Friday, May 24, 2013

it's the weekend: stay dry

If only we could all look as cute as Brigitte Bardot in the rain.

Rain, rain, go away... as much as I hate to complain about the weather the constant grey, drizzly weather we've been having this week has not exactly been uplifting.  BUT it's Friday!  I'll be spending the weekend sifting through all the things I learned from Alt Summit and working on some great round ups of summer activities for the Fredericton Tourism blog.  

To wrap up the week here are some links I've liked  lately:
  • As we all know the world's gone Gatsby mad. I fully support this if it means we get to break out the Prohibition-era cocktails featured on Refinery29.  Is it too early in the day for a French 75?
  • These vintage food poster PSAs from World War II on Brain Pickings are delicious. 
  • Through the magic of algorithms and some resourceful human journalists Times Haiku publishes serendipitous poetry from the New York Times daily.  (via How About Orange)
  • Dreaming of a summer getaway?  Check out New York magazines roundup of amazing summer rentals - working lighthouse anyone? (via A Cup of Jo)
  • Speaking of interesting homes... Apartment Therapy is holding their 9th Small Cool contest.  Amazing to see the stylish spaces people can create with very little square footage.  At 165 square feet (!) I think this home in Italy takes the cake!
How are you spending your weekend?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

ira is my homeboy

Note card by 4four
It should surprise exactly no one that I love Ira Glass.  And my love grew even more on Saturday when Jordan Ferney from Oh Happy Day shared this quote during her Alt for Everyone presentation.  It so completely summarizes I have often felt but never been able to articulate:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through ― Ira Glass

How have you handled this gap between your work and your ambitions? Do you feel you've closed it?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

alt for everyone

Whenever I see the #altnyc or #altsf hashtags start to show up in my social media feeds, I always feel a pang of envy.  The Alt Summits have become the  hot ticket for rookie and established bloggers alike.  Given that tickets to the Alt Summits in New York, San Francisco and Salt Lake City are notoriously hard to get (they cap attendance at about 300) and since my budget is a little lean these days, I jumped at the chance to sign up for Alt for Everyone.  For the first time Alt was taking their summit online.  Over the course of three days I had the chance to hear from some of my favourite lifestyle bloggers and connect with other bloggers from around North America.  
I got to learn from some amazing bloggers including (clockwise from top left): Joy Cho, oh joy! |  Jordan Ferney, Oh Happy Day! | Chris Gardner, and Man Made DIY | Liz Stanley, Say Yes to Hoboken!
It was so perfectly timed!  I've recently cut back my hours as Director of Communications at Theatre New Brunswick in order to pursue other communications consulting work as well as my own projects. Continuing to build and develop The Glad Girl is definitely part of that plan.  I can't wait to work on the tips I got!

I'm also working my through the blog roll of the participants - so many lovely blogs to check out and I hope to share some of my favourites here with you.  I have to give a special shout-out to Crystal from A Bunch of Britts who included The Glad Girl in her Alt roundup.  She's a designer, Starbucks addict and new mom. Go check out her blog!

Monday, May 20, 2013

on the road

It's a holiday weekend and we're on our way back from a whirlwind overnight trip to Nova Scotia's south shore.  I'll be back tomorrow with some impressions of the very first Alt for Everyone. Lots to think about after three days of classes and conversation!

Friday, May 17, 2013

finding fiddleheads

Last week my pal Karen and I spent the day with travel writer Sandra Phinney and fiddlehead expert Melvin Nash  foraging for fiddleheads. The young furled ostrich fern that looks like something from a Tim Burton movie is a spring delicacy in these parts.  You can read all about my adventures on the Fredericton Tourism Town Square Blog and find out more about this dish I prepared with the wonderful Chef Lizzie Stewart of The Blue Door Restaurant and Bar, one of the top 50 restaurants in Canada.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

fiddlehead risotto

Along with ramps and morels, fiddleheads are part of trifecta of blink-and-you-miss-it wild foods of spring.   I had the chance last Friday to go foraging for fiddleheads with a man who literally wrote the book on fiddleheading, Melvin Nash.  You'll be able to read all about those adventures on the Fredericton Tourism blog later this week.   I had been obsessing about the idea of fiddlehead risotto since I first knew I would end up with a few pounds of fresh fiddleheads.  (Actually I spend about 98% of my time obsessing about risotto.  It's only the ingredients that change.)

