Resolution 2015 – Letting The Lessons In

When I was about 16 years old, my dad took my sister and I for a ski holiday in Whistler, BC. Although I was happy to be on vacation, I was also a self-absorbed little shit who was overly critical of pretty much everyone and everything. And as ashamed as I am to admit this – my dad more often than not took the brunt of my criticism. I didn’t like the way he snored, the way he clinked his spoon on the bowl when he ate his cereal, the way he breathed so darn loudly and on and on and on.

One morning as he and I rode the chair lift alone together I shot yet another barb his way (probably about the way he obnoxiously knocked the snow off of his skis for heaven’s sake!) he had had enough. He turned to me and said “Lori, you really have to stop being so critical. It seems like you are constantly annoyed with me and it really upsets me. I know I have flaws but so do you. There are always going to be people and circumstances in your life that are challenging for you to deal with and you can’t control that. You can only control yourself and how you react – and you definitely need some work in that department! No one is perfect Lori and if you wait around for your friends and family to BE perfect… then you are going to end up a very lonely person.”

chairlift

Needless to say the rest of the ride up the hill was very quiet. I think I stammered out a sheepish apology and silently vowed to keep my opinions to myself for the rest of the trip.

My point in sharing this story is not to offer insight into my angsty teenage years or to expound on my dad’s pearls of wisdom- but rather to share what I did after that chair lift ride and how it changed my life from that day forward. I listened. I really listened. I heard what he said and I let the lesson sink in. And although I certainly haven’t nailed it, becoming a less-critical, less-judgemental and more compassionate person was something I intentionally began to work towards starting on that crisp winter morning.

My sister and I were chatting recently about the most important things we have learned over the years and how they have impacted the people we are today. I shared the story from our Whistler trip (she had no idea it happened at the time) and she said she believes this is the key to life. At every age and at every stage there are lessons to be learned, new ideas to be shared, insights to be uncovered and wisdom to be gleaned- and if we can temper the “critical/all-knowing/judgmental/negative/too-busy” response that automatically pops up- we can continue to learn and grow and change and evolve for the rest of our lives.

Yes I have an opinion on that subject – but might there be another way to think about it?

I actually hadn’t thought of it that way before. How interesting!

I would love to read that book/watch that documentary/attend that class/go to that event with you. Thanks so much for introducing me to new things.

Wow! I didn’t realize that about myself. Thank you for sharing.

Perhaps I was completely wrong. I need to do more research.

I didn’t know about that. Can you tell me more?

2014 was a year of many powerful lessons for me – some of them I was more open to than others if I’m being completely honest. It takes quite a large dose of bravery and vulnerability to be truly open-hearted and I can use some work in those departments too.

But here we are in a shiny new year and I’ve decided to opt out of the typical resolutions and instead to focus on what I can learn in 2015. In fact, I was ruminating on this idea at the grocery store recently when an older man tapped me on the shoulder. “Excuse me are you ok?” he asked. “You have the most worried look on your face!” Ah yes, the patented “Lori-Wilson-I’m-Currently-Carrying-The-Weight-Of-The-World-On-My-Shoulders” look. Relax Lori, smile, breath and release those crinkles from your forehead. Thank you kind stranger for the lesson- I’m working on that one too!

Happy New Year to all of my family, friends and followers! Let’s all open up and let the lessons in this year. Who’s with me?

 

Eureka! Amazing Egg-less Eggnog with a Good Shot of Screech

I grew up in a very small town in Eastern Ontario and every Christmas Eve when I was a child we would trot off to church together as a family and then my parents would host a little party afterwards. They would invite our neighbours and friends and a ragtag assortment of people they decided needed a little extra holiday cheer. And on the menu? Loads of egg rolls from a special restaurant in Ottawa, trays of my mom’s homemade sweets and glasses full of eggnog spiked with Newfoundland rum.

image

My dad especially loved to pull out a bottle of Screech and tell his guests that although he found the rum a bit too harsh for regular cocktails – it was far and away the best liquor to perfectly spike a cold glass of eggnog. And inevitably after a few sips – everyone would agree! Of course at the time my sister and I were too young for the boozy version of the drink but I still enjoyed the nog straight up with ice and a bit of nutmeg.

