Ordered Off Knitting!

Stop the presses! I have been ordered to take a two week break from knitting!

I’ve given myself a repetitive movement injury in my right shoulder. Though it’s not terribly painful, it’s wise to nip this in the bud before it gets to be a big problem.

This is, as you can imagine, a blow. Over the past few days I’ve really come to appreciate how important knitting is to my well-being.

Knitting is therapeutic

Between caring for kids, job hunting and running the household, life can get a little dull. Let’s be real, many of these tasks are downright tedious.

Knitting gives me a break from that tedium. Because it’s easy to pick up and put down, I can seize a free moment to go into that meditative and calming trance. Usually I have the radio going, and knitting allows me to keep my hands busy and better focus on what I’m listening to.

But without knitting?

Well, contrary to what I would have expected, my productivity has fallen dramatically.

I thought that without the distraction of knitting, I’d use the time to fill out more job applications, get the chores done and devote myself to my children.

But actually, I’ve found that without knitting, there is no promise of relief from the tedium.

Suddenly all the chores seem so onerous, and the job applications seem too hard. And honestly? I’ve felt more depressed than I have since the period after my mother died.

While there certainly are other factors contributing to that, it seems that not being able to knit has magnified these negative feelings.

Toughing it out

I’ve been reading more, which is great. But while reading is a favorite activity of mine, it’s not as easy to do with kids in the house. Reading requires complete focus, and I can’t engage in conversation or listen to something informative while I read.

*Sigh* I keep telling myself this is temporary, and that with help from an excellent physical therapist (hooray!), I should be able to get back to knitting before long.

A Slight Case of the Plague

You’ve all heard of the man cold, right?

That’s when a man gets a cold. Anyone who has shared a home with a man knows what I’m talking about. To listen to him you’d think he was dying.

Well, I have a man cold.

I am dying.

It feels like my sinuses are going to cave under the pressure, and I sound like I’ve been singing along at a K.I.S.S. concert.

Staying at home with the kids while Chico is away, it’s hard to take the time I need to rest and get well.

Mom guilt kicks in whenever I lie down for a bit, instead of doing the one million other things I think I SHOULD be doing.

Like preparing a healthy dinner for the boys, or applying for another job, or getting some exercise, or folding the laundry, or, or, or…

You get the picture.

So here’s a message to all the mamas out there suffering from a cold:

YOU CAN TAKE THE DAY OFF.

Well, you know what I mean. You still probably have to get the kids off to school, but it is TOTALLY OKAY if you want to get back into bed when you get home.

Your kids will not fail to get into Harvard just because you didn’t take them to the library this afternoon.

(Let’s face it, they’re probably not going to get into Harvard anyway…)

That extra episode of Sesame Street? Yeah, it won’t kill them.

They didn’t get much exercise today? Whatever. They’ll be fine.

Self Care Starts with Me

There’s a whole industry out there that tries to sell me products labeled as “self care” products. Things like manicures, scented candles, bath salts, facial creams, a glass of wine…

But if you ask me, that’s all horse hockey.

Self care is taking care of my mental and physical well-being.

When I have a cold, that means giving myself permission to take the time I need to recover.

This week, I’m setting the example to my boys of what it is to take care of myself when I don’t feel well.

I’m eating healthy foods, drinking lots of tea, bundling myself up like a babushka and resting as much as possible.

The Boys Kinda Love it…

The Bug and the Bear are so much enjoying all the extra TV time that I suspect they’re going to TRY and get me sick as much as possible.

Come to think of it, it WAS the Bug who gave me a full-on kiss on the lips and then sneezed into my face.

Clever boy…

back-to-school-feeling

That Back-to-School Feeling

Ah yes indeed, there’s a nip in the air and the days are shorter. I’ve got that back to school feeling!

There’s always a wistful feeling in September. Summer is over, it’s getting colder, and the year is winding down. But it’s also a time for a fresh start.

