for self-preservation, if you will. One thing I learned from this is that when we build walls we can’t see very far. My world was small. I have stumbled upon something magnificent. When you are your own best friend, everything you do becomes an experience and a reason to feel loved. Loved by someone who truly cares about my well-being…me.  Greater, more intense living and appreciating others is easier when you are present.

 

 

“Nothing is a greater impediment to being on good terms with others than being ill at ease with yourself.”
– Honore De Balzac

Food for Thought

It happened again. I was sucked into the world of documentaries. I had heard about Farmaggedon (the documentary) a little while ago and my interest was piqued. However, my enthusiasm for educational and informative viewing material is not shared most days by those that compete for viewing time in my household. It is usually “fluff” viewing or MMA that is being watched in our home which I also love. I enjoy MMA immensely to the resounding gasps of my friends. I guess I don’t seem like the type. What is the “type” of woman who likes MMA anyway? Why must we be a certain type to have interest in MMA, documentaries, musicals, dramas, action flicks? I enjoy all of the above. Does this make me well-rounded? I decree that yes, it does make me a versatile viewer. However, the aforementioned documentary Farmaggedon was what got my attention today and has tumbled around my thoughts to the point that I have something to say on the subject.

 

 

The documentary really got me to thinking, yet again, about the source of our food. Where it comes from, how it’s processed, and the regulations and laws surrounding our food industry. Of course, each country has their own laws regarding the food industry. My main points will be focused on North American food industry practices since the documentary that I have most recently watched is American. There is definitely a difference between the U.S. and Canadian food industry regulations and practices but there are many overlapping practices as well. I do not declare that I am an expert on the food industry, processing, or laws of such. I am seeing this from the standpoint of a human being. We all need to eat. From a stance of an individual that wants to know what is in my food and that the food I choose is safe, healthy and what it is labelled as being.

 

“Why should conservationists have a positive interest in …farming? There are lots of reasons, but the plainest is: Conservationists eat.” – Wendell Berry

If you have not had the opportunity to inform yourself on our food industry, I would highly recommend doing so. Perhaps you may learn a thing or two that you were either unaware of or didn’t really want to acknowledge. The need for awareness is not going to turn you into a die-hard activist (unless you choose to do so). It will merely give you an idea of what you are consuming – good or bad, healthy or not, whatever, that’s your choice. Not knowing what’s going on in the food industry than bashing those trying to make a difference is sheer ignorance and close-mindedness. I for one want to have the option to choose my food, not be dictated to and only given choices that will essentially make me a lab rat.

 

 

I have always had a strong sense of  personal choice from an early age. My sisters will attest to me (the youngest of three girls) brazenly spouting the phrase, “I have the right to…!” That seemed to be my most well-known tagline. I am still that same feisty girl with the desire to declare my free choice in all scenarios. However, I do not feel the need to shout it any more but firmly state my view when necessary. I know where I stand. I won’t be bullied into believing something just because I am told that I have to or believe every advertisement that appears before my eyes. I am smarter than that, thank you very much.

 


“There are two primary choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” – Denis Waitley

 

While watching Farmaggedon it really hit home about the state of North American agriculture. I applaud farmers worldwide for what they do. Farmers are definitely some of the hardest working people on the planet. They toil each and every day in all   weather conditions to put food on the table – our tables. We have allowed our farmers to be manipulated and bullied by the likes of the FDA and large corporations that are driven by profit, not supplying healthy food to folks like you and me. The small-scale farmers that want to supply people with wholesome food choices are fighting a huge battle and taking a massive hit while we stand idly by with our hands in our pockets not knowing what to do. It is essential that people start speaking up to create change in governmental practices and laws that are strangulating the only people who really can provide good food to our tables, other than ourselves – the farmer. Factory farming is a practice focused on profit and creates many issues I won’t get into. Factory farming, in my eyes, is not farming. It is mass production of an item. How easily people forget that the chicken living its life in a restricted area sitting in its own waste becomes that piece of fried chicken on your plate. All for the sake of saving a couple of dollars at the grocery store. Shudder.  Simply put, for me factory farming has taken the personal touch out of agriculture. If you happen to be a factory-farmer I apologize if my words offend you but I, like you, am entitled to my opinion. I am not vilifying you per say, but the practices involved in mass production of living beings. Feel free to voice your thoughts. Just please do so respectfully. I am saddened by the thought of so many living beings treated like they are merely a dollar sign. I feel sickish inside. Moving on.

