No gifts for you

Last week I talked about the shift and how I have changed because of my meditation practice. Something else has happened too. My need or desire for things has vanished. I lived a long time wanting things or needing money so I could acquire things. Part of that was being married to someone who controlled all the money that came and went from the bank account. I never had money and I never was allowed to spend it. I was dressed pretty much in rags and my mom took pity on me. She would buy me new clothes. I had to lie about them. If he wasn’t letting me buy clothes, no one else could either. It was just a long line of experiences I went through. In my new life when I had money, I wanted to buy things I never had before. I bought jewelry I liked, not jewelry that I was told to like or should like or was even allowed to have, I bought Tiffany. Eventually, money was spent on experiences. I travelled more and bought less crap. Now I hardly buy anything. My dishwasher burst into flames in the spring and I still haven’t replaced it. It doesn’t matter to me.

My point is, I feel different. I don’t want things. I just get what I need. I was told this would happen when you practiced meditation regularly. So now I know.

I also don’t want to buy things for other people. We aren’t exchanging Christmas gifts this year. I don’t want anyone to buy me anything because this feels different.

But…

I like doing things for people and will do that as gifts. My friend’s birthday is coming up and we were chatting about their new goal of cooking more and eating out less. So they were making an effort to learn to cook. Their favourite cookie is chocolate chip, so I was inspired to build a cookie kit with my tried and true cookie recipe and mail it to them.

I filled a cookie jar with 3 bags of premeasured ingredients ( flour mixture, sugar mixture and chocolate chips) and a small container of pure vanilla. I added a whisk and small spatula in case they didn’t have one. All they needed was a cookie sheet, butter and eggs.

From the photos they sent, it seems they turned out great. They had never made cookies from scratch and it was so much easier than they thought it would be. Now I think they will bake more often. Since I shared my recipe with them, I thought I would share it with you because Sharing is Caring.

This is a variation of the Nestle Toll House Cookie. I changed it to reflect the texture I like. It took me a year of experimenting with the ingredients but I settled on this one. It is my son’s favourite cookie of all time. Baking for him makes me happy. Mostly because he walks into the kitchen, sees the cookies and says “oooooooooooooooh” and immediately steals cookie dough and a baked cookie.

Edmonton Tourist’s Chocolate Chip Cookie

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature and salted, not that unsalted stuff. The flavour of the salt contrasts with the sweet and makes it AMAZING
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar – dark brown gives a deeper flavour but light brown will work!
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of PURE vanilla extract ( the Barefoot Contessa is correct –  use the good stuff. The best you can buy or make your own using vodka and vanilla bean.)
  • large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet but go to town on your favourite – broken chocolate bars are great too)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift or whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl ( I sift over the sugar mixture and only use one bowl) beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

(I use a cookie scoop that measures 1 tablespoon and parchment paper.)

BAKE 375° F a for 9 to 11 minutes (9 minutes for a soft chewie cookie, 11 minutes for a crisper texture I always bake for 9 minutes). Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes ( this is important! Leave the cookie too long on the hot sheet and it overcooks); remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Pro-Tip: Freeze dough in tablespoon portions and bake one or two for freshly baked cookies whenever you want them. My kids eat the cookie dough before they get into the oven so this is a wasted step for me. I will freeze baked cookies but they also go missing when I look for them.

56426690617__6F0395BB-E173-490F-AF4C-0995DF5BBE15.JPG

These don’t double well but they go great with milk. Best gift ever.

 

 

Resolutions

Today’s post is from some new friends (Alanna and Jana – it’s great when new friends rhyme!) I met at the WordPress Conference this year. They speak my language of yoga and Chocolate, so naturally we hit it off immediately! I invite you to take a stroll over to their page Rejuvenate your Prana and tell them I say hi!

——————————————————————————————————————–

RESOLUTIONS

Could it almost be the start of another New Year? Along with the excitement of a fresh start and new possibilities comes the dreaded New Year’s Resolution! I, like many others, have fallen prey to this tradition. I have made myself a lofty goal or two that usually goes something like; This year I will lose 10 pounds or This year I will stop drinking coffee or This year I will not buy so many clothes! I would immediately start working on my goal by setting a date on which to start it – say sometime mid-February perhaps (I would need some time to prepare myself to start this plan)! Actually, it would give me just enough time to forget I ever made that goal and to go on my merry way right into the next year at which time I could start all over again!

