Archives for category: Reflections

I’ve neglected this space for a while. I got busy–first with work, then with traveling (oh, those were the days), then with being thrust head-first, full-force into this graduate program that I’ll be completing for the next 6-7 years. This last part was actually great for me. It forced me to get to know my campus, my program and my peers early on; it gave my day-to-day life structure; it distracted me from any potential feelings of homesickness or loneliness in this new city.

And for the first six weeks or so, this worked. Not only did I not have homesickness or loneliness to speak of, but for the first time in my life, I felt 100% on top of my workload. As someone who procrastinated most of her way through high school and half of university, I finally feel like I have my time management on lock. I’ve got a good momentum going. The problem is, I’m starting to feel like that momentum isn’t sustainable.

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^ My version of self-care.

Sure, I may have my shit together, but I only have my SCHOOL shit together, and the effects are taking their toll on the other areas of my life. Not enough time to get 7 hours of sleep, to paint my nails, to try out delicious new recipes, to hang out with new friends, to Skype with old friends, to talk to my family on the phone. Not enough dates with Kyle, and not enough time for ME. So much for “time management”.

The thing is, there IS time for all of the above – I just have to find a way to restructure my life and rebalance my priorities. This program and career path are super important to me, but so are my mental health and well-being. After all, how can I promote the mental health and well-being of others if I haven’t figured out my own?

Here are 3 small changes I’m planning to implement:
1. Getting ready for bed at 10pm.
2. Waiting until after I have fully woken up and refreshed before checking emails/social media.
3. Trying at least one new thing that excites me each week – whether it’s a recipe, a restaurant, or a dance class.

Join me in my self-care mission! What are some things you’d like to do for YOU? I’d love to know. 🙂

Stay true to you,

Caj

 

You might be wondering why I tried a juice cleanse in the first place.  Three reasons:

1. Usually I’m pretty good at recognizing when I haven’t been eating well and making healthier choices, but lately I’ve been struggling with that and generally turning to food (and not the fruit and veggie kind) for comfort.  I hoped that a cleanse would help kickstart me on a healthier path both physically and psychologically.  Plus, why not see if there is any truth to all the health and beauty claims?

2. Ever since Greenhouse Juice Co. opened, I’ve become a juice convert.  I absolutely love their products and their brand.  It’s hard for me to pick my favourites, but I really love Gold Rush (pineapple, cucumber, lemon, and ginger) and Deep Roots (beet, carrot, apple, celery, and lemon).  East of Eden (romaine, kale, celery, apple, and lemon) is also a good choice – I just go for whatever I’m feeling that day.  Also: for every ten bottles you return, you get a free juice AND a free yoga class.  Also: their smoothies are SO good.  Drinking “The Rio Deal” is like sipping a ginger cookie through a straw.

3. I’ll try just about anything once.  Not crack though.  You’re on your own there, Mr. Ford.

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^From left to right: Clean-Zing, East of Eden, E3 Live Booster, The Good, Almond Milk, Reishi Booster, Deep Roots, Chia Seed Hydrator. Each with its own health-enhancing properties.

So, without further ado, here is a peek into my day-to-day experience…

Day 1

8:30am: Pick up my juices at Greenhouse, feeling excited to begin my new adventure.  The first juice of the day, “Clean-Zing”–water with lemon, maple syrup and liquid cayenne, à la Master Cleanse–is not my favourite but I have had it before and am more or less used to the flavour.  Either way, nothing can sway my motivation at this point.

9:30am: Take obligatory Instagram photo of juice lineup (see above).

10:00am: Crack open the first actual juice of the day, East of Eden.  I am happy to start my day off with a juice that I know I enjoy – it fuels my motivation, and I’m already counting down to my next juice.  Let’s be real, though: that’s mostly because I’m hungry.

12:00pm: Apprehensively contemplate the E3 Live booster, a blue-green algae shot that resembles swampwater and is supposed to improve mood, brain function, and hair/skin/nail health.  I am pleased to discover that it has next to no taste.

Craving: All the Easter chocolate I see while walking through Shoppers.

