Thursday, 14 January 2016

Thoughts on Tradition (from a non-traditional couple)

When I would dream of my wedding as a little girl, I could see everything perfectly clear - my dress, the outdoor ceremony, my bouquet, my beautiful bridesmaids, the delicate decorations - everything except the person I was marrying. At 10 years old that makes perfect sense, why should I be able to perfectly envision who I would marry 13 years later? However, now happily married to my wife, I'm left wondering if part of the reason why I couldn't seem to get even a body shape to come in clear during my wedding dreams is because I was trying so hard to picture a man.

Side bit of information - I didn't know I was, hmm let's say not straight, until my mid/late-teens, and I didn't know I would marry a woman until I met my wife. So all I'm getting at really, is that maybe my subconscious was more open to the idea of a non-traditional marriage than my 10 year-old conscious was.

When it was time to start planning my real life wedding, I began to experience a lot of (what felt like at least) déjà vu; I couldn't for the life of me seem to get a clear image of what my big day would look like. This time though, unlike at 10 years old, I had my partner; Maeghan's bright, beautiful smiling face was always in my imagination. What was different now, was that I couldn't seem to picture small things, like me walking down the aisle, the bouquet toss, cutting the cake, father daughter dances, and all other really big iconic wedding moments. I'd flip through wedding magazines given to me as engagement gifts and end up tossing them aside feeling very discouraged. No, my groom couldn't do this or wear that...I DON'T HAVE A GROOM. So I'd open up my laptop and Google "lesbian wedding" hoping to find some clarity. None. No clarity. What I would find, were endless pages dedicated to "how to plan a non-traditional wedding". Now, I did refer to my marriage as non-traditional, but why does that have to mean that my wedding should be non-traditional too? I was beginning to feel ostracized by both wedding communities...

Maeghan and I knew we wanted to get married outside from the get go. A few weeks (okay fine days) after we were engaged, we started to browse popular venues online. Not only did the venues not feel right, but it didn't seem to make sense for us to get married in Ottawa when it had only been our home for two years. When Maeghan came up with the genius idea to have the entire wedding on her parent's property, everything began to fall into place. From the moment we secured our [relatively] non-traditional venue, Maeghan and I decided to capitalize on all of the flexibility that comes with not having a "booked venue", and to distance ourselves from all expectations; we decided to put away the heteronormative magazines and stop reading the non-traditional wedding blogs, and just make our day our day. 

So let's get down to it, what are my thoughts on tradition? Why did we have such a traditional wedding when we as a couple are quite non-traditional? And when we are expected to help break down [somewhat] archaic traditions rather than reinforce them? To answer that question in the simplest way possible, Maeghan and I had the wedding we wanted regardless of what's traditional and what's not.

If you're married you know this already, and if you're not...sorry to break it to you, but weddings come with a ton of expectations. Some of those expectations are cultural, some are just preferences of those around you (i.e: parents), but most are deeply rooted in longstanding tradition. Now it's up to you, the couple the day is all about, to decide what you wish to do with all of those expectations.

While trying to piece together what we wanted our day to look like, Maeghan and I turned back to those heteronormative wedding magazines to get an idea of what a typical traditional wedding looks like from start to finish. From there, we scratched out bits that didn't make sense to us (like the garter toss...I have so many questions about that tradition), we kept what did make sense, and we altered things we were on the fence about so that they did make sense to us. While doing this, we didn't think much about where the tradition stems from or what society thinks it means, we thought more of what it meant to us.  


Some examples of traditions we kept or altered:

I chose to wear a long white dress because when will I ever do that again? And Maeghan and I chose  for my "reveal" to remain a surprise until the day since there are few great surprises left in life. 

We both chose to be escorted down the aisle by both of our parents. This had nothing to do with our fathers (or our mothers for that matter) "giving us away", but rather them showing their support. 

I wanted to throw my bouquet but thought everyone should participate, so I had a gender-free bouquet toss. 

We both had father daughter dances simply because we couldn't imagine not. It's not creepy and it's not symbolic of your father's last dance with his little girl. It's a chance to share in a "time stands still" moment with one of the most important people in your life.
(If that person isn't your father, why not have a special dance with whoever it is?)

We chose who we wanted in our wedding parties, regardless of their gender. And we allowed them to pick their attire because who are we to tell them what they look best in. 


