Archive for November, 2008

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Sandwiches are beautiful

November 28, 2008

When I go out to eat with friends, there’s about three suggestions that I nearly always make for what we should eat: sushi, curry, or sandwiches. Or cake (alright, that’s four. Math was never my strong point). However, most people that I know either don’t like sushi so we don’t eat it, or else they love it so much that they’re always having it so they don’t want it when I suggest it. Ditto with curry. And cake just isn’t something that you can have for dinner. At least, not every time you go out for a meal…

As for sandwiches, everyone loves sandwiches! And there are so many options that most people won’t protest if I drag them off on a sandwich-hunting expedition. Being a student with no one to cook for me, I tend to eat a lot of sandwiches at home, too, because its easiest to put together.

I didn’t always like them. In fact, I refused to eat them in elementary school. The only “sandwiches” I ever ate were pancake sandwiches (recipe: take 2 pancakes leftover from yesterday’s breakfast. Smear one with butter and add a large quantity of cinnamon and sugar. Put other pancake on top. Eat.)

Now, however, I have grown to appreciate the goodness that is sandwiches. Some of my current favourites are:
- turkey with cranberry sauce: my staple when I go out anywhere. Ask for no mayo!
- peanut butter and jam (best with PB2 and raspberry jam)
- vegetables and hummus
- egg whites (scramble them with oregano and crushed red pepper in a non-stick pan with no fat added) with raw spinach and tomatoes (cucumber as well if its on sale, and green pepper if you’re feeling particularly extravagant!). Best on toasted bread.
- grilled cheese; sometimes with bacon to really jazz it up!
- this double decker delight. Look for “thins” bread at your grocery store to make this sandwich; it’s easier to eat, considering there’s 3 pieces of bread in there. I use a slightly different variation of the recipe, with PB2 and honey, and then PB2, jam, and banana for the next part.
- classic club. Except I order mine with no bacon and no mayo. It really does still taste great!

What are your favourite sandwich combinations? I need new ideas if I’m going to continue surviving off sandwiches for the next few years (assuming that by then I’ll either be really sick of sandwiches or else have finally learned to cook some quality food). Especially because my kitchen skills certainly aren’t getting any better- remember this pumpkin bread disaster? Yesterday I made a chocolate pumpkin loaf and the same thing happened. It was in the oven for over an hour, but when I took it out the inside was raw! Pumpkins are out to get me.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to answer the polls!

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Poll: Health Inspections

November 26, 2008

For my final research project in my Investigative Journalism class, we had to research, investigate, and write a piece on any topic of our choice (my topic was misleading nutrition claims on food products, which I will talk more about another day). One of my classmates pitched her story to us which I found to be particularly intriguing. Her interest lay in the health inspections of restaurants.

What I think is very interesting about health inspections is how little you hear about them. There are always restaurant reviews in the newspaper and in the local food magazines, discussing the atmosphere of various restaurants and how good the dishes taste and so on. But the cleanliness of the place? Nada.

So I looked into it just a bit. It’s all public information, so if you look around on the Internet you can find out about your local restaurants and which ones have been closed by health inspectors. If you are in the Winnipeg area, just click here for a list of these restaurants. It also provides a description of the reason behind why the restaurant got closed down.

Fire damage, of course, isn’t a big deal. But “filthy throughout” and “rodents”? Ew. And not all of these places are sketchy diners that have been found inadequate upon inspection, either (not that all diners are sketchy. But they’d have a more likely reputation for being so). I mean, even Starbucks and the Fyxx and Second Cup and the Olive Garden made this list (but we all knew about Carlos & Murphy’s anyway- if only their food didn’t taste so good!).

You can check out the list of convictions here for the restaurants in Winnipeg (for everyone else? Just Google food inspections in your area. The document you’re looking for should be one of the first items listed). Some of these places that were convicted just got reprimands; others were only fined less than a couple hundred dollars. And even if a place did have to pay up, it sure doesn’t do much to informing the consumers or to the restaurants reputation if the information isn’t splashed all over the newspapers! Personally, I wouldn’t mind knowing about health inspections when they are going on. I don’t know if I would stop eating at the place anyway, but I would still like to be aware of what is happening in those kitchens.

What do you all think?

And after you answer that poll…

Just one more:

Thanks all! We’ll check back with these polls in about a month to discuss the results.

