The quake, rice ball, hedgehogs vs foxes and audacity

We are currently cat and house-sitting for our friends, Matt and Dori. They are in Tokyo. I almost never watch the news anymore, so I was VERY surprised and concerned to receive an email from Matt saying that there was an earthquake but they are okay. (I realize that Taiwan is north of Japan, but yesterday, I thought about my BFF, Lilliane who lives in Taipei. An email confirmed that they are just fine (they were actually at a wedding when she emailed back), but you never know.)

I now sit here with Sean watching CNN and watching the reporter from “The Economist” try not to freak out as an aftershock rocks his building while he is trying to talk t o Wolf Blitzter. From the quake, and then the tsunami, there is billions of dollars in damages, thousands of missing people, what could be up to 1800 dead, possible nuclear crisis and shortages of fresh water, food and fuel – people are lining up.  But get this, despite all the chaos, everyone is calm. No looting, no freaking out. I suppose that’s a testament to the Japanese culture. Being uncivilized just wouldn’t do. Everyone is helping each other and they recognize that turning to the negative just won’t help the situation.  As the West Coast of North America was affected to a degree, though BC not at all – though the Island was worried, it makes me realize that I really should complete the earthquake kit that I started for our apartment.

I think my least favourite part of situations like this (aside from the mass destruction and devastation) is when they send the reporter and camera to the airport and stick the mic and camera in peoples’ faces and get in the way of their personal moments. Seriously, give these people their privacy. I know it makes heartwarming good news, but come on.

Meet Musubi – he is the reason we are house-sitting in Matt and Dori’s lovely apartment in the Riverport area of Richmond. (My favourite part of this apartment? The soaker tubs – bubble bath heaven – and two bathrooms. Sean’s favourite part? The gas stove. We are both super happy campers.)

Musubi apparently means “rice ball” in Japanese and he is the cutest thing. Once he got over the shock of us being there, he was not shy to “talk” to us, play and sleep on our feet. He’s still a kitten so he has all this energy. One minute he’s on one side of the living room, the next he’s bounding over to jump into a box by the door. He likes Sean’s toes, so it makes it interesting for us to get to sleep. He experienced Hurricane Yasmine on Thursday morning when I was running late (surprise!) for a morning appointment. The first full day of house-sitting is always fun because you don’t know where ANYTHING is, and of course I wasn’t finding anything. The cat was following me at a cautious distance looking slightly awed at my speed and extremely amused. I swear he was laughing at me.

Are you a hedgehog or a fox? I know, random question. At my work’s International Women’s Day celebration on Friday, I discovered that I am a hedgehog – after initially thinking I was a fox. This renewed my need to read the book that has been sitting in my desk overhead bin since August – Good to Great by Jim Collins. He has a theory about the hedgehog and the fox and when I finish the book, I will  blog about it because I will probably discovered and realized a few more things.

We had Silken Laumann as the keynote speaker at our event, and I have to say, she is AMAZING. So inspirational and a true bright light. So deserving of every accolade she has been given. She encouraged us to be audacious as opposed to ever realistic. It was a great speech and I plan to be more audacious in some aspects of my life because every now and then, you need that. 🙂

 

Eating in good company

Eating out is a wonderful thing. Eating out for work is especially a wonderful thing. I have the good fortune of supporting managers and executives that ask me to plan dinners (I LOVE planning work dinners. Love, love, love.) at lovely restaurants every now and then.  And when I plan said dinners, I hear magic words: “And you’ll come with us, right?” Which means I get at least one fancy or fancy-ish meal every couple of months. (December was a fantastic month.)

