food

In my head the flesh seems thicker

It’s not a secret I’ve had issues with body image for a long time. And it’s always difficult to post about them because really, it’s such a spectacular waste of mental energy. Not wasting time is one of the driving forces in my life, and it’s unsettling when I find myself making a choice that doesn’t line up with my values, yet at the same time, I don’t seem to be able to help it. Something that’s left me more than a little disconcerted as of late is my weight: last year, I’d posted about the fact that I was probably considered medically underweight, and that gaining a few pounds might actually be a good thing – yet I was struggling with the idea of becoming bigger because being thin was something that people had complimented me on my whole life. And when you have abundant issues with how you look, the thought of letting go of the one positive thing isn’t something that sits easily. 

In the spring, most of you know that I went through some pretty major life stress, and in the preceding and subsequent few months, in a terribly unhealthy coping mechanism, I basically stopped eating. I remember feeling such a loss of control in terms of life events and emotions that I tried to take it back in the form of something I could control: my weight. If the world insisted on spinning around me, the one thing I could keep a hold on was what I put into my body, and as frightfully unhealthy as that sounds, I think it’s a pretty typical psychological response. Emotional eating isn’t uncommon; people have a tendency to go to either one of the two extremes, and as a result of something nasty hitting the proverbial fan, I found myself embarking upon an inadvertent hunger strike. 

But I didn’t like it. I didn’t like feeling lost, I didn’t like feeling panicked, and I didn’t like feeling hungry. And when you acknowledge the fact that there’s a giant discrepancy between where you are and where you want to be, it’s enough to cause even the most stubborn of us to take action, and it wasn’t long before I was setting about making an action plan to move ahead with life in full force. I found myself a new apartment within a couple of weeks, started spending time with incredibly wonderful people, focused my mental energy on things within my control along with the positives of the situation (as Beyonce so aptly said, I “found the good in goodbye”), and set about moving forward. When I got to my new place, unpacked the bathroom scale, stepped on it and saw I was at 100 lbs, the gravity of how unhealthy my month of avoiding food had been really hit home. So I went grocery shopping. 

Now, one of the things that goes along with living completely solo is the need to budget – something I hadn’t had to do too strictly in a very long time. I’ve always shared accommodation with other people, and subsequently my bills for rent and food had always been a fraction of what they’d be if I lived alone, leaving enough wiggle room for the odd Friday night takeaway, bottle of wine, concert ticket or new piece of clothing. I’d also been able to make big dents in paying off my debt – something I’ve been picking away at for as long as I can remember, and that I was on track to have tackled completely by the end of 2011. Fast-forward to the new now, however, and things aren’t quite so flexible. My rent is exactly half my monthly income, which leaves the other half to cover food, bills, transportation and other miscellany, leaving a float of less than $60 per week for things like entertainment and debt payments. Which is quite the adjustment. I wonder how people do it, but then I realise that most people live with others. I want to eat healthily, but on such a tight budget I’ve found myself eating what’s cheap, and not much other than pasta, pizza and pop tarts. And though I’ve been able to just about manage financially, I’ve definitely put on a large chunk of weight in the last month. And it’s unsettling.  

Friends tell me I look healthier – that before, they thought I looked “borderline eating disorder”; that before, I was the skinniest person they’d ever met, or that you could see my collarbones protruding from across the table. Now my clothes are definitely feeling tighter than usual (uncomfortably so; several pairs of work trousers are now actually unwearable), and I find myself shelving the tank tops and skinny jeans, instead opting for flowy clothing that camouflages the body.  (The silver lining, I suppose, is that a tiny bit of the weight has gone straight to the bust, which is nothing for a former A-cup to complain about!)  But though people say I look good, healthy, and that they can’t see where the pounds could have possibly gone, I feel bad knowing I got to my so-called “healthy weight” on a Diet for Poor People. I don’t want to continue eating unhealthily, but I can’t afford things like fresh greens and fish every other night like I used to. I’ve been buying KD, microwave pizza and sacks of oatmeal so I can have enough for other expenses, and though my BMI is now considered in the normal range, I feel awful knowing I got it there so unhealthily.

