I’m Inspired By: Nothing.

How’s that for the most inspiring title ever for a blog post? I took a picture of our bbq. It is buried under 4 feet of snow. It is APRIL 2. It has officially been snow covered and ridiculous and cold and dead since November. That’s right people, our 6th month of the white stuff.

This, does NOTHING for my inspiration. This does not make me dream of watermelon and fresh salads, of key limes and lemonade. No, this makes me want to order pizza. I have never ordered so much pizza in my life. Time, reflection, and let’s be honest, therapy, will probably help me figure out how to find inspiration outside of my immediate environment. Until this revelation comes to me, I have resorted to something I normally have no desire to do: meal plan.

I honestly understand why people meal plan. It helps you use ingredients you already have, saving money, it helps busy, full scheduled moms make dinner time smooth. But it’s just not for me(at least not in my usual highly-inspired-in-the-kitchen life). I keep the fridge stocked with enough fresh ingredients and inspiration comes to me in the moment and it hasn’t ever before been a problem. What if I don’t want to eat salmon on Saturday? What if I don’t want to use the cherry tomatoes this meal?

This is how desperate I am. So without further drabble, here is what I intend to feed my family this week:

Sunday: Friends over for wine, cheese fondue, and chocolate zucchini cake.

Monday: Tuna Nicoise Salad with blue potatoes, peas and boiled eggs.

Tuesday: Mushroom Risotto

Wednesday: Meatloaf (I know, random, we almost never eat meat. But Sexy Husband makes the best meatloaf and we picked up some organic ground beef from Hoven Farm, so…it’s happening).

Thursday: Stuffed Peppers – rice, beans, fresh salsa, cheddar.

Friday: Night on the town

Saturday: Roasted carrot and dill soup and homemade bread

So…we’ll see how it goes. Wish a little inspiration my way…

I’m Inspired By: Bikram Calgary South

3 months ago, I stumbled upon Bikram yoga. I’ve been curious about hot yoga for a while, but thanks to one of those Living Social Deals, I signed up for 20 classes for $20. This was, without a doubt, the best $20 I have EVER spent. Bikram Yoga has changed my life.

I’ve worked out my whole adult life, in various levels of intensity. The last almost 2 years have been my super-fit years, running quite a bit and finally for the first time really committing to long term health and exercise. IronSister got me into running, which was amazing and I loved it and, in typical fashion, overdid it enough to be looking for a little change this fall. I will definitely run again, but I am enjoying the little focus switch.

I don’t know if I found the yoga or if the yoga found me, but I can tell you this: I have NEVER experienced anything like it. The 90 minutes in the hot room are intense, challenging, and empowering every.single.time. I’m just finishing up my 3rd month of practicing regularly, about 4 times a week and in some ways I feel so so new at it(which I am) and in other ways I feel like it’s a deeply valuable and solidified part of my life.

Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 postures, 2 breathing exercises, 90 minutes in a room that is heated to well into the 40 degrees and high humidity. The hot room makes you detox(which I can assure you I feel every single molecule of sugar detoxing out of me, motivation to rarely eat it!). Literally the sweat pours off and soaks the towel over our mats. In the 3 months, eating healthy as I regularly do, working out only 4 times a week, I have noticed a more dramatic change in my muscle tone, strength and flexibility than ever in my life.

I cannot recommend this enough. If there is a Bikram Yoga Studio near you, you should try it. Even better, if you live around here, then you should stop by Bikram Calgary South!! This is the yoga studio I practice at. The people here are AMAZING. Seriously the instructors are amazing, inspiring, cheerleading, super fun people. They make everyone feel important, like it’s THEIR pleasure to have us there. It amazes me every single time. Lindsay and Morgan, the owners are just so incredible. Lindsay is a yogi goddess, and Morgan is about the friendliest most personable guy I’ve ever met. I’m not sure if he treats everyone who walks in the door like his best friend, or if they ARE his best friends…Heather is so sweet I always feel a little sad to leave her when the 90 minutes are over…Hillary could be a professional cheerleader as she rah-rah’s you through the intense work out…Annie is so calm and peaceful, it’s always easy to breathe through her class…Liana is so motivating and attacks the classes with so much energy, absolutely catching…Anne-Brit always seems to get the best out of me, partly because I’m terrified of her and partly from motivation that yoga has given her the body of an olympian.

