My continued adventures in Pie baking

There are two things in the world that make me erupt in explosive rage: people getting rich from oppressing others, and failed pie crusts. I know, they’re not exactly equal in terms of global importance.

Around this time last year I wrote about how bad I am at making pie crusts from scratch and wondering, maybe I should just give up? When do we realize we’re just not cut out for something and give up, and when do we keep going because we just need practice? “Giving up and moving on are two different things,” was the image I had front and center on that post. I didn’t give up, mostly because I’m pretty limited in my (yummy) dessert options with being wheat and sugar free. So I persevered in pie crust making, becoming sensitized to my bad pie crust shame. I tried a few different recipes and was slowly making progress. One indicator of my progress was my lack of cursing under my breath and SERIOUS anger. I thought maybe I was just becoming a more patient person (ha!), but really I was actually just getting better at it, and the changes in recipes actually helped.

About a month ago, I made this pie with this crust. It is by far my favourite and THE BEST gf pie crust I have made to date. I have to admit, there was this crescendo of triumph when I rolled out that dough and then placed it in the pie plate WITHOUT THE THING TEARING. WITHOUT IT CRACKING. I yelled and then called Willy into the room. I will admit, there were tears in my eyes because OH MY GOODNESS, I AM NOT HOPELESS. While my successes and failures at pie crust have not been as important to my husband as they have been to me, I could see on his face that he recognized how important this was to me. I still have far to go to rival my mother-in-law’s gorgeous/effortless pie crusts with the nice crimped sides, but dangit, I’m glad I didn’t give up.

successpie

What helped

Honestly, if I had stuck to that same original pie crust, I’m confident I would still be having problems. The key thing that I’ve found is for gluten-free pie crusts, you need to have an egg and you basically need to use half shortening/lard and half butter. I just cannot make a pie crust without crumbling into an evil, cussing wretch unless the there is an egg and half shortening/butter. My takeaway from this (since when can I do anything without taking away a life principle?) is that before quitting something, I need to vary my methods to be sure that the problem is ME and not the methods. This is a lot like the time I was having trouble getting up in the morning and going for runs.

Here’s a of my baby bump for good measure:

 23weeks

A New Kind of Therapy

springbloomThe last six weeks have been really great. May and June in Montreal are fantastic. We rarely get to spend any length of time in our own city during the summer due to travelling for work. It’s quite strange to see leaves on tree sand to smell the flower-perfumed air. The city undergoes a transformation as everyone exhales a sigh of relief as the sun comes out and les terraces open on the street.

Last week Willy pointed something out that made me think: “You’re laughing a lot more lately.”

“You’re just funnier,” I replied.

“No,” he commented, “My jokes are the same. You just laugh more.”

I’ve been thinking about that since then. We had been laughing a lot more lately. We’ll laugh into near hysterics, tears welling in our eyes because we were so funny. There is so much laughter in our house and in our relationship especially lately. Humour has been a key part of our relationship — I’ve always found his wit hilarious — but apparently, I just hadn’t been finding things as funny.

Life has just been a lot easier in the last 6 weeks. Things have been more low-key, no stressful deadlines or decisions to make.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad sometime during my first semester at University. I was driving home from school with him and I was stressed, although I didn’t realize that I was. I just felt rattled and not very happy. He said something that made me laugh and I couldn’t even describe how good it felt. It was then that I realized that I hadn’t laughed in a lot in awhile. I made it my goal that weekend to do just that: laugh.

When YouTube is the prescription

You’ve heard people say “laughter is the best medicine” but did you know that there’s actually such a thing as laughter therapy? It sounds a bit ridiculous at first, but when you think about it — why the heck not?

This HowStuffWorks article points out that all kinds of studies have been done on how laughter impacts our mental and physical health, many of which were instigated by this one guy Norman Cousins:

When Cousins was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, he was given very slim odds of recovery. He was unable to move and in constant pain. However, in the midst of this dire situation, Cousins didn’t lose his sense of humor. He credits his recovery to a prescription of “Candid Camera” episodes, Marx Brothers movies and funny stories read by nurses. With 10 minutes of laughter, he wrote, two hours of pain-free sleep could be procured. [Source]

Here’s what some of the studies found:

  • Watching funny shows increased children’s tolerance for pain, which could be helpful when tiny patients have to undergo big procedures [Source]

