Sunday, 10 May 2015

Stop being a doormat

Ms. Slim is having some epic growing pains on the career front. Okay, "epic" is an exaggeration, but I can sure feel them. Learning to stand up for myself isn't easy.

Until recently, I had avoided out-and-out conflict at work, preferring to surrender rather than cross swords. This habit hasn't always stood me in good stead, as you might imagine.

In my no-longer-quite-so-new role, playing the nice card doesn't work as well as it did when I was assisting a high-powered manager. Luckily for me, our on-the-ball HR department recently organized a series of webinars on... how to navigate difficult conversations. Jackpot! I couldn't make all of the sessions, but the ones I heard were packed with useful information.

I love this quote. I wish Queen Elizabeth had
said it. (The web's been attributing it to the monarch of Merry England. LOL.)
Did you know there are techniques you can use to state your case clearly so that you don't feel tempted to back down?! Mind-blowing! That there are ways to describe a problem without immediately raising the other person's hackles? That it's possible to respond to excuses, threats, defensiveness or statements you disagree with in such a way as to get your message heard?

Obviously, two webinars do not an ex-doormat make, which also means that it will be a while before I can give you any tips of my own. In the meantime, grow your straight-up vocabulary with a little help from Barry Moltz's powerhouse phrases. While you're at it, read Do you know when to shut up? to find out why less (in the way of words) can be more.

Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor.:)

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Recipe alert: Leek, eggplant and tomato roast

Today's leek, eggplant and tomato roast falls into the happy-accident recipe category. A good friend was coming over for lunch on the weekend, and I had a leek and some Campari tomatoes to use up, not to mention a skinny Japanese eggplant and a plump orphan garlic clove.  Tada! Necessity gave birth to this pleasant culinary invention.

It takes all of 10 minutes from fridge to oven, another 35 minutes of roasting, and then you're away to the races. Read on to find out how to make this irresistibly easy dish.

Leek, eggplant and tomato roast


  • 8-10 Campari tomates, halved
  • 1 leek, minus dried out or damaged leaves, sliced in 1/2" rounds
  • 1 smallish Japanese eggplant
  • 1-2+ cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp+ herbes de Provence  
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400F and set a rack in the centre.
  2. Line baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. Wash and chop vegetables.
  4. Mince garlic.
  5. Toss vegetables in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then add minced garlic, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper.
  6. Once vegetables are evenly covered, pour onto the baking pan. (And modify suggested amounts of balsamic and olive oil as needed. I added both liquids by guess and by gosh, and these are my best estimates.)
  7. For best results, set the tomatoes cut-side down on the parchment paper. They will cook best this way. There's no need to do this for the leek or eggplant rounds.
  8. Pop pan into preheated oven. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or as long as it takes for vegetables to turn into mouth-watering medley.
  9. Serve as hot side to a main dish -- say leek and spinach frittata, for instance.:) You'll like the way the sweet, savoury and smoky flavours mingle.
 Tell me how it goes!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Recipe alert: Leek and spinach frittata

I've missed blogging away for you over the past 2 weeks. Between beautiful, sunny days, a month of free Netflix, shopping for (pretty) curtains, proofing a friend's job application and serving as a main course for a swarm of woman-eating black flies whose bites I mistook for the work of bed bugs, life has been on the full side. Thank God for good friends, kind parents, a nice boss, and yoga!

You'll be glad to hear that I haven't neglected cooking, though, and that I've invented two splendid, simple recipes for you to try: a leek and spinach frittata garnished with slices of Campari tomatoes, and a side dish of roasted veggies using the leftover leeks and Camparis, plus a Japanese eggplant.

Tonight, I have just enough time to divulge the secret of the toothsome...

