Hello, Goodbye

March 3, 2008

HELLO:

Okay, now, prepare yourselves.  I am about to be completely serious (I know!  It’s just so not like me).  No cute little puns, no jokes, no sarcastic remarks about Ms. You-Know-Who and her trademark belly laugh and equally ample lack of talent (Oops.  I guess that sort of did count as a kind of sarcastic remark, didn’t it? Sorry, just can’t help myself). 

But now back to my sober message.

My words are totally sincere, and entirely from the heart:

 You Guys Are Great.  You’re The Best.  YOU ROCK!!

(Sorry, didn’t mean to embarrass you or anything, but I just had to say it). 

I simply can’t thank you all enough for the incredible support, advice and encouragement you’ve given me over the past few weeks as I’ve struggled yet again with my diet.  And I can’t express enough what an amazing bunch you are!

Over the years, I’ve dieted countless times, with my weight bouncing up, tumbling down, or hanging on in-between.  And yes, I’ve certainly dealt with setbacks and difficulties in this area before.  Still, while my friends and family are truly supportive and have always accepted me without lecturing or negativity, there’s only so much they can say or do (and they can only say or do it so many times). 

But hearing from readers and other bloggers who have themselves gone through the same food-related challenges and learning about what you do/don’t do, and reading your kind comments–well, that’s just had a completely different effect, one that’s been incredibly motivating and reinvigorating for me.  And even though we haven’t met in person, I feel as if I’ve gotten to know so many of you.

So thanks again, everyone, and thanks for continuing to read.  I love knowing that you’re out there and love being part of this community.

 (Temporary) GOODBYE:

Having said that, I must now bid you all adieu for a short while.  I’ve been so overwhelmed with work quentinbday.jpg (both my job and my part-time business)  in the past couple of weeks that I’ve fallen sorely behind, and I’m sure the stress of never being caught up is also contributing to my illicit chocolate encounters (or should that last simply be “encounters with my friend who also gets me into mischief”?). 

[Agave-based vanilla layer cake with agave-based lemon frosting]

After this past weekend of baking three huge orders for customers in between work, The Girlsmy HH and my best friend’s big bash for her hubby (which is supposed to be fun, right?), I realized I need a bit of time to put things in order. (I’ve said this before, and it bears repeating:  I am in awe of mothers with little kids.  How on EARTH do you get everything done??)

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[Sucanat-based Cinnamon Buns]

So I’m going to be taking a break from the blog for a few days until I get caught up and can give it the attention it deserves. 

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[Single-layer chocolate fudge cake with agave-based chocolate frosting]

I am feeling forlorn already. . . I can’t tell you how much I will miss the daily camaraderie, hearing from you all, and reading your blogs every day. 

But I promise to have some great recipes when I return–last Friday, I received my copy of Vegan Express in the mail (courtesy of the marvelous Susan V of Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen, as a result of her wonderful Vegetable Love event).  I’ve already chosen the recipes I want to make and can’t wait to blog about them. . . so stay tuned!

“See” you all again soon!

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[Oh, Mum, it’s just sooooo tedious when you’re working all the time. . . ]

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Eat Dessert First

December 21, 2007

Years ago, during one of my very first visits to Toronto (and long before I lived here), my best buddy Ali and I spent an evening at the famed Pickle Barrel restaurant (in fact, the last time I went there was during Ali’s most recent visit to Canada from England, last summer–when I was rather unpleasantly surprised to note that the restaurant still offered basically the exact same, unappetizing, menu that it had in 1981). 

But back then, we were hyper, we were chatty, we were callow twenty-somethings who really were more interested in catching up with each other than any food we might consume (ah!  if only I could recapture that mindset. . . ).  We scanned the menu, chose something for dinner, and ordered.  We already knew that we wanted the killer chocolate layer cake for dessert, so we ordered that, too.  With the server still standing before us, we realized that dinner might take a few minutes, at least, and what we really wanted was that chocolate cake anyway–so we asked her to bring that over first.

