Vegan Month and Me

November 10, 2014

vegan month

November 1st marked both World Vegan Day and the launch of Vegan Month. Prior to these events, I’d been thinking a lot about food recently. With a chef-turned-restaurant manager for a husband, and my own experiences working on an organic vegetable farm earlier this summer, food is often a subject we circle back to in this house.

The Theory

We both have varying views, with some overlap either in theory or in practice. In theory, for example, we are nose-to-tail supporters. In practice, it is difficult to find butchers (because the demand is so low) for the offal of an animal.

Offal is a French word that refers to internal organs and entrails of an animal.

Although I no longer eat meat, my first experience with offal was at a family Christmas in which my husband cooked two rabbits. I ate tongue, liver, and lung. As a meat eater, I believed it was wasteful and illogical to choose to eat the belly, rump, or leg of an animal, but be disgusted by the feet, tongue, or internal organs. The hierarchy of animal consumption is not just limited to pets versus livestock, but bleeds into a prioritized cross-section of each animal’s anatomy. As a result, a lot of the meat on each animal slaughtered for food is wasted.

My Story

With all of that waste, my own inability to digest meat, and my own cognizant guilt for eating animals in the first place, I ended up cutting meat, poultry, and game out of my diet completely a year ago.

Despite being a politically charged topic, your food choices begin with your own personal physiological needs.

For years I wanted to eat, well, whatever I wanted. This included meat, but it also included highly acidic produce, neither of which my stomach found easy to digest. It took me years of nightly torment, and a lot of discussions about food and nutrition with my husband, before I made a change. Not only was it stressful to deal with the guilt and trauma of eating the cooked meat, but my body’s inability to digest meat kept me up for hours with a bloated stomach, abdominal cramps, gas, and acid reflux. I ate like this, every night, for years. I simply wasn’t listening to my body.

What did not give me pain during this time was fish. But because my boyfriend at that time, and my own family were not avid fish eaters, I had little experience with consuming fish. Eventually I began incorporating it into my diet, and noticed that my body was able to digest this type of animal without any bloating, cramping, or reflux of any kind. I knew that I wanted to go vegetarian for a year before I had actually done so. Leading up to the change, I lacked the confidence to cut any and all animal products from my diet. As a method of assuring myself, as well as my family that I wasn’t going to collapse due to a lack of the almighty protein, I continued to eat fish a couple of times per week.

What I Eat Now

Shortly after high school I found that I could not digest milk. A few years ago I discovered almond milk, and have recently switched to soy. The large-scale dairy industry (the folks who make butter, cheese, and milk) have incredibly traumatic methods of obtaining cows’ milk. I try to encourage the people I care about to be aware of how much dairy they are consuming, as it is not a necessary source of calcium (it has some, but so does a lot of plant matter) and the practices are both commonplace and terrifying.

We are lucky enough to live in the country, where we can source local chicken eggs. I still enjoy eating eggs and feel that, provided they are from the right type of farmer, can be cruelty-free. There are lots of factory farms across the world, and even in Canada, that force their chickens to stay awake, force them to confined spaces (a cage or crate), and never see the outside world. It is important to me to find a local egg source that does not participate in these practices.

Apart from that, I eat a lot of plant-based complete proteins (they do exist!!!) like quinoa, tofu, rice-and-beans, and hummus-and-pita.


If you are looking to change your approach to food, and what ends up in your kitchen and on your plate, here are some tips!

Listen to your body. At the core of it, you are eating for you.

Get to know what nutrition you need, based on your biology: sex, age, and weight are all factors. If your iron levels are low, maybe you need to supplements, or maybe you need to brush up on the [best sources of iron] (Note that the highest amount of iron is found in pork liver, at 13 mg. The highest plant-based source is oatmeal, at 6 mg. The latter sounds far more appealing to me!)

What I’ll Eat in the Future

I would love to share my food goals, and I believe it warrants an entirely new post. I have challenged myself to eat a single vegan meal each day, with surprising success! If you are unable to commit to November’s vegan challenges, why not spend the rest of the month mapping out meals for one single dish each week, or even each day?

Let me know in the comments if you currently eat vegan, or plan to give it a go!

