Friday, June 15, 2012

breaking paths

A Five Minute Friday post:

There is a difference between a path and a road. We frequently hear or use the phrase "on the right (or wrong) path", but seldom do we use the word "road". And I think that's important.

There isn't a road up a treacherous mountain peak: there is a path. There isn't a road through a tangled wood: there is a grown-over path. 

A road is established. Developed and planned or simply used and reused by countless weary feet, by so many rolling tires, that it becomes an entity unto itself. It cuts through the wilderness, a slice of establishment and civilization through the entropy of the wonderful world. But a path is different. A path can be old, yes, but retains a wildness. Not a slice of civilization but rather a sliver, a tiny artery. Or it may be very new, with only a handful of travellers having walked its journey. 

And indeed it may be so new that it has never been before. And that is our life, isn't it? The finding of a path, our path. My path may run share space with the paths found by others who have walked this world before me. My path may run alongside another path, or two, or several, for a time or for life - isn't that community? Isn't that marriage? Isn't that family? - but it is still my own, found by my eyes, my spirit, my heart, broken by my feet, my life, my soul.


Five-Minute Fridays is a blog prompt and link party by The Gypsy Mama. Five minutes of writing - no planning, no editing, just writing. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

mind the gap

Years ago, when I was practicing yoga regularly I had a favourite class. I loved - absolutely adored - Power Yoga at Rama Lotus taught by Ian Fraser. Loved it. It was a hot, sweaty, 90 minutes that left me feeling energized, stretched and cleansed. I felt positively buzzed with happy hormones. At that time I was still taking weekly dance classes and performing frequently. Still, in stereotyical early-20's-female fashion, I was fairly critical of my body. But one day, after savasana at the end of my weekly Power Yoga fix, Ian was walking around the room chatting with other yogis and yoginis, and he came over to me. He knelt down next to me as I sat on the floor, packing up my water and mat, and said, "You know, you have a very strong abdomen." 

I was really surprised to hear this; I thought of myself as sort of squidgy and soft around the middle. So I looked at him and said, "Really?" "Yes, really," he replied. "You're very strong."

street wisdom
I've never forgotten that. It totally changed how I thought of myself. It didn't change the way I looked, and I still had some soft squishiness around my middle, but from then on I carried the knowledge that my abdominal muscles - the very core of my body - was strong.

That was great knowledge to have. Sadly, I don't know that any more; in fact, I know that now my abdomen is not particularly strong. And let me tell you, I am not pleased about that. Not at all. 13 months after Bubby's birth, I still have at least a 2-finger width separation of my rectus abdominus muscles (those are the so-called "six-pack" muscles) leaving me with reduced abdominal strength, and that translates into lower back pain and compromised breath support when I'm singing. Not cool. And, in an ironic twist, my former strength may have contributed to my current gap and lack of strength, as I've learned that strong abdominal muscles are more likely to resist the necessary stretching to accommodate a growing baby and will instead separate and move aside to make space.

I want my core strength back. 

For the past year, though, I've been afraid to exercise out of fear of making it worse. I know that exercising abdominal muscles with a diastasis recti (the technical term for a separation of the rectus abdominus) can actually worsen the condition, which is obviously the last thing I want to do. So for almost a year now I've done nothing about it. Nothing. And I felt a little helpless, a little powerless, with a sense of inertia about the state of my body.

Helpless. Powerless. Inert. A rather apt description of depression, isn't it?

A sign for me that the adjustments my naturopath has made to my diet and lifestyle are proving effective is that I no longer feel helpless, powerless and inert. I feel like I have found my feet, put them solidly underneath me and am ready to get to work. I've started healing my brain and my spirit: now it's time to heal my muscles.

I've started a board on Pinterest on core health and to it I'll be posting Youtube videos and websites with tips and exercises that I have found and am using to try to close that gap. I'm doing my exercises - gently, carefully, progressively - every day. I'm hopeful that I'll start to feel an improvement fairly soon, I just need to be patient.

Even more important, though, is gaining the feeling - better, the knowledge - that I am not controlled by my body's weakness. Just as I can shape my hormonal and gut health through nutritional choices I can shape my body through exercise. And my goal isn't to return to my pre-pregnant state - that's impossible - but to find whatever health, strength and vitality I can for my post-two-babies body, just as I will claim whatever satisfaction, happiness, confidence and stability I can for my parenting-two-children spirit and mind. In all ways, I want to be stronger. I will be stronger.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

curried tuna noodle salad

Somewhat sparse cupboards and a restricted diet can make for a lot of rice-cake-and-peanut-butter meals. As much as I really do enjoy it for a munch, when lunchtime rolled around today I just couldn't do it yet again. I needed something different, but full of proteiny-goodness and loaded with taste. I had some rice pasta, some onions, a few carrots, and a neglected can of tuna. So I made this:

mmm, tuna-full!
Curried tuna noodle salad. And it's super yummy! Since I rarely measure things I can't give you a precise recipe but rather an approximation, such as it is.