“I don’t understand the notion that modern farming is anything to do with nature. It’s a pretty gross interference with nature.”  – Peter Singer

 

In review of the documentary, I felt it weighed in heavily on the subject of raw milk farming and legislation. Perhaps I was hoping for a broader subject matter since I don’t consume milk personally but it was very eye-opening none-the-less. It comes right down to the fact that as consumers we should have the ability to purchase foods of our choosing. Of course there must be stipulations such as nothing that is endangered, for instance. If one really looks at the source of food from a family run farm as opposed to a large-scale factory operation, I think most of us would choose the former. I prefer produce from my garden over produce from a greenhouse sprayed with several rounds of insecticides and fungicides. It’s common sense, really. It is frightening that it has gotten to the point that small farms are being raided and their livelihood seized by the FDA. Why does the government feel so threatened by these small farms? Is it really in the name of consumer safety? I, for one, highly doubt it. My guess would be that the government is so tied to Big Ag giants that the government is no longer “for the people” but instead for the profit. We are at a point in history where we have all screwed up royally by trusting large corporations to dictate to the masses, myself included.

 

 

Standing up to the Bully (Big Ag/government) where our food is concerned is now at our doorsteps. Being aware makes a difference.  Simple steps like voting with our food budget is a great place to start. Local markets, farmers and small businesses can make a big impact. We are already seeing many large food companies trying to cater to certain markets by diversifying. It’s a small step in the right direction but it is still supporting large-scale operations. Picture yourself as a farmer trying to support your family. You want to supply people with an exceptional product that you give every waking minute to producing. The FDA steps in and claims some bogus law made in the 1930’s and seizes your animals/crops. How would you feel? Who would you turn to? The red tape is so restrictive for many small businesses that even making a profit can be a very difficult task. To sit at a desk in a cubicle somewhere and  sneer at those that want to have access to real food that is grown and produced with passion and care or at the farmer themself  is hypocritical. The next time you eat a burger or a salad or drink a milkshake remember that someone somewhere had to get those items to market so you could stuff your face with them. Changing our thinking process to bring us closer to the food we consume and the reality of food production may just open our eyes and our heart a little bit more.

 

 

 

 

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.  – Harry Truman


 

Breakfast Bliss

breakfast with Buddha

breakfast with Buddha

 

Breakfast this morning was a blissful start to the day.

What could be more sinfully satisfying than a bowl of warm chocolatey, coconutty sumptuousness?

A few days ago I happened upon a recipe for chocolate banana breakfast quinoa that made my taste buds dance at the thought. While reading through the ingredients I mentally omitted certain things and added others.

The original recipe can be found here. The first ingredient to hit the chopping block was banana. Over the past couple of years I get this weird mouth-feel from bananas that makes me highly uncomfortable. Okay, that sounds kind of weird. I guess I should be more specific. I may possibly have a slight allergy to bananas or at least an intolerance since my mouth and throat get a tingly, fuzzy feel and my stomach feels as though I swallowed a bowling ball. Does that explain why the banana was axed?

Instead, I aimed for pure gastronomic pleasure and substituted with coconut.  Gosh I love coconut. I would lay in a tub filled to the brim with coconut milk and drink pina coladas if the situation ever presented itself.  Yes, I am mad for coconut.

I think I need to stop and compose myself with a sip of coffee. Or three.

Let’s get down to business now, shall we? Collect your ingredients and let’s get the quinoa simmering so you can make yourself a cup of coffee while its doing it’s thing.

Fixin's for chocolate-macaroon breakfast quinoa

 

Quinoa

Coconut milk – read your ingredients before buying since most coconut milk contains preservatives. Find one without if possible.

Honey – unpasteurized is my preference. I want the “good stuff” that’s meant to be there.

Cocoa – I am trying to use up a large canister I bought for Christmas baking. Choose an organic, fair trade cocoa if you can.

Water

Coconut – shredded, unsweetened and preservative-free.

Sliced almonds

Now that all the ingredients are collected, let’s put the quinoa on to cook.