Currently {03}

November 6, 2014

Currently 03

My house turned into Puppy Central at the end of October, and we’re still adjusting to the changes and the emotional roller coaster that is a seven week old Rhodesian Ridgeback/Boxer/Australian Shepherd cross. Little Evie is an absolute darling, and super smart. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t a baby! You can follow the progression of our sweet girl on Instagram! November’s goal is literally to (a) survive and (b) be the best puppy mama I can possibly be to my new little girl! I thought for November I would switch things up, and let you guys in on what’s been happening in my life! These days I am …

Reading: Nothing! I have several books checked out from the library, but since the puppy I haven’t been able to pick up a single one.
Watching: I’ve rewatched seasons one through three of The Office (US)! I had forgotten just how hilarious (and I’m not using that word lightly) that show was.
Dreaming of: Little Evie when she’s old enough to enjoy being in the outdoors! Right now it’s too cold for her liking. We have invested in several jackets, sweaters, and rain coats.
Trying to plan: A vacation with my husband. We have never truly been away anywhere, and after watching Two For the Road last night I’m even more invigorated in my quest to go somewhere I’ve never been with the man I love. Preferably on a road trip where we can take Little Evie with us!
Making: Christmas Cards! Every year I send out Christmas cards to anyone who asks for them, but this year I’m finally going to design my own!
Stocking up on: Late autumn veggies! I am too intimidated to buy my own squash — I leave that for my chef husband — but I have been making use of all the available swiss chard recently!
Wishing for: The rain to end. This fall has been incredibly rainy and miserable. The fall colours were earlier than I ever remember, and the rain and wind blew them all away far too soon.
Enjoying: The emotional roller coaster that is puppy parenting!
Trying: To multitask. It is something I’ve read a lot about and how dangerous it can be in your work, but being a new puppy mama and needing to keep the house tidy (how domestic!) is an entirely new, and necessary, challenge!
Eating: Our favourite local diner had to close for a total of five days due to a backed-up septic. Luckily they reopened in time for Sunday all-you-can-eat brunch buffet, and we did not disappoint.
Goal Setting: My initial answer was going to be, “Figuring out how to stick to my blogging goals, my photography jobs, and my design education while simultaneously rearing a young pup!” My actual answer is, maintaining mindfulness and flexibility.
Excited for: Our housewarming party this weekend!
Working on: A couple of YouTube collaborations that have been in the works for a little while!
Learning: How to train puppies, puppy stages of development, how to outsmart your smartie-pants puppy …
Lusting: More time in the day! Yes, I’ve become one of those people.

What has surprised you recently? What event or person popped up without warning? Let me know in the comments! 

My (Monday) Freelance Routine | FML

October 25, 2014

FML Freelance My Life

With my photography and graphic design freelance work taking off this year, I wanted to connect with other freelancers (and even those thinking of branching out into freelance work) and share my freelance routine. I find these posts by other freelancers and entrepreneurs to be inspiring, titillating, and often quite helpful. My summer schedule was fairly lax and focused around the wedding. Now that I’m a married lady (I can even prove it! Watch my wedding video!) and autumn has arrived, it’s back to business: full steam ahead.

I’m sharing my Monday routine because Mondays are one of my fully freelance-dedicated days. This winter I am working part time in my municipality’s public library system, as a digital literacy consultant. I’m excited for the chance to teach people of all ages how to effectively use the computer, access emails, and even build simple websites. Winter is a slow season for photography, so I’m grateful for the alternate source of income over the chilly months to come! This does mean that my freelance work will be less-than-full-time, which means I need to maximize the hours I am working! Here’s how I’m doing that right now:

FML Morning

7:00 — Wake Up! 
I actually want to wake up at 6 once the clocks change, because the days will be shorter and watching the sun rise will be all the more special and inspiring. Right now, though? I wake up at 7 am, ready to feed our three cats and eat a warm, healthy breakfast of quick oats, fruit, and muesli or granola, sweetened with maple syrup. With breakfast I make my tea, and read. It’s a quite time of day and reading is a great way to wake up my brain.

8:00 — In the Office
By 8 am I’m in the office. I’m either in the living room on my laptop, or I’m literally in my home office, at my desk on my iMac. It depends on what I’m doing and what projects I’m working on. Writing can be a lot easier on my laptop, while the larger monitor is more conducive for design and photography work.

10:00 — Switching Gears
Because I’m a photographer as well as a designer, I like to dedicate at least an hour on Monday mornings to get some of my photography work done. It’s not only a creative time of day, but helps me to start my week with my own visuals in mind. Sometimes this means editing last week’s photos, compiling the weekend’s shoot into a client gallery, or ordering prints!

11:30 — Social Media
I love reading about freelancers’ routines, and I can never get over how many of them send emails and tweet early in the mornings. Knowing what a coveted creative time that is for me, I can’t imagine giving that up for correspondence. Half an hour before my lunch break, I go on Twitter and set up my week’s links via Buffer. This is when I’ll read blogs I love and try to comment (typically via tweets) on the content.

FML Lunch

12:00 — Lunch Time! 
Although I work at home, and my kitchen is a few steps away, I don’t find that I snack very often. When you’re editing photos or working on a design project, I often get into a flow that leaves my neck a little crooked and my tummy a little light, but my endorphins running high. I am trying to get back into my lunch time yoga practice, which is a great time of day stretch and breathe and check in with my body (remember the crooked neck?) and then go off and have a delicious meal. 

