Thoughts On: Beauty

Like all Mommies, I think my kids are beautiful. Of course we think our kids are beautiful. And really, they all are. Full of life, full of questions, full of jokes, full of attitude, small, beautiful humans. Since the first moment I walked outside the hospital with little Picky Princess, people have crossed the street to tell me what a beautiful child she is. And while I see what they do in her magical face, the things I find so beautiful about her are the things that come with 6 years of observation. I think the one freckle so perfectly placed under her right eye is so beautiful. I love that she is a wild mess most of the time, crazy haired and rainbow clad. I love how her pristine face stands out as a pocket of white paint on a graffiti’d canvas. I love the moments when she laughs for real. In those moments I find her too beautiful to look directly at. When she sleeps I can hardly tear my eyes away from her little face. It’s so white it glows.

It’s also interesting to me how a child, particularly a girl, processes all this attention. With a big wide world telling her she is so beautiful, she definitely has come to agree. She is quick to comment on being beautiful, yet doesn’t necessarily seem to place a lot of value on it. She will say, Of course I’m beautiful, with the same matter of fact tone of, Of course my socks are blue. She doesn’t seek to enhance it with tiaras and make up and princess dresses. At least not very often.

It’s important, how little girls wade through the beauty topic. It’s important what she sees in the women around her. For every comment I hear someone make to her about her beautiful blue eyes, I try to make my own to her about her incredible creativity, her kindness to her little sister, her willingness to help. The things that make her a Beautiful Soul, not just a Beautiful Face. I think my friends are some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. But even in how I talk about them to my girls, I try to comment on their beautiful character, that they are great listeners and generous friends.

I believe in a family culture of honor. When, God forbid, the meanness of the world creeps in and tells her anything other than that she’s beautiful, my hope is that a lifetime of being honored for the beauty of her soul, will resound louder and longer than the crack of the hurtful.

So tonight we have dinner in honor of our recent Kindergarten Graduate! She has requested sea bass(of course, most random request ever) and caramel cake. So we have fish tacos, salsa verde, watermelon and caramel cake on the menu. I made THIS caramel cake from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and whipped up a twist on salsa verde, recipe below. Tonight our family who are friends and friends who are family will gather and honor the Beautiful: that her teacher said she was kind and inclusive, that she was a strong leader, that she is incredibly artistic, that she worked hard to learn how to read and speak spanish and sing harmonies. A little Beautiful Soul (with incredible beautiful blue eyes).

Salsa Verde:

10 small tomatillos

1/2 jalapeno, most of the seeds removed

juice of 2 limes

large handful of cilantro

1 mango

sea salt to taste

Directions: chop all ingredients very finely. Stir together. Best if left to sit overnight. Serve with tortilla chips or on fish tacos!

Thoughts On: Motherhood

face to the sun, baby.

It’s Mother’s Day. Sexy Husband spoiled me because he’s that kind of guy. Little Girls were sweet as pie because they’re those kind of girls. And Sundays at our house are busy busy days, church, lessons, rehearsals…but I didn’t want to miss a chance to reflect, even briefly on how much of an honor it is to be somebody’s Mommy. It is the greatest honor of my life.

The challenges of motherhood, of which there are many, are rewarded with the most important of lessons learned. As I hold my breath watching my 2 year old run faster than her little legs are ready for, I learn to let go and trust that small things can be strong things. As I listen to my 5 year old tell me about her elaborate plans for the future, I am reminded myself to dream, and that no dreams are unreasonable. In fact, when dreaming, reason means nothing. Mostly I have learned to trust. To trust that skinned knees heal. That hurt feelings disappear when you bake cookies. That the love of other people in a Village is essential to raise a child. That my gut instinct is almost always right.

That we can love so deeply is no small miracle.

