Thursday, October 4, 2012

Something's Gotta Give~

As I sit in my favorite local cafe, enjoying a quick lunch by myself, I hear the voice of Ella Fitzgerald. Something's gotta give, something's gotta give, something's gotta give.

I love Ella's voice and have listened to her music for years. Mostly before I was married and living a single life, with only myself to please with music choices.

But these words sunk in. As good lyrics do. They sunk in deep. Yes, something's gotta give. And something did.

When I first started writing this post, the title was Pain in my Neck. What you may not know, is that for the better part of a year I have been dealing with serious neck, shoulder and arm pain. It actually dates back to the birth of our second daughter so we have really been going on 2 1/2 years with this injury.

My mom says I do too much. I actually don't. I am really good at scheduling balance when it comes to my day job, my small business, caring for my family, and everything else. It isn't a scheduling problem, a time problem, or even a willpower problem. It is a pain problem.

I have lived with chronic pain before. In my early twenties, I lived with severe chronic pain, and there were times when I wasn't sure if I would work or have children. I overcame it and pushed myself to attend university and spend 4 years in a very intense, physically demanding program of theatre and dance. One professor told me, "you thrive in chaos." As an actor, it is a blessing. But it is no way to live a balanced life.

Since that time I have kept chaos at bay and chosen a life of as much simplicity, honesty, and presence as possible. Life is truly about the small moments in between. And that is now my happy place.

But something was bound to give. Severe pain, lost range of motion and strength, poor sleep (if any), and the exhaustion/frustration of being in pain took its toll. It started with less and less exercise. To the point that I was having trouble doing basic things, let alone anything fitness related.

Some might say I should drop my small business. First of all, I don't spend a lot of time on it. I manage it and contain the amount of time I give it. It brings me immense joy to connect with people and be creative. I would spend this time being creative anyways. I am a creative soul. Through my business, I am able to share it, connect with others, and challenge myself. It is one of the most rewarding parts of my life. Also, due to the nature of my injury, cooking and baking are good for me and don't cause me pain.

So what else could give? Well, my day job (as an HR Manager for a credit union) pays the mortgage. So that can't give. Kids? Well, there have been times when I can't pick them up or am grumpy from pain. Managing a household? I gave up on a perfectly clean house. Why bother? I have relaxed my home-making standards considerably and have a husband that helps out.

So what is left to give? 'Cause something's gotta give. The neck bone's connected to the shoulder bone....

My health is what finally gave in.

Living with pain has caused me to move less. I am often simply in too much pain to do more than get through the day. As time has gone by, and this has become progressively worse, I have realized that my fitness has suffered. As well as my waistline. But this isn't about weight. Not one bit.

So what's next? Medically speaking, we are waiting. Waiting to see what is really wrong, what can really be done, and what really will make me better. For the time being, I make the most of each day. And sometimes fail at keeping my frustration in check. I try to do small things that might help. But the truth is, little "helps" at this point.

When my physio asked me if there was anything that didn't cause pain, I quickly replied, "kneeding bread." So, if ever there was a sign, that was it. After being told that as long as my day job was sitting at a desk on a computer I was going to have these problems, it got me to thinking about my other "job". It's funny how life sends messages to reinforce that we are on the right path.

Her response was, "well, maybe you should do that for a living."


