Back to Basics

So, now that my mind seems to be behaving in a somewhat consistent pattern (I didn’t even nap this weekend!), it’s time to work the idea of excersise in to my life!
Do I want to go to the gym?  No…
Do I want to run 10KM races?  Not now
Do I want to obsess about calories vs excersise? No!
I used to do all of that… I used to read the labels of packages and be excited when I found some new yummy snack that was a ‘perfect zone snack’.  I used to really care about that stuff.  And in the last few years, I stopped caring about everything… it was survival you see.
When I was in my coma of survival mode, I thought many times about my health and fitness. I was just sure that it would come a time when I went back to my old ways.  When my excitement came from discussing calories and excersise technique and reading fitness magazines.  When that was what drove me out of bed every morning and drove me into bed in anticipation of the next day every night.
What surprised me is that not only has that not come back, but I’ve been vehemently opposed to it.  Being a self reflective type of person, I figured I’d better go inside myself and find out why this was not my new and burning desire… why the thought of doing what I knew I once loved was so bitter tasting to me.
Well, I think I’ve got it.
The overarching theme of my feelings, thinking back over the last few (and the last two and a half in particular) years was instability.  A lack of calm.  A lack of real and true love…  Of being alone in a sinking ship and not knowing how to save it or myself.  A real and total loss of control.
If you know me at all, you know I like to be in control.  I like to make plans, I like to know what’s going on and I don’t particularly care for surprises.
When I gave up my control in the past couple years, I figured the most important thing to me would be getting it back.  And in part I have.  I now have a clean house, I cook what I want, I do what I want and I certainly don’t do a single thing that I don’t want to do…
When I think about that in relation to fitness and health, you’d think for sure that what I want the most is the control of counting calories, being my own boss and really monitoring and controling what I am eating and what fitness I’m doing.
Turns out that THE MOST important thing to me, out of all the things I lost was a sense of calm.  Of peacefulness.  Because worse than having no control was having no peace.  No sense of calm comfort.
I have that now… intermitently at times, but I have my calm. My mind is at peace, which I have not been able to say for some time.
When I think about fitness, the thing I want most is to maintain that sense of calm.  Maybe that won’t be important to me in two months, but right now, it’s THE most important thing.
So I made some plans with that in mind.
Sam and I are going to start walking around the Stanley Park Seawall (8.9KM) on the weekends in the morning. Sundays to start but Saturdays probably when he’s not in school.
Sharon and I are going to take the dogs for woods walks on the weekend (alternating days to the wall)
I think back to the basics is the key here… and keeping my calm and peaceful state of mind.

Pilot Project

The other day I made a Smash Book page dedicated to me.  I figured that I made one for my sister, Sam and Kathleen and wrote lovely things about them, put pictures and stickers and sayings about what they meant to me… and I thought I deserved one for me.  I called it Love Letter 2 Me and I wrote lovely things about myself, what I like about myself and my strengths and offerings in the world.  I sent it to Kathleen and she texted me back with a beautiful text message longer than my iphone screen that said such wonderful things about me.  It was totally unexpected but really amazing to read.
In discussing the message, we came up with sort of plan, based on a memory Kathleen had from college.  Basically you would give a number of your closest friends and relatives an index card and ask them to write something about you.  In Kathleen’s case the respondees wrote the unique qualities about her.  In my case, I wouldn’t care what someone wrote…as long as it was kind and uplifting.  My unique qualities, the characteristics about me that they like the most, a favorite memory of me or us together…
And don’t think this is selfish undertaking.  I think that everyone that wants to have it done for them needs to ensure that they’re willing to do it for others.  So if I give you a card to fill out about me, I’d fill one out about you.  If you give someone a card to fill out about you, you have to be willing to fill one out for everyone that returns it to you.
I should think that your family and close friends (whether you’ve ever met them in person or not) would be the ideal candidates.
What do you think?  Would you be interested in being involved in this?  Not necessarily with me, but with your own group of friends and family?  I’d like to judge response and then I would like to host a monthly sharing time on this blog for people to share how it touched them and how they’ve touched others.

