Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Celebrating the wee milestones....

I wasn't too happy the year I turned 30 .... it seemed so impossible!  How could I be 30?  I remember vividly when my own mother turned 30 and I thought that was some very strange and abstract age that only could be reached by extremely ancient (and quite possibly prehistoric) individuals!   But somehow I survived and lived to turn .... wait for it .... 40!!! some ten years later.  :)

Today the number 30 is one I'm celebrating, because I have now lost a total of 30 pounds.

It's taken forever.  I had a complete hiatus from losing weight for the entire Christmas season ... which stretched on and on to encompass all Christmas celebrations around the world. ;)    However, the good news is that I never gained back any of the 27 pounds that I lost before Christmas.  Maintaining my weight has always been difficult for me, so I consider it a complete victory that I was able to accomplish this, but when January 5th hit and I realized it was a mere month until we leave for vacation, I knew I needed to get back into my exercise routine and see if I could lose some more weight.

I've been on my exercise bike every day since and although I have only lost another 3 pounds, I have lost loads more in inches and am feeling incredibly energetic and strong!

So Hip Hip Hoorah for 30!   It's a nice number after all.   :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shades of Winter

I have always loved colour.  When someone asks me what my favourite colour is, I always have to hem and haw and try to come up with an answer, because truthfully, I just love all colours!   I remember in Grade 3 getting in trouble with my teacher because I coloured with too many crayons.

"Look at your sun," my teacher exclaimed in horror, "it's a messy swirl of orange and yellow and red!  See how everyone else is making their sun?  They are making them nice and neat, with a big yellow circle with rays coming out of it!  That's the way a sun is supposed to look!"  

But that's not the way the sun looked to me.  I saw it as a big swirl of many colours and that's the way I wanted to colour it.  And I didn't want my sun perched way up in one corner of the page, I wanted a big splashy sun that took over the whole page, drenching it in colours from edge to edge.  I must have been a great trial to my very old-fashioned, linear-thinking teacher!

My eyes are still constantly seeking out colour.  At this time of year, it becomes a treasure hunt for me to find as many colours as I can in the winter landscapes.

Sometimes I can find splashy bold colours, like the bright red of a male cardinal, sheltering in our rose bush.

Or bright-coloured snowsuits against a snowy white hill.

And a scarlet velvety sumac surrounded by evergreen.

At times the colours are much more subtle, like hidden silvery green moss, secreting itself behind a waterfall.

And the olive green plumage of the female cardinal, hunting for seeds beside a white-capped sparrow.

Or the fluffy russet ears of a furry squirrel, happy to find a peanut on a cold winter day.

Sometimes the colours look chillingly beautiful, like the icy blue of frozen water around a rocky outcropping.

And a hazy orange sky over a frozen harbour.

The colours can be shy and delicate, like this pastel pink sky.

But they can also be so warm and inviting, like this sun-strewn path that lights our way home.

And finally, colours can be so very bright and cheerful, like a warm, snuggly cat curled up on a red blanket in a yellow chair, waiting for our return.

(Yes, this is my Tiger, fully recovered and happy, 5 months after her near-death experience!)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Indescribable Snow

It snowed this week for the first time this winter, a light one inch that has almost covered the ground and turned our farm so white. Today the sun is shining brightly and the air is mild so I enjoyed a leisurely stroll through our property. Whenever it snows for the first time, I inevitably think of an Australian family I met years ago when I was travelling through Europe. The children had never seen snow before and they were so disappointed that while they could get glimpses of snow high up in the Alps, they could not actually experience it up close. I was amazed to think they had never seen snow before and attempted to describe it, but quickly  came to the conclusion that it is very hard to describe to someone who has never seen it for themselves.

Not even pictures can do justice to snow.  Can a picture really capture the dazzling brightness of snow as it reflects the sun back into your eyes in millions of prisms?

And how can mere words or even a picture portray snow's lovely fluffiness and the way it caresses the plants on which it lands, like the softest of down comforters.

Or the way it can frost the top of a box like icing on a cake?

Can a picture capture the depths of the shadows that lie across its surface lengthening the most average of trees into veritable forests of stretching timber?

And still reveal how the snow delicately lines each branch as if an artist's brush has gently stroked over each fine detail.....

and then moved on to transform garden ornaments with a palette knife loaded with titanium white.

But it isn't just the look of snow that's hard to describe ... it's what the snow reveals - like the tracks of a hopping bird, foraging for food.

And the secret midnight dance of the rabbits as they court under the winter sky....

Or the path of a lone cat, stalking silently by with its green eyes focused on a mission only he can comprehend.