Honestly, these people are my friends, whether they know it or not. I am deeply inspired by them. I have learned to be able to take 90 minutes, leave my stresses in the cold hallway, focus on breathing, on moving, on listening. I am stronger. I am happier. I am healthier.

I am grateful.

I’m Inspired By: Samaritan’s Purse

I’m sure most of you have seen the shoeboxes all over the place: red and green, filled or available for filling, with toys for kids all over the world who wouldn’t otherwise get presents this Christmas? Well Operation Christmas Child, a campaign organized by Samaritan’s Purse does the most amazing job with the Shoeboxes. Our church collects them, our favorite coffee shops collect them, then the boxes are delivered to the OCC warehouse where they are checked over to make sure they are full of safe fun things for kids, then taped up and sent literally all over the world. For the last few years, we’ve had Picky Princess help us fill a couple of boxes with toys and stickers and candy. This year we wanted to be a little bit more purposeful in our commitment to community activism. I know it’s always so much easier to be motivated and engaged in social justice issues around Christmas, but we really are going to try to plan something every month, where we go and serve the people in our community, or through an organization internationally. It’s an act of gratitude, that we have been blessed and so we bless others, an act of community, that we support those who need the support. It’s something we hope to deeply embed in the DNA of our little family. So last night we volunteered at the warehouse. What an incredible operation they have going! Completely machined by volunteers, we set up assembly line style, checking boxes, filling boxes, taping boxes, packing boxes. It was so fun! About the fastest 3 hours of my life. I stood at the the tape and was literally the last person to check and touch the boxes that will be transported and opened by a child somewhere around the world. I was quite teary thinking about this and imagining a 4 year old somewhere far away, no less loved than my 4 year old, no less deserving than my 4 year old, no less gifted and amazing than my 4 year old. To think that this shoebox may be their only gift this year, to think that their parents who adore them cannot provide for them presents and rituals of a special season, an afternoon of baking cookies, apple cider. I don’t know…it makes me sad. And grateful.

Anyway. Get involved. Find a shoebox, fill a shoebox! ┬áHere’s a pic of us by a crate of shoeboxes.


I’m Inspired By: Made By Momma

off to deliver food to Made By Momma

There is this amazing non-profit organization I’ve recently discovered here in Calgary. It’s called Made By Momma and they collect and distribute homemade food and baby items to new parents who are dealing with challenges such as: poverty, being new to the city and not having friends or family to support them, recent lay offs, injuries, things like that. They deliver food, baby supplies, and help direct them to people who can help them even more. They have volunteers who can provide services and support to help families make it through! I just think it’s a wonderful example of True Community.

I made some calls to the girls in the Village and we collected some baked goods, meals, and baby items and went and dropped them off today. I brought Picky Princess with me, because I do everything I can to include her in activities that provide her with a chance to reflect on her life, reasons to be grateful, and help other people. Also my Dear Friend Tracey, and her Smiling Winsome.

When Sexy Husband and I brought home Picky Princess from the hospital 4.5 years ago, we were like most new parents, completely and utterly terrified by the 5 pounds of precious cargo we held. We were exhausted, in love, and overwhelmed. The church we attended organized meals for all the new parents, and for 10 days, at 5pm on the dot, the doorbell would ring with a hot meal for us. We sat at the table every night, completely overwhelmed with love and support. Amazing how a meal can be so much more than a meal. It can be hope, family, peace, comfort. I think this was the birth of my love of cooking for others.