Curried Tuna Noodle Salad

1 small onion
1 medium sized carrot
1 large entrée sized portion of rice pasta
1 can water-packed chunk tuna, well-drained

Dressing (measurements are very approximate: use your best judgement and personal taste here):
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/4-1/3 cup coconut milk
1 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/4-1/2 tsp maple syrup
salt and pepper

1. Cook rice pasta in salted water until al denté, draining and rinsing in cold water immediately. I used rice spaghetti broken into small pieces, but any small shape of pasta will work beautifully.
2. Slice the onion very thinly, then place in a wire strainer and rinse very thoroughly with warm water (this eliminates a lot of the acids in the onion that can upset sensitive stomachs when onions are eaten raw). 
3. Peel the carrot and either grate it with a large grater or use your speed peeler to shave it. Rinse carrot in the same manner as the onion.
4. Whisk dressing ingredients together, adjusting to taste.
5. Place pasta, onion, carrot and tuna in a medium-sized bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss well to incorporate.

curried tuna noodle salad


We're looking at rental listings.
Yes, again.

Our reasons for looking after being here for two years are varied, and this new search is not undertaken without some misgivings and not only because the prospect of having to pack our belongings now with two children running around (including a new toddler with an unboxing fetish) is so unappealing. After two years this is home. This is our home. And while there are things about it that we do not like - the inefficient electric baseboard heaters, the very hard, concrete-slab-topped-with-parquet floors, the inconveniently-located electric baseboard heaters, the unreliable elevators, the ridiculously-expensive-to-employ electric baseboard heaters, the humidity issues, and did I mention the baseboard heaters? - we have memories here. We enjoy this space. We have danced and sung and played and grown in this space. It can be a good place to be.

But still we're looking. We've been looking since March. Because we want to find the right place, not a place right now. We don't want to be doing this again in a year or two: all things being equal we want to settle down for as long as possible.

We've seen a wide variety of places, from little houses to brownstone apartments to stacked townhouses to basements units. None have been quite right, though we've come very, very close. But as the process has gone on and on...and on, I've developed a new and reflective perspective on it all.

We've heard so many times - usually from friends and family who would never countenance living downtown - that we could save a lot of money by moving out of centretown and into the suburbs. And that's true. Or we could spend the same amount of money and get way more space and a yard. Either way, a dollar goes farther outside of the urban core. We know this.

What it comes down to, though, is richness and how we're defining it. Is richness having more money in our pocket? Is richness having more space in our home? Or is the currency of our richness found in time, in the time we get to spend together as a family, time we would lose if we were a long commute away from Jon's office? Or is our richness in the energy of the city, seeing the life and liveliness of the street just outside our window throughout the day, knowing that we can simply walk out the door and engage with our community through the mere act of sharing space - sharing the city - with fellow citizens?

At the end of the day, what will leave us feeling richest?

Finances are a consideration, obviously. Scraping by is hard and I am sick of doing it. But as we approach this move I am more aware than ever that our happiness cannot be measured simply in dollars, that square feet of floor is not a measure of satisfaction or joy. So as we look at strangely quirky, smallish apartments that represent a significant dollar savings, I consider, "Will we actually be happy here? Will we simply be counting the days until we can move again?" And as we look at places that will cost us exactly what we are paying now, I wonder, "Would we be happier and more secure with lower expenses? Will we feel hampered by the cost?"

It's a question of balance, really. And there are new developments, new changes to our financial situation (I'll be talking about that in an upcoming post: it's terribly exciting news!!) that factor into our consideration as well. I'm not sure how it will ultimately play out.

So for now we're scouring Padmapper (if you're looking for rentals and haven't used Padmapper before I highly recommend it: it is so much more convenient than hours of scrolling through Craigslist, Kijiji and all manner of other online listings), arranging viewings and trying to reckon it out. And, in true Presbyterian fashion, we're taking a fatalistic view to it all: the right place is out there, we just need to keep looking for it. It will come along. The trick, for us, is to discern what "right" really looks like.

Monday, June 11, 2012

UPDATE: Pigeon-watch 2012 continues

I'm sure you're all waiting with bated breath for an update on our resident nestling after my last post about the family of pigeons who've made a home on our 8th floor balcony.

We got our first look at the nestling - turns out there's only one, so that photo with the empty egg actually showed a successfully hatched egg - on May 29.

Downy nestling

Aw, fluffy baby!

By June 5, Baby had grown...a lot!

Big baby!

And continued to grow, of course. This past week we started occasionally noticing both parents absent from the nest, while Baby stayed alone in the nest. This past Saturday, Peanut asked to see the pigeon, so Jon took her out on the balcony...but there was no one home.

empty nest

No parents, no nestling. Jon surmised that the baby had started flying, but I thought it unlikely that Baby had fledged: the last time I'd taken a peak, Baby was developing feathers, but was still mostly down. But where else could Baby be? I happened to look out yesterday and saw Baby hide him or herself away inside the steel work that houses the a/c duct. So that's where Baby hides when both parents are away hunting his or her dinner.

