food

Food Mail

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Life is so different — simple — for me right now. It is partly because I have no phone or internet at home — oh dear, did some of you just faint? — so I work, eat, go for walks, talk with my roommate, listen to music or the radio (CBC North is it), or perhaps watch something on my computer. And write, of course! :) Oh, perhaps it goes without saying (or not), that I don’t have TV either. Uh oh, I just heard more people hit the floor!

When I flew up here to Wrigley a little over two weeks ago, I came with a few boxes of groceries so I’d have something to eat. Although there is a small store operated by the band (native government), there isn’t much there, so it’s understood that one has to bring groceries from Fort Simpson. I’m very lucky because the company I work for is paying for them, so I can shop and get whatever I need on its tab. I had a pile of produce, a few canned items and several frozen things, but when I arrived here, there was a problem.

The main freezer doesn’t work, so we have to store frozen food in the small above-fridge freezer. Since Mother Nature is a very effective freezer these days — I have often wondered why we northerners even use freezers in winter! — all we had to do was figure out how to store it. My roommate found a large pink plastic bin with a locking lid so we were in business! We put most of the frozen food in it, put the lid on and then had to figure out where to put it outside. We didn’t want it to attract the local dogs (there are many) or the local kids (who are quite curious). We decided to put it under our front steps, and cleverly concealed with a brown blanket, it was completely invisible. Woo hoo! Good to go.

Twenty-four hours went by with no incident, but on the second day, we noticed one of the locking handles looked a little ajar. We didn’t do anything about it just then, since we were on our way down to the Mackenzie River for a nice long walk. A few hours later we returned, and as we approached, we saw an abnormally large number of ravens in the front yard… oh no! The bin had been opened and mayhem had ensued, we could tell, as dogs and ravens fought for our precious frozen foods! We wandered around the front yard picking up garbage, and were surprised that there was anything left to salvage — there were 4 or 5 things that hadn’t been touched. We kicked ourselves repeatedly for not fixing the lid, dammit, but in the end, we decided to just be happy the bacon survived!

So, each week on Tuesday or Wednesday, I start a list of foods I need — I am slowly replacing the stuff I lost as well as ordering fresh produce — and I fax it in to the store so they can shop for me. The Northern Store has my order ready by 10 am on Thursday so that one of the pilots from Simpson Air can pick it up and fly it to Wrigley with the mail. Canada Post has an ongoing charter to fly the mail on Tuesdays and Thursdays and when it arrives, the band office takes it and people can get their mail there. What fun, eh? I get my food in the mail!

This week, I forgot to order more lemons (for hot lemon) and last week, I forgot to order lettuce. So, there you go…. slowly, I am making a list of foods I like, including the brand names and the sizes of the containers so that I can get what I want. Last week, I ordered “2 pieces of frozen haddock (or another white fish)” and I got Highliner pan fry fish, which was not the kind I wanted. So, next time, I will be more specific: “1 pkg of 2 pieces of plain haddock, or another white fish, in vacuum packaging.” That should get me what I want! :) I’m just glad I lived there long enough to know what foods they stock so I can order wisely. They have most things I like, so it works out quite well, and so far nothing has frozen enroute, so even better! The mail plane is a little old Cessna 172 with minimal interior heat (think of an old Chevette on wings).

I can’t seem to get maple syrup in Fort Simpson, so if you have any to send, just address it to “Wrigley CARS” and I’ll get it on the mail plane! :) Take care everybody!

Top 10 Handy Practical Tips

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Hi everyone! I’ve been saving these up for a while, but it’s time to share my top 10 Handy Practical Tips Around the House!

10. To minimize clutter in the bathroom, don’t buy any new products like shampoo or soap until you are completely out of the old stuff. If you have a lot of bottles cluttering up your shower, keep one of each product out and put all the rest into a storage box under the sink — or get rid of them completely.

9. To minimize closet clutter, whenever you buy a new piece of clothing, get rid of an old one. Don’t even let yourself buy a new sweater, for example, until you’ve decided which one in the closet you’re going to give away — that lumpy green one, perhaps!

8. Keep a box or large bag somewhere to collect items you no longer use and want to give away. This way, as you come across things in your life that you don’t need, you can easily put them in the box and forget about them! Once a month, take the box to the second-hand store.

