Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hello 2017

I don't want to come across as unappreciative or hopeless, and at the same time this past year has taken me to a level of comfort with the darkness I never realized I could be comfortable in.  There is learning in that too.   It has been nearly a year since we said goodbye to our Amethyst Emerson and I am forever changed.  There is life before her and life after her; she is the great marker of my life thus far.  Having her even for the short period of time we did was a shifting point for me. 

Even with great reflection I cannot put my finger on when the darkness became normalized.  I have been sitting in the dark, and enjoying the moments of light. 

To say the past year has been challenging really doesn't totally capture it.  I am trying to let go of the all consuming sadness and focus on hope for the future but it is a slow moving transition let me tell you, and some days are much better than others.  I try to focus on the gratitude I have for the people, things, and privilege in my life.  This is something I work at every day, and hope that in time it will become a more natural default.  Kind of like when you learn how to drive a standard car and at first you are so aware of when and how you are shifting gears, but then one day it just becomes natural and you don't even realize it.
The glimpses I get of my old self I am usually connecting with nature, the trees, the birds, listening to the sound of the water.  It's those moments when I am totally present in the quiet of the natural world, and not pretending to be anything other than what I am at that moment.  I haven;t had a lot of time outdoors lately with the cold temperatures, but enjoy the moments when I do.  It's the simple things like sitting with a cup of tea and watching the snow fall, appreciating it's gentle beauty.

I had a couple of moments ths week with birds.  Earlier in the week it was this eagle.  I got about 20-25 feet away from this beauty and it was awesome!

I was filling up the hummingbird feeder this afternoon while it was snowing and had a visit from little back yard friend.  I think this hummingbird is very happy we have been providing food over the winter.

Speaking of food.... It has been over a month since I reintroduced wheat and dairy back into my diet.  I am still being very mindful of how much I am consuming, and still no pain.  Yahoo!  I would say this means I am doing a good job of reintroducing and not overdoing it.  So I will keep it up:)

The food I missed the most while on my wheat free dairy restrictions was Mexican inspired food.  I love tortillas and have found the rice ones just don't cut it!  I got some tomato basil wraps form the store and we had burritos.  I sauteed 1/2 of an onion and added a generous portion of cremini mushrooms, then added ground chicken.  Once cooked through I added taco seasoning and some water.

I make a batch of taco seasoning and keep it in the pantry.  I mix: 6 Tbsp chili powder, 4 tsp cumin, 3 tsp paprika, 2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper.  I cannot remember where I found this recipe, but I am very happy with it & often make a double batch when we are eating Mexican inspired fare more often.

I laid out the ingredients including romaine lettuce, chopped tomato, grated aged white cheddar, cashew cream (which we happen to prefer over sour cream), guacamole, and salsa. 

DIY burrito!  I worked in the food service industry as a teen so I like to tease my sweetie who can't roll a wrap without everything falling out to save his life!

The other thing I really missed is quesadillas.  I like these which are a spin on the smashed blackbean and yam quesadillas from the Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook. I steam chunks of yam & when cooked through mash them and mix in chili powder, cumin, salt & pepper.  Then I spread it out with a fork on half of the tortilla wrap.

I add a layer of my black bean & corn salsa, which is equal parts blackbeans & corn, lime juice, cilantro, salt & pepper.  I often add red onion as well if I have it on hand.

Then a light layer of cheese, just enough to help it stick to the tortilla.

Fold over the other half of the tortilla wrap and place in a hot frying pan. Keep your eye on it & when it has browned flip it over.

Cut into 3-4 segments and enjoy!  We serve cashew cream, guacamole, and salsa on the side.

For the first couple of days of lunches I made quinoa bowls.  I started with a layer of cooked quinoa.  I cut up the yam at the same time I prepared the yam for the quesadillas, but instead of steaming them these were tossed in olive oil, salt & pepper and roasted in the oven at 400 degrees until tender.  I used the left over black bean & corn salsa, put a handful of tomatoes in my sweeties and a serving of pulled pork in barbecue sauce.  I had cooked the pulled pork in the slow cooker during the day.   The lime is to squeeze on just before eating, along with sliced avocado, green onion, and fresh cilantro which I put in a separate container. I will make this again for sure!