So what do I do? The end definitely doesn’t feel like the means were justified in the slightest, and though I know I’m sitting at a weight that’s probably way better for me than it has been in a long time, I want to know I’m staying there healthily. But how do you do it when your budget is tighter than the locks on an Azkaban prison cell? I feel gross, I feel huge, I feel superficial, and I’m feeling really unsettled about it. I was going to end this post by asking for tips, but then I read something very aptly timed indeed over at Suzy’s blog:

…i’m noticing a lot lately how that stuff–the words and the looks and the notes–can live inside of your head for a long time. they can glob together into an angry giant, feed off your memories, knock your good sense out and take over the steering wheel.  i was talking this over with a friend the other day, and confessing to her that i still think about these things too much and that i still see myself as that annoying, clumsy, horribly ugly girl from frontier, and she said something great.

she said, “i think, at some point you just need to get over it.”

and at that moment i was all snarky and thought, “yeahokwhatever.” because i’m not really sure how you just get over something that has been driving your brain around like a demented chauffeur for 17 years. but i wandered around inside of that thought for a while and realized that that’s really the only thing i can do. i’ve forgiven, i’ve realized that most of these things came from kids who didn’t know better and were probably even more insecure than i was, but i just wasn’t sure what i was supposed to do about the leftover sinking feeling that maybe they were right. you know, the part where you look in the mirror and go, “yep.” and you can’t see anything except the ears, the teeth, the hair, the whatever else they told you was wrong with you.

the answer: just get over it. look in the mirror and see what’s actually there–not what you’ve been told is there for years and years. and realize that no matter what’s there, it’s ok because that’s not the most important thing anyway. 

and THEN i realized that the same basic principle applies to every kind of pity party. i’m so guilty of pity partying.  i kind of think we’re a society that loves pity parties. we love wallowing. we focus on how we’ve been wronged and we let past hurts of all sizes and strengths grow like weeds in our brains. how useless and ugly. fact is: you’re fine. you’ll be ok. i don’t mean it didn’t hurt, i don’t mean it, whatever “it” was didn’t suck. but it’s over now and you have two options: stay here, or move on. let it drown you or get out of the water.

I don’t think any words could’ve been more appropriate. It’s the same sentiment as I tried to express last time we spoke: if you don’t like something, change it. Don’t just sit there whining. So I’m going to make a Proper Budget, and a Proper Schedule. Actually factor in things like vegetables and fish, and make a conscious effort to avoid so many carbs. Eliminate things that add up over time, like the Starbucks every day with milk and four sugars. Give myself an extra ten minutes in the morning to make a healthy lunch rather than pick up KD to go or a couple of Bagelfuls. Leave my debit card at home, so I can’t pick up unhealthy snacks over the lunch hour. Actually take my two coffee breaks, and walk a few blocks around downtown instead of sitting at my desk working through them. Dig out those dreadful Hip Hop Abs DVDs and schedule them in, instead of coming home and sitting straight back down at the computer to read blogs. I want to be a healthy weight, and maybe that means losing a little bit – not enough to get back down to an unhealthy 100 lbs, but enough to make me feel comfortable in my own skin. Small steps add up to big changes, right? 

Have you ever had to make a drastic change in diet and budget? What helps you stay on track with your eating habits, and how do you budget a limited income and stay healthy?

* Lyrics from the only food attitude-related song I could find, and it’s a great one.