1:00pm: Time for The Good: romaine, spinach, cucumber, celery, lemon, and Himalayan salt.  I’m a little nervous about this one too–it’s the only juice I haven’t tried before due to its being made entirely of vegetables–but it’s surprisingly good.  I really like the hint of salt.

Craving: Sushi.

3:15pm: Almond Milk o’clock.  This isn’t just any almond milk – it’s made with coconut oil, vanilla bean, and dates for extra sweetness (or are they all? I wouldn’t know).  The first time I had it it was a little watered down, but this batch is AMAZING, almost like a milkshake.  The vanilla bean is a seriously welcome addition and I feel like I’m having a well-deserved treat.

3:45pm: Feeling horrible and sweaty post-downing 500mL of almond milk in under half an hour.  Pace around before putting my head on the desk in an attempt to rest before my 5:00 physio appointment.

4:20pm: In the car driving to physio and yawn-yawn-yawning all the way there.  Doubting that I will make it through my hour-long appointment.

6:30pm: Made it home!  Time for my Reishi immunity booster, which I became scared of when I learned that it’s a mushroom extract.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE mushrooms–they are my favourite vegetable and yes, to me they are a vegetable and not a fungus–but I want to eat them, not drink them.  Luckily, just like the E3 booster, it goes down like water.

Craving: A bagel and cream cheese.  Can’t remember the last time I’ve craved this.

7:15-8:15pm: Sipping Deep Roots while watching a couple episodes of Scandal.  Feel a pang of jealousy as I smell my dad heating up some of our friend Martha’s homemade chicken noodle soup.

9:00pm: Decide that I can’t put off drinking the Chia Seed Hydrator (alkaline water, chia seeds, lemon, and maple syrup) any longer.  Shake up the bottle and brace myself for my first sip.  Want to gag at having to swallow mouthfuls of slimy chia seeds whole.  Feel more jealousy as dad takes an oatmeal raisin cookie out of the freezer.  Force myself to drink 3/4 of the bottle before dumping the rest down the drain and calling it a day.

Craving: A salad topped with canned tuna.  If you know me well, you will now understand just how much I hate this chia seed thing.  Canned tuna is the one edible thing on this earth that I despise.

Bedtime: Apart from the hour post-almond milk-guzzling, I felt completely normal today.  It is 11:00pm and I still have a lot of energy, actually, even though I didn’t sleep well last night.

Day 2

8:00am: Wake up as I always do, hungry and excited for breakfast.  Alas…

Craving: Breakfast cereal.  Any kind will do.

Then: This apple cinnamon bun from Piroshky Piroshky (sigh):

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12:15pm: This algae shot tastes a little worse today.  Ugh.

12:40pm: Losing faith in my willpower.  I really want solid food.

1:15pm: Everything tastes really intense today – The Good is really salty.  I’m thinking I could really appreciate the flavours and textures of that bagel and cream cheese right now.

Craving: Any food ever that appears on my Instagram feed.

3:00pm: Mmm.  Almond milk (consumed more slowly this time).  Looked forward to this one because not only is it the tastiest of the bunch, it’s also the most filling.

5:30pm: My thumbs are purple.  That’s pretty standard for me though.

7:00pm: Take Epsom salt bath as suggested by Greenhouse + the internet.  Prop my laptop on the counter so I can multitask by watching Homeland.

Craving: Teriyaki salmon and broccolini?  I don’t know, solid food.

8:25pm: Tonight was supposed to be bad, but I still feel completely normal.  Just really, really thirsty.  Does that even make sense?

Craving: Anything and everything that my dad is eating right now.

10:00pm: Starting to feel like I might have the beginnings of a sore throat – you know that annoying scratchy feeling?

Bedtime: Honestly, other than the throat thing I still feel fine.  Maybe that just means I didn’t have a ton of toxins to begin with?  I find that hard to believe, but who knows.  I’m not complaining.  I’m probably jinxing myself for tomorrow though.

Day 3

7:30am: Wake up with a worse sore throat than before.  Jinx confirmed, or this cleanse is finally working its magic.

8:00am: Search the house frantically for my phone before finding it in the pocket of the vest I am wearing.  Feel generally weak and kind of like I have cold sweats.

