I went to a beautiful service at St James Cathedral in Toronto today. The first hour was seasonal music (carols) sung by both the choir and congregation which was interspersed by organ and brass music. The second hour was a very traditional Anglican sung eucharist service with a full procession. I am still learning about Anglican traditions and this was a much more formal service than I had attended before. I believe because it was a New Year's service and all church clergy were involved - including the Bishop of Toronto. I did enjoy it - I wish I felt more connected to the service. It is part of my exploration of spirituality and I will try a different type this weekend. I am not sure if I will end up settling into the Christian tradition or not yet ... Buddhism has some appeal as well.
I also have done some research on travel to Northern India & the Himalayan region today. I want to travel - I want to travel everywhere. I have been having a difficult time deciding where to go this year - I am also torn between a 'small' trip (read - less expensive) or a bigger trip. The research is in and of itself rewarding.
Lastly, a quick note on internet browsers ... since having my PC rebuilt this week due to a virus, I have been using Google's Chrome browser. I was reluctant to switch as I actually enjoyed Internet Explorer - especially the 'favourites' feature. I had used Firefox for several months after I started having issues with a virus I'd picked up on IE. I liked Firefox but hated the bookmark feature. After using Chrome for several days now I have to admit I am sold. I love it! It is fast and very easy to browse. I love their bookmarks feature - way more than IE. And I have heard that it is far superior for security. I am sticking to Chrome.
I've been debating today if I should make a New Year's resolution or not. Having spent the past year cleaning up my fitness & diet, I don't really have any big changes to make there. Well, except for losing the 3 pounds I put on over Christmas. I am thinking more along the lines of how I spend my time. I have some bad time wasting habits - especially in the winter when I can spend an evening in front of the TV watching 'junk' while sporadically surfing the net at the same time. I wish I could spend the time reading some quality material and having the discipline to meditate regularly. I know both of these would be very good for me. There is also some action I know I should be taking in terms of my spiritual life and also finding some new companionship related to this area. I believe this would reinforce and deepen my involvement in this side of life that has become so important to me. Lastly, I have to understand the priority travel has in my life and to take a trip to a destination that is on my list.
I've been drawn to my spiritual side the past while. Actually, for the past few years. It is something I have resisted, I think due to a negative association I've had with 'church' since childhood. I was raised in a strict Baptist home and my parents went to a Missionary Baptist church - yes, in the heart of urban Canada the church was a missionary church from the main congregation located in Texas. It has always seemed odd to me that a North American missionary church would send resources to Canada ... however, this is not the point of this post so I will leave that aside. Now I really did like the pastor of the church - he was a good man and very likable but I never felt any kinship to the teachings of the Baptist church - especially such a fundamentalist church such as I was forced to attend. I rebelled as soon as I was able and thought that was the end of it for me. But I now feel drawn to spirituality. So my exploration has begun. I think this started several years ago and I noticed it particularly during my visits to London. The churches in London are amazing. Not just the well known and spectacular churches such at Westminster Abbey or St Paul but the small churches in the City of London. In the very small business core (the proper 'City of London') there are something like 50 churches - many designed by Christopher Wren. During one trip I think I went to 30 or more of these churches. Sometimes to just sit and take in the lovely, peaceful atmosphere and others to attend either a concert or service. I've wondered if this is why I feel such a strong draw to London - for the churches. Had my family not left England a few hundred years ago, I would have been raised Anglican which is the denomination of the London Churches I visit. I have gone to several church services in Toronto over the Christmas season. It feels right to me to be in church. I don't know how far into the doctrine I feel like going at present but I feel drawn to the atmosphere. So far each time I've gone, I have gone to a different church - I do think once I find one where I feel at home that I might start regular attendance. I haven't completely sorted through what I am looking for in the experience or even if it is traditional church that I am looking for - it could be a Buddhist temple or Yoga Ashram will be my choice. I feel I'm on the right track in starting the exploration though.
While at my mother's for Christmas I read this weeks edition of The Economist from cover to cover .. including an article on Angels. I remember a few years ago 'angels' were very much in style. There were special stores selling angel items and it seemed angels were a part of pop culture. You don't seem to hear as much about them now.
The article in The Economist really got me thinking. A woman described that a force compelled her to change lanes while driving. The lane change happened just in time to allow her to miss colliding with a car parked in the lane.She was absolutely convinced it was an angel who guided her lane change.
I had an immediate flash of recognition. Last May while vacationing in southern Italy I went on a solitary hike. The trail followed the sea and wound through trees and rocks. At times the trail was right on the edge of the sea with a steep drop off to rocks and sea below. At one point I rather carelessly took some chances where there was not much path to step on. Suddenly, looking down to the water something compelled me to stop. There was really nothing for my feet to grip and I realized I would fall if I kept following the path. Given how fast I was walking and how little I was thinking, I felt it was something other than myself that caused me to leave the path and return to the safer path away from the sea.
