omelette

Real Food: Life after the Whole30

omelette

Many of you have read all about my recent adventures with food, or, more accurately, lack of many “normal” foods. Towards the end of February, I started what ended up being 54 days of the Whole30 diet, as proscribed by the Whole9 Life founders Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. Yes, that “30” in there refers to 30 days, but I decided to go hard-core and do 60 54.

You will probably also be able to tell from the plethora of posts about the Whole30 that I enjoyed it. It was difficult at times, but it forced me to learn about good food. Real food. I had to start making my own salad dressings and using better oils. I began to use all those dried spices that had been taking up space in my cupboard. I started reading labels and growing increasingly disgusted with the food and beverage industry.

For 54 days (not including a “cheat weekend” after the first 30 days), I avoided all dairy, all grains and grain products (including corn and all of its derivatives), all sugars and sweeteners (including honey and maple syrup), all legumes (peanuts, soy, etc.), and most preservatives and additives.

After the first few days, I started to feel consistently great. I had a predictable and steady amount of energy from morning til night, and got great sleep. I was motivated to start running and do ab workouts.

I ate a lot, learned a lot, went through vegetables and eggs like nobody’s business, spent a lot of money on groceries (and I didn’t even get the ideal grass-fed organic meats I was supposed to), and ultimately lost at least 15 pounds (I haven’t done a final weigh-in since losing more weight after the diet was completed). I was getting “wholly healthy,” as I called it.

At the end of my 54 days, I needed a change of pace. Even the Hartwigs admit that the Whole30 is a bit too extreme for anyone to keep up for any extended length of time. The Whole30 is actually a stricter version of the Paleo (Paleolithic, Stone Age, Caveman, etc…) diet, and only meant to be undergone for 30 days here and there.

Having done such an intense diet for two months and then needing to break free, then finding myself in exams, then packing, then moving (to a city and in with my boyfriend=major transition), then looking for a job, and on and on, I fell off the good-food wagon. I guess I’m “lucky” to be one of those people who wasn’t wracked by cramps after every bite of “normal” food after so long an abstinence, but it was altogether too easy to fall back onto more convenient foods.

Convenience and frugality warred against my new good-food habits, and cooking for a non-vegetable-or-healthy-food lover further compounded my dilemma.

I still haven’t fully made peace between the warring factions. Farmer’s Markets have made it easier to justify the purchase of good-quality vegetables and meats, and I am attempting to home-make bread, dressings, sauces, burgers, chicken fingers, and other favourites and staples.

My plan of action is to real-food-ify my kitchen as much as possible. By “real food” I mean non-processed, non-preserved, organic ingredients wherever possible. I will use honey instead of sugar, olive oil instead of vegetable oils, organic flour and vinegar, make my own spice mixes (like seasoning salt), and generally go back to buying items without preservatives and additives.

The trick will be bringing Johnathan along with me, but I accept it as a personal challenge!

Two amazing bloggers help our real food revolution on an almost daily basis: Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food, and Heather of A Real Food Lover. These ladies have made the spices and the sauces, the breads and the pastas, and have real food solutions for almost any “normal” junk-filled dish.

The bread recipe I have been making lately is from 100 Days of Real Food. It has turned out differently every time I’ve made it (I think I’ve been making it with 4 1/2 cups of flour instead of 4 1/4. Oops), but it’s infallibly delicious!

Honey Whole Wheat Bread recipe

What are your go-to real food solutions? How have you managed to wean your household off of additives and preservatives? I’d love to hear your stories!

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Crack, aka pizza

Cheese and Bread and Chocolate, oh my. AKA: I fell off the horse for 3 days.

Crack, aka pizza
Crack, aka pizza

I finished my first Whole30 last week. Thursday was the official day 30, but I continued the diet through Friday.