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A very personal Confession~

A few nights ago, I was actually contemplating closing Kimberley's Kitchen. Overwhelmed and frustrated, I nearly threw in the towel. I didn't. Mostly because of pride and that little voice way in the back of my head that reminded me I would regret it. I took a long look (or think) at the things that were bugging me, and re-worked my business plan.
Every weekend I bake for my family for the week. Homemade granola for breakfasts, muffins or a quick bread for snacks, bread, and maybe granola bars or a treat. Most of what I make is very wholesome and healthy and we indulge in treats and desserts on the weekend. I was busy baking when my 4 year old, Georgia, walked into the kitchen and asked if she could help me.
I pulled her apron from the pantry and looped it over her head, and then wrapped the ties around her waist. At that moment she gave me a huge hug and started to cry. I asked her what was wrong (baking makes her pretty happy so I knew there was something bothering her).
If ever I thought a toddler could not articulate thoughts and emotions or express exactly how they feel and what they want, I was instantly reminded that children can actually communicate very well. If we bend down, look into their faces, and really listen.
She said to me, "I am sad that you are not doing your baker's market anymore. You haven't done it all summer and I miss it. I miss your friends from the baker's market. It made you so happy."
I was so overwhelmed by her amazing clarity, honesty, and compassion. I asked her if she would help me do one here in our new town. She said yes and asked if she could have her own table.
I have pursued my passions all my life. I vividly remember my Dad telling me to "do something I love." I have pursued what I love all my adult life and have had the support of friends and family along the way. When I embarked on Kimberley's Kitchen, with a 2 year old and an infant, it seemed a crazy time to take on an extra job and do extra work.
I have been doing this because I love it. It feeds my soul and gives me something. I believe that my purpose is to do what I am meant to do. And all the while I have hoped that one day, maybe one day, my daughters will see that pursuing my passion was worth it. That it was the right thing to do. Even if it meant that I was busy, and sometimes tired, and sometimes a little stressed. Even if it meant personal sacrifices and meeting deadlines. That, in the end, pursuing my passion would be something that my daughters respect me for and admire. And maybe they would even tell me so.
Little did I imagine that in my kitchen while baking bread, my beautiful, amazing 4 year old would tell me right then and there that Yes, pursuing my passion is the right thing to do. And that she wants me to keep doing it.
Children are amazing. They live life as fully (or more so) than we do. They experience it all, mostly unfiltered, and from the heart. They know about passion. It is their everyday existence.
So now that I have shared this with you and confessed to you that I almost quit, I have the reminder, for those times I feel like giving in (because I will). I will be reminded that I need to do this. For me. For you. And for my daughters.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Raising Good Eaters

Raising my children to be mindful eaters is one of my primary goals as a parent. I believe that when I teach them to feed themselves well I am teaching them to take care of themselves, be good to their community (shop local), and live with sustainable values and compassion for others. I also believe that our choices in food have the greatest impact on the world. Every single day.

While my daughters are young (now 2 and 4) I am 100% in control of the food they consume. They completely depend on me. And so I am making choices and teaching them about food to help them develop a healthy relationship with good food. To respect food, know where it comes from, what is in it, and the value of what we eat. Food is something to celebrate and we do that every single day.

The obstacles to good food habits are already starting to show. And this is where I am really struggling (I am mostly struggling at staying calm and not losing it on people).

Last week they came home from their daycare singing a song about bubblegum. So of course they start asking me "what is bubblegum?" I gave little information and tried not to make it sound yummy or wonderful. Because, a 2 and 4 year old should not EAT bubblegum. So why are they singing about it?

It is the "subtle" things around us. A friend asking them if they want chocolate milk. What? They don't know what it is and what the what? My daughter asking for yoghurt in a tube (oxymoron) because that's what other kids eat at school.
It was then that she and I sat down and talked about why her lunch looks different.

It is honestly hard for me to control my anger over the fact that my kids' lunch looks different because they have organic (real) yoghurt scooped into a container, homemade meals, real slices of cheese, and whole pieces of fruit. And a water bottle. I am, at the same time, so sad that our world has come to this. Their lunch bag is not dissimilar from mine as a child. (growing up in False Creek and shopping at Granville Island market weekly was an even greater boost to my lunchbag, with a sandwich on French baguette).

I would love to see a simple PB&J at their school. But mostly, I see processed foods with way too much salt for toddlers and nothing of real substance. I have had to impose strict food rules with teachers to ensure there is no sharing after discovering my children had eaten some of the garbage other children brought to school. Argh. Do you hear the frustration as I type this.

But back to my goal of raising Good Eaters. I think its possible. My Mom did it. My sister and I love good food, can cook very well, and most importantly, live with moderation. We don't restrict ourselves. We enjoy the odd cupcake. We make food a positive part of life.

There will be many more conversations with my children. And simply role modeling a good relationship with food will be my best defense. And when we sit down to dinner, and my kids ask for more salad (like the one above which was dinner last night) I realize I am on the right track. But it isn't easy.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Taking my eyes off the road

I was driving along the highway and the view of the valley caught my attention. For a second, I took my eyes off the road and realized instantly that I was swerving into the other lane. As I put the truck back on course, I couldn't help but think of the countless tragic car accidents that happen this way.