Figuring Things Out

Since my mother died, I have learned a lot. Without her to motivate me and encourage me, I have found myself coasting somewhat aimlessly through life.

As you may surmise from other articles I have written, I enjoy being a mom. My Bug and my Bear are delightful people, but as children they are not the most intellectually stimulating folks I know.

It’s taken me a while, and I’ve had to beat down some guilty feelings about this, but I have come to the conclusion that I am not meant to be a stay at home mom.

I don’t get much satisfaction from running the household. I’m not much interested in cooking (baking is another story, and my waistline is paying for that). I get bored and lonely being at home all day.

I need to get back to work. The only problem? It’s so much work getting back to work.

Lighting the Fire (under my butt)

After more than 4 years of either working very little or not at all, it’s not easy to find the energy required to get back to work.

Job hunting is a tiring, discouraging and slow business. Alternatively, building up my freelance business has its own challenges. I have to go out and look for clients, market myself, and throw in lots of time and effort.

It is so much easier, once the boys are out of the house and I’m on my own, to slip into habits of inaction or switch on autopilot. Laundry, meal planning and prep, cleaning, grocery shopping… All these things need to be done anyway, and they’re easier to do than job hunting.

But they’re driving me mad.

So I’m Heading Back to School

My long summer holiday is over. It’s time to gather my qualifications, my experience and my talents, and actually do something with them.

I’m going by baby steps here. As my little Bear goes through his “Eingewöhnung” process at daycare (a four-week period of settling into daycare routine), so must I go through my Eingewöhnung of getting back to school, and gradually increase my working time as the Bear increases his time away at daycare.

Hard to do it Without Mom

Mom didn’t let me be lazy. She would offer advice and motivation over FaceTime, or show up at my home to take over with childcare so that I could do what I needed to do to get back to work. She rode in like the cavalry to rescue me from inertia and idleness.

It’s hard to find the same motivation to do it without her. But now that the umbilical cord has been so definitively and abruptly cut, I’ve got to.

For my sake, and for my family’s health and happiness, I need to figure out how to push myself to do my best, with only the echoes of my mother’s voice to nudge me along.

second_pregnancy_syndrome

Second Pregnancy Syndrome

Second Pregnancy Syndrome (or SPS as I like to think of it) is definitely a thing.

During a first pregnancy, you’re in a honeymoon period. Whether you feel sick or fantastic, you’re constantly aware of your pregnancy.

You get weekly update emails from websites like babycenter.com or pregnantchicken.com (these were hilarious and a personal favorite).

When people ask you how far along you are, you can tell them exactly how many weeks and days.

You have time to lie around the house, feeling those little movements that make your heart glow, and do all the nesting you want.

Your baby room looks ah-maaaaa-zing, like something off of Pinterest.

When you get home from work, you can collapse into bed without a care in the world.

Fast Forward to Your Second Pregnancy

This is an entirely different ball game. And it’s not as much fun.

You may still feel sick, or perhaps you feel fantastic. But you’re definitely TIRED. The fatigue of the first trimester hits you like a mack truck coming full speed out of the fog.

You think, “Ok, I’ll lie down and take it easy.” But as soon as you lie down, a little voice says, “Mamaaaaaaa… Let’s plaaaaaaay…”

Oh Right. You have a Toddler.

Your first kid is likely somewhere between 20 months and 36 months old. This is a notoriously difficult age: the Terrible Twos.

Any kind of change is a huge drama to your toddler. And at this point, your toddler’s emotional brain is hugely over-developed. So everything is ALL ABOUT THE EMOTIONS. They’re overpowering. They’re overwhelming. They lead to meltdowns and tantrums at the drop of a hat.

You’ve got to manage a tantrum, or somehow go through the mechanics of your routine without being sick all over your kid, or falling asleep in your chair.

Second Pregnancy Syndrome Symptoms: Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

The symptoms of Second Pregnancy Syndrome are as follows:

All that time you had during your first pregnancy? Gone.