Then, to be able to celebrate my friend’s birthday on Saturday and celebrate finishing the Whole30 with my boyfriend on Sunday, I took a two-day diet break. I pretty much fell off the wagon for two days: On Saturday I had a muffin for breakfast (tried two but couldn’t even eat the first one), and cream in two coffees.Then, my body was freaking out, so I gave it two bananas and a whole bunch of raw veggies. It didn’t get any protein until around 5:00 pm. Bad scene, not to be repeated.

Dinner on Saturday was a delightful catered party spread that included homemade salsa and tapenade and fruit and veggies and meats and artesanal (sp?) cheeses and wraps with goat cheese and sauces and crackers and… SOOO good! Definitely worth “falling off the wagon” for. Or horse. I started with horse, I had probably continue with horse.

The bite-sized finger-food party grazing spread was fantastic. I had been in touch with the caterers beforehand to make sure I wasn’t falling off the horse for a meal full of deep-fried food and breads and sugars, etc. But no, of course no. These people are way too classy for that.

I also tried a couple of the signature drink, The Justin, named in honour of the birthday boy. After no alcohol for a month, I felt like two was enough, and what with a glass of punch besides, I started having a major thirst issue and couldn’t drink enough water.

But I’m pretty sure it was the dessert that caused the painful pangs in my belly the next morning. Justin’s mom is the dessert queen. I do not exaggerate. In all honesty, she is the Martha Stewart of our region, but dessert is possibly one of her brightest stars.

There was an entire table full of desserts that she had made. Cupcakes. Cheesecakes. Pies. A gigantic red velvet black forest trifle cake. Chocolate. Peanut butter. Strawberries. Skor. Caramel. Whipped cream. HEAVEN!!!!

I couldn’t help it. If the dessert was going to kill me from the insides out, I was going to die with the best dessert in the world on my lips. So I tried at least a bite from three desserts, including a whole (small) slice of pecan pie. Mmmmmmmm!!! I didn’t even have the presence of mind to take a picture of that plate of goodness, such was my eagerness to devour it.

Yesterday morning, for a few minutes, I felt cramp-like pangs in my belly. Then I got up and added cheddar and sriracha  to an otherwise Whole30-compliant omelette, and cream to my coffee. Ahh dairy, I’ve missed you! In the afternoon, I ate leftover braised cabbage, aware I would be sinning majorly that night.

Knowing I’d be going another month without any kind of grains or dairy, I decided to pile on another layer of dirty eating and make pizza for my celebratory dinner with Johnathan. Caveats? I put lots of veggies on mine, and made the dough and sauce from scratch. Both involve non-kosher ingredients. It was a cheat or bust kind of weekend, I guess.

Then I proceeded to deviate further and I ate an absolutely heavenly leftover cupcake from the party the night before, and then one my most favourite awful foods: a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Oh, and full disclosure: I had 2 glasses of wine with my pizza.

By now, all the Paleo people are cringing. Sorry, guys.

As much as I enjoyed all of those flavours that I had missed and will continue to miss, I was glad to get back to the strictness of the Whole30: I’ve gotten used to feeling great all the time, and all the cheese and chocolate and cupcakes in the world can’t give that to me.

Pushing the reset button

Today was supposed to be the first day of my second Whole30. It started well, but when dinner-time hunger pangs hit, I felt the need to not waste the two pieces of leftover pizza in my fridge. So I had to strike the attempt and postpone Second Whole30, Day  until tomorrow.

This second edition of the Whole30 is going to be even more hard-core than the first: no Fudge Babies. Less fruit. Less almond butter, less smoothies.

I’ve been inspired by a great opportunity which I will tell you about tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I’m excited to get my good sleep back and lose the residual tailbone pain…

New house!

It’s official: The Search is OVER!!

New house!
This is the only picture we have right now... meet our new home!

Yup, you heard me. Johnathan and I are no longer searching for apartments. WE FOUND ONE!!!

John told me when we started this process that most people look at eight to ten places before finding the right one. We thought number four was it. Then I thought number six was it. But really, it was number nine. Go figure.

