Tuesday, February 7, 2012

School Days

This is what happens when I go back to school. Anything that is remotely creative or part of my expressive self gets neglected. I think I have to spend every waking moment doing homework. Then I remember, college is not like university where your entire existence is based upon finishing the readings for tomorrow's seminar so you do not look like a complete dunce in discussion! There are alot of assignments on a weekly basis but nothing to kill myself over and due to my great time management skills from 6 years of post-secondary education, I get these assignments done in no time. First semester turned out not to be do bad. I was nervous about this current semester because I had a full class load and a weekly full day volunteer position at a museum. Plus, I am working part-time. However, so far it has not been so bad.

Which has meant, I need to get my shit together. Time to bring balance back into my routine and stop vegging out on the couch after a long day. Even if I do, pull over the laptop and update the blog, write a poem, create a music video etc...

Here's to another go at this.

As well, as part of this new resolution, I am back in the kitchen! Well, I never really left, however, I was finding I was slacking in my meals both planning and trying new recipes. Well no more! I got a few new cookbooks for Christmas and I am slowly getting back to cooking more then just our staple meals.

Plus, I was also finding I was beginning to feel sluggish and not as energetic as I normally did. I knew it was because I wasn't making enough nutrious meals or even eating enough throughout the day. That has been stopped. Now that I think about it, since I have revived my healthier eating habits and eating regular meals and snacks, this sense of "Get you act together" is back.

Anyway, I will be back posting about delicious vegan meals, thoughts on the environment (which is on my mind more now that I am taking a Green Living course), animal rights and the spiritual connection -by the way- I started doing yoga a few months ago. I do not know why I resisted it for so long. It may seem intimadating but it is alot of fun and feels so darn good. I enjoy the combination of exercise and meditation.

Well, I must get going. But I will leave you with this.

This was a recent meal from my latest cookbook - Robin Robertson - Quick Fix Vegan.

Can you guess what it is? It is Seitan Gyros with Vegan tzatiki sauce. Gyros were one of our favourite meals from the local Sub place before we went Vegan. You would not believe how happy I was when I found this recipe.

We have eaten them four times already!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Animals are my friends... and I don't eat my friends. ~George Bernard Shaw

When I went Vegan a year and a half ago, I discovered something about myself that I never thought would happen. I discovered that I loved to cook and bake! I also had a talent for it. Now, I am not talented enough where I am creating my own recipes or Veganizing old recipes, yet. However,  I can cook a darn good meal and bake a pie with no major disasters.

Why is this a big deal? Well, if you had known me before I went Vegan, I was not a kitchen connoisseur. I hated to cook! When I did it was a big deal and I spent most of my time calling my father to make sure I did everything right. I hated cooking meat. The smell and the mess of it always turned me off.  So I cooked very little and often stuck with frozen or fast food meals. Vegetables and fruits always went bad because I forgot about them. Baking, that was out of the question! I once melted cookie dough - how? I am still not sure. Only once a year did I bake and it was at Christmas time for gifts and it was always a Christmas miracle when everything turned out. Needless to say, I didn't eat very well. A standard meal was sometimes a Snickers bar on my way to class and a tea.

When Nathaniel and I went Vegan, I had a lot of nay-sayers saying it was unhealthy and that I would gain tons of weight because I would only eat starchy foods. Well, I didn't let them deter me. Thank goodness that it was only a few people. For some reason, around that time I had started making a number of my friends were either vegetarian, vegan, raw or macro. It was like I was already attracting the right people in my life to help support us in this lifestyle change we were about to embark on. So with that support, I began the quest of Becoming Vegan because I wanted to do it right! To be a healthy and happy Vegan.

Within one month I felt happier and healthier. I had more energy. I was sleeping better. I didn't feel bloated after meals. I felt a deeper connection with my cats. I enjoyed grocery shopping. (Going to a Health food store is the highlight of my day now). I even lost weight and for the last year and a half, I think my body is finally at a comfortable weight. I enjoyed all my meals. I also discovered I loved to make them!!

