May 19, 2013 / 5:00 am
Once upon a time, food preparation was a decision based on convenience, not taste, when I began to cook and fend for myself in the kitchen. Some decades later, cooking has become a rich palette of flavours, spices, colors, textures, and wonderful aromas. With attention to taste and nutrition, the pleasures of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter have become deciding factors in cooking something nutritious and delightful.
Much of what we see advertised caters to convenience and speed; nutrient poor minute rice, fat filled fast food, and sugar coated imitations. Our poor bodies! We are somehow convinced these easy eats are tastier and less expensive than preparing fresh food, when the opposite is true. Not only does so-called convenience food cost in poor health down the road, it also proves quite expensive in packaging and cost due to their lack of natural nutritional value. It's not so great for the environment either.
I grew up in a region with a short growing season, so fresh produce was hard to come by. Mostly trucked in, most of the nutritional value was lost, not to mention the lack of taste. Winter compared to summer tomatoes are like apples compared to oranges – I just don’t bother to eat tomatoes out of season anymore since the flavour is so disappointing. Best to turn those tomatoes into sauce! Luckily, I had parents who gardened and we were blessed to enjoy the amazing sweetness of baby carrots plucked fresh out of the garden, and the deliciousness of fresh salad greens. So far, I have never tasted a better broccoli than what my parents grew. Eating these vegetables was an experience of pure joy and satisfaction, leaving my body full and satisfied from the fiber, vitamins and other nutrients they provided. Ever notice how you’re still hungry soon after gorging on fast food and soda? Possibly because your body is still starving for the nutrients it requires to function at its optimal level. It is not so convenient after all.
Living in the Okanagan for over a decade, not a season goes by I don’t have a heart full of gratitude for the explosion of tastes, colours, and variety available for consumption at the farmers' markets and fruit stands. In spite of the crowds, I am an avid fan, and I’m obviously not alone. From eggplant purple heirloom tomatoes that taste other-worldly to the locally made goat cheese, there is no end to the culinary delights.
Not feeling inspired? Overwhelmed where to start a meal plan? Recipes and suggestions on food preparation are a click away. Some great sites to explore are www.epicurious.com and www.foodnetwork.ca for scrumptious inspirations.
Food preparation can also be relaxing and meditative! Turn on your favourite music (I like classical and the blues to cook with), light candles and pour a generous glass of local wine or micro-beer. Set a beautiful table, maybe with wild flowers in your favourite colours. Focus on every bite and sip of your meal – chewing food slowly and well is an important first step in healthy digestion (no hoovering)! Try to pick out all the nuances of your meal – spices, herbs, etc.
Eating can be a necessary pleasure, not another chore to fit in to a crazy schedule; certainly better than gulping down a tasteless cardboard imitation, followed by chalky antacids. As Julia Child used to enthuse, ‘Bon Appétit’!
Apr 21, 2013 / 5:00 am
From time to time, often with the first warm breezes of spring, nostalgia hits me like a splash of sweet Cherry Kool-Aid. An irrepressible longing takes hold and won’t let go. Too often, the emotions accompanying my reminiscences involve a sadness or melancholy for days gone by.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to get lost in melancholia, because good memories only require a change in focus. We can turn it around by writing a fun list of experiences missed from the past that remind us how simple things can bring about inexplicable happiness, laughter (sometimes hysterics), and a deep sense of joy and contentment.
Following is a list I hope inspires you to draw upon your rich well of memories to write your own list of favourite childhood memories:
- Homemade popsicles and freezies like Mom used to make for us and the neighbor kids
- Dad’s Old Spice cologne drifting down the hallway after one of his showers
- Enjoying all-night gab-fests with my best friend in her parents camper on our sleep-overs
- Fast rides down beautiful country roads in a muscle car with all the windows rolled down
- Eating outside with the whole family, with the savory scents of BBQ wafting in the air
- Honeycomb candy
- The first heady scents of lilacs floating through the air
- Tanning in the backyard with a giant stack of books and magazines
- Walking home on a hot summer’s night from the movie theatre
- Discovering new books and fresh inspiration at the local library
- Eating sun warmed, oily potato chips at the lake, with waves lapping gently ashore
- Listening to Dad cackle mischievously (and contagiously)
- Snuggling up to Mom on the sofa to watch a good movie
- Kissing the fuzzy head of my dog
- Necking outside, under a night full of stars, lost in sensuality
- Dancing non-stop at the nightclubs until closing time
- Northern sunsets – brilliant and pink fired
- Eating fresh peas and carrots dug out of my parents' garden
- Mom’s soup and sandwich lunches that brought together family and friends
- My peaceful blue and white bedroom
- The smoky scent of campfire and sticky toasted marshmallows
Now, how can you bring your nostalgic memories back to life? Don’t judge right/wrong, good/bad. The quote “Nothing is good or bad, only thinking makes it so” applies here. Who cares if corn pops or burnt marshmallows aren’t good for you? Your spirit and heart may feel differently! Get creative and then, take action! Have fun living life to its fullest, peppering your todays with lovely experiences of yesterday that remind you how good it is to be alive!
Mar 19, 2013 / 5:00 am
Have the dark, dreary walls of winter begun to close in on your tired soul? Are blue, azure skies and brilliant sunshine a faded memory in a parallel universe where you felt good just to be alive? If even your funniest friend can’t raise a half a smile on your face, it may be a sign to try some extremely easy measures.
