31 January 2012

Topic Number Five: Rockin' Women Bloggers

On the blogosphere (at least the one I'm currently inhabiting), I'm finding out a lot about the types of women who spend a good amount of their time online.  In other words...there are ALL types of women who blog about every conceivable topic.  It's amazing.  I found a super-vegan mom in Ohio who blogged about "killing her kale" and a blog written from the perspective of a baby girl (blogging about "her" first year of life).  I've seen awesome blogs, so-so blogs, and then some blogs that I just frankly don't understand.  I love that there is this variety...that every woman who puts her thoughts into HTML code can find a place out there.  That all these women, no matter where they come from, have a space to share at least a little of their story, a piece of who they are.  I think that's pretty special.

So, I figured I'd share my short list of the blogs by women who rock my world.  Some are goofy, some are inspiring, some are just plain delicious to look at.  All are part of my daily reads...

Women in the Blogger Trenches

Megan is just gorgeous, awesome and really freaking funny...her story is pretty unreal

A single gal figuring it out in the city (love her tips at the end of the posts)

Food, recipes and inspiration coming at you from Angie

Feminism with a side of the Second City

Everything lovely about Paris

Krissy Moehl is pure ultrarunning strength

Give me more Feministing!

Happy reading, everyone!

29 January 2012

Topic Number Four: Happiness

Sorry for taking a day off...between work, a root canal and, most importantly, wanting to enjoy some time with my husband (I was in Moose Jaw this week), I decided to take a break on the "topic blogs."  While in the Jaw, I was doing some thinking about what truly makes me happy.  What makes me laugh out loud, feel content and spread a smile across my face.  There are many degrees of happiness and I guess I've come to believe in a "happiness continuum" if you will.

On my vision board (from a few posts ago), there is one piece that I cut out that says "10 things that make me happy."  It got my wheels turning.  While there are many more than ten, I thought I would share some with you.  In no particular order:

  1. Dave.  He makes me incredibly happy with his humour, patience, support and the love he shows me every single day. 
  2. Running.  Especially along the lakefront on a crisp autumn morning.
  3. Family meals and cooking.  Whether a great potluck with our "family" in Moose Jaw or dinner with my family around a Thanksgiving table, I truly love the companionship and love that happens when you mix food with people.
  4. Travel.  See my earlier post!
  5. My family.  We've been through a lot together and I always find contentment in knowing that, no matter what, we all have each other's backs.
  6. Camping and hiking.  Just being outside and soaking in nature...nothing beats it.
  7. Kayaking!!!!  Love it and want more of it in my life.
  8. A great pair of boots.  
  9. The holiday season -- it begins with Halloween and goes through the New Year.
  10. Warm and cozy sweaters.
What are the ten things that make you happy?

Happy happy, everyone!

27 January 2012

Topic Number Three: Randomness

So, I'm heading in for a root canal today and as much as I wanted my topic to be about something, um, more substantial...I am way too nervous about going to see the dentist to write anything coherent.  So I offer you a list of 48 random items about me.  I'm borrowing the idea from some of my favourite blog sites...here goes...

1. What time did you get up this morning? 6:15 a. Just in time to hit the snooze button.

2. How do you like your steak? I don’t.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? At the “cinema?!?!” How proper! I saw a film on Daisy Bates at the Chicago Cultural Center. She is one amazing woman!

4. What is your favorite TV show? Right now, Breaking Bad.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Vancouver Island – easy access to hiking, biking, sea kayaking…YES.

6. What did you have for breakfast? An apple with peanut butter.

7. What is your favorite food? Green smoothies right now. So good!

8. Foods you dislike? Snails. Seriously. And foie gras. Seriously.  Have I tried either, no...and I'm not going to.

9. Favorite place to eat? Anywhere I am on vacation.

10. Favorite dressing? Vinaigrette.

11. What kind of vehicle do you drive? I’m in the city…no driving for me!

12. What are your favorite clothes? Cozy sweaters, jeans and boots.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance? Vietnam.