Last night, I got to cross the Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown off my list. O-M-G. Seriously. If you have ever been there, you have had that OMG moment. We were placed in a lovely semi-private room with walls lined from floor to ceiling with very expensive bottles of various red wines and funky blue glass waves hanging from the ceiling. We had two great servers just for our group and the set menu was wonderful. I had an organic greens salad with goat cheese filled pastry puffs, Arctic char with dungeness crab, fennel and seaweed, and chocolate lava cake. The wine was a lovely chardonnay from Painted Rock and a to die for Burrowing Owl Athene red blend (my new favourite wine that, after extensive googling, it looks like I can only get it in a restaurant at a very inflated price…)

This was a very belated holiday dinner for one of my bosses’ team members and I got to facilitate a white elephant gift exchange. I’d forgotten how fun those are and it was hilarious to watch these grown adults opening, stealing and reacting to gifts.

I really appreciate these dinners because I don’t get to eat and drink like that on a regular basis. But I don’t think it would be as fun to go to work dinners if the people weren’t fun and interesting – the best food and wine don’t make a difference if the people suck  –  so I feel lucky that I get the best of both worlds. So I <3 the work dinner.

On the other end of the spectrum, the work group that I fall into went bowling at the Commodore lanes tonight and we had great fun. (Five pin bowling is hard! We laughed at ourselves a lot.) They don’t sell meals there, so we brought in take-out sushi and I enjoyed that just as much as my Arctic char. These are the people I spend a significant portion of my week, that I genuinely like; and it was nice to do something together that was outside of work.

The company we keep during a meal is important. Sean and I could be eating out, a fancy home cooked meal or delivery pizza – but it’s not about what or where. It’s about sitting together and enjoying each other’s company. It’s one of the reasons we survived the cleanse – we had each other.  If only we could keep the dining room table clear all the time so we could have more sit down meals. Something to work on.

Finding my food groove

This weekend I was a hermit. Sean had to work all weekend, so it’s like I decided to be the opposite end of the spectrum.  I haven’t been feeling all that good these last few days – I’ve felt very flu-like (and no, Alison, I am not pregnant :p ) – and the weather didn’t really inspire leaving the house. I left the apartment twice – once, yesterday, to do laundry (the load and pick up count as one time) and today to go to ballet. I had a couple invites for Super Bowl but I just wanted to come home. Last week was so damn hectic.

Which is why I ordered pizza last night. Such a bad habit. To make up for it, I cranked out some fresh pasta on the KitchenAid and stuffed it with goat cheese. Grilled asparagus with rosemary lamb and pork apple meatballs and I was good to go. It was a bit of an early dinner and all I was missing was a glass of wine – need to add that to the shopping list. (The meatballs were meant to be sausages, but that’s another story entirely.) The picture doesn’t really do my meal justice (no picture of food ever does), but I am so proud that I MADE my dinner. I am slowly but surely finding my food groove, and it feels good. The two-week cleanse instilled some much needed food discipline (not always relying on Sean to cook, my speed dial, or the boring fallbacks) and I like it. I just need to stick with it.

With that in mind, I have a new food project for myself: cooking every recipe in the recipe book that was given to me at my bridal shower. (The great thing about getting married is that you get wonderfully spoiled. My girls and my aunt Leslie threw me a lovely shower and on top of all the gifts, all the wonderful women in my life contributed their favourite recipes.) Many months later, I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t tried a single one yet – I’ve just looked at them. So, I want to try and make one recipe every day – we just need to do a huge shop and I’m good to go. Sean is going to be ecstatic that this project doesn’t involve three days of nothing but veggies – I’m fairly relieved myself. 🙂

Mastering the remote and craving lentils

I sit here surrounded by folded laundry and half-watching “My Life in Ruins” – a moderately (very moderately) good romantic comedy with Nia Vardalos – on Netflix. Watching it makes me want to go to Greece and reminds me of being on the bus in Paris with the army base Americans. Ah, tour groups. But I digress.

At some point, I think I’ve mentioned trying to navigate the Xbox to watch Netflix. The console baffles me to no end. Sean decided that this was a good excuse for a new toy – a universal remote that looks like it belongs in Star Trek. There are a lot of buttons and I feel like it will take me a month or more to figure it all out, (I’ve pushed the wrong button more times than I can count already) but it’s pretty neat. (Apparently, it is meant to make my electronic life easier, but I know he bought it because it has a screen and lots of buttons that he can program and play with. It seems that all our electronics were bought with me but really him in mind. Men. 😉 ) Wouldn’t it be nice to have a universal remote for life?