Craving: No food – just a nice hot cup of tea.

8:30am: Pick up my juices from Greenhouse, substituting the Clean-Zing for the Long John (a hot version of the same thing).  The flavour is even more powerful in hot form, but it energizes me and soothes my throat.

12:00pm: I’m sweeeeepy.  Someone bring a fuzzy/furry blanket to my office please.

12:10pm: Look in the bathroom mirror and notice that my lips are tinged green from juice.  That’s a good look.

2:30pm: The salt in this drink makes me so.  Thirsty.

Craving: Everyone’s Instagram food.

4:00pm: Feelin’ pretty spritely as I leave the office.  Oh, almond milk, I will miss you.

5:45pm: Rudely awoken from my nap on the couch by the phone ringing.

6:15pm: This is definitely my shitty day.  The sore throat is back in full force and I feel phlegmy (sorry), weak and tired.  Ugh.  I had really been hoping to end off on a good note.  This calls for more Scandal.

6:30pm: Spitting into Kleenexes between each sip of Deep Roots.  Again, sorry, but if you came into this post thinking it would be all sunshine and roses, you were mistaken.

7:45pm: Soothing myself with some herbal tea.  It occurs to me that I haven’t craved caffeine once in the past three days – guess I’m not as dependent on it as I thought.

8:30pm: I just want to get into bed.  But that chia seed thing is beckoning…ugh.

9:30pm: Wow, I actually finished the bottle.  I also popped an Advil for my sore throat – I wanted to avoid it but I also want to sleep.

10:00pm: Just as I am getting ready for bed, I have a renewed sense of energy/general health.  Of course.  Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all!

Day 4 and Final Verdict

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^ I woke up like dis.

My sore throat has abated and I’m feeling good, just hungry.  Though I had some rough patches, overall I felt pretty normal during the cleanse.  My main complaint is that I had a hard time sleeping, probably because I just had so much energy every night.  And/or maybe I’m not yet used to the time change.

As for the other health benefits: My skin is definitely the clearest and softest it’s been in a long time.  I feel more positive and cheerful.  And maybe it’s a placebo effect, but I also think my hair is shinier, teeth are whiter, and vision is clearer.  More than anything, I’m proud of myself – I never would have guessed I’d have the willpower to follow through with this so completely.  I feel accomplished and like I’ve truly done a good thing for my body.  And I do feel motivated to continue down a healthier path.

Let’s see how that goes…breakfast, anyone?!

Stay glowing,

Caj

P.S. Because you’re probably curious, this healthy splurge cost me $65 per day (before tax).  I think it’s a great investment, but definitely one I’ll be making less-than-frequently.

I’ll admit, I had this whole Culinary Creations post planned where I would display my masterful efforts at making red velvet whoopie pies, using this recipe.  Unfortunately they were not masterful at all – the dough was super sticky, the cakes were dry (and a little salty) and try as I might, I couldn’t get the cream cheese icing not to drip all over the place.  I probably didn’t do a good job of converting the weight measurements to volume measurements (because I whole-heartedly trust The Londoner’s baking expertise), but whatever the reason, I thought I’d save you the pointlessness of that post and just let you feast your eyes on this little burger-thing:

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^ That icing…ugh. Luckily, my sweet tooth was salvaged this morning:

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^ An acceptable pre-breakfast snack.

I’m feeling all cheery today. I’ve got my red pants on and pink glitter on my nails.  I love this “holiday” because it gives me a perfectly valid excuse to send out warm fuzzies, whether in a text or a homemade greeting card:

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Stay loving!

Caj

In the aftermath of an admittedly less-than-stellar month, I am welcoming February with open arms.  While I usually hop right on the New Year’s Resolution train, this January I made one excuse after another for myself in a dangerous cycle of self-pity.

But I’m choosing to forgive myself for that, wipe my slate clean and treat February as my true start to 2014.  Look out for a more mindful, kind, punctual, carefree and non-symptom-googling Caj.