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full? Full…most of the time!

15. Where would you want to retire? Vancouver Island

16. Favorite time of day? Morning

17. Where were you born? California

18. What is your favorite sport to watch? Football!

19. What is your favorite fragrance? I love anything spicy. I’ve got cinnamon candles at home and love fall smells like pumpkin and sugar cookies and…now I am hungry.

20. What is your favorite face cream? The Body Shop

21. Favorite baby/kids products? No comment.

22. People watcher? For sure!

23. Are you a morning or night person? Morning

24. Do you have any pets? Nope

25. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share? Not really

26. What did you want to be when you were little? A lot of things…a marine biologist, a pediatric oncologist, an online news anchor, the first female President of the United States

27. What is your favorite memory? My surprise wedding on the beach in Tofino

28. Are you a cat or dog person? Neither, really…but, if I have to choose…dogs all the way.

29. Are you married? See #27

30. Always wear your seat belt? Not when I am in the back of a cab – I don’t know why, I just don’t

31. Been in a car accident? As a passenger, yes.

32. Any pet peeves? Being late to things…I HATE being late.

33. Favorite pizza toppings? Sun-dried tomatoes and spices.

34. Favorite flower? Peonies

35. Favorite ice cream? I’m not a big fan of ice cream, actually

36. Favorite fast food restaurant? I’m ignoring this question…you don’t want to get me started on my anti-fast food restaurant rant.

37. How many times did you fail your driver's test? None.

38. From whom did you get your last email? A co-worker

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? Patagonia.

40. Do anything spontaneous lately? Went out to dinner with a close friend after work…we needed it!

41. Like your job? Yes

42. Broccoli? YES

43. What was your favorite vacation? Trip to Vancouver and Vancouver Island. So relaxing!

44. Last person you went out to dinner with? My husband!

45. What are you listening to right now? The prairie wind attempting to rip off our siding. It’s super-windy out there!

46. What is your favorite color? Black

47. How many tattoos do you have? Two. And I am now beginning to regret them.

48. Coffee drinker? Yes, as long as it’s decaf!

Happy random, everyone!

26 January 2012

Topic Number Two: Food and Being a Rock Star in the Kitchen

I've been a carnivore, a vegetarian, a vegan and then everything in between.  During my short time on this earth, I've enjoyed the luxury of good food, struggled with an eating disorder, anguished over what the "right" diet is for me, and indulged in many a glorious meal with family and friends around the table.  Food is at the center of socialization and for me, the focal point of my attention these days.

As I navigate my relationship with food, I've come to realize that it can be invigorating, demoralizing, complicated, complimentary, full of love, compassionate and - most of all - a way to connect.  Currently, I find food to be a source of empowerment as I commit myself to a vegan diet - a diet without meat, eggs, cheese, honey and the like.  I find inspiration, humour, encouragement and more empowerment through the words and images found on food blogs and in cookbooks, travel journals and my own food diaries.  I would encourage anyone to think about their relationship with food and their own food journey - how its accompanied you through the peaks and valleys of your life.

Like I said, I'm currently engaged in a vegan diet.  Why?  Well, for multiple reasons.  Last year, I decided to commit myself to learning as much as I possibly could about the food I put in my body.  I read, watched videos, asked questions of friends and family, learned about the environmental impact of animal farming, experimented in the kitchen (yes, I cooked...not microwaved!) and began to listen to what my body needs and what it responds to.  I learned that I get sinus infections when I indulge in cheese and other dairy products.  I feel groggy and sluggish when I eat refined white carbs.  And...most importantly, I discovered that I enjoy eating a meat-free diet.

I felt for the first time in my life that I was gaining control of my troubled relationship with food.  As a child, I ate awesome homemade meals prepared by the deft and creative hands of my parents.  We would make home-made stir fries and egg rolls, stir pots of spaghetti sauce together, indulge in stroganoff, shred veggies for salads, and - at the end of the prepartion, we would eat together as a family.  Meals were times of joy and it continued after dinner when my sister and I would take up "kitchen duty" and wash the pots and pans while singing along, wooden spoons in hand to serve as microphones, to our favourite albums (Tiffany and NKOTB, anyone?) on our boom box.  We were rock stars in the kitchen and a family that loved to gather around the table together. 