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The Weighting Game

Remember last year, when I realised I’d lost all my sick days at work rather quickly, and that when I get ill, I get hardcore ill, and started fretting I was going to get fired? My hypothesis was that because I was theoretically underweight (and my BMI was low), my immune system was pretty much a giant wuss. Fast-forward to now. Sweet and I have been on a major health overhaul for the last few weeks – we’ve both been exercising more, and have switched our eating habits to eating five or six little meals and snacks throughout the day instead of three heftier ones. I’ve heard for years this is way better health-wise. Now I just have to clear the piles of greeting cards off the treadmill and start working jogging back into my routine (it was brought to my attention recently that my wedding was three months ago, and my physical activity had plummeted to basically zero since saying “I do”), and I’ll be set!

Last week, though, I noticed an unexpected side-effect of the new diet: I’d put on six pounds. Before the wedding, people were eternally telling me to eat something, asking if I was deliberately losing weight, and pretty much hinting I was borderline anorexic (NOT true in the slightest). Yet crazily, it was something I was proud of. I was proud to be skinny because though I have huge body-image issues (don’t we all?), unlike the shape of my nose this was something over which I had some control. I never snacked, I drank nothing but water, I refused to order puddings, and I’d never eat anything past seven PM. Enter the new diet, where I’m suddenly taking granola bars, fruit snacks, crackers, cheese and yoghurt along with my lunch to work, snacking every few hours and thinking I need to invest in some sort of lunch briefcase – and I wonder why I’m surprised to have put on weight. My first reaction was one of despair: all of a sudden my skinny jeans were feeling uncomfortable, the scale slapped me in the face, and my first instinct was to wail like a giant baby. Sweet immediately reassured me, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of discontent – I wanted to get healthy, but I didn’t want to put on weight. Catch 22. Deep down, I know that when my BMI is 18.3 and all sources point to that being unhealthy, that gaining weight healthily is a good thing – but I can’t seem to feel comfortable doing it. Does that mean I value physical appearance over physical wellbeing? Does that mean I’m a terribly shallow human being? I hope not, but I feel incredibly uncomfortable not being comfortable that maybe I’m actually reaching my “healthy weight”, and I don’t know how to change my thought patterns.

Last year when I was thinking about this sort of thing, I felt like a giant hypocrite putting any energy at all into thinking such negative things. I wrote: I’m 104 lbs right now and I still feel like a whale after I eat a big meal. But I don’t skip meals or throw up or anything. I’m just naturally small framed and consequently the slightest bulge stands out a mile.  To me – and so, in my head, to everyone else as well. I just want to be able to overcome it – all of it, not to be seen as attractive by other people, but to feel confident in myself so I’m not held back so much, so I don’t shy away from people so much, scared of what they might be thinking.  I want to be able to be comfortable and confident. I want to be able to contribute to the world and this seems to be the one destination to which I can’t see a clear path. Six months later, I still feel like a hypocrite, advocating for stepping outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself to grow, to be a better person, to make a difference in the world when I’m guilty of spending my time thinking about something so shallow.

But maybe I just needed to read this post from the wise and beautiful Hannah Katy, which landed at the top of my Reader just seconds ago as I was about to wrap this post up. The Universe does work in interesting ways. Maybe I need to take a leaf from her book, and decide that if I, too, “had two extra hours to my every day, I would surely dedicate the 120 minutes to tracking down a scholar who could point out to me just where women started missing parts and cutting themselves off at the knees. Where it began… Where he believes it might end… Where we learned verbs like “comparing,” “despising,” and “sizing.”  And started using our adjectives to belittle our bodies and devalue our worth.”

Maybe I just need to listen to this incredible girl who I’ve not had the good fortune of meeting face-to-face, but who never fails to pull me back to what’s really important in life. Who never ceases to help me by sweeping my negative thoughts out onto the street and replacing them with the ones that deserve to be in the spotlight.  I really do value health and wellbeing, and I really do make an effort to eat and live well. I know that to live where I do, surrounded by the people I am, to have a home and a  job and a working body I am incredibly, incredibly lucky. But how do you become comfortable with being a bit bigger healthier in a world that’s encouraged you to feel blessed to be skinny your whole life? I’ve scoured the Internet for “healthy BMI” sites, and they are full of tips on losing weight – but it’s hard to find any information at all on gaining weight in order to be healthy – and feeling okay doing it. I realise reading this back, how frightfully superficial this all sounds  (and that this is probably anonymous troll-bait territory), but I’ve always told you I’ll write honestly, and I can’t pretend it’s not something I’m thinking about right now. I hope you’ll forgive me, and that soon, my thoughts can be more in line with what they should be.