Our future new little place (it’s ours as of May 1st) is a whole house! It has three small bedrooms with closets, a private fenced-in backyard, a renovated kitchen and bathroom, new windows, nine-foot ceilings with fabulous original trim around the windows and doors, a full finished basement, lots of cupboard space, enough space to squeeze in four cars (Hey, we each have winter and summer cars. Don’t judge us. Or maybe judge Johnathan. He has two summer cars and a motorcycle on the road. And a couple more vehicles in a barn waiting to be restored, and… you get it.), and character!

When I posted my Adventures in Apartment-Hunting post last week, we had been recently disappointed with the loss of number four. Then I got excited about number six, but Johnathan knew there was something better out there. He kept up the vigorous Kijiji (and Padmapper.com, thanks, Michelle!) search, having me call places to make appointments for when he was done his work day.

John had to pull off the road to call me after he went through what will be our new place. This from a man who was already on his way to my house, and who doesn’t like to make phone calls. This was an excited man.

He’s also a considerate man: instead of telling them he’d take it on the spot, he told them he had to make sure I’d like it, too, and that he would bring me with him first thing the next morning. True to his word, we were there at 9:00. AM. On a Saturday morning. It’s about an hour and fifteen minutes to drive from my place to our new place. Plus shower time. ::yawn::

new house, other side
Imagine this with our vehicles and without the canopy over the door...

But it was totally worth it. That man also has good taste. It has everything we need. Well, except a dishwasher. But we WILL find some way around that, or I don’t know Johnathan at all!

The only thing that matters now is that we know where we’re going to land. Our patience and hard work have paid off, and we are no longer slaves to Kijiji!

PS: It’s in London. We’re moving to London. Not sure how I overlooked that fact when I first posted this. Oops!

search tools

Adventures in Apartment-Hunting

search tools
The implements of our search.

Johnathan and I have been actively looking for a place to live in London for two weeks now. Honestly, house/apartment-hunting could be a part-time job!

Each day, we spend a couple of hours, together and apart, searching Kijiji for new or updated ads offering places for rent. We have made many phone calls and sent many emails and spent a lot of time driving around looking for “For Rent” signs.

Being the people of discriminating taste that we are, we have a pretty well-defined idea of what we’re looking for:

  • Preferably an apartment in a house or duplex, not an “apartment building”, pretty definitely not a high-rise. They’re not “homey” enough.
  • Parking for at least two cars, if not three. We each have old cars that we’d like to have on the road in the summer. One set of vintage wheels apiece, plus one car for longer distances equals three cars. We know that’s a lot for renters to ask, but there it is.
  • A dishwasher. I have lived without one for most of my life, and as much as I hate doing dishes, I can live with it more easily than John can. To save our sanity, a dishwasher is pretty high up on our list.
  • It has to be located so that John can easily get out of the city to work (his work is about 20 minutes past the outskirts of the far southeast corner of the city). That means we’re not looking at anything that’s not in the southeast, regardless of whether it would be awesome. Driving more than 30 minutes to work and to school is about as much as we’re willing to do. Ideally, I would be able to catch a bus to school, which adds another location dimension to our search.
  • We have a limit to how much we are willing to pay, even if a place is freaking amazing. We both have school debt, after all, and we don’t want to be renters forever. AKA we want to save money. But we want to live in a nice place. These desires don’t always mesh.
  • At least two bedrooms. Some people can live in studio lofts or one-bedroom places and not lose their sanity or their patience with each other, but we are not those people. Plus, I want an office that I can hide all of my schoolwork and creative junk in.
  • Character preferred. This goes back to our issue with the apartment buildings: they tend to be pretty “cookie-cutter”, without imagination or individuality. This is not a requirement, but it is a preference for sure. You know you would love to live in a place that didn’t look like every other place you’ve ever lived!
  • Laundry. For more than four years now, I have had to take my laundry to a different town to wash! For whatever dumb reason, my apartment doesn’t have laundry facilities, and the crossroads I live in is so tiny it doesn’t even have a gas station or convenience store, let alone a laundrymat (WordPress is telling me that spelling is wrong, but “laundromat” doesn’t seem quite right, either). I would love to be able to wash my clothes from the inside of my own house! But again, it’s not a deal breaker for me.
  • Access to outside space. (This list is getting long, right?) We would really love to be able to sit outside on summer evenings, to barbecue, perhaps to plant a thing or two. Things that are not always possible in apartment buildings.
  • Landlords that aren’t idiots. Very simple.