So I am grateful. Grateful for a Beautiful Mom. Grateful for Beautiful Babies. Grateful that Motherhood can make a Beautiful Soul.

boots and tutu

Thoughts On: Dessert Tables

mini brunch table

Thanks to the likes of Amy Atlas, Goddess of Gorgeous, dessert tables have become a spectacular trend among party planners. The themes and ideas and colors and desserts are becoming ever more elaborate and amazing. I honestly am madly in love with dessert tables. There are zillions of great party and hostess blogs with incredible ideas. I have a couple of friends who do some really spectacular tables!

Foodie Baby is 2 years old today! We call her our Little Button, and she is about the sweetest, most delightful little package of pink. I love her soulful brown eyes, her cheeky smile, and her feisty ways. She makes having a 2 year old seem like the most perfect part of life.

I wanted to do something sweet to celebrate her today, but you know, she’s 2, so didn’t feel the need to do anything too enormous. So we put together a “mini” brunch table. It was simple and not time consuming but oh so sweet. All things mini for our Little Button: mini cupcakes(pink vanilla as she has chanted to me for a month), mini button cookies, mini chocolate milkshakes, mini marshmallows, mini olive scones, quiche and raspberries. I found a metal pillar candle holder that served as a mini cake platter, and a mini bud vase.

She chattered about how pretty it was all morning. Not knowing that all eyes were on her pretty little face, not the pretty cupcakes.

Happy Birthday Sweet Girl!

Thoughts On: Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! To everyone in love: may it only grow, may it ever change to properly embody you, may the sacrifices it requires be worth it every time. To everyone who longs to love: may you and love find each other, may the light of hope never dim, may your time from now until then be filled with lessons and experiences that need to be held alone. To everyone happily single: may there be rich friendships in your life, may there be chocolate and red wine.

I’m neither particularly jaded, nor particularly commercial about the whole thing. Each year, we take it as we come. Some years, Vday is a big deal, others, not so much. I am so blessed to  be married to someone who is thoughtful and romantic every day. Sexy Husband and I were away for work this weekend, the Girlies stayed with Grandma. So we ate some delicious food, saw some fabulous friends, and it was fun.

Valentine’s Day is, however, such a fun thing to celebrate with our little girls. We never turn down an opportunity to do things pink and lovey. We started the day with toast, cut into gingerbread men shapes and hearts. Always a hit. Then Picky Princess had her preschool Valentine’s Day party. Then we came home for a treasure hunt that involved following a pink Smartie trail around the house to find a treasure! Finally, we made some cookies(pink Smarties to use up!).

following a Smartie trail

the treasure: hand knit hearts with their names embroidered. These were made by Delilah & Co. They have the sweetest stuff, check them out at http://facebook.com/delilahtoys

If you would like to make these Oatmeal Smartie Heart Cookies, here’s how:

cookie dough

1. Make the dough from the Chewy Oatmeal Cookie recipe. Omit chocolate chips/pecans/coconut. Add Smarties.

2. Roll into a log in wax paper, about 3 inches in diameter. Freeze for at least 30 mins.

cookie dough log

3. Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut dough into 1 inch rounds. Squish into the shape of hearts. Bake for about 10 mins.

squished into hearts

For some reason my camera doesn’t seem to be working. So you get a photo tour of our day courtesy of Hipstamatic on my iPhone!

my little Valentines

Thoughts On: Kindness

I don’t really consider myself a “New Years Resolution” type of girl. Generally I think that if something needs to be changed, or I want to try something, I just do it. Right then. Even though I say this every year, somehow some kind of New Years Inspiration always seems to find me. I don’t go out looking for it. I don’t usually deeply ponder what the next year of my life should be like(I do this early in Dec when my birthday seems like a crisis every year!). But when it comes to inspiriation, when I am looking the least, I am finding the most.

I have a number of friends who search for or choose a word to identify with for the year. Kind of like it’s “their” word to live out for the year. Such a nice idea. Usually my inspiration for the year doesn’t come in a word, but this year it did seem to find me in a quote. I don’t know where it came from. My mom said it to me and doesn’t know where she heard it originally. So if the quote belongs to someone who is still alive and who stumbles upon Fig&Fennel, my deepest apologies for not crediting you properly.

Here is what has struck me as deeply important for 2011.