7. If you’re cooking for one, why not cook up a storm once a week and make enough for 6 or 7 meals, and freeze the leftovers. If you do this consistently, you’ll always have a variety in the freezer which you can thaw for a quick lunch or supper. Plus, if you buy the grocieries right before you cook, you avoid food going bad before you can cook it.

6. Keep all the ingredients for a favourite dish in your cupboard, so that if you run out of groceries and can’t get to a store one day, you have a fast and yummy dish to make. Whenever you use one of these staples, replace them the next time you shop.

5. Make your own laundry soap. It works every bit as good as store-bought soap and costs way less. I got the recipe here.

4. Buy bulk when it makes sense. You can certainly save some money this way, however, if what you’re buying is going to take up a pile of storage space, don’t do it! It will just add to your clutter!

3. Clip your fingernails in the bathroom sink (with the plug in, but no water). Then, the clippings don’t fly all over the place. When you’re done, “wipe” them out with a little toilet paper (dampened with water).

2. Make up a meal plan. I have found that even just a rough list of what I plan to make takes the stress off trying to figure out what to make at the last minute.

1. Pin your socks together before putting them in the laundry! Never lose a sock again in that mysterious sock-black-hole! Just pin them together with a safety pin before you put them in the laundry and they’ll stay together in the dryer or on the drying line. I even keep them together in my drawer and then just take the pin out when it’s time to wear them. This idea is thanks to my father-in-law!

and a bonus tip!

Make a system or schedule for anything important in life. When you have a system, whatever that may be, that important task is much more likely to be done quickly/efficiently and not forgotten. Figure out a system that will work for you and then implement it!

… and I just wanted to share that I’m pleased to get nearly 5,700 hits on this blog in March and over 6,300 in April! Wow! Thanks for stopping in, everybody! :)

Paleo Diet

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My husband and I started following the Paleo Diet a couple of months ago. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Paleo Diet encourages eating as paleolithic man would have eaten — meat, veggies, nuts and seeds. No dairy, no wheat or corn, no sugar, minimal starches. We haven’t been fanatical about it — who can resist stuffing at Christmas?! — but we’ve been pretty good about it. I thought I’d share a few things I’ve noticed.

I no longer like cheese. This is HUGE for me! I was a cheese nut, a major fan! I loved cheese and it loved me! All cheese! Swiss, cottage, Monterey Jack, mozza, ricotta! The only ones I wouldn’t eat are the truly stinky cheeses! Cheese was me and I was cheese! You know what I’m talking about! I was a cheese lover and I quit cold-turkey. Actually, I still eat cold turkey. What I’m saying is, I stopped eating, buying or cooking with cheese. Almost completely, except perhaps in an omelet at a restaurant or a tiny skiff of Parmesan on roasted cauliflower.

The other day, I had some cheese and I didn’t like it. It was like orange plastic. It wasn’t the best, fanciest brand, but I don’t think it would matter. It was not enjoyable, and that was a big surprise to me!

Then the other day, I let myself have a few crackers, something I haven’t done in several weeks. And I didn’t like them either. They were like cardboard. Crunchy at first, then gummy. Flour gummy… a bit like glue. Not enjoyable! Another huge surprise! I used to love crackers! Of all kinds! Wow. I had to gradually ween myself off carbs, because I would go into withdrawal and crave them really bad. I ate carrots when I craved carbs. I don’t know why… but it seemed to work and my eyes are sure healthy!

So, I can’t help but conclude that we are pretty much conditioned to like what we’re eating, but those likes and dislikes can change. We like how this-or-that food makes us feel. Carbs are comfort food. Chocolate gives us a high. Caffeine makes us feel invincible! :) But if you change what you eat, it only takes a short time before your taste buds adjust to whatever new food you are feeding them. And you can start to feel a “high” off other foods instead of those you used to get a rush from.

You might have a food you’d like to give up. Well, let me tell you — it’s not actually that hard! Many people (and I was one of them) are addicted to carbs. But, it’s not as hard as you think to leave them behind. Just take it one mouthful-at-a-time — let yourself cheat a little once a week or so — and in a month or so, your cravings will be gone. I’ve read that it only takes 21 days to make a new habit. That’s not very long at all (the days go by so fast)! And then, maybe you’ll find that the foods you used to love don’t make you feel good anymore and don’t taste good anymore! Once they don’t make you feel good, then you won’t want to eat them anymore, and it will be super-easy not to.

