The week in review: May 19th

It appears winter has arrived in NZ, announcing itself by way of rain, wind gusts, and crisp mornings. Inevitably, it’s all very different from winter in Ontario and we are curious about the months to come. I think of plans for July and immediately conjure images of hot and humid days, then remind myself that such weather doesn’t apply to this part of the world at that time of year.

There are also other fascinating discoveries. Two weeks ago, I noticed that the moon phases progress in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. As someone who follows the moon particularly closely, I was puzzled to see that the moon was waxing from the left to the right side. My delight at this so-called discovery might sound downright ridiculous to others for whom this information is likely common knowledge, but it fills me with inexplicable joy and curiosity. Please do leave a note in the comments below and tell me, did you know about this ‘mirror effect’ of the moon in the northern vs. the southern hemisphere?

A few favourite moments from the past week:

May19b
I was almost knocked off my feet by a wind gust while taking photos near the dunes. I’m at once terrified and fascinated by the ocean on stormy days.
May19c
Beachside treasures that leave me in awe of the wonders of the universe.
May19d
It’s easy to eat the rainbow when delicious vegetables are in abundance at the farmers’ market.
May19e
I adore the whimsical nature gifts that the youngest Wanderlust Junior brings home almost daily. Some of them — ahem, pet bugs — are somewhat questionable, but others are sweet.

Favourites from around the web:

Modern Mrs. Darcy has released her list of 17 books everyone will be talking about this summer. I can’t wait to get my hands on a few of these. Which ones are you looking forward to reading?

A fascinating podcast: Accelerated Learning: Get Good at Anything in 20 hours

Beautiful, honest, and though-provoking. Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them. I have often looked at photos of my mother from her late teens and early 20s and wondered about the woman she was before I changed her world.

We spend plenty of time inside our heads. You Can’t Be Creative without Being in Your Body

Things have been busy on my end. It’s time to return to basics. Today I’ll Press Pause

Excellent advice for the writer. So you want to be a writer? Essential tips for aspiring novelists

Wishing you a beautiful weekend, regardless of the reigning season!

The week in review: May 12th

It’s a rainy and windy day, with a reminder of Autumn. We are spending the evening in hibernation, made more cosy with a few good books, a hearty chickpea stew, and freshly baked brownies for dessert.

A collection of favourite moments from the past week:

DSC_5876 (1)
Delicious kale from a local permaculture garden yielded these perfectly crispy chips.
DSCN7865
More fresh, organic goodies.
May6l_PihaBeachLionsRock
Spectacular Piha Beach.
May7c_interestingtreesatthebeach
Walking along the beach near Devonport, Auckland, I brought my gaze up from the seashell-sprinkled sand toward these beautiful giants.
DSCN7864
The perfect rainy day companions.

Favourites from around the web:

I’m fascinated by neuroplasticity and this article offers interesting insight. Could your thoughts make you age faster?

For the bibliophiles: Reading is Forgetting.

Getting stuff done with the pomodoro technique. Thoughts?

A different take on the Little Free Library. Thoughts?

Wherever your travels might take you this weekend, may it be beautiful in every way!

Favourites: March 10th edition

A few simple highlights from the past week:

Knitting

A delightful new knitting project!

LianeMoriarty

A great book.

DSCN6030

 

Our current quick-and-easy ‘go to’ dessert: banana and chocolate chip cake.

From around the web:

Important for HSP to remember.

A mindful approach to difficult emotions.

Self-care.

Environmental responsibility..

More mindfulness.

For the yogis.

On letting go of books. Mr. Wanderlust and I recently significantly downsized our enormous library; we can empathize with the author of this story.

Life lessons.

Instagram Favourite:

I enjoy following the explorations of Zero Waste Chef. Her profile states the three inspiring rules she follows to run her kitchen: “Rule #1 no packaging. Rule #2 nothing processed. Rule #3 no trash.”

Wishing you a tranquil weekend!

Slow mornings

Sunday morning.

A few overripe bananas alone in the centre of a large ornate bowl.

Hungry bellies await breakfast.

A yawn escapes while the countertop is set with a metal bowl, a whisk, and measuring cups.

The bananas are peeled, then mashed.

Milk is poured, with juice of half a lemon squeezed to replace buttermilk.

Coconut oil melts in the skillet.

The dry and wet ingredients intermingle in a large bowl.

A handful of chocolate chips tossed into the mix. Why not?

