Week 8 – Day 1

stirfryThe mighty Stir-fry!

I make stir-fry at least twice a week. It allows me to incorporate many different vegetables in one meal, as well as add lean meats such as turkey or chicken. I also now add brown rice to it, adding a rich taste and by itself, my stir-fry is a complete meal.

Why is stir-frying such a good way to cook your vegetables? It’s the way in which the food is cooked that makes a stir-fry healthier than most other forms of cooking. Because the food is cooked so quickly, nutrients like vitamin C and folic acid are preserved. If you microwave or boil vegetables, these benefits will be lost.

I first add the vegetables that take longer to cook such as onions, broccoli, carrots, celery, peppers. Mid way through, I add lean meats, and at the end I add mushrooms, spinach and vegetables that required very little cooking time. I also add my herbs near the end, as I find they tend to wilt and get bitter if overcooked. My favorite herbs to add are cilantro or basic. Since I have a strong intolerance to garlic, I don’t typically add it to the stir-fry but many do. If I have them handy, I will also toast some sesame seeds and add them to the rice. I add the rice last (I precook the rice in my rice cooker) and mix everything together, add a dash of soya sauce, and let it sit for 5 minutes to let everything settle and the tastes to mix together.

Stir-frying is a fast and easy way to make use of all those little leftover veggies you may have, although for us, stir-fry is just a regular meal that we enjoy.

Week 1 – Day 4

Tip: Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts are a perfect remedy for when you’re feeling anxious throughout the day. They’re rich in omega-3s, which can help reduce anxiety by keeping stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline in check. Macadamia nuts make a great snack when you need a lift at work or when you have kids in the car. They’re so big and filling, you only need to eat 8 nuts a day!

When we first visited Hawaii back in 2000, this was my first time to truly taste macadamia nuts and I was sold on them. I don’t think there is any nut as soft and flavourful out there. Of course, the ones we got in Hawaii typically were covered in chocolate although a few times we did go for the natural ones.

I stayed away from them thinking that they were too high in fats – and wouldn’t you know, they have the good fat your body needs. And since it only takes 8 for its benefit to affect the body, you can be sure this will be on my snack list from now on. I buy a lot of my spices and specialty couscous and nuts at Bulk Barn, so I save on the otherwise higher cost of grocery suppliers. This will be an easy change to adopt !!

Week 1 – Day 3

TIP – Trim your tummy by packing your grocery cart with monounsaturated fats, easily remembered as MUFAS. Found in nuts, olive oil and seeds, MUFAS are healthy sources of energy to keep you going all day long. Other fat burners include avocados, green tea and whole grains.

I’ve always enjoyed eating avocados, not so much in guacamole but mostly in salads or in this case, in my lunch wrap. To a whole wheat wrap I added half an avocado, 4 slices of lean ham (no preservatives type) and loads of mesclun salad. Absolutely delicious!

Week 1 – Day 2

TIP – Cruciferous Vegetables (Serving size: Unlimited)

Cruciferous vegetables belong to the cabbage family. What’s great about these greens is that they protect against cancer. Look for cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, kale and brussels sprouts.

Our family loves vegetables. Even as young girls, both Lisa and Meg never turned their nose up at all vegetable – – one of my favorite is broccoli, and I make it a point to serve it often.

Week 1 – Day 1

Deepak Chopra was a guest on the Dr. Oz show this week, shared his belief that accessing your Super Brain allows you to stay young and keep your memory strong.

You can rewire your brain with certain activities, and as Mr Chopra quoted, “Neurons that fire together, wire together”. One activity that we can all do right now, is to do something with our other hand.

When I was in my teens, I broke my left arm and was in a cast for 8 weeks. I had to take notes in school, so I tried my best to scribble some sentences and over time, I learned how to write with my right hand. I often wrote in my journals with my right hand, not really knowing anything about the power this had to help rewire my brain.

It’s been years since I’ve practiced, and as I wrote out these few sentences, I realized how much I had lost of this ability. It took me at least 5 times as long to write the second paragraph as it did the first.

However, knowing the benefits of this and other activities done with my alternate hand, I will practice at least one activity each day using my right hand. If this will help my brain, I’m all for it!

My Nationality?

What is my nationality? First and foremost, I am a Quebecer. And I say first and foremost because this is where I was born and spent 19 years of my life. I grew up in a French environment, and French is my first language. I didn’t know a word of English until I was 10. I did all my early studies in French right up to my university classes. My Dad’s side of the family came from the Hudson Area, Choisy to be exact. At grandmoman’s (my father’s mother) we spoke only French. French is in my blood, and I revert to that language when counting or when hurt. The French culture as been, and will always be an integral part of who I am.

But I am also a Canadian. Proud and blessed to be a Canadian. My mother’s side of the family spoke mostly English. Most of my career’s work has been in English. MY husband is English, and many of my friends are English. Our children speak multiple languages but English is their first one. I am proud to be Canadian – to want all our provinces to be together, and our country to continue to be a GREAT PLACE TO BE. My country spans from the Atlantic to the Pacific and crosses mountains, plains, cities, wilderness, villages and thousands of bodies of water. My country is an integral part of me, of my culture and my memories.

Today, I celebrate Saint Jean Baptiste Day, the National Holiday for all Quebecers. Sunday I will celebrate Canada Day. Both celebrations are equally important to me. This has nothing to do with politics – this only has to do with pride, gratitude and thankfulness.