“Kindness is greater proof of love than the most passionate of vows.”

I just love this. I am prone to grand declarations of how deeply important something is to me. I am prone to grand gestures in general: big dreams, the chasing of mystery, the world brushing my fingertips.

Much greater, much deeper, much more loving; to be prone to kindness.

In 2011, I will take hold of the tiny opportunities for kindness to show my love. I will value the simplicity of this: if you need love, and I need love, and kindness is the bridge, then let’s sit there a while.

I know that I’ve been made to love and embrace the extravagant. And truly I have no desire or intention of abandoning this Truth. But on days when I can’t go out and save the world. There will be kindness. Probably in the form of muffins.

Thoughts On: Merry Christmas

Hello Friends!

Just wanted to take a minute to wish you all a very merry Christmas. The next few days are busy for us and and everyone else! I don’t anticipate a lot of blogging time. I hope that you all find peace and joy this time of year. I hope you have ample quality time with the people you love. I hope you eat delicious and healthy food. I hope you find a minute or two to reflect with gratitude on how the blessings in our life give us momentum, and how the hard times help us focus.

I am making a few cheesecakes for Christmas Eve and hope to post them tomorrow. Otherwise, I’ll be back in a few days!

Merry Christmas!

Thoughts On: Breakfast for Dinner

We had breakfast for supper. It’s just my favorite. Not brunch, which can be fancy and classy. Full on breakfast: hashbrowns, apple cinnamon pancakes, scrambled eggs with leeks, tomatillos and cauliflower. I think what I love most about breakfast for supper is that you can feed an absolute army with very little work. It just so happens, whenever we do make breakfast for supper, that someone calls me, while I’m just whipping things up, musing about what they should make, or reflecting on their exhausting day, perfectly thrilled to last minute drop all and come by for pancakes. Today’s call came from my sister, whom you all know that I love and adore and don’t see enough. So IronSister and IronStomach(haha just kidding Craig) came by. We laughed at my silly kids, ate pancakes, and let the dishes sit for much longer than normal. I just feel very grateful today. Grateful for family, grateful for friends, grateful for pancakes.

I’ve seen a lot of brokenness this week. Lots of people I love with broken hearts, broken lives, broken dreams. They won’t be broken forever. We reach out, and are surrounded. We hold hands, and are supported. We join each other at the table, share a meal, share our brokenness. And suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so hopeless, quite so lonely. And we heal.

I write about these things because I know that in the midst of the bills and busyness and lunches to make and rush hour traffic, we sometimes forget: that if we are broken, and of course we all are, that our table might just be the one that someone else needs to sit at. Today you sit at mine. Tomorrow I’ll sit at yours. Sometimes….we just need pancakes.