As I entered my teenage years and we moved across the Atlantic to Germany, my relationship with food became complicated.  I developed an eating disorder in high school that continued through college and into my 20s.  I couldn't understand how the joy and meaning in food had become such a nightmare.  I sought out therapy, stocked my toolbox with a variety of things that would help me approach food in a holistic way and began to build another relationship with food.  It is a relationship that I could actively participate in and feel good about - in more ways than one.

The big turn came when I made the move to Canada.  I was no longer single and living in the city.  I was living in a small town where there wasn't 24/7 access to food, no happy hours with co-workers, and was harbouring general exhaustion of a steady diet of Clif Bars (although delicious!), bagged salads and microwave burritos.  My husband is an excellent cook and the curious side of me wanted to enjoy the same experience he had in the kitchen - one that started with the excitement of planning a menu, inviting others to come together over a good meal, and then cleaning up with some good tunes in the kitchen.  He was a rock star in the kitchen (sans NKOTB) and I wanted some of that back.  Thus began the education.

I began with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and then took on Michael Pollan.  I devoured Mark Bittman's articles on the New York Times and sought out PETA and other vegetarian-oriented websites.  I watched film after film about how food gets to our plates and began to see "food activism" as a new avenue for me to channel my energy and passion.  I committed myself to a vegan diet and while I've lapsed into vegetarianism every now and then, for the majority of the time, I avoid anything that has been derived from an animal.  This has been one of the most empowering decisions of my life.

I know I am doing good things for the planet.  I know I feel better about myself and my body.  I know that I like talking to others about being a vegan/vegetarian and surprising them with delicious goodies that I've created in the kitchen.  In short, I've got my food joy back and I am getting ever-closer to being a rock star in the kitchen again.

Some Food Inspiration

Her writing is awesome and her dishes look amazing.  We adapt her stuff to make it vegan.

Angie is living my dream

Educate yourself with this film, this film and this film.  Oh, and this one too!

Bittman ('nuff said)

The book that started it all

On my cooking shelf now - this and this

Happy (and healthy!) eating, everyone!

25 January 2012

Moose Jaw Minute #77: Topic Number One: The Art of Travel

I love to travel.  And, when I say I love to travel, I don't just mean I-love-it-when-I-get-to-my-next-destination kind of travel...I mean I love everything about it. 

I love my El ride to the airport as I try to navigate my bag into the train car while avoiding bumping into other people and taking up as little space as possible.  I love walking up to the counter at O'Hare to check said bag, wishing the customer service rep "a nice day" because I know they probably don't hear that often enough.  Heck, I even love the stories told in the security line as you see people peeling off layers of coats, sweaters and shoes, pulling out tiny baggies of beauty lotions and potions, and holding their hands up for ten seconds as the body scanners do their thing. 

I love pacing the terminals, peering into different shops, watching friends, families and business travelers call loved ones, clickity-clack on their laptops, seek out a snack, or indulge themselves in a book.

I love boarding the plane, no matter how small the space because I know for however long my journey is, I will have some down time with just me, a crossword puzzle and a podcast to pass the time.  I love the hushed din of the cabin as low conversations take place and the rustling of newspapers and magazines takes over. 

Most of the time, my travel involves customs agents who ask me where I've been and where I'm going.  It's the first time I usually speak to someone for more than five minutes during my journey.  I love holding my passport and seeing where I've been and dreaming where I will go next.  Most of all, I love crossing the threshold into a new space...a new country, a new state, a new place where I will experience something different even if I've been there before because this is a new journey in a different time.

Travel is my indulgence.  It is my quiet time and my reflection.  I allow myself time to think, read, ponder and (most importantly!) conquer those crosswords. 

I find inspiration in other journeys and hoard images in my mind of far-off places that I WILL someday see.