After she recovered her composure (very professional of her, I thought), she nodded and trotted away, soon to return with two huge hunks o’ chocolate cake, which we consumed with lip-smacking zeal and thoroughly enjoyed before starting on our main courses.  In other words, we chose to eat the best part of the meal first.   No deferred gratification. No saving the best for last. No self-denial in the name of good health.  And then, because we wanted to, we still got to eat a darned good dinner, too.

One of the things I’ve always had trouble with is “living in the moment.”  Years ago, as a way to deal wtih anxiety attacks, I took a course called “Mindfulness Meditation.”  It was terrific, really, and I’ve written about it before.  It allowed me to be present with my body for those 45 minutes or so as I meditated, and it worked wonders.  Problem was, once I returned to the “real” world and incompetent drivers; cashiers who can’t count if the register’s computer is broken; telemarketers who don’t understand “I’m not interested, thanks”; sour (soy, or any other kind of) milk, already poured over your cereal; automatic parking lot payment machines that swallow your Mastercard whole; malevolent ice patches hiding under that soft, thin patina of snow; puppies who eat kleenex and then vomit all over your hardwood floor–and about 7,352 other daily annoyances–I lost all my Eastern calm and was thrown immediately back into a welter of Western, frenetic living, anxiety and all. So how to recapture those wonderful feelings of mindfulness?

One of my goals this year, as I attempt to lose my superfluous 50 (oops, forgot: 45.5) pounds, is to gain a sense of inner peace (okay, I’d settle for a sense of inner not-freaking-out-daily) and purpose, by identifying the things that are truly important to me.  I’ve been working away at my little organic baking business and teaching holistic cooking on occasion, setting aside time to spend with my HH and beloved Girls, writing at every possible opportunity, and making a very concerted effort to pay more attention to what is going on in my life (especially during the month of Holidailies).  This latest house-move seemed the perfect catalyst to start afresh, in so many areas.

chasereatcup.jpg So I’ve decided to try to adopt more of the same approach that Ali and I fell into that faraway evening at the restaurant, only this time, I’m going to make a conscious decision to “eat dessert first.”   I don’t mean this literally (well, not every time, anyway), but simply as a way to ensure I do the things that are most important to me; that will bring the greatest sense of satisfaction and gratification; that, years down the road, will make me smile when I remember them–first.  If at all possible. 

In terms of dieting, this philosophy logically extends to literal eating of dessert first as well. If what you really want is the slice of chocolate layer cake, and eating it will effectively remove the desire for anything else, why not have that cake, and eat it, too? I don’t know about you, but I’ve found the standard diet advice to “eat something else and wait 10 minutes” when you have a craving to be totally useless.  I eat something else, then go have the thing I was craving, anyway.  By eating the cake first, I omit the second course.  Is that really so bad?

As we enter the final phase of the holiday tempest of parties, buffets, dinners, open houses, brunches, cocktails and all other manner of food-related gatherings, it may be the perfect time to pay attention to what you really, truly would like, right now, in this moment, and then just go for it. 

In other words: march on over and stand proudly under that mistletoe.  Take off those heels and just boogie. Send that heartfelt card to you-know-who. Or, if it’s what you are really craving,  just dig right in and enjoy the fleeting, sweet satisfaction of a tall piece of chocolate layer cake, right this minute.

I remember vividly my first day in English class as an undergraduate student, so many decades ago.  The professor was lecturing about Samuel Beckett, and remarked that Beckett was “an enigma.”  With that comment, I felt a little faint:  here I was, an upstart 17 year-old already in her second year of university (courtesy of advanced credits from having attended CEGEP in Quebec), and I had no idea what “enigma” meant.  I immediately scribbled the word down at the top of my notepage, and as soon as class was over, dashed home to look it up.  Thus started my lifelong practise of vocabulary-expanding via writing things down.  Needless to say, as soon as this new word was on my linguistic radar, I began to see it everywhere.

