Thursday, June 28, 2012

Picture Perfect History

The view of Teck (the smelters) from
the top of "Black Mountain"

While it has a pretty interesting history, my hometown of Trail BC is not known for being the most aesthetically pleasing place to visit. The area became famous for mining way back in the 1890s when gold and copper were discovered on Red Mountain. In 1895, a smelter was built to treat the precious metals/ores. A few years later the smelter was sold and over the years, the smelters were expanded to treat different ores, such as lead and zinc. While the area prospered due to the high demand of refined ores and employment rates of the smelters, the pollution from the smelters destroyed nearly all vegetation in the area. No joke folks. When my parents were growing up in this town, there were few trees to be seen.  In fact, my dad and I climbed a small mountain today that he grew up calling, “Black Mountain” because there was nothing but rock that covered it so it looked black from a distance. Today Black Mountain is green and full of life thanks to the strict pollution laws that Teck has to abide by.

Even though Trail is a much greener city then it was way back when the smelters destroyed the trees and wildlife, the actual town and buildings set within Trail are not the nicest to look at. The downtown is full of empty shops and run-down buildings that are in serious need of a face-lift. Apparently there are big plans for the future of the downtown area with lots of renovations to be done to spruce the place up a bit. While I look forward to that development, in the meantime, the city has put out some money over the years to add beautiful murals to some of the sides of the buildings. Each mural represents a part of the city’s heritage and over the years I have come to really appreciate these beautiful paintings created by Tyler Toews and StevenSkolka of Canadian Murals.

I went around town today and took my own pictures of each mural because I wanted to post them and share them with my readers and anyone who may stumble upon this blog.
This picture I had to take from the Canadian Murals website
because they are doing major renovations on a nearby building
so the mural is being blocked currently with huge dumpsters
and trucks. But it's super awesome!
The Kootenay Hotel

Honestly, I can't find any info about this
sternwheeler mural. Is it a boat bringing in ore?  

Disaster cleanup after another flooding of the
Columbia River. The river is now controlled by a
series of dams, but the city flooded regularly before
the water was controlled. 

One of my favourites - this mural represents all
of the ironworkers and hardworking men who
worked the smelters.

This huge mural is the biggest one in Canada by this team
of artists. It represents the wealth of the water. 

I can't get this picture to rotate! I love the baby sturgeon and
wish I could show them better!

Trail has a rich history of hockey, including winning 2 World
Championships by the Trail Smoke Eaters. 


Monday, June 25, 2012

Salted Almond Ice Cream

I've been putting off going through my boxes that have been in “storage” for the past 5 years (aka, my parent’s basement) but the past couple days I’ve been digging through the past, tossing out all the useless junk and reminiscing in the awesome stuff that I forgot that I owned. Case and point, my ice cream maker! As soon as I saw the Cuininart box I got all hyped up, tossed the base into the freezer and dove into my vast inventory of un-made-but-really-wanna-make recipes.

Salted Almond Ice Cream. Yep, no doubt that this is the one that I had to make. If there is one thing in the world that should have a shrine made for it so that we can all bow to it and celebrate its perfection, it is the combination of sweet and salty. The marriage of sweet and salty is possibly my favourite combination so when I saw this recipe, I had to Pin it and save it for another day.

This morning I made this recipe and was wowed by the result. Basically, you start by making a simple sweet almond custard. While that cools, you caramelize the almonds with sugar and salt until it makes a thick syrupy mass which is poured onto a plate to cool. The custard is poured into the ice cream maker and the salty/sweet almonds are tossed in with a few minutes left to go in the mixing process. So what you are left with is this amazingly sweet ice cream with crunchy salty almonds. YUM!!! Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a go!

Salted Almond Ice Cream
- 2 cups 2%milk
- 1 cup 10% cream
- 5 egg yolks
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp almond extract
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup chopped almonds

1) Over medium heat, heat the milk and cream, whisking occasionally, until bubbles form around the edge.
2) Whisk together the yolks, 1/3 cup sugar and ¼ tsp salt until thick and pale. Slowly pour 1 cup of the heated milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Then pour the egg mixture into the pot and while stirring constantly, cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool fully.
3) Toast the almonds on medium heat. Add remaining 2 tbsp sugar and ¼ tsp salt to the pan.
4) Cook, stirring constantly until nuts caramelize (10-15 minutes). Cool on a plate and break apart when cooled.
5) Pour custard in your ice cream maker. Add the nuts when ice cream is nearly hardened and continue to mix until thickened. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Superb Simplicity

A couple days before I jumped on my flight to head back to BC, my boss asked me, “So what’re you looking forward to the most when you head back home?” After quick deliberation, I replied easily, “Doing nothing. I am looking forward to being able to lay out in the backyard and read my book without having to cut the chapter short to make it to work on time.”