These are the messages found in the snow, the stories it whispers, the secrets it reveals.  It covers the ground, but exposes so much more.  Even the goldfinch, wearing his drab winter plumage, is more easily spotted when the rosehips have donned their winter caps of snow.

And the junko, practically unnoticeable in summer and fall, becomes a focal point with his soft charcoal feathers set against a white backdrop.

I have concluded that snow is indescribable, a miracle best experienced in person. Second-hand knowledge just won't suffice. I hope, wherever you are, you have the opportunity to enjoy a little snow this winter.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Crowding the Mushrooms

A couple of years ago when the movie "Julie and Julia" came out in theatres, I knew I had to see it.  Not only do I absolutely love cooking, but *obviously* have some interest in blogging as well, so I figured it would be right up my alley.  Actually, it turns out I was rather disappointed with the movie - the plot line was a little boring and I really did not find the "Julie" character to be at all endearing ... she whined way too much for my liking and I often found myself wishing the director would just stick with the story of Julia Child's life and leave the flashbacks to "Julie's" life in the ditch.  However, there is one line of the movie that has stuck with me.  It resonated in my head as soon as I heard it.  For some reason, it was one of those lines that you can instantly recognize for it's literal and metaphoric truth.   So ... after that great build up ... here's the line in question:

Don't crowd the mushrooms!

It really does make a difference!  Put too many mushrooms in the frying pan, and they just seem to get all mushy and gushy and don't saute properly.  But, if you just scatter them in their sparsely, they brown up in such a delicious manner!   The problem is, though, that I really don't want to take so much time when I'm preparing a meal.  I want the maximum result for the minimum time investment.  I want my mushrooms nicely browned, but I want to crowd them all together in the pan so I don't have to cook them in batches.

The same is so true of my life.  I want results but I often don't want to slow down and invest enough time in a project, a relationship, even in myself sometimes (!) to get the results that I desire.  I want to make a success of all that I attempt, but I don't want to spend time perfecting my craft so that I will be a success.  I want my relationships to be deep and meaningful, but can't we just text meaningfully back and forth a couple of times a day and make a go of it?   I want to manage stress better, but I don't always want to take the time to breathe deep, centre myself, and let go of the bad energy.  I want short cuts, recipes that involve nothing more than 3 steps, 5 ingredients and one pan, and problems that can be resolved in the same length of time it takes to play a few rounds of Bejeweled.

Since "Julie and Julia," I find myself periodically taking a deep breath and reminding myself not to "crowd the mushrooms."  With all the emphasis on "quality" vs. "quantity" that seems to pervade our culture, I need a constant reminder that there is no replacement for investing large amounts of time into the areas of my life that really count.  Whether it is my own physical and emotional fitness, my relationships, or my work, the measure of my success will in a large way be accounted for by how much time I have invested.   And the bottom line is that I am worth the investment.  We are given 24 hours in each day.   I'm determined in 2011 that I won't get caught up in "crowding the mushrooms" and racing around in those 24 hours, trying to fit so much in that nothing gets done properly.  Instead, I'm going to invest enough time into my own well-being to ensure success.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

27 - It's not a magic number, but still feels great!

Twenty-seven pounds!  Yes, I am very proud to report that after what appeared to be an endless PLATEAU of non-weight loss, I am finally down another couple of pounds, bringing my total weight-loss to date to twenty-seven pounds.  This method of weight loss has not proven to be the "Speedy Gonzales" method by any means.

I'm hoping, however, that it will prove more like the case of the tortoise and the hare ...

And hopefully by changing my life-style in small increments rather than by following some radical diet plan, I will be able to keep the weight off once it's gone, and have a healthier lifestyle pattern.

So, here are 27 things I have been doing differently that are all helping me to have a healthier lifestyle, some of which are contributing to my weight loss:

1).   Almost entirely switched from white flour to whole wheat flour.

2).   Endeavouring to eat 80% fruits and vegetables and 20% starch and protein every day.

3).  Trying to remember to DRINK LOTS OF WATER!  (although I often forget this one!)

4).   Walking every day - a brisk walk of between 3 and 4 kms.

5).   Drinking 2 oz of Noni Juice everyday.  It tastes hideous but Dr. Oz highly recommends it.

6).  Taking my multivitamin every day.

7.)   Taking 100 mg of B6 every day.

8).  Taking 25 mcg of Vitamin D every day - which, by the way, comes in the form of a soft chewy chocolate so I consider it my chocolate fix for the day.  (Most days this works, although once and a while I feel the need for a bigger chocolate fix!)