Looking back on our wedding day, I suppose it may have fallen closer to the traditional side. But not without careful consideration. So I guess in short, my thoughts on wedding traditions are to take them at face value and make what you will of them; build the day - from start to finish - that you want, that fits your style, and that you want to remember for the rest of your life. If that means you wear a white dress, great. If it means you wear a black one, awesome. As long as you end the day with a smile on your face and a heart full of love, you've done it right. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Is Soup a Meal? (Ginger Carrot Red Lentil Soup Recipe)

Whenever I write out the weeks meal plan and one of the dishes on the menu is some type of homemade soup, I always wonder how Maeghan will react. It's not that she doesn't like soup, it's that my father (who isn't a picky eater either), has a funny reaction when my mom makes soup for dinner. To be fair, my mom is a big soup fan and it does feel like each time I call home during the colder months - which in Northern Ontario is basically 7 months of the year - she is making soup. So for the longest time, I've had a funny memory stuck in my head of my dad trying to bail himself out of a sticky situation by explaining to my mom that he does like her soup it's just that soup isn't a meal. 

Since going vegetarian years ago and recently floating back to somewhere on the "flexitarian" spectrum, I've spent a great deal of time researching and learning about different kinds of protein, fiber, carbs...basically all of the components of a healthy balanced meal. When I plan out our weekly meals - remembering that they will not only be dinners but lunches as well - I make sure each meal is not only balanced, but also has enough protein. With that being said, I think the answer to the my parents debate is: if your soup is hearty and packed with nutritious veggies and proteins that will keep you full and energized, then it is definitely a meal!

I've been on the hunt for new soup recipes since the rainy, damp season has arrived here in Victoria. Recently I came across this delicious recipe for a ginger carrot and red lentil soup from My Kitchen In The Rockies and I can tell you it will definitely be a staple in our winter menu.

Of course Maeghan ate it with a side of 3 English Muffins covered in melted butter, but she was a fan and never once questioned my decision to serve soup for dinner. We highly recommend tossing in your favourite nuts and seeds along with big globs of goats cheese!

Click here for the recipe and cooking instructions, and let me know what you think!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Your Backyard is Beautiful

(Ferry Ride - Vancouver to Victoria)

Someone's going to say I'm cheating since I've recently moved and my backyard is new and therefore more exciting...but just hear me out, okay?

My iPhone is only about six months old and it's already out of space. I have next to no apps, and I only have about 10 songs on there. It's out of space because it's full of photos. The other day I decided to go through them... delete what I don't need, and move whatever I deem precious memories to my laptop. While going through my over 1,600 photos, I smiled, I laughed, I had my eyes fill with tears, and I realized how much I've jammed into the last six months and how fortunate I am. I needed that; I needed that kick in the pants, that reminder that life is (so) good and we need to get out there and enjoy every second of it.

What I also noticed during my walk down memory lane, is that I have seen and done so many amazing new things in the last couple months...probably triple what I did the entire two years I lived in Ottawa. Yes, BC is totally new to me; it's a place I have always wanted to visit, but until two months ago, never had. So it makes sense that my phone is full of beautiful photos of the amazing things I have seen and done here so far; but what I started to wonder is, why didn't I have this many photos of the things I had seen and done in Ottawa? I quickly opened my laptop to the folder of photos from my old iPhone, scrolling until I found evidence of my first few weeks in Ottawa. Again, I smiled, I laughed, and I had my eyes fill with tears; but this time for very different reasons. The photos were all of me and my enjoying a beer on a patio, us eating an Italian deli sandwich in the Market, or us cuddled up on an apartment floor after too many glasses of wine. Those first few months in Ottawa were some of the best months of my life, simply because they were spent surrounded by people that I love. But what I realized is, although Ottawa was brand new to me, I didn't treat it the way I am treating BC.

(Hatley Castle - Royal Roads University Campus) 

During my first week at work here in Victoria, I asked my coworkers to give me a list of things to see and do in town. I told them to give me the same suggestions they would give to a tourist while I noted that I was even considering the hop-on hop-off tour bus. With each person I asked and with each time a new "local" discovered that we were new to town, the list grew. It's been three months since we arrived in Victoria, and from my iPhone full of photos, I can tell you that we're quickly checking things off that list. We've been to the downtown harbour, we've seen the parliament buildings and the oldest hotel in town, we've done a tour of one of the most famous castles on the island, we've been to see the floating homes and fed the seals, we've window shopped in each different neighbourhood, we've hiked countless trails up to the summit of (small) mountains and through some of the island's oldest forests, and we still have so much more to see and do.