As much as I would love to go on the kind of vacation that involved traveling to tropical islands or historical places of interest, I always really enjoy just coming home and having no expectations or pre-planned coordinated events to fill my days from beginning to end. The past couple of days have been simplicity at its best and it has been such a welcoming feeling. The first day I was home I took the dogs for a little walk with my 4 year old niece and for that 20 minutes we were out there, our conversation ranged in various topics such as tiny flowers, turtles, dogs, and why some trees are small and some are big. Talking about things that are so simple and lacked any complexity for my brain was such a nice change from talking to adults about adult problems. Politics, relationships and health issues can weigh us down so much that we forget to think about awesome things like tiny flowers and turtles!

Simplicity is something we take for granted and I have really been enjoying doing things such as picking fresh spinach from the garden and baking muffins for my grandma who is recovering from back surgery.  Going out and taking Splash for nice walks has been fantastic cause she’s such a ball of sunshine and entertainment. One of my favourite moments when I take her out is that minute she stands and waits to see if we’re going to head down the bank to where her favourite swimming spot is. She always gets there before I do so when I come around the bend in the trail and see her standing at the top of the bank, her eyes are so alert and full of expectation. She’s waiting for me to give her the signal that we’re going down to the water to have some fun and when I give it to her, her eyes light up and she runs full throttle down the steep rocks and waits at the water’s edge for me to catch up and find a good stick. Seeing a dog be completely happy chasing a stick into the river over and over and over again always brings me to a place in my head that lets me appreciate simple happy things.

Speaking of simple happy things, have you ever been to Star Grocery in Trail BC? If not, go there right now! This little store has been located deep in the Gulch for as long as I can remember but I had never ventured in until yesterday. It is packed full of delicious looking Italian foods, fresh meats and cheeses plus a butcher in the back who will cut your meat for you while you watch. Talk about fresh! My dad has been buying his meat there for years but I was never around whenever he went in, so I am delighted that I got to go in yesterday with him. The shelves full of canned and pickled vegetables made me so happy. I wanted it all. Italian food at its best! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cashing in Credit

We're our own worst critics and I am the first to admit that I never give myself enough credit. I have been trying really hard to work on getting compliments by saying things such as, "Thank-you!", rather than, "Oh really? You think?" Just accepting your own inner awesomeness is a great mind-set to get into.

Apart from the quick 4km rides to work at Outriders on Sunday mornings, yesterday was my first real bike-ride of the season. I first want to point out that I cannot believe that it took me until June 18th to get out there and go on a ride that lasted longer than 15 minutes. That is just sad in my books. I am more of a morning biker and working mornings 5x a week was cramping my style. Plus the weather hasn't been working in my favour either! My days at work have been full of sunshine while my days off are dreary and damp.

No more excuses! Even though I didn't get on the trail until 4:30pm, I was ready and set to get out there and enjoy the lovely evening we were having. I contemplated going to hot yoga instead (which is another reason I haven't been getting on the bike) but decided that enough was enough and I needed to get the legs moving after sitting behind a desk all day. My plan was to do 30km since I knew that it was only my first ride of the season and I probably wouldn't be wanting to go too far the first time out. When I got to the 15km point, aka the turnaround mark, I just wanted to keep going. I felt great! The weather was gorgeous, the trails were clear and my legs wanted more (although the butt was starting to suffer slightly already).