Now, by extreme I don’t mean selling your condo, telling your boss she’s a monster, and jumping the first plane to Cuba, cackling maniacally all the way. I mean trying something new you haven’t before, or something familiar, but in a new way. Not a new flavor of gum, unless just thinking about that puts a sparkle in your eye. I mean trying a new restaurant in a new city (preferably with a lovely view), maybe one that specializes in a type of food you’ve never tried before. I mean start planning a trip or taking a fun course you’ve always put off. Even though it may be a year from now, putting a plan into action can give you a wonderful tingle of excitement that you haven’t felt for some time.
Is there a club or group you can join where you can meet people you would never otherwise cross paths with? Take a step beyond that and actually challenge yourself to start three different conversations with at least three different people. Marvel at the things you discover about three perfect strangers by pushing through your fears of rejection or self-consciousness – they’re illusions of your mind anyway. Seeing life through someone else’s eyes can give you a new appreciation for the diversity of experiences available. And perhaps provide brand new motivation to walk a different path yourself – a path that does not involve lying on the couch bemoaning the fact that your summer vacation is still three months away while inhaling an entire chocolate soufflé.
Another kind of extreme measure may be to slow down, way down, and simply absorb your mind completely in the present moment. Shut down the chatter, the noise in your mind, and just be. Pour yourself a steaming hot chocolate or tea into your favourite mug, shut everything off, get comfortable in the best view spot in your home (or up a mountain drive), and watch the stars twinkling across a night sky. Take a sweet sip. Breathe. Marvel at absolutely nothing. Let yourself be still. Watch the steam curl and evaporate out of your beautiful mug. Absorb the warmth of it into your fingers – feel it in your bones. Realize the normal negative tapes have gone quiet from your thoughts – the voices saying “I hate winter. I wish the snow would go away. I can’t do what I want because the weather won’t cooperate!” Understand you could never appreciate sunshine and warmth quite as passionately without the contrast of snow and a chill in the air. Let yourself recharge and any tension melt away.
Change is inevitable and cabin fever will motivate you to try new things and challenge yourself to see life through a new lens. But for now, silence is golden and snowflakes can dance. Sometimes extreme measures can be found in your favorite mug, one slow, savoury sip at a time, or even in that funny person standing next to you in line at the grocery store, the one with a twinkle in their eye!
Feb 17, 2013 / 5:00 am
When I look in the mirror every day, I want to see the reflection of a person who accepts herself, faults and all – an individual who has lived, experienced, and not only survived, but blossomed into a person I love. I believe we can be people who do not judge themselves (or others) minimally by outward appearances, but have an awareness of the treasures and beauty within. Perhaps, focusing on our abilities to excel at sports, care for our loved ones, or create a successful business we enjoy are more valuable endeavors than searching for hours online for the perfect new nose.
When we see so much plastic surgery advertised in the media, we begin to over-value a youthful, model-clone appearance over a well-developed, self-actualized self. Pretty hair and skin are more the focus than, say, the ability to play the guitar, or excel at sports. But do you ever stop to think – is this what happiness is? Will having huge eyelashes and a flat belly fill me with a sense of satisfaction and pure joy? Maybe temporarily, but what about when you’re 50, 60, 89 years old? What will you have to fall back on then but a past filled with empty pursuits of temporary beauty?
What a transformational experience if everyone treated everyone with an open, non-judgmental mind. Similar to how a dog or other animal looks upon you. I’ve had the pleasure of owning three wonderful dogs in my life, and I must admit have rarely experienced their level of unconditional love. My dog doesn’t look at me with a critical eye and notice I have no make-up on or didn’t do anything with my hair. She doesn’t look my outfit up and down and grimace at my choice of style that day (Stacy and Clinton on TLC’s ‘What Not to Wear’ would be horrified!). She just throws herself, body and soul, into my arms and vibrates with the pure pleasure of my presence. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to greet our spouses, parents, friends, and children with that same spirit of “I am SO GLAD to see you!” But maybe without the bodily vibrations; could be off-putting for people who don’t know you any better.
Keep the Botox and collagen injections for the few who feel forced into them to keep their careers in the spotlight alive a few more desperate years. I still don’t, and never will, understand how duck lips make you more attractive. I’ll take a genuine 80-year-old wrinkly smile over an unnerving Barbara Walters frozen statue look any day.
Instead of hunting through magazines, the internet, or movies for the impossible pursuit of perfection, wouldn’t your time and energy be better spent on developing your innate qualities of kindness, generosity, adventure, leadership, or growing vegetables to share and inspire others? Would it be more effective to bring your skills and wisdom to the world than increase your bra size or change your eye color? How many people does that positively affect? In the end, if all we’ve focused on and developed are putting on fake eyelashes and making our biceps bigger, life in our old age will be very sad indeed. Read, learn, and explore the world around you. See how many joyful wrinkles you can create on your beautiful face and ripple out into the world.
Read more Feel Good articles
- Random acts of goodness Jan 13
- Mentors Nov 17
- Sanctuary Sep 30
- Fun out of the sun Aug 26
- Don't worry - be silly! Jul 22
- Focus Pocus! Jun 24
- The passionate life May 22
- Just be Apr 22
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