Those who wish to sing always find a song.
~ a Swedish proverb

Sunday, February 28, 2010

"We're going to need considerably bigger buns."

from "Calendar Girls", 2003 film

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The idea of living past 100 years old is not appealing to many people because often it is associated with diminished health and mental abilities. After reading this book that stereotype will be put to rest.

The idea of aging has always fascinated me especially since having such a close relationship with my Nana. She lived in her own apartment with such life and vitality right up till the week before she passed away. She was two months shy of 92. I loved to brag about her age and how vibrant a life she was still living. When I read this book it was obvious to me how she encompassed many of the qualities that these centenarians shared.

This book was written by Dan Buettner who's groundbreaking work on longevity led to his 2005 National Geographic cover story "Secrets of Living Longer". He has since become the founder of Blue Zones, an organization that helps people live longer and healthier lives.

This book is not so much a "how to" but rather a book about a collection of amazing individuals who have common threads to how they live their lives. Dan Buettner and his team identify four of the world's Blue Zones; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California and the Nicoyan Peninsula in Costa Rica.

After spending time getting to know these inspiring men and women, the author Dan Buettner asks them what they feel is the secret to living. The key to them for living a full life was to live simply.

I love lists...this is a list of suggestions for living a healthy long life taken from the advice given by a handful of our worlds centenarians.

  • Put family first where every member of the family is cared for. People who live in strong, healthy families suffer lower rates of depression, suicide and stress.
  • Celebrate elders in our communities and in our families.
  • Laugh with friends. Laughter reduces stress and is fun.
  • Move. Be active without having to think about it. Walk. Dance. Do yoga. Plant a garden.
  • Eat less meat and processed foods.
  • Lower your daily calories. Stop eating when you are 80% full. Rather than eating till you are no longer full, try eating till you are no longer hungry.
  • Drink red wine in moderation. (I like this one.)
  • Have a purpose in life. See the "bigger picture".
  • Take time to relieve stress. Consider reducing noise in your life, be early, try meditating.
  • Belong to a community.
  • Surround yourself with others who share the same values.
  • Get outside and enjoy the sun, nature, water.
  • Drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest.
My Nana was an inspiration to me and many of those around her. She did live fully. She had a sense of purpose, she felt grateful, she belonged and felt valued. She died happy and loved. This is a true achievement of success after living a long and healthy life.

Take a look at the Blue Zone website to learn more about living longer.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"The Yellow Wallpaper"

I read recently on an old friend’s website that she needed a change of scenery or she was going to go all "yellow wallpaper" on us. At the time I didn't understand her reference. I went to high school with her and then remained in touch by working in the local art community as we emerged into the real world. I could always count on her suggestions of artists to explore, books to read, recipes to savor.

So after being puzzled by her "yellow wallpaper" comment, I looked it up and was amazed that I never came across this short story in my years of education.

This story was written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It was one of the first feminist writings at a time when women were not encouraged to think independently. It was a time when women had to conform to the idea of what was "womanhood" in all its domesticity. This story describes a woman’s struggle with post partum depression after the birth of her daughter. Her husband “John” was a physician and also the absolute authority in her life. The treatment for her "nervousness" was "The Rest Cure". This meant that patients were isolated and discouraged to interact with others or even to read and write. The resting in bed for weeks or months at a time often proved to be a treatment that usually left most patients weaker and more disillusioned.

Her struggle in the story was with a depression and the lack of self confidence to do what she inherently felt was right for her. She felt the need to write but her physician husband would not permit it. She secretly wrote when she was alone. The room in which she was "resting" became her prison; the yellow wallpaper became the cage. It was not until her depression got so great did she begin to build her self confidence and seized to care what others thought of her. That is when an interaction with the yellow wallpaper began. She became obsessed and further delusional but in her delusions eventually found independence.

This book has a strange way to exude a feminist point of view but it was powerful. Mental illness is challenging in the best of times but to suffer in the days when women’s rights were non-existing would be tragic.

I believe we all have the ability to know what is right. We all have a voice that will guide us in the direction that serves us best. Tragedy comes when that voice is impaired by either mental illness or by a learned oppression of our society or surroundings.

To be able to be free to feel what we are feeling is the ticket. Nobody should be robbed of this. And from time to time, we all need a change of scenery as my friend mentioned, so that we also don't feel trapped by the designs of our own "yellow wallpaper"!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"...nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands."

e.e. cummings

World Without End

I finally finished this book "World Without End" by Ken Follett.  I have heard it referred to the "Book Without End" is long but worth the read.  I did find myself waiting for it to be done (if only to lessen the burden of holding the book each night) but ultimately enjoyed the journey.  If you were a fan of "Pillars of the Earth" you should definitely put the time into this book.  I would recommend reading the soft cover edition however.  It was a little heavy to hold in bed after a long day!

Set in the fourteenth century but written for contemporary readers; the enjoyment for me was feeling the characters slowly settle into my imagination each night and then enjoying the ride of the ups and downs of their fascinating lives.  Full of love, sex, violence, human weakness and human strengths.  Women continue to live strong even in a time where male dominance is the only way.  It leaves you thankful to be born in this age!  Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Crepes for Carnival

Spent an hour making crepes to help my children celebrate Quebec's Winter Carnival.  Every year their wonderful school puts together a week celebration of Carnival to learn about the traditions, practice their french and simply to have fun.  I helped them out by making a bunch of crepes for a taste test at school. 

It was a lovely morning in the sunshine of my kitchen and a basic crepe recipe.  I was able to sneak a few for a little lunch myself.

Basic Crepes

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. melted butter

Mix in a bowl using a wire whisk or mixer, first combining flour and eggs and adding liquid gradually.  Beat until smooth and add remaining ingredients.  Let rest for 15 minutes.

Makes approximately eight 8" crepes.