As soon as cleanse ended, I was ecstatic to have bread back. But the weirdest thing happened the other day, I had a craving for lentil soup. What the heck?!? So I hauled a Glad container of it out of the freezer and had it for lunch at work. Delicious but how very random of a thing to be craving…

Claire invited me to be her plus one for a great play last night – “August Osage County”, currently playing at the Stanley on Granville; Karin Konaval is AWESOME – and pre-show, she made a lovely roast chicken dinner for me and her friend Paul. We had a garbanzo bean and cilantro salad with goat cheese, and garlic mashed yams. All cleanse appropriate, which is ironic considering how we all gorged ourselves on Monday at Cactus Club. As hard as cleanse was, it’s funny how some of it is sticking…

 

And my taste buds sang

Yesterday morning started out early and early mornings are not something I do well. (That’s what I get for checking my work email on Sunday – but at least I was prepared when I got in!) But it also started of with my cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and the icing I licked off my finger from the cinnamon bun I put into a Glad container. I hope my teeth enjoyed the acoustics of my mouth, because my taste buds sang “Alleluia” (like the nuns “The Sound of Music”) when I took that first bite of my bagel. One would think it would have been the “Hallelujah” chorus from “The Messiah” (much more boisterous), but it was 6:15am after all. Handel’s choral masterpiece rang out when I had the first sip of Beringer cab sauv at Cactus Club. Words cannot describe how lovely it was to have a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon after two very long weeks and a very hectic day.

Cactus Club on Burrard was the venue choice for the sole reason that they have Granville Island Winter Ale on tap. Clearly a Sean decision and I was happy to oblige that decision. 🙂 We were joined by fellow cleanse participant, Claire, Aussie Brent, and Sean’s friends Geoff and Richard H. from work.

I won’t go into detail about everything that we ate – the pictures (though not the best as they were from my iPhone in a dim restaurant) kind of say it all (except I forgot to take a photo of the lovely prawn and butternut squash ravioli – OMG it was good) – but it was so nice to be eating to enjoy and not care about a list. Sean, Claire and I were on Cloud 9 – real food! There we were, cleanse survivors with our meat and bread and there was brawny stuntman Brent with his chicken Caesar salad because he wasn’t that hungry.

I am very happy to have bread back in my diet, not just for my bagels and wraps, but if anything because my clothes will, hopefully, fit properly again. When wheat disappeared, apparently a portion of me did as well. I have a lovely highwaisted black skirt from bebe that I decided to wear this morning with a purple blouse and black knee high boots. It’s not a floaty skirt at all but when I put it on, all I could do was sigh because I didn’t have time to change. I suppose I could up my squats. Or maybe just eat more bread. (My friend Delisa from work says to me “Yasmine your skin looks awesome!” – which I am sure comes from all the veggies and water, but I joked that it was because I was eating bread again. I swear, I missed bread more than I missed going to Mexico. Bizaare, I know.)

This cleanse was refresher on discipline and restraint. It was so difficult to adhere to such a strict diet, but I don’t like to fail and I actually feel pretty good. Restraint with food seemed to have provided restraint with shopping, because The Bay was having a Coach purse sale and even though I stopped and looked – completely torturing myself when I found a WONDERFUL bag – I didn’t(!) buy anything and I walked away. I have other more important  things that $200 – that was the sale price – needs to go towards (like groceries, my Visa bill, etc.), but dammit, I wanted that purse. At the same time, I am so proud that I didn’t just hike out my credit card and buy it.

And now, we wait for Panago to deliver while watching the first period of Vancouver at Dallas. (It seems that we have, as someone said to me today, hopped back on the naughty train. But I think we deserve pizza after practically eating the produce market out of business. 🙂 )  American Airlines Center is very empty tonight due to the ice storm. But there are some people there and it sounds like as pee-wee hockey game – you can hear everything. Must be a throwback for some of those guys.