Regular nap time? Dream on (unless you’re lucky and your toddler still naps).

Knowing exactly how far along you are? HA! “What? I’m pregnant? I’d have forgotten if I hadn’t just barfed in the kitchen sink.”

Reading weekly email updates comparing your foetus to fruit and vegetables? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Doing your stretching, pregnancy exercises or labor breathing practice? See above.

Preparing that perfect baby room? Dang, this kid will be lucky if he/she gets a bed to sleep in!

Some Solutions for SPS

It’s not all bad news, though. There are ways to combat SPS, and to make life during a second pregnancy a little easier to handle.

1. Convert your toddler to a big girl/guy

Kids at this age love to be helpful, and to feel like they are trusted with responsibilities. Make your little one feel like a big girl/guy by asking for his/her help. Whether it’s help making breakfast, tidying up, getting dressed on their own like a big kid, or brushing their teeth, every little bit helps.

You can even take it a step further and potty train your kid. According to Jamie Glowacki (potty training expert and the “pied piper of poop”), 20-30 months is the ideal time to potty train your kid. We took that to heart and seized the opportunity to potty train and get one kid out of diapers before another one starts out with them.

We found that potty training our son gave him confidence, made him feel proud of himself, and spurred on his desire to be a “big guy.” He now climbs into his car seat on his own (hooray for not having to pick up 15kg of toddler while pregnant!), no longer sits in a booster seat, brushes his teeth on his own and gets himself dressed. All helpful.

2. Ask for help

No one is going to judge you for hiring a regular babysitter to watch your kid while you take a nap.

If your toddler isn’t in daycare, look into options. If you’re working and your toddler is in daycare, find a reliable babysitter who can come in on a regular basis to help out. Sometimes it helps just to have someone play with your kid while you throw some dinner together.

Get your partner involved. Work out a schedule whereby you can both be home at the same time in the evening (prime toddler meltdown hour), so you can work together to get that kid to bed before you collapse.

If you have family around, ask for help. Even if it’s your overbearing mother-in-law (I cannot speak from personal experience here, but I’ve heard they exist), bite the bullet and ask if she can watch your toddler for an afternoon a week, or maybe even do one overnight a week.

3. Remember to take care of yourself

This is the hardest one, and I’ve definitely failed at it.

Being diagnosed as dangerously anaemic reminded me that I need to eat better and take care of myself, not just my big guy.

Do what you can to eat well, and get plenty of rest. If possible, try and get in a gentle walk a few times a week. Getting outside will help both you and your toddler (and you can’t really do anything but gentle walking when you’re with a toddler).

It’s so much easier said than done, and I’m still struggling with this one. As moms, we often worry about everyone’s well-being but our own.

Remember: when you’re pregnant, it’s not just your well-being, but also that of your baby. So just do it: lie down for that nap instead of putting on a load of laundry. It’s good for you.

Pregnancy Is A Waiting Game

Hooray! I’m 37 weeks pregnant! For those who don’t count pregnancy in weeks, that means I’m 8 and a half months pregnant, or 2.5 weeks away from my due date. As of 37 weeks, this baby is officially full-term, meaning he could come ANY MINUTE.

Any minute.

Any minute now…

Has it been a minute?

WHY ISN’T MY WATER BREAKING OMG??!!

First and Second Trimesters: A Breeze!

thebraininjane.com 34 weeks pregnant
Believe it or not, at this point things weren’t too hard.

When you’ve had a pregnancy as easy as mine (I swear, I was BUILT FOR THIS), trimesters one and two are a breeze.

If it hadn’t been for my getting slowly fatter (and knocking over wine glasses with my belly), I could have forgotten I was pregnant. It wasn’t until I started feeling the baby’s movements that I could really believe it.

Even at the start of the third trimester, things weren’t that hard. Yeah, I’d get winded quickly, and I was starting to feel quite a bit bulkier. But nothing compares to the past week or so.