1:00 — Riding!
On Mondays I have my weekly riding lesson, and it is the absolute best way to start the day. Riding in the winter can be bitterly cold — last year we essentially had the winter off, there were so many nights that sat at -20 and below, and when I was still working 9-5 it was just cruel for both parties to saddle up. Making sure that I ride during the day is not only great exercise, but it means I’m riding in daylight! The barn is 5 minutes away, and I’m back home no later than 4.

FML Afternoon

4:00 — Back in the Office
Because I go riding during the day, and the evenings are getting darker and colder, I’m happy to spend time working past the traditional 5 o’clock. One of the perks of working for yourself is that you can make your own hours. I work well in the morning, and at night. Middle of the day? I’m distracted and sluggish. Being able to ride and exercise through that slouchy period means I’m only working during my optimal zones! I often use this time to correspond with clients and do promotional work.

5:00 — Social Media Management
In an effort to reduce costs, I’m actually using a trade system where I manage the website and social media content for my barn’s owner, in exchange for lessons for both myself and my husband. I dedicate an hour or two on Monday evenings to this task. It involves web design, posting pretty photos of horses to Facebook, and storyboarding videos for the barn’s YouTube channel. What’s not to like?

FML Evening

7:00 — Log Off
By the time seven o’clock rolls around, I’ve had two hearty meals, exercised, seen my friends and my horse, and had a successful day in the office. I can sign off on my freelance duties with a full heart and content with my outdoorsy time. My husband often works nights, so if I’m not getting together with a friend (I’m typically not) it means I have the evening to myself to make dinner, cuddle with kitties, and read.

If you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur, how do you structure your Mondays? Do you like rigid routines, or flying by the seat of your pants? Let me know in the comments!

50 Book Reading Challenge … So Far

October 14, 2014

reading challenges

In 2013, I wanted to participate in a reading challenge on Goodreads, but I knew I had trouble with quantity of books read. I made a goal of 25, and as I mentioned, had read 19 books by the end of the year. Never having kept a record of how many books I’d read in previous years, this felt like a huge improvement over an unmeasurable value.

I don’t quite know how I’ve managed it, but at the time of writing, I have read 35 books in 2014. That is only four books off of my “expected” goal (according to Goodreads) and is 16 books more than I read last year! My jaw just dropped doing that mental math; I literally punched the numbers into a calculator because it seemed so unlikely. 

In spite of not reaching my goal by December 31st, in the new year I knew I wanted to attempt the 50 book challenge. Half way through the year, with a wedding to plan and, you know, participate in, as well as the upheaval of moving house a second time in just over a year, I realized I was sorely lagging behind on my reading goals. In January, I shared a list of reading goals which I felt were ambitious, but not overly daunting. While I have not stuck to some of my particulars (likely due to the fact that I did not bother revisiting said goals since writing them), the overall theme of reading more, reading often, and reading with discipline has been paying off.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed about this year’s reading challenge:

1. Audiobooks are no longer “a good idea” but are actually acquired, loaded onto my ancient iPod, and consumed during my commutes. No more tweaking of the radio dial in hopes that a passable song or radio show will be playing! Huzzah!

2. Due to their size, I have read a lot of children’s books.

3. Due to their format, I have read a lot of graphic novels.

At first I felt guilty and underwhelmed at my tendency to gravitate towards children’s literature. With so many books on my To Be Read pile, both in my possession or on a library shelf somewhere, I wondered why I couldn’t keep up with the pace I wished to be at. Then, as I gobbled up several graphic novels, I realized why it was that I was picking out these texts. Sure, I was cognizant of their size and quick format, but at the heart of it, these books are all texts I want to read. I’m not picking up Clifford the Big Red Dog with the sole purpose of plugging it into my Goodreads challenge five minutes later. I’m reading Matilda, The Little Prince, and Heidi. I’ve read the entire Worst Witch book series (based solely on my enduring love for the television show I watched as a child). I’m reading classic children’s literature that has shaped the literary landscape which I admire so dearly. I consent that they are children’s books, and therefore shorter and technically well below my reading abilities and therefore “easier” books to read “quickly.”

But if my goal has been to double my reading goal from last year, is it any wonder that I have chosen these texts? On their own, to read within the week or the month, these books are not difficult. But try reading eight children’s books in the span of four weeks. With everything else we have on the go, this is still a challenge in itself! Because my goal has been to teach myself the act of reading often, I am coaxing my crooked old habits into a gentle change.

I don’t advocate for quantity over quality. I don’t believe that we should participate in reading challenges merely to read books we are not interested in, but choose strategically to increase our page count. I do believe that challenges are exactly what we call them: a challenge. They are meant to make us act in the ways we wished we behaved, and they have the ability to force us to walk through the world pursuing our dreams through actions, not only words and wishes.