So it was a joy this week to cook for Made By Momma. If you live in Calgary I would encourage you to check out their website. It took exactly 30 seconds longer to double a muffin recipe. We can all do something. Even something small like muffins. I would like to extend a sincere thank you to my friends who contributed to this little food drive. Thank you for taking the time, I know you’re all busy, and thank you to the friends who couldn’t this time, but maybe next time!

I’m Inspired By: IronSister


Introducing a new member of my fig & fennel family….My Sister! Jacquelyn Iffa (hereafter referred to as IronSister) has been by far the most significant healthy-life inspiration in my life. She is honest, hilarious, disciplined, educated, witty, empowering, supportive, feisty, and amazing. All wrapped in the absolute prettiest of packages, she is the perfect sister!

Starting this week, IronSister is going to have a regular guest feature spot on fig & fennel. Here is a small snippet of why she is qualified. I’m sure you’ll be excited to read her thoughts after you see this impressive resume:

1. SuperFit – Jacquelyn has competed in Ironman Canada TWICE. Ironman, in case you aren’t familiar is an elite endurance race: 4km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run (IN A ROW). She has run 20 marathons and this past May qualified for the Boston Marathon. Her commitment to fitness is inspiring and while some may think that she has simply been blessed with “those genes”, IronSister walked her way to jogging, jogged her way to running, and ran her way to an 85lb weight loss several years ago, launching herself into a life of fitness. You can check out more about her ironman adventures on her blog http://jacquelynruns.blogspot.com .

2. SuperHealthy – IronSister is, conveniently, a registered Holistic Nutritionist. She went to the Canadian College of Natural Nutrition and basically what it means is that she has to put up with approximately 9 phone calls from me per day asking things like: do I have to soak the quinoa first? how much protein is in one cup of chickpeas? what is the smoke point of grapeseed oil? can you think of any possible way for me to make cream cheese icing healthy? are you sure? She has provided me with a full education on nutritional information. She is my personal wikipedia.

3. SuperStrong – While she would definitely tell you, if you were sitting chatting with her over a cup of coffee, that her life has not been without some giant obstacles and definitely some pain, IronSister has bravely put one foot in front of another. She lived in Africa for a year, working with, loving and losing babies with AIDS. She fought her way out of an eating disorder that stole her peace for a few years and daily fights for health and wholeness, all the while empowering people on their own journeys. We all have a role to play in our Village. IronSister is the hand holder. She holds your hand halfway through the race when you want to quit, pulling you on, and the she holds your hand up in triumph as you cross the finish line. It’s her gift. She’s my gift.

So…be excited…good stuff to come. Little snippets of how to be healthy. Little bits of nutritional information. A little handholding.

I’m Inspired By: Sheree & Dennis

Sheree & Dennis, Gardeners Extraordinare

Let’s by honest…anyone who can grow anything successfully in Calgary should be commended. It is a tricky place to be a gardener, what with random summer hail/snow/wind/rainstorms that blow in, take no prisoners and leave minutes later. Merciless. But my lovely friends(and family thanks to my sister picking a husband with a great family), Sheree and Dennis Iffla, have patiently plodded through this particularly brutal gardening season, and have grown the most beautiful English-style garden. Today they invited us to come and have a tour, and pick anything we wanted! And pick we did! Buckets and buckets of apples, sour cherries, raspberries and lettuce. The plums, pears and black currants are not quite ready. They said we could take anything we picked, and then promptly hopped on ladders to pick for us!

It is this generosity, on top of the hard work and commitment of growing your own food, that is inspiring to me. How beautiful: to work with your hands, patiently wait, and then be utterly willing to invite others into your home and garden to reap the harvest as well. I am inspired by their talent, their patience and their warmth.

I’ve promised Dennis payment: sour cherry jam and apple pie. Small tokens.

I sincerely hope that even though I don’t grow much more than my own herbs, that I will be mindful to invite people into the harvest of my life, around my table, our inner sanctuary. That I would say “here are the fruits of my labor, take and eat.”

Picky Princess with her apple basket

Foodie Baby checking out her harvest

Thank You!