Home stretch!: Lessons learned

The project managers at work go through a thing called “lessons learned” after a project closes. Well, as of midnight tonight, this cleanse project closes (yay!!!) and I want to share our lessons learned and some tips for surviving this or any two-week cleanse.

(I’ve realized that I haven’t posted the actual cleanse to this blog. Click here for cleanse details; as provided by Claire’s naturopath.)

Tip/Lesson #1 – Be prepared: The timing of this cleanse was a bit last-minute so I prepped as much as I could. But you don’t really know until you get into it how your body will react, how you will feel and/or how to substitute almost everything you eat. Find recipes, make a meal plan, and do a big shop one or two days before starting the cleanse. Here is a sample list of items to keep on hand:

PANTRY

  • Canned chickpeas – 4 cans
  • Organic (sugar-free!) vegetable broth – 6 packs
  • Dried lentils – 6 packages
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 1 bulk bottle
  • Brown rice flour
  • Spelt flour
  • Kamut flour
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Yams (for yam fries and mashed yams)
  • Onions – large size
  • Honey – 1 L bottle
  • Trail mix – no peanuts!
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Sunrype fruit bars – all natural and have 2-3 servings of fruit in each bar; some have veggie servings in them as well. An excellent snack.
  • Multi-vitamin supplement (make sure that it is all natural with no traces of dairy, gluten or any of the other no-no’s; Genuine Health Multi + Daily Glow is mine and I swear by it)

$$$ Saver: The bulk food sections at Save-On and Whole Foods are great. Buy food storage jars/containers from HomeSense or IKEA to keep flour and other dry ingredients fresh. Also, London Drugs sells cranberry juice, canned goods and organic sugar-free vegetable broth. Whole Foods, Choices, etc are the best places for the wheat alternative flours and dairy replacements. Tetra packs of soy milk and juice are cheaper than the cartons.

FRIDGE

  • Fresh berries (for baking and munching)
  • Apples
  • Lemons or lemon juice
  • Baby spinach
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Red and green peppers
  • Fresh thyme, parsley, cilantro, rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Flax seed meal (egg replacement)
  • Deli turkey or chicken
  • Whole chicken or turkey to roast
  • Real juice (cranberry, guava, etc.) – no sugar or additives!
  • Soy milk
  • Kamut or spelt bread

$$$ Saver: Visit your local for fresh produce. They tend to have better quality and better priced organic and non-organic produce.

FREEZER

  • Frozen berries and fruit (for smoothies) – this is a cost saver all in itself as fresh berries can add up in cost. Make sure the packages contain just the fruit and no preservatives or sugar.
  • White fish filets (halibut, basa)
  • Chicken breast

$$$ Saver: Costco!

Time and Stress Saver: PREP, PREP, PREP. Plan and make your day one (and two!) meals the night before your first day of cleanse. That way you have snacks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner all set for what is, mentally, a super stressful day.

Tip/Lesson #2 – Google is your friend: Google has always been my friend and it certainly went to bat for me this last fortnight. I found some great recipes (most posted in previous entries along with a couple past/present go-to recipes).

Tip/Lesson #3 – Listen to your body: As previously mentioned, our bodies were baffled by this adventure. The key to dealing with it is sticking to the program but knowing your limits. We are active people and have high metabolisms, so we had to tailor the last week of the all of this to include protein all the way through. And while we stuck to adding one grain back in per day, we added fruit in general back in after the vegetable saga. I added my multi-vitamin and omega 3 back in because I felt really horrible without.

Tip/Lesson #4 – Hydrate and chew gum: Seriously. Do it. Water (at least 2L per day) is your friend and gum will save you from wanting to haul out the chocolate stash or hit McDonald’s for french fries (my weakness).