If you wish to read more, challenge yourself to do so. How this manifests does not really matter, as long as you are genuinely enjoying the content you consume. If you wish to read more often, be aware of what sort of stories you can stomach day in, day out. Some tales require digestion, while some stories invite quick successors. Ultimately, your reading challenge is just that: yours. Do with it what you will, but remember to reflect on whether or not it is taking you where you want to go.

What are your reading goals for this month, or this year? Share in the comments how you’re making them a reality. 

Monthly Goals | October is Full Steam Ahead

October 6, 2014

October Goals

How did you all do on your monthly goals in September? I’m pretty chuffed with my scores!

+ LAND MY DREAM JOB // After many applications and several interviews, I still haven’t found the right fit for a job. I have, however, been in touch with an employment advisor who has made me aware of all sorts of programs that I can apply to, so I’m using this opportunity to do a lot of online learning and study, specifically, graphic design!
+ WATCH 8 MOVIES // After a great movie binge in August, I only managed to watch three films this month! Two were not very good, but the last movie I watched was District 9, and I was absolutely blown away. Watch it, if you haven’t yet!

+ READ 8 BOOKS // I read a total of 11 books in September! After reading Essex County for next month’s Hello Hemlock book club read, I went on a bit of a graphic novel binge. I also, finally, discovered Saga. I have devoured the available trade paperbacks with visceral reactions.

+ MAKE 4 CHARACTER EDITS // This is sort of cheating, but I made three edits back at the end of August when I made this goal. I wanted to make more, obviously, but since these initial edits have yet to see the light of day, I’ll simply post those.

+ TAKE 4 NEW PHOTOS FOR OCTOBER SHOW // I participated in an art show (my first ever) this weekend! Initially I was going to try to display new work exclusively for the show. But because no one in Grey County knows me or my work in animal portraiture, I chose some of my best existing work to display at the show. (I sold two prints! I still can’t believe it)

+ COOK AND BAKE EACH WEEK // I can’t say I baked anything, apart from some cupcakes at the beginning of the month, but I can happily report that I cooked my own meals at least twice a week, right up until the last week of September! (I was staying at my mum’s house this past week, helping to look after her dog while she was away, and ended up ordering take-out a lot!)

+ YOUTUBE POETRY // I successfully wrote, recorded, and shared 15 poems in 15 consecutive days! While I got a lot more feedback and engagement on my poetry this year over last year, I found I was not as happy with my work on a personal level. There were some poems I really loved, but for the most part I was disappointed in my effort. But knowing that I have completed the challenge makes it feel like a success, in some small way.

REVISIT GERMAN // My fab friends Jason and Bee pointed me to DuoLingo, a website and accompanying app that lets you practice almost any language you wish through repetition. It even has a mic function that allows you to practice your annunciation! While I haven’t done any work on it in the past week (being sick with bronchitis and away from home had a hand in that) I am absolutely loving the level system and the ability to practice your “weak skills” which is the bare minimum I will do on a daily basis.

On with the present! What are you hoping to achieve this October?

LEARN NEW GRAPHIC DESIGN SKILLS // In my talks with the employment advisor, I shared that I have wanted to go to school for graphic design (and actually got accepted to a program last year!) and she has shed some light on several programs that would help me achieve this goal. Because it is something that I have wanted, I have been protective of this wish. Now that I have seen how helpful it is to share my intentions and dreams, even just with myself, out loud or on paper, I have decided to share this dream with you. I will be elaborating on my educational and portfolio (!!!) progress.

WATCH 8 MOVIES // This works out to 2 movies per week. My husband, Greg, and I have been watching more and more movies together, but due to his chaotic schedule, I know that I need to watch half of these movies on my own. I am not a scary movie person, but I am looking forward to watching some of the following Halloween flicks: The Addams Family, Beetlejuice, Hocus Pocus, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Edward Scissorhands, Wallace and Gromit, Shaun of the Dead, Nightmare Before Christmas, Disney’s the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Teen Witch.

READ 8 BOOKS //It still seems like a lot of books to read, but I’ve asked my brother for some help with finding graphic novels (my latest obsession!) and do plan on finished a few children’s books. Ha! Maybe next year I’ll be reading fiction at my age level.

PREP FOR NANO // November will be my second year in a row attempting to write a 50,000 word novel via NaNoWriMo! I am going to be using my fab writing pal, Scrivener, to plan some of this year’s story.

BLOG // After reassessing some of my blogging goals, I will be blogging once a week in the month of October. It isn’t much, compared to some of my fabulous favourites, but it will be a challenge to ease myself back into the routine of documenting and sharing my life!

GERMAN // I am loving DuoLingo! I did end up slacking in the last week of September, but if you’re fluent in German, let’s be friends! I can tell you all about how much Milcht I’ve been trinken.

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