Coconut oil sizzles as batter is poured onto the hot surface.

The routine is tranquil, meditative.

The kettle emits a gentle whistle as the water inside boils.

Tea. Pancakes. Coffee. Maple syrup.

Simple, like Sunday morning.

pancakes3

In the interest of saving time amid a busy weekday routine, we celebrated Fat Tuesday a couple of days early. In truth, Sunday morning pancakes are a tradition chez nous. Here is our favourite banana and chocolate chip pancake recipe:

Ingredients:

2 medium-size very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup buttermilk (or a cup of milk with lemon juice squeezed into it)
1 egg
1 tbsp coconut sugar or white sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
handful of chocolate chips
additional coconut oil for frying

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, bananas, buttermilk, sugar, and oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold the batter showly. Add the chocolate chips and stir gently.

Fry 2-3 minutes per side on a skillet lightly greased with coconut oil or butter. Serve with maple syrup and/or other favourites.

pancakes4

Place share a favourite pancake recipe in the comments below.
 

Pantry declutter project: mung bean soup

I spent the weekend tidying the laundry room in our home and sorting through piles of paperwork that I had collected over the past several years. I’m also cooking my way through our kitchen pantry stash of beans, flours, and other items that we had purchased once upon a time within the past few years but have not used in substantial quantities.

On Sunday, I used a large quantity of flour to make play-doh for the youngest Wanderlust Junior’s classroom; banana pancakes for breakfast; banana and chocolate chip muffins for Wanderlust Juniors’ snack break at school; and a banana and chocolate chip loaf for our post-dinner dessert. I confess that my baking quest was not a result of attempting to bake my way through an entire bag of flour. Rather, there were too many very ripe bananas sitting on our kitchen counter, begging to be featured in several delicious ways.

Last week, I shared with you my recipe for banana, blueberry, and lavender muffins. This time, I will share with the result of my pantry declutter project: mung bean soup. I made a large pot of this flavourful, warming, grounding soup on Sunday afternoon for me and Mr. Wanderlust to enjoy at lunch all throughout the workweek.

Ground, warming mung bean soup recipe

MungBean2

Ingredients:

2 cups dry mung bean

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small white or yellow onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

3 carrots, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped finely

1 green pepper, chopped finely

1 heaping tbsp tomato paste

Enough filtered water or vegetable stock (or a mixture of both) to cover the mung bean and vegetables, plus three additional inches of water and/or stock on top

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

1 tbsp curry powder

sea salt and pepper, to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preparation:

  1. Soak the mung bean overnight in a large pot in cold water. Before cooking the soup, rinse and drain the beans.
  2. In a large cooking pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil and cook the onions and garlic until they turn a golden brown colour.
  3. Add the carrots and celery and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the bell peppers and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the tomato paste, turmeric, and curry powder, and stir everything together.
  6. Add the salt and pepper and water and/or stock, cover and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue to cook the soup, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour on low heat.
  8. Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice, and stir once again.

I like to allow the soup to rest overnight, absorbing the flavour, and serve it the following day.

Do you have a favourite soup recipe that incorporates various legumes that just might be lurking in my pantry? Please share them with me in the comments below.

Do you know someone who might enjoy this recipe? Please share this blog post with a friend!

In the bleak midwinter, I shall bake muffins

The Wanderlust Juniors and I spent the first week of the new year with my parents in cottage country, where we slept in, enjoyed plenty of time outdoors in the fresh winter air, taking walks and playing in fluffy snow — almost knee-deep for me, and even deeper for them. It’s truly a pleasure to grant ourselves a vacation from the everyday bustle, to start the year on a quiet note, with a retreat from the city, immersed in silence.

winter3
Through the wardrobe… Winter is magical.

It would be dishonest of me to say that I do not care about weather changes. Although I do enjoy winter weather, the limited exposure to sunlight does affect me, as it does many others. Yet, staying indoors for an entire day when it’s cold outside also doesn’t help to elevate my mood. That is why I do my best, whenever possible, to bundle up, pull on my big faux-fur winter boots, and head outside for a walk or to play with Wanderlust Juniors. Even 15 minutes outdoors make a tremendous difference, reminding me that the world continually changes, that nothing is ever static, and that we must grant ourselves the opportunity to slow down, take a few deep breaths, and reconnect to the greater world. Perhaps, we just might find that the midwinter is not all that bleak.

winter2
Playtime! Snow angels in the winter sunshine.

