Summer couscous happiness

Ever have one of those days where you bring your lunch to work, then you look forward to eating it all morning? I had one of those days today! I made a couscous salad last night for dinner and I had leftovers for lunch today. I am very proud of this recipe, because it’s the first (and only, actually) recipe that I’ve come up with on my own. And not just “I have a recipe for spaghetti sauce” kind of thing. I tried different ingredients, quantities and everything. I even wrote it down so I can make it taste the same every time. It’s that good. It tastes like summer.

Citrus couscous salad

Ingredients

– 2 cups couscous

– 1 1/2 cups orange juice

– 1 boneless chicken breast

– 1/2 cup sesame seeds

– 1 cucumber

– 2 large oranges

– 6 tbs olive oil

– 3 tbs lemon juice

– 3 tbs orange juice

– zest of 1 lemon

– salt and pepper

1. Bring orange juice to a boil. Remove from heat and add couscous. Stir, cover and set aside for 5 minutes.

2. Cut chicken breast into bite-size pieces and coat with sesame seeds. I like to put the sesame seeds in a bag, throw the chicken pieces in, and shake it up. The seeds will stick to the chicken. Cook in 2 tbs olive oil. (I like to use lemon-infused olive oil, but plain works fine.)

3. Peel and cut oranges in small pieces. I like to take off the white bits too.

4. Cut cucumber into small pieces. I usually leave the peel on, as I like the crunch, but the one I used yesterday was not so pretty.

5. Let couscous and chicken cool.

6. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, orange juice and lemon juice with lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste. I know I said 3 tbs of each juice, but really, go with what you like. You want about 1/4 cup of dressing.

7. In a large bowl, mix everything together. (Trust me, go big. You’ll avoid a mess.)

It’s best to let it sit for a while in the fridge, until everything gets cold. However, if you are starving when you make it, like I was, have a small bowl right away and come back later for more! It makes a lot, so you have plenty for your lunch the next day. Enjoy!

My meditation minute

Meditation is a scary word. I don’t know how to meditate. I’ve been hearing the word for years, but it’s always been something that other people do, not me. From what I understand, it’s the practice of quieting your mind. I’m not sure I understand how to do that. So, you see, meditation is not for me.

Or so I thought.

Last week, when I went to Ichih’s yin yoga class, she talked about how to start a meditation practice. She said to set up a mat, because if it’s there, you’ll do it, and if it’s in the closet, you won’t. Then every morning, just sit. Start with one minute, then add one minute every day. It takes 40 days to form a habit, so it’s a kind of 40 day challenge. I do love a good challenge!

I decided this was something I could try, because it didn’t seem too intimidating or impossible. I have a spare bedroom, so I thought I would set up my extra mat in there. However, the room looked like this.

Thankfully, I had the day off yesterday, so I moved some stuff around, got rid of lots of things I don’t need, including the computer desk, and ended up with this.

I was pretty excited and even tried out my new space with some of my favourite poses.

Last night, before I went to bed, I got all my stuff ready for morning, so I wouldn’t feel rushed. It’s only a minute, but it’s a mind over matter kind of thing. I thought I’ve got this.

I am not a morning person. I got up this morning and stumbled to my mat. I was rumpled, grouchy and sleepy. My meditation went like this.

I want to sleep! Suck it up, it’s only a minute. I’m tired. I can’t sit up straight. I feel all slouchy. Maybe I should wear my purple dress. No, my pink t-shirt. Has it been one minute yet? My back hurts. Ok, concentrate. On what? My foot’s asleep. Do I have a meeting today? Breathe in, breathe out. Ok, that’s it. I’m done.

It was so hard! I’m not even sure I did one whole minute. I really did not expect it to be that difficult. But, I did it. I got up, and I sat. This meditation stuff is not for sissies. I think it’s ok that it wasn’t easy. If it was, the rewards wouldn’t be as great. I didn’t feel any different today, but I’m not expecting magic, either.

I’m going to try doing this every day. I’m not sure I’m ready to add one minute a day, however. I think I’ll focus my energy on having one really good minute every morning, before I try to make it longer. I don’t think it will work if I try to do too much at once. It will be impossible, then I’ll give up all together.

Do you have a meditation practice? Any tips for a meditation minute that will leave me feeling enlightened and energized?

Long weekend bliss

In Canada, it’s a long weekend. My friend Julie is getting married in the summer and she asked me to go with her and her bridesmaids to Montreal to look for dresses. Montreal is only two hours away, and it’s a great city, so I said yes! The only thing is that I’m still doing a no-spending challenge, so shopping was out for me. I decided to go easy on myself and spend on restaurants and stuff, otherwise I might as well have stayed home!

The drive there was great. It was nice and sunny, we had lots to talk about and it went by really fast. The first place we went to was a dress warehouse kind of place. I thought this might be my first challenge, but nothing really caught my eye, so it was all good.

Then we went to a grocery store called Adonis to get some food for lunch. That place was crazy! There were so many people and everyone was just pushing around. I felt like I was in another country all together. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, but we did get some great food. We went to one of Julie’s friend’s place in the city, where we would be staying, to have lunch.