One of our plans for the new year is to get back to having a smoothie once a day.  This week I made the same smoothie every day because it's pretty tasty! 2 handfuls of spinach, half a handful of cilantro, half a frozen banana, 8 chunks of frozen pineapple, 1 carrot, a chunk of fresh ginger, a splash of pineapple juice or mango juice, some orange juice, and a little water. I often make my lunches and smoothies the night before because getting out the door in the morning is always a struggle when you are not a morning person.

Carve a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. ~Martin Luther King Jr

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wrapping up 2016

Oh 2016, I will be glad when you are over and with every ounce of energy and hope within me believe 2017 must hold better times to come.  I was feeling a sense of dread about the holiday season, with the gaping hole Amy has left in our lives in what would have been her first Christmas.  We had pretty low expectations for the holidays and didn't even bother getting a tree this year.  I left the holiday weekend feeling overwhelmed for a reason different then I expected.  I am feeling grateful that it was actually the best Christmas we have had in some time. 

We spent the holidays with my family as my sweetie's family is in Oz soaking up a very hot Christmas.  Christmas Eve was a turkey dinner at my dad's with my dad, his spouse, my brother, his wife, my nephews, my grandma, and my sweetie.  We ate a very yummy turkey dinner cooked by my dad along with pumpkin pie for dessert and a plethora of baked goods from my dad, grandma, & myself.  Christmas Day we spent at the care facility my mom lives in with my mom, my grandpa, and my sweetie, enjoying Chinese food for dinner.  After spending the day with my family, my sweetie and I went to the movies and watched Rogue One which was awesome! This year we agreed no presents with the exception of my nephews.  I found this really helped the focus of the holiday season on being with family and eating delicious food.  Speaking of food there was a lot of it!

I took the week off before Christmas and spent the entire week baking.  Here are the links to those tasty treats:

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints which I added chopped sliced almond to garnish.  This are in the top 3 favs for me, and they are so pretty.

Snickerdoodles I always get great feedback on these soft chewy cookies.

Church Window Bars This ones make me feel like I am a kid again!

Whipped Shortbread This one didn't dazzle me, and I am unlikely to make it again.

Chocolate Crinkles which are always a popular and appreciated treat. 

Peanut Butter Cookies which I added chocolate chips to.  I made these in my last blog post.

Glazed Cranberry Orange Cookies I used frozen cranberries which I cut in half and walnuts instead of pecans.  This are my sweeties favourite!  They also make my top 3 favs.

Lime-Glazed Coconut Butter Cookies These are my favs! I love the tang of the lime and texture of the coconut.

For the first time, I gave making nuts and bolts a try.  I made a double batch and made a few adjustments to the cereal/snack ingredients rather than just cheerios, shredded wheat, pretzels, and peanuts; My double batch totaled 14 cups by what we prefer including Cheerios, Shreddies, Rice Chex, pretzel sticks, Goldfish crackers, and Bugles.  I made 2 double batches and a single batch.

When I was a kid my Dad made us waffles with strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast on Christmas day.  This year we went there for boxing day and had that same yummy breakfast.

So I am grateful 2016 is coming to an end and going in to 2017 with my heart full as my sweetie and I celebrate 15 years together.  The trials & tribulations, the moments of growth, and above all else the fact that we have made it through some very dark times and have come out of it together and stronger.

Christmas comes during a season when the Earth is in its darkest time.  It's a holiday for the family and for everyone~ Melissa Etheridge

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Holidays are Here

Well today we finally broke down and did some very minimal decorating for Christmas.  We live in a rather large townhouse complex and were pretty much the only ones with no lights. None. Nothing. Notta.  Usually lights is the first sign of the holiday season around here.  Yesterday my husband decided we should participate in the activities of the rest of the world around us and he put up lights.  They look lovely.  Tonight, I sat on the couch looking at them shine and reflect on the snow and overwhelming sadness came over me, this was supposed to be Amy's first Christmas.

This time last year we were preparing to announce to our close friends that we were expecting as we were nearing the end of the first trimester.  This smile on my face one year ago, hasn't returned...  I even miss the constant nausea and vomiting because it was a reminder she was there.