Sometimes, when we fall, we fly

It’s been almost a quarter of a year (blimey!) since I posted the list of things I wanted to do before I turn 26. This means I’ve used up 25% of my timeline! Unmonitored resolutions can end up being lost in the universe, never having had the chance to have an impact on a life. I think it’s a good thing, when you make goals for yourself, to check in every once in a while, and make sure you’re still on track. Especially when the whole reason for doing it is a big one. I look back at old posts, sometimes, and see that scared, frail girl, and it propels me to keep trying – every tiny victory, no matter how small, is another slap in the face of fear. I know anxiety and worry are things that plague so many people, and I know how helpess they can make you feel. I want to do everything on this list, everything that ever terrified me, and hopefully one day, be free of it all – it’s been my biggest dream for a number of years now. I feel like I’m in a way better place – I still can’t get over the fact that my job title is now Facilitator – but it doesn’t mean I’m what I’d consider confident yet. I still wonder why I was picked. But it’s an ongoing process of choosing fight over flight, and I’m hoping, with enough practice, one day, it’ll feel natural.

So, that list? Here’s the lowdown on the progress so far:

1. Get in crazy good shape.
2. Become a hot yoga person.
These were the “physical” sort of things on my list – as we established last week, fitness isn’t something that’s been a big part of my life, and I’ve always used back pain, being too busy, or not being able to afford memberships as an excuse. Over the last three months I’ve told myself to stop being such a princess and suck it up: I’ve been doing exercises for my back several times a week. I’ve also begun sticking to my goal of running more than once a week, and took an introductory month of hot yoga (while it was cheap). I even got Sweet started too – he totally fell in love with it and ended up going more often than I was! Unfortunately the price has gone up – so right now, I’m exploring other options in the city, and hopefully finding somewhere less riduculously priced. I loved hot yoga – it was incredibly calming – the first session was done by candlelight with a live acoustic musician! – and I can’t deny it helped my back significantly while I was doing it.

5. Get my driver’s licence.
I renewed my learners, and the card came in last week! Which means I’m legally now able to be behind the wheel. I’m going to start taking lessons with my Dad ASAP – I only have another 8 weeks before the snow hits!

7. Meet new people.
Since I made the list, I started going to local Meetup groups and sought out some new local penpals (despite the potential to look a total weirdo in the process!). In the last few months, I’ve been blessed to have met some incredible people – people who bring joy, inspiration, encouragement, and real friendship to my life. One of them had to move away – which was pretty tough, but the texts and long distance phone calls make it that much easier. Another couple of them, I soon found out, live a few blocks from us, and have become friends with Sweet, too, and the last few months have been filled with many a night of great conversation, laughs, song, life stories, and dreams, and I’m so incredibly excited they said yes to being part of our wedding party in December!

9. Plan meals, be healthier, and cook better.
Adjusting to planning meals a week ahead of time has been a challenge, but luckily Sweet is a whiz in the kitchen and has been whipping up all sorts of healthy, delicious stuff! (Note to self: share recipes!) I’ve also been good nutritionally, and have been starting every morning off with a Green Monster full of spinach, fruit, vitamins and nutrients. Blended fruit and veg is so much more convenient than eating it. And, thanks to your AMAZING outpour of advice, I’m learning to snack healthily throughout the day too, and not starve myself.