9).  Taking my EstroSense everyday - a herbal blend that includes calcium, green tea extract, indole 3 carbinol (an extract from cruciferous vegetables), sulforaphane (broccoli sprout extract), turmeric (curcumin), milk thistle extract, rosemary extract, and lycopene (tomato extract) - all of which is supposed to do wonderful things for me.

10).  Sneaking veggies into everything!  Especially having veggies ready to snack on around 4 in the afternoon when I suddenly feel at my munchiest.  And trying to get the most "bank for my buck" with veggies in that I'm trying to focus on those veggies that are really crunchy and satisfying to chew.

11).  Eating an apple a day.  Yup, I know it's simple.  But it has really become something I look forward to as an extra treat during the day.

12).  Taking my metamucil once a day ... maybe this TMI, but the thing is, I have struggled with irritable bowel syndrome for most of my life and this really helps.  Also, it's supposed to help lower bad cholesterol so it seems like a good idea to take it.

13).  Wear bright colours every day.  The thing is, I love colours and it cheers me up to wear bright colours.  Maybe this sounds weird to stick this in here on the list of healthy life style choices, but if wearing a bright colour helps me feel better about myself and my day, then I figure it's a very inexpensive, painless way to help myself.

14).  Making myself find something humourous every day about my life.  Seriously (or actually, not seriously!), I sometimes forget to take a light-hearted approach to life and laughter really is great medicine!  So, I'm trying to focus on the funny side of life more often and I'm sure I'll lose weight by exercising those laugh muscles!  As a result, I am finding myself noticing more funny and peculiar things that come across my path during the day and I take great delight in sharing them with my husband so we can both have a  good laugh at the end of the day.  Like this hotel sign and the random weirdness of the picture ....

15).   Eat less, exercise more.  Yup, it really is that simple!

16).  Think about my husband's needs more than my own.  Once again, perhaps an unusual thing to throw on a list about healthy living, but healthy living does include mental health and one of the drawbacks of not having children, is that I can become a bit to self-absorbed sometimes.  It's really good for my mental health to think about someone else's needs.  It also makes it much easier to do my daily tasks (like laundry, house-cleaning,  and washing dishes) with a cheerful attitude when I look at them as ways to help Mr. Magnolia's life become easier, rather than just chores that need to be done.

17).  Okay, I admit it, I'm pretty much stumped at #17.  I can't really think of too many other things - except maybe to repeat the DRINK MORE WATER one since that seems to be one I have to constantly repeat to myself.  Maybe by the time I've lost 50 pounds, I'll have come up with 50 inspiring things to help with my healthier lifestyle.  But for now I guess I'll have to stick with 17 .... unless perhaps, I include one more ...

18).  Take time to celebrate the victories!   Yup, whether it's another pound lost, or another day of positive thinking, I am taking time to celebrate the victories along the way.  I am celebrating the fact that I am feeling stronger and healthier than I have in a long time.  And even though I don't want to get all obsessed with numbers, I am celebrating that there are 27 less pounds now that I have to lose than when I started!  :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Marvelous Monday - A Bird in the Hand

We have the joy of living quite close to a beautiful botanical garden - the Royal Botanical Garden in Hamilton, Ontario.  Along with a number of exquisite formal and informal gardens, the RBG consists of 2400 acres of natural land, and 30 km of hiking trails.  It is one of our favourite places to go to enjoy spring flower displays in the incredible Iris Rock Gardens and the Lilac Arboretum.  But it is also one of our favourite places to go for a Sunday afternoon hike all year round.

We spent a glorious Sunday afternoon there last week.  The sky was blue and the autumn leaves were still full of colour.

The particular hiking trail we chose that day runs along an inner harbour, so periodically along the way we caught glimpses of the water through the trees.

And at one point, the trail took us right down to the water's edge.

We saw lots of birds and animals, like this nuthatch, flicker and this noisy little squirrel who gave us quite a scolding for venturing into his territory!

And we had a great deal of fun feeding the very tame little chickadees who love to take seed right out of your hand!

You know the old saying "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" ... a great reminder to me to practice being content with what I have instead of constantly wishing for something more, or something different, or someone else's life that looks more glamorous than my own.  

So this Marvelous Monday, I am especially thankful for Sunday afternoon hikes, for sweet little chickadees, and for all the other "birds" that are in my hand ... the blessings that are already part of my life that I sometimes take for granted.

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have
was once among the things you only hoped for."

Epicurus, Greek Philosopher (341-270 BC)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

My sweet budgies are adjusting well to their "winter quarters" in my bay window.


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