By the way, we have both lost some weight, and except for occasional withdrawal from wheat products, we feel great. Oh ya — we haven’t quite given up chocolate yet. It was on sale, what can I say?!? So, uh, that might bring a little withdrawal too. Not ready for that yet! :) So if you’re thinking of eliminating a food from your life, for whatever reason, let me be your encourager — you can do it! Leave a comment and then we can all encourage each other!

How I Kicked Fibromyalgia

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Back in high school, during grade 11, I developed fibromyalgia. It took a while before it was diagnosed — primarily by process of eliminating other illnesses — and by the summer before grade 12, I was diagnosed and in a fair bit of pain. In university, I managed to get an appointment with a specialist who had studied it extensively, which was rare; at that time, family doctors barely knew what it was and there weren’t very many doctors who even really understood fibromyalgia. The specialist told me it was chronic. I’d have it for the rest of my life. The best thing I could do was exercise. Exercise! I could barely move some days! Did he have any idea how much my muscles hurt?!? He replied saying “Be as active as you can. The only person I know who was cured of fibromyalgia became an exercise fanatic.”

Exercise fanatic? I thought he was nuts. There was no way I could exercise, I was in so much pain from my tight muscles.

But, stay active I did, mostly out of necessity. I was a starving student, and couldn’t afford a bus pass, so I walked about 40 blocks per day to university and back. One term, I was able to fit the free skate into my schedule 3 times a week, so I did that. I liked getting my blood pumping, and it really helped me burn stress. Yup, I was sore afterwards, but the stress-burning was worth it.

I took extra courses in my second year of university, which didn’t help matters. With classes and labs and the extra course — a choir I was in for credit — I was a very busy gal. The fibromyalgia got worse, and by the end of that year, I was quite a wreck. Third year, I made a change of pace. I took on the job of Production Editor of The Gateway, which meant only 2 classes but a lot of other work and very late nights. I enjoyed it immensely and didn’t feel quite a bad physically. The specialist had warned me that the first 5 years would be the worst. I was only into year 4. I also got a work term in Ottawa for 6 months, so that gave me a needed break from classes.

The last two years of university are a bit of a blur. Then one day, while walking home from my job in Sudbury, I realized: I don’t hurt anymore. I feel great! I made it past those 5 years and I’m not living in constant pain anymore! Looking back, I realize there were a few things I did that helped reduce my pain, and if you’ve been diagnosed with this muscle-fibre disorder, there’s hope! In addition to treatments your doctor may recommend, try these tips and see if they help:

1. Remove extra electrical influences. The first 2 years or so in University, I had a waterbed. I loved it — it was always warm, and with the fibromyalgia, the heat felt wonderful. I kept it cranked pretty much year-round, max heat. I don’t think the electrical field from the heating unit was good for me. Later, I moved on to an electric blanket, which I would sleep on top of, or under. I loved it too, but it wasn’t until I ditched it — I think I was afraid of a bed-fire — that I started to feel much better. I don’t know if the heat helped or hindered, but I think it was the electrical fields that were really harming me.

2. Eat less-processed foods. When I was a starving student, I thought about food differently. I ate whatever I had. I got eggs from my parents, and my typical breakfast was 2 eggs, scrambled, cooked in my microwave with a slice of processed cheese on top. Lunch was whatever I had, supper the same, or nothing, and rarely any produce. A few times, I got groceries from a food bank to get me through, for which I’m very grateful. But it was all canned or otherwise processed — SPAM is nasty! Only when I got a good job after graduating and was able to stop adding-as-I-went while grocery shopping did I start to really improve.

3. Stay active. Yes, there were times I hurt so hard I could barely get out of bed. Lots of times. But I still went to classes, walked a lot, went up and down stairs, and even did a little actual exercise. Since I was consistently active, when I felt better, I just naturally did more, until I realized one day that I was doing lots and not hurting. I even joined a dragonboat team in Sudbury (and later, in Edmonton), and if you want to feel the burn and work so hard you feel like throwing up, dragonboating is the way to go! Doesn’t that sound like a blast!?! Well, it really was! I am well beyond the tentative movements of a fibromyalgia sufferer. I am cured!