After the outing, we go back inside for a large mug of steaming tea for me, and muffins for the boys. Here is my ‘go to’ muffin recipe:

muffins

Banana, Blueberry, and Lavender Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

a pinch of fine sea salt

1-2 tsp culinary lavender (In Toronto, I purchase culinary lavender from Weir’s Lane Lavender & Apiary)

2 ripe bananas

1 egg

1 cup milk of your choice

1/3 cup vegetable oil, grape seed oil, or melted coconut oil

2/3 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F and lightly grease or line a 12-cup muffin baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lavender. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mash the bananas, then add the egg and whisk lightly. Add the oil and milk and continue to whisk until the mixture is uniform.
  4. Carefully pour the wet ingredients into a well in the centre of the bowl containing the dry ingredients. Gently fold in the blueberries, stirring carefully until the batter is just combined.
  5. Using a tablespoon, pour the batter evenly into 12 muffin cups.
  6. Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the muffin baking pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Notes: I sometimes substitute chocolate chips for the blueberries, if you wish. Lavender reminds me of summer in the midst of the cold months; however, if you do not enjoy lavender, you may omit it entirely. The Wanderlust Juniors also love these muffins as a school snack.

winter1

Please leave a comment below to share your tips for staying healthy and joyful throughout the winter months. Also, I would love to read about your favourite type of muffins. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

My goal for 2017: Create Magic

Last year, I set out to focus on being Present in 2016. This year, my intention continues to build on the themes of presence, awareness, and mindfulness, to pay close attention to and seek out the magic that surrounds us every day. I also acknowledge that often, magic is in a spark that lurks just beneath the surface, waiting to be reawakened by our inspiration to live a life that is more robust, reaching beyond the bleak, dust-covered exterior, allowing ourselves to mine deeper with our own curiosity toward a greater potential.

And so, my goal — or mantra, if you will — for 2017 is to create magic.

jan2

I will make more time and space:

  • to read
  • to write
  • to sit in silence
  • to meet a friend for tea and heart-to heart conversation
  • to laugh with my loved ones
  • to enjoy family hikes
  • to practise yoga, moving with ease
  • to make music
  • to dance
  • to play with fun recipes in the kitchen
  • to make cosy, pretty pieces using luxurious yarn

When we make self-care a priority and consciously clear space for what matters most, we create magic.

jan4

What I do not want is to rush, to feel scattered, and to waste time. To me, those actions are the antithesis of magic. They dull creativity instead of stoking its precious embers.

jan5

Do you have a goal, mantra, or word for 2017? To help you fine-tune your focus, you may wish to reflect on the following:

What practices worked for me last year? 

What actions and/or habits did not serve me last year? 

What do I want more of in the new year? 

Spend some time journaling, then read your responses and look for key words that show up on the page. Use those words to create your goal statement or mantra, or choose one or more words on which to focus this year.

jan1

 

If you would like to share your word / goal / mantra with me, please leave a comment below. Here’s to a creative 2017!

A radical new intention

This year, I am starting the month of December with a radical new holiday intention. Instead of rushing to and fro, over-planning, and over-indulging, I choose to do one task at a time, say ‘no’ to what I do not want to do or because it simply doesn’t feel right at this time, and slow down to sustain my mindfulness practice. I intend to move as much as possible every day, even if I can only spare 15 minutes in the morning after a later-than-usual night. Speaking of late nights, I also vow to go to bed earlier, whenever possible. Like many, I require additional rest in the darker, colder months of the year to remain healthy and feel well-rested.

dec13
How lovely is the Toronto Distillery Christmas Market, especially with all that sunshine! All we need now is a bit of fresh, sparkling snow.

In addition to those usual self-care intentions, I am taking on a challenge that to many might seem completely counter-intuitive right before the holidays: I’m giving up refined sugar. I could have waited until January to quit sugar, but I don’t believe in wasting time, nor do I enjoy waiting to do something that I can do right now, especially if it is a beneficial change that I can make today.

dec12
Festive window decor.

For me, refined sugar (white or brown) is a substance on which I have come to depend, and this, to me, is problem. While some might be able to have one cookie once per week, then happily enjoy a few dessert-free days, that cookie sends me into a frenzy every time, amplifying cravings. According to Gretchen Rubin, I am an abstainer and as much as I might wish to convince myself that moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle, it turns out that when it comes to sugar, it is far from the truth for me. And so, on this first day of December, my challenge is to stop consuming sugar. Is this a permanent change? Maybe. Nothing is permanent, nor, in my opinion, should we expect it to be. I might choose to eat dessert on special occasions, if it feels right, or I might decide to remain strict with myself once and for all. Dessert ceases to appeal to me when I have been sugar-free for a couple of weeks. So, resisting treats at Christmas should be a piece of — sugar-free — cake.