After that, we took the subway downtown for more shopping. Again, not as difficult as I had imagined to control myself. We also took the opportunity to take yoga poses in random places.

Subway warrior.

Funky lamp-shop yoga pose. Be careful where you put those feet. You break it, you buy it.

Not a yoga pose, but a really great picture, also in the funky shop.

We walked around, drank iced drinks, people watched in cafés and enjoyed being away from home. There are no thoughts of all the things you have to do when you get home when you’re not actually going home. We went back to our home base and ate a wonderful meal. Thankfully, we got enough food at the crazy grocery store earlier, so we didn’t have to go back.

After dinner, we felt really stuffed, so we went for a walk and saw the sunset on Laval, the city across the river. We also had chocolate cookies.

Some of the girls hung out by the water a little longer, but Steph and I had discovered a tree that really needed climbing. Did you know it’s quite possible to climb a tree even while wearing white pants? So much fun too.

Tree pose in a tree.

Sloth pose. I highly recommend it.

The other girls joined us and we had a little tree party.

The next day, we went shopping some more. We found the bridesmaids dresses easily enough. In the same boutique, however, I saw it. The perfect dress. The one that had my name written on it. Up until that point, it hadn’t been too difficult not to shop, but this took all the willpower I had. I didn’t buy the dress, which I am very proud of, but after that, I’d had enough shopping.

Three of the girls wanted to keep shopping, but in different parts of the city. One girl wanted to visit a museum and I wanted to do anything that was free. We decided to split up for the afternoon and meet up later. I had a wonderful time walking along the old port and having a beer while listening to street performers.

By the time we all met up, we were tired, sweaty and happy. We were all ready to be heading home. We stopped along the way for some ice cream, but they were out, so that was disappointing, but we did have time for some truck stop yoga.

The trip ended with a Mamma Mia sing along in the car. Good food, good friends, good times and a surprising burst of willpower. Bliss.

Philosophy through children’s books

Today was a pd day at school (professional developement) which meant that I had to work, but there were no students. We had a presentation on how to have philosophical discussions with kids. I was kind of skeptical at first, because the children I work with are ages 6 to 9. How can you have a philosophical discussion when they’re always saying “That’s not fair”, no matter what the subject is?

However, I was pleasantly surprised. We were told to start with children’s books, and go from there. This was very interesting to me because I think most adults could benefit from reading more children’s books.

One was about a duck and a rabbit who are next door neighbors, yet never stop to say hello. They see each other in the morning and in the evening, but don’t talk to each other. It’s called Si près, which translates to So close. It’s about how they could be friends, but they’re not. It ends with pictures of what it would be like if only they stopped and talked.

This was interesting to me because since I have started blogging, I’ve been connecting with people all over the world, yet I have never met my neighbors. I live my life, they live theirs. We live side by side, but never connect. I think, unless you live in a small town, like where I grew up, this is true for many people. We are all so close, yet so far apart.

Another book that I liked was about life and death, which can be a heavy subject with kids. However, this story was about two little boys who find a bug. They’re very happy and look it up on the Internet to find out more about it. They are very sad to learn that it only lives for one day. They decide to give it the best day they can think of, so they play pirates, go to the circus, watch a movie, etc. At the end, the bug dies and they are sad, but happy it had a good life.

We had to come up with philosophical questions to ask the kids after reading this book. We decided on these:

– Why is there death?

– Why is there life?

– What is beauty? (The boys find their bug beautiful.)

– What makes a good life?

– What’s more important, a good life or a long life?

I am looking forward to discussing this with my students, because although they are small, they are capable of very interesting thoughts and reflexions (other than, “That’s not fair!”) They often will see things that adults miss. I find these questions very interesting for adults as well.

When I was in college, I had to take philosophy classes and I did not appreciate it at all. I couldn’t really understand what it was all about, and it never really interested me. I’m very happy I can now start looking for answers to life’s questions between the pages of children’s books. Stop and read one, you never know what you will discover!

Yoga withdrawal

Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve been to a yoga class? Well, actually, just a few hours. But before that? A week! One whole week. That’s like 6 months in dog years (or something). I’ve been fighting a cold and I’m still sniffling and coughing, but nothing could keep me away tonight. You see, I have been going through yoga withdrawal.

This is a very serious condition that happens when you go from doing yoga several times a week to not a all. There are certain signs to look out for.

1. You start doing yoga poses in random places.

– Tree pose while doing the dishes.

– Warrior 1 and 2 while standing at the copy machine.

– Dancer while hanging out in the park.

2. You become very impatient.

– At work.

– While driving.

– While watching random reality shows.

3. You feel like something is missing.

– That’s because something is missing. It’s called yoga.

So tonight, I decided I’d had enough. While my heart might have been in it for a hot flow class, there was no way my body would follow. I decided to go to a yin class. The best yin class ever, actually.

I picked up my friend Julie and I was so excited to be going to class that I could not stop smiling. Also, Julie and I were wearing the same top, which was not planned, but still fun.

