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.


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