So, why do we do this to ourselves? I like to believe that those of us who create resolutions are doing so because we are ‘resolving’ to be a better version of ourselves in the coming year. We would like to see ourselves grow, change and evolve as the years go by. There’s nothing wrong with that right? Maybe not – but perhaps there is a different way to approach the process; a kinder, gentler and more rewarding way.

We all have what we call “guilty pleasures”, things that we love but that we believe are in some way ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’. Maybe it’s chocolate or coffee or shoe shopping. When we deprive ourselves of these things by taking them away, we usually end up rebounding and eating more chocolate than ever or having two lattes a day instead of just one! Well, what if we were to take the guilt away leaving only the pleasure? Perhaps we could do the things that we would most deeply desire for ourselves, not what we think we should do or need to do!

So how do we do this? Well, I believe the key lies in creating balance and using our focus to our benefit. In yoga, when we bring our bodies into a balancing posture like “Tree Pose”, we first find our center (putting our weight onto one leg), bring our gaze to a focal point in front of us (allowing us to stay steady) and then start coming into the pose and finding our balance. This isn’t the end of the process though. To find our balance in the pose, we may find ourselves losing our balance, swaying to the right or left or needing to put our foot back down on the ground. So, we allow ourselves to rock back and forth, to sway, to lose our balance and then we just come back into the pose again, the same way we did the first time.

I believe that setting resolutions or goals for ourselves can look the same as practicing Tree Pose. First, we find our center; that is, we discover what it is we truly want for ourselves. Maybe this is more vibrant health or a more satisfying diet or to feel better in our bodies. Then we bring our focus to that goal by seeing what it is that that we can do to achieve this for ourselves. Perhaps it is by adding new foods to our diet that make us feel healthy and vibrant instead of focusing on taking other foods away. Doing this allows us to place our focus on what we want in our lives, not what we feel we must not have. Then we start to find our balance within this new way of living. We notice when the balance feels right and if it doesn’t or we lose our balance, we come back to the process by re-adjusting our focus. We may start to notice that the foods or other things that don’t fit with our true intention for ourselves start to fall away or are replaced by things that make us feel differently.

So, what do you desire for yourself in the coming year? How will you approach this intention in a way that leaves you feeling pleasure minus the guilt? We’d love to know!

Speaking of guilt-free pleasures, Jana has been whisk-deep in culinary experimentation as usual. Her obsession lately has been to create “clean” eating chocolate treats. So here is a recipe that comes directly to you from the Rejuvenate Your Prana Kitchen. We call it “Passion Pot de Creme” (a no bake version with layers of orange-mint chocolate and raw cashew cream). Sometimes life doesn’t always deliver, but this desert sure will!

Recipe:

For the chocolate pot de crème:

8 oz. of good quality semi-sweet chocolate (I used Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate chips – use your favorite kind)

2 tsp of orange zest (other options: ground coffee, cinnamon, etc.)

1 C of plain almond milk

½ C finely ground almond

1 tsp of vanilla extract

For the cashew cream:

1 C raw cashews (soaked in water for 30 minutes)

3 oz dates (soaked in water for 30 minutes)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Water as needed (use soaking water from the dates)

Directions:

  1. For the pot de crème: melt chocolate in heat proof bowl (e.g. I placed the bowl in a shallow pan filled with water to create a double boiler)
  2. Mix orange zest in melted chocolate. Remove from heat.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the almond milk, vanilla and ground almonds. Pour mixture into melted chocolate and whisk until evenly blended.
  4. Pour into 4 small ramekins. Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours. The pot de crème should be thick and rich like pudding after refrigeration.
  5. Make the cashew cream: Drain water from cashews and place in a blender, add with dates and the soaking water and the vanilla (the amount of water added should be just enough to cover the solids). Taste and add more sweetener if desired (remember that the chocolate will be quite sweet so the cashew cream should have a milder taste).
  6. To assemble: Dollop cashew cream on top of chilled chocolate.
  7. Garnish with berries or chocolate shavings and serve chilled.
  8. Enjoy!