Flash forward to today and my family will still gather to celebrate the holidays together but the menu has changed considerably. I’ve swapped out the traditional egg rolls for this veggie version and my daughter is insisting on making these cold spring rolls to add to the feast. And thanks to some amazing bloggers, I’ve managed to make some of my favourite sweets into healthier and equally delicious versions.

I also really wanted to add an egg-free eggnog to the menu but after carefully looking at the sketchy ingredient list on the “soy” version at the grocery story I decided to try to make my own. As it turns out this is no easy feat. I went through at least 6 different versions – the first one too bitter, the next too gritty, the next too spicy and so on and so on. I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen when I stumbled upon Ashley’s recipe on her site Edible Perspective. And holy moly- she nailed it! Silky, smooth, sweet with just a hint of nutmeg – absolute perfection.

So if you are planning to partake in a little nog this holiday season and the idea of an “egg punch” doesn’t suit your tastes then might I recommend this delectable egg-free version. I will be making my fourth batch to serve this evening and I’m sure it will disappear just as quickly as the last three. And because my dad was bang on- I’ve got a big bottle of Screech on hand to top up the adult portions.

Happiest of holidays to you and your families! Cheers!

eggless nog

 

Homemade Vegan Eggnog (recipe by Ashley at Edible Perspective)

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup raw almonds, soaked in water for 6-12 hours
2 – 3 1/2 cups water
8 – 10 medjool dates, pitted and soaked in warm water for 1 hour
1/2 to 3/4 whole vanilla bean (I substituted 2 tsp vanilla extract)
1/2 – 1 tsp nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 325° F. Spread coconut on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 3 minutes until evenly golden brown. Keep a close eye so it does not burn. Let cool.

Rinse soaked almonds. Place coconut, almonds, 2 cups of water, soaked dates, and the vanilla bean into your blender. Turn on low, working to high and let blend for 1-2 minutes until fully smooth. Add more water if desired.

Note: The mixture will seem extremely thick with only 2 cups of water, but when the pulp is strained through a nut milk bag it will be the consistency of cream. Add another cup of water for a slightly thinner strained consistency.

Place a nut milk bag over a large bowl and pour the mixture into the bag, scraping all sides of the blender. Squeeze as much liquid through the bag as possible. Whisk in desired amount of nutmeg and serve over ice with a splash of your booze of choice (optional). Or, refrigerate (sans booze) in a sealed container for up to 3 days.

If a thicker consistency is desired, whisk in a few tablespoons of pulp.

Notes: This may take 1 trial before you figure out the exact consistency and sweetness you prefer. I liked using 3 cups, 9 dates.

I recommend using a nut milk bag for perfectly smooth nog (or nut milk) with no pulp. If you don’t mind a little pulp, cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer will do the trick.

Using 2 cups of water will yield approximately 1 1/2 cups nog.

Using 3 cups of water will yield approximately 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups nog.

 

Check Me Out On Tuja Wellness!

The good folks at the online health publication Tuja Wellness ran a Nutrition Rockstar contest back in the summer and I was the lucky winner!  Thanks to the generosity of Meghan Telpner and the Tuja peeps- I have been happily soaking in an abundance of knowledge from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition via their Culinary Nutrition Expert Program.

Another wonderful bonus to winning the contest is that I get the opportunity to write a column for Tuja. How freakin lucky am I?! If you haven’t heard of Tuja then make a beeline for their site and sign up already! It’s an amazing online resource for anyone interested in enjoying a healthy, balanced and happy life.

And of course they only use the most brilliant writers ; ) My first contribution for Tuja went up on their site on Saturday so hop on over and check out my 6 Worry-Free Tricks To Keep Your Family Healthy Through The Holidays”.