These days, I canoe and kayak a lot (over 800 km this summer!), walk a lot to do errands around town, cross-country ski and skate in winter (although I’m usually pretty sore after the first time of the season, but I consider that normal!), and even occasionally swim. I did a 10-km run a couple of years ago, but decided I don’t like running that much, so I don’t. :) I do what I enjoy! I’ve done a bit of t’ai chi, yoga, and pilates. Find something you think is fun — belly dancing, curling, jumping on a trampoline,* even simply stretching — and do that! Get rid of extra stress in your life. Be very careful about how you talk to yourself. Be positive and treat yourself well!

One last point: Do not doubt the power of the mind. That doctor told me that someone had been cured. At the time, I didn’t think it was possible, but he planted the seed. That seed grew and I took his advice to stay active and I consciously decided I wouldn’t let it stop me from doing anything I wanted to. I did a 3-day hike around the back of Mount Robson. I could have said “oh, I’d better not, I can’t. I’ll hurt too much.” Nope, I did it anyway, and yes, it hurt a bit, but I don’t even remember the pain now. I just remember the feeling of accomplishment and fun with friends.

So try this to harness the power of your mind: Once a day for at least 5 minutes, think about the cells in your body as smiling. Just beaming from ear to ear! Each cell is completely happy and getting exactly what it needs. Bask in this feeling and try to remember it throughout your day.

I’d love to hear how you feel after trying the other 3 tips as well! Even if you just have ordinary aches and pains, give them a try and let me know in the comments! Removing extra electrical fields and changing the food you eat will give almost-instant results. Getting more active may take a couple of weeks to start showing the benefits.

*In my experience, if you decide to start rebounding, start slow! Adult bodies aren’t as flexible and resilient as children’s, so take it easy at first! Of course, corporations always say to “talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program,” but you can also just start slow and give yourself days off in between exercise and increase from there.

Surviving Cabin Fever

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It’s been a while since I did a Top Ten, so here you go! :) Perhaps others don’t have such a hard time with this, but I think it’s relevant for the season!

Teresa’s Top Ten ways to combat cabin fever when it’s been too cold for too long:

10. Get smashed. Go to your liquor cabinet, with a tall glass in hand, and pour one shot of each liquor — whatever you’ve got — into the glass. Add ice, if you like, and a splash of orange juice, coke, or grenadine, depending on your tastes. Drink one of these every hour until you can’t walk, talk or think. JUST KIDDING! Don’t do this! If you do, you’ll have the worst hangover ever! But I guess you wouldn’t be bored any more! :) Seriously, it can be fun to invent a new drink, with just one or two types of liquor and have one or two with a friend.

9. Clean something. Ya, I know, it’s not a very fun one, but it’s a productive way of spending some time at home… tackle that messy hall closet or scary corner of the basement. Keep reading, I have better, funner ideas coming up!

8. Eat something. But not just anything… Scour your cookbooks or go online and make something wild and fantastic you’ve never made before. Like this chocolate cake (it took me three days to make last year!), these brownies (so strange yet soooo yummy!), or a spicy curry dish (one of my favourite meals). Maybe you’ll have to make a trip to the grocery store, but you probably have a lot of crazy ingredients at home that you could use. Check out the “leftover wizard” at bigoven.com. Don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients if you don’t have what you need and you don’t feel like leaving the house. Then savour your creation!

7. Make something. If you’ve got a project half-done, finish it! If you don’t, check out the Make webpage and see if you’ve got something around the house that you can transform into, say, a guitar!

6. Grab a book. You probably have a few books (or 20) that you’ve bought or been given, that you just haven’t quite started yet. Grab one, and a nice warm beverage, cozy up in your favourite spot and read the afternoon away.

5. Play a game. If you’re home alone, I guess it’ll be solitaire or something computer-based. But if you have family or friends over, convince them it’s time for Twister, Wii, or get out the cards. Aggravation is one of my favourites, or Blokus. No doubt you’ve got something you can play… strip poker anyone? (Not to be played with granny.)

4. Learn a new hobby. Got something you’ve thought about trying? Why not do it now? You can find videos for almost anything online, so as long as your internet (and your furnace) work, you can do anything! You could learn to knit or crochet, do yoga, do tai’chi, make fishing lures, build something out of wood, learn photography, start a blog or podcast… your imagination is the limit!