Third Trimester: The Waiting Game

Suddenly, I feel like I have BALLOONED. Standing for long periods of time is uncomfortable, but so is sitting because all my vital organs have been shoved up into my ribcage, making my lungs feel a bit crowded.

pregnancy is a waiting game
I may be smiling but I’m struggling to breathe.

Normally an active person, getting out of the house has been difficult. The weather doesn’t help (thank you, Montreal), and the fear of slipping on the sheets of ice that cover the sidewalks makes my ventures tentative and short.

So what to do? Low on energy, feeling huge and lumbering, I spend a lot of my days indoors, knitting, reading, sewing, finishing off the last things on my to-do list.

But mostly, I feel like I’m just waiting. Yup, pregnancy is a waiting game.

The Worst Is Not Knowing When

People wait for their delayed flights at LaGuardia Airport in New York
This is what the last weeks of pregnancy feel like.

I’m an organized person. I like to plan things out and get my logistics in order. I’m not obsessive or anything, but I am not the best at improvising (unless, of course, I have planned to improvise…).

Waiting for this baby to come is like waiting on a delayed flight. You know your flight will be leaving at some point–it’s inevitable–, but you don’t know when. You don’t want to wander too far from the waiting area at the gate in case they make an announcement, but the all-knowing voice over the loudspeaker isn’t giving you any information. It seems that only God knows when your plane will start boarding.

At this point, only God knows when this baby will decide to get the party started. Braxton-Hicks contractions are like the movements of the airline personnel up at the gate desk: you think something is getting started, but then it’s always a false alarm.

And so I wait.

What to Do? Be Ready.

The only thing that I can do is try as best as possible to get on with life, and be ready. My organized self has prepared as much as possible. Here’s a helpful list of what you can do to be ready:

  • Have your hospital bag packed. You can find some useful lists of stuff here and here.
  • Get hubby to pack a bag! Several friends have pointed out that they completely forgot to prepare PJs or anything for Dad.
  • You need a hospital bag for baby, too!
  • Cook up some food and freeze it. I hear you’ll be glad you did this when you get home from the hospital.
  • Keep your phone charged and have your charger with you ALWAYS.
  • Carry around a maxi pad. Okay, this may sound weird, but what if you’re out and your water breaks? It can happen in a gush, but it can also happen in a trickle, so have a maxi pad ready on hand, just in case.
  • Download a new ebook, some podcasts or episodes on your phone or tablet, for distraction purposes during long hours of labor.
  • Have all your documents, birth plan, ID, etc., ready to go.

Other than that, the only thing you can do is distract yourself. I’ve decided to do so by hosting a dinner party. Because, what could go wrong, right?

What It’s All About

Honestly, what it all boils down to is this: I’m really excited to meet this kid. I’m impatient to see his face, to hear his voice and to get to know him with my Chico.

That’s what makes this waiting game so difficult. Delicious anticipation.

pregnancy-miscarriage-support

Let’s Talk About Miscarriage

This story has a happy ending, I promise!

After suffering a miscarriage myself at the end of 2013 (accursed year), I am currently happily expecting our first baby. Fingers crossed that all continues to go well.

This topic, though, is something that needs to be talked about. So, here goes.

pregnancy-miscarriage-support
Image sourced from BabyCenter.ca

(For the record, I am not a doctor and I am using my personal experience and trustworthy online resources and written materials to compile the information for this article. If you suspect you might be having a miscarriage, contact your doctor immediately.)

My Miscarriage

I was probably 8 weeks pregnant last December when my pregnancy ended, but I didn’t know about it until about a week later.

That’s called a sceptic miscarriage, or when your pregnancy stops but your body does not expel the fetus. You eventually develop an infection in the uterus, the symptoms of which can be fever (yup, had that), body aches (yup), chills (yup) and other unpleasantness.

After a trip to the emergency room and a night in hospital, the doctor performed a D&C (a suction dilation and curettage) and within 24 hours I was ready to go home. Heartbroken.

What is a Miscarriage?