Leek and Spinach Frittata


  • ghee or butter and coconut oil
  • 2 c baby spinach leaves, washed and chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped in 1/4" rounds (use the deep-green leaves, too, but cut away any that are tough or dry)
  • 15 egg whites (or 1 x 500g container of egg whites or 7.5 eggs)
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 Campari tomatoes, sliced in rounds

Yellow tulips sunnified my late-April weekend


  1. Rinse the leeks and spinach separately. Get rid of as much sand or dirt as you can.
  2. Chop the leeks and spinach.
  3. Preheat oven to 400F. Make sure one of the racks is in the middle.
  4. Put a 9.5" oven-friendly frying pan on medium.
  5. Once it heats up -- not before -- add enough ghee to cover the bottom of the pan. (Ghee gives the frittata a deeper flavour and a nice density.)
  6. Pour in the chopped leeks. Saute them until they get soft, but not flaccid.
  7. Add the spinach. Saute it until it wilts and the leek rounds are quite soft and almost falling apart.
  8. Scrape the leek and spinach mixture out of the frying pan into a separate container.
  9. Wash frying pan and grease inside with coconut oil.
  10. Pour egg whites into a bowl. Whisk them a little: you don't need to do much.
  11. Add Parmesan cheese, herbes de Provence, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  12. Add leek and spinach mixture.
  13. Quickly stir everything together.
  14. Pour mixture into greased frying pan.
  15. Decorate with rounds of Campari tomatoes. If you feel so moved, mill some pepper over the top.
  16. Set frying pan on middle rack in preheated oven.
  17. Set timer for ca. 25 minutes. It make take longer for your frittata to cook. You'll know it's ready when the edges are golden and your egg pie swells up in the centre.
  18. Let it cool, then cut it in wedges.
  19. Pair with a side of roasted leeks, tomates and eggplant, and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Next up: simple and succulent roasted veggies... Stay tuned!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Gained weight? Gratitude can help you out.

Ms. Slim is not looking her slimmest -- or even slim at all -- these days. This is something I ought to
be able to laugh about or let go of, knowing that I'm doing all I can to change the situation for the better. Instead, I frowned my way through Friday, nearly turning several unfortunate passersby into stone statues along Commercial Drive. Once I finally got a grip, I decided I'd write a special post urging those of you who mope over weight gain to do the opposite, and go for gratitude instead.

It's easier said than done, of course, especially when the number on your scale passes the tipping point. But beating yourself up about an extra pound or two (or more:S) isn't going to help you change your habits or fit into the clothes you're saving for a slim day. It will, however, sap your energy and make it harder for you to change your habits for the better.

So what does work, both to keep you and everyone around you sane, and to get you back on track? Counting your blessings! If you're having a bad day on the health front, remind yourself of your assets, inside and out: the brightness of your eyes; your sense of adventure; your magic hands; your deadly wit; the way you bring people together. Perhaps you're surrounded by a wonderful community or a beautiful family. Maybe you love your work or have a hobby that fires you up. There's a good chance that you live in a democratic society with the rights and freedoms that come with it, not to mention clean drinking water, three square meals a day, and a long list of other bonuses besides... In sum, there are bound to be things about your life that make it glow; the hard part is remembering them when you feel like you've smacked head-first into a problem and have the bruises to prove it.

When this happens, dear reader, do yourself and the world a favour: pick yourself up, give yourself a shake, and follow it up with a gratitude injection. Wondering where to start? Watch this geeky clip on gratitude and happiness. Or find yourself a copy of M.J. Ryan's Attitudes of Gratitude, which is perfect for morning, bedtime or bathroom reading, and guaranteed to get you in the gratitude groove.

See you on the sunny side of the street.:)

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Has your period stopped? You may be eating too much soy.

Ladies, if soy is a staple of your diet and you've stopped getting your period, your favourite vegetable protein may be part of the problem.

Say what?! Really. Read on.

If you've browsed Goodbye, anorexia!, you'll know that I had amenorrhea, the technical term for not menstruating, for several years. There were some undeniable positives to the situation: no tampons, pads or blood stains, no irrational chocolate cravings, and above all, no PMS!

The pros paled, however, in comparison with the cons. Here are the worst of the bunch:
  • you can lose bone density, increasing your risk of developing osteoporosis;
  • your sex drive may drop; and
  • getting pregnant is out of the question (so far as I know.:)).

Except during the years when I wasn't eating enough, none of my doctors, kind and dedicated as they were, had any idea why my period was MIA. They eliminated the usual suspects, from pregnancy to stress to a highly active lifestyle, and even prescribed me a hormone. Still nothing.

Then, eureka! On Christmas Day 2013 -- while at church, of all places:) -- I got my period for the first time in ages. By the New Year, it had gone underground again. There was a silver lining, though. When my period came back for good this January, I finally realized why it had been gone for so long.