3. Play music. Get out that guitar you haven’t played in months (or the one you just made) and learn some new chords. Or, if you find your house strangely lacking in musical instruments, go through your music collection, listen to something you haven’t heard in ages (your fav’s from the 80’s!) and just enjoy the tunes! Dance your heart out. Air-drum along, or use pots. :)

2. Get off your duff. Step away from the TV, or computer (not right now, as soon as you finish reading this), and get some exercise. Most of us have some form of exercise equipment around the house, and most of it is rarely used! Blow the dust off, get out the track pants, and burn a few calories. Don’t do it because you have to, do it because you’re bored silly — do it for your sanity! (I promise it will help.)

1. Do something fun outside. This is perhaps the hardest cure for cabin fever, but it’s also the most effective. Bundle up, wear double scarves, toques, mitts, whatever it takes, and go outside. If you’ve got equipment like cross-country skis, snowshoes, ice skates, or a ski-doo use it! If not, simply take a walk, go tobogganing (cardboard will work on a packed hill), make snow angels, or stomp out patterns in fresh snow. When you get back, you’ll be glad to be inside, cozy and warm!

The overall strategy for curing cabin fever is distraction. Distract yourself from the fact that it’s freezing and you’re stuck inside… that you’re bored or lonely… that it’s cold and only getting colder… :) I hope this blog will help you distract yourself with something that’s mildly productive or fun (more fun than TV)!  :)

I think I’ll do my next blog on how to dress for cold weather. It’ll be practical and fun, yet serious life-saving stuff! Check back in a couple of days!

Off the Tourist Track

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There’s so much to say about what I’ve seen so far, it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve been here 3 full days and we’ve done some tourist things, but also visited some friends. I’ve drank no less than 35 cups of tea — most very small — and had 5 incredible meals. Last night, we went for “hot pot.” There’s a franchise restaurant that has a long counter top that winds its way through the room. There are holes in the counter in front of where each person sits, where the pot goes. Underneath, there is a shelf where the hot plates sit — this place must have a huge power bill! Anyways, you choose what broth you want (I chose “hot and sweet”) and then what types of meat or vegetables you want. Then, you drop them into the simmering broth, fish them out a few minutes later (depending on what it is) and enjoy! Yum. We also went for Korean barbeque, where there’s a hole in the centre of the table too. A man brings red-hot coals in a metal pail, and drop it into the hole, which is then covered by grates of various descriptions where the meat you have ordered is cooked. I think usually they bring all the stuff and let you do it yourself, but since we were foreigners, the waitress stayed and did it for us. She was very cute (all the waitresses are!), feeding us pieces of meat as they were done. We also went for “real Chinese” food, which was awesome! It was sort of tucked between and in several buildings, and on our way down the back-alley-like entryway, we passed a room full of huge aquariums and some really huge fish! I was officially in heaven at the first taste of curry lamb, and the chrysanthemum tea washed things down nicely! Oh, I could go on and on… I’ve also seen live fish, just slightly smaller than their aquariums, at the grocery store, along with live shrimp. I stood among a group of elderly Chinese ladies waiting to order breakfast food at a counter, and was surprised at the amount of deep-fried food. And they have many types of breads/pasta/flat bread/pastries. I’m an eggs-for-breakfast kind of person and I haven’t had them once (although Darren did have a sort of omelette which I will have to try next time). :)

We went to a tiny tea house and art gallery that a friend of Darren owns, which was nice. We chatted about what life is like in China, and sipped tiny cup after tiny cup of tea. I loved the lychee black tea, which was sweet and delicious. They all were, except this one very strong Mongolian one (I think), which made my lips pucker and everyone laugh. It was nice to sit and just be, watching people walk by.

Well, we are going to the Great Wall today, and everyone is almost ready, so I will have to leave my description of the back roads and taxi drivers for another day. Oh, yes, and the bathrooms too. And Tiananmen Square!

The Big Far East Adventure

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Except it’s actually west… A long way west… We are going to China! :) We leave tomorrow, and I am uber-excited about what we will see and do while there. I will try and get on the net while I’m there and blog, but if not, expect a torrent of blogs later on in November! I am planning on taking several hundred pictures — I can’t wait! The weather’s cool there, maybe even snowy, but nothing compared to here, I expect. I have packed lots of sweaters and fleece so I am not cold while I am doing all sorts of fun, touristy things. Food! Amazing, unique food! The great wall! I mean, the Great Wall (with capital letters, you know)! I am so excited!
But for now, a little nap, hopefully my stomach will settle down (it’s queasy again), and then packing and hitting the road! Woo hoo!