Refuse to be Passive

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Indian Mexican Soup? I guess so

In Food, Life in General on February 28, 2011 at 2:23 pm

On Saturday I embarked on a journey to create a creamy vegan Indian lentil and yam soup. It’s funny how the journey from beginning to end can drastically change your results. A little chili powder her, a little cumin there, some leeks, and apparently I made burrito soup. That being said, it was delicious. My friend who had it assumed it was tomato vegetable, based on it’s reddish colour due to a couple of tablespoons of garam masala. I’d opted to leave out the curry, as I know many people are not fans. That may have been where the departure form Indian towards Mexican began. Like I said, then you add chili powder and all bets are off.

What I really loved about this soup is that I used no bouillon and it was vegan friendly. There were no animal byproducts at all in it– no egg, no dairy, no meat. To get the creaminess normally I’ll just puree once it’s done, but as this soup was going to be feeding a bunch, I stretched it with soy milk and tofu. I love tofu for the fact that it simply takes on the flavours surrounding it. You can sneak tofu into almost anything and have no one notice. From quiches, to puddings, tofu makes a great protein source. That’s right, you can make chocolate pudding with tofu and have no one notice the difference. That just blew your mind, didn’t it? I love cooking with what most members of my family would call “alternatives” or “weird food.” I love departing from the norm and seeing where I end up, even if I still do appreciate the norm. Right now I’m a big tofu fan as getting enough protein into my diet has been a bit of a challenge– especially as meat seems to be so expensive these days! Ah well. Lentils, nuts, soy, it’s all good sources of protein, as well as eggs– or egg whites as I’m now leaning.

I had a friend ask me to teach her to cook soup, and then commented on the fact that she wanted to learn to cook more meatless meals. I’ve heard more people say that, whether they themselves are interested, or they want to learn because their friends or children are moving in that direction. I think I might have to host a few cooking nights in the near future!

Depression– just plain ugly

In Life in General on February 23, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Depression is just plain ugly. There’s no other way to describe it. Actually, there are lots of other ways to describe it, but it all comes down to this, depression is ugly. If depression were a dress, it would be like wearing a garbage bag. Because that’s how you feel, you feel like garbage.

I’m not depressed, but I keep on seeing people in my life who are, and I can’t help but feel for them. I’ve had mild depression before, mostly cases of the blues, but true depression, now that is a burden I don’t ever want to bear. I had a friend over for tea the other evening, and when I asked how her day had been, she almost broke down. “Not great,” she said, close to tears. I asked her what had happened. “Gerta happened.”

Apparently a co-worker had snapped at her on a regular basis, belittling her constantly over the past months. Really, this is her co-worker taking out personal issues on other people, but when you’re the recipient of unjust accusation, it’s often hard to see. My friend took what her co-worker said to heart, something about her being slow. My friend then went on to lament that she was slow not only physically, but mentally. From there she began to assess her mental state. She attributed much of her current unhappiness to her weight. Then she started on wistful thinking, but with no plan to follow through. From there, it turned into an explanation on her perfectionist personality and the fact that she always expected herself to do things well the first time. It went from there. I chatted with her about little steps she could take towards some bigger goals, such as healthier food choices. When she goes out for fast-food, she’s now going to take the total of her meal, match the amount, and give it to a local charity. That’s a big deal for her as she’s working on a tight budget. We’re also going to start cooking together to teach her how to make delicious healthy meals at home. She’s already got a good start in her abilities, but needs inspiration. Depression is an ugly thing, and I know that it’s not my place to fix my friend, but I do want to be there to support her. Depression is a severely misunderstood issue, and I’m hoping that I can provide her with a shoulder to cry on when needed while she’s figuring things out and picking herself back up.

The Long Weekend

In Life in General on February 22, 2011 at 10:16 am

It’s amazing how a long weekend can often seem to much shorter than a regular weekend. You get back to work and you actually feel more tired than when the weekend started. This is often the case for me. Today I’m a little bit sluggish, as sugar and carbs were in high supply over the weekend, and protein took a bit of a back seat. But now I’m back on track. Those darnded weekends may be the death of me…not literally I hope. But it’s Tuesday and things are back on track. Get a bit of coffee in my system, and a healthy breakfast and things should improve. This long weekend may have felt short in many ways, but I’m actually surprised at how much I did. I can barely remember Friday, but I seem to recall finishing my paper for my class and watching a few TV episodes. I maintain that TV makes me feel sluggish and lazy, yet I occasionally just seem to get caught in a viewing frenzy. Saturday was doing the final exam for the course that I had finished the paper for the day before. And then there was the grocery shopping and cleaning, and general Saturday stuff. Sunday was church, small group, and preparing for Monday, which was the annual youth group pancake breakfast fundraiser. That fundraiser, while fun, is always a challenge. Trying to get the youth to work well in the kitchen is a challenge and a half. Overall, it was exhausting but good. I did a few more errands, read a book, watched part of a movie (which seem to bore me these days), and then opted for skating at the Legislature grounds and reading a book. Good weekend, really, but I’m still sitting here this morning, yawning.