Make sure to rinse the quinoa well before using to avoid the bitter taste from the protective layer of saponin that covers the grain to repel birds and insects. Put 1/2 cup of washed quinoa into a small pot and add 1/2 cup of water, a handful of shredded coconut, and 1 cup of coconut milk. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. I covered the pot but you don’t need to. Watch it doesn’t boil over and make a mess of your stove top like I did.  The smell of burning coconut milk is not pleasant. This is where you can make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and relax for a few minutes. When the liquid is almost fully absorbed, remove from heat.

 Add 2 tsp of cocoa and 2 tsp of honey. Stir well. Top with a little coconut milk, shredded coconut and slivered almonds.

Find somewhere comfortable to sit while savouring your morning meal. Lingering over each bite and being mindful of enjoying the goodness of sustenance makes it all worthwhile. When we rush to consume “whatever” in the morning we are doing ourselves a disservice. I know I feel so much better and more clear-headed when I sit down, put on some music or just enjoy the silence while eating instead of trying to multi-task while walking around.

” To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha 

Snack Attack!

I love snacks but they have to be worth having or forget about it. I have learned the hard way about choosing wisely when it comes to snacking. This time of year is especially difficult for me to snack wisely since all I really want to do is what Nature intends for us to do and pack in calories to get us through the winter here in this chilly climate.  I have started making my own healthy snack options for a couple of reasons.

1: I don’t want to munch on crappy junk food.

2: Eating something just because it’s “healthy” is pointless unless you actually like it.

3: Cutting out extra sugar and sodium is easy when you are the one to decide how much to use.

4: There is nothing wrong with being frugal.

5: I really, really like to cook and bake.

One of the latest snack crazes that has risen to popularity in our house is  Roasted Chickpea Bites. These little guys pack a serious nutritional one-two punch while satisfying the need for salty or sweet (or both). One cup of chickpeas contains 10 grams of protein, approximately 15% of your RDA of iron, 6% of your RDA of calcium, 7 grams of fibre and 0 mg of cholesterol. I’m in love. Sure the calories may be on the high side at 220 calories/cup but I’m okay with that. Everything in moderation, right?

Chickpeas

Chickpeas

 

 

 

I thought you might enjoy these tasty morsels as well so I am going to share with you so you can snack-on without guilt.

Roasted Chickpea Bites

large 796 mL (28 oz ) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

olive oil

seasonings of your choice

Preheat oven to 350*F.

After rinsing the chickpeas well, pour them into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with approximately 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil,  add your seasonings (today I used 1 tbsp of my favorite madras curry powder and 2 tbsp maple syrup), and stir.

Gathering the ingredients.

Gathering the ingredients.

 

 

Mix well to ensure each lovely little orb is coated with deliciousness.

Pour the chickpeas and any liquid onto a rimmed baking sheet. Don’t use a flat cookie sheet without a rimmed edge or you will have chickpeas all over the place, no matter how steady your hand is. I know this from experience!

Chickpeas on baking tray.

Chickpeas on baking tray.

 

 

 

Put the chickpeas into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes. Wiggle the tray around every 10 minutes or so just to ensure even cooking and so the chickpeas  don’t stick to the tray. I like my chickpea bites to still be soft in the centre but crispy on the outside so after 25-30 minutes I put the oven onto broil for about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully because you can quickly gazorch (okay, burn) things very quickly under the broiler. This I also know from testing the reaction time of the smoke alarms.

Remove from the oven when they feel crispy and are dark golden brown. They will start to “pop” when they are perfectly cooked to my taste. Allow the chickpeas to cool on the tray. Don’t try to eat them when they are first out of the oven. You will burn your mouth. Yup, done that too. Once your mouth is burned you won’t be able to enjoy the yum-factor as much so please try to be patient.

Voila! Here is the finished Roasted Chickpea Bites ready to snack upon. Dig in!

roasted chickpea bites

roasted chickpea bites

 

 

 

I recommend storing the Chickpea Bites in the fridge once they have cooled down. Since there are no preservatives they will go bad quickly. These are scrumptious cold by the handful or tossed on top of salads.

“When baking, follow directions.  When cooking, go by your own taste. ” 

 ~Laiko Bahrs

Winter Skin Blues

This frigid weather is brutal on my skin! My back is itching like crazy and my face feels as dry as a desert. I have tried product after product trying to aid my visage to no avail. The closest I have come with a manufactured product has been the gorgeous line of Shaklee Enfuselle products. I use these products on a year-round basis because they are naturally sourced and chock full of great stuff for my skin. However, this time of year always gets my skin crying out for extra TLC, no matter what. For the past few years I have slapped on coconut oil religiously and it works pretty well. However, my kids balk at the scent of it and make gasping noises when they come in for a hug. Thanks, guys. It can’t really be that bad. In the container it smells delicious like a pina colada. On my face, not so much, obviously. Weird since I can’t smell it and my nose just happens to be smack dab in the centre of my face.