15. Teach a class full of people without being scared.
I’d taught small groups before, but last month, I had my first full on class. THIRTY. ADULT. LEARNERS put up with me for a couple of hours, teaching them about customer service and good habits of successful employees, and actually enjoyed it. The feeling I got after finishing was indescribable – I actually felt like I’d made a difference, and I couldn’t wait to start developing the rest of the materials. Self awareness, communication skills, interview techniques… are all modules I’m going to be responsible for in the coming few weeks. I’ve been given a position where I can pass on information that could change people’s lives for the better – and I have to remind myself that’s so much higher a priority than my own fear ever will be.

18. Go on a blogger meetup.
I was thrilled to meet Stephen and Aly in London a few weeks ago, and this Friday, I leave for 4 days in Chicago! I will be sharing pyjama parties, sightseeing, brewery tours, secret bars, skydecks and fancy dinners with some of my favourite people in the world – words cannot express how excited I am to meet Ashley, Brittany, Nate, Jen and Phampants – two more days until they get the BIGGEST HUGS EVER.

19. See more of the world and soak up every last drop.
England and Spain were amazing, Chicago next week will be so much fun, and Mexico will be jaw-dropping. As will, perhaps, my bank account balance at the end of this year, but you only live once.

20. Do more home decor.
We rent our house, which, though wonderfully homey, has rather bare cream walls. Last month I splurged and bought some of my favourite pieces of art, framed them, and hung them around the house, replacing some old TV and band posters (sniff). I also printed some pages from medieval manuscripts and had them blown up and framed, so all along wall beside the stairs is now historical artwork that indulges my nerdy side – and looks just lovely.

21. Finish my tattoo.
After the disastrous results of attempts one, two, and three, I finally found someone who’s going to finish the thing – make it completely different, completely beautiful, and completely new. T-35 days until the appointment!

The verdict: I think I’m doing okay! I’m far from being close to the finish line, and I’m not going to deny, some of the hardest ones are still to come. Some are going to be fun, some scary, and some still seem near impossible – but I’m determined to try. Doing this experiment has been a rollercoaster of emotions, so far, but I think it’s worth it. I just feel I need to prove I can be the person I want to be – and not the person I was. Yes, the past helps us become who we are today, but it also has no control over how the future unfolds unless you let it. A blog friend of mine said it well last week:

Too many of us live behind walls of our own design. We hide our true selves because we feel weird, or that we won’t be accepted. We feel that we need this acceptance to live; we need to feel normal, related-to, and understood. Many of us, however, don’t feel understood. We might feel loved, appreciated, welcomed, and accepted, but rarely do we feel understood.

So many of us let this fear of nonacceptance rule our lives. We keep our hopes and dreams and true selves locked away, worried about what other people might think if they were ever to see the light. And it’s a shame. It’s a waste. And it leads to an unfulfilling, unmeaningful, hollow existence.  I think we can all choose whether or not we allow those walls to stay up, or if we want to break them down and put ourselves out there. If you’re met with adversity from putting yourself out there, you have the choice as to how to take it. Is it going to dictate the way you live your life, or are you going to take control of your own? At the end of my last day of being 25, I don’t know if I’ll have achieved everything I set out to do. I might try and fail miserably. I might get hurt. I might get laughed at, and I might get gossiped about. But at the end of the day, I’ll have tried. And if, somehow, I manage to do it? I want anyone who’s ever lived by the reigns of fear to believe they can break free too. For now, I’ll keep trying. Fight over flight. In the eternal hope that, as a favourite blogger shared, “first, you jump off the cliff, and you build wings on the way down.”

Did you set goals for yourself this year? New Year’s Resolutions, or Four Simple Goals perhaps? How are you keeping yourself on track?

Skin and Bones

One thing I love about bloggers is their sheer determination to not only get out there and achieve their goals, but also encourage each other along the way to do the same.  Not going to lie: health and fitness don’t play a major part in my life. I’m not saying I’m queen of the couch potatoes, and I do tend to eat healthily and for the most part, and avoid junk food, but I wouldn’t consider myself fit in the slightest. Being part of the blogging community however has inspired me – seeing people run marathons, doing Couch to 30K challenges, shreds and daily yoga has really motivated me to take more of an active role in my own wellbeing. (If you don’t like something, change it, right?)