A miscarriage is when a pregnancy ends before the 20th week. According to the Mayo Clinic online resources, this happens in about 15 to 20 per cent of pregnancies.

Basically, that’s why you hear you’re not supposed to announce a pregnancy until you’ve made it through the first trimester (or 14 weeks). The risk of miscarriage drops dramatically after that point.

In addition to a sceptic miscarriage mentioned above, there are several kinds of miscarriages:

  • Threatened miscarriage: Where you’re bleeding but your cervix hasn’t dilated. With rest, these often don’t actually result in a full miscarriage.
  • Inevitable miscarriage: You’re bleeding, contracting, the cervix is dilated and there’s no way it’s not happening. Bummer.
  • Incomplete miscarriage: You’ve lost some of the tissue, but some is left behind in the uterus.
  • Missed miscarriage: Placental and embryonic tissue is still in the uterus but the embryo has died (or never actually existed).
  • Complete miscarriage: You’ve passed all the pregnancy tissues and everything is cleared out of the uterus.

Source: Harms, Roger, M.D. & Wick, Myra, M.D., Ph.D (eds) 2011, Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, Good Books, Intercourse, PA.

Your Choices of Treatment

In my case, I was offered two choices: I could do the D&C (as mentioned above) in the hospital, or I could take a pill at home that would cause my body to expel the fetus at home.

For the D&C, you are put under general anesthetic and uses a machine to gently suction the pregnancy tissue out of the uterus.

The medical treatment may involve an oral pill that will cause you to expel the pregnancy tissue later (probably at home). I had heard of people choosing this option and it sounded absolutely horrifying to me. That’s why I opted for the surgical procedure.

Normally, your care provider will outline the risks of each procedure to help you make your decision.

Miscarriage is NOT. YOUR. FAULT.

Yes, there are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of miscarriage. These are:

  • Age: If you’re older than 35, you have a higher risk of miscarriage. Apparently, the age of the father can also influence the likelihood of miscarriage.
  • More than two previous miscarriages. If you’ve had two or more miscarriages, your chances of having another increase.
  • Smoking, drinking and doing drugs. This one is pretty obvious, I should think.

Source: Idem.

What is important to remember, though, is that unless you are abusing your body horribly with drugs and alcohol, having a miscarriage is absolutely not your fault.

Usually, pregnancies end in miscarriage because the fetus is simply not viable. It’s not caused by having sex, exercising, or lifting heavy items. And, unless it’s a case of toxoplasmosis, it’s probably not caused by anything you eat (even those “forbidden foods”).

Remember, too, that unless there are other physical issues, most women who have a miscarriage go on to have healthy pregnancies and babies.

Seeking Support

BabyCenter.com and .ca offers resources for expectant mothers who have suffered a miscarriage. You will find any number of online forums where women (and their partners) share their experiences and offer words of support and comfort.

Chances are, too, that you know someone who has had a miscarriage. Talking about it with family and friends helped me to grieve, but also to understand that what I had experienced is (sadly) quite normal. Surrounding me were women of all ages who had had the same experience (for some, it was more than once).

They shared their stories of heartbreak, but also encouraged me with their stories of joy about how a healthy baby almost always followed a miscarriage.

Your healthcare provider can also recommend resources for you. If you find you are deeply grieving, you may want to speak with a mental health professional. There is no shame in this, and it is, in fact, a smart and proactive move to seek out assistance.

You’re Not Alone

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Your partner is likely suffering and grieving along with you. Grieve together, and give each other all the time and support you can.

  • Don’t be afraid to cry, even in front of or with your partner
  • Plan something you can look forward to: for my Chico and me it was our honeymoon
  • Seek counseling together

However you cope, try to give yourselves something to look forward to together as a couple. Eventually, as the grief and disappointment fade, hope and optimism will return and you may feel ready to try again.