The same pattern persisted with basically all the new words I learned along the way (okay, maybe not with “hermeneutic”), but the one that stuck in my mind and won a singular place in my heart was oxymoron.  You know, the kind of paradox that contains the opposite of itself, yet is essentially true: to wit, George Carlin’s famous “jumbo shrimp” or the now-ancient (and no longer true, anyway) “Canadian literature.”  So when I say that I myself am an oxymoronic kind of eater, I say it with a modicum of affection.  But with a heavy stress on “moronic.”

Tofu and Twinkies, Collards and Caramels, Chard and Chocolate, Brewer’s Yeast and Brownies–take any of these diametrically opposed pairs of foodstuffs, and I love each individual part–and love them equally.  I can munch on millet with sauteed garlic, onion, tamari and walnuts, then an hour later, go out and chomp on some chocolate-covered raisins.  I can eat a delicious meal of raw kale salad with avocado, baked sweet potato wedges with sesame seeds and Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce (I must post that recipe–fab!), then later in the afternoon, suck back some Betty Crocker Cream Cheese “Flavor” Frosting, straight from the can.  And, just as with my Girls, I recognize that each one is totally different from the other, yet can adore each with the same degree of passion.    

I got to thinking about this paradox today after spending a lovely morning at the Whole Life Expo with my friend Michelle.  I’d previously enjoyed a great week of eating totally healthfully (yes, I’ve been indulging in my Mock-Chocolate Pudding, but hey, it’s tofu and agave nectar!) and looked forward to seeing a plethora of new health-foodie products at the show. 

 After a long drive downtown during which our chatter became so animated that I, the driver, nearly hit a streetcar at one point, we began our tour of the place.  Aisles and aisles of alternative-health products to gaze upon and sample.  It was like Disneyland for hippies!  As it turned out, we started our tour in the food section, and viewed some amazing products.  All with abundant free samples.  All delicious.  All good for me. Until the chocolate.

gojiplain.jpgFirst up was goji berries, the latest berry to join the antioxidant roster. If you haven’t tasted gojis yet, I’d highly recommend it.  Higher in Vitamin C than oranges, higher in Beta Carotene than carrots, higher in protein than whole wheat, and higher in most other vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients than pretty much any other berry, these little crimson gems are both tart and sweet, with a whif of bitterness as a nearly undetectable afterthought. One of my favorite alternative health gurus, Dr. Ben Kim, describes them as a cross between “sweet cherries and plums.” I’m a regular consumer of them, and so was highly intrigued by their latest incarnation, enrobed in pomegranate-flavored yogurt coating.  Yum!  After a couple of samples, I found myself dishing out $10 for one small bag.  

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[The yogurt-covered variety]

We also saw (and sampled) a wide range of shakes, smoothies, greens powders, supplements, juicers, oils, all-natural soaps, and more before happening upon the Xocai healthy chocolate booth.  Now, I’m not even a fan of dark chocolate, but these nuggets contain both blueberries and acai berries for the ultimate in antioxidant benefits.  The perfect combination of decadence and desirability at the same time.  Of course, we just had to sample it.  Both flavors.  More than once.

What happened then was something that’s occurred probably thousands of times in my life: one bite of chocolate and all my previous willpower just dissolved–poof!–like that. Suddenly, I was overcome by the urge to eat every piece of chocolate, and anything else, in sight. (Unfortunately, that also included a spoonful of concentrated maca liquid, very nearly causing that chocolate to re-visit me on its way back up.) 

Shortly thereafter, we came upon yet another chocolate-touting booth and I bought not one, but two 100-gram bars.  Quite enjoyed the cappuccino one on the way home (though I did save some for C.).  Now, I feel quite confident that Michelle did not go home and do the same, considering her stable, and very slim, physique. 