On top of the good I’m told it will do for my back, being in good shape was also something I wanted to tackle before the wedding (which is only three and a half months away (!!)). In the spring, I bought a used treadmill off the Internet, which, in an effort to prove I was going to suck at exercise, promptly broke within the first few months. In came the pedometer. Which still remains in its packaging. But like a fairy godmother telling me I shall go to the health and fitness ball, I received a magical text a couple of days before I left for England.

I’m moving. You want a free $2,500 treadmill?

Why yes, as a matter of fact, I did! My friend showed up with entourage of Big Strong Men, and delivered a state-of-the-art, gym-quality treadmill to my house complete with spare parts and instruction manual. I gave them $100 out of guilt and gratitude, and we said our goodbyes. Now I had no reason not to start running. Fast-forward to getting back from the trip, when my nose decided it was going to run longer and faster than I ever would, and I ended up being laid up with a fever, chills, dizziness, headache, and a cough worse than a chain smoker’s. Not great for my plans to be the next Kenenisa Bekele. I had, however, been doing a fair bit in terms of being healthier: going to hot yoga for a month (before the Intro Rate turned into the Regular Insanely Expensive Rate), making Green Monsters every morning for breakfast, taking multivitamins, picking up a copy of the 30 Day Shred on DVD, and buying a weighing scale so I could make sure I stayed at a healthy weight.

Which led to my discovery: I wasn’t at a healthy weight. At all. I recently learned that I was medically underweight. A BMI of 20 or lower, I was told, equalled underweight, and a BMI of under 18.5 was considered extremely underweight and possibly malnourished, with several risks including osteoporosis, respiratory/digestive diseases, increased risk of falls or fractures, depression, lethargy, and, at the very top of the list: compromised immune function. My BMI? 18.3.

I didn’t know what to do when I got sick again last week. When I’d got my new position, my boss had told me I had half a sick day left for the rest of the year. Had I really been ill that often? I did some research, and it clicked – maybe my immune system IS compromised by my weight. I couldn’t go in, but I felt terrible – I didn’t have any more sick time, and I was needed with the startup of this new project. Meaning I’d used up all my sick time for the entire year. They were kind enough to keep me on and give me this position, and I felt like I was screwing them over by being off for another two days. I told my boss I’d take it unpaid, or work late for a few weeks, whatever was necessary, but I can’t shake the feeling that I might be seen as one of those people who call in all the time just to get time off, when in reality I was stuck at home feeling worse than I had in years. I’m worried I may lose my job over this.

Sweet got the same bug I did, but it barely affected him at all. A little sniffly and a bit of a cough, and his work and social obligations (on top of his role as Best Caregiver Ever) remained unaffected. I got hit hard, couldn’t swallow even water, alternated between sweating hot and shivering cold, and could barely drag myself out of bed. I can’t afford to keep getting sick, but on the flipside, I don’t want to gain any weight. I’ve always been complimented on being slim, and when you don’t like the way you look physically, it’s something that does make a bit of a difference in feeling better about yourself. Being a smaller framed girl, the slightest bit of weight gain is instantly noticeable, straight to my stomach after a couple of days’ eating bigger meals, and you’d swear I was 4 months pregnant. I don’t want to get bigger, but I do want to get healthier. I can’t afford to keep getting ill and I know these risks are the sorts of thing that only get worse with time. Who knows, maybe it’s contributing to the back pain, too – if I am malnourished, surely it must be more difficult for the muscles to work and regenerate properly?

I don’t know. I’m not sure what to do. So this is where I appeal to all those healthy people out there I read and am inspired by so often: what can I do to get back on track to being a healthy weight without bloating up? Your suggestions would be so very appreciated ❤

Updates – and some quick and easy decadence!

