Call me crazy

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If I like something, I like it. No need to feel guilty about it. Everyone’s always going on and on about how dark chocolate is their guilty pleasure. You know what I like? Milk chocolate. The kind with lots of sugar and fat and deliciousness. And I don’t feel bad about it either.

We all like something that would make other people think we’re crazy. You love hiking in the wilderness for days, with snakes and bugs and being smelly? Good for you! I don’t. You enjoy wheatgrass? Superb!

These are some of the things I like. They might make me seem weird to you, or kind of crazy, and that’s ok. But none of them are guilty pleasures, because that’s the worst oxymoron I’ve ever heard.

Airports

I like airports. If I’m in an airport, it means I’m going on an adventure. My tea costs 7$ and my carry-on bag gets heavier and heavier, but I’m off to see the wizard! Or, the world, anyways. Maybe I’m on my way home, which always feels nice too. No matter how many books I have with me, I will almost always buy one in the airport bookstore. I love bookstores in general, but one in an airport is like an oasis. All those stressed-out, rushed travelers could benefit from a few minutes surrounded by books.

Re-reading books

There are some books I’ve read so often, I can open them at any random page and just go from there. I used to think everybody did this. Apparently not. Oh well, you’re missing out, you know. If you loved it the first time, it only gets better. The characters become real, and their world does too.

November

I’ve mentioned this one before. I like November because it’s my birthday month, but also because no one else seems to like it, and that’s sometimes reason enough. I like rainy days where I am inside, looking out, drinking tea, reading books and writing. Grey is a good colour, because it makes others colours stand out. Walk around in a pink raincoat and yellow umbrella, and watch people smile.

Dresses

I actually don’t understand why people don’t enjoy wearing dresses. They say things like “They’re so uncomfortable”, “I don’t like tights” and “You look so fancy”. If you don’t like dresses, that’s ok. But I love them. They make me feel amazing, and to me, they are 12 million times more comfortable than jeans. I really don’t like insults disguised as compliments (I don’t imagine anyone does). I often get told I’m “fancy”. It’s said in a joking manner, but really, it’s not. I don’t tell you you look so “comfortable” in your jeans. Live and let live people.

I also love a lot of things that could never be considered a guilty pleasure, even by people who believe in those, like my new niece, drinking copious amounts of tea, reading, traveling, venting about life to my best friend, writing, dreaming and planning my dream library.

This post turned out differently than I expected. I think it comes down to enjoying what makes you happy, and not judging other people for what they like. I really don’t get the whole vegan thing, but if that’s what makes you happy, then what does my opinion matter? As a rule, we are gentler with other people than we are with ourselves. So maybe we should all take it easy on ourselves.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to drink tea and eat chocolate in my new dress, while simultaneously re-reading a favourite book and planning my next trip, where I will visit 5 different airports.

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Sugar, sugar

Where I live, March is nutrition month in schools. We talk about the four food groups, portion sizes, basically, how to have healthy eating habits. Since my students spend three years with me, I don’t do the same activities each year.

This year, the focus is on sugar. Where it comes from, how it’s transformed, what kind of sugar your body needs, what foods contain sugar. My theory is, the more kids know about their food and what it does for their body, good or bad, the better equipped they’ll be to make healthy choices.

I wanted them to understand exactly how much sugar most people eat without even realizing it, so we read the nutritional labels from their snacks and wheighed it out. They were amazed at how much sugar is in such small snacks.

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I also included some images of high-sugar drinks and foods, like soda and chocolate, so they would understand why they’re told “you can’t eat that, it has too much sugar.”

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I did this activity for the kid’s benefit, but it got me thinking. I try to eat well. I’ve cut most gluten out of my diet, I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables (although not a huge variety), I drink plenty of water, I don’t drink coffee. But. I like sweet things. Cake, cookies, chocolate, ice cream, soda. I eat more than I should.

So I’ve decided to cut out sugar. I don’t know for how long, but for now, it needs to be done.

I did have a piece of birthday cake this weekend and that’s ok. Baby steps. However, I had an apple as a snack after school, instead of a pre-packaged caramel rice cake snack. When I went to Starbucks, I checked, and yes, my usual drink did indeed contain sugar! The barista suggested something similar, but without sugar, and it tasted delicious. I’m going to do my best, but ultimately, the goal is not necessarily to cut out sugar forever, just to reduce my intake to a healthy level.

I know some fruit contains a lot of natural sugar, but eating an orange is so much better than eating an entire bag of mini eggs (not that I do that kind of thing), so I’m not going to worry about that right now.

