Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Inspired by Exercise

Exercise as inspiration? Well, sure, why not? Once we force ourselves to do it, we always feel better, right? More energetic, happier, less likely to eat an entire cake in one sitting.

Ideally I would like to take my exercise like Miss Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice…setting off for a three-mile walk to Netherfield to check on her sister, Jane. After her sisters walk her as far as Meryton, Elizabeth continues her walk alone, “crossing field after field at a quick pace, jumping over stiles and springing over puddles with impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise.”

My neighbourhood being what it is (slightly less picturesque) I head to the local gym for my exercise. The view from the elliptical trainer is no more inspiring, though, so I rely on music for my motivation. The typical playlists found online and in women’s health magazines are heavy on Lady Gaga and the like, but that doesn’t get me going. So, I had to do some creative googling to come up with a list of songs that works for me.

Here is a sampling of what I added to my playlist:

“Nearly Lost You”—Screaming Trees
“Seven Nation Army”—The White Stripes
“Wanna Be Sedated”—The Ramones
“Bizarre Love Triangle”—New Order
“Lose Yourself”—Eminem
“Beat It”—Michael Jackson
“I Love Rock N’ Roll”—Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
“Smells Like Teen Spirit”—Nirvana
“Super Freak”—Rick James
“Yellow Ledbetter”—Pearl Jam (for cooling down)
Let me know if you have any ideas for me. I wonder what songs Miss Elizabeth would have chosen if she had an MP3 player?

Monday, September 26, 2011


While the book club gals and I were chatting over tea last week, our husbands and children took a trip to Avalon Orchards to pick some lovely organic apples. It was nice to know that they were enjoying fresh air and exercise while we were enjoying conversation and companionship. On that sweet Sunday of simple pleasures, we all took a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to rejuvenate our spirits. With the daily commitments of school, homework and activities, even our children are often confined by strict schedules. The apple orchard offers the perfect respite, providing fresh air, the beauty of nature and, of course, the chance to sample some delicious apples. All of the children came back happy and proud to show off the apples they had carefully picked. The bonus is, they have been eating them ever since.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like stars at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
—W. H. Davies

my little snaggletooth or Nanny McPhee as we like to call her

the apples are coated with clay to deter pests

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rules of Civility

This one goes out to my book club gals. We are a small group of three who share a love of books, conversation and, of course, food. My club-mates are both high school teachers (with very lucky students I dare say) and they have impressive amounts of wisdom to offer. They are also excellent bakers, which makes them golden in my eyes. We enjoy our discussions over tea/coffee and a buffet of sweet and savoury treats.

We met this past Sunday (after a regrettably long hiatus) to discuss one of our now-favourite books, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I have written before about how much I enjoy simple pleasures, and reading is definitely one of them, especially with a novel as absorbing as this one. Normally I like to watch movies after the kids go to bed, but while I was reading this book, I returned to it greedily every time I had a spare moment. I finished it in three days, which was two days too long in my opinion.

In keeping with the theme of simple pleasures, my book club mate (and sister-in-law) noted how much she loved one particular page of the book, when the protagonist, Katey, recalls some advice her father had given her on his death bed.

"Whatever setbacks he had faced in his life, he said, however daunting or dispiriting the unfolding of events, he always knew that he would make it through, as long as when he woke in the morning he was looking forward to his first cup of coffee." Katey adds, "Uncompromising purpose and the search for eternal truth have an unquestionable sex appeal for the young and high-minded; but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane--in the cigarette on the stoop or the gingersnap in the bath--she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger. What my father was trying to tell me, as he neared the conclusion of his own course, was that this risk should not be treated lightly: One must be prepared to fight for one's simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Favourite Foods, Part Two, Never-Fail Banana Oat Muffins (vegan)

While I'm not a huge fan of cooking (and having to get together a healthy, satisfying meal for a family of four on a daily basis), I do love to bake. Probably because I love to eat sweets. Especially homemade vegan baked goods. I like to know what is in my food, and what isn't in my food, like all kinds of chemicals with names I can't pronounce. And baked goods also make nice snacks to send in the kids' lunches or to grab for a quick mid-morning or afternoon snack.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Savouring the Moments

When I was a child, my favourite season was fall. I loved the cooler air, the changing colours of the leaves and the late summer excitement of buying new clothes and school supplies for back-to-school. With a few more years under my belt, I find the allure of fall has decreased some, and I can't help but associate autumn with the long months of winter that follow.

In order to keep my spirits up, I try to focus on all of the joys that September and the fall season can bring. The first, for me, is always the Vegetarian Food Festival (this year from September 9 to 11) in Toronto. My family likes to hit Govinda's at the World Cafe for some delicious food from the people of the The Hare Krishna Centre.
After that, it is apple picking on a fall weekend. We usually head to Avalon Orchards in Innisfil, Ontario for some of their delicious apple cider and fresh organic apples off the trees. Seeing the kids in their rubber boots running around eager to find the perfect apple is always a joy.

Add to that a Pearl Jam show, a Wilco show, the promise of a meeting with my beloved book club gals and a friend's fall wedding, and September is actually looking good. Of course, October brings Halloween and the chance to eat a little candy (okay, lots of candy), pick out some fun costumes for the kids and carve a few cool pumpkins. Even if you don't have little kids, carving pumpkins is a good outlet for your creativity (everyone has some!) and can help cultivate a little Halloween spirit too.

"Instead of brooding over the fact that nothing lasts," says Harold Kushner, "accept that as one of the truths of life, and learn to find meaning and purpose in the transitory, in the joys that fade. Learn to savor the moment, even if it does not last forever. In fact, learn to savor it because it is only a moment, and will not last. Moments of our lives can be eternal without being everlasting. Can you stop and close your eyes and remember something that happened for only a moment or two many years ago? It may have been a view of a spectacular landscape, or a conversation that made you feel loved and appreciated. In a sense it did not last very long at all, but in another sense it has lasted all those years and is still going on."

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