  • “Positive” humour styles build resiliency in life [Source]
  • It reduces stress (we all know that!) and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease [Source]
  • It can help your bottom line in businesses [Source]
  • Elevations in natural killer cell activity consistently appeared in quantitative experimental studies and now some nurses are being trained in ‘laughter therapy’ to help their patients reduce pain, tension etc. [Source]
  • Humour can increase hope [Source]

Laugh or Cry

My husband has a saying he says frequently when things are kind of crappy: “Well, you can either laugh or cry.” We do our best to try to laugh about things instead of cry, which isn’t always easy (but easier when you’re like me and find irony and have a “dark” sense of humour). A few weeks ago we spent a few hours in the ER because I had passed out on the metro. Despite being there 5 hours, it didn’t feel painful and terrible even though there were people moaning and groaning in pain and the whole atmosphere was pretty depressing. Willy can’t help but be funny and crack jokes a lot. So there we were busting our guts, guffawing for a solid 5 hours. It turned out one of the funnest evenings we had had in awhile!

So what about you? What makes you laugh? Do you have a TV show, a YouTube series, or a favourite comedian that you turn to when you need a good laugh? Have you ever tried to “force” yourself to laugh when you were feeling down?

About that hiatus…

Remember that I didn’t really blog for like 5 months? It became so normal for me to not blog that people even stopped asking my what was happening with my blog. I partially happy people stopped asking (because I didn’t have answers) but also disappointed with the fact that my lack of blogging became so normal. I think I saw it as a type of failure – failure to persevere in difficulty, failure to be creative and figure out what to write.

blank-journalYesterday I took some time to actually think it through. I meant to write more, but have been putting of thinking through what’s next. And now I have a bit of an idea. I know what distracted me from blogging and I have an idea of what I want moving forward. (If you want to hear a bit more about some of the changes in my life that influenced the lack of blogging, I’ll be sending out my next newsletter soon. My newsletters are typically more personal than the blog content. If you’re interested, sign-up here).

Some things haven’t changed

This is a relief. I’m glad that even though I’ve lost interest in some things (staying on top of social media/platform building innovation) other values have still stayed.

GUYS, I still care about running. This, I’m honestly surprised by, but I guess I shouldn’t really be. I haven’t run in almost a year. But I’ve thought a lot about it (I know, it so does not count). BUT, I was this close to getting back into it, and then I fell pregnant (yay!). Because I had been so inactive before, it wasn’t recommended for me to re-start running. This will be postponed until the baby comes. I had a lovely conversation about running with my best friend’s multi-marathoner dad that was inspiring. I think I might try to talk to him more on the topic.

I still value writing. Even though I haven’t done much of it lately, it still is something I want to continue to cultivate the habit of. This winter semester I took a class and was SHOCKED that it took me a couple of painless hours to write a 15 page paper. This is not what my life was like in my undergrad, but all the writing since undergrad has obviously paid off. This was very affirming!

I really like you guys. I don’t know if I can go so far and call the readers of this blog a “community” (my husband is really picky about the proper use of this word!), but I appreciate all of your feedback, the fact that you actually read this and seem to find it helpful. I don’t know where this blog will go and how long it will stay running (I have no plans of being a “mommy blogger”), but I have enjoyed it and been surprised by it and you.

This Summer

I’m not going to make you or myself promises about writing this summer considering I’ll be pretty busy travelling with work as usual in the summer. But, I do know that I’m a different person in the summer: full of energy and ideas. I imagine I will likely have more to say.

I hope this works out! I miss it.

Bullet Journaling

I have been having a hard time keeping consistent with one method of keeping track of my tasks and thoughts. I was using a combination of paper and digital for awhile, but started moving more towards digital as I started working more with other people. We started using Asana, where we could assign tasks to each other and track with them. I’m kind of tied to this system, but I’m not finding it working excellent for me. BulletJournaling

I was pretty excited when I found about Bullet Journaling. The website does a great job of explaining it, but if you like creativity, there are a few examples on Pinterest to help inspire you.

Bullet Journaling isn’t journaling exactly. It’s like a GTD inbox where you write everything down that you need to keep track of, to-do items, and events. To-dos are indicated by a box, a dot indicates something to remember or a note, an open circle is an event.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks like something that could work. Willy has been using it a bit, which he’s said it’s been helpful.

I just wanted to share it in case it was useful to you.