  • Craving Preventer: Hide the junk and not alouds and forget about them. Out of sight, out of mind. Hide them, give them away, eat them all the night before cleanse starts, whatever – rid the junk from your cupboards and fridge/freezer.

Tip/Lesson #5 – Enjoy but don’t overdo: The night before cleanse starts, have a great meal with wine/beer and a fabulous dessert. But when it’s all over, don’t gorge on all of what you missed for two weeks. You will make yourself sick. I have my whole tomorrow planned in terms of breakfast and lunch and we are hitting Cactus Club for dinner; but as much as I am looking forward to my bagel and carbs, baby steps are important otherwise, my body is going to revolt.

Tip/Lesson #6 – Don’t abandon the healthy: Incorporate the healthy aspects from this cleanse to your regular routine. We were relatively healthy before we started the cleanse, but we discovered and re-discovered some great alternatives that we are going to keep in the food repertoire.

I am really looking forward to my bagel tomorrow morning and I am so done with spinach for a while. Happy Sunday, all!

What’s in a name and the cost of healthy eating

Over the six months since Sean and I got married, I have been slowly but surely changing my stuff over to my new last name. Bank stuff was easy and I finally changed over my SIN card, which is essential for me to change my passport (at least I’ve had the current one for almost three of the five years of validity and have some stamps in it) and officially change my name at work. The thing about changing your ID is that they don’t make it easy for you. Nevermind all the store point cards and such – those places are at least open on the weekend and after work. Government offices? Not so much. And then there’s the lineups and well, I think there needs to be a support group for women changing their last names. :s The guys have it easy. They don’t necessarily do any wedding planning (my guy gave opinions when asked and planned the honeymoon, so he gets points for that 😉 ) and then they don’t have to do anything but get used to sharing a house (if not already doing so) and saying “my wife”, instead of “girlfriend” or “fiancee”.

Good thing I like my new last name.

With one day left in the cleanse, I find myself thinking about the the money we spend to have a healthy lifestyle: food, excersize, etc. I don’t even want to think about the money I have spent on work out videos, Pilates, yoga and dance classes and the gear and clothes to go with those. I try to be a savvy shopper at the grocery store, but the last two weeks more so than previous ones, I’ve noticed that they don’t make it easy when you want healthy items.

Last Friday, after my skytrain delay, I decided to make my last minute shop, a one stop deal. I hit Whole Foods and after Whirlwind Yasmine swept through, the damage was not pretty for two (TWO) paper carrier bags of groceries. Though heavily laden, these bags contained spelt flour, soy mozza, organic produce and a few other things for cleanse. This ended up being around 2-3 days worth of food. Not a lot all things considered.

If I hadn’t been in a rush, I would have stopped at Save-On for the produce and then WH for the fancy stuff. But really? We shouldn’t be having to do the the run around and not everyone can afford to eat as healthily as we are told we should be eating.

Fish tacos were on the menu last night. we added olive oil and lemon juice back into the cleanse diet, so the fish had a beautiful flavor after Sean fried it up. Topped with soy mozza and Sean’s burrito filling and spicy gravy and wrapped in homemade Kamut flour tortillas, it was delicious. (I also had grilled chicken in my salad for lunch. That and kamut bread toast drizzled with honey for breakfast and I was ecstatic. It’s sad, I know.)

Tonight, we grill basa fish to go with yam fries and spinach salad.

Yam Fries – Recipe from Cooks.com

  • 2 lg. unpeeled sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs.)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Vegetable cooking spray – I don’t use this. See note below.
Scrub potatoes; cut each into thin (4 x 1/4 x 1/4 inch) strips. Combine oil and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl, stir well. (You can use whatever herbs and spices you want.) Add potatoes and toss well. Arrange in single layer on baking sheet coated with cooking spray. (You don’t need to do this if you place a sheet of wax or parchment paper on the tray instead.) Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, turning every 15 minutes. Yield 4 servings.
I have been using this yam fries recipe for years. They are super healthy and go with everything. When you’re not on cleanse, you can make a mayo dip, with 4 tbsp Light Miracle Whip, 1 tsp Heinz ketchup, chili powder, fresh ground pepper, oregano, rosemary and thyme (all added to taste).