IronSister Says: Thoughts on Carbs

Much like fats, carbohydrates are another one of those macronutrients that have a bad reputation. These bad boys are, in fact: life giving, energy producing foods, our body’s primary and ideal choice of nutrient for fuel and energy.  Again, like fats, there are more desirable, and far less desirable versions of carbohydrates – which is probably why we often hear, and spend so much time trying to eliminate them from our diets.  With a little bit of education, we can adjust out diets, not to eliminate all carbs, but to eliminate the bad ones, increase the good ones, and give our body’s a break from trying to use secondary energy sources (proteins and fats).
Carbohydrates are macronutrients – macro meaning we need them in large quantities (eat your heart out Dr. Atkin), along with fats, proteins and water.  Carbs are single or mid/long chains of molecules made of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen, they are broken apart during cellular respiration to essentially sugar in our blood, and with the use of hormones our cells mobilize and utilize these molecules to give us energy and keep our body well fueled.
Simple Carbohydrates are single sugar molecules, also known as monosaccharides.  When we eat these carbs, our body uses them immediately and without the need to break them down.  The good thing is that there is immediate energy available (useful for athletes or diabetic situations), the bad thing is that they are grossly over consumed leading to a host of many other problems.  When we eat simple carbs, our pancreas senses the large and immediate increase in our blood sugar levels and reacts by secreting the hormone insulin.  Insulin mobilizes the sugars from our blood to enter our cells where they are utilized to produce energy.  The issue that arises here is that large amounts of simple carb ingestion means large blood sugar level spikes, large doses of insulin doing their job, and then one big fat sugar low…. generally leading to “sugar coma” or the ingestion of more simple carbs for more energy.  With years of abuse, insulin may become resistant or less effective, and things like Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease are the result of that.
Complex Carbohydrates, on the other hand, provide us with longer and sustained energy as these are long chains of sugar molecules bonded together, also known as polysaccharides.  When eaten, our body wil break the chains apart, piece by piece, over a period of time, regulating our blood sugar increases and decreases, and providing us with the energy that we need to survive from meal to meal.
This may or may not be new information for you, but the key to increasing our complex carb intake and decreasing, or eliminating, our simple carb intake comes from proper knowledge of our food choices.  Simple carbs are generally refined, looking at grains for example, the bran (outer hull) and the germ (new seed) are removed to produce a lighter product which preserves for longer.  The refining process results in a loss of fibre, most vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, iron, zinc, copper, chromium, folic acid, magnesium and manganese.  As you can see, not only do these simple carbs mess with our body’s sugar regulating system, they also leave us with a nutrient deficit… all for the convenience of longer shelf life and ‘lighter’ food.  Whole grains on the other hand, complex carbs, non-refined, are low in fat, have no cholesterol and are high in fiber.  These foods will lower blood cholesterol and control blood glucose (sugar) levels, as well as increase elimination and decrease the risk of colon cancer.  For a little less cooking convenience, this seems worth it to me.
I am often asked about two things.  One thing being “enriched” grains.  This means that a few vitamins and minerals are added back into refined products including: iron, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.  They could be considered “partially restored”.  This doesn’t really do anything about the blood glucose levels issue, nor does it restore all of the vitamins and minerals that were lost, you will still end up with a deficit in some form.  The second thing many people are curious about is fruit.  Fructose, or fruit sugar, is a monosaccharide, and therefore absorbed and used for immediate energy.  Fruit, however, is full of fibre, which aids in blood sugar regulation, and helps to control our glucose levels from rising too quickly.  Fruit would be the ideal food to be used for immediate energy, if needed, without the negative effects of a refined, simple carbohydrate type food.  This would be ideal for that afternoon lull that we often feel, or for athletes needing an additional energy boost during their training (as in – training for the Boston Marathon as one small example…)
If this leaves you hanging with nothing left to eat, let me encourage you to explore the wonderful variety of foods that are out there.  If you just don’t think you can survive without your breakfast bagel and Uncle Ben’s instant rice, I can assure there are many many substitutes, well worth the few extra minutes of preparation.  Consider experimenting with these grains in their whole form: Amaranth, buckwheat, corn, couscous, kamut, millet, oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, spelt, and whole wheat. The less refined food you eat, the healthier you will be!
fig&fennel – IronSister mentioned to me yesterday that she has been asked to do a health segment on Breakfast TV in November. I’ll keep you posted as to when, so you can tune in!

IronSister Says: Thoughts On Protein

This post is a little bit fig & fennel and a little bit Ironsister.

fig & fennel – Usually my “Thoughts On:” section is about non food related topics. But I feel like I’ve had the conversation 50 times in the last few weeks, people saying things like, oh I can’t cook vegetarian, my husband plays hockey and needs protein. Or, well I’d eat vegetarian, but I work out so I need protein. So I wanted to address the topic of how to eat enough protein from non-meat products. It is, in fact, surprisingly easy to do! We do not eat exclusively vegetarian and I find no need to come up with an appropriate label for how we eat, but I usually cook a meal with meat in it about once a week, and we try to have fish once a week. So we eat mostly plant-based food. My personal motivations are as follows: health benefits, desire to be conscious of the environment, complete disgust of handling raw meat. There is a disgusting amount of animal cruelty out there, but I avoid these concerns by buying meat ONLY from local farms that are organic and provide a reasonable quality of life for their animals. This is a bit pricier, but we eat so little meat that I can afford to do so.