My first cookbook was La Dolce Vegan!: Vegan Livin' Made Easy, I made many of those recipes. I was a cooking machine. It was so satisfying make a meal and watching it turn out as it is supposed to and Nathaniel enjoying the meals I made Around that time, I discovered that I loved compassionate cooking/baking and I went crazy. Meaning, I ordered tons of Vegan cookbooks and created new meals daily and weekly. Since then I have accumulated 26 Vegan cookbooks. Yes, all within a year in a half. My friends and husband laugh at me and can't believe how many cookbooks I have considering before I had one Campbell's cookbook I hardly ever used.

Why do I have so many? Well, I am an individual that enjoys variety with her meals. Yes, we have a few staples/favorites that I cook often. However, I always love a new meal and challenge to tackle. I also love having a new cookbook, reading the recipes, finding a new ingredient and adding to the pantry. I spend my Sunday nights going through various cookbooks planning the week's meals. Some days, I will sit on the couch and read recipes just for the fun of it. I even go on Amazon or Chapters to looks for the newest cookbook and try to figure out a way to sneak it in without Nathaniel knowing. I was very excited when we moved to Ottawa and I visited Chapters for the first time here in the city. They have a large Vegan cookbook section that I spent over an hour in deciding which one to take home with me. At the time, The Happy Herbivore Cookbook: Over 175 Delicious Fat-Free and Low-Fat Vegan Recipes won out. However, I have my list and I plan to add more. One day, when we have our own home, I want a large kitchen and in that kitchen will be a large bookcase with all my Vegan and Raw cookbooks  It will stand as an example to my non-vegan friends of just how bountiful and delicious Compassionate cooking can be.

Thank you to Lindsay Nixon, Robin Robertson, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Sarah Kramer, Dreena Burton, Kim Barnouin, Alicia Silverston, Vegan Dad and many other Vegan authors for helping my husband and I live and love a compassionate life. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

In this Prefect Weather, We'll find a place together.

A design re-vamp! Can you tell I am getting nostalgic for autumn? Though the summer is great, not only because of my birthday, but because everyone seems to be a bit more relaxed. However, I don't handle the heat and humidity very well.

With August 1st on the horizon, I am excited because the days will cool off and it will be nicer to cook and bake whatever I want.  In North Bay, summer's were not so bad because it would get really hot for a few hours and then cool right down. In Ottawa, I find it gets humid and stays hot. Don't get me wrong, we have had some great storms. I love a good thunderstorm - dim the lights, pop in an old horror movie or read a good book. Sometimes, Nathaniel and I would just watch the rain while listening to music and do explorations of perplexing thoughts or emotions. But the humidity and heat has really dampened my cooking ambitions. Where in the Fall, I feel that is the season I thrive - PUMPKIN EVERYTHING! ;)

I LOVE the smell, the colors, the sights of fall. There is something about the seasons that warms my heart. Halloween is my favorite Holiday. Now that I have discovered the greatness that is Tofurkey, I enjoy Thanksgiving. I find that I live to be outdoors more often - everything about the seasons is just great.  The other day, Nathaniel and I were in Michaels and I wondered into their seasonal section. They have started pulling out decorations for Fall, which made me very excited. I also found myself smelling multiple candles called Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Harvest, Apple Cinnamon - if those candles were environmentally friendly, I would have taken them home and shut the doors and windows and filled our home with the aroma of Fall.

There is also another reasons why I enjoy the season so much. Last year, I married my soul mate on the most beautiful Fall day.

On October 3rd 2010, Nathaniel and I got married in a private ceremony with close friends and his parents. We eloped! We both agreed that a large wedding was not us. Since then why stress to plan and pay for one. If anything, we love each other and we were both ready to make that commitment to one and other. I would never change my wedding day for the world. It was prefect every moment of it.

The Wedding was completely Vegan. I busied myself making all the meals, snacks and desserts for the weekend. While I was more concerned about the food then I was about getting ready for my own wedding. My good friend Ashley kept me on my toes. She was more freaked that I was getting married then I was. Thank goodness for her and her boyfriend, Mike being there to help out and give us many good laughs the night and day before. They were our witnesses and two friends who have been with Nathaniel and I since we met. Ashley was the one who told me we would get together one day, I thought she was crazy at the time!