I hope you enjoy a wonderful and healthy holiday season! And thank you Tuja Wellness for this early Christmas present.

9 Ideas for Holiday Entertainment

Perhaps during the days between the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the festivities of New Years, you may have some time to settle down with a good book or a classic movie or grab a glass of wine and peruse some of the incredibly talented writers and creative people on the internet. Or you might be inspired to start a new project or spend some time setting some goals or focusing on self-improvement.

If you do have some time to spare – here are a few books/movies/clips/articles that I’ve watched and read lately that made me laugh, made me cry and made me think. I also included a great project that I shared with my entire family this holiday that may inspire you to focus on the happiness in your life in 2014:

(email subscribers – you’ll have to follow the links or go to www.lorileighwilson to view the videos)

1. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple– quite simply the best novel I’ve read in a very long time. I could not put it down and I mean that literally- I read the whole thing in one day! Wow. Just wow. (Burlington buddies – Mark is just about finished reading it if anyone wants to borrow my copy : )

bernadette

2. Jaclyn Desforges – I love Jaclyn’s wellness blog because she always seems to post an article or plant-based recipe at just the perfect time when I need something new to create in the kitchen or a different perspective on life. Recently she wrote a very thought-provoking article called “You Should Stop Setting Goals (Here’s Why)” that really resonated with me. Well worth the read!

3. This is My Excuse – mom-of-three Maria Kang faced a lot of backlash when she posted a picture of herself on Facebook with her perfect bikini body and the caption “What’s Your Excuse?”. Kudos to blogger Taryn Brumfitt for writing a kick-butt rebuttal that I think most women will be able to relate to: “Dear Maria Kang: This is My Excuse for Not Having a Body Like Yours“.

maria-kang

4. Collaboration between ZeFrank and Harry Shum“If You Are In A Shell“- my family loves ZeFrank videos (you gotta check out “True Facts About the Tarsier” for a good laugh!) but his recent collaboration with Glee cast member and brilliant dancer Harry Shum is a touching narrated performance piece on shyness. Anyone who has ever suffered from shyness or has a shy child should watch this beautiful video.

5. We’re The Millers– I will admit to having a slightly warped sense of humour…and this movie is definitely not for the faint-of heart. It’s rude, crass and sometimes downright uncomfortable. But it’s also freakin’ hilarious! My hubby and I laughed our butts off!

we're the millers

6. Educating Yorkshire: Musharaf Overcomes His Stutter-this video was all over Twitter so forgive me if you’ve already watched it but I was so moved by it I just had to share it with my readers too. Makes me cry every time.

7. Blackfish Documentary– I caught this doc when it aired on CNN in November and I simply cannot stop thinking about it. A expose of animal cruelty and the sometimes lethal danger to workers at SeaWorld – this film is required watching for anyone who is interested in the dark truth behind killer whale “performances”.

8. Lip Sync Battle with Jimmy Fallon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Stephen Merchant – thanks to my friend Conor for introducing me to this incredibly funny and family-friendly YouTube video. My whole gang bust a gut watching it….and it even inspired our own family lip sync battle this past November!

9. Happiness Jars– I got this idea from the talented author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and I decided to make one for every member of my family for Christmas. Basically, you use any vessel (I chose mason jars) and each night before you go to bed you take a piece of paper and scribble down the happiest moment from your day- date it, fold it and pop it in your jar. Then if you are feeling blue or going through a tough time, you just pull out a reminder of your happiness. Simple. brilliant and powerful….and the kids can take part too!

happiness jar

I hope you find some time over the holidays to sit back and relax…..and maybe enjoy a little entertainment. May your final days of 2013 be filled with fun, reflection, family, friends, quiet, love and happiness!

Veggie Eggrolls – A Christmas Eve Tradition

Every family has their own special traditions that make the holidays meaningful and personal. For my family- cutting down our own tree, hauling out our old boxes of decorations, cranking up the Christmas tunes and trekking to the mall for Santa photos all make it feel like the festive season.