I am really proud of myself for going 40km yesterday. I wasn't expecting to go that far and it was a boost of confidence for my physical health since I haven't been on the bike since last September. People ask me where I get the drive and what my motivation is to stay healthy and physical, and I must say that days like yesterday are what keep me going. Honestly, it is not about a dress size or what the scale says in the morning. It's a really great feeling when your body responds the way you want it to, even if just at a level that surprises you from time to time. I know that I can't run a marathon or paddle a kayak for 20kms, but knowing that my limits aren't completely defined and that I can keep getting better if I really try, is a nice feeling to have. I don't give myself enough credit, so today I'm going to take some and keep it in my back pocket for the next time I do something really dumb...then I can take out the credit and remind myself that I'm not a complete screw-up.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Travel and Cooking Update

Only 4 more days and I will be on a plane and heading west for 16 days of vacation! It's been nearly a year since I have been home to see my family and I have been so antsy and geared up to go for about 2 weeks now. Nothing in my life at the moment seems to be important enough to take over my thoughts long enough to focus more than a couple of minutes on rather than the thought of traveling to BC. My oldest sister Pam is getting married and I am so excited to be there to celebrate with everyone and enjoy the company of my friends and family. I am also stoked to see the mountains and hopefully get the chance to climb a couple of them while I am there! I am in need of a good hike!

I feel like I'm in this strange timezone where the days seem to creep by slowly but the dates on the calender are flying by. This makes no sense when I try to explain it or even rationalize it, but it's true! One part of me is thinking, "It's only Saturday?? Geez! I want it to be Wednesday!" (the day I take off), but the other part of me is appalled every time I see a calender and realize that June is already half way over. Where is time going? Wherever it's going, I wish it would take its foot off the accelerator and just chill out for a bit. Geez. 

So I guess I should update everyone on how my first cooking day went with the woman I am personally cooking for (I will call her "K" from this point on instead of "the lady"). It was great and I had so much fun! We got along swimmingly and apart from the soup being a bit bland, everything turned out delicious. Plus she has a gorgeous doberman who is a show-dog, and she's just the sweetest thing. I've missed having a dog around the house when I'm cooking. They're so nosy and interested and sticking their snouts in everything. But she's so well behaved and even though her nose meets the counter quite perfectly, she's never once taken something off of a counter before or even taken a quick lick to test something out. Ohhh...I miss having a dog. I am going to go back to K's house on Monday to whip up some more tasty meals so that she has plenty of food made up while I am away in BC.

BC!!! YAY!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Glutton for Punishment

Sometimes I am such a glutton for punishment and all I can do is shake my head at myself and just keep on doing what I do.  See, I was working 3 jobs there for a while and it just became too much since I was getting only 1-2 days off a month. Sure, some of the shifts I was working were only 4-5 hours but always having to schedule your every single day around being at a job was something I was getting fed up with doing. So I ended up quitting my job at the Culinary Institute, which was so hard since I loved working there and adored my boss and each and every person that I worked with. The breathing room (or one day off a week!) has been enjoyable even though I miss my Culinary people.

The week when Rachelle was away in Toronto was the week that I saw every client, including a local woman who runs 5 (yes 5!) separate businesses. She's been in the program for a while now but has had a really hard time getting the weight off because she never has the time to cook and isn't eating the way that she wants to. In her words, "I hate eating!" which is something you don't hear often in this office, but in her case, getting the right foods at the right time of day is such a challenge because she is all over the place all of the time. And forget about snacks. No time for snacks!

Rachelle's program includes hundred of healthy recipes and every week each client gets a new set of recipes to test out and fit into their daily routine if enjoyed. When I sat down with this business woman nearly 2 weeks ago, we brought up the topic of her extremely busy schedule and I mentioned that what she needs is a personal cook to come in once a week and prepare a bunch of the recipes which could be frozen and portions then thawed out during the week at the client's convenience. I think you see where this is heading. Me, the girl who just quit a job in hopes of having more spare time, offered her services to go to this woman's home once a week to cook for her so that she actually eats. We found a large list of recipes that she has tried and likes, plus ones that she's been wanting to make but never has gotten around to making. Then we narrowed down a 1/2 dozen to make this first week, made a shopping list and planned a date to get cooking!