Pumpkin Steel Cut Oats

On Friday night my girlfriend slept over… We drank a LOT of wine (some of us drank a bit more than others… some of us also think we should plan our next sleep over soon so some of us can drink MORE wine).
Knowing what I know about us, I knew that I should have a plan for breakfast.
So plan I did… and then, when I got up at the crack of dawn (after having drank what I would define as a LOT of wine), I realized I didn’t have two of the ingredients to make my planned breakfast.  So I put my coat on over my pajamas and troddled off to the store… lucky for me, there’s no one out and about at 7am on a Saturday morning… Lucky because my flannel pants made me look like I was a 14 year old girl that’s trying to rebel against the world.  When I got home from my flannel clad excursion, I was ready to make us a hearty and healthy breakfast.  Make sure you eat this in your favorite flannel pj’s with your favorite girlfriend.  Tastes best that way!
Recipe from The Kitchn
My notes in red.
Baked Pumpkin Steel Cut Oatmeal
serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided I don’t actually think you need the first amount of butter to toast the oats.  Next time I’d leave that off)
1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
1 cup pumpkin or squash puree I used canned pumpkin.  Next time I’d use the whole can of pumpkin (14 floz)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg I used pumpkin pie spice because I’m lazy.  Put a lot in!
2 cups milk  Apparently you can do this with any type of dairy or non dairy milk.  I bet almond milk would be good!
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla I scraped out half a vanilla bean and also cooked the pod in the oats.
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat the oven to 375°F. In a 3-quart (or larger) saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. (Your burner shouldn’t be on at full blast, but the butter should melt quickly.) When the butter foams up, stir in the oats and fry them, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until they smell toasted.
Push the oats up against the side of the pan, (I took them out entirely because the pan I was using was too small) and drop the second tablespoon of butter in the now clear center of the pan. Dump in the pumpkin puree. Fry it in the butter, only stirring after about a minute. Stir in the sugar and spices and continue frying the puree for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the color darkens slightly and the raw smell disappears. It’s OK if a few dark brown spots appear as the puree sticks to the pan.
Pour in the milk and whisk everything to combine. Whisk in the water, vanilla and salt. Put a lid on the pan and put it in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven, and carefully lift the lid (be cautious as steam will billow out). Stir the oatmeal. It will look quite loose still, but the oats should be al dente and tender. The oatmeal will thicken rapidly as it cools.
Eat immediately with a drizzle of cream or milk and maple syrup, or let cool and then refrigerate. Heat up bowls in the microwave or on the stovetop.  This is actually very good cold straight from the fridge.  It’s a bit custardy and the oats are perfectly cooked.  Tastes like dessert for breakfast.  I don’t put anything else on it (no need for added sugar or dairy!)

Repeat after me:

Yesterday I felt calm…

Today I feel free…

I’m not going to say there aren’t going to be difficult times and there aren’t going to be any more memory bombs that come at me out of nowhere, but today is the first day that I can look at the last nine months and see that I’ve walked through and closed the door on that chapter. 

I know on the other side of that door is turmoil and pain and that will have played a part in creating a new and different me… a little less trusting, a litte more cautious… 

But I feel like I’m finally not a prisoner in my own mind anymore!
I feel like I can make decisions, instead of drifting through a horizontal space… That I can have ups and downs and still survive.  That I am in control of myself.
I made and brought my lunch for five days this week.  That may not seem like a big deal, but for someone that couldn’t find the will to do anything other than lay on the couch and stare, that’s a pretty big deal.  Not only did I make and bring my lunch… it was plain chicken breast and shed loads of fresh, raw vegetables.  Broccoli, carrots (yes, I even ate carrots!), pea pods, tomatoes and cauliflower.  I barely ate any arrowroots, drank only lemon water or plain water and didn’t snack in the evenings.  That’s a big deal!  If you’ve ever been depressed, you KNOW that’s a big deal!
I made my friend a treat like I said I would do and I have plans for crock pot cooking that isn’t just a pipe dream.  I’ve made goals and started to stick to them, I’ve made plans and I know they’re acheivable.  It feels like I have my heart-brain back… you know, the combination of the two that propell you forward… engage you in your own life.  That was missing.  I’m not saying that every day will be sunshine and rainbows, but I can only see a steady increase… My friend said back in May that my life would be on the upswing… Little did we all know what a long and dark slide I would have to endure before the climbing could begin… but climbing it is… only climbing from now on…

I woke up the other night with the following words blaring on repeat in my mind… 
I think the true and genuine me has finally gotten enough courage and strength to be more powerful than the me that was abused.

“Repeat after me: I did what I had to do to survive the situation at the time.  There is no shame in that”


Today I feel calm.  I feel secure… like a baby, swaddled in an extra thick flannel blanket.
I’m very tired.  I’ve been going through an intense emotional experience, but today, I feel calm.
I like calm…. I haven’t felt it for a while and it’s good to have it back.