1. Huge heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who wrote to me with their prayers and kind thoughts and words about my nan last week.  The good news is that this weekend, I had another email from my dad:

Nan is on board with the idea of being safe, looked after and worry-free when she comes out, wherever that may be.  I’ll be speaking to her doctor this week. I am trying to organise a family meet with everyone.  Nan is in good spirits.  I was making some calls this morning and saw a slip of paper with the name “Brenda” and a phone number. This is Nan’s sister, so I called her to let her know what was going on.  She didn’t know.  To cut a long story short, she is 83, has had a heart attack and a stroke.  She came up to the hospital today after the call to see Nan. Nan was so happy!  Aunt Leslie too, didn’t know and will be visiting.  I’m pleased with my progress and what I have achieved so far.  I hope you are proud of me.  I’m glad you blogged and got the replies and support you have.  I’ll keep you posted.
Love, Dad

It was a huge turnaround to have such strides made in only a few days. Family that hadn’t seen each other, or Nan, for years are reuniting at her time of need, and I can’t imagine how happy she must have been.  I’m not sure when the surgery has been rescheduled for, but it sounds like a lot of prayers have been answered, and positive vibes sent her way have arrived in spectacular fashion over the weekend, and I can’t thank you guys enough.

2. I also purchased a treadmill this weekend.  The elliptical I got off Kijiji ended up being totally useless; with the dial broken and providing no resistance at all, it just wasn’t working.  I might try and sell it again, but for now, I’ve switched to this baby, made sure it worked and was ADJUSTABLE first, and it’s settling in in my living room.  Hopefully this will be a little more exciting to use, while I’m watching Eastenders in the week, I’m hoping to make this part of my weekly routine.

3. Speaking of Eastenders, Sweet and I spent our Friday night watching the first ever live-filmed episode in celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary.  The documentary afterwards was ridiculously interesting, showing how they had to move the actors quickly and quietly between far-apart sets, and how they kept the biggest plot ever secret from the public AND the cast until the real “whodunit” was revealed on the live episode.  It was great to see something I grew up with uniting the country (16.6 million viewers!!), with celebs and old friends alike ALL over Twitter the whole way through.  Brilliant.

4. Yesterday I went to my first Blogger Meetup!  Unfortunately I could only stay for about 40 minutes, but I’m hoping we can all do it again sometime. 🙂

5. Many of you know that one of my new year’s resolutions was to try and cook actual recipes from scratch.  So far, Sweet and I have learned new cooking vocabulary, had adventures with exploding noodles, and spent way more time together actually engaging in something fun and productive, and last week, in a pre-Bachelor panic to find something we could make quickly, we scoured AllRecipes.com and found something that looked delightful.  Promising us dinner in twenty minutes, we set out to make this near-replica of something we’d fallen in love with on holiday last month: Fettuccine al Salmone.  Honestly? One of the most deliciously indulgent meals we’ve cooked to date, and done faster than you could get through a verse of On The Wings of Love.  I had to share!

2 tablespoons butter
10 ounces salmon, cut into thin strips
1 leek, sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup light cream
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
8 ounces dry fettuccine noodles
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced
salmon, chopped leek, onion, and garlic, and fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream, sour cream, and cornstarch; stir into the skillet. Stir in the lemon zest (or lemon juice as we did), pepper, and paprika (which we also didn’t have, so we used cayenne pepper!). Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, until sauce is thickened and salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine (we used fettuccine with cracked black pepper in it already), and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain, and toss with the salmon sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese to serve.

OM NOM NOM! This was one of the most gourmet-tasting, quick and easy recipes we’ve made yet!  It was done in less than half an hour, perfect for those Monday nights when you may or may not have a 7:00 date with a certain pilot.  Bon appetit!