One of my other classes is on online course, in which I have been trying to improve my blog. So, I created a WordPress account and imported all of my blog posts there. Now that it has been created, I am considering switching my blog from Blogger to WordPress, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on it. Seeing as you would all be reading it, I figure your contribution is pretty important in making this kind of decision. I’d create a poll for your answers, but that seemed a little pretentious (says the girl who used a photo of herself doing a push up at the Colosseum as her header at WordPress).

The one at WordPress could be a little more colourful, I think, and it still needs a bit of touching up. Anyway, leave your opinion in the comments- do you prefer my blog here at Blogger or the one at WordPress? Do you care? Don’t be shy! And thanks for your input:)

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Life Lessons: Your Principles

November 24, 2008

It has been a month since our last poll, and the results are in!

The question: How does justifying your food choices affect you? The results:

  • I often feel the need to justify what I’m eating and it makes me feel bad
    42%
  • Sometimes I’ll explain why I’m eating a certain way, but it doesn’t bother me much
    26%
  • I’m guilt-free! I don’t feel the need to explain myself to anyone else
    20%
  • I’ve never felt judged for my food choices so this doesn’t apply to me
    11%
  • There were 45 voters in total. And almost half of us feel bad- because of how others react (or how we think others react) to what we are eating. While this doesn’t exactly surprise me, it certainly does make me sad. Somewhere along the way, the notion of eating food as fuel and enjoying what we eat has turned into a monstrous guilt-trap of self-loathing. Perhaps not always quite that extreme, but it is absolutely a major problem that needs to be dealt with.
  • This leads me to another question: what do you do to deal with this problem? How do you separate your emotions from food and just enjoy it?
  • I think a big part about this issue is in deciding what our principles are. If I have to ask myself if I really want to be eating whatever I’m eating, or if I’m just having it because everyone else is, or because it’s a “safe” food that I won’t feel judged for having, or because I’m bored/sad/insert other emotion here, then that’s a good indication that I should just set it down and not have it. Similarly, if I am feeling judged for eating a certain way, I’m going to be asking myself why I feel that way. Is it that my choices are completely different than the other peoples’ around me? Are they commenting on it or teasing me? Is it all simply in my head and I’m the only one uncomfortable about it?
  • I think it’s important to think about why you eat what you eat- like anything else in life. Why are you doing what you are doing? Is it because you really believe in what you are doing, or is it because that is how you have been taught to act?
  • It is assumed that we all “ought” to attend school, get a career, and get married. And that’s well and good, if that is what you want from life. But doing this because everyone is telling you that you should, or because you feel as though you would be judged for acting differently, is probably not going to make you happy in life. And aren’t we all about living life to the fullest and enjoying ourselves? (The correct answer would be “yes”).
  • Let me know what you think! Have you explored your options and are you happy with where you are at? Do you know what your principles in life are and are you following them?
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Life Lessons: Winning by Losing

November 21, 2008

I’ve been tagged again- thanks CP! This time we’ve got a music meme:

Music to cry to: Viva la Vida by Coldplay. No joke, every time I hear this song it brings tears to my eyes. One day I was driving home from boot camp and this song came on the radio, and I burst into tears! I have no idea why this song affects me so much. It’s beautiful.

Music to make you scream out loud with the joy of a thousand spring mornings: I’ve Just Seen a Face by the Beatles. I love the version by Jim Sturgess in Across the Universe. This song just makes me smile. Not sure I’m so much screaming. But smiling for sure.

Music you know you won’t like: most country type music. Really bad boy bands. Hedley. It just doesn’t do it for me.

Music to fill your head and block out bad thoughts: Astair by Matt Costa; one of the prettiest songs I know of.

Music to jump to: Arctic Monkeys! (If that music doesn’t get you dancing, nothing will. Especially Cigarette Smoker Fiona).

Music to run to: Immaculate Machine or The New Pornographers… somehow it’s the kind of music that inspires you enough to make you want to just keep on going. But I don’t think it would be quite so good for strength training. Now AC/DC, that’s some quality music when you’re strength training!

Music to transport you: as in, road trip? Matt Good, hands down:) But otherwise in a more transport-mind-from-body way, it would have to be Josh Ritter. All of his music is great. Wandering Daughter by Kimya Dawson does this for me as well.

Music to just sit to: Do I Leave My Heart Here by Oliver the Penguin, and just about anything by Cat Power- soft and quiet.

Go check out all of those fantastic artists! And leave me a comment with some songs that you really like. I know next to nothing about music and feel the need to expand that.

Are you Winning or Losing?

