Hello, 2018!

 At the Grand Canyon in May, 2017

At the Grand Canyon in May, 2017

Happy 2018! It’s hard to believe we are already one week into the new year. I don’t know about you, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is going to be an amazing year!

Looking back on 2017, it was a pretty busy and full-on year. I travelled to India, the States, made a quick jump over to Canada to surprise my parents, and then hit up London and Paris in the fall. After spending a couple of weeks back home in Canada over Christmas, I’m happy to be back in Belgium and getting back into my routine. It was a refreshing way to reset before kicking off 2018.

Last year I also completed my training to become a nutritional therapy consultant! I’m super excited to take this training to the next level this year; creating some fun content and continuing to learn more. 

There are some exciting travels on the horizon for this year, like summer in Canada exploring the national parks and Italy in autumn soaking in the Tuscan culture and eating all the amazing food.

I’m not making any new year resolutions as such, but I am looking forward to getting myself organized and on track to get things done. I have so many projects in my mind to work on, and I am committed this year to breaking things down into small, manageable steps in the hopes of setting myself up for success more consistently than before. My Christmas present to myself was the Get to Work Book, and I’ve already started laying out my projects and tasks – it really motivates me to get organized and get working towards my goals!

One big thing I want to work on this year is cutting down on our waste. I see this two-fold; first, cutting back on food waste by meal planning and shopping more intentionally, as well as setting up a compost area in our garden. Second, decreasing the amount of plastic packaging we consume by buying in bulk with our own reusable containers and shopping from stores that don’t use packaging as much. 

I also want to detox our home and ditch the harsh cleaning and personal care products. I’ve already done a lot to clean up my beauty routine, and I want to bring this into our other everyday products as well, either buying or making better alternatives to the chemicals.

These are just a couple of my intentions that I am working on this year through small steps to move towards a larger goal. What about you? Do you like to set new year resolutions? Let me know!

 

Stop Waiting to Live Your Best Life

I think many of us are guilty of putting off certain things until something about our circumstances changes. Oftentimes that thing is happiness; “I’ll be happy once I lose these last ten pounds” or “I’ll be happy once I can leave this job”. How often have you thought: “I’ll be/do ‘x’ once ‘y’ happens”? 

Why should we wait?

Why should living our best life wait until some arbitrary thing happens, when we could be living that life right now?

We don’t need those arbitrary events to have happened in order to feel those feelings in this moment. What can you do immediately to already tap into that emotion?

For me, that looked like going out and buying some new clothes that fit properly and made me feel good, rather than wearing old things that no longer fit well. Sure, my ego took a hit, but it was a quick band-aid to rip off and it stopped the story that went through my head each morning as I got dressed. 

It also looks like trying to incorporate aspects into my routine that I was telling myself I didn’t have time for. I’d allowed obligations like work, commuting, etc. to become reasons why I couldn’t make time for other things I was passionate about. This is a story I struggle with everyday.

Convincing myself that I have an abundance of time is the hardest thing I’ve attempted to do. But if you don’t believe it, then you definitely won’t have it.

Really, it’s just easier sometimes to snooze that alarm, or watch another show on Netflix. And then suddenly your day is gone and all you’ve done is reinforced the story you have been telling yourself.

Trying to change that story is hard. This is definitely not a how-to post, because I am still trying to figure this one out. 

All I do know is that I can live my best life now, there is nothing to wait for, and I’m determined not to miss a single second of it. 

Sunday Chat: Lessons in Intuitive Eating

Things have been pretty quiet from me the last couple weeks. And it has been quiet in a very literal sense – I have been recovering from a dental surgery that actually meant I was not allowed to talk for several days! But during this time of recovery, there was also a lot of opportunity for reflection; especially on the challenges in eating in a way that would support my body’s healing process.

From what I have learned so far, there are two main parts to intuitive eating:

1.     Eating when you are hungry, stop when you are full, and

2.     Listening and understanding what foods your body wants and what cravings mean

Through mindfulness, I’ve been able to improve greatly on point number one. This is partly by creating meals that are balanced, with a good serving of satiating protein and fat, and by also by paying attention while I am eating and learning to recognize again the signals that I am full. What I still struggle with is the mid-afternoon snack craving, either due to stress/overwhelm that tend to hit me at that time of day, or boredom. In both cases, I find this time of day for me to be highly unproductive and have me reaching into my drawer for a snack more often than not. I’m still trying to figure out what I need to do to get myself back into alignment and focused to continue my day.

However, a couple lessons I’ve learned recently are more about the second point, about making those day-to-day choices when you face certain cravings. During the days following my surgery I could only eat soft, cold foods for several days. I prepared myself beforehand and had several nutritious choices at hand like mashed sweet potato, (cold) scrambled eggs, avocado, pate, and plenty of smoothies.