 

I think I have finally come up with a solution! The past few weeks I have been experimenting. I am sort of in an obsessive domain at present since the itching and stinging of dry skin is all-encompassing. I have tried a slew of DIY concoctions with varying success and have put ingredients from different skin care recipes together in my own formulations. I have figured out that exfoliation two times per week is necessary during the winter. I’m sure there are skin gurus out there gasping somewhere. Oh well.

 

 

Almost good enough to eat!

Almost good enough to eat!

 

 

 

Perfectoid Exfoliating Scrub:

*All ingredients are approximate amounts since I just put everything into a small dish and use immediately. This makes the correct amount for one use this way everything is fresh, fresh, fresh.

 

  • 1 tsp melted organic coconut oil
  • 1 tsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp used coffee grounds (or is it grinds? I am never certain)

Mix these few ingredients together and you are ready for superior exfoliating and moisturizing action!

Splash warm water on your face a few times – just water, no cleanser necessary. You will feel as though you are in a face wash commercial at this point. Turn off the tap to conserve water while applying the concoction. Scoop a bit of the mixture onto your fingertips and apply to face starting with the forehead and working your way down. Apply all of the mixture before starting to scrub. Lightly scrub in small circles starting at the forehead while leaning over the sink since bits will fling while you are scrubbing. Go easy. You don’t want to irritate your sensitive facial skin.  Allow the scrub to stay on your face for a minute or two for the most benefit. It is now time to wash off the mixture with warm water. Cool water is great for your skin but makes the oils harden slightly so it is much easier to rinse with warm water then follow with a couple splashes of cold water. Do not use any cleanser or soap to wash of the oil residue. This is beneficial to your skin and no, it will not cause breakouts.  Pat your face dry gently. Very gently.

 

You are finished!

 

For added moisturizing, I finish with a very light coat of either avocado oil or coconut oil (at night). If it feels too oily simply dab a tissue over your face to remove excess. If you wear makeup, now is the perfect time to apply. I usually add extra moisturizer to my tinted moisturizer for a more natural look anyway so this is a great way to cut out a step.

 

 

Why did I choose to use these particular ingredients? Other than they were some of the few ingredients that my very sensitive skin didn’t react wickedly to.

Coconut Oil –

  • prevents and protects skin against free radical damage.
  • aids in reestablishing the skin’s natural antimicrobial and acid barrier
  • easily absorbs into the skin and doesn’t feel greasy
  • helps to reduce inflammation

 

Avocado oil –

  •  avocado oil is rich in vitamins A, D and E, all of which  help maintain healthy skin
  • heals and soothes skin
  • keeps skin young and supple
  • helps reduce itching, dryness, and inflammation

 

 

Sugar –

  • stripping away tired old skin by using an exfoliant is rejuvenating. Exfoliants smooth your skin and help increase the production of new collagen to improve the appearance of fine lines
  • sugar is rough enough in texture to help rid the top layer of dry skin
  • can be too abrasive and cause sensitivity if scrubbed to firmly. Go easy. If white sugar is too scratchy feeling, perhaps brown sugar would be a better option for you.

 

 

Coffee Grounds –

  • contains caffeic acid which is suggested to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects
  • stimulates collagen production
  • helps skin feel silky smooth
  • great use for used coffee grounds since I am not using them in the garden this time of year
  • What can I say? I love coffee whether it be in me or on me!

 

 

 

One of the best ways to assist skin this time of the year is ensuring you maintain a high level of water consumption. I drink a lot of water because I simply like water not juices. I must admit that I suck down far too much coffee which doesn’t help but I do try to compensate by drinking extra water for every cup of coffee I consume.

 

If you try out this DIY exfoliator, please report back with your comments.