This happened yesterday in class- we were doing group work and my group had finished, so the conversation turned to random chitchat:
Jordan: Ugh, I lost my $60 bus pass and my student card the other day.
Me: I lost my wallet with $60 cash, my student card, drivers license, health card, debit card, visa card, and a whole bunch of other cards.
Jordan: Oh.
Me: Yeah. I win.
Alex: It’s funny how you can somehow win by losing.

The concept can be used in many different ways. It can just be an ironic twist. It can be, in a way that applies to lots of people working to get healthy, the notion of losing weight or inches. And sometimes you’re losing out in the short run so that you’ll win in the long term. To me, winning by losing is indicative that there is a positive side to everything. You can turn that negative stuff right around and make it something positive- just to spite it!

(We’re all about the optimism around here).

What does winning by losing mean to you?

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Binging

November 19, 2008

I know I’ve already written quite a bit about cookie dough, but I have one last thing to say about it, and then I’ll be done!

The cookie dough is gone. The batch that was made on Saturday and put in the fridge to “nibble” on- gone! I’d like to be able to say that I baked the cookies and gave them to the needy. Or that I was resilient and just tossed the dough to prevent myself from binging. You know, the usual things that all those magazines tell you to do when you’ve got junk food in your house. But I didn’t. Instead, I ate pretty much an entire batch of cookie dough in the space of four days (we’re bringing a whole new meaning to Sojourner Truth’s Aren’t I a Woman?! If any man out there would do this, please, speak up!). I did throw out the very last bit, but honestly that’s because the dough wasn’t mixed completely so it was just big lumps of brown sugar at the bottom of the bowl. Somehow that’s not quite as edible as when it’s combined with butter and flour and chocolate chips. Yummy.

For the record, at this point either I have a stomach of steel or else salmonella poisoning is just a myth.

Binging is not good, I think we can all agree on that. But if you are going to binge, you’ve got to do it right (and I’m not talking here about binging on a consistent basis or anything; I’m talking about a random, infrequent binge that has nothing to do with disordered eating or anything like that. That’s a whole different story).

Months ago, I wrote about how I had an enormous craving for chocolate, but was determined to stave it off so I ate smoked mussels instead. All that happened was I ate lots of other kinds of food, and then gave in and had lots of chocolate anyways. Man, did that ever backfire.

So when I was sitting in class today and trying to concentrate but found that all I could think about was cookiedoughcookiedoughcookiedough, I knew that the only way I could solve my problem was to get rid of that cookie dough. Get it out of the house. And so I did just that. By putting it in my tummy.

Mentally, this was actually a very good test for me. I was so proud of myself for not freaking out about it afterward that I really felt much better. Well, my body didn’t physically feel so good. But my mind was at ease. Identifying what the problem was- having the cookie dough in the house- and then solving the problem- removing said cookie dough from the house- is an important part about figuring out our vices and dealing with them. And especially with my anxieties regarding food, this was a huge accomplishment for me to be able to do this and be calm and recognize that I can start fresh tomorrow, completely cookie dough free!

Everyone is going to have their own way of dealing with these issues. For me, this way works. I don’t so much have a problem with getting these things quickly out of the house via my stomach because I know that they won’t be around again for a long time. And I really, really wanted it. So I have my craving, go beyond satisfying it, feel slightly ill for having more than satisfied it, and then can put it from my mind and carry on my merry way. I think that if the cookie dough were still in the fridge I’d be distracted by it for the next week.

We talk a lot about how to physically “repair the damage” of a binge- but what about mentally? It’s always been the mental aspect that has been my main problem. I’d inwardly be kicking myself for something like this and be so anxious and ashamed that I would just feel awful for a long time. But I seem to be moving past these mental obstacles. And it’s a good thing, too, because I don’t think I could physically take any more testing- my head is hurting quite enough as it is from all that sugar! Am hoping my arteries aren’t too clogged with butter, either:)

What are your tips for handling these kinds of situations? How do you mentally prepare for them, and how do you mentally deal with it after the fact?

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How to eat a pile of cookie dough

November 17, 2008

I think I ate my own body weight in cookie dough this weekend. Oof. Thank goodness for pajama pants.

Yesterday I filed a police report about my wallet, and I don’t expect it will turn up but at least I feel like I’ve done everything I could do for it. The bathroom floor got a nice clean, too, because I dropped my sugar scrub all over it. Twice. At least the oil has made the floor very shiny and pretty!