When we got to the studio, I was still pretty hyper. I smiled and told everyone how excited I was to be there. Ichih, the teacher, told me she was excited that I was so excited. Happiness is definitely contagious.

The class was wonderful. It was exactly what I needed. It was yin, so no forcing or holding, but still challenging. A true yoga hug!

I think I used being sick as an excuse to be a little lazy. There were a few days where it would have been impossible for me to go class, but I think I might have felt better sooner if I had done more yoga. Also, I could have avoided the awful yoga withdrawal. Be careful, it could happen to you!

Free falling

I’ve been sick for about a week, so I haven’t done anything exciting in a while. I thought I would share an amazing experience I had before I started blogging.

Last year, I got to try a free falling simulator. You get the same weightless feeling as jumping out of an airplane. Or so I’ve heard. I have never jumped out of a plane. The feeling might be the same, but I got to do it without the “Hey, I might crash to my death” thing.

A friend of mine got this as a gift and invited me to go along. I was kind of scared, but I said yes, because hey, you never know, I could be the next…humm, I was going to insert the name of some famous parachute jumper, but I don’t know any.

We had to wear a snazzy suit with lots of velcro and handles on our backs so the free falling pro could grab onto us if we started to float away. Yeah, I look excited, don’t I?

Then, we had to go into this glass tube thing, which in fact was the simulator. The air is forced up through a metal grate, creating the effect of wind resistance. We were not allowed to bring the camera into the tube, for obvious reasons. We asked a lady to take pictures of us. Even through the glass and my awesome plastic goggles, you can tell how nervous I am!

What am I so nervous about? I mean, it’s not dangerous. There’s no chance of death by crashing to the ground. It was just completely new territory. They were telling me I was going to feel weightless, but what does that mean, really?

When it was your turn, you had to stand in the doorway to the tube, cross your arms and let yourself fall forward. I stood there for so long that the guy just kind of pulled me in. It wasn’t what I expected. To me, weightless meant light, fluffy, floating around. This felt more like a Maxwell tape ad. My face felt like it was being sucked upwards and I couldn’t feel my legs. I could feel my arms, and I was told it was because I could see them. The sensation was so unfamiliar to my body that what I couldn’t see, I couldn’t feel.

My first time in the tube was about 2 minutes. Then I went back to the bench for a little while. What you might not know about this free falling stuff, is that if you open your mouth to laugh, as I did, the spit just comes right out of your mouth and up your face. Lovely, isn’t it?

When I went back in the second time, I was like a pro. I “flew” by myself and even experimented with different hights and changing directions. It was amazing.

It was definitely a unique experience. Would I do it again? Yes, but I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those free falling junkies. I kind of like gravity, come to think of it!

Have you ever experienced weightlessness?

Walk, don’t run!

I have a nasty cold. So bad, that I just spent all weekend complaining. It was a really nice day out on Saturday, but I spent most of it on the couch. At one point, I opened the door, stepped out onto the porch to confirm that, yes, in fact, it was a beautiful day. Then I went back to bed. Yesterday was a little better and I spent the afternoon with family, sitting on my grandma’s porch.

Today, I decided I was sick of being sick. It was another amazing day and I could not spend one more minute inside. Well, after work, anyways. I stopped at the park on my way home, because the word for my photo a day challenge was grass. Since I live in an appartment, I don’t have any grass. I sat around, took some pictures and enjoyed the sun. This is my picture of the day.

Then I decided that what I really wanted wasn’t just to sit outside, but to run. I went home and started getting ready. That’s when the inner dialogue started.

Sick me: – You know, you’re still sick.

Sick of being sick me: – Whatever, I need to move!

– I’m just saying, walk, don’t run.

– We’ll see. I really want to run.

I know, but you keep having coughing fits.

– I can stop running to cough, it’s all good.

– Ok, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Obviously, 5 minutes in, I started to run. I felt amazing, free, like I was a gazelle….and my lungs were on fire. Actually, I started coughing so I slowed down, and that’s when my lungs felt like they were about to explode. So much for running while being sick. I did run for longer than I thought I would though (a total of about 5 minutes).

Since I couldn’t run, I decided to go back to the park. There were beautiful lilac bushes. Some kids gave me some lilacs today. It was very sweet, even if the flowers were a little (a lot) wilted from being held in grubby little hands for who knows how long during recess. I decided I wanted to pick some. Trouble is, the ones I could reach were on the street side and I didn’t want anyone to see me. I don’t think picking flowers is allowed in parks, but there’s no sign or anything. Anyways I went to the other side and jumped around and grabbed at the branches untill I had a few flowers. I sent all kinds of tree bits and leaves and maybe a bug down the front of my shirt, but it was worth it. I also picked some blue flowers.

I like to take before and after pictures. This is before and after my run/walk/flower picking expedition. I still have dark circles under my eyes, but I think I look happier after playing outside.

So this is what I learned today: when you’re sick, walk, don’t run. Or even better, pick flowers!