 

 

“Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic.”  – Rosalind Russell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peruse Before You Partake

I have always been interested in food. Not just what I ingest, but what others choose to consume as well. I admit that I am a discreet food snob and I am okay with this characteristic. It’s not so much that I would judge another on their choice of food but will judge the food itself against my own standard of quality. For instance, I will always choose a creamy smooth piece of spiced gouda for instance over a processed cheese slice. To me this is common sense. So maybe I’m not necessarily a food snob as I am a seeker of quality. That sounds much better.

 

 

All of this interest in food consumption has led me down many different eating paths over my lifetime . I am presently a lacto-ovo vegetarian and have been most of my life. I am presently not consuming wheat or sugar as well. I go through phases where I cut out eggs and dairy and abide by a strict vegan diet. I have even gone for a period of time as a raw food vegan and felt fantastic. I was breastfeeding my second child ( my last) during this time and she flourished and is still incredibly healthy. It just wasn’t the right diet choice for my lifestyle after a while. I find, and I’m not sure if this is just me, but living in the climate I am in I felt cold constantly in the winter months so I added some cooked food back in to stoke my internal fire up again. Twelve and a half years later I have had a huge epiphany in terms of eating habits. It is not so much about “belonging” to any one eating regime as it is about providing ourselves with food that our body will be thanking us for.  I always knew this, I just seemed to need to identify with a particular lifestyle to feel like I was doing the right thing. Not so much anymore. As you are aware, I have ventured down the road to whole food eating. This, to me, is where it’s at. There is no need to call this lifestyle choice anything but common sense eating. No need to belong to a diet plan title. This is about choosing foods that are not processed and are from the original source be it a fruit, vegetable, oil, or animal product. The further our food gets from the source the more unrecognizable it becomes to our body.

 

 

There are many within the whole foods methodology that subscribe to the Paleo diet. I am going to give my opinion now so please don’t get your knickers in a twist. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts on this. Like I said, this is my opinion. I don’t profess to be perfect or have all the answers. I only do the things that make sense to me and that feel right. I am a live by my intuition and heart type of person. Here goes…I like the idea of so many people trying to make positive change for their health. I am speaking at present of one of the newest crazes called the Paleo diet. The concept of eating what our systems were originally fed and powered on is very noble. There is one key point missing – is this really how Paleolithic humans ate? Probably not.

 

 

Common sense would suggest that eating large quantities of meat is probably not the best thing we could be doing for our bodies. Most meat is acid-forming for starters. On the topic of our Paleo forefathers and mothers diet, I am convinced that there was a heck of a lot more starchy vegetation/fruit  consumption than the Paleo ideology subscribes to. As I read blogs and articles as well as “studies” regarding Paleo eating it is very evident to me that this diet is an excuse for many folk to eat tons of meat – especially bacon.  How does this coincide with our Paleo relatives? Bacon is a form of food preservation/processing that was unknown to humans of old. This is just an example of ideas twisted to suit our desires. If my own vegetarian diet was controlled by my favorites, I would quickly become off balance consuming only aloo gobi and red wine!

 

 

I read a blog post last week regarding Paleo eating that actually made me sad. The author put the Paleo diet on a pedestal while slamming other lifestyle choices. She went on to flog vegetarianism as unhealthy and extremist. Hmmm….how very unfortunate. There are great ideas at the base of almost all eating styles however, things can quickly veer off course. The Paleo diet is a great idea at its core but has been reworked and altered to compensate for our desires.  However, to get right down to the nitty-gritty of eating perfectly Paleo the participant would need to investigate more than just a book written by one person about their idea of the perfect eating regime. In my opinion, the participant would need to first dig into their own personal ancestral past to find out where their origins started. This would give a great place to start whittling down the food choices. If they originated from an ancestral background that resided by the ocean, their diet would be composed mainly of fish and probably sea vegetables. If that aforementioned individual originated from a forested area they probably would have consumed predominantly berries, insects and game such as deer or small birds.  I venture to suggest that probably a majority of our ancestors within temperate climes ate with the focus largely on plant matter and enjoyed meat sporadically, not the other way around. This makes sense to me. Just sayin’.

 

 

Chasing down the animal content of the diet would make a huge difference as well. There is great physical exertion in hunting Paleo-style unlike walking into the grocers and picking up a nicely packaged portion of meat. Then there is the carbon footprint issue. Eating a large quantity of meat in the diet creates unnecessary waste of resources and a higher carbon footprint. If a family of four skips steak one day a week, it will have  the same impact as taking your car off the road for three months, supposedly. Not sure how accurate this fact is but it is definitely food for thought.