20 pages? No problem!

In Life in General on February 16, 2011 at 8:23 pm

I’ve been doing a course by correspondence over the past months. The course material has been fascinating, but the final project, aside from the take-home final, was a 20 page paper. I seem to recall loathing papers of that length in university. As such, I procrastinated to such an extent that I had to request an extension on the course. It didn’t help that I’d started the wrong version of the final assignment. Whoops. Anyway, the past couple weeks I got some research done, but still procrastinated on writing the stinking thing. 20 pages. Where do you start? My sister’s answer of “anywhere” wasn’t particularly inspirational. Other people’s opinions of “at the beginning” were similarly unhelpful. I then remembered what my Creative Writing professor in university told me. “Pound out the first copy. It’ll be total crap. Resist the urge to stop and edit part way through. Just write. The rest will happen later. ” As so that’s what I did. I had no idea I could pound out pages that fast. Granted, it’s a very rough copy and I’ll have to go back, cite some sources and insert some quotes, but for the most part, I’m pretty darned impressed! Now to just back up the paper so that if some unnatural thing happens to my computer I haven’t totally lost it. Horror. Okay. I’m going to do that right now.

Meditation and Wooly Thinking

In Life in General on February 16, 2011 at 10:12 am

Up until recently I’ve written off meditation as something New Agey– something slightly hokey, that my philosophy prof in university would have called “wooly.” Something not easily defined, useless fluff that people partake in to feel better about themselves.

After reading a book written by a woman I admire, and then reading another book that asked the reader to try meditation, even if they felt a little silly, I can now say that meditation is a very useful tool.

We live in a society where it’s go,go,go; high stress, high paced. It’s nice to take a few moments out of your day to simply sit still, relax, clear your mind, and give yourself a break– whether it’s a spiritual experience or not will undoubtedly be based in your belief system. For me it’s an excellent opportunity to spend some time in quiet, and then follow that up in a time talking with God.

Most people I’ve talked to who seem to have difficulties with meditation cite that they can’t keep thoughts out of their head or that they can’t meditate for very long. One thing I’d like to point out is that at the beginning if you can meditate for two minutes you haven’t failed, but succeeded! Longer meditations will come with more practice. And if there’s a thought that pops into your head, gently push it away or brush it aside. Recognize that the thought itself isn’t bad, just inappropriately timed. Return to that thought once your meditation is over. Combine that with a focus on breathing. Breathing is a great thing to focus on when trying to clear your head. It is the very thing that keeps all of the earth alive– it’s very personal, yet completely communal. Recognize your breathing, it’s depth and pace. Don’t try to change it, simply focus on it for a few moments as your mind begins to empty of the worries of the day.

For me, the truly “wooly” part was what comes next. I breath in the good, and breath out the bad. I breath in God’s peace and breath out anger. I breath in God’s love and breath out malice and judgment. I breath in patience, and breath out hastiness. I breath in joy and breath out sadness. It seems a bit odd, but if in your meditation you can picture these things being taken from you– God taking them from you, similar to his forgiving you of sins through Christ, then it seems much less wooly.

It took me a bit to get beyond myself and my preconceived notions of meditation, but now, it is a holy space– a moment in my day for relaxation, reflection, and prayer. And it absolutely makes a difference.

It’s not the place. It’s the people.