We had sent out our little announcement to our family & close friends just before Christmas, but she was the gift we never got to receive.

So my expectations are low for the holidays this year, and I am really trying to be gentle with myself as my emotions fluctuate.  This sucks.  I've never been a big Christmas person, but this year I have absolutely zero energy for it.  I could go through the motions and put up a tree, but that's all it would be going through the motions.  There would be no ounce of authenticity to it, and I refuse to be less authentic then I already feel with the fake smile and the I'm fine thanks how are you?  

Here's the thing I am taking enjoyment in this Christmas that I couldn't enjoy last year, eggnog with rum and a sprinkling of nutmeg and cinnamon!  During the Christmas holidays I LOVE a little rum & eggnog:)

I managed to ease into reintroducing dairy and wheat into my diet.  I have stuck to using wheat that is less processed & find that doesn't hurt my stomach.  I have wheat from Pride of the Valley, which is a Doukhobor flour mill in Grand Forks, BC.  It's awesome flour!  It  doesn't have a lot of preservatives so we keep it in the freezer.  I am also planning on picking up some Portofino bread because in the past it hasn't bothered me.  I have also reintroduced yogurt, milk in my tea, and some cheese such as feta and swiss.  I need to be cautious with the cheese because that is my weakness.  So far I am listening to my body and it's not hurting so I am going with it.  The eggnog will be a nightly ritual until Christmas... unless my body decides otherwise.

We have cooked nearly every night the past couple of weeks, which is pretty impressive.  No bowls of cereal for dinner for 2 weeks!  Here are some of the things we have been eating the past few weeks. My sweetie put a whole chicken in the crock-pot before heading out for the day.  When I got home I made some mashed potatoes & steam some pees, carrots and brussel sprouts,  My sweetie made the gravy with the juice from the crock-pot.  Super quick, easy, and delicious.  And leftovers, yes please!

For one night of leftovers I used some leftover gravy and sliced chicken, and served it open face on a slice of gluten free bread.  I didn't even bother with vegetables. I'm imperfect and I'll own it;)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, YUM! These were the best peanut butter cookies I have ever made!  I used crunchy peanut butter and added dark chocolate chips. Comfort food heaven...

I also made a mushroom, feta, spinach quiche with a sweet potato crust.  I use a mandolin to slice the sweet potato (yam works great as well) into rounds.  I spray the pie plate with cooking oil and then line it with the rounds until the pie plate is covered.  I then bake at 375, checking it after 20 mins, until the potatoes start to brown.  I fry up a mixture of mushrooms whatever I feel like at the time usually crimini and baby portobello).  Sprinkle some feta cheese and top with cooked or drained frozen spinach.  I then mix together about 5-6 eggs and some almond milk.  I bake at 375 until cooked through.

I also made my Vegan Chili for work lunches.
I love it when I have time to devote part of my Sunday to meal prep for the week.  I usually make a dinner that will have leftovers for Monday, or something I can prep Sunday and cook Monday night, as well as do prep for our work lunches for the week.

I am feeling the call back to my yoga mat.  I have been feeling the call for a while, but have been lacking the effort to follow through.  I think this week I will ease back into it with some practice at home.  I am on holidays starting next week so maybe I will go to a class or two next week.  It's kind of funny how you can know you need something, and it will make you feel better , and yet you don't do it...

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you. ~ Maya Angelou

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The waves of sadness and hopefulness that lead me home

I have been experiencing the strangest feeling lately and it's hard to describe.  The most I can make sense of it is that I feel like I need to go home.  But I am home, so it's a confusing feeling. This has me thinking a lot lately about what home means to me and our little family.  I keep hearing about setting roots, but  I also wondering if that fits for us.  This is the longest we have been in one place and I am definitely ready for a change.  For me I think home is where I am with my love wherever that me be.  When we are together and connected that is when I feel like I am home.  So it becomes clear and evident that I need to be turning toward my sweetie for support, and maybe that will fill that sense of longing for home. Sometimes you think you are doing something but when you look a little deeper you realize there is more work to be done.
It's hard to believe it was just over a year ago I was at my convocation celebrating the completion of my Masters degree.  I remember after all the celebrating was over looking at the pictures and noticing the beautiful totem pole behind me of a woman holding a baby, and I thought how amazing given my little baby was growing inside of me.  It was like the totem pole and I shared a secret.