Despite it being a sunny day, it was a bit cold and we knew I would not make it long outside in my little dress. So Nathaniel's mother had the great idea to bring the outdoors inside for the ceremony.

 The guys went out and gathered leaves and branches and we brought the Muskoka fall outdoors inside their living room.

Our Ceremony was preformed by a woman who struck a cord with us the day we met her. When we arrived at her home to meet her, her first comment was that she had just said goodbye to the angels that had been helping her that day. Nathaniel and I looked to each other and knew we found the right individual to help his finalize our physical and spiritual union. Our ceremony was completely created by us. I walked in to the music of Enya, Nathaniel was dressed in an official Tai-Chi outfit, we performed a candle ceremony with each member present lighting a candle the represent aspects of union, and Nathaniel and I recited our vows that started with Tom Petty songs that remind each of us of the other and added what we felt was appropriate at the moment. I was amazed I was able to talk while I cried. Thank goodness for Nathaniel's father bring laughter into the ceremony with running to get matches for the candles - I was finding it hard to breathe.

Some pictures!

Jessica descending down the staircase. When I got to the second last stair, I felt my legs go like jelly and I stopped breathe. Nathaniel's mother was behind him and motioned for me to come forward, when I walked by her, se whispered to me that I needed to breathe.
  Our Candle ceremony. The Green candle represent new beginnings. The stand was made by Nathaniel's father the night before.
 Reciting our Tom Petty Lyrics and vows. I recited Walls by Tom Petty and Nathaniel sang (yes sang) Angel by Tom Petty. The reason for the songs is that they were the first two playing the first night we spent together. We talked all night and didn't share our first kiss the next day.
 Our Wedding Party :)

 This rings - chosen and engraved by Nathaniel. They are not crazy expensive but represent us strongly. In his ring we engraved "All you Need" and mine is engraved with "Is Love"

This is a statue given to me and Nathaniel by my brother and his fiancee a Christmas. At the time of my wedding, my brother and I were not talking, so having this statue as a centre piece at our wedding table was like having him there.

*Listening to - Tom Petty - Free Fallin'*

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

All You Need is Love

I think it is time to meet the bright lights in our life. Our companions, our children, our four reasons why we do what we do in this life.

This is our youngest LuLu or Lucky. She is a Daddy's girl. Before Nathaniel and I met each other, when she was a kitten, she was left on my doorstep in the middle of a cold February night in a box with a garbage bag full of cat food, little box, toys and treats. I was known in the neighborhood for rescuing cats and finding them homes. However, with this little one, I had a feeling she was to stay in my life somehow, yet I could not keep her because I had my three and my sister (who I lived with) had a cat as well. My other sister took her in at first; however she did not get along with a toddler. So Nathaniel made a home for her while I helped out with the expenses. Soon we moved in together and she has grown so much over the two years. Once called Bruce Lee for the flying jumps in the air and off of furniture - she now lays around waiting for Daddy to come home for cuddles.

Vi, is our second youngest. Before I moved in with Nathaniel and Lulu, she was the baby of the house. She loves attention and the moment you sit on the couch she is on your lap in a heart beat. She is also a Daddy's girl, which unfortunately leads to some squabbles with Lulu from time to time - but they are getting better with each other and sharing. Vi has a sad story. She was brought into the animal clinic my good friend was working at with a huge gash in her stomach and four malnourished kittens. The owner decided that it was too costly to have her fixed and opted to have her put down instead. The Vet decided that he would not do that to a perfectly healthy cat and told them to pay the "put down" fee and he would fix her up take her on and her kittens and find them new homes. My friend came over for dinner that night and told me her story, I was instantly in love. The next day, I visited her and when I saw her I knew she was coming home with me. In no time the skinny little cat became my pulp Vi. Unfortunately, out of her litter of four only one survived - but he is in a good home and very loved, just like our Vi.