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^ The key to a fresh start? A delicious breakfast. 🙂

A few things I have to look forward to this month:

  • A more varied fitness regimen.  After months of the same boring gym routine, my body is finally getting back to normal, and I can’t even describe how exciting it has been to ski, snowshoe, swim and DANCE again.  I’ve even been sneaking in a few mini, mini runs at the gym.  I’m still pacing myself, but I plan to keep changing it up so that exercise can once again be something I look forward to.
  • Enjoying 3-course meals for cheap at Winterlicious (on til February 13).
  • Valentine’s Day.  Yep.  Even when I’ve been single, I’ve always loved V-Day and used it as an excuse to wear pink and red, gorge myself on baked goods and perform little acts of kindness.  This year, you’ll find me baking some of my own festive treats (and sharing the recipe(s))!
  • A clearer view of my future.  The pieces are starting to come together–slowly but surely–and I’ll be excited to share more once I know everything for sure.
  • Just the general fact that we’re one month closer to spring.

Stay fresh,

Caj

I’m going to come out and admit it: I’m having a rough month.  I guess the anticipation of a new year is sometimes better than the new year itself, especially when you’re only 3 weeks into it.

I’ve been feeling bored and blah and sorry for myself, even though one of my new year’s resolutions was explicitly NOT to feel sorry for myself.  In fact, I’ve been having a hard time sticking to my resolutions in general and letting myself feel defeated.  I’ve found that even the most simple-sounding goals can be surprisingly difficult to put into action.

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The short days, monotony of the work week, and polar vortex are all obviously contributing, but the main reason I find myself in this funk might make you laugh.  When it comes to my self, I’m a bit of a serious perfectionist, which causes me to become overly dramatic when something goes wrong.  Right now, I’m feeling like a 62-year-old stuck in a 22-year-old’s body.  I’ve been working for months to rehabilitate my knees, only to start feeling more pain as well as clicks, cracks and pops in literally every single other joint.  I try to keep my mind off of it, but it’s hard when I feel/hear it with every move I make.  To cap it off, exactly three of my fingers and three of my toes are swollen, with X-rays and three rounds of blood work so far yielding no explanation.

“What is going on?!?!?! Do I have arthritis? Is it a lost cause? Am I never going to be able to do all the things I love, like run or dance, again?” – My brain.  Give me a break, brain.

I’m waiting for my beloved springtime, with its sunshine, flowers, birdsong and boundless hope, to come and rescue me.

In the meantime, I’m starting a gratitude journal.

Stay POSITIVE!!!,

Caj

I love new years and the promise they bring: a fresh start, a new and sunny outlook.  I am an avid goal-setter, so coming up with resolutions is no difficult task for me.  What is difficult is refining my list.  Here’s my problem: it’s so easy for me to generate a super-long list of resolutions just by visualizing my “ideal self”, but I’m never going to realize that ideal if I try to improve upon every single aspect of myself at once.  I’d be better off choosing a select few goals at a time (it feels like high school when I was always struggling to shave that extra page off my essays…some things never change).

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The other no-no is making goals that are at all broad or vague, and I’m guilty of many: “eat fewer treats”, “prioritize better”, “be kinder to others”.  All admirable goals, but I accomplish way more if I choose things on which I can actually measure my progress, or even better, cross right off my to-do list.  My floss-every-day resolution circa 2011?  I’m still goin’ strong.

So, what are my priorities right now (even for the month of January alone)?  And how can I break them down to make them realistic?

  1. Be in the moment, by:
  • Putting away my phone when with friends/family, when at work, or when trying to focus on a task.
  • Catching myself when my mind wanders in conversation.
  • Engaging more in small talk.
  • Really savouring every bite and every sip.

      2.  Prioritize and be punctual, by:

  • Actually getting up when my alarm goes off.
  • Making a list of the three (more or less) most important things to get done that day, and not worrying so much about everything else.
  • Leaving home with enough time + at least 10 minutes to get where I need to be.

3.   Make more of my own meals, by:

  • Generating meal ideas, and going grocery shopping, on Sundays.
  • Preparing work lunches (and breakfasts, if necessary) the night before.