Feel free to contact me on the About TheBrainInJane page if you have questions, or to write in the comments below.

easy-way-to-polish-shoes

4 Household Tricks to Make Life Easier

I’ve recently learned a few household tricks that have made life so much easier for me. Here are my 4 favorite life hacks:

1. Fruit Fly Trap

Summertime, and the living is easy. Unless, of course, you’re a fruit fly. Then you’ve got about a day of mature adult life and it’s a mad scramble to reproduce.

No one wants fruit flies reproducing on their produce, though! Here’s a great trick I learned for trapping the nasty little buggers so they don’t swarm your fruit.

homemade-fruit-fly-trap
A simple trap for those pesky fruit flies.

What you’ll need:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Piece of paper
  • Jar (preferably larger than the one pictured here)

Pour about half a cup of apple cider vinegar into your jar, then squeeze a couple squirts of dish soap into it and stir it up. Yum! Then, fold your piece of paper into a cone shape and stick it into the jar so that it’s not touching the liquid.

The apple cider vinegar will attract the nasty little fruit flies and the dish soap will ENTRAP them when they try to take a drink of the forbidden liquid! Then, even if they do manage to fly out of vinegar, the cone-shaped paper will make it harder for them to escape the jar.

Voilà, no more fruit flies.

2. The Lazy Woman’s Shoe Polish

My dad has this amazing shoe polishing kit, full of different-colored polishes for all their pairs of shoes. He’ll pull it out on a Saturday afternoon, set down some newspaper, put on an old apron, sit on a stool, and get to work polishing and buffing his and my mother’s shoes to a gorgeous shine.

I’m far too lazy for that. Plus, it’s hard to find the right color of polish these days.

When my Chico bought me a leather bag for Christmas (yes, you can be jealous), he asked for some care tips from the guy at the store.

The gentleman said the best way to both clean and polish leather is to buff it with a plain old moisturizer.

easy-way-to-polish-shoes
My favorite boots always shine! This Norwegian stuff seems to do the trick.

I find it works about as well as polishing, and my shoes are always bright and shiny.

Note: I would always re-waterproof your shoes after you buff them with moisturizer.

3. Use Boiling Water on Berry Stains

This is a classic old household trick that so many people have forgotten!

Berry stains come out with boiling water. Berries include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mulberries… Whatever! But, most importantly, this also includes the killer: red wine.

Spilled some red wine on your white shirt? No problem! Boil up some water in your electric kettle (because everyone has one of those, right??), place a pyrex measuring cup inside the shirt under the stain (because you don’t want to pour the wine stain through one side of the shirt to the other) and simply pour boiling water over it.

It’ll turn a kind of gray color at first, but if you keep pouring it on it will fade slowly. Be sure not to let your pyrex cup overflow, though! And don’t burn yourself!

Bonus: Bloodstains come out with a good soak in ice water. If you cut yourself shaving, gentlemen, just grab some ice cubes from the freezer and place the shirt in a container. Soak it with the ice cubes and very cold water and the blood stain should come out in a cold water wash.

4. Water Stains on a Wood Table

Now, to be honest I haven’t tried this one. But my grandmother has and she said it worked like a charm.

Take water stains out of your wood table with a drop of mayonnaise. Yes, mayonnaise!

Just put some on a paper towel and rub in a circular motion over the water stains. My grandmother said you’ll have to switch out for a clean paper towel to dry up the mayonnaise, but it should take out a relatively fresh water stain.

I doubt it’s very effective on old water rings. That’s what coasters are for, people.

Share Your Household Tricks!

Call ’em what you want: tricks, tips, life hacks. But share them! I’m curious to know, for instance, if an aspirin at the bottom of a vase of flowers really helps keep them fresh. Tell me!

 

 

Homemade_Nutella_Recipe

Homemade Nutella Recipe: Say Good-Bye to Palm Oil

Homemade_Nutella_RecipeDo you love Nutella but feel guilty about consuming such obscene amounts of palm oil?

OF COURSE YOU DO. Everyone does. How can you not love Nutella?