If you got through that list, you’re a true fan. Either that or very curious.

It is one thing to have a well-formed idea of what you’re looking for, and another thing entirely to actually find it.

So far, we have been through six places, and tonight we add another. Three of them were absolute crap: stale smoke filling the hallways, stained carpets, holes in the walls, sketchy neighbourhoods, the reek of cat pee, shoddy renovations, or a lack of renovations… You get the picture. Blech. These ones were places that we looked at on Kijiji and looked nice enough to view in person. Be warned: don’t believe everything you see on Kijiji! Sometimes pictures lie.

apartment-hunting
We can identify...

 

Three have been nice. One was really cool, but much smaller than we thought. So small that a queen-size bed would not make it up the stairs to the bedroom. So small that the lovely spiral staircase was barely wide enough for our hips. Eek.

Another was a house in the perfect area, with the perfect amount of space and storage, a yard, parking, a dishwasher, renovated kitchen and bathroom, nice landlord… perfect! After making a decidedly intense effort to see the place and fill out the application in record time, and make sure the landlord knew of our interest, he gave it to someone else. Major letdown (and all you HIMYM fans saluted the worthy officer Letdown).

The other night, we saw a place that came close: lots of storage, 2 bedrooms, renovated bathroom and bedrooms, gas fireplace, new floors, parking for 2 cars, friendly landlords… but not a renovated kitchen. No dishwasher. No good outdoor space.

And still, we continue the search. We’re practically Kijiji experts now. We know how to refine our searches. We know what Kijiji needs to do to improve its service (the ability to search by location!!). We can skim the list of ads and know which ones to click on and which ones to avoid (anything with “students!” in it).

I can’t wait until we are done the hunt: it’s exhausting, and gets fairly discouraging at times!

I have to believe that the perfect place is out there, and we only have to find it. I hope that happens soon.

Johnathan got a job!!!!!!

I know that multiple exclamation marks are redundant and annoying, but I needed some way of conveying my excitement.

Johnathan has been looking for a job for what seems like FOREVER.

By forever, I mean several months. I mean many, many resumés. I mean tons of applications. I mean two interviews a week sometimes. I mean, head-scratching, doubt-enducing, desperation-germinating, carb-inhaling, caffeine-addiction-building months!

When you know that someone is smart and fully qualified and appropriately experienced, yet they are still not hired for so long, you start wondering if there is something really wrong with their resumé that they haven’t realized. Something worthy of a “Damn you, Auto Correct!” moment, perhaps.

Imagine our relief when there was a sudden surge in interview requests, and then, at long last, a job offer! (I really want to type a hundred exclamation points here…)

John starts tomorrow. Mechanical engineering technologist, back in the game!

I guess he didn’t have any unfortunate typos in his resumé after all. Either that or he did, and he’s gotten himself into something that is not what it seems… awkward!

Either way, all that desperation and doubt has hit the curb, and we’re off on another adventure.

Red!

Revealed: Red for the Redhead

Today’s post is an extension of yesterday’s: a reveal of the “secret” hair colour that Natali from Expressions Hair Design gave me yesterday: I’m a redhead again!

Red!
Red!

You may remember from my Valentine’s Day post that Johnathan and I were celebrating Valentine’s last night instead of Tuesday because of my midterms. Hence the “secret” colour: I had to wait to reveal it to John before I could share it with the blog-o-sphere.

When we met, I had red hair. Of all the colours I’ve had in the last few years, red was Johnathan’s favourite, and more than once he has asked me about going red again. I always protested, arguing that it’s too finicky to maintain and tends to be expensive as well. But I always secretly wanted to go red again, too.