There have been so many times in my life that I have taken my eyes off the road. Moments where I unconsciously slowly swerve into oncoming traffic, causing chaos and pain. For myself and others. The perfect life analogy is when someone gains weight over time. They gain one pound after another, slowly over time. And then the shock at the doctor's office, or worse still, the emergency room, leaves one wondering "how did I get here?"

Keeping our eyes on the road, the journey, the path requires attention. A few weeks ago I attended a HR conference in Vancouver. An impressive list of speakers from various disciplines presented on topics arounding engaging people. Quite simply, if we know how to engage people, we can achieve our business/culture/service goals. Of course it starts with the right people. But one of the presenters spoke about "attention."

What do we give our attention to? When are we most present? There are so many ways to describe this and many of us have heard/seen/read something about this concept in the past few years. It is a thought that I keep coming back to.

I, myself, am a reformed multi-tasker. It took some time. And the jobs I had didn't help (retail management jobs that forced me to do more in every minute so that I would only be working 70 hours instead of 80). I learned the importance of choosing to be present. The importance of this became very clear to me when I became a mother.

Being in the moment, being present, paying attention- all ways of saying the same thing AND preventing us from taking our eyes off the road. If you are truly present, you will know where you are looking, where you are going, and what is happening each minute to the next.

I don't believe it is possible to "be present" 100% of the time. Nor do I think that is the goal. For me, I try to make an effort to be present when I need and want to. At the dinner table, playing with my children, speaking with a colleague at work. I have a mental checklist to scan my body, state of being, breath, and tune in to bring my attention to the moment. I am sometimes successful.

I noticed an interesting trend in my household. The second that my husband or I tap into our IPhone or jump on the laptop or make a phone call, our kids go crazy. Instantly, they are aware that our attention is off of them and on something/someone else. I saw the pattern and realized I had to change WHEN I do these things. The phone calls are usually to family and they talk to the kids. Somewhat fixed. The IPhone and laptop can wait. Until they are in bed, most of the time. So yes, I am blogging less, tweeting less, Facebooking (as my Mother calls it) less. I give my children more of my attention in those moments and reaffirm that they are my priority. Actions truly speak louder than words. This is the childhood mantra. What we DO as parents teaches them what we THINK and FEEL.

What would happen if I took my eyes off the road while my kids are depending on me? For fun, for safety, for love and comfort? What would happen if I took my eyes off the road of my life, health, happiness? As we all know, life seems too short. So now I am determined to make the most of those moments that matter. By paying attention and not taking my eyes off the road.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cooking with Children

Photo by Magna Vita Photography

I am very passionate about children learning about food, and how to cook and bake. I started cooking and baking with my oldest daughter when she was only 18 months old- old enough to stand on a chair at the kitchen counter and follow along. Now, she is quite a good little baker and she loves being in the kitchen with me.

I first started bringing her into the kitchen because we don't do TV with our kids, so it was my way of keeping her entertained while I prepared food. Before long, she was right in there with me, mixing, adding ingredients, counting, reading the recipes. We would talk about colors, where food comes from, how it is grown, food safety, and endless other topics that were really exceptional learning opportunities. Toddlers have an amazing capacity for curiousity and her questions were often challenging to answer. We developed our favorite recipes to make and I often involved her in making her own food. Which is probably why she loves spinach salad, couscous, and other things not typically on the toddler menu.

It is hard work cooking and baking with children. Safety comes first of course, and so you need to be constantly anticipating possible accidents, developing a vocabulary of teaching about safety rather than yelling "stop" or "don't touch that". We had a few slips and falls, and I would never allow her close to the hot stove or sharp knives. But I do think all this safety training has well prepared her to have common sense in kitchen (I hope that her future Home Ec teacher notices:)

It also takes patience to have a toddler in the kitchen. If your kids are older then you will likely have an easier time. Whatever age they are at, I encourage you to do this for many reasons: a respect for food, all that it takes to grow and produce it; a respect for the hard work that you put into cooking for your family; common sense in the kitchen; basic food knowledge and an understanding of how to prepare food; an appreciation for what we eat. I think a healthy relationship with food starts with food knowledge. The best time to teach them is while you are doing it (where do eggs come from?).