By the time I arrived home, I’d eaten the other bar, too.  Reflecting on this behavior, I had somewhat of a revelation regarding my bingeing habit.  Seems I run on something very much like a binary code: my compulsion for sweets is either “on” or “off,” but there’s no in between.  (Ergo, I seem incapable of moderation in that area).  Eating that one initial piece of chocolate flicked the toggle switch to the “on” position, and I was off and running (toward chocolate). So I’m beginning to see that one of my strategies must be to simply not go therein the first place–no initial taste, so no overweening desire to eat the entire bar, cake, package, can, bag, jar, or whatever.

By dinnertime, I’d reverted to eating from the healthy side of the spectrum, a la Stacy Halprin’s advice (ie, just soldier on as if it never happened).  So I whipped up some of my very favorite vegan Mac and “Cheese” (or “Cheeze,” as the original recipe calls it) from the Fat Free Vegan’s blog (I used rice pasta, though).  Filled with the aforementioned brewer’s yeast and its cheesy goodness, miso, tahini, and a whack of delish herbs and spices, this is true comfort food that’s also incredibly nutrient-dense and good for you.  Given that I had only rice milk (albeit unflavored) in the house, I was afraid it would ruin the flavor, but it turned out just as delicious as usual. 

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[Elsie polishing off the sauce, enjoying her share of B12 for the day]

And now, at least, I can feel as if I’ve eaten something that will nourish my body and help me recover from the chocolate overload today.  Not quite as bad as Tofu with Twinkies, but chocolate (and chocolate, and chocolate) with vegan mac and cheeze–still pretty contradictory.

This evening, remembering something Michelle said as we drove home (no near-fender bender that time), sparked another mini-epiphany for me.  Apparently, she used to be one of those “Type A” personalities, always rushing to fill her time as much as possible, to accomplish seventy tasks a day, running from one pre-planned event to another.  Now, having met her in her current incarnation, I can only say that imagining her behaving in that manner seems virtually impossible.

Once she started yoga, she said, she’d effortlessly lost five pounds and found that she had a new perspective, one which allowed her to relax, take things as they come, and enjoy the moments in her life.  It was a deliberate choice, she said, but now she makes a point of not letting the “little things” get to her, and trying to slow down and enjoy each day. 

I felt a little bit of squishy nostalgia for my own year at nutrition school (oh so far away, now), when I was able to focus on health in all its myriad aspects–physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.  During that time, I ate really, really well, and spent time preparing and appreciating the fantastic food I was learning about and cooking with; I took time to appreciate my dog and my honey (oops, yes, I think it was in that order, actually), enjoyed relaxing and meditating and reading and listening to music; enjoyed breathing in the sharp air in the autumn mornings, meandering walks along the trail with The Girls, an occasional glass of red with my honey over dinner–heck, I even enjoyed the plush feel of the carpet under me each morning as I struggled through my sit-ups. 

During that year, I enjoyed all the daily pleasures and even some of the more mundane tasks–all the things that were a regular part of my existence.  It really does make a difference, I realized, if you take even a few minutes to exhale away the stress and anxiety that can so easily accumulate. 

Thinking about it, I realized a paradox extends to the rest of my life, as well, not just my eating habits.  I have the credentials of a holistic practitioner (nutritionist), yet am regularly afflicted by the same pressures and unhealthy habits of so many other middle class, overworked white-collar workers.  I resolved, immediately, to meditate tonight. 

But I’d just better make it quick, because I only have ten minutes to de-stress before I have to get back to work. 