After reading the angel article and particularly the woman's story of the lane change, I wondered .... could it have been an angel? I think it was. Furthermore, I really like the idea that it was an angel. I haven't had many of these types of experiences in my life and it is comforting.
This is a version of a dish I had at 'Fresh' vegetarian restaurant in Toronto the other week - it was so delicious. I peeked in the Fresh cookbook in the bookstore and noted how simple the recipe is ... so from memory, this is my version.
Cut the block of extra firm tofu into tiny cubes (about a half inch on all planes) Mix up - 1.5 tbsp of wheat germ and 1.5 tbsp of nuitritional yeast. Add in some sea salt and pepper. Coat the tofu cubes well in this mixture. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or so. I noticed they tasted nice when they first came out of the oven ... but the real surprise was how they taste when cooled to room temperature. Then they really crisp up and you can taste the nuttiness of the coating .... this is a really wonderful dish that is so easy. A real gem.
I could see serving this as an appetizer with some type of spicy dip - a peanut or plum dip even. This one is a keeper.
When my new neighbours moved in last year and I noticed two little kids and a dog, I was somewhat alarmed. A year has gone by and I've gotten quite attached to them, the kids and of course the dog. I live alone and sometimes it is fun to come home to this great welcoming committee in the driveway .... kids wrapping themselves around my legs and the dog who can hardly contain her excitement. I've started taking her on my walks with me as often as I can. Being as I am not an experienced dog person (I have cats) learning to walk a dog has been an experience. But she is good and the more I walk her, the easier it is becoming. She is a big dog (lab/rottweiler cross) and of course loves to stop and sniff everything. I try to keep her moving. Sometimes we have a battle of wills ... so we compromise. She gets a few sniffs here and there and mostly keeps moving well for me. I even remember to bring 'poop & scoop' bags with me most days now although she has never actually caused me to use them on a walk yet. I also can't get her to drink on the walk so have to experiement with special bottles - with this heat, I feel too guilty to not have her drink. This is a great way for me to get a dog fix and of course for her - she gets nice long walks in the park and on trails. It's funny the little boy up the street, can't believe I walk the dog 'for free' and thinks they must be paying me - I suppose I am stealing some kids chance to earn a few dollars.
Beets are one of my favourite vegetables - I've cooked and devoured them 3 times in the last week. I've always found them a bit of a pain to prepare but recently read a rechnique that I find really easy.
Scrub the beats and cut off the stem leaving one inch. Boil them until a fork is easily inserted into the beet. Then run them under cold water - this allows you to remove the peel without turning your fingers red. The peel slips right off.
Then I cut the beets in half and slice them. I usually dress them one of two different ways -
(1) sesame oil, bragg's seasoning, lemon & pepper OR
It has been a scorcher outside today. I went for a nice long walk on the trails this evening - something I do most evenings. While walking I saw a family out walking their very old dog. Old dogs always make me very sad but I love to see them being cared for by thier owners. Seeing the dog tonight made me remember an old dog I met in Italy last month ... we were visiting a vineyard and were accompanied by a couple of dogs throughout the tour. When we got back for the wine tasting, another dog emerged - he must have been the father of the brood. He really liked attention though and once I started petting him, he stuck pretty close. He walked us back to the car when we left - until he saw a lizard and then you could have sworn he was a young guy again. Here he is.
It has been so gorgeous in this part of the world this weekend .... happily, I did not have anything planned today. For the first time in ages, I could just do whatever. I relaxed, went to the gym, did grocery shopping, cooked and went for a bike ride. I am not so happy with my weight at the moment ..... after losing a few pound earlier in the spring, I gained it all back and then some. No doubt a trip to Italy and a subsequent overwhelming urge to eat Italian food when I came back contributed. Not to mention a lot of ice cream last weekend and the summer fruit is now in full season. I've eaten tons - yes, I know fruit is good for you but it is also very high in sugar.
Anyhow .... my plan this week is to ramp up the cardio and eat lots of veggies and high protein food but fewer starches. A bit less fruit as well - that means I won't be having a pound or two of cherries for dinner this week!
I got a ton of good food ready today to eat during the week - lots of veggies prepared a/o cooked. Beets, carrots, celery, fennel, cuke, red peppers, lettuce etc. The beets were made into a salad with asian dressing (yummy). I also made a tofu and quinoa salad with an asian dressing which is really good - way better than I thought. This is meant to be a high protein topper for green & veggie salad.
I will weigh myself on Friday and see .... with clean eating and exercize hopefully it will help. This is the time of year to do that type of diet at least.
Recipe for Asian dressing to follow - this one is a keeper.