Today my dad (remember him? Click on the links to read his guest posts about a recipe for Caesar salad, growing herbs, the cost of bread, and unusual food stories!) left for Cambodia. He is going there for at least a year to investigate war crimes with the United Nations. He has done these kinds of missions in the past but it has never been to anywhere quite so far away, and it’s never been for quite this long. I’m super excited for him and very proud (and also looking forward to going to visit him:)), but it’s also been a rather sad and stressful weekend.

As I have already noted, cookie dough is one of those go-to’s for a lot of people when the going gets rough. After my experiences with this technique of dealing with stress this past weekend, I figured I’d pass on some tips:

How to eat a pile of cookie dough!

- choose chocolate chip cookies because they are the easiest, most classic cookies.
- get your sister to make the dough so that you don’t have to do any work (make sure its homemade. Store bought stuff won’t cut it; this way, you can add huge mounds of chocolate chips whereas the food manufacturers might skimp out on them).
- have a taste once the cookie dough is made but then stick it in the fridge (or, if you’re really desperate, put it in the freezer). Cookie dough always tastes better when its cold.
- distract yourself while the cookie dough is getting cold. Drinking tea, reading blogs, and dropping your sugar scrub all over the place are excellent for taking about the same amount of time as it will take for the cookie dough to be cold enough.
- put on your pajama pants while waiting. This is an essential step to the cookie dough eating process. You won’t notice when you’ve eaten far too much*
- eat lots of cookie dough, straight from the bowl, preferably with said sister at your side (it tastes better if you have company). Wander away to take a brief break and let the dough get colder, then return to eat a lot more.
- stop eating the cookie dough when it makes your throat sore and you get a sugar headache. This will likely happen when you’ve eaten about half the dough.
- the next morning your sugar headache should be sufficiently subsided so that you can have some more for breakfast!

(Seriously, has anyone else ever had a sugar headache from cookie dough? I’ve never gotten a stomachache from it but apparently my head doesn’t like all that added sugar. My tummy sure does though, judging by the massive sugar cravings I have been having all day. Oh dear).

On a completely unrelated note, I just want to let all of you bloggers know how much I love to read your blogs. One of the best parts of my day is when I get to sit down and check out tons and tons of blogs and see what insightful things you have to say. I am looking forward to the end of this term so that I can spend more time really appreciating your writing, opinions, ideas, and thoughts!

*until you put your jeans back on the next day.

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Analyzing Stress and Control Issues

November 15, 2008

I am a naturally very lucky person. For the most part, the stars seem to shine on me with the things that get handed to me on a silver platter and with the opportunities that I am presented with- with some things I’ll work very hard to get to where I want to be, but the point is that I was given the opportunity to have the chance to work hard for it, and for that I am eternally grateful.

The problem with being lucky is that every so often, the “stars” seem to realize that this is not entirely fair. So they like to throw a wrench in my plans. Just for kicks.

That’s what happened today. It was shaping up to be a busy and crazy weekend anyways, but then, yesterday, my computer went odd. Malfunctioned? I’m not entirely sure. At any rate, the desktop went funny and I thought that I might have lost all my work (thank goodness for Google Documents that most stuff is saved on the Internet!). I also was unable to open up the Internet, which was frustrating to say the least.

Even so, I have the computer at work and my sister has a computer at home that I could use in a pinch, so I wasn’t too concerned. However, last night I went to see the new James Bond movie (side note: it was awesome. I love James Bond), and it wasn’t until I was nearly back home that I realized my wallet was no longer on me. We drove back to the theater, pounded on the doors until they unlocked them for us, and searched for it. It wasn’t there, so I left a description of it and we drove back to my place. About a block from my apartment I realized I no longer had my keys on me, either, and must have left them at the theater when I was writing down the description of my wallet (apparently I need to screw my head on a little tighter). Luckily my sister was at home and able to let me in.

I spent much of today going back and forth trying to find my wallet and keys, only to come to the conclusion that either my wallet fell out of my pocket and someone found and kept it, or someone outright pick pocketed me. So I had to cancel my credit card and then get some new keys cut. Of course, losing my Internet, wallet, and keys wasn’t quite enough bad luck for one day (either that, or when one thing goes wrong, suddenly all the other little things that go wrong seem much more noticeable…), so on my walk back from getting the keys cut my nose began bleeding. And then when I tried to report my missing wallet to the police center, I learned that that particular center is now shut down.