Does anyone have any tips? I’m open to anything that will keep me from reaching for the oreos…

Challenge me

I like challenges. I’ve done two 30-day yoga challenges, one no-spending month and Dressember since I started blogging last March. I’ve also done the photo-a-day challenge last February and May. I tried again in July, but my summers always lack structure, so it didn’t get very far!

Here is the list for February. I thought about participating, especially since I got a new camera and am taking a photography class, but I don’t know. The first prompt is really not inspiring me.

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I’ve been looking for a challenge for February, because it works as motivation. I know I can challenge myself to go to yoga everyday, but it’s not the same. I need more. There are some crazy challenges out there. Here are a few I found:

– No-chocolate February (Why? Really, why?)

– Flexible February (Stretch every day. I’m guessing yoga counts?)

– Fat Free February (I get it, but I don’t want to do it.)

– February Anime Challenge (I wouldn’t even know where to start with this one. Also, this has never interested me. So, no.)

– February in Russia reading challenge (I have never made it through Anna Karenina.)

None of these really appeal to me. I loved the fashion apsect of Dressember, but it’s very cold now, so a fashion challenge would be, well, challenging. This one looks like fun, but like I said, Canadian winter/ice/snow/cold/wind up my skirt here.

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A challenge works best if it’s something I love, like yoga, dresses and photos. I also love blogging, so I think I’ll challenge myself to post every day. I need something to blog about, so maybe this will motivate me practice yoga, even when it’s cold and I’m tired, take lots of pictures and wear dresses (under my snow suit).

Are you participating in any interesting challenges this month?

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C is for Cookie

I’ve just had a weekend that Cookie Monster would approve of. Cookies, cookies and more cookies!

My friend Suzanne and I have a cookie day every year before Christmas. The first time, we really went for it and made tons of cookies. We were also exhausted by the end of the day! Now, we just make one or two batches and enjoy the day. Yesterday was a perfect day for cookies. It was cold and snowing, making it wonderful to be indoors looking out.

We started with some chocolate and vanilla sugar cookies. They turned out pretty, but the dough was horrible to work with. It was sticky and dry at the same time. It tore and stuck to the rolling pin. Not a recipe worth sharing.

Here I am having a moment with my butter, while Suzanne tries to get her chocolate dough to cooperate.

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We also posed with our rolling pins. They kind of look like weapons.

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And here is Suzanne with the final product. Pretty and tasty, but not worth the trouble! If you want to make these, just use your favourite sugar cookie recipe, divide it in half, and add cacao to part of it.

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After that, we made lemon cookies. These are my favourite “cheat” cookies. Super easy and fast, but so delicious! After they cooled, I drizzled them with lemon icing. Little clouds of lemon bliss.

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We then proceeded to eat the cookies we made while watching corny made-for-tv Christmas movies. Perfect day!

Today, after a long-overdue yoga class, I put my apron back on and make two more kinds of cookies.

The first ones were orange cookies. These have a cake-like texture and it is very difficult to eat just one! Once they’ve cooled, I frost them with a melted chocolate orange. Tastes like Christmas to me!

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And finally, I made shortbread cookies. This dough was a dream to work with! The complete opposite of yesterday’s terrible sticky mess. I always make my shortbread cookies small, because they’re so rich. A small bite is perfect. For some reason, they came out yellow-looking in the picture, but they’re nice and white!

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I’m not done with my Christmas baking, but it’s a good start. I like to make several kinds of cookies and give them as gifts. I still want to make sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies and maybe one more kind, if I have time!

Lemon cookies

1 lemon cake mix

1 egg

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 8 ounce package cream cheese

Mix softened cream cheese, butter and egg. Add cake mix. Drop cookie dough by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 6-10 minutes, depending on size. For icing, mix lemon juice with powdered sugar and drizzle over cooled cookies. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Orange cookies

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk

Grated rind and juice of two oranges (1/2 cup of juice)

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

5 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, then juice and rinds. Add baking soda to milk. Combine dry ingredients. Add flour mixture to the cream mixture alternately with the milk. Drop on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on size. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Shortbread cookies

2 cups flour

1 cup butter

1/2 cup icing sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg yolk

Mix icing sugar with softened butter. Add egg yolg. Combine dry ingredients and add to butter mixture. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick onto floured surface, adding flour as needed (dough might be sticky). Cut out shapes and place on parchement-lines cookie sheet. Bake 4-8 minutes at 350.

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.