This is our FuFu aka The Dink. This cat has so much personality, I sometimes wonder if she was human in another life. I have many more of these types of pictures of FuFu which describe what she is like. I got her as a kitten my first year of university from the Humane Society. I was originally going with with my girlfriend at the time to adopt an older cat because we both felt we did not have the time to look after a kitten with both school and work. However, when we were in the room visiting with all the cats, I was looking at a cat in the cage below this little fur-ball of a kitten. Then all of sudden I felt this paw latch into my hair and when I looked up she gave this mighty 'Meow' with another paw lunging out, as if to say "Take me". From that moment, I knew she was mine. I begged and my girlfriend relented - it didn't help that FuFu has this way about her. Over the years, I have watched her grow from this little kitten who's tail was bigger then her become a stinker of a cat who no matter what she does or gets away with she makes us laugh. Whether is if licking our arms to wake us up in the morning or laying on the table while we eat. She is our Dink.

Last but surely not least, this is my Caesar, The Man of the House. He holds a very special place in my heart. Caesar has been with me since I was 16 years old. He is the oldest yet the youngest at heart. I am proud of how healthy and active he is at his age. Many people who first meet him are shocked to realize how old he is, when he looks and acts so young. For eleven years, him and I have been through a lot together; moves, bad and good landlords, breakups and makeups, new friends and old friends. I always said to new potential relationships that if Caesar did not approve of you it would not work. I am very happy at how him and Nathaniel get along and the blast they have when they play.  He has always been there to help me laugh and cuddle me when I was feeling sad. I have always felt connected to animals all my life, yet for some reason, I feel very connected to my Caesar. He is my littler Emperor.

All four of our feline children are special and each have their unique qualities that make them wonderful members to our family. They are members of our family and I would never see them any other way. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Taking care of one's Self

Well, I am on a roll. Another update and only 1 week away from my last one.

It is Sunday morning and since I am not working, I slept in which means I have already missed breakfast, so it looks like a brunch today. I am thinking maybe pancakes with the left over spicy collard greens from last night. Only if Nathaniel has not taken them with him to work. If so, that is okay. He needs to eat well when he is on the job and I feel better knowing he has them.

I have found that he has not been eating the greatest out on the job sites then how he used to eat when he worked at the storefront. This then leads me to be concerned about how hard it is for people with different dietary lifestyles to be able to take care of themselves. I have been told by many people that it is hard being a Vegan when you are on the road or when meals are being catered for you at the job site. Since Nathaniel, has started working in this entertainment/production setting, he has struggled to continue eating as healthy as he had been. When they cater his Vegan meals - they consist largely of starching foods or just salads that may or may not have some form of cheese on them. He has expressed to me on many occasions on how grateful he is that I have been creating large meals with plenty of left overs for him. However, I feel it should not be this way. It should not be hard for people who have different dietary preferences to be able to have a decent meal.

Yes, things have been getting better. There are much more restaurants with Veg friendly options and grocery stores who have natural/organic sections. However, I feel that it goes back to the fundamental principle of education. People should be educated about health, nutrition and different dietary options. If people had some kind of basic knowledge, then they would understand that putting cheese on a salad for a Vegan is a big deal. However, I also feel that people in those situations need to be proactive in taking care of themselves. While these options are slowly cropping up, it is up to the individual to know what they can and can't have, plan meals, and pack snacks. When someone says to me that it is hard being a Vegan on the road and that is why they fall into Vegetarian mode for that trip, I just tell them that it was their choice and they were not a victim of circumstance. It is not hard to pack a container of nuts or stop by the local grocery store and get a fruit or veggie tray. There are also great resources out there that help Vegans on the road. I love Sarah Kramers' Vegan a Go-Go!: A Cookbook & Survival Manual for Vegans on the Road. I have brought this mini cookbook (that fits in my purse) on all my travels. I have used her recipes to cook my breakfast, lunch and dinner when I am staying at friend's and family. I also have the tendency to e-mail or call my omnivore friends and family with a recipe I plan to cook with and ingredient list to see if they would eat that or not. My husband and I have also invested in a good cooler to bring along our own meals or treats so that others don't have to worry about feeding us. I remember our apartment hunting trip to Ottawa, I packed a cooler full of seitan loaf for sandwiches, chickpea spread, fruits and veggies and we ate well for five days. We also saved money on only eating out twice at a Vegan restaurant.