I know there is a substantial move out there among Foodies, which I embrace with a happy heart, to move towards more vegetarian cooking. I have some friends who cook pretty typical meat and potatoes type meals all week but plan a “Meatless Monday” meal. A number of smaller local restaurants I know have vegetarian meals one day a week. This is great because people can order something new, love it, or not, and realize that it’s not hard or intimidating to cook vegetarian.

I’m sure many of you have seen the video floating around Youtube and Facebook, about the benefits of eating less meat. The basic research of the mini doc is this: if everyone in Britain ate ONE less meat based meal per week, it would be the equivalent of taking 50 million cars off the road. This is MAJOR! How much more if all of North America did this?! Cows eat soya, which is unnatural to them and makes them produce more methane and it takes a skillion bags of soya and lots of energy to get ONE beef serving from a cow. Ridiculous.

You’d be surprised at how protein-frenzied and misinformed we are about the topic of protein needs. Here is some interesting info for you, brought to you by IronSister. We just did a workshop on all this stuff  so I’m all fired up about it…

Protein Requirements

NOTE: Ideal body weight does NOT mean how much you should weigh, it is the scientific formula for determining your nutritional needs. Just before everyone freaks out…

Recommended protein requirements: 0.45 grams/kg of Ideal Body Weight per day
Ideal Body Weight for Women: 100lbs for 60 inches + 5 lbs for every inch over 60 inches
Ideal Body Weight for Men: 106 lbs for 60 inches + 6 lbs for every inch over 60 inches

So let’s take a woman who is 5’4″. That means their ideal body weight is 120lbs. 120lbs = 55kilos. 55kilos x .45 = 24.75 grams of protein in food.

Protein Serving size (grams)
Beef, lean 4 oz (24)
Chicken breast 3 oz (24)
Fish 3 oz (16-18)
Turkey, 4 oz (9)
Cheese 1 oz (8)
Cottage cheese, ½ cup (16)
Egg 1 large (6)
Egg white 1 large (4)
Milk, skim 1 cup (8)
Yogurt, plain 8 oz (12)
Peanuts 1 oz (7)
Peanut butter 2 tbsp (8)
Pumpkin seeds ½ cup (20)
Sunflower seeds 1 tbsp (3)
Soybeans, ½ cup (14)
Soymilk 1 cup (8)
Tofu ½ cup (20)
Beans, black ½ cup (8)
Beans, pinto ½ cup (7)
Chickpeas, ½ cup (20)
Lentils ½ cup (9)
Beans, kidney ½ cup (12)
Milk, skim 1 cup (8)

Isn’t that amazing!!!?? It does not take a lot of work to get our needed protein. And look how easy it is to get it in NON meat things! Sprinkle 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds on your salad and voila! almost all you need in a day! Or think of just normal stuff, 2 eggs for breakfast, one glass of milk, peanut butter sandwich for lunch and some kind of beans in your supper = 36. 50% more than you need!!!  Please note, these numbers are relevant for active people as well. Unless you are doing some shocking level of physical activity, than the formula is a good guideline for you!

SO my friends…bottom line….eat more vegetarian and help save the world. Don’t forget mommies, YOU are Queen of the Castle, how you cook and how you eat is how your family will follow. Get creative and make some yummy vegetarian things and I bet you barely get any complaining.

Thoughts On: Happy Thanksgiving

To all my Canadian friends, family and readers…a most beautiful and happy Thanksgiving to you. I hope you all have someone to share a meal with, and hope that the weekend provides even a few moments of reflection on the blessings in our lives.

This year I am grateful for many things….

For Sexy Husband who I couldn’t possibly love more, yet somehow will by tomorrow

For Picky Princess, my Wonder and Foodie Baby, my Delight

For Friends who are Family and Family who are Friends

For good health, a safe home, and freedom to live and love how we choose

For good coffee, good wine, good food and good people to share it with.

Happy Thanksgiving to You!

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