Baby Pigeon is a hungry little guy: when a parent comes back to the nest, the sound of Baby's "peep! peep! peep!"-ing is loud enough to be heard throughout our apartment. They aren't nocturnal, though, so it certainly isn't a bother, just a sweet reminder of another creature's babyhood. We haven't missed the air conditioner at all - though, to be fair, we rarely use it and it's been surprisingly temperate lately - although today the anticipated high is 33C. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that the breeze keeps blowing as nicely as it has all morning!

Friday, June 08, 2012

chocolate peanut butter fudge pudding

Yes, really.

In my previous post I talked about the challenge of baking gluten-free. But what's a sweet-tooth to do? Fortunately, no-bake gluten-free desserts are easier and generally more successful than baked ones. Any recipe that fits into a raw-food or nearly-raw diet will almost certainly be gluten-free (uncooked wheat flour? No, thank you!) as well as egg-free. As a result I've been looking at a lot of raw-food recipes, as well as vegan recipes to accommodate the current limitations to my diet.

And yesterday I came up with this:


Chocolate peanut butter fudge pudding. Free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and refined sugar. And let me tell you: it's awesome. Actually, rather unbelievably so. And it's easy: really, really easy.

In a food processor or blender combine:
1/2 cup tahini
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
3fl oz (or 6 tbsp) nut, coconut or rice milk.
Blend well.

And that's it! If the pudding seems too thick or stiff, add a little more milk. It also tends to thicken up with standing, so if you're planning to make it ahead add an extra tablespoon or two while blending. This makes about 2 portions. It's very rich, so I find a moderately sized portion satisfies nicely.

Creamy, chocolatey and delightfully nutty, this pudding is going to be getting a lot of spoon time at our table from now on.


allergen-free but definitely not yummy-free

Cored pineapples were on sale the last time I went to the grocery store. I bought two. My current favourite thing to do with fresh pineapple is so ridiculously simple and so undeniably yummy I needed to share it with you. Last night I made it with quinoa, but it works just as well with cooked rice.


For one large serving, cook 1 cup of dry rice. While it's cooking, chop 1/4 to 1/2 of a pineapple into small bite-sized pieces. Heat 2 tbsp of coconut oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat, adding the pineapple once it's hot. Sauté the pineapple pieces until they begin to soften and turn golden brown or about 10 minutes. To the pan add about 1/4 cup cashews (I used raw cashew halves, but you could use roasted cashews. Adjust your seasoning if you use salted cashews) and 1/4 tsp ground coriander and sauté about 2 minutes.  While they cook, rinse and loosely chop baby spinach leaves, removing stems.  Turn off the heat and add the cooked rice or quinoa and the spinach leaves. Toss well, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.


Eat it up! This a great, easy, common-allergen-free meal containing both protein and healthy fats. Yummm....

Gluten-free dinners require only a re-imagining of how meals can look. Gluten-free baking, on the other hand, is a tricky business. Before we went gluten-free I rarely used recipes: I was a "throw it in a bowl until it looks right" type of baker. And it worked, surprisingly well at times. But gluten-free? Using a recipe - heck, even using a mix - I've had some pretty sorry baking fails, let alone going without a recipe. Baking is always science, and eliminating gluten (and in my current diet, also eliminating dairy, soy, eggs and refined sugar) makes that science far more tricky. Every time I go to bake something I feel a certain inner lurch: "Oh...I hope this works..."

Take Wednesday morning, for example. Peanut declared she wanted muffins. I happened to have Ontario-made The Mix Company's Spice Lovers Muffin Gluten-free Mix in the cupboard. Score. But I warned her: "Honey, these might not turn out. We'll have to wait and see. I hope they'll be good, but if they aren't we'll have to think of something else for breakfast, alright?" Because I'm just never sure what will happen.


I thought about using eggs per the recipe on the package, but I really wanted to be able to try them myself. What I love about The Mix Company's mixes is that many are also sugar-free, so I can use an alternate sweetener to adhere to my elimination diet. So I swapped the eggs out for ground flax seed, the sugar for maple syrup and used coconut oil instead of butter. Mixed them up in the food processor, stirred in some frozen blueberries and then popped them in the oven.


They took a little longer to cook than the 15-18 minutes recommended but in the end they were really quite tasty.


Now: did you notice what I did there? Just up there about the muffins? Do you recall the post where I said I killed my food processor? No, it didn't rise like Lazarus and start blending up dates again: this momma has a new toy. A new, functioning, shiny red toy.

Big red machine.

Because this momma has a birthday coming up this month and has a wonderful momma of her own who couldn't wait to gift it.

Ooh, shiny and red!

This thing makes short work of whole, pitted dates. It's amazing. I made a small batch of Lara bars in a fraction of the time I could have with my old machine. I love it! And it makes the recipe I'm about to share with you unbelievably quickly, too. Check the next post for something extra-yummy.


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