It was about a half hour into my walk that I began to really calm down and became interested in analyzing the various stages of stress that I had gone through. Any stressful situation is an interesting psychological analysis, and the best time to do such an analysis is when you are experiencing it right then. So I looked at how I had reacted throughout this whole business.

1. Loss of Internet: feel anxious and slightly annoyed, but aware that this is a problem that can be sorted out (thank goodness for people in my life with computer skills!)
2. Loss of wallet: outwardly lighthearted with friends, inwardly freaking out.
3. Loss of keys: outwardly lighthearted, inwardly cursing myself. As soon as I get home, begin to cry before going to bed. This morning, I wake up and make a blueberry lemon loaf, clean the kitchen, and clean the bathroom to distract myself from the current problem and to stop thinking about my dream in which I find that my wallet was in my purse all along (I hate waking up from dreams like that).
4. Go to the movie theater to ask if the wallet has been found, only to find that it hasn’t, and somehow no one saw my keys either: I leave another description of the wallet and am much more outwardly frazzled and close to tears. Return home, slam my hand against a door, exercise my lungs a bit, and throw myself angrily on my bed (I found my bed to be more forgiving than the door). Eat chocolate chip cookie dough and discover that my Internet is magically back, the desktop is back to normal and none of my work has been lost. Hurrah! (Eat more cookie dough in celebration).
5. Go back to movie theater to check inside the theater to see if wallet got wedged between seats: it hasn’t been, and when I get someone to check the office again they still can’t find anything, and assure me that they have my description so I don’t need to leave it a third time. Am not having very good control over my emotions publicly anymore.
6. Get keys cut: I feel so good that something went right that I am able to calm myself down a bit, and reflect that the worst that has happened is that I lost my birthday present (a gift card for a bookstore) and the $60 cash (aka 5 hours of work- damn that’s annoying when you look at it that way!) that was in my wallet. The credit card, debit card, and all the other cards can be replaced without me losing out too much (if my wallet was stolen, they thankfully didn’t use my credit card before I canceled it); getting another student card, drivers license, and health card will be a hassle but its doable.
7. Nose starts bleeding: think to myself, come on, seriously? and am more amused than anything else at this point.
8. Get to police station and see that it’s closed: almost start to cry again. Instead come home, eat some cookie dough, and sit down to write.

Ultimately, from this I’ve learned that a) doors really are solid and don’t like it when you hit them; b) indulging in cookie dough is a good thing every once in a while. I hadn’t had it in a long time and if I was going to have it at some point, today was definitely the day for it. It didn’t make my teeth feel great, but it sure tasted good and I enjoyed every bite of it. And I’m sure I’ll continue enjoying it as the evening continues, though I expect my stomach will be almost as irritated with me as my teeth currently are; c) walking is absolutely the best thing that I can do when I start to get stressed; d) sometimes I need a good stressful event to make me a little more productive (ie. cleaning and baking).

If someone told me while I was in one of the earlier stages of this course of events that I should analyze my emotions and thoughts as the situation unfolded, I’d probably… “politely express my distaste for their advice”. Even so, I’ve found that this analyzation really did calm me down, and I really would recommend you try doing it the next time you find yourself stressed out and dealing with plain bad luck. It’s a useful thing to do because it gives you something to focus on that isn’t exactly the problem itself, and it also helps you to deal with the problem by understanding your own emotions. I believe that there is a place for those instant feel-goods (cookie dough), as long as they are then followed by the more longer lasting feel-goods (walking and writing).

I think what really bothered me was the lack of control I had over the situation. While the keys were my own fault for losing, I don’t honestly know how I could have lost my wallet. And suddenly having absolutely no access to any money is rather alarming. I borrowed some money so that I could get the keys cut and to just have some cash on hand until I get another debit card, but I really dislike knowing that I need to rely on someone else for their help. In the case of someone giving something just because, I don’t mind that at all. It’s when I really do need help and need to rely on someone else to provide for me that I feel uncomfortable; accepting generosity and gifts is one thing but needing help is another. I’m no longer in control of the situation, and I dislike that.

And that, I believe, is what led me to analyze my emotions. Because only through understanding them was I able to regain control over them. To regain control over the only thing that I really could have control over at that point.

I clearly have some control issues, but I am not exactly sure if it is precisely a negative thing or not, and I am also rather at a loss with how I should try to solve these issues if they are in fact negative. I would love to hear any advice you have at all on the subject!

Also, what do you all think about analyzing your emotions? Does it help you to deal with stress? Come to that, how do you deal with stress?

PS If you made it this far, thank you for reading.

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