When you want to quit

photo credit: M I S C H E L L E via photopin cc

photo credit: M I S C H E L L E via photopin cc

If you have ever done a job interview for a serious position, you have probably been asked the question, “Describe a time when you persevered in a difficult situation.” At work I’ve been working on a few different projects for the past couple of months. One project in particular has me thinking about this question.

Usually, I tell the story of how I wrote my first novel in a month. This experience has served me well in many circumstances. All of those circumstances involved persevering through difficulty. With that first novel, I was driven to finish to prove my brother wrong (he said I couldn’t do it). The transferable part was the pattern I noticed: the project starts and you’re exhilarated, then it starts to be less exciting but still neat, then you want to SHOOT YOURSELF and TAKE PEOPLE WITH YOU but you got this far so you better keep going, and then you get so close to the end you can feel it and you push through.

This week, I was at the SHOOT YOURSELF part of the project. As I was walking home from work one day I was reflecting on what was keeping me going. How was I managing to keep myself motivated despite the fact that I resented having to do some of the tasks I was doing (it was just that one part of the project; as a whole I’m very happy with my work!).

What motivates you?

This is the list that I came up with as I was trudging through the snow:

  1. The task is worthwhile and the end product will serve many people for years
  2. It moves our mission forward (and I believe in that mission)
  3. Our mission is worth experiencing the difficulty
  4. If I procrastinate because I don’t want to face the task, it will probably die and never be finished (which would be bad because of 1 & 2)
  5. It’s my job, and my integrity as a good employee is on the line if I bail.

But of that list, it’s really #1 – #3 that keep me going. I really, really believe in what I’m doing. I believe in it so much that I’ve done many things I’m not crazy about because I want to see us move forward. I’m happy to “take one for the team” so to speak.

Reflect on your ‘Whys’

What’s on your list? What motivates you to continue despite hardship? Running through that list was really helpful and calming. I hadn’t really thought about those things before during the project, but I agreed to do it because of the first 3 on the list.

Despite this experience being a frustrating one at times, I already feel a sense of accomplishment in getting to the other side of the hard part. I’m looking ahead to the project being finished and having a product that helps others do good work.

What motivates you when you don’t want to finish a project or task? 

Being Crafty

It's still in its home on the back of my dad's couch.

It’s still in its home on the back of my dad’s couch.

Growing up, we had this afghan that lived on the back of our couch. No matter how many times we moved (and they were many), this blanket came with us. It was there through all of our childhood illnesses, through every movie we watched, every cold Canadian winter. My Dutch grandmother had crocheted it years ago. One day, I resolved as a teenager, I would learn to crochet and make a blanket like this for my family.

Since graduating from University, I’ve been on a quest of sorts for hobbies. I know that hobbies are a very important part of a balanced and full life, especially if you’re someone like me who can be a little too into her work. But I just couldn’t find something that I clicked with and loved to do (except blog, right?).

“Start being Crafty” has been on my Personal Development Plan for years. I’ve taken steps towards these things. I sewed a bit one year, I tried to cross stitch another year… but there’s always this threshold of difficulty that I have a hard time surmounting. My mom finds this hilarious and bewildering, because these things are like breathing to her. Whereas I get annoyed when she can’t remember her AppleID or work her iPad.

But alas, here I am, finally crocheting. I asked for crochet gear at Christmas and this is my big goal for the year. For a few reasons:

  • I want to be able to do it
  • I’ve put it off long enough that it’s becoming shameful.

So despite the fact that I’m not running right now, I did go swimming this week. Despite the fact that I haven’t been writing every day, I’m blogging a little bit more regularly. And three weeks ago, I couldn’t crochet at all. I’m not stagnating anymore!

crochet

I’m back in the saddle, it seems. A friend recently asked me why I’m blogging more again and what had changed? The answer: who can know? I don’t really know what has changed, other than I actually feel like I have something to say again. Why do I have something to say suddenly? Again: who knows?

Maybe it’s that I got restless after sitting around for so long in the fall. Maybe it’s that I got a crochet hook, some wool, and a how-to book and enough motivation to start. It’s probably a little of both. This brings me to the point of my post.

I haven’t really been working on my bucket list goals very much recently, but I obviously have been moving forward on other ‘lesser’ goals. In some ways, they’re just as important as these other things, just less audacious. They’re also things that I had always wanted to do, but never made it onto my official list that I had created.

Even though a Personal Development Plan is different than a Bucket List, it’s still totally relevant to this blog. I’ll explain why the next time I write (see? I’m back in the saddle, people!).