Now this little rant is not only for Vegans and Vegetarians to eat well but for anyone interested in taking care of themselves and their body. Food is the fuel the body needs to function properly and combat illness and disease. When you have a healthy balance of food and water daily intake you will be amazed by how energized you feel. All it takes if 6 small meals a day of healthy food groups and portion sizes and you will be amazed by the change. Hey, and if you want to go Vegan - it is a super transformation :)

I good cookbook to help any into a super transformation would be Alicia Sliverstone's The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet. I was initially hesitant to purchase this book, since I find that celebrities have the tendency to turning something into a fad and do more harm them good to a movement. However, a good friend of ours, who is very centered individual and who has recently went Macro, highly recommended her book. She also cooked us a few recipes from the book. I loved the food. So I picked up the book and I love Alicia's down to earth writing style, as well as her ability to connect to the reader and bring to light the ups and downs to becoming a Vegan.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Every Down has an Up

Well tonight's post is about my birthday. Why? Because it was a good day. Some background: On the morning of my 20th birthday my father called to inform me that my grandfather had suddenly passed away that morning. So a day of joy was quickly squashed with a tragedy. After that for about 5 years my birthdays turned into days I dreaded. When I turned 21 - someone else close to me passed away mixed a major storm turned tornado, 22 - a major fight with then boyfriend, 23 - I don't even remember it and on my 24th - the realization that the new guy I was seeing was completely wrong for me and creepy. I was beginning to start letting my birthday come and go quietly. However, since I met Nathaniel, the day I always dreaded has progressively gotten better. My 25th birthday was spent with wonderful friends and Nathaniel went all out to make it a special day.  For once I enjoyed celebrating the day of my birth.

Me with Ashley and Mike on my 25th Birthday.

Nathaniel and I.

Me with the delicious Vegan carrot cake Nathaniel made.            

This year's birthday was also a pleasure. I did not know what to expect of my birthday being in a new city away from all friends and family and hardly knowing anyone. However, it turned out better then I expected. It was unfortunate that Nathaniel was unable to join me on the actual day of my birthday due to working at Bluesfest all day. However, he plans to make it up to me this week with a cake and heading out to see the finally installment of Harry Potter. Which also holds close to my heart because every birthday for seven years the new Harry Potter book was released.  

So what did happen on my 26th birthday in a new city? Well, my good friend Kelly came all the way up from Toronto to spend the weekend with me and celebrate. It was her first visit to Ottawa and with my still not knowing to much about the city we spent the day exploring together. We spent the day checking out Parliament Hill, exploring the Byward Market, dined out Vegan style at The Green Door (amazing food at such a good price!), drank red wine, played with Arbonne products and watched the Leaves Eyes and HIM concert dvds. Nathaniel came home early with more Vegan goodies, though Kelly and I were both exploding from the food we already indulged in, we enjoyed these and then I passed out on the couch. It was a fantastic day and one I wish I could do over again and again. Not only was it is great day hanging out with Kelly and exploring Ottawa, but I received birthday wishes all of forms from all kinds of people, old friends, siblings and even new friends. I even treated myself with a gift to myself, a new cookbook The Happy Herbivore Cookbook: Over 175 Delicious Fat-Free and Low-Fat Vegan Recipes. I was blown away by the Vegan section at the Chapters in the Byward Market it was huge and I could have spent all day there. Funny thing about this cookbook, is that it is my 26th Vegan cookbook and I got it on my 26th birthday :) I also bought a couple of new teas from a cute Tea Store in the Market because we can never have a enough tea ;)

It was a wonderful birthday and when I said my goodbye to Kelly today at the bus station, I realized that I was sad to see her leave. It has been wonderful to watch our friendship evolve of the years. I then realized that even though I tend to enjoy time by myself, and have since I was a child, I am increasingly enjoying time with people I connect with and being by myself 95% of the time is not as enjoyable as it used to be. So maybe I can adjust that to a 50/50 ratio as time goes on.

"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware".
Henry Miller

Thursday, July 7, 2011

You've Got the Love

   Well, it has been quite some time since I last posted anything on here. Once again, I went MIA for a few months. However, all for good reason. In these last three months, Nathaniel and I packed up our life in North Bay and moved out to the big city of Ottawa. For the last month we have been settling in, finding jobs and creating a wonderful new home for ourselves and our beloved feline children.