Red 7-778
Red 7-778

So, I gave us both a surprise gift for Valentine’s: flaming copper locks.

Under the Granny dryer
Under the Granny dryer
heart frame

V is for…

It’s here – that day when candy stores and florists and jewellers have booming business and all kinds of cutesy things are said and sweethearts everywhere do their best to be nice to each other long enough to make it through dinner…

Okay, that’s cynical. Especially since I really am a romantic at heart, and I love the grand gestures and being made to feel special and all that stuff that makes a girl feel “all warm and fuzzy inside.” If my man didn’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I’d be disappointed.

heart frame
The adorable part of Johnathan's gift to me last Valentine's.

But you have to admit the day is a bit more hyped than it’s worth, really. All that awful candy in the dollar stores? All those sub-par chocolates in heart-shaped boxes? All those gushy mushy sappy cards?

All that when, really, all you have to do is something special. I love the premise of a day set aside to do something special, something sweet for the person or people you love. A day to celebrate love and friendship, to be grateful for what you have.

Since I have two midterms to write today and one on Thursday, me and the man that I am grateful for are celebrating the day of love on Friday. I’m hoping to cook some delicious (and hopefully not completely non-nutritious) food, and maybe convince him to make the to-die-for dessert me made last year (seriously, seriously amazing!), and we’ll probably curl up on my couch and watch a movie. Ahh.

Lovebirds
::smooch::

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Celebration: Why I’m a Lucky Girl

(In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, my weekly Celebration post is about love… ::collective aw::)

It’s been a long time since I dedicated a whole blog to Johnathan. In fact, it’s been since I called him the Mystery Man. Way too long.

Our first date, October 09
Our first date, October 09

I guess there are a few reasons for that, not the least of which is the fact that I didn’t blog a whole lot during those formative weeks and months, and now it’s been, like, forever!

We’ve been together for almost two and a half years now. Whoa. Feels like forever. I counted months the first year, and after that I stopped counting and the months started flying by.

Now we’re kind of old news. But still good news.

The newness has worn off, but now there’s a depth that is very valuable. A depth that means we can be kinda mean to each other and know that we won’t get dumped because of it.

In all those years of pining for a man, I don’t think I realized what a committed relationship was really like. I didn’t realize that you could get to a place where you felt comfortable enough to let all your neuroses hang out… and then be forced to face up to them when your partner calls you out about them. Turns out I have a lot of neuroses.

I also didn’t realize that there were men like Johnathan: dedicated, caring, through-and-through honest, and honourable. He’s also a fanTAStic gift-giver who can blow my mind with his creative surprises. He likes to tease me mercilessly, which drives me crazy, and I often don’t catch on before I get indignant, but it is fun when we have a tease-off, usually when other people are around to watch how ridiculous we can get.

Birthday surprise 2011
Possibly the biggest birthday surprise ever! (2011)

Despite my neuroses and his teasing, I trust Johnathan implicitly. I love his family. I love his passion for old cars. I love him!

I’m a lucky girl.

Love...

Introducing Wordless Wednesday

I am no photographer.

But I like to dabble anyway.

There’s only so much you can do with a digital point-and-shoot, after all. Or a smart phone. Still, every week on Wednesday, I’d like to join some members of the blogosphere in posting a photograph, with few words, if any.

The Wordless Wednesday movement was introduced to me by this mommy blogger, one of many who are attempting to share a photo that says so much no words are needed. That’s a pretty large and impressive feat for a blogger! But I’m gonna give it a try.

So. The introductory post. It should be poignant and memorable, characteristic of what you can come to expect as the weeks go by.

I’ve been thinking about what photo to share since I posted yesterday’s blog about the downside to social technology.

What I’ve come up with is…. a sentimental one.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, here’s my first ever PhotoShop-vintage-effected shout-out to my main man, Johnathan.

Love...