The best indulgence during this time though was luxurious, cold ice cream. Not only was it a great treat, but the cold temperature soothed my healing mouth like nothing else. I had a bowl everyday for four days during recovery. And then something happened on the fifth day – I really did not want to eat anymore ice cream. The thought literally turned my stomach! By allowing myself this indulgence, at a certain point I just didn’t want it anymore.

The second lesson I learned taught me to understanding my cravings at a deeper level. I was still on my soft, cold food diet, when we were trying to decide what to have for dinner. My plan was to finish my leftover sweet potato with tomato-meat sauce; my boyfriend and mom had decided to pick up pizza. Slowly, my mind changed from having my own dinner, to sharing a pizza with my mom, to looking at the menu and deciding to get my own pizza. And what ended up happening? I didn’t even enjoy the pizza that much. Now that I think back on it, it wasn’t that I was craving pizza, but more that my own food choice was not doing it for me and I suffered from food envy. I would have been better coming up with a different option all together, which would have left me feeling more nourished and happier about my choices.

What I have learned is how important it is to dissect my cravings before making a decision, and at the same time, my body and palette will let me know when I didn’t listen properly. Am I craving a greasy, fried meal, like the infamous Belgian fries and mayonnaise? Probably I need a good serving of healthy fats in my next meal! Am I craving a slice of pizza? Instead, I need to look at how can I get that combination of flavours in a way that would better suit my nutritional needs.

The intuitive eating journey is a continuous one, and there is always something new to learn about yourself. Do you struggle with intuitive eating? What are your challenges?

Sunday Chat: My Beginning in Belgium

When I moved to Belgium permanently four years ago, I lived with my boyfriend and his parents for two months. Two long months. Not that they were inhospitable or that we didn’t get along – but with no job, no income, and nothing to occupy my time except for job applications, I think we all started to go a bit stir-crazy. My boyfriend was finishing his thesis over the summer, so we spent our days holed up in his room working simultaneously. It’s also difficult after having lived on your own for years to suddenly be a perpetual guest in someone else’s home. You’re trying to do things your own way, but no matter what, you are always in the way. (Like all my food in the fridge, or the time I thought I broke their washing machine!)

I started napping for several hours every day, and my boyfriend started working in a different room. The weather was cold and dreary for July, and every day as I sent more applications out, and saw my job count rise from 20 to 30, all the way up to 90, it was hard to stay motivated.

With my boyfriend heading back for one more year of school, I knew that by September I needed to be out and supporting myself. So in August, without any job lined up, I started apartment hunting in Brussels. It was exciting at first, although sometimes a bit depressing when I realized the limits of my budget! Luckily, I found quite quickly a cute and quirky studio apartment to call home – with its lopsided futon, the shower stall in the kitchen, and the toilet only accessible off of the porch. It was furnished in a mismatched wooden style, but hell, it was furnished, it was just inside the cheaper postal code of the centre of Brussels, and the lease was only one year.

Getting in with companies was difficult. Most Belgian companies are looking for bi- or tri-lingual people, and my French just wasn’t up to snuff (thanks haughty English recruiter for telling me). I interviewed with an organization for a four week internship, but I think my face gave me away when they explained the job was just verifying and inputting data. On top of that, I had recruitment firms questioning my intentions to stay in Belgium, not impressed with my one-year relationship at the time. I understood, I was a flight risk, but I just needed someone to take a chance!

In the end, I was only on the job hunt for two months. That’s it! But believe me, it felt like so much longer. It really was a full time job, and the kind that can be unforgiving and hard to motivate yourself for. I actually ended up getting two job offers, within days of each other, for entirely different industries and roles! I still wonder how my life would have been shaped if I had taken the other position. But instead I ended up with a career that has so far gotten me through four years and likely many more to come.

I know I’ve said multiple times how strange it feels to no longer live in Brussels, but I really feel like I’m starting a new chapter in my life. There are so many aspecting of settling into our home that are extremely stressful, but reflecting back on the road I’ve taken so far I can see I’ve already overcome some major hurdles. Back then, I just knew somehow that eventually it would all work out, so I’m trying to pull some inspiration from 22-year-old me to get me through these next few hectic months!

2016 in Review

When looking to the media over the past few days, it seem pretty universal that 2016 has been a rough year. Watching the news these days can easily weigh heavily on our souls and it can be hard not to be dragged down by the current state of affairs. On my personal side, 2016 has been one of the most challenging years yet. We’ve had to say goodbye to some very special people in our lives, there have been health challenges, and a whole lot of soul searching for personal direction. 