This week I discovered this homemade Nutella recipe by Lollie Rock posted on mamansquidechirent.com (loose translation: momswhorock.com). Since it is in French, and since I discovered a helpful trick to make this recipe easier, I thought I’d share with you guys.

Homemade Nutella Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of hazelnuts, skinned and toasted (see below for a great trick!)
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  • 3/4 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 3 tbsp of hazelnut oil

Directions:

After skinning and toasting your hazelnuts, toss them in your mixer. You’ll want a good mixer to be sure that you get a nice, smooth consistency (unlike mine which resulted in a somewhat granular–but not unpleasant!–Nutella). Blend them until they have a smooth, buttery consistency. (Alternatively, save yourself some time and find hazelnut butter at the store).

Next, add the rest of your ingredients one by one, mixing each in thoroughly before adding the next. Starting with the hazelnut oil will help keep things nice and moist.

Mix thoroughly. If you find your Nutella is too dry or grainy, add a touch more hazelnut oil until it gets the consistency you want. Don’t worry about the amount of oil: you’ll never get as much in there as in the real thing.

How to skin and toast hazelnuts like Julia Child

I read somewhere that the best way to skin and roast hazelnuts is to put them in the oven at 175°C (350°F) for 15 minutes, then rub them in a tea towel to get the skins off.

I also read that this technique is only partially effective. So I did some googling and found this article from mybakingaddiction.com that revealed a secret shown to Julia Child: boil the hazelnuts in 2 cups of water and 3 tablespoons (you read that right!) of baking soda.

Here’s how it works:

Boil: 2 cups of water. Add: 3 tbsp of baking soda. Pour in your hazelnuts. The water will turn black and will foam up. Boil for 3 minutes (or thereabouts). In the meantime, prepare a bowl of ice water.

Pick out one hazelnut to test. Drop it in ice water and if the skin slips off easily, drop the rest in. Then simply slip the skins off the rest of the hazelnuts one by one, and place them on a tea towel to pat dry.

Toast in the oven at 175°C (or 350°F) for 15 minutes. Your kitchen will smell lovely.

Here is a video of Alice Medrich showing this technique to Julia Child (with a great hazelnut biscotti recipe to boot!):

Bonus info: Why you should avoid palm oil

The production of palm oil is linked to the destruction of rainforest in Indonesia, further endangering species like the orangutan. Visit the World Wildlife Fund’s website for more information about palm oil and why you should avoid it.

Evolution_of_one_hour_of_exercise

The Evolution of One Hour of Exercise

Or, “How amnesia helps keep me in shape.”

Evolution_of_one_hour_of_exercise

9:00am

Alright! I’m outside and it feels great! I’m pumped! I’ve got my gear and my tunes and I’m READY!

9:05am

Man, I didn’t realize it was going to rain this morning. Boy am I glad I have this awesome gear to keep me warm!

9:07am

There’s a bit of a wind today, isn’t there? I’ll be turning around in 23 minutes, it’ll be at my back then.

9:12am

Okay, breathing’s getting a bit harder. But it feels great!

9:17am

Breathing is even harder. It doesn’t feel so good anymore. In fact, my lungs are burning.

9:20am

Has this hill always been this steep?! Or is this new? They’ve changed this park layout, right? Holy crap I’m sweating.

9:25am

How long have I been doing this? Maybe I should stop and drink some water.

9:29am

No, I can’t stop! It’s been almost half an hour, I can keep it up!

9:32am

Oh God every breath is agony!

9:35am

WHERE IS ALL THIS RAIN COMING FROM?

9:36am

Wait, the wind has changed! It’s in my face again!

9:38am

My sweat-soaked clothes are starting to freeze in this biting wind. My fingers are red and swollen. I can’t feel my face.

9:41am

How are my legs still moving? It’s like they have a will of their own and their objective is to DESTROY ME.

9:44am

NOT. BREATHING. LUNGS. ACHING. FOR. OXYGEN.