The list of items I am preparing tonight are as follows:
- Morning Glory Muffins
- Healthy Granola
- Minestrone Soup
- Salsa and Bean Casserole
- Italian Bean Pasta Salad
- Cheesy Broccoli and Tofu Manicotti (I promise no one will taste tofu)
 - Hummus

Honestly, the more I think about this, the more excited I get at the idea of this being a success and being able to provide a service that will help people increase their health. Now if this trial client is a success, my mind has been racing at the idea of this becoming some kind of business idea that I can build on and improve upon. Plus it's the kind of thing that is right up my alley. Lots of planning, preparation, creativity and cooking are all things that I love to do! With my cooking history, education and weight loss counseling, I can alter recipes for people with food allergies, intolerances, lifestyle preferences, likes/dislikes and so forth.

Stay tuned to see how it all turns out. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Other 16%

I read this article back in April and have been meaning to write a quick blog post about it. The results of 3 studies were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science showing that people who are highly religious are less compassionate to strangers than those who are atheist, agnostic or nonreligious. They also say that with those who are less religious or lack any religion are more generous based on compassion and that generosity is based on emotional and human bond. Those who are religious are more likely to do a generous act because of what their teachings tell them, or because of reputation or community. Now, it's not saying that religious people are not going to do good things for deserving people. It just points out that they will do it out of sense of obligation rather than feeling emotional attachment or camaraderie with other human beings.

What is also very interesting about this study is that they found that the majority of US citizens are less likely to trust people who are nonreligious. Considering that 84% of US citizen follow some kind of religion, it's amazing to hear that those 16% of the population who has no religious beliefs are the ones that are more likely to give you a hand carrying your couch up the stairs, travel to a foreign country to help with disaster relief or give a homeless person a couple of bucks.

Now this could become a very controversial subject if certain people were to hear of it. I am afraid to even touch on some of the ideas popping into my head at the moment. I think the thing that bugs me the most is the notion that those who don't follow a structured religion are seen as less trustworthy and less compassionate than those who believe in some kind of God. Lacking religious belief takes away moral beliefs as well? An atheist seeing a struggling stranger is going to pass on by because he/she doesn't believe in God? ...Huh? Maybe this person is more likely to help based on the fact that he/she does not believe in a higher being therefore knows only mankind is going to help out fellow mankind. If God ain't gonna help, who else is supposed to step up and lend a hand?

The other 16%. That's who!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Big News!

Well, it's about time that I announced that in August I will be moving to Vancouver! A couple months back I applied to a course out there and after a few hiccups (meaning me forgetting to send some kind of important document on 2 separate occasions), I got the acceptance letter and have been daydreaming every day since. I've even already bought tickets to a Gotye concert at the end of August in Deer Lake Park. Maybe I shouldn't be counting my hens quite yet and buying tickets to concerts on the opposite side of the country, but I just couldn't help it. I even have a date to the show and everything!

The course is Nutrition and Food Service Management which basically teaches students who are looking to run a food service establishment in the health sector but does not necessarily limit them to that select field . Obviously if I could have it my way, I would have been accepted for an internship placement and be on my way to becoming a dietitian, but I decided a while back that if I was not accepted this year then I would move onto something else since my plans were not working out in my favour. I'm done sulking and wishing things could be different and knew that I needed to make a change to change my life. I am hoping that Vancouver is the change that will get me on my feet and be the successful person I know I can become.

So that's my news! My family is obviously stoked that I am heading back to the west coast again and my PEI people are sad that I am leaving but understanding that there is little for me here in terms of a career and work opportunities. I am overwhelmed at the amount of planning and packing that I have ahead of me since I really don't have that much time to figure it all out...but as always, I'll get it done. I am also overwhelmed at the idea of living in a city as huge as Vancouver because I have never lived anywhere even remotely that highly populated and I know my small-town brain will be in shock for a long time after my arrival, but I embrace the change ahead of me.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

2 Friends Talkin' Health

I've been in this really interesting "debate" or whatever you want to call it, with my best friend Gill about the topic of obesity and just people being overweight in general. This all stemmed from my blog post about what a person prefers when it comes to their weight-loss coach: someone who has been through the process and lost a bunch of weight, or someone who has always been of normal weight and has maintained a healthy weight their whole life. Gill lives in the USA and even though she spent most of her childhood and adolescence with me in Canada, she is an American and likes to go on rants about the horrible health of her country (not that Canada is all that far behind in the race for an unhealthy nation). 