   The month before the move was hard. While Nathaniel was excited about moving forward with our lives. I began to have reservations and mixed feelings about leaving behind a place I had called home for some many years; and yet it was me who deceided she wanted to go back to school and leave behind the family drama, old friendships and past boyfriends. But I guess when there are bad memories the good ones are mixed in. In the last month amongst the choas of packing and sorting out all the minor details, I was reminded of those good times and those good people. During that time, I learned alot about some of my friendships and the power of attraction.

   In many of the new age and higher awareness books/articles that Nathaniel and I have read, we always come across the saying that the energy you vibrate in attracts people who are like that energy. So if you surround yourself with negative energy, thoughts, and patterns you will likely attract the same type of people. We have all had that experience with the lairs, manipulators, users, complainers, downers, doubters etc... and we wonder, "Why do I attract such people?" However, we don't look at ourselves and how we treat ourselves. We complain about our physial appearance, pick on ourselves and literally become our own worse enemies.  Well, I know I have been there and have asked myself the same questions. Yet in the last year, I have worked to change that energy and to 'vibrate' in a more positive field. Yes, I still have a dark side to myself and I believe we all do. I just do not allow that side of myself to control my life and dictate who the people in my life are and will be. All my-self work has showen results in the last two months.

   For example: The week before we moved to Ottawa. The job we believed Nathaniel had fell through due to lack of federal funding. I panicked and almost instantly took it as a sign that we were not supposed to move. The day before my brother and I reconciled after a year and a half of not talking. So of course, many mixed feelings started to come up and old fears took control. Old thoughts of staying in North Bay resurfaced. Then Nathaniel comes to me and admits he was relieved that the job fell through because he knew it don't feel like him and that everything will work out. As well, my boss and our many friends reassured us that we would be fine and everything will work out. They all encouraged me to change my thoughts and be excited about the new journey we were taking. In the words of my boss - "Enjoy the ride. That is what life is all about. The ups and the downs. When you go down you can always get back up". Well, I did and the day of the move came and I felt excitement mixed with some fear about the new journey ahead.

   On the day of the move, Nathaniel and I were shown what relationships were really shown who are friends were. I had som disappointments from a few people, but in the end, I was not surprised by their behaviour because I had seen it coming. But those people who were there that morning helping us pack our life into the back of that Discount van really made my heart swell and know how much we were loved. I held my own during the entire two hours we moved. However, when I locked the door to our beautiful apartment for the last time, I did cry and I cried for a few hours on the drive to Ottawa. I said goodbye that day to my past and turned to the new life ahead of me.

   All my fears and doubts about Ottawa have been washing away over the last month. It all began the day we arrived in Ottawa and from the help we recieved from the supervisor and tenants with our move to Nathaniel finding a wonderful new job on our second day here all due to being friendly and open. He has been on an exciting new journey in his work and falling into some great opportunities and meeting wonderful people. We have made new friends; while remaining in connection with old friends, learned new experiences and have begun new practices.

   While I looked for a new job, I picked up a new tool to help in the process - the power of affirmations. I recommend reading You Can Heal Your Life by Lousie Hay. When I felt stressed, this book came into my experience and helped me revamp my mindset. After three weeks of job hunting, after I changed my mind set and created affirmations (posted all over our apartment), I had three jobs offers. I found a job and have been training and looking forward to being successful at it and meeting new people. Then today I got final word on funding for school. After many weeks of positive affirmations, I received news that I was getting funding to pay for school in the Fall. It felt so good receiving such news and knowing that life was truly moving forward for me and Nathaniel. My fears have continued to fade away and I feel now I can truly enjoy the summer ahead of me in our new home.

   The last two months have been proof that when you feel good about yourself and feel more positive about life and the decisions we make that everything will turn out as it is meant to. That the Universe is always taking care of us, we just need to trust in ourselves and the power we have within ourselves to create the best experience possible. I know now that Nathaniel and I will succeed in Ottawa and we will be very happy.