It’s simple, really:

  • Decide to move house four months in advance; ask honey to begin packing that day. Draw up a list of all the tasks that need to be completed, and review list with sweetie so you can each pick key tasks and assign due dates.  Smile with self-satisfaction when the list is done.
  • Ask honey to begin packing three months in advance. Remind honey that wooden moldings need to be repaired, 60-plus boxes in basement need to be reviewed and re-sealed (since last move, 6 years ago), garage needs to be emptied and cleaned, yard needs to be tidied up and mowed, and personal items all still need to be packed.
  • Ask honey to begin packing two months in advance. Stress the importance of sticking to our list, packing our least-needed items, doing the minor repairs to the house.
  • Ask honey to begin packing one month in advance. Tersely comment that the list seems to have been ignored, none of the growing pile of packing has been accomplished by him, moving day looms, new packing boxes are required, and all of the repairs to the house still need to be undertaken. 
  • Two weeks in advance, frantically implore honey to begin packing.  Anxiously remind him that the movers are coming in fourteen days, the kitchen and bedroom and TV room and most of the office have not been packed, and the minor repairs to the house still need to be completed.
  • Three days in advance, scream like a deranged harpy at honey that we need to begin packing NOW. Run like a maniac from room to room, haphazardly tossing miscellaneous and sundry items into packing boxes, dash around the house stuffing everything and anything into boxes, bags, cartons, plastic bins, etc.  Lift and push aside and disassemble and wrap and fold and untie and unhook and unscrew and unplug and layer and tape and cram and stack more items and boxes and bins than you ever thought possible in 72 hours. 
  • Two days in advance, glance about you and realize that you are never going to finish it all before the movers arrive.  Redouble your efforts to lift and push aside and disassemble. . . . after midnight, fall into bed exhausted.
  • One day in advance, expend most of your energy shrieking at honey that this is all his fault, if only he’d listened to you and been organized and followed the list, you’d be ready to move now, instead of throwing things with abandon into bags, stuffing things with neither rhyme nor reasons into boxes,  blindly shoving items into bins and  cartons, while he works frantically on the minor repairs to the house.
  • Moving day, spend the wee hours still futilely attempting to pack items while waiting for the movers to arrive.  Continue as they undertake the monumental task of displacing and replacing your entire life’s meaning as it’s packed into various containers, ignoring the few directives written on the cardboard with black magic marker.  Watch, helplessly, as they stack all of the 60-plus boxes that used to contain untouched books, kitchen gadgets, grandmother’s possessions and other unwanted items in the same haphazard pile (four deep and five high) of boxes that contain all of your current, essential, just-packed possessions.
  • On moving day, run back and forth between old and new residences, attempting to direct the movers so they don’t wreck your beloved antique sewing machine, lifting and moving boxes they’ve already stacked because you notice they belong upstairs in the office instead of way down in the basement, carrying oddly shaped and as-yet unpacked items (such as your honey’s grandfather’s massive umbrella, your mother’s silver 3-tier cake serving platter, your dogs’ four pillows [pre-LL Bean], your barber’s mirror for the wall in the bathroom, your sneakers, your jar of sauerkraut and other fridge-related items, and more) into the house as you vainly attempt to find a place for them that won’t have to be changed within the next few hours.
  • On moving day, help the movers with the heavier and more awkward items, such as the treadmill, the plants, the box of spices, the lawn chairs, the chest freezer, the pail of agave nectar, the box of shoe boxes, or the brooms and mops. Almost drop several boxes, trip several times, bang into walls and bookcases and stair bannisters over and over, so that eventually (and by the time you notice, three days later), your arms and legs are awash in bruises, vaguely resembling a Jackson Pollock painting.
  • At 10:15 on moving day, begin to search desperately for at least one of the boxes you’d marked “Open First.”  When this appears futile, use your last few ounces of energy to begin slitting open sealed boxes, searching desperately for anything you could use at this late date to cover your bed so you can fall into it in a crumpled heap.
  • At 10:30 PM, unable to find anything to put on your bed, drive in a catatonic state to the local Wal-Mart, arriving just as they’re about to close,  to purchase new sheets.  Pick any old thing just to get something. Arrive home and somehow manage to place your new, shades-of-vomited-salmon sheets on the bed.
  • Brush your teeth with your index finger in the only bathroom with no windows (since there are no blinds or curtains in any of the rooms), then feel your way in the dark (since you’re naked–you couldn’t find any boxes of clothes, either) to the bed and sleep like a dead person for 6 hours until your excited dogs poke their wet, cold noses into your cheek to wake you.
  • Spend every waking moment since then unpacking, replacing, stocking, shelving, unwrapping, folding, cleaning, organizing, assembling, purchasing, setting up, refilling, and howling like a banshee at your honey that if only you had listened to me and gotten started early and been organized and done what I said we would not be in this horrible mess now and I could find my *&#@$!! underwear and we’d have our house set up and we’d be able to start our life instead of having to wade through a chaotic mass of cardboard and paper and plastic and twine and cloth and wool and dog hair and food and every other single thing we own in a jumbled mass that’s going to take weeks just to go through, let alone set up properly and you make me crazy and I want to break something and I am so stressed that I’m eating pounds of chocolate over the past few days and I have no idea how I’m going to get through this ordeal without cracking up.
  • A couple of days after moving, weigh yourself and nearly faint to see that you have not gained an ounce, not a gram, not a wee line on the scale, even though you’ve been gorging on chocolate at every possible opportunity (between unpacking, organizing, assembling, etc.).
  • Write about it all in your blog.  Heave a heavy sigh.  It’s gone.  It’s out. It’s over.
  • Get back to the task at hand:  462 boxes that need to be unpacked, methodically, one box at a time.