Happy New Year from Rejuvenate Your Prana!

The Edmonton Tourist Goes to Belgium!

The last time we spoke of my trip to Europe, we went to Vimy Ridge.  We all slept soundly laid awake for hours in Calais that night. Several farm fields over from the camp ground was a party that sounded like a rockin’ good time! It lasted all night and finally broke up around 6:00 AM, just in time for our Muppet filled caravan to greet the new day and head to Bruges, Belgium. Over breakfast my parents commented on the noise that night – and by noise they didn’t mean Chatterbox puking on the carpet, the meant the Farmville party next door. Apparently it was quieter sleeping at the Barcelona airport where they had picked up my sister weeks before…but I digress…

On the agenda today was Dunkirk and Ypres on the way to Bruges. I had heard of Dunkirk, the great battle that slaughtered Allies by the thousands. Churchill sent a plea out to every one who had row boats, fishing boats or other water craft to sail across the English Chanel and rescue who they could. The kind of story where you expect John Wayne to show up in. Except, Hollywood didn’t have a hand in this tale.

We arrived at Dunkirk early morning. The sun was shining in the cool morning air. We walked along the road to the War Memorial and Cemetery. What got my attention was the large square stones lining the sidewalks. They represented the thousands of soldiers known only to God. It was difficult for the Offspring to walk around and look at the names and ages of the young boys buried beneath the head stones. It was clear, they were ready to see parts of Europe that did not involve any wars of the 20th Century. A difficult task considering the neighborhood we were in, as well as the rest of the Muppet Show Cast was very interested in seeing more war memorabilia. It was their Grandfather who saw the fear in Chatterboxes eyes, and said, “Sweetheart, I’m sick of war stuff too, this will be our last day looking at war things.” Thanks Dad for understanding.

We all piled into the Caravan and headed towards Ypres on a Sunday. Unlike here, most places in Europe close on a Sunday….swell. The Offspring would be so pleased…

As soon as we crossed the border into Belgium, we saw an old wooden windmill. You think anyone would stop so we could take a picture? No, sorry…maybe the next time we see one. For the record, that was THE ONLY old wooden windmill we would ever see.

The arrival into Ypres was fairly amazing. We were looking for yet another War Memorial. Only this time, we drove through it! And NO, I don’t mean my Dad crashed into it, that didn’t happen while we were in the caravan – PHEW! It was a tunnel like structure.

I remember hearing my Honey’s excited voice, “WE ARE DRIVING THROUGH IT!” Cool! So we had arrived to the Menin Gate. It was impressive! It records the soldiers of the British Empire without graves. We walked through it, looked at names and saw my son’s name. Although I knew that wasn’t really my son, it still weakened my knees. At that moment I knew I never wanted to actually see my son’s name on a wall. I was ill.

We moved our way up to the grassy park that was high above Yrpes. I needed air, I didn’t share my feelings with my family. My honey wanted to keep exploring but I needed to change my view. Like my Offspring, the time had come for me to end the War Memorial visits. It was starting to affect me.

As we climbed into the sunshine I saw the most beautiful view. It was enough to change my focus. I suggested to The Muppet Show Cast that we head down towards the street level and explore the town for a while. Besides, I needed chocolate. I was in the country where the best chocolate in the WORLD is made! (If my Boss happens to read this post, FYI it is not Guatemala!)

The street we explored was call Victor Hugo – cool name for a street. Being Sunday, everything on Victor Hugo was closed except the Church, the 16 Pubs, and the Chocolate Shop! Sweet joyous chocolate, open on a Sunday? I must have died and gone to heaven! I spotted the shop from down the street. I lost track of the Muppets around me. It was like my destiny flashed before my eyes and showed me my future. I was destined to walk into that shop.