(Fisherman's Wharf - Downtown Victoria) 

What I'm getting at here, is that I think we too quickly become "residents" in the cities and towns that we live in and we forget to take notice of all the great "touristy" things our own beautiful backyards have to offer. Don't get me wrong, when I think travel or adventure I think of an international destination - somewhere totally new and different from wherever I call home. But back in Ottawa, when my friends were busy on my days off or we didn't have enough time or money to jet off to somewhere exotic, I would become discouraged - believing I was destined to a boring, adventure-less life - and wind up binge-watching reruns on Netflix from my bed. When in reality, there was lots that my own city - my own backyard - had to offer that I hadn't seen or done yet.

So next time you find yourself wishing you could getaway for the weekend or that you had enough time or money to hop on a plane to somewhere new, try hopping on the internet and finding out what your backyard has to offer! Or better yet, blindly hop on the bus and hop off somewhere you've never been. I guarantee you that you'll find beauty (and adventure!) that you never knew existed...all in your own backyard.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Meal Plan Your Way to an Extra $2600

I'm sitting here thinking of all the things I want to do with my $ go on an extravagant trip or a massive shopping spree. But in reality, that extra cash will go towards something grownup like tuition or a down payment on a house - still good things, but a $2600 trip to somewhere exotic like Fiji or Bora Bora just seems so much dreamier! 

Back in Ontario, Maeghan and I were spending about $120 a week on groceries for the two of us. We always bought food to make breakfast at home each morning, snacks for lunches, and supplies to make a large dinner each night so we would have leftovers for our lunches. Even though our fridge was always stocked with fresh ingredients just waiting to be turned into a delicious meal, each night I always found myself scouring Pinterest for dinner inspiration while staring into the fridge and whining, "we have no food". Not only did this waste endless hours of my time, but each week we would end up spending more on food by running out to get "just one ingredient" - paying a premium price for it at a corner store and ending up coming home with things we didn't need - as well as wasting food that went bad as it never seemed tasty enough to be included in that week's meals. Since moving to British Columbia (where everything is significantly more expensive), we've been spending just $70 a week on groceries and our food wastage has decreased significantly. 

How, you ask? One simple change: we started meal planning. 

Each Saturday, while enjoying my morning coffee, I get out my computer and a pen and paper. I spend the next 15-20 minutes compiling a list of seven different meals as well as all of the ingredients needed for those meals. To save time, whenever I see a recipe or meal idea I cut it out or Pin the link for later. Come Saturday, I can look back on those recipes to quickly build my list without repeating any meals. From the ingredient list, I make a shopping list of all of the items I don’t have in my pantry, and then add to it any extras we’ll need for breakfast and snacks. At the grocery store, I’m in and out in less than 30 minutes with only the items on my list (and maybe an extra treat since it is the weekend after all) and I’ve spent only $70 to feed two people three meals a day for seven days!

When you break down the numbers, the savings will blow your mind!

$120 multiplied by the 52 weeks there are in a year is $6240 that we were spending on groceries (with so much of it going in the trash)! Our now $70 multiplied by 52 weeks is $3640
The original $6240 we were spending, minus the $3640 we spend now, leaves us with $2600 in SAVINGS.

The benefits of meal planning speak for themselves; I have more of my evenings back since I never have to wonder what to cook each night, I spend significantly less time in the grocery store, our food wastage has nearly stopped, and we have an extra $2600 a year in the bank! Now…what snack should I bake tonight? 

Saturday, 10 October 2015

It's The Soul That Needs a Surgery

Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. Let me start by making you really think. When you think of the word health, what do you think of? Most often, our minds probably run to any kind of physical ailment - broken bones, cancer, heart problems, etc., OR, we imagine a state of perfect physical health. But what I think many of us overlook, is mental health. Now, with that being said, mental health doesn't have to mean mental unhealth. That's where stigma comes in. Not only do we, as a human race, often struggle to see mental illness as an accepted ailment or illness, but there seems to be some kind of shame in ensuring we are taking care of our minds, the same way we care for our physical selves.

With the hopes that putting a face to mental illness helps to end some of the stigma, and as a way to encourage you to take care of your minds, I'll share with you my journey as a survivor of mental illness.