 

 

Do you know what your Carbon Footprint is?

Alternate Carbon Footprint calculator.

 

 

I am not simply spouting off about the Paleo diet and I am not suggesting vegetarianism is perfect. I am using this as an example due to the blogger that made me question why people make the  food choices they do.  This goes for all methods of eating as far as I’m concerned. No diet is 100% perfect. Suggesting such is foolish. When a new diet calls itself “the perfect diet” my alarm bells start ringing. The human body is a complex “machine” that relies on us to fuel it appropriately. Each of us has different needs. It can only accommodate so much before we start to see and feel inadequacies. I think if we all just stopped listening to the hype and started listening (really listening) to our bodies we could enjoy a better state of health.

 

 

 

 

” The very fact that we are having a national conversation about what we should eat, that we are struggling with the question about what the best diet is, is symptomatic of how far we have strayed from the natural conditions that gave rise to our species, from the simple act of eating real, whole, fresh food.”  – Mark Hyman

On A Mission – 2013

I fear the New Year’s ball dropped on my head. I can’t seem to get focused the last couple of days, but not for lack of trying. I have so many ideas and projects swirling around inside my noggin that I am trying to process that I feel like I need a vacation to recoup from the Holidays! Does anyone else feel like this?

 

 

I was excited at saying goodbye to 2012 and welcoming in 2013. I even sat down on New Year’s Day and jotted down my intentions for this year. I started doing this last year and I referred back to my notebook throughout the year. Some of the things I listed were accomplished efficiently while many other points remained untouched. I don’t want to carry over last year’s intentions and feel weighed down by them so I created a new list without rereading last year’s before doing so. There were a few similar items on my lists but the intentions became more focused, less general. A good friend and I were discussing intent a few months ago and she said something that felt like she had hit a gong inside my skull. “If you are general and vague with your intentions, you will get a vague result.” I don’t want wishy-washy results. I want clear, concise results! So, while writing my intentions for this year, I was precise and to the point. It is only as hard as you make it. We have become so conditioned to feel sheepish about saying what we really want; even to ourselves. Don’t be. You are worth wanting to better yourself, to move in a forward direction. There is no shame in accomplishing a goal you have set for yourself or acting on a dream. Put aside ego when you jot down your list of intentions. It shouldn’t be about what others think of you or how much power you hold over others. This should be about allowing your innermost dreams, goals and insight to speak up.

 

 

 

I will share one of my goals with you. Like many other people, I like to think of the New Year as a clean slate; a jumping-off point for change. Last September, I made the leap and went 30 days without wheat, sugar or dairy. It was incredible! A few of you took that journey with me and for you I am grateful. It was such a great support mechanism to share the experience with like-minded people. I even made a few new friends out of the experience which made it even better. I lost 22 pounds  and went down three pant sizes by changing my food choices. I felt more energetic and healthier than ever before all within a week or so of changing what I was consuming.  Over the past month, the omitted items seemed to slowly creep back in. Not to the extent I had eaten them prior to September, but they were still there. I have set myself the goal of kicking wheat, sugar and dairy once again. I started January 1st and can already feel a difference. Pretty powerful. I have 15 more pounds to go before I reach my college weight. I am having a really hard time wrapping my head around this. I never thought I would ever get this close again to that number. I have always tried to maintain the “weight isn’t just a number” mentality. That only works for so many years before I realized that  those 15, 20, 50 extra pounds are creating health challenges over the long-term that I have absolutely no interest in. The number on the scale is relevant as long as you factor in other aspects of health as well. I am interested in a sculpted, muscular body not a stick. I would rather have the scale tell me I am a few extra pounds of muscle than it give me a  smaller number and not be in optimal health.  Partnered with proper fuel (food), this says “healthy” weight to me. So, my goal/intention is to lose the remaining 15 lbs while eating wheat/gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and being active for at least 30 minutes each and every day.

 

 

Yesterday and today I put away the Christmas tree and decorations and cleaned up any bits left behind.  Packing away the signs of the holidays makes me realize that I am no longer in celebratory slow-mo. I need to give my head a shake, flick off the dust, and get a move on. I am primed and ready to meet 2013 with a vengeance – I have dreams and goals to accomplish!

 

 

 

 

“Reach high, for stars lie
hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.”

Pamela Vaull Starr