We also have a few weird and wacky traditions that make our family celebration unique. One such tradition was started by my parents many years ago: every December my mom and dad would faithfully make a special trip a Chinese restaurant in Ottawa, Ontario to pick up dozens of their world-famous egg rolls that we would eat with friends and family on Christmas Eve. Nothing says Christmas to me like an egg roll and a big old glass of Screech and eggnog! (well Soy Nog now ; )

However since the traditional rolls contained meat, I’ve offered to make homemade veggie rolls for the last few years. Trust me – this was a risky offer because my family LOVES their egg rolls and I didn’t want to disappoint the troops. But thanks to an amazing recipe by my good friend Lisa, everyone happily gobbles up the Vegetable Egg Rolls and enjoys them just as much as the pork-filled rolls of yesteryear. Whew!

So this Christmas Eve we will be savouring the company of our family, sipping our Screech-laced nog and chowing down on some truly delicious Vegetable Egg Rolls. Thanks for saving our night-before-Christmas Lisa!

Vegetable Egg Rolls (recipe and photos courtesy of Lisa Faley www.flowfit.ca)

Makes 8-10 rolls

veg-eggrolls

  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1/2 head napa cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • handful fresh chopped cilantro
  • handful fresh sprouts
  • 4 crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp shoyu
  • 1 package egg roll wrappers

To heated med/high-high skillet add peanut oil, sesame oil, garlic and ginger.  Stir fry quickly for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Add all other vegetables.  Saute for 2 minutes, add shoyu and cook until liquid is absorbed.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Wipe pan out with paper towel and add remaining oil.  Slowly heat to medium.

To make rolls:

  • Lay wrapper on clean counter in a diamond shape with the point facing you.
  • eggroll 1
  • Place a heaping table-spoon of mixture into centre of wrapper
  • Take bottom corner and fold over mixture, tucking corner under the filling and gently pulling it toward you to grab the mixture
  • eggroll 2
  • Fold in the right and left sides, making an “envelope” shape
  • eggroll 3
  • Roll the form away from you, “sealing” your envelope by putting a little water with your finger on the final corner.  Roll up and press the corner down gently to seal.

Once your oil is hot, gently place egg rolls into pan seam side down.  Ensure they are not touching, don’t over crowd them or they will steam and not get nice and crunchy.

eggroll 4

Fry the egg rolls for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side, turning a quarter turn each time to ensure all sides brown evenly.  Once all sides are done (they should be golden and bubbly), place on paper towel to drain.

YUM!

Healthy Holiday Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Although it’s not officially winter yet, the temperatures here in south-western Ontario are mighty chilly! I am still cranking out Green Smoothies every morning but to be honest- a cold drink just doesn’t cut it when the thermometer reads -10 C.

Yes I could race to my favourite coffee joint to warm myself up but lately I’ve been using my Vitamix to whip up my own hot drink that is just as satisfying and infinitely healthier. It’s chock full of antioxidants, magnesium, protein, iron and healthy fats and is minus the refined sugar and artificial ingredients that I’d get from my regular latte. And it tastes amazing!

Take a look at some of the potent superfood ingredients:

Raw Cacao Powder– not to be mistaken with the overprocessed “cocoa” that is often used for baking – raw cacao powder is the product of milling pure cacao beans at low temperatures. The result is a powerhouse chocolate powder that is loaded with antioxidants, magnesium and iron.

cacao powder

Raw Cacao Butter – these solid white chunks of butter are produced from the fat inside the cacao beans. But don’t forget that not all fats are created equally and the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from cacao butter are healthy and full of nutrients for our bodies. Cacao butter is an antioxidant, is good for lessening arthritic pain and is a mood enhancer. (I also used this stuff to make amazing chocolate-scented body butters).

giddy-cacao-butter-lg

Hemp Seeds– I love these tiny seeds because they are packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, balance hormones, alleviate headaches and regulate blood pressure and cholesterol.