I’m sorry Karma!

Well, I think Karma is teaching me a lesson… Yesterday my dad called from Tumbler Ridge where it is currently -28 and with the wind chill, feels like -41 (For my American friends, that translates to -18, with the wind chill feels like -36).  He was calling, hoping to mock me a little bit for the ‘blizzard’ that we were currently having.  Being a smartass myself, I laughed at him and told him that it was GORGEOUS out yesterday!  Blue skies, puffy white clouds and the sun glinting on the fresh snow in the distant mountains made it almost perfect.  I gloated and gloated… and this morning I woke up and it’s -7 (18F) and snowing… and snowing and snowing.  It is so cold in fact (relatively speaking, since I’ve lived here more than ten years and it’s never really gotten too cold) that I wore an alpaca hat this morning.  I knit this hat ages ago and never wore it because it’s bulky alpaca… just a bit warm for a place where it MAYBE reaches 0 (32F).  Well it certainly wasn’t too warm to wear it today!
How do you apologize to Karma for being cheeky?

Knitting Year in Review

I wouldn’t say that I was very productive in my knitting this year… altho I sort of say that every year and then when I go to write this post, I find that I have been reasonably productive.
I made eleven hats.  Of those eleven hats, nine of them were for gifts.  That’s I think a record number of gift knitting for me… Sam got two hats, my sister got five, my dad got one and my other friend got one.
I made four pairs of mittens.  Of those four pairs of mittens they’re MINE ALL MINE!
I made eleven shawls/scarfs.  Of those eleven, ten were for me and one was for my friend at work who went through cancer treatment.
I made a pair of slippers, an iphone cover, Henri and SadNorman for me.  One hot water bottle cover for me and one for my friend and one large baby blanket for another friend.
That’s the extent of my knitting… I guess 33 items isn’t really anything to sneeze at… but let’s look at the lessons I learned.
1.  Sometimes the anticipation of finishing something is better than actually finishing it.  Take my Girasole… I finally ‘finished’ it… (by finished, I mean, decided to stop knitting on it and cast the sucker off).  I was so excited.  The thing is beautiful, don’t get me wrong… but it’s a weird size and a round blanket is a difficult thing to actually use.  So it’s in a giant zipper bag in my knitting locker.
2.  If you’re going to knit something, you should read the entire pattern first and check on the stitch count etc… before you decide to ‘make it bigger using bigger yarn’. 
3.  Steeking lace is never a good idea… especially if you don’t actually know how to steek!
4.  Turns out that when you get more comfortable with knitting, your guage changes.  I used to knit mitts on 4.5mm.  Now I have to use 4mm because the bigger needle makes them look like they’re made of mesh.
5.  It’s okay to knit things for yourself the EXACT way you like them.  Turns out that I don’t particularly care for thumbs in my fingerless mitts.  Thumbs are difficult to get perfectly snug and I find the mitt less useful than when it doesn’t have thumbs.  Since I’m knitting mittens for me and I don’t like thumbs, that means I can make thumbless mittens till I’m blue in the face… and I have…
6.  Giving knitting away to deserving and admiring recipients is fun!  Hats are easy.  Hats are fast.  People like hats.  I like to make hats and yet I only have one head.  It’s difficult to find people that I feel comfortable knitting for… It’s a weird thing…
7.  Taking commissions isn’t something I’m very good at.  I mean, I do it, but the second something is expected of me, I immediately lose the interest to knit anything at all…
8.  Just because you start knitting someone’s birthday present eleven months early, doesn’t mean that you’ll finish on time… ever!