I do indulge by substituting maple syrup, dates, coconut sugar, and honey for white and brown sugar when baking cakes and cookies or preparing oatmeal for breakfast. Personally, I do not ever develop a dependence on those healthier sweet alternatives and therefore am able to indulge in them mindfully, in moderation.

dec14
I have previously gone off sugar for several long periods at a time, breaking fast when I convinced myself that I could eat just one tiny piece of birthday cake or a cookie. Although my will power is strong when it comes to other passions, it is not strong with attempting to moderate my sugar consumption. 

Do you wait until after the holidays to set resolutions for a healthier lifestyle? Is there an intention that you would like to set for the month of December? 

A nourishing celebration

 

At 11 o’clock on Sunday, the stands at the local farmers’ market are abuzz not only with the greedy wasps that land on the juiciest ripe peaches. Shoppers with large cloth bags tucked under their elbows stroll leisurely along the lane, their eyes lit with pleasure as they inhale the fresh, colourful scents that surround them. Late summer’s harvest bounty is on full display. There is nothing demure about it. The plump eggplants and oversized zucchini are sensually bathed in light in golden straw baskets, the vendor knowing all too well that before long, they will be picked up gently by large warm hands that will appreciate their weight. The vegetables will be admired by eyes that will grow hungry at the sight of the deep velvet aubergine and green colours. They will feed many a mouth at today’s dinner.

“Mommy, can we buy strawberries?” the eldest Wanderlust Junior’s eyes smile at mine as we pass the perfectly shaped heaps of shiny berries glistening in the sun. It occurs to me that I can actually smell them from several feet away in the open air. I yearn to taste those berries.

The next moment, my gaze darts to the florist’s stand with its smorgasbord of colours, and I am inevitably pulled toward them. Beautiful food and flowers are two of my beloved simple pleasures.

“Sunflowers! I want to buy sunflowers!” they are the youngest Wanderlust Junior’s favourite. Amidst scarlet gerbera daisies, they will be the perfect delicate decoration for our small round dinner table.

We buy 250 g of freshly roasted coffee beans to bring home for Mr. Wanderlust. The after-lunch espresso fills our home with an irresistible aroma. I mean it! I rarely drink coffee these days, but I give into the temptation of a delicate cup after our lunch of freshly baked bread with smoked trout, soft chevre, and a salad of spinach and multicolour baby tomatoes drizzled with a dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, coarse Hawaiian sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, with those succulent strawberries for dessert. Simple. Delicious.

Last week, I read Elizabeth’s Bard 2010 memoir Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes, in which she documents her move to the city and exploration of its culinary delights, the recipes for many of which are also shared in the book. As a Francophile, this book had been on my To Read list for the past few years, and I was glad to finally pick up a copy from the local library. I was familiar with recipes for several of the French staples, and ratatouille is on my annual rotation for the harvest season.

For dinner, I slowly sauté coarsely chopped onions in a generous amount of olive oil, gently moving them around the skillet until they are translucent and their sweet aroma cascades through the kitchen. I add chunks of aubergine, red and yellow peppers, and beefsteak tomatoes. I omit the zucchini today, since my preference is for the more flavourful smaller varieties, which weren’t to be found at the market this time. I sprinkle the beautiful medley with sea salt, black pepper, and a couple of pinches of oregano. After a few more minutes, the ratatouille is ready, the vegetables simmering in a perfectly thickened sauce. I serve it alongside fresh young potatoes coated with melted butter and chopped chives from my garden, then add a few pieces of leftover chicken breast. For dessert, we enjoy a yogurt cake made with ripe local nectarines (see photo above). The yogurt cake is a staple in many French homes, easy and quick to bake with basic ingredients that are likely already waiting in the pantry of the fridge. I enjoyed Bard’s version of this classic and will return to it over and over again.

DSCN4024
Ratatouille, simmering on the stove.