Emily and Delia

I first watched Julie and Julia when it hit the cinemas earlier this summer with my two favourite girls.  We sat, we watched, and then I suppose we got hungry after seeing all that food, because that’s precisely what we did right afterwards.  I came home, newly inspired, full of enthusiasm and proclamations that I, too, was going to learn to cook, just like Julie.  I made promises to Sweet I fully intended to keep; promises involving projects and cookbooks and new culinary delights – maybe not one per day for a whole year, but maybe I could manage to do one per month.  I was all set to find a new hobby, continue winning over the heart of my dearest, and teach myself all sorts of new and exciting skills.

My culinary expertise has never been fantastic.  I love to bake – simple, little things like chocolate chip cookies and fairy cakes, small undertakings I find hugely rewarding when I get to decorate them with bright colours, sprinkles and messages.  I love taking a plate round to the neighbours, entering ridiculous baking contests (yes, those were ALL mine…), or staying up until the early hours of the morning making an edible football for special boys on their birthdays.

But none of this equates to any actual talent in the kitchen.

It’s been several months since I saw Julie and Julia, and after its recent release on DVD, we decided to watch it together.  I was re-inspired, as, surprisingly was he – he decided to find a cookbook (that “didn’t involve anything with cow’s feet”) he could work his way through, starting in the Christmas holidays.  I felt bad, remembering my earlier, unfulfilled promises, and resolved do actually do something about it this time.

There’s a couple of dishes I can do without fail.  I make a mean Shepherd’s Pie, with mashed sweet potatoes and parsnips on top instead of regular mash.  I can slave over an omelette making sure it’s just right, with the help of the stovetop, oven and grill.  And I’m not bad at anything involving pasta.  But those are easy.  I want to challenge myself and actually spend a good three hours one day making something I’ve never done before.  Something I’ll feel really accomplished about if I get it right.  (And score a few brownie points while I’m at it.)

But I need help.  I don’t want something I can pull off AllRecipes.com or cut off the back of a cereal box.  I want something ambitious – something interesting (so I can share!) – and something entirely different.  My patience and culinary dexterity will be put to the test.  Sweet will be the fortuitous judge.  And I want your help.  I found the real blogs of Julie Powell, and to see this real life woman’s dream, ambition and dedication fulfilled is nothing short of inspiring, along with the perseverance, friendships and memories made as a result.  I want to tackle a Real Recipe over the Christmas break.  And turkey, stuffing and roast potatoes are strictly off limits.

Thinking aprons on, girls – what can I venture into for my first attempt at proper cooking?

More mold with your salad? How about some hair?

Every weekend or so, my lovely father and I go for lunch at Perkins to catch up on the week’s events. It’s always nice to spend an hour or two with my dad, especially on a lovely day like today. Perkins isn’t known for being overly posh; it’s cheap, family-friendly comfort food – today’s visit, however, was probably our last.

I decided to get a “Farmer’s Market” salad – full of spinach, candied pecans, strawberries, feta cheese… it sounded delightful. Until I went to take my second bite, and half a strawberry covered in a slightly unwelcoming skin of grey-green mold sat on the end of my fork. Our waiter was mortified, and proceeded to get the manager, who instead of taking the opportunity to apologise, arrived red, flustered, and clearly panicked. She brought back another salad, this time a Caesar (I’d since lost my cravings for fruit)… which was full of half-brown lettuce, and a lovely hair on top. I decided my dad (the man who’d had Poulin’s in over the weekend for mice and told them that for $300, he “expected their heads on little spikes set up on the front lawn to scare off all their mates”) would be better than I would at dealing with the situation; he did, and we didn’t get charged, and left with a $25 gift voucher… although why we’d want to go back, I’m not entirely sure…

Makes you think, though, doesn’t it? With Gordon Ramsay on his fifth series of Kitchen Nightmares, a story in the local paper about several of the city’s restaurants being closed down for sub-standard food hygiene, along with the recent Sizzling Wok incident, it kind of makes you wonder what really goes on behind the scenes…