Gratitude through photographs

It’s been more than one year since I came back from my journey on the Camino in Spain. Two of the biggest lessons I took back from that trip was to always be grateful, each and every day, and that everyone has a story.

Those two elements have led me to the creation of a facebook page titled “People, Faces and Places of Ottawa” This page is a celebration of all that is Ottawa – – its people, its faces and its places.

I have been blessed living in Ottawa – In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. Ottawa offers so many things to do, to discover and to enjoy. Being our Nation’s Capital, Ottawa is home to many museums, parks, the Canal and so much more.

Meeting people is one of my favorite things to do, and taking pictures offers me many opportunities to do so. I enjoy talking to people, getting to know a bit more about them, about what they do, what they like and of their words of wisdom.

Finding people to photograph is so easy – a simple “Hi, How are you” goes a long way. Very few refuse to be photograph, and some even seek me when they learn I’ve photographed their friends or family member, and they ask to have their picture taken as well. I’ve learned so much from these brief encounters, yet each one leaves me more aware of our diversity and our alikeness.

I am also, in my simple little way, introducing people around the world about Ottawa. I’ve joined a group of photographers who have pages titled “Humans of THEIR CITY”. The first who started this movement is a gentlemen from New York with his facebook and web page called “Humans of New York”. He is a very active and talented photographer; many other photographers have followed. Humans of Paris, Florida, Dublin, Tel Aviv, Denver, Kingston ON, Rome and many other pages share their peoples. In fact, searching for “humans of” in Facebook will lead you to many pages.

I’ve been living in Ottawa for over 32 years and I’m feeling as if I am rediscovering this beautiful city through my photography. My aim is to showcase Ottawa not only for all its beautiful places, but most of all, for all its amazing individuals.

It took a 500 km walking trek to make me realize there is beauty in almost everything – – and I project many years of rediscovery!

One year ago …

KM 0 - final arrival
Happy spring everyone! Wow – Time goes by so quickly and even more now that I am retired. I was looking back on my older posts (I do that often since it helps me recognize the changes that have occurred) and I was especially drawn to my April 2011 posts, since that was the beginning of the new phase of my life, and the preparation for the Camino.

How different am I today compared to last year? To be honest, there are times when I think nothing much has changed but MOST times I can’t even start explaining how much I HAVE changed.
The transition from high profile, high stress, high activity level, high pressure to walking the Camino with nothing but a pack carrying two change of clothes (and other items). My year has been a series of “transitions” and none was as difficult as my return from the Camino.

My intentions were to write a book about my experiences on the Camino, but upon my return I realized the following:
– I had not taken enough notes and details
– I have challenges finding the words to describe events, blessings, adventures etc
– Most importantly, what I did document wasn’t always written legibly…

You see, often I would write my notes in the evenings, before falling asleep… Well, often my body was tired, very tired, and my brain was a bit foggy from the dinner wine. Often I would write in my bed, by the light of my headlamp, inside my sleeping bag – – – my handwriting tends to be hard to read at best of times, but in those conditions, it became a puzzle just trying to figure out my chicken scratches. Therefore – – I MUST RETURN!

Many of you know of my plans to return next year. I am considering ways with which I would be able to really do well in keeping detailed notes. My plan is to expand on my trip and start in Bordeaux (France), traverse Spain and finish in Porto (Portugal) – a distance of 1200 kilometers.

At that point, I believe I will be prepared to write all my experiences.
As well, I recognize that even today, there are things that are new to me but are a result of my Camino experience, therefore, my rendition will not only include details of the trips but also my life back home both in between both trips and on my return from Portugal. This is planned for mid-April to mid July 2013.

I miss the Camino – a lot… often… wholeheartedly! I am trying to put in perspective the lessons I have experienced on the Camino and applying those lessons on a daily basis. Until then, I am living my charmed and blessed life as I prepare for the next Camino trip.

I am living each day with such gratitude for my family, my friends and my experiences.
One year ago my life took a very different path – it’s been an INCREDIBLE path!
I am looking forward to decades of path meandering !!

A very challenging day…

This day has been the most challenging day so far. Both in the sense of the emotional side as well as physical.

We had to trek over 8 km of ascent to get the Iron Cross. I spent about an hour there, doing a lot of remembering, a lot of prayers to honor those who have left us.
I wanted to pick a special, less likely to be found area amongst the hundreds of thousands of rocks, tockens and other items left by other pilgrims.

It was very interesting to walk around and see all the things that people had left. From baby booties, to photos, from candles to personal items. Most of the immense mound is made of rocks… Rocks that were left from a variety of locations. Some had names, some had dates, some even had painted scenes or pictures; true art pieces.

Less than one kilometer past the Cruz, spelled in rocks was a strong message ¨Leave it behind¨. Interesting as to the location of that message because it was about then that the old ¨water tap¨came on strong…

The physical side of the day was hard enough climbing up to the cross, but oh – – the walk down was so difficult. Mostly very unyielding road with loads of rocks and a difficult incline. Match that with a cold wind and drizzle, it just was truly challenging.

I thanked my boots many times when I knew that if it wasn´t for the stability my boots offered, my ankles would be a lot worse for wear. My knees feel like they are on fire, and my glutes are not far behind (not pun intended).
I wonder if the placement of the cross wasn´t purposely chosen to make pilgrims truly feel not only emotional but physical challenges!

But all is well… I have time to rest tonight, WIFI at the albergue so I don´t have to go anywhere… I can´t download any of my camera pics, so those will have to wait, but all in all, the most difficult day but I am still happier than ever to be on this journey.