I’m having a hard time making heads or tails of my feelings right now… What I never have a hard time talking about is knitting….
1.  I made another pair of mittens.  If by mittens, I’m referring to custom fit, thumbless, fingerless tubes… I’m not interested in thumbs… I like the feeling of just having an extra long wool sleeve on… In fact, I’m sprouting a plan to make extra long wool sleeves…
2.  I made a definitive sweater plan… I know, I know… hard to believe since I’ve made two definitive sweater plans already and no sweater to show for it… But this one, this one is going to be a keeper!
3.  I’m working my way through all the wool that I wound for my trip. So far I’ve done two projects that were intended for the car and cast on a third.  I feel a bit stupid still for not doing it on the trip, but since it’s all rolled into balls now, I’m determined to not have to wind it back up into a skein… After I do my replacement mittens, I’m going to cast on the Spud and Chloe for a hat and then I’ll have finished all the stuff I wound for the trip
4.  I’m going to cast off/finish all my WIPs (except the teal/gray sweater… that one is on going). I don’t want languishing projects hanging around…
5. I need to do a major cleanse/reorg of my stash.  I have a bunch of yarn that isn’t in the stash in Rav, so when I go looking for ideas, it’s not listed… I would like to do this in the daylight so I can properly photograph everything so probably Saturday morning.  Related to this is a need to wind a bunch of balls back into skeins… And I need to figure out how I’m going to get rid of yarn I don’t want… Postage isnt’ the best way because it costs a lot from Canada to anywhere… and giving it away isnt’ really an option because there’s some nice stuff… I will have to ruminate on that a bit…
6.  That’s all I can give you… What I know is that when all of life seems to be conspiring against me… I always have the soft cushiness of knitting to fall back on… and there’s never too many mittens in a girl’s life… I’ll just keep making mittens until I feel better!  Seems like a good plan to me!

The Trip!