(“Mum?  Are you okay, Mum? . . . . . um. . . . will we still be able to go on our walk today?”)

Sinuses and Stress

November 9, 2007

When I woke up this morning, the unmistakeable signs were there:  slight throbbing pain behind the forehead, soreness in the eyes whenever I look this way or that, and a sinking feeling that the little diet-conscious man inside my head was finally annoyed enough that, in retribution, he decided to stand behind the bridge of my nose and push with all his might against the wall that is my face:  “Let me out!  LET ME OUT!”.  Ah, the joys of the sinus headache.

Oh, I know what this is:  it’s my payback for those last few days of secret forays to the drugstore or bulk store to buy my surreptitious Halloween candies.  It’s what I get for eating cookies for lunch, even if I do skip dinner.  It’s my early warning signal for ignoring my five-to-ten-a-day.  

After a few days of eating poorly and disregarding my body’s subtle signs (a little more fatigued getting up in the morning; a little more bloated after eating; a slight stomach ache upon rising. . . . ), this ole house of my soul finally reacts BIG TIME:  debilitating sinus headaches, chest pains that feel like a knockout punch, jagged stabbing pains in the stomach–oh, there’s a whole repertoire.  And each time, I tell myself, how could I be so stupid?  And, I will never, never do this again.  But of course, there’s chocolate in the world, so I do this again.

If I catch this now–right away–I can avert a full blown sinus infection (and that, truly, I want never to do again).  With homeopathy, sinus irrigation, and a clean diet including extra vitamin C and greens, I should be fine within the next two days.

It makes perfect sense, of course, that this would befall me just at this very moment in time:  I’m moving in THREE DAYS, for goodness’ sakes, and I am stressed out to the max.  And, as Holmes and Rahe told us back in the 60’s: good stress, bad stress–doesn’t really matter to your cells and heart and neurons–it’s all going to take a toll.  Just for fun, now, why don’t we see where I currently fall?  C’mon with me, and let’s review what’s happened in the past year, according to the Stress Scale:

  • Personal injury or illness: 53
  • Sexual Difficulties (I’m assuming not having it counts here): 39
  • Business readjustment (have I mentioned I had to close down a business?): 39
  • Change in Financial State (no income for 2 years–see above): 38
  • Change in responsibilities at work (back to old job; lots to do): 29
  • Outstanding personal achievement (on television-yay!  But still stress): 28
  • Revision of personal habits (more than once, I’m afraid): 24
  • Change in working hours or conditions (see above re: work): 20
  • Change in residence (we’re moving, aren’t we??): 20
  • Change in social activities (drastically curtailed by much less income): 18
  • Change in eating habits (well, only several times daily): 15
  • Minor violation of the law (can’t believe I made this one: speeding ticket): 11

Oh, boy!  That makes 314.  According to the scale,  “Score of 300+: At risk of illness”.  Ah, but I could have told you that already.