This last week has been one of quiet introspection – cozy days at home; my first real holiday where there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. As much as I spend my time looking and planning for 2017, I don’t want to discount 2016 just because it was hard. We also had some really amazing times this year; just because there were some bad times mixed in doesn’t mean the year was overall a negative one, there is also a lot to be grateful for.

Our House

It was our first full year as home owners. While we didn’t do a lot of visible renovation work, we made this place feel infinitely more like us. We got a BBQ and crafted some patio furniture from old palettes which meant summer days in the garden and lingering over dinner until the mosquitos chased us inside. We set up a home gym in our garage (because #fitgoals!) although we need to work on getting out there more often! Inside, we’ve slowly been creating a cozy space which has been amazing to retreat to these last days.

Exciting Travels

I went to some amazing new places this year and back to some old favourites as well. While the year felt overall more like nesting, the world exploring continued from our big trip to Indonesia, to destinations within Europe like Lisbon, Champagne, Manchester, and Amsterdam. Not to mention all the “local” Belgian destinations we visited to get to know our home country better.

Family and Friends

I’ve definitely enjoyed entertaining more this year, and I hope I can do even more of it in 2017. From barbecues to my boyfriend’s surprise 30th birthday, we have had a lot of fun gathering everyone in our home. We’ve had several weekend guests and my parents have visited twice to stay with us. They help us out loads during their stays, and it feels amazing to have them here now that we have the space to not trip all over each other!

The Little Things

Cozy mornings snuggling with the cat while I drink my coffee. Lazy evenings with my boyfriend as we just enjoy peace, quiet, and each others’ company. Cultivating a meditation and journalling habit (53 days and going strong!). Walks in the countryside right outside our door step and Saturdays spent in the city enjoying the best of both worlds.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of what I am grateful for this year. But it does help put in perspective that this year was not so terrible. I think no matter how rough our year may have been, when you look really closely you will always find positivity and gratitude in there as well.

Title photo: 10am early December sunrise in Lapland, Finland (2005)

How I planned a stress-free Thanksgiving (and how it really went)

When I’m planning a party, get-together or even just a small dinner with a couple friends or family members, I have the tendency to get completely stuck in all the little details. I just want to try and do all of the things you can find on Pinterest. After basically burning myself out following the surprise 30th birthday party I threw for my boyfriend earlier this year, I knew I had scale back on what I could reasonably expect myself to get done. 

We’ve been pretty busy so far this fall, so while I knew I wanted to have our family over for a small Thanksgiving dinner, I never really had time to give the preparations much thought. This meant that I was left meal planning at 5pm on Friday afternoon just as I was about to leave work and hit the grocery store to pick up the food for the next day.

After four years of hosting Thanksgiving (with a few serious mishaps along the way!) I thought I had a pretty good idea of how long everything should take and how to go about it. But even still I learned a few more things this year:

  1. You can buy pre-prepared foods, plan, and do prep-work in advance, but you can never get everything completed before guests arrive. 

    I decided on exclusively pre-prepared hors d’oeuvres for people to snack on, and grabbed as many of the veggies as I could pre-cut. Dessert (apple pie) was baked the night before. But cooking a turkey is still work. Stuffing, basting, resting, making gravy, carving – it demands a lot of your time and attention.
     

  2. Even the best-laid plans can (and will!) have problems.

    The main thing that threw me off this year was a mis-communication between my boyfriend and I. This meant that the turkey would only be ready for pick-up Saturday morning, where we had planned a 1pm meal. Easy solution; we pushed back meal-time to 2.30pm and alerted our guests, who luckily didn’t complain!
     

  3. Your guests can entertain themselves for awhile.

    I thought that getting everything ready as much as possible before the guests arrived would help me spend some more time out of the kitchen. But I think I have finally learned this year that that’s just not realistic; especially with Thanksgiving you have to let your guests entertain themselves while you finish the final turkey preparations. It would definitely not be pleasant for them if you try and maintain a conversation while running in and out of the kitchen on high-stress mode.
     

  4. Stop and savour the moment

    I always get so caught up in the preparation and execution of the day that before I know it, it’s over. If you are stressing yourself out to hold these events and not even taking a moment to enjoy it, then what is the point? Getting dinner on the table is such a flurry of activity, that I am trying to remember to take a moment to relax before sitting down to eat. It’s a good reminder to stay rooted in the present, but also a big help for my digestion with the turkey dinner!

Despite the few hiccups we did have, this year was by far the easiest year yet. Plus, I’m starting to know more about what works for me when hosting these kinds of events and what I can and cannot expect of myself. A good meal? Check. A fully decorated and adorned table setting? Maybe next year.

 

 

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