I have long been a fan of French cuisine, and not only for the recipes and variety of dishes. It’s the French attitude to food that inspires me, with an emphasis on slow cooking and eating, enjoying every bite. This style of food preparation and consumption celebrates each meal, whether it is a dinner served in honour of a special occasion or a simple lunch for one. I must say that weeknight dinners in our home tend of be rushed, but even then, I do my best to make every serving appear beautiful on the plate, presented with gratitude and tenderness. Weekend dinners are an opportunity for us to slow down, linger, and reconnect once again.

The weekend trip to the farmer’s market is itself an occasion, inviting us to browse, to caress, to close our eyes and smell the peaches, the tomatoes, to delight at the warmth of the corn nourished by the late August sunlight as an image forms in our minds of what we will prepare and serve for dinner. For me, a grocery shopping trip often feels like a chore, which is a perfect invitation to move slower, more mindfully, with complete presence as I purchase provisions for the school and work week. An excursion to the farmers’ market is different. It does not require coaxing. Later, after we return home, comes the meditation of stirring the onions in the skillet and observing their changing colour, listening closely for the subtle sizzle of the hot oil, breathing in the sweet scent. I smile as I adorn the table with flowers that tell their own story while eavesdropping on our pleasant dinner conversation. The entire experience is slow, intentional, inviting all our senses to join in the dance.

What’s not to celebrate?

Do you enjoy shopping at the farmers’ market? How do you cultivate presence while shopping for groceries and preparing meals at home? 

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Routine While on Vacation

aug4

Several days ago, my family and I recently returned from a beautiful beach holiday on the shores of one of our favourite lakes. We spent a fun week building sand castles, SUPing, enjoying sunset walks and an exciting day trip that included a cruise on a glass-bottom boat to see shipwrecks. When away from home, our habits tend to change somewhat, as can be expected.

Did I drink beer several times throughout the week? Did I enjoy many s’mores by the bonfire and just as many servings of ice cream / gelato? You bet I did. And I savoured every moment. Not for a minute did I reprimand myself for letting down my guard. It was a choice I made mindfully, allowing myself to soften into the experience while trusting my intuition and maintaining a lifestyle of wellness.

aug3

Here is how I navigated three of my regular healthy habits while on vacation:

Eating

My nutrition habits are relatively healthy, keeping to the typical 80/20 rule and enjoying dessert from time to time while making mindful choices about the nutrients that fuel my body. While on vacation, I continued to eat healthy foods but we did eat out in restaurants several times throughout the week. We balanced this out by visiting the local grocery store and farmers’ market and stocking up on fresh produce. August is a time of gorgeous fresh, local fruit and vegetables, which were in abundance everywhere we went. We packed those as snacks for ourselves to take to the beach and enjoyed salads for dinner.

aug1

Sleeping

At home, I typically am in bed by 10 p.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. to work out and practise yoga. While away, we naturally put the kids to bed later, after enjoying the sunset on the beach or sitting by the fire. The parents’ natural bedtime was closer to midnight and we all woke up quietly, slowly at around 9 a.m., feeling refreshed and recharged.

aug2

Exercise

When I sleep in, which doesn’t happen often, and wake up at the same time as my children, I tend to write off my workouts and yoga practice for the day. However, while away, I simply shifted my physical exercise to the siesta hour in the afternoon. An hour or two after lunch, the children would spend some time watching a favourite DVD while Pawel read a book, and I would head out into the backyard of our rental cottage to roll out my mat. Working out outside encouraged me to be resourceful, using whatever I had close by as props. The owners of the cottage left two skipping ropes for the children guests. However, I was the one who ended up putting the skipping ropes to good use for cardio. I utilized the wooden benches on the patio for tricep dips and the wooden stairs for lunges. Typically, my morning workout and yoga practice last approximately an hour. My siesta-time workouts on the grass were about 30 minutes in length. I didn’t try to time myself. I naturally moved in a way that felt good. Some days were slower, softer, and others left me sweaty, happily walking into the shower after a morning at the beach and an afternoon on my yoga mat. I also did a lot of running on the beach with the boys, walked everywhere, and SUPd.

It feels liberating to let go of a rigid schedule and preconceived notions about routine, giving ourselves permission to live in flux, allowing ourselves to put life on hold for a while but still maintain a healthy lifestyle. In fact, when I feel relaxed, with no major responsibilities that I normally have at home and at work, I find that I naturally feel better and healthier, which leads me to make healthy choices. The key is to carry the calm mental and emotional state with us back into our regular post-vacation routine.

What healthy habits do you uphold while on vacation? Please share your tips in the comments below. You can also connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for additional pictures of our holiday.