When my daughter ate the first pizza that she made entirely from scratch (start to finish, dough and all) she devoured it. She wanted to share it with her sister and she was so proud of her beautiful pizza (topped with spinach, onions, and cheese). It was a proud mom moment for me and an amazing reminder that having patience and spending the time in the kitchen with her are totally worth it. Because not only did she love her pizza, we shared a memorable family moment.

*the photo above is from her birthday party last year- she is enjoying the cupcakes we made together for the party*

Friday, December 30, 2011

Food Hampers

Every year, my employer contributes to the Christmas Hamper program in our community. Staff from our office donate money and purchase, package, and deliver the hampers to our local community services association to be delivered to a family. This year, I pitched in to help. We had raised enough money to offer to adopt the largest family on the list. We adopted a family of 10. We were given a list of non-perishable food to purchase and and also bought age-appropriate gifts for the family.

For several years I have volunteered or donated to local food banks and hamper programs. I care deeply about the fact that so many Canadians are hungry every day, and in particular, children. Since becoming a mother, I feel sad and frustrated thinking about all the children, in our country, that don't eat well every day.

I have often written and talked about my passion for quality food and the food choices we make for our children. There is mounting evidence on how food contributes to physical and psychological development, long term health, and the general well-being of children. It seems obvious to me that we are what we eat. But it isn't that simple. So many of us are eating the wrong food and thinking that we are feeding our children well, when in fact, we are not.

The problem with poor quality food (or faux food as Michael Pollan would call it) is that it impedes brain development, physical health, and emotional well-being. Faux food is a major obstacle to children being healthy and successful. Faux food is contributing to the cycle of poverty. If you don't believe me (and my rather unscientific opinion) than read the countless studies that show the links from high sugar/processed food diets to poor academic and athletic performance.

So what are we to do when trying to help those in need, and are asked to purchase and donate non-perishable food? I have to admit, as I walked around the grocery store filling the cart with food for a family of 10, I felt sick to my stomach looking at what we had to purchase. We HAD to purchase what was on the list, and thankfully there were some really good things (oatmeal, canned vegetables and canned protein) but so much of it was highly processed food such as cereal, crackers, snack foods. On the one hand, I thought about how nice it was for this family to receive all this food but on the other hand, they weren't getting anything fresh.

When the most vulnerable people in our country are being given the non-perishable donations that are essentially filler and calories, how do we teach these families the importance of fresh, good quality food for their children? How do we get this food to them? (I know many food banks have some fresh food programs) And how do we teach them to prepare and cook on a budget with limited time?

When I see mega-food corporations such as Kraft donating food to food banks all I can think is that they are contributing to the problem. The more processed, poor quality food we feed our children, the less likely they will be strong, healthy, and make a positive contribution. They will be stuck in the cycle of poverty, once again relying on the processed food that got them there.

Our giving nature in Canada has put tremendous emphasis on "filling up" our food banks. Pounds of food, boxes of food, its all quantity over quality. Quantity at the expense of quality. I think its time to start putting more emphasis on quality food. Empower people who rely on food banks with better food and cooking knowledge. Teach their kids (who often need to feed themselves while parents are working) to be able to cook. Instead of continuing the cycle of reliance on processed food lets try to change this. I know that it takes more than this. But I really do think that this kind of change will make a difference. A lasting one. And change that is all too necessary.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Get to Know the Confectionista

Photo by Magna Vita Photography
When I started this blog, I wanted to give my fans and customers an inside peak into the life of a working mom with a small business and all that goes with being in the gourmet confection business. I also wanted to share my passion for food and my opinions on the food industry.

This week, I thought it would be fun to share a little more about myself in the form of a list:
  1. I love lists
  2. I love food
  3. My favorite color is green
  4. I really love bacon
  5. I have one sister
  6. My first pet was a calico cat named cally
  7. I have too many ideas
  8. I have a day job as a Manager of Human Resources for a credit union
  9. I now belong to a credit union
  10. My husband and I met at Starbucks. I hired him.
  11. I am frequently frustrated with technology
  12. I am also impatient with technology
  13. But I love my iPhone
  14. If I could only hear one song for the rest of my life it would be George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue
  15. I am trained in classical piano
  16. I love power tools and carpentry
  17. I am superstitious about numbers
  18. I have a fear of snakes
  19. I have a fear of depths
  20. I have a degree in Fine Arts, with a major in Theatre (Acting, to be exact)
  21. I love baking real scones made with lots of butter (see photo above)