In a world that is shrinking and where travel is becoming more accessible, I think we should return to the joy of travel.  Find the little things in our journeys that make us happy and content.  After all, our whole time on this tiny planet in the sky is one big trip...we may as well make the best of it.

For your Virtual Traveling Pleasure

I want to experience every one of their trips.

Beautiful images and tons of insights from Travel & Leisure.

AFAR.  Travel the way it's meant to be.

Budget Travel.  For people like me!

Um, have you ever just sat and dreamed up your round-the-world dream trip?  I did here.

Must-haves for every trip.

Oh-my-goodness...so glad I found this.  Food + Travel = Love

Travel safe!

22 January 2012

Moose Jaw Minute #76: Coming Up...Seven Days, Seven Topics

Over this next week, I will be taking on the challenge of writing about seven topics in seven days.  Yup, one post a day for seven days on topics I find of interest (and, well...hopefully you do too).  Let's learn a little more about one another...shall we?

Happy weekend, everyone!

15 January 2012

Moose Jaw Minute #75: Sunday in the City

Confession.  The times I like the city the best, aside from during the holidays when everything is decked out in twinkling lights and the streets are as crowded as a mosh pit and stores are piping in "Jingle Bells" from every speaker is...

Sundays.  After the holidays.  When the loop is quiet and the only thing disturbing the muffled sounds of barely-there-city-noises is the roar of the brown and orange lines on the el tracks above making their daily rounds.  I had to work this fine Sunday and I as I walking toward the office, I genuinely appreciated the chill in the air, the bright blue sky above and the absence of...

Twinkling lights, streets as crowded as a mosh pit and no "Jingle Bells."

My yin and yang.

Happy Sunday, everyone.

11 January 2012

Moose Jaw Minute #74: Vision

What better way to ring the new year in than by getting on the road right away?  Last week I was in Kansas City for a conference of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.  It was pretty cool and I got to spend Tuesday through Friday with tons of inspired college students who are looking to make their mark in the nonprofit sector.  It was energizing and motivating and, while exhausting (erm, I can't do 2 AM going-to-bed on a regular basis anymore!), I came back ready to tackle things with new perspective.

I've been musing a lot about next steps and what I want my 2012 to look like.  As you may remember from last year, we don't do resolutions.  Instead, the husband and I set goals for the new year.  This year, we took a different approach and wrote things down month by month.  What did we want to accomplish in January, February, March, and so on.  As I came back from the conference, I realized that it's a combination of writing down the goal, but then also having the action plan and mind-set to get it done!

Luckily, I had a Sunday with some girlfriends of mine to help that mind-set process along.  Four of us got together in a cozy apartment with football on in the background to catch up, nibble on food goodness and create...wait for it...vision boards.  Yup, a la Oprah-Vision-Boards.  We had piles of magazines around us, scissors and glue sticks at the ready and we talked, cut, and pasted our way into poster-board-bliss-full-of-wonderful-thoughts.  Did I ever think I would create an official vision board?  Nope.  It turns out to be a good exercise though and at the end of the day, we did some decoding of what our boards might mean.

For example, I had a lot of domestic airy spaces to start...minimalist, clean bedrooms - a spa bathroom - a patio with a hammock.  Erm, clearly I'm looking for some domestic bliss!  That served as the foundation of my board.  I had then cut out tons of words and phrases that meant something to me like:

"I realized today is the day I write my own story."

"The road to inspiration."

"Soul Surfer"

"The Birth of Cool"

I know I want this year to be one of positive thinking and open approaches to my life and work.  I have a framed quote on my desk that these same friends passed on to me that reads:

"Live What You Love"

Well, you know what, on a regular basis...I DO!  And, recognizing that is half the battle.  

So, to start the new year off right, I've taken it upon myself to truly live what I love.  To try to live more in the moment while creating a positive vision for what the future holds.  As I deftly move between the big city and the prairie, I'm going to soak it all in and not only hope for the best, but work and make the best happen for myself.  

It's looking like it's going to be a good year...