I have been riding some pretty significant rolling waves of grief these days. One day I feel okay and then next I feel like I can barely get through the day.  I will admit some days I feel like a zombie just going through the motions of the day, but I figure at least I am doing it.  Hopefully in time I will be fully present and once again my authentic self.  It is so exhausting carrying on with the every day and pretending that everything is a-okay when it feels like there is a giant hole in your heart that will never mend.  It is seriously exhausting... Over the spring and summer I felt I was given messages from Amy to be strong and carry on, but with the end of summer and no more butterflies I decided it was time to get my own permanent reminder that I can get through this.  So a couple of weeks ago I got a new tattoo!  It's pretty inflamed in this picture that was taken the day after I got it, but when it is done healing it will be a beautiful work of watercolour art.  With the ever evolving grief process and a shift back into some pretty deep trenches of grief this is the first thing I see in the morning, and it reminds me I need to get my butt out of bed and carry on with the day, and it's okay if the authenticity follows later. 

This journey through grief can just knock the wind out of you at times.  It has been so hard, and all I want to do is call my Aunt who was always my rock of support, but having lost her it feels like a deeper kick in the grieving gut.  Some days I am not even sure how I managed to fake my way through the day.  Authenticity is a value I hold dear, and it is a struggle to feel like you aren't living your own values.  I have come to understand there comes a time when you just have to do what you can to get through.

Despite all the sadness and emptiness I still hold hope in my spirit.  That tiny bit of hope has been keeping me going despite my lack of caring for self.  It reminds me I need to return to my yoga practice and find more movement.  The glimmer of hope reminds me it's okay to cry until there are no more tears.  It reminds me I don't need to zone out and watch Netflix but can engage myself with conversation or just being mindful and present.  This hope has reminded me there are things I have been neglecting that I should be giving energy to.

I am down to the last 3 weeks of my wheat free, dairy free, refined sugar free living.  There have been some bumpy patches but I haven't strayed too much.  I did have a 7up this weekend, but that's really the most I have cheated since going on this diet so whatever!  I am so happy to be on the home stretch and am looking forward to slowly reintroducing some of the things I miss and trying to keep them to a minimum level (aka do not go on a cheese binge).  I have been feeling annoyed with this diet as we are away form home a lot and traveling with these eating restrictions is tricky, and I am so over salad!  To try and change things up a bit, I have been on a bit of a Pinterest recipe kick and will share some winning recipes with you:
Chana Dal simmering in the dutch oven.

Served in a bowl on basmati rice & topped with fresh cilantro & slices of lime.

 Dairy Free Chicken Tetrazzini casserole with a wheat free spin.

I opted for gluten free rice bread crumbs, and gluten free spaghetti.

 It was pretty tasty but the leftover were quite dry so I would make extra sauce next time.

Lentil Marinara with Zoodles.  I would also like to try this with carrot ribbon noodles!

 Barbecued Huli Huli Chicken with a baked yam topped with black bean & corn salsa, cashew cream, sliced green onions, & cilantro.

One of my quick go tos is quesadillas, which I don't eat nearly as often when I am eating wheat free, as I am not a fan of the rice wraps.  But it has been long over do and I was hungry for some Mexican inspired fare.  I had mashed yam with black bean & corn salsa, cooked ground chicken in homemade taco seasoning, and a sprinkling of Daiya pepperjack shreds. 

They never look very appealing, but are bursting with flavor!  I like to make it with half and fold over the wrap, but you can't do that with the rice wraps because they break. It's also much easier to flip when it's half a wrap!  I cut this full sized one into 6 and we each ate 3 slices.  I serve them with homemade guacamole, cashew cream, and my sweetie likes salsa with his too.

These past few weeks have probably been the most cooking I have done in several months and it feels good to be getting back to something I have previously enjoyed so deeply.  I am not finding the same joy in it just yet, but I am hopeful that will return as I continue to push forward and keep mucking about in the kitchen.  I know Amy would want that for me and my own wellness so I will keep pushing myself to do it and also be easy on myself when I really don't.

The holiest of holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart: The secret anniversaries of the heart. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow