May 2011

I recently paged through Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights, which as much fun to read as it was to drool over the recipes.  She’s a good writer (happens to be grand daughter to Roald Dahl of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory fame) and her words make you taste the food she describes.

She’s also a foodie and a transformed one.  She went from eating anything to enjoy herself to eating more carefully to take care of herself.

I was reading her recipes and then realized they were healthier than i thought.  Voluptuous health food?  She clearly loves food but she’s smart about it.  Sure she’ll use creme fraiche in a recipe but often only a tablespoon to add that creamy punch.  Also, a bunch of them are detox friendly.  Like the Scrambled Tofu breakfast.

Only she uses mushrooms which aren’t on the list but I thought you could handily substitute pretty much any veg.  Greens would be tasty, so would lightly fried grape tomatoes.  Maybe peppers and onions.  See I’m drooling again. Here’s the recipe:

Scrambled Tofu with Cumin and A Detox Friendly Veg to Take the Place of Shiitake Mushrooms

1 T of sesame oil

1 c of substituted veggies

salt and pepper

1/2 a block of firm tofu

1 heaping t of cumin

1 T of chopped fresh thyme plus extra to serve

Heat the oil in a pan and saute your veggies.  Season and set aside.  Add a little more oil to the pan and crumble the tofu in with your fingers and cook until it looks like scrambled eggs.  Stir in the cumin and thyme with a wooden spoon.  Make sure the tofu is coated evenly.

Spoon onto two plates and pour the veggies on top adding some more thyme if you please.



When you’re planning your next detox, I highly recommend getting your hands on Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Cookbook.  She’s the 50-something chickie who’s often on the cover of Oxygen magazine becuase she’s married to the publisher and really hot.

She has a recipe for Exotic Spice Mix on page 190 that looks like this:

1 t cumin seeds

1 t black peppercorns

2 t sweet paprika

1 t cayenne pepper

1 t cinnamon

1 t coarse seasalt

1/2 t anise seeds

1/2 t ground nutmeg

You toast all the spices dry in a frying pan over medium heat for several minutes until the pan just begins to smoke.  Then let the mixture cool, pulse it in a spice mill until it’s finely ground and transfer to a jar and seal.

Doesn’t that look amazing?  And all detox friendly, you would never have a to have a boring flavoured meal ever again.  I don’t have a spice mill but thought I would just grind it by hand in a bowl.  It wouldn’t be fine, but I like a mouthful of surprise when I eat!

She uses it in a sweet potato salad.  That would definitely not be like Mom’s half-a-jar-of-mayo potato salad.  If you turfed the molasses and used a couple sliced prunes instead of raisins it would also be detox friendly.

Sometimes you have to get creative when you’re detoxing or 10 days can feel like a year.  Pick up Tosca Reno’s book and get inspired!

I read this blog post today about bouncing back.  The writer talks about a group of young MBA students he was working with who were developing a presentation and working and working on it – basically they were going to iterate it to death.  He discovered that they were afraid of failure.  They wanted to make it perfect so they didn’t have to deal with any potential “bad stuff”.  Even if it meant not delivering it.

And it struck me because my niece said a while back something about, what’s the point of getting a university education, you graduate with $50k in debt and no guarantee of the decent job you might need to pay the debt off.

And I get that, it’s a tough decision to make.  I was the first person to get a degree in my family, there was absolutely no assumption that I was going to take that road, it was all my choice.  And while it’s worked out ok for me, I know it’s not simple.  I have kids and understand that there will be some tough decisions ahead, mostly theirs with plenty of my unwanted advice thrown in.

I’m reading The Outliers and although i’m only on Chapter 4, I can see that he chips away at our belief that successful people are just naturally good at stuff.  He points out the importance of people’s birthdays and 10,00 hours of practice to get good at things.  He looks at the timing of trends and the backgrounds people had and their good people skills or social intelligence.  All things that help us down the road to success, or make us become janitors.  But I think his point is that we do have innate abilities or interests.

That’s why the challenge is to know ourselves.  Sure you can look at occupations and decide you want to be a tax auditor or a welder.  But it’s kind of ass backwards.   

It’s a better start to know things like whether we like a structured or loose environment.  Whether we want to work with our hands or our heads.  Whether we want to work with people or put our head down and git ‘er done.  And if you want to work with people, is it as equals on a team or as an authority figure like a teacher? 

We need to know if we are Type A or B.  Do we prefer to work with Words or Numbers or Things? What are we motivated by – things like money or time off?  We should know if our career is a means to an end (pay the bills, get a retirement plan), or an end in itself (you love it enough that the pay is almost secondary, almost).

Once you know that kind of stuff, then you can look at an occupation and understand the “fit”.  Or talk to someone who does the job and at least ask the right questions.

Because a university education can go beyond giving you the potential qualifications for the job you think you want.  For me, I took five years to do a degree.  That’s because I took a semester off to work at the CBC, I also worked at the student paper and had a boyfriend and multiple part-time jobs.  I was too busy to ever take a full course load. But the university experience gave me the time to grow up and learn some skills around organizations, people and getting the work done.

I also learned to write, the skill that got me my first real job.  I was temping to make money before a trip to Europe.  I was at a software company and the woman I worked with couldn’t write her way out of a paper bag (2 year certificate from college) and when my boss (Masters in Creative Writing) found out that I could, he made me an offer and I took the job.

But it was more than that.  High tech companies tend to be a bit more free-wheeling, forward thinking and less conservative and that fits my personality.  Often they’re meritocracies and that fits my “get it done” mentality and my single university degree.  They also move fast and I like that, I never get bored, I surf on the changes with the best of them.  So it was a “fit” in ways that I would never have known before I got into one. 

It helps to see your path as more than just book learning.  You have so many more options in life if you develop more savvy than just regurgitating stuff you’ve read.  And when you can expand your view and see the process more creatively (ie, try stuff and see if it fits) it can help reduce the fear of failure that kept the MBAs from actually delivering their presentation.  You can take the stance that “I’m just trying stuff”.  And then your skills go beyond getting a good mark on a test.  At least that’s what I’ll tell my kids when it comes time to make the hard, and expensive decision.

I’ve started back to running again now that it’s spring.  Or here in Halifax, now that it’s monsoon season.  I don’t mind running in the rain, as long as i’ts not torrential.  I put on a ballcap to keep the rain off my face, something water resistant and i’m good to go.  I find that by the time I’m feeling damp, i’m also warmed up, so it’s all good. 

There’s never any danger of overheating and you feel so virtuous by the time you’re home.  It’s like you’re warrior woman, you’ve been out in the wilderness, survived the elements and oh yeah, got a great workout in too.

Being back running reminds me how much I love Pigeon Pose, both after running as well as the morning after running.  But in the a.m. you can’t just jump into Pigeon.  It’s really uncomfortable and you’re tight you don’t get all the benefit.  You know, if the fronts of your legs aren’t stretched out, you won’t be able to get your back leg very far back, and then your hips are way up in the air, you get the idea.

So *of course* we all spend lots of time doing yoga in between runs, but for those odd times when you’re rushed, here’s the fastest way I’ve found to get to Pigeon.

Tip: start with holding for three deep breaths but if you’re getting a ‘WHOA now *that’s* a good stretch!’, hold for another couple so you get the full benefit, clearly your body needs it.

Warrior 1 with Yoga Mudra arms – clasp your hands behind your hips, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you work on straightening your arms and moving them back, away from your hips.  I like to do this chest opening stretch to help my posture during running, and anytime.

Warrior 2 – after holding the pose for at least 3 breaths, i lower my arms and twist to the front leg side with a tall straight back.  This is a good stretch for all those supporting muscles through your spine.

High Lunge – bring your hands to your front knee or overhead to deepen the stretch. Really lift the back of the back leg to stretch the muscles in the front.

Triangle and/or Wide Leg Forward Bend – if your hips and inner thighs feel tight, make time for Triangle and Wide Leg Forward Bend.  A good way to stretch the inner thighs in WLFB is to twist by putting one hand on the floor underneath your face and stretch the other hand up to to the ceiling. 

Low Lunge – Place both hands on the inside side of the front foot and lower your body to the floor, coming down on your elbows if you can.  Stay here for a few breaths or change sides a couple times if you need it, transitioning through Downward Facing Dog.

Now your body should be ready for Pigeon. 

Pigeon – Stay here for a few breaths.  I also like to rock from side to side after holding to make sure i get a thorough stretch.

Come back to standing and do Standing Forward Bend, I like to interlace my arms and rock gently from side to side, getting some movement through my spine.  Also do a IT Band and quad stretch, the other godsend stretches for runners.

I find I  can do this series of poses in 15-20 minutes and address all my post-running tight bits so that i’m ready for some cross-training – or another run!  Happy running…..

Honeybunny was bbqing our steaks last night and I decided after a couple of gin and tonics to start my detox this morning.  I normally detox in April and here it is May, and I still hadn’t started.  So I finally did a “what’s the worst that can happen??” and decided to jump in.  No regrets this morning.

Because although I hadn’t done a detox grocery shop, i wasn’t in bad shape.  I threw a butternut squash (sliced in half, de-seeded, coated wtih olive oil, salted and peppered) on the barbecue to roast while the steaks cooked.  The skin got charred a bit and the inside looks soft and sweet.  I’ll use it to make a pureed squash soup with onions, garlic and chicken stock – my favourite.

I had lots of brown rice in the cupboad so I set up the rice cooker and cooked up a bunch. 

I also threw a chopped onion and oil in a pot over heat until it started to soften, threw in garlic and 2 cups of chopped tomatoes and mashed them a bit while they cooked.  Then I added a can of chick peas.  I felt in the mood for italian flavour so I threw in some oregano, basil and thyme with salt and pepper.  I’ll eat it with the rice for lunch.

My mid-morning snack was a kale salad.  Last night I ripped up some kale into bite sized bits, added a handful of sunflower seeds and topped it with olive oil, salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon juice.  I wouldn’t normally put dressing on my salad when it’s going to sit overnight, but it works with kale.   The leaves are so chewy that it just softens them up and makes you feel less like a horse munching on hay.  Or a cow chewing her cud.

This morning i was stuck on breakfast (the detoxers dilemma!).  I didn’t have any unsweetened soy milk and i hate it anyways.  I thought, what the heck can i add to my oatmeal?  So i made this dead simple breakfast:

Oats & Berries

I put 1/2 cup of oatmeal in a bowl and added 1/2 cup of frozen berries (blue, black and raspeberry).  I added enough water to a little more than cover the food and microwaved it for 60 seconds.  I stirred and microwaved for another 30. 

The berries really add flavour and some sweetness to the oatmeal.  They also keep the oatmeal from being a tasteless gluey mess.  This is my new favourite breakfast.

I heard a wise man this a.m..  I’ve started listening to Oprah’s Soul Series podcasts while i’m commuting.  I download them for free from iTunes and then load them onto something portable.   The podcasts give me something more useful to do than hear Rihanna’s S&M tune for the 5 kjillionth time.  On this morning’s Oprah was interviewing  Jenny Phillips who created the Dhamma Brothers film and book about guys in a maximum security prison who’ve done Vipassana meditation. 

That’s the serious bootcamp meditation program where you sit for 10 hours a day for 10 days, yikes.  I’ve always wanted to do it, but thankfully my life hasn’t let me go on sabbatical for that long because i’m not sure i could pull it off.

Oprah was interviewing Grady, who is serving 3 life sentences and he was talking about how he’s changed overtime.  He was talking about how reactive he used to be, reacting to everything that happens to him.  He said the hardest thing to learn is that the only permanent thing in our life is change. 

And he figured that out during the third day of Vipassana and now he depends on it.  He says, now I tell myself “Give it a Minute”.  And before he knows it, the situation has changed and his urge to react has passed.  Sometimes he focuses on his breath to help him get through the minute.

I often say to myself, This Too Shall Pass.  But that sounds so ominous and serious, i’m going to switch to “Give it a Minute”.  Thanks to Grady, it’s my new mantra.