I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that our trip to San Fransicso was amazing… It was the best trip I’ve ever been on (by far!) and I was lucky enough to share it with one of my best friends.
We left in the late morning of Dec 23rd.  Originally we had wanted to leave much earlier but the kitty cat sort of got in the way.  I messed up reading the check in times and found out the day before that check in isn’t until 1pm at the earliest… I called and asked them if there was any way he could go earlier and there was, but he would be in the far back corner no where near the natural light.  I called Sam and asked him what he wanted to do and he was fantastic and said he wouldn’t be comfortable having the kitty be tucked away in the back for the whole trip so we decided to just check him in the next day and leave when we could.  I was so thankful to him!  Mr. Fluffypants did so well at the cat hotel.  He usually yowls and howls and carries on like he’s being killed but this time he was quiet and content.  They said he did so well that they made him into ‘reception cat’ and he was allowed to hang out for long periods of time because he was so relaxed!  A huge departure from how he used to be.  Probably because he’s not being harrassed on a daily basis anymore!
Anyway, we left in beautiful clear blue skies and sunshine and headed out of town.  There wasn’t much to see or do for the first day of driving… we stopped at Trader Joe’s for snacks and water and then drove to Portland on the I5.  In Portland we crossed over through McMinnville and hit Lincoln City and then cruised in to Newport OR at around 8ish.  Sam really wanted us to wake up in Newport and since I had no knowledge of even where we were on a map, I was happy to agree along.  We had home made egg salad sandwiches for dinner in the hotel and then promptly fell asleep.
Waking up in Newport was a FANTASTIC idea and we got to see Nye Beach before the sun even rose.  It was gorgeous and absolutely took my breath away… the roar was unbelievable!
We decided to really go for it on the 24th and make our way from Newport to Santa Rosa.  That’s 531 miles and Google Map says it’s supposed to take 11 hours.  I think it ended up taking us 13 or so… we stopped a LOT on the Oregon coast… we found some beautiful trails that led right to cliffs over looking the water, gorgeous sand dunes, pristine beaches and HUGE waves!  We also had a Christmas Miracle when we got pulled over for speeding and all we got was a warning and a wish of Merry Christmas.  I also got to experience the refreshing ocean water when I got smacked by a big wave on the breakwater in Bandon Oregon.  Apparently it wasn’t a near death experience but it was somewhat terrifying and I was also soaking wet!  It was sort of my fault since I wasn’t paying attention because I dropped something important into a hole in the rocks and was trying to figure out how to get it without risking my life…
We think our GPS might have gotten a head injury somewhere along the way because trying to get to the hotel in Santa Rosa was an excersise in futility.  We named her Meryl… there was a lot of yelling at Meryl… she also saved our butts on a few occassions.
We have no real pictures of Santa Rosa because we got there at midnightish and left first thing in the morning to head out to Sonoma.  Sonoma was gorgeous!  There wasn’t a soul around and so we got to take amazing pictures.  We toodled around and then we noticed a man walking his dog carrying a Starbucks cup.  Off in search of Starbucks brought us to the only ONLY place open on Christmas Day.  We stood in line with a hundred of our closest friends for Egg Nog Mistos (I think I got Sam hooked) and made some calls on wifi to family and friends.  Then it was off to San Fransisco!  I got to see the Golden Gate bridge for the first time and Alcatraz off in the distance.
Since it was too early to check in to our hotel, we decided to go to Fisherman’s wharf to see if it was open.  Open indeed!  Every tourist in SF was there.  We wandered around, I bought us salt water taffy and then we had Spicy Seafood Chowder in breadbowls and sat at a table outside (it was SO NICE OUT!)
After we paid the GDP of a small country to get our car out of hock, we took Meryl and ourselves to the hotel.  We were upgraded because we originally asked for two queen beds and they had us down for a King. Even tho we got ‘married’ at a gas station in Washington, we still wanted our two queen beds.  So they sent us up to the 13th floor of a 17 floor building into a brand newly renovated room.  It was pretty swanky and the service reflected the actual retail price of the hotel, not the sheckles we paid for it.
We layed around the hotel for a few hours before deciding we should go out into the streets and find something to eat.  We found a lot of places online that seemed good but they were either closed or too far away to walk to… we didn’t want to drive while we were in SF.
After around an hour and a bit, we realized that there was nothing open so we went back and ordered burgers from room service and read our ipads until it was time for bed.  We’re real party animals!
We got up at the crack of dawn on Boxing Day and headed out for a two mile walk to get to the pier for our trip to Alcatraz.  It was beautiful out and again, not a soul around so it was a nice walk and we got there in plenty of time.
It was VERY cold on the boat and I was wishing that I had more clothes on, but we used the weather from the day before and figured that neither of us wanted to pack a coat around if it got up to 17 degrees like the weather forecast called for.  Big Mistake… Big… HUGE! (what movie is that from?  I know… do you?)
Alcatraz was amazing and it was very eyeopening to see how prison used to be… I’d never have wanted to be there, that’s for sure!  I didn’t listen to the audio tour because there were too many people in there who started their tour at the exact same time, so it was really difficult to see anything through the crowds… Sam and I took ourselves on our own tour and it must have been somewhat comprehensive because we spent three hours on the island.  I’m only sad that I didn’t get to hear the inmates recollections of some of the crazy events that went on there… I’ll look for it online…
After Alcatraz we went for some lunch and then hopped on a two hour bus tour to go see the city.  The plan was to get off on the SF side of the bridge, walk across and then get back on the bus on the other side and ride back… best laid plans and all!
After our six hour, freezing cold ‘tour’, we went back to the hotel for a rest and then out for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.  I’m so glad that Sam indulged me because it was just as I expected and I only get to go every year or so!  We were almost scared away by the two hour wait, but in the end, we planned it well and it wasn’t too painful!
I was sad to check out of our SF hotel… it was so nice!  But we were on our way again and went over to the Castro to go to Imaginknit (I highly do NOT recommend that place!) and then we drove over the bridge (which I never need to see again!) and off to Petaluma.  What a cute little town!  We picked up some yarn, some lunch and some chocolates and caramels for our ride back and then headed for Crescent City.  Because it was dark when we saw it going down, we decided to sleep there and see it in the daylight.  Again, best laid plans. It was so windy and rainy that night that Sam couldn’t sleep and in the morning it was gray and overcast and pouring!  We drove out of town and braved 65m/hr winds all the way back to Newport.
It was still stormy and disgusting out so we headed for a seafood restaurant to have dinner and drinks.  Nothing like super fresh seafood!  It was amazing and made me want to eat oysters every day!
From Newport we headed up the coast to Cannon Beach, Astoria, Seaside and before all of that, Tillamook!  I was carsick on the hour ride to Tillamook but that was well solved with a scoop of peanut butter icecream and half a gravol!  After we loaded up on cheese products we headed to Seattle (getting caught in Seattle rush hour when you both have to pee is NOT fun!) and checked into our very swanky hotel! (thanks Hotwire!).  We walked a few blocks to a local pub/restaurant and had a very yummy dinner and then before we both knew it, we were asleep.
Before checkout at noon, we wandered down to the Pike Place Market for a peak and some breakfast.  I had a crumpet with butter and honey and two oyster shooters from Pike Place Fish Market.  Both items were divine and made me laugh at the ridiculousness of my chosen breakfast.  Sam had Starbucks gingerbread cake.  Probably a bit more normal!
We arrived home after shopping and dawdling at around 6:30pm and it was shower and bed for me!
The trip was amazing and was rounded out by an amazing dinner the next night (New Years Eve) at Sam and Luis’ house.  Sam made us the national Venezualan dish and we layed on the couch and watched Mary Poppins.  I was in bed by 11:15.  I hadn’t seen midnight all year and I saw no reason to start!
(all pictures copyright to Sam Mcleod)