9:45am

Whose freaking bright freaking idea was this to freaking exercise in this weather? I hate this place. I hate this weather. I hate my legs. I hate my lungs.

9:47am

I hate my gear. It sucks. My feet hurt.

9:48am

I hate my tunes. They’re not distracting me from the pain!

9:50am

Is that my house? Am I home yet?

9:51am

NINE MORE MINUTES TO GO, NOOOOOO I CAN’T DO IT!!!

9:53am

How many croissants can I eat after having run this far?

9:55am

Breathing seems to be unnecessary for survival because apparently I’m still alive.

9:56am

Oh God I can smell my own sweat!

9:57am

Just a few… more… feet… home…

9:58am

That’s my door! I can see it!

9:59am

Left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right…

9:59:59am

Just crawl up the front steps, woman, then you can collapse.

10:00am

I MADE IT!!!! *Collapse in a heap*

10:07am

Regain consciousness.

10:10am

Facebook status update: “Went for a run this morning. It felt great! Can’t wait to go again tomorrow!”

 

 

Calvin & Hobbes Resolutions

The Case Against New Year’s Resolutions

Statistics New Year's Resolutions

Like many folks out there, you may have written up your list of 2014 resolutions: New Year’s resolutions that will shake up your life, make you a better person and generally bring you luck and success.

Also, like most people (according to the website StatisticBrain.com), you will probably fail to stick to your resolutions. In fact, only about 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals.

But hey, that’s okay! Why? Because making resolutions is a completely unproductive way to go about initiating change in ourselves! Here’s why:

1. New Year’s Resolutions Are Unrealistic

Most of the New Year’s goals we set are based on a desire to become an idealized version of ourselves.

Calvin & Hobbes ResolutionsAccording to a quick Google search, the most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, get in shape, learn something new, quit smoking, and eat better (or diet). Usually, by the month of February these good intentions have been forgotten and we’ve reverted to old habits. As a result, we probably feel bad about ourselves.

That’s because, in the absence of real motivation, desire or need to improve our quality of life, these resolutions reflect a want to look and feel the way society says we should.

Losing weight, for instance, is a long, involved and often trying process (trust me, I went through it in 2012). It’s easy to think, “Sure, I can lose 10 lbs this year,” but without real motivation or a reason to work for that goal, it’s unlikely that we’ll actually get there.

If you really want to make a resolution, think long and hard about what it should be, and how willing you are to actually work for it.

2. We Make Too Many Resolutions at Once

I LOVE making lists! I make them all the time! Packing lists, grocery lists, to do lists, lists of the reasons I’m awesome, etc…

But the one time (and perhaps the only time because lists are the best) when a list is inappropriate is when it comes to your New Year’s goals.

Honestly, do you really think you can learn a new language, read 500 books, quit smoking AND lose 20 lbs all in one year?! Yeah, there may be people out there who could, and they’re called over-achievers and they probably have no social lives.

But most of us regular Joes can barely handle one of those commitments, let alone all of them. So tone it down a notch and stick to one thing that you can really focus on. For instance, learning to knit! (It’s just a thought…)

3. Resolutions Are Overwhelming

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, part of the reason we fail at our New Year’s resolutions is because we set ourselves abstract goals.

Absurdly Unattainable New Year's ResolutionsDuhigg writes that the most effective way to think about resolutions is to frame them as baby steps for us to take to improve or change our habits. By making small, manageable modifications to our behavior, we should be able to achieve the larger goals we set for ourselves.

Thinking of a resolution as project can help. Last year, my project was to design and launch my own website. I did some research and determined the baby steps I needed to take to get to that point. Voilà! You are gazing upon the result! (Thanks!)

***

Like giving up something for Lent, New Year’s resolutions are fashionable and like most things à la mode, they’re often meaningless. Don’t set yourself up for failure by making these classic mistakes. Set yourself a realistic goal, then outline the baby steps you need to take to get there.

This year, I want to take a creative writing class. My first baby step? A simple Google search…