In Life in General on February 12, 2011 at 12:11 am

I’m out of the city this weekend and am spending some time in the mountains. I’m attending a retreat on working with youth– teens in particular. There’s also much time for relaxation, including an evening at the hot springs! It’s sure to be a delight. But I have to admit that each time I leave home for some place new, be it for a night, weekend, week, or month, I come to the same conclusion. Visiting a new location is great, but what really makes a place great is the people. It’s no fun going to an art gallery, hitting up a local coffee roaster, or admiring building architecture if you don’t have someone to ooh and ahh over it with. Beyond that, a town may be quaint as you meander it’s streets for an hour or two, but if you’re there for a few days, without others to enjoy it with, it can get pretty boring. For me that has been borne out in the city I currently live in. I love it. Why do I love it? Well, there are great festivals, but what is great about the festival? Enjoying it with others. There are fantastic restaurants, but who wants to dine alone? What makes my city truly great are the people I meet. All have their own stories and backgrounds. Most are fascinating. There’s nothing better than just having friends over for an evening of talk and then playing a game of Things or Apples to Apples. Really, it all comes down to the people– the people you’ve chosen to invest your life in. We’re made to be social creatures, so what’s the best and most brilliant in a city are your friends, be they current or future friends, and all of the experiences you can share together.

Pefectionist Tendencies

In Uncategorized on February 10, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I was reading about perfectionism today and the way that it can actually drive a wedge in between us and others. The desire to be perfect, to always be striving for more, can leave others feeling inferior, angry, depressed, and annoyed– particularly if they don’t share perfectionist tendencies.

Our culture is constantly telling us that we have to get it right, but have you ever actually met someone who seemed to have it right? I’ll bet if you have, you don’t like them.

For example, there was a girl who I went to high school with, she was beautiful, athletic, smart (grades in the high 90s), gracious, kind, and an all around gem. I couldn’t help but like her, and I hated her for it. Not very generous, I know. Good thing I don’t claim perfection.

As I read this section of writing on perfectionism, a movie scene popped into my head. It was from Two Weeks Notice with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. While the movie may not have been award material, I think they’re both rather fabulous actors. Anyway, there’s a scene where the two main characters have it out. George Wade, the rich yet helpless boss of Lucy, a brilliant yet inflexible lawyer, yells something along the lines of, “You’re too perfect! No one wants to live with a saint!” And with that, he sums up what is wrong with her. She’s so rigid and righteous that people find her frustrating and intimidating. Heaven forbid they screw up around her! Which brings me to another Sandra Bullock movie in which she also plays an uptight individual– The Proposal. Strange how she still manages to get the guy at the end of the movies though, no? They always seem to melt her cold, perfectionist heart.

Perfectionists can be intimidating and hard to relate to, but they can also be perfectly lovely people. If you are not a perfectionist, give them the benefit of the doubt. If you are a perfectionist, give the rest of us the benefit of the doubt.

I want to be a recipe tester

In Food, Life in General on February 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm

The title of the blog says it all. I just want my own test kitchen so I can try out recipes and tweak them so they go from good to great, from so-so to memorable. I know, shortest blog post in the world, but can I up and quit my job? Do I have any backers out there?

The Importance of a Good Haircut

In Uncategorized on February 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm

A great haircut is something that many people just don’t want to spend their money on. They’re fine with the same-old and keep going to the closest Supercuts. But anyone who has ever had a truly fantastic hairdresser who gives truly fantastic cuts, knows that it’s worth it. A great haircut can make or break how your viewed by others.

If you have a great hair dresser, they almost become a friend. Not only do they remember and take a vested interest in you from visit to visit, they remember your hair and due to extensive training, know what works well and what might not be a great idea. But here is the key– find a hairdresser who understands your hair.

When choosing a hairdresser, look for someone with hair similar to yours, whose cut you like. My hair is thin, fine, and has some curl. My hairdresser has similar hair and understands how it will respond. She knows the effects of my swimming on my hair, as well as the best treatment methods, tips and tricks to get it to look great. She’ll always ask me for what’s worked in the past, what I like and didn’t, to ensure I get a great cut. I trust her so much that I basically tell her to have fun and always come out loving my cut. It sounds like I go to a pretty high class salon for this great service doesn’t it? Not so! My hairdresser comes to my house. She’s a recent university graduate who had gone to hairdressing school as a way to help her pay her way through university. And is she ever good! She cuts quickly, efficiently, and confidently. She’s personable too. My co-workers and I host hair cutting parties at each others houses every couple of months, our hairdresser comes, and does six cuts in one evening. We usually enjoy some wine and hor’deurves at the same time. Lovely lovely!

Today I walked past a mirror, after getting my hair cut last week, and the first thought through my head was, “Great hair!” and the second was “Heck, great everything!”

Quote of the day

In Uncategorized on February 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm

“If a man really wants something, he will find a way,
if he doesn’t he will find and excuse.”
– Stephen Dolley Jr.