There have been a few parts of our conversations that got me thinking. Like me, she has never had any weight issues so we are both part of a biased group of people that have never struggled with their weight. However, unlike me, she has had 3 lovely children and she put on about...oh...I dunno...3 extra pounds around the midsection that she has yet to lose. This was a part of an email that she wrote to me: "I know that I still have a bit of baby weight to lose, but I'm not going to complain about how bitterly unfair it is and I have no idea why it won't go away. I'm lazy and I don't prioritize working out. Bottom line. I eat healthy, I eat smaller portions, but I'm too tired and I procrastinate to get off my ass and make the rest of the effort. And I'm aware of this! I have no one to blame but myself."  I loved her saying this because she unlike a lot of people, she knows what she needs to do to make changes in her weight and is not in search of some miracle drug to do the work for her. We all have so many other people and things to blame when it comes to reasons as to why we are unhealthy. 

- I had to always clear my plate growing up and can't break the habit
- My mom fed me bad food so that is what I'm used to
- I have no time to eat well
- I have no time to exercise
- Healthy food doesn't taste good
- My boss is on my ass and making me work extra hours at my sedentary job
- I'm stressed out so I need a bowl of ice cream
- I'm bored so I need a bowl of ice cream
- My friends took me to DQ so I had to get ice cream

No more excuses. The only excuses you should make are excuses to eat well and be more physically active!

Another thing that got us chatting was education about nutrition. Such as with my blog post about Nutella, a lot of people just flat out, do not have the knowledge or education about nutrition and do not know what is healthy or not. There are many obvious things that are healthy (like fruits and vegetables) and things that are obviously unhealthy (like chocolate cake and double thick crust pizzas with extra cheese). These are things that everyone knows. Like Gill said, "this is part of the issue I've had in my Nutrition class. There are people in the class who are saying they can't understand where all the weight came from, but when they discuss what they eat, they have ice cream smoothies for breakfast, two full plates of fettuccine alfredo at dinner with half a loaf of garlic bread, and McDonald's for lunch every day, and snack all day on junk, and I just want to smack them and go "WELL DUH!!!" It's not rocket science!" 

No, it's totally not rocket science at all and I agree with her.  But on the flip side of this, there are some foods that are not good for us at all but are disguised at healthy and this can lead to serious problems. For example, your kids want to go to Wendy's for lunch and you decide to order a salad. Salad's are healthy right? Wendy's Baja Salad contains 730 calories with, ready for this, 47 grams of fat. Or you can head to McDonalds and get the Might Caesar Chicken entree salad which contains (with dressing), 700 calories and 54 grams of fat. The tricky thing with McDonald's nutritional facts sheet is that they separate the salads and the dressings so that it is very easy to miss a huge amount of calories and fat if you don't notice this and just focus on the salad alone. Then these poor confused people scroll up to the Big Mac and see it only has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat! Why have a salad when you can have a Big Mac for less calories? (if they avoid the fries and pop of course...but who's going to omit those from the meal?)  

My response in one of my emails to Gill was this: "I feel kind of....what's the word....understanding in a way. Sort of. Take me for example. I know nothing about computers yet I own a computer and use it every day. If it breaks or malfunctions, I bitch and moan and get someone else to fix it who is knowledgeable about computers. It's kinda like that with good health. People eat every day knowing nothing about nutrition and when they gain weight or their body gets sick, they go to a professional to fix it (doctor, dietitian). But then again, food is something we all need to survive so we really should all be educated on the subject." So why aren't we all better educated on the subject of nutrition? 

As Gill put it: "I feel like the information needs to be out there and more accessible to people, because people really genuinely have no clue. I feel like people need to take responsibility for themselves, their health, and their lives. The government isn't going to do it for you, teachers aren't going to do it for you, marketing firms aren't going to do it, it's up to you to look out for yourself." Amen sister. Amen. 

Not sure where to start to find the information you need to jump start your newer and healthier life? Apart from speaking to a qualified professional who has studied many many years of nutrition and researching your government health website, you could start by watching 2 really good documentaries. The first one is  The Skinny on Obesity which are a series of short videos with tons of information about how the body works and information about sugar, insulin, hormones, genetics, stress, fast food...etc. Basically, why we are fat. The second is the new HBO series The Weight of the Nation which is quite a bit longer but also packed full of lots of information and great advice on how to lose weight and what you can do to get started and change in your life.  I recommend both. 

No excuses.