hemp seeds

Raw Cashews– Raw cashews are naturally high in beautifying oleic acid, which is also found in high amounts in extra virgin olive oil. They are also rich in magnesium and manganese, and are a good source of selenium and zinc.

cashews

I also throw in a couple of drops of Living Libations pure Peppermint essential oil (anti-inflammatory and soothes the tummy), raw organic dates (fiber and antioxidants), pure maple syrup (antioxidants, zinc and manganese), 2 capsules of Ortho Adapt Vegan (improves mental and physical performance) and 2 capsules of Now brand Vitamin C (immune boosting) to round out my drink.

Try subbing your morning coffee with this creamy, healthy and delicious Peppermint Hot Chocolate at least 1 day per week and I’m willing to bet you’ll find it warming and satisfying. I’ve even got my toddler drinking it by cooling it off with some almond milk and calling it a “candy cane hot chocolate.” Oh and I might have stuck a marshmallow or 2 on top of his drink just for good measure!

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
(makes enough for 2 big mugfuls)

cashew cream latte

1/4 cup raw organic cashews
1/4 cup hemp seeds
2 pitted medjool dates
1 tbsp. pure maple syrup (more or less depending on desired sweetness)
2 drops food-grade peppermint essential oil
2 heaping tbsp. of raw cacao powder
1-2 medium-sized chunks of cacao butter (approx. the size of a loonie)
2 capsules Ortho Adapt Vegan
2 capsules Vitamin C
4 cups of boiling water

Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend for 1 minute. Pour into big mugs and enjoy!

10 Awesome Ideas for Healthy Holiday Giving

I love the holidays! I love the baking, the music, the traditions, the socializing and I love dreaming up special presents for my loved ones. As a little holiday inspiration, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite things to help make your holiday giving a little bit healthier:

1. All-Natural Homemade Gifts – I took a course this year on making homemade beauty products and my daughter and I have been whipping up our own concoctions ever since. This holiday season we are preparing Flower-Shaped Lotion Bars, a special Sugar Body Scrub and our very own Bath Salt recipe to share with family and friends. We purchased some inexpensive mason jars to use as containers, a bit of ribbon for decoration and voila – beautiful chemical-free delights. My favourite online recipe resources are meghantelper.com and wellnessmama.com.

Izzy and Lori’s Bath Salt Recipe: 4 tbsp. Epsom salts, 2 tbsp. sea salt, 8 drops of lavender essential oil and 6 tbsp. baking soda. Shake in a small mason jar.

epsom salt bath

2. Fitness Classes– one of the best ways to stay happy and healthy is to get out and move your body. Why not give the gift of exercise and treat your favourite person a gift certificate to experience a new fitness class? Make sure it’s one you have already tried yourself and can wholeheartedly recommend as being fun and worthwhile. My personal local favourites are Tread Powerfully (kick butt workouts with a caring and inspiring leader), Be Yoga Studio (zen atmosphere and gentle uber-bendy teachers) and Exhale Pilates (a lovely studio, kind instructors and mat, reformer and barre classes that will tone and lengthen your body).

compass

3. Essential Oils – I am completely addicted to essential oils and I have the cupboard full of little glass jars to prove it! Just a few drops of these plant essences have remarkable healing properties and virtually unlimited uses. Since all essential oils are not created equally, be sure to do your research and pick a company that has 100% pure oils and certified food grade ingredients. I order all of my oils from Living Libations and they are truly amazing!

living libations

4. A Great Book- One of life’s great pleasures is settling back with a fantastic read. And it can be even better if the book inspires you to achieve greater health, more personal happiness or inspires some positive growth. This past year I enjoyed a number of game-changing books that I’ll definitely be sharing with the people on my Christmas list. My top picks are Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart, Marianne Williamson’s The Law of Divine Compensation and Tara Brach’s True Refuge.