I found a great recipe Spring Lemon Risotto with Asparagus and Fiddlehead Ferns on the kitchn and
based the dish on that.   I opted not to include the asparagus giving the spotlight completely to the fiddleheads.

serves 4 to 6
3 cups fiddlehead ferns
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, washed well, and diced.
2 scallions, white parts only, washed and minced.
1 clove garlic minced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
approximately 5 1/2 cups hot vegetable stock
zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Start by cleaning the fiddleheads.  I learned a great technique from Melvin but it involves a stiff breeze and rushing stream.  Assuming your kitchen doesn't have these amenities, use your sink.  Wash the fiddleheads then rub them in a kitchen towel to remove any of the brown paper-like chaff. Trim off any brown ends.  

To blanch the fiddleheads you'll need a pot of boiling water and an ice bath.  Boil the fiddleheads for about 2 minutes and then plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking.  Once they cooled, I chopped the stems and left the furled tops intact.  Set aside.

Simmer your pot of brother, covered, over medium-low heat.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Saute leeks, scallions, and garlic  until tender and almost translucent.

Add rice, and stir until grains are translucent at their edges but still opaque in the center, about 3 minutes. 

Add wine, and stir until liquid is almost completely absorbed. Add the warm stock by the cupful, stirring until rice has absorbed nearly all of the liquid before adding the next cup.

When rice is almost done, stir in the blanched and drained vegetables and the lemon zest. Stir in the last 1/2 cup of stock, then add the cheese and remaining butter.

Roasted fiddleheads: I love roasting vegetables.  I think if there was more roasting and less boiling of vegetables people would not be so averse to eating them.  I topped the risotto with roasted fiddleheads and I thank it really made this dish.  Simply toss the clean fiddleheads with oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

We paired it this with one of my favourite wines - Benjamin Bridge's Nova 7 - perfection!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

i and love and harvest

When it comes to bands I could have seen but didn't, I don't hold on to a lot of musical regrets.  But missing The Avett Brothers at last year's Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival here in Fredericton is definitely at the top of the list.   So I was over the moon to learn that I will get a do-over this September!  The darlings of the folk-rock world are part of an impressive line-up announced yesterday for the Festival's 23rd year.   Over six days 400+ musicians will take over six city blocks for 150 performances electrifying our little riverfront capital.

The other act I'm especially excited to see is Michael Franti and Spearhead who make their Harvest debut.this year.  "Say Hey (I Love You)" is actually my warm-up song for my morning jog along the city's waterfront.  I can't even imagine the energy they'll bring to a live show in the Alexander Keith's Blues Tent.

We'll have to wait until September to experience the live event but until then here's a small sampling of what Harvest go-ers are in for!  And don't forget tickets go on sale on Saturday!

Harvest Jazz & Blues 2013 by Heather Allaby on Grooveshark

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

may day! 10 commandments for rescuing myself

And just like that it's May.  I don't often get confessional on this blog so let me just say that this winter was not my favourite time.  There are a lot of big changes afoot in my life and while there are still a lot of unknowns, I am feeling optimistic.  But it's been a bit of a slog to get to this point.  I always find winter a bit tough.  Add in exhaustion and confusion and I wasn't feeling particularly glad, good or brave. Quite the opposite. I've spent much of April trying to take care of myself.  Over the past month I've come up with 10 commandments. Many of them I learned in 4th grade health class but the fact is they're also the first things that go out the window when I'm stressed.

Thou shalt drink water. Like, lots of it.  When I was a very little girl I used to end up in the hospital hooked up to IV fairly regularly. That's how bad I was at drinking water.   But  that sluggishness?  That headache?  Water is gonna help.   If you want to give your water a little punch skip the artificially sweetened additives and toss in some fruit or veg or herbs.  My favourite is sliced cucumber.  And right now I'm sipping on a glass flavoured with fresh ginger slices.
Thou shalt get moving. Just start. Doesn't matter if you're not a natural athlete.  Just move.  Get off the couch.  I get into a vicious cycle when I'm stressed: I don't feel like doing anything.  So I don't.  And then I feel more sluggish and down.  So go for a walk.  Dance in your kitchen.  Take a yoga class.  Shoot some hoops for the first time since high school.  Just do it.