I won't "sugarcoat" it and I'll get right to the point; I am battling an eating disorder. This is by no means breaking news. I have been battling (and winning!) against this monster for the past 10 years. I can't tell you how it started. I'm sure it was a combination of many things including my brain's susceptibility to mental illness, but I can tell you it started when I was 13 or 14. The little girl in that photograph grew up in a middle-class, value-based, love-filled home, and she was not subject to abuse (short of minor childhood bullying), yet she struggled to fit in and find her place. The teenager between that little girl and the young woman in the photo, went to war with herself each and everyday in an effort to feel beautiful. 

For the past 10 years, I've had my highs and (at times extreme) lows, and my eating disorder has come in many forms. And despite the fact that I am sitting at a healthy weight and am doing better than ever, I still battle each and every day. You can't see my mental illness, and you wouldn't assume I am or ever was a survivor of mental illness from my upbringing or my current lifestyle, and that's what causes stigma. I am not ashamed of my illness, or it's story. I am, however, ashamed of myself for not always taking better care of my mind.

Of course, when your illness has you completely wrapped up in what feels like a choke hold, you aren't able to admit that you're struggling and need help. But when help is offered, or you reach out and decide to begin taking better care of your mind, the biggest hurdle can be stigma and shame. And I think it's time that ends. 

There is absolutely nothing shameful about taking care of your mind, whether you are battling an illness or not. 

Life's tough. At times, it can feel as if way too much is being asked of us; there's a lot on your plate at school, your kids are growing and developing and need your constant attention, you're battling with the rest of the country to find a job that pays the bills, society is telling you that you need to be perfect, and it's all too much. But that's okay, there's a solution to that! If the stress from life caused your back to ache, you would see a chiropractor, or caused your heart to beat irregularly, you'd see a cardiologist. But for whatever reason (maybe because it's unseen and "unfelt"), we sometimes neglect to notice what the stress is doing to our minds and how badly we need healing.

Taking care of (or healing) our minds doesn't have to have it's own type of specialist or remedy, it can and should be entirely up to you. Really, often all it takes is finding time to do what makes you happy, and time to relax your mind. For me, when I seem to be struggling more than normal, I do rely on a "specialist" (therapist) for extra support, but most often, I practice my own healing. What makes me and my mind happy and healthy are simple, everyday things like: frequent exercise, adventuring to new places, crafting/creating, writing, watching movies, long chats with good friends, hugs and kisses from my wife, snuggles with my cat, and of course, a nice glass of wine. So when I feel as if my mind could use some taking care of, I make time (or more time) for some of the things on that list.

So this weekend, while you're being thankful for all that you are surrounded by, make some time to do something that makes you happy. Your mind will thank you for it in more ways than you know!

Monday, 5 October 2015

When Life Gives You (lots of) Rotten Lemons

It's been way too long! Life (mostly wedding planning, oh and moving across the country too, I guess) got the best of me, but now I'm back. So to recap, WE GOT HITCHED! Almost two months ago on August 15th at 4:00pm (just kidding, a bit later since I was late to the ceremony), Maeghan and I said our "I Do's" and partied our butts off with our closest friends and family. Like everyone says, it really was the absolute best day of my life. What more could a person want than to be surrounded by the people who love them most in the entire world, enjoying good food, too many drinks, and seeing nothing but smiling faces, hearing constant laughter, and feeling such an immense amount of love?? 

Here's some photo evidence: 

When Maeghan asked me to marry her back in May of 2014, she told me that if she were going to spend the rest of her life being unlucky, she would rather spend it being unlucky with me. I think I was both laughing and crying when I heard those words, but nonetheless, I was definitely nodding since I agreed that we've always seemed to have awful luck. After that day, it was like a switch flipped and for the next year or so Maeghan and I's bad luck seemed to disappear. It isn't as if we started to have some unnatural kind of good luck where we won the lottery, or constant uncannily-good things happened to us, it's just that the constant string of bad things ended and life in general seemed to become easier.

Then, as if we had licked the last of the good luck off of each other's lips when we sealed our marriage with a kiss, our bad luck picked right up again. It all began with having no hotel room for our wedding night as it had been given away, and carried on throughout our trip across the country including awful occurrences such as a flat tire, having our car broken into, and nearly not making it through the mountains due to engine troubles. When we finally arrived in Victoria - so worn out physically, emotionally and financially - we thought we would start to catch a break. But sure enough, the bad luck continued continues on with silly things like all of our mail going missing, or fighting through hiccups with the insurance company that cause hefty fees, and finding out our professional wedding photos are...disappointing to say the least.