daring greatly

5. Charitable Gifts– There are many amazing charitable organizations that offer special opportunities for giving during the holiday season. Plan Canada provides a catalogue of items you can donate in the name of a loved one (including quinoa plants this year!) and the World Wildlife Fund will send a cuddly stuffed animal to people who contribute to their cause. And a big thanks to my friend and fellow veggie blogger Celeste who shared a great idea for “adopting” an animal from Farm Sanctuary. In her recent post entitled “Top 10 Vegan Christmas Gifts of 2013” she shared the following: “By adopting a farm animal, you’ll help provide their food, shelter, and veterinary costs, and you’ll show your opposition to farm animal cruelty. Adoptions can be made in a gift-recipient’s name and the recipient will receive information about their adopted “pet” including a picture, his/her story, and even details about visiting their animal. $10 to $50 per month for 1 year from Farm Sanctuary.”

baby pig

6. A Restaurant Gift Certificate– when people find out that I follow a mainly plant-based diet, they often assume I consume a very boring and limited selection of foods. But nothing could be farther from the truth! There is a bounty of amazing vegan and vegetarian foods and some very cutting edge chefs preparing exciting menus of  inventive dishes. A gift certificate to your favourite veggie restaurant or bakery is a great way to introduce friends and family to plant-based foods that are healthy and delicious. We are lucky in Burlington to be able to enjoy amazing vegan fare from Lettuce Love Café, The Naked Sprout and Kelly’s Bake Shoppe.

kellys

7. A Meditation CD or Course– We live in a fast-paced society and it can be hard to find quiet moments to relax, unwind and get in touch with your mind. I started my own meditation practice this year and I can tell you that it has made a tremendous difference in my life. Yes life is still hectic and crazy but I am able to approach most situations with much more calmness, awareness and patience. You can simply sit and begin but I found it very helpful to start with a guided meditation. Check out the Chopra Center for Meditation and Oprah and Deepak Choprah’s meditation courses, CD’s and downloads.

oprah and deepak

8. Healthy Foodie Gifts– This is another opportunity to whip up a homemade gift by pulling together the ingredients for your favourite veggie dish and wrapping it up in a creative way. You could make homemade granola and share it in a large mason jar (thanks to my friend Elisa who recently did this for me!), bake up your favourite holiday goodies and pop them in a decorative box or gather all of the spices and cans of beans for the world’s best Spicy Chia Chili and package it together with the recipe. And if homemade is not your thing – there are tons of fabulous and unique healthy foods you can buy online to share. Check out Coco Polo’s stevia sweetened chocolate bars, Wild Branch’s maple syrup infused with medicinal mushrooms or a big bag of Black Elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs to help ward off and treat the flu.

Dark_Almonds_DSC_0944

9. Non-toxic Beauty Products– I am always on the hunt for a great new beauty product that works well, smells great and makes me look at least 10 years younger ; ) If you aren’t into making your own stuff – check out a couple of my favourite new all-natural products: LaVanilla All-Natural Deodorant Stick, John Masters Organics lavender and Avocado Intensive Conditioner, Good Gums Natural Tooth Paste Powder and Aubrey Organics Facial Moisturizing Rose Hip Seed Oil.

john masters

10. Bling– I am a girlie girl at heart and nothing makes me happier than a beautiful new piece of jewellery. I can highly recommend the lovely Tiny Devotion Mala Beads that my husband got me for Mother’s day and I have been coveting a ring from the vintage collection at Brilliant Earth for the past few years (hint, hint Mark). This Canadian company  is committed to using ethically sourced materials, conflict-free diamonds, and recycled gold. Also -check out this funky Swatch watch that I saw featured in Today’s Parent magazine that reads “Be Happy For This Moment, This Moment is For Life“. What a great reminder to slow down and fully appreciate the holidays!

swatch

I hope this list inspires you to put your health and the health of your loved ones at the very top of your list this Christmas. I wish you and your family the happiest and healthiest of holiday seasons!