Winter blues

It’s sunny and beautiful in Vancouver this December. The holiday tunes are out in full swing on local radio stations and store fronts are decked in all the tinsel ornaments you can find. Typically at this time of year you’d find me crafting in my corner, chatting away at my networking groups and feverously shopping at the local gift store. This year is a little bit different.

This year I was given a bit more responsibility at work, I got married then flew out of town for work the next week and… my thyroid was literally knocked out.  I told myself I wasn’t the type of bride that went nuts to go on diets for a one day event (as opposed to building better long term lifestyle habits). I ate all the healthy things, supplemented occasionally and tried to maintain physical activities. September hit and it seemed that I had actually done the opposite. My body literally felt heavy and tired – worse yet my mind was tired.

After seeing my naturopath she immediately put me on natural thyroid medication (my choice). She recommended some rhodiola and ashwagandha plus tonnes of vitamin D. I’m definitely seeing a perk in my mood but overall – as Facebook reminds me my past holidays – I’m noticing that this year is different.

pexels-photo-699372I will admit, I am feeling far better this week than last (might also be from all the sun?). And so I start to think about those who do feel the blues this season. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and not everyone loves the idea of consumer gifting – with the current environmental issues all the wrapping paper/packaging being used at this time could understandably cause more damage.

Do you celebrate Christmas? And what are you doing to support the environment through gift giving?

 

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Holiday Baking – Filipino style

As I had mentioned in my previous blog, I love Christmas. This year I wanted to gift my loved ones with a special gift of value: pandesal.

fullsizerender-2Pandesal is a bread bun found everywhere in the Philippines. It’s made with very simple ingredients but requires special love to make (I found this out).  Made with the recipe found on Salu-Salo.com by Liza A I spent about 3-5 hours last night making my first batch of pandesal and I couldn’t be more happy with the results.

When I think of pandesal I think of the Philippines and mornings of waking up with my Lolas around. Typically eaten at breakfast although I also have memories with one of my Lola’s dipping it into a coke for a mid-day snack. This was the same Lola that mixed egg with her Sarsi! Anyway, this little common bun holds lots of fond memories for me and I can’t help but feel like it would generate the same sentiments with those who receive it.

Here’s the recipe I used (originally by Liza A with minor changes):

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups all purpose flour

img_0001I mixed the yeast and water together in a bowl on it’s own and set it aside. In another bowl, I put the milk, butter, sugar, eggs and salt together. Important memo: make sure the butter is at room temperature. My butter was not as warm as I had thought and it was challenging mixing since it stayed in clumps.

After mixing the two bowls together I started adding the flour. This is the process that took lots of time and required lots of love. You basically mix, then transfer the dough onto a lightly floured countertop and then knead until it’s elastic or not sticky.

Once I had a ball of dough, I placed it into bowl, covered with plastic wrap and let it sit for an hour or so until it doubled in size. After it rose, I cut it into about 26 rolls. The little doughs of love then undergo another cover and rise routine. I covered the parchment lined trays for about an hour with a cloth. Once they rose the little dough buns were placed into a preheated oven at 225 degree Fahrenheit for twenty minutes and then I increased the temperature to 325 degree Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes.

They made my little tiny apartment smell amazing and was reminiscent of my childhood. Once these buns came out of the oven I immediately spread some butter on them. While they required so much time and effort to make I felt they were well worth it.

 

Tis the season

theme-christmasI love Christmas. In the Philippines, where I was born and raised, the decor goes up as soon as September starts. It’s a predominantly Catholic/Christian country entrenched in American consumerism so that’s likely why they go hard in celebrating the holiday. Growing up I don’t think I recall the months or days leading up to Christmas but rather have so many fond memories of that day itself. I am fortunate to have grown up in a large family and every holiday season usually involves celebrating with my aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.

Over the last few years I’ve come to love the season, not for the day of gift giving but the weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s in these weeks that we get a glimpse of humanity at its finest. There are hoards of individuals volunteering their services for the less fortunate, the marginalized and the sick. And then there are companies and organizations mobilizing to drive funding to the organizations that are the pillars to our social communities. From a macro-society perspective it’s a win-win for everyone.

With the recent loss of a loved one and just this week having heard about the shocking loss of an acquaintance I’m learning to understand that this season is about growth – not materially but spiritually. I’m not going to talk about religion or mysticism here but more so the growth of our self conscience. This is a time to observe the blessings or fortunes around you, to look at the silver linings, the positives in every occasion and reflect on how this has made the life you are happy with or rather has driven you towards working for a life you want.

In today’s world it’s easy to fall into despair but I’m a firm believer that we have to look towards the positive in order to accomplish greater things in life. The cycle downward is easy and the climb up is hard but it is always always worth it.