Thou shalt eat more fruits and vegetables.  Because again stress makes for a vicious cycle - I find myself reaching for processed food with empty calories and little nutritional value, which only makes me feel worse... and then I reach for those same processed easy foods. When I was visiting my parents at Easter I was finally starting to feel like I was on the mend.  And I was overwhelmed by my craving for fruit and raw vegetables.  I used to balk at buying prepped trays of chopped fruit and veg - after all, I should be together enough to chop up broccoli, right? But the fact is, when I'm stressed I'm not.  And if it means the differnece between reaching for  fruit and veg or not, then spend the little extra on the prepped tray.   On a related note: Thou shalt take your vitamins.  Consider it your back-up plan.

Thou shalt get fresh air whenever you can.  I would love to be a winter person; one of those rosy-cheeked people out on the ski hills.  I'm not.  I hibernate.  So now that the weather is getting nice here, I am trying to get outdoors as much as possible.  I'm lucky to live in a city that encourages this behaviour with great trails, parks and a beautiful river.  So I'm choosing picnics on the green over restaurants, catch-up walks with pals instead of coffee whenever I can.

Thou shalt review your emotional investment portfolio.  This can be a tough one.  We all have those people in our lives who are high-risk or low-return when it comes to the emotion, time and energy you invest in them.  And when you're already feeling stressed and vulnerable they can stretch your resources even thinner.  I'm not advocating that you just cut people out of your life (although sometimes that's the hard truth about what needs to happen) but you need to be mindful about who gets your time, energy and attention.  Invest heavily in people who inspire, encourage and refresh you.

Thou shalt clean up your messes. One of my favourite Dorothy Parker quotes is: "It's not the tragedies that kill us, it's the messes."  Both literal and metaphorical.  For me a cluttered house only increases my anxiety.  Don't leave dirty dishes in the sink over night.  Hang up your clothes.  Take the 10 minutes to fix that little household annoyance like a wobbly towel rack that bugs you every time you encounter it.  And same thing in your emotional, financial or professional life.  I believe most of us have the ability to rise to the occasion when we're faced with a  serious crisis, it's the day to day messes that add up and wear us down.  Take a hard look at what you need to clean up and start figuring out how to take action. That one step alone can make you feel better.

Thou shalt make your bed. This was my mom's rule.  No leaving the house with an unmade bed.  If you make your bed you won't come home to sloppiness at the end of a long day.  And you will have made order out of at least one messy thing today.  Also run a comb through your hair and put on some lip gloss.  You'll feel better.

Thou shalt get creative and make things.  Make the time.  This is an important one for me.  Again it can feel like there's no time to do this but taking a few minutes to turn a pile of materials into something lovely always energizes me.  And it's a bonus if I'm making something for someone else.

Thou shalt seek out beauty.    Take half an hour an go to a gallery. Take a different route to work.  Create a little corner in your house that makes you smile.  Post pretty images on your fridge or your bathroom mirror.  Give yourself a few minutes a day to look at pretty things on Pinterest. Plug into Songza and treat your ears to new music.  Look at the sunset.  Look at the stars.  Look at a tree. Just look.  Once you start seeking it you'll start to see it everywhere.

Thou shalt practice gratitude.  Write down things you're thankful for every day. You'll be surprised by what you come up with.  And you'll start to notice things more.

I'm lucky that these self-care habits can help reduce my stress and improve my mood but I also understand that for many people who live with depression or anxiety, lifestyle changes might not be enough. I've never understood why we can't move past the stigma associated with mental health issues.  No one judges a diabetic for needing insulin in addition to healthy eating and exercise - no one expects them to 'buck up' or 'snap of it'  - but for some reason we're only beginning to tear down the misconceptions about mental health.  That's why I'm really excited to be headed to A Day in Her Shoes next week with my mom in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association.   The more we can bring mental health out into the open and the every day, the better!

How do you take care of your mental and physical health?