Now I'm going to be honest with you, this outlook that I'm about to share with you did not come easily to me. For the first few days in Victoria, I spent more time crying than not, and I was constantly asking myself (and poor Maeghan) "why me" and "what did we do to deserve this". Then a few days ago, with lots of support from my fantastic wife, I made the decision to begin to think more positively, despite the constant negative or unlucky things that continue to occur. I decided that rather than sit around waiting for life to at least give me fresh lemons so I can make some frigging lemonade, I'll take my truck load of rotten lemons and compost them to make mulch for my garden and grow my own lemons.

Okay, so obviously I don't actually have rotten lemons, and I definitely do not know anything about turning them into compost and growing my own lemons, but what I do know is how to get back into the driver's seat of my own life. I can't help that for whatever reason "bad things" may continue to happen in my life, but I can cope better. I can work on reminding myself that those "bad things" in my life are relative, and probably measly compared to many other people's "bad things". I can resist the urge to ask "why me" while getting sucked into compiling a mental list of all of the negatives, but rather work towards finding a solution to my problem and take a moment to reflect on all of the positives in my life. And lastly, I can create my own good luck.

It would be nice if I could create luck like choosing the winning lottery ticket this week, or ensuring no one I love ever gets cancer, but that's not how life works. What I will do, is choose to acknowledge the small things; the little lucky things that go unnoticed each day, and make them outweigh the seemingly large pile of unlucky things.

This past week's list includes:
- my new iPhone not smashing when it went bouncing down the cement side walk
- my favourite tea being on sale right when I wanted to buy it
- a great volunteer organization having availability to take me on as a volunteer immediately
- our new dryer not shrinking any of my clothing
- having our cat escape and not run away
- Mcdonald's not having any ice cream, causing us to find a delicious local ice creamery and being able to try nanimo bar flavour for the first time

See, let's imagine for a moment that my iPhone had smashed, or my dryer did shrink my clothing, I would have been devastated and wondering "why me". However, not smashing my phone or having my clothes shrink doesn't just mean I've evaded bad luck, it means I was lucky! Who's to say that we can't rejoice because our favourite tea was on sale when we wanted it, or because our indoor cat was only hiding in the bushes a few feet from the door? These are instances of good luck, and I'm not going to let them go unnoticed anymore!

So along with doing more things that make me happy, like becoming a mentor or joining a new gym, I'm going to be that girl signing Queen's "We Are The Champions" at the back of the store because I found the last medium in the sweater I've had my eye on...but my question is, will you be singing too, or will you be drowning in your pile of rotten lemons?

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Pancakes and a Lesson on Cooking For One

This past weekend I spent the entire weekend alone. It was the first time in a while that I had to think about how to spend all of my free time and what I was going to cook each day for just one person.

Growing up in a family of five, we almost never had to think about how to cook for just one or two since more often than not we were cooking for 10 to ensure there were leftovers. When I started to date Maeghan, and later moved in with her, learning how and what to cook for two was one of my biggest hurdles. After a few months, cooking for just the two of our little tummies became the norm. But cooking for one? Who even has the motivation to cook for one let a lone a stack of recipes for just one serving?

Refusing to order-in or cave and eat a bowl of cereal for every meal, I set out make myself something to eat for Friday night dinner. I whipped up what I thought was going to be a small helping of vegetable fried rice. You can imagine my reaction when I ended up cooking more than I would have if I was aiming to cook for two...I think there was enough to feed about 6 big eaters.

Saturday morning I slept in and when I woke up I had a craving for pancakes. For the second time I set out hoping to make just a few pancakes for just one person, and low and behold I was left with a giant stack of pancakes and no one to share them with. Don't worry, over the next couple of days I ended up polishing off every last one of those pancakes, and since they were so good I'll share the recipe with all of you!

But before the recipe I'll give you my thoughts on cooking for one... it's just not possible.

Raspberry (or any berry/fruit/chocolate) Pancakes

You will need:
- 1 and a 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 and 1/4 cups of milk
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons of melted butter
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla 
- optional additions such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, chocolate chips, etc. 

- Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. 
- Slowly add the milk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla to the dry ingredients and whisk together until all of the ingredients are well combined and have created a smooth (lump-free) batter. 
- Add your berries or chocolate and mix well into the batter.
- Heat your skillet or pan over medium heat. Once heated, add a small amount of butter or cooking oil to the pan. 
- Pour your desired amount of batter (about 1/4 of a cup) into the pan in little circles. Flip the pancakes once little bubbles begin to form and pop throughout the batter. 
- Stack, cover in syrup or any other toppings, and enjoy!