      4.   Be more fearless, by:

  • No longer googling every last symptom, in order to stop feeling sorry for myself.
  • Stop letting my knee problems hold me back from doing the things I really love – it’s not worth it.
  • Putting a smile on my face as much as possible.

I’m a little skeptical about whether #3 will stick, but I’m feeling good about the others.

Stay ambitious,

Caj

P.S. Stay tuned for more regular posts in 2014!

While my more-mature big sister has come to terms with the bleak realities associated with December birthdays, I haven’t quite reached that point.  I will confess that my birthday is still a big deal to me–perhaps childishly so.  The thing is, as long as I can remember, it has fallen right smack in the middle of holiday madness and–until this year–exams.  Without fail, my schedule would gift me with an exam the day after my birthday, keeping me cooped up in the library while my friends were either also studying or already home (yes, I am requesting a tiny violin).

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I don’t mean to sound demanding or self-indulgent: For me, it’s just become about finding ways to inject little sources of joy into my day.  That could mean getting a free Starbucks drink, redeeming my mini beauty gift at Sephora, wearing my favourite outfit, or making a reservation at one of the many restaurants on my list.  With time, I have mastered the art of finding joy in the little things.  This year felt a little extra-special, though: I was lucky enough to ring in my day at the Beyoncert (a term I have just coined, you’re welcome) and to celebrate with a group of 20+ friends, and I felt completely dumbstruck, blessed and ecstatic about both.

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More than anything, though, I have been humbled as always by the outpouring of love from friends and family.  To me, this is the magic of birthdays, and the reason I hope I never get over them: It is one day a year, just for you, that serves as a reminder of how much you are loved.  Of course that may be true all 365 days, but sometimes it can be easy to forget.

P.S. You may or may not have noticed that I now have my very own domain, keepingitcaj.com.  A gift from an extra-special person in my life. 🙂

For:

1. Advent calendars: an excuse to eat chocolate every morning when I wake up every day for 24 days.

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2. Ugly (?) Christmas sweaters. Let’s be honest: they’re beautiful.

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3. Festive baking. Expect some more recipes for sweet treats in the next couple of weeks!

4. Christmas movies, old and new. I never get bored of watching Love Actually or The Holiday, and I’m still a sucker for the animated Frosty/Rudolph movies. A red-nosed reindeer and a misfit wannabe dentist? I’ll take it.

And most importantly:

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5. Holiday cards and handwritten notes. I love making personalized, handwritten notes all year round, and get even more into the spirit during the holiday festivities. Personally, I’ve always disliked picking out a generic greeting card and adding a brief “Happy birthday!”, “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy holidays!”; these are opportunities to tell others how much they mean to you, in a unique and personal way. Give that person something they can hold on to and re-read many years down the road, evoking nostalgia and happy memories. Even better, if you’re the creative type, get crafty and make the card from scratch!

Stay jolly!

Caj

Here are 7 things I’m feeling grateful for this Thanksgiving weekend:

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1. A good book to get immersed in…

2. While wrapped up in a cozy, fuzzy blanket.

3. A hearty slice of pumpkin pie.

4. Catching up with family.

5. Apple-picking adventures.

6. A hot cup of apple cider.

7. Stuffing! Enough said.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone! Hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend. And let me know what you’re thankful for in the comments…

Stay grateful,

Caj

A few weeks ago, I posted about how I was craving a colour change and asked you guys for your thoughts on which direction I should go. The response was overwhelmingly that I should go brunette (56% – see the results here). I have to admit, I had been leaning toward that colour to begin with, but after seeing the results of the poll, the thought of actually committing to it was nerve-wracking for me. When it comes to my appearance—whether it’s my hair, makeup, or general style—I’m a bit of a change-phobe. When I first got highlights, I wanted them so subtle that in the end most of my friends couldn’t even see them. The same goes for my haircuts (except my most recent one): no one could usually tell. I wanted it to be different this time. I had been craving a change, and what better time than now (when I have nothing better to do)? I decided to take the plunge:

I went for a brown that’s a bit darker than my natural colour, with an auburn undertone for warmth. Thanks to everyone who voted and/or gave me advice and suggestions in person! So far, I’m loving it.

Stay fearless,

Caj