Needless to say, this list is grossly incomplete.  Why don’t they have a line for “too much rain to take dogs for walk”? (“It’s true, Mum, we find that very stressful!”). Or how about, “Email program won’t work correctly and entire job at risk from loss of emails”?  Or maybe, “Dear friend helps by getting someone to be interested in financing organic bakery and asks for proposal four days before moving date”?  Maybe, “just started blog about reforming eating habits and have been succumbing to cravings and binges more than any other time in the entire past year”? Or even,”laid-back honey forgets to pick up extra moving boxes from the LCBO only FOUR DAYS before moving and left without any boxes to pack remaining 68% of home contents”???  I could go on.  Somebody, stop me.

 Is it any wonder I’ve been craving chocolate? Meditation, here I come (again).

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

* * *

Hmmmnnnn. . . . so what does this say about me?  I am surrounded by boxes.   Right here, in my office, the towers of boxes around me–leaving a path just barely wide enough to traverse to get to my computer–resemble a child’s game of war and fortress (I can almost see over the top of the cardboard wall, peeking out at the doorway–wait!  Here comes the enemy cloathed in black fur!–no, wait, that’s just Elsie .  But I digress).  The house is in total chaos, and no wonder–we are moving in FOUR DAYS.  Half my food is packed away.  Almost all my books are packed away (I saved four favorites to comfort me until I make it to the new place).  There are piles of papers, cardboard, old magazines and other detritus strewn about the hallway, slated to be dumped in the recylcle bin before we leave.  The kitchen floor hasn’t been mopped in over a week (oh, well, wait a second, that has nothing to do with moving–we’re always more or less slobs that way). 

And amid all this entropy, what do I want to do?  I want to bake.

So, finally, here is the first dessert of Diet, Dessert and Dogs.  Most of my supplies are packed, I’ve got very few ingredients left in the house, but when all else fails, I bake.  It’s comforting, it’s familiar, it’s creative, it’s a way to distract myself (which is actually one of my successful diet strategies, come to think of it).  So when the urge hit earlier today, I decided to allow it to run its course.  It seems an impossible goal, in any case, to adhere to any kind of healthy eating regimen while undergoing the upheaval and concomitant stress I’m experiencing at present, so if I feel like eating cookies, dammit, I’m going to eat cookies.  Even if I have to bake them myself, in a kitchen full of boxes, devoid of most utensils, bowls, spoons, or other usual amenities.

I ended up making these Cashew Chocolate Chip cookies, a variation on a recipe I created for the baking company.  Like everything else I make, they are primarily organic, made with natural (unrefined) sweeteners, and no eggs or dairy (ie, vegan).  They are similar in texture to an old-fashioned shortbread cookie (though perhaps a bit more delicate), with that slightly crumbly, slightly sandy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency, and the smooth, creamy sweetness of the chocolate chips dotted throughout.  They are divinely rich tasting, and yet not cloying.  (I deliberately made a quarter recipe so that I’d have only four cookies, just in case I had the impulse to eat them all–which, of course, I did.  Luckily, I remembered to take a photo before they were all gone.) 

And now, here’s the bonus–they are gluten-free!  While I don’t have a problem with gluten, the NAG diet naturally gravitates toward gluten-free grains, and I’ve done a bit of experimenting with grain-free cookies.  I think you’ll love these. 