Welcome back fruit and grain!

This morning was a great morning – I got to eat an apple! After three days straight of nothing but vegetables, yes, that was exciting. Sean had a look of insane glee on his face this morning when I handed him his bag of berries from the fridge for his smoothie.

Today was meant to be a day of adding one fruit and one grain back into our diet. Same deal next day, etc until we’re back to how we were eating last week. Over our very large pre-game (Thanks again for the tix, Bec!) salads at Chopped Leaf (awesome place, excellent wraps, when I can actually eat them) last night, we made the executive decision that we were adding juice back in and that more than one fruit was okay. It was a good decision. My fruit of the day was Granny Smith apples which were supplemented with my breakfast yams and veggie lentil soup. Cranberry juice (not cocktail) and Sunrype fruit bars rounded me out which is good because I had to teach tonight. Energy is needed when teaching Pilates!

Speaking of energy, I had a great session with my work mentor today. Kat was a great choice for a mentor because we are very similar in personality, interests and how we view the world. We have an official monthly session and many impromptu conversations about work, career and life in general.

Every time I spend time with Kat, I learn something new. I was telling her about this cleanse which she thought was fabulous. She’s into yoga, healthy lifestyle and does Reiki massage so she was really interested in how Sean and I were coping. When I told her that we have been super hungry despite eating one week’s worth of veggies, chickpeas and lentil soup (with the addition of some white fish) in the last three days, she asked me what my blood type was. Weird question, right? But as it turns out, not so weird. Apparently our blood types dictate how/what we eat. My blood type (O negative) apparently needs more protein – which explains a whole lot. (Sean is A positive which, ironically enough, is vegetarian based – he looked at me like I was insane when I told him that. I guess he’s a black sheep of his blood type ;).)If you want to check it out, here are some links: http://www.drlam.com/blood_type_diet/ and http://www.dadamo.com/; or google “blood type food”. It’s pretty interesting.

Also interesting? This season’s “American Idol” – I really love the panel with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. They make a good group with Randy and Seacrest. And what about those 15 year old singers?!? Super talented – insane. And then there was that Chris Medina guy who brought in his fiancee in the wheelchair – Janice, you were right, I cried. I am routing for him; beautiful voice and a heart of gold.

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The soup recipe of this cleanse:

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup (makes 10 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1-2/3 large onions, diced (can be substituted with green peppers – really, really good)
  • 3-1/3 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 3-1/3 celery stalks thinly sliced
  • 1 1/4 cup (300 mL) dried green lentils
  • 3/4 tsp (4 mL) dried oregano
  • 1-2/3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 5 cups (1.25 L) vegetable stock (use organic with no sugar)
  • 5 cups (1.25 L) chopped kale or spinach
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) lemon juice
  • 1-2/3 dash hot pepper sauce
  • 10 lemon wedges, (optional)

Preparation:
In slow cooker, combine onion, carrots, celery, lentils, oregano, bay leaf and salt ; pour in stock and 3 cups (750 mL) water. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 7 hours or until lentils and vegetables are tender.

Add kale (or spinach); cover and cook on high for 20 minutes or until wilted. Discard bay leaf. Stir in lemon juice and hot pepper sauce. Serve with lemon wedges (if using).

(Tonight’s dinner was fried basa fish breaded with quinoa (mixed with lemon juice, fresh rosemary, thyme, chili powder, salt and pepper), and leftover lentil soup. It’s nice to be eating something other than and along with vegetables.)

—-

After all this recipe hunting, I realize that I have a recipe (different from this one) for lentil soup from my friend Liss. She gave it to me at my bridal shower and once I have a break from lentils, I am going to try it and share it with you because it sounds delicious.

It’s really sad, but I am beyond excited to eat Kamut bread tomorrow. What has become of me?