The Owner walked in from the behind the magic curtain – likely wasn’t really magic but to me it was. She greeted us and I spoke English to her hoping she was fluent. SUCCESS! She explained to me the wondrous delights that were displayed under the glass. We talked about how she hand makes them herself in the back, no factory bulk chocolate here! IT really was heaven and I was there to experience it! I asked advice on purchasing a variety. I needed some for my team, some for honey’s office, some for my boss and an EXTRA LARGE FABULOUS BOX for me! Honey bought a small sample bag to eat instead of lunch. The total for 5 boxes of handmade, the most delicious chocolates ever, was 15 euros. 15!!!! As I sit writing this I wish I bought myself 6 more boxes. Oh well Hind sight is 20/20.

As we strolled back to the caravan with chocolate smeared all over our faces, I thought about how thankful I was that I had my family to share this experience with and how it felt not to have my son on the wall.

Next stop, Bruges.

 

Melty Chocolaty Goodness

A chocolate bar and melted chocolate. Chocolat...
Image via Wikipedia

I have been engaged in a love affair for years. My Honey knows about it and sometimes the 3 of us share some quality time. My Honey is very understanding. I bet you know what I am talking about! You love him too. Dark, rich and smooth. The perfect type.

Chocolate.

In 1978 my family embarked on a 6 week adventure across Europe. I was about to be 11. Little did I know that the moment I set foot on European soil, my life would be forever changed.

For an entire decade I experienced the delights of Canadian Chocolate. Aero Bar was my favorite. Smooth milk chocolate, wrapped in foil, filled with tiny bubbles. Melt in your mouth chocolaty goodness. Every time I was allowed a treat, it was Aero or Smarties. I had a deep affection for Milk Chocolate.

Europe taught me that I was only practicing for the real thing. Belgium, Swiss, British Cadbury all teased me with the promise of more. I experienced Toblerone for the first time and loved the odd shape of the bar. Ferrero chocolate from Italy was delectable. I remember sitting on a patio somewhere along the Mediterranean, not really sure which country as we visited all of them that summer. We were enjoying a continental breakfast. Croissants, fruit, jam and pot of chocolate. That was the first time I had melted chocolate as a beverage. Locally, it is Hot Chocolate, it comes from a can and is powdered. There is was chocolate melted with hot milk added. Undeniably the best hot sweet beverage I have ever had to date. It came in a tiny individual silver tea pots. I remember thinking how grown up it felt to be served your own potted chocolate and the taste was heavenly. Easter Bunnies were forever melted and turned into my most favorite beverage. It never quite tasted the same because the quality was just not there.  In England I learned the delights of a 99 Flake. It is a soft serve vanilla cone with a Flake bar stuck out the side. I remember that snack better than I remember the Tower of London. The Ice Cream Van was located beside the Tower Bridge and as people left the Tower of London, they purchased a 99. Scrumptious!

As an attempt to eat less and move more, I have taken on the challenge of “better choices”. It works like this: My Starbucks Order is now skinny, I choose a dipped cone at DQ instead of a Blizzard. See what I mean? Better choices. Not Diet. Eat Less Move More. But when it comes to Chocolate I am defenseless.

I wish I had the same food sense as my sister. As a kid, she would bite into a chocolate bar, eating one or two bites then be done. Never in  my whole life have I ever been able to do that. One or two bites gave her the taste she was craving then she would put down the bar and walk away. SHE WALKED AWAY! Wow, I wanted to eat my bar, finish hers and go see if there was more. If you know us, then you can see that she walks away from food WAY MORE then I do. I don’t seem to have the switch that says, you are full, or finished or not hungry. I just have to make myself stop. I am getting better but I still need a long way to go.

Soon I will be back in the land of chocolate. I plan to share the best with my children and honey. I will bring back a sampling of the “good stuff” to show my boss that Guatemalan chocolate that she brought back was the worst food I had ever tasted in my life. I will teach her that chocolate is supposed to taste divine.

I will only be gone a week, ten days, less than a fortnight. I am giving myself permission to eat more than I move for that time, as long as it is a worthy chocolate befitting of my undoing. After all I was only 10 once. I want to experience the same pleasure of Chocolate without the guilt.

Isn’t that a novel concept. A Guilt Free Vacation. I am going to live, love, laugh, play and eat like I did when I was 10. I am sure I will need to remind myself that it is okay. Risks are like that. I am taking one. So now I get to be a Real Tourist being a Tourist.

This should be an amazing adventure!