Tofu -- cheap, easy to prepare and vegetarian-friendly -- had been my go-to protein source for years. What I hadn't realized is that the isoflavines found in soy protein can mimic the hormone estrogen. They can bind to estrogen receptors, taking the place of the real McCoy. Since soy doesn't have the same properties as estrogen, it presumably can't do everything this hormone can. One of the things it might not be able to do -- this is my theory -- is trigger menstruation.

When I finally connected the dots this spring, I could see that the times when I menstruated coincided with the times when I was eating only small amounts of soy. Before my Christmas miracle, I'd been sharing meals with my parents for at least a week. Their diet is rich in animal protein, and tofu makes only rare appearances on the menu.

What about this January? In the New Year, I was happily chowing down on an abundance of meat, fish and eggs. Tofu wasn't out of the picture, but it certainly wasn't shouldering the burden for providing me with protein, as it had in the past.

March was the clincher. I went back to tofu in a big way. Just like that, period off. And when I started eating meat, fish and eggs in April and dialed back on the tofu... period on!

I wish I could say this was a scientific account backed up by reams of carefully conducted research. It isn't. That said, if you have amenorrhea and you eat soy -- and you're not pregnant, unusually stressed, underweight or exercising like an elite athlete -- try an experiment. Kibosh the soy, or at the very least, stop eating so much of it. Go Paleo, if it helps. With any luck, you'll get the curse again.:)

Friday, 3 April 2015

Oscarina the Grouch

This has not been a banner week for me. Yesterday night found me sitting on my kitchen floor between the fridge and the garbage can, munching on the goodies I'd bought at a bake sale earlier in the day -- and consigned to the garbage can minutes earlier to avoid a situation like this one. After all, what income-generating North American woman in her right mind fishes food out of her own garbage?! Me, apparently. Then again, I wasn't in my right mind. I was Oscarina the Grouch.

Here are some of the random events that led up to my grumpy cross-legged chomp-down:
- my parents' car was broken into while they were away on holidays, in part because I didn't put on their Club lock;
- for good measure, I then added a light scratch to the bumper of my dad's second car, his beloved red Honda;
- at work, I've been expending a lot of energy monitoring how I communicate with my immediate manager, who's easily irritated by the straight talk that comes naturally to me;
- my wardrobe and I do not appreciate one another, and I refuse to buy new clothes until I reach my target size and shape;
- I need to screw up the courage to tell an acquaintance how her inconsiderate behaviour is affecting me rather than quietly avoiding her, but keep putting off the moment of truth;
- when my parents invited me over for dinner -- after I'd told them about the fates of their cars, to which they'd responded in the nicest possible way -- I lit into my jetlagged mom on a topic I can't even remember.

Looked at like that, I haven't had as tough a time as I've been making out. In fact, I've been making other people's lives tough. I've got some growing up to do, including saving enough to buy a car of my own.

Fortunately, this is a good time to start. I have five days of holidays, beginning this morning. And Easter weekend is going to be a time of rest, relaxation, and connection with near ones and dear ones.

I wish the same for you.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Not achieving your goal? Take the pressure down a notch.

I used to tie myself up into a very tight knot when I wasn't making headway toward a goal.
These days, I still waste energy this way, but I have a trick to help me out.

You know the proverb, a watched kettle never boils? Stop watching the kettle. That's it, in a nutshell. Take away the pressure. Focus on a part of your life where you *can* make progress. Let go!

I'll illustrate. My friend is an experienced runner. He's fit, slim and exceptionally strong. Several years ago, he decided he would run his first marathon. He was in great shape for it, and it seemed a no-brainer -- except for one thing: every time he upped his mileage to the prescribed pre-marathon distances, he got shin splints. And every time he got shin splints, they were so painful, they sabotaged his plans to run a marathon. 

One day, my friend decided his approach wasn't working. Instead of running himself into the ground or giving up on his goal, he put the marathon on hold, took his workouts down several notches, and found new and absorbing things to focus on.

He learned to play the guitar and volunteered to help a Somali refugee get established in Canada. At the same time, slowly and gently, and without the pressure of a deadline, he built up his strength and stamina.

One year, one musical skill and a minimum of one friend richer, my friend ran his first marathon. Guess what? No shin splints.

What about you? Do you have a goal you want to meet and can't seem to? Could you drop the deadline for now and focus on another area of your life where you *are* making progress?