Do excuse the photo–I am not only new to blogging, but completely unskilled with a camera as well. (Oh, and the plate in the picture is our last one left unpacked, bland as it may be).  But I think you can get the idea.

cashewchochip11

Gluten Free Cashew Chocolate Chip Cookies

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The last few nights, I’ve been having trouble falling asleep, then waking up in the morning feeling exhausted.  My heart is pounding too fast, my chest feels full and heavy, my stomach aches ever so slightly.  I’d say this was caused by overeating or binging, but I haven’t actually been indulging in those lovely activities in the past couple of days, so that’s not it. 

What it is, I’ve recognized, is the oppressive stress I’m feeling because of this impending move (only 5 days away!), the lack of organization in our home preceding it, work pressures, and having to keep up with daily routines because of two little fur-babies who don’t have the faintest idea that their lives are about to change radically and irrevocably in less than a week. (“What?  Change radically? What are you talking about, Mum? Are you going to change our food?  Are you going to buy us new toys?  Are we finding a new trail to walk in–??? WHAT???”)

 Now, when this sort of thing has occurred in the past, I’d either ignore it (if all else were going well, or I found myself otherwise distracted), or rush to make a doctor’s appointment and check out all vitals (if anxiety were rearing its ugly persona once again).  In this case, however, I’m trying to be more self-aware as part of my overall plan, so I stopped to take a closer look at what it is and how it’s affecting me. 

Years ago, when I suffered regularly from panic attacks, I saw a wonderful therapist who practised cognitive therapy and recommended a program based on the philosophy of Jon Kabat-Zin, called Mindfulness Meditation.  I attended the sessions for eight Saturday mornings (culminating in an entire day of silent meditation–bliss!),  and learned how to use a form of meditation based on progressive relaxation.  Then, during my halcyon year at CSNN, I resurrected the practise as a daily routine before going off to school.  I have to admit that I felt fantastic.

So, this very morning, I awoke at 6:53 AM, mere minutes after the alarm blared beside my ear, and determined that I’d begin to meditate again.  Yes, I had promised myself (again) that I’d walk on the treadmill this morning, but this seemed more pressing.  So, after being greeted by one exuberant puppy pressing her cold, wet nose into my cheek (C. and I sleep on a futon bed, resting on a pedestal frame–which means our faces are perfectly aligned with dog-face level), I dragged myself upright and padded into the TV room.

I had done this before, only a couple of years ago, so there should be no problem, right?  I clearly remembered the routine, the progression from general relaxation to focusing individually on each body part and relaxing it in turn, along with breathing in while focusing on the part (and any sensations, pain, etc. there), then breathing out while letting the part go limp, consciously relaxing the muscle, freeing my mind of any thoughts (and gently returning it to the business at hand should it wander in any way).  I can do this, I thought. It’s like riding a bike.

And so I began.  Bare feet flat on floor.  I sit on a chair with a special back pillow behind me for support (bad back), so I’m actually upright and sitting fairly tall.  Face forward, eyes closed, tip of tongue on roof of mouth, breathe in–deep–breathe out, a heavy sigh, relaxing all of the body.  I’d deliberately left the light out (there’s just barely enough to limn the various pieces of furniture and assorted packing boxes in the room , these grey autumn mornings) so that I could close my eyes and really focus.

I’d gotten as far as focusing on the soles of my feet when I felt it again–the cold wetness, this time on my big toe.  Then used said big toe to push Chaser out of the way, Nylabone still in her mouth.  Back to the soles.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Relax.  Focus.

Not ten seconds later (I was at the ankle by now), she’d returned to chewing her bone, this time using the top of my foot as a brace so she could prop the bone between her paws and get a better chewing angle.  And I thought meditation was supposed to be RELAXING.  At this point, I was more tense than when I’d awoken.  I gave up with a sigh and headed toward the shower.

I think I will need to close the door next time I meditate.

(“But I found it very relaxing, Mum!  You should try chewing a Nylabone once in a while.  Great for the tension in your teeth.”)