Time is running out

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I have been blessed over the last six months.  Not only have I been able to work full-time at a job I enjoy, I have been able to focus the substantial increase of my spare time into the things that I am truly passionate about.

I have always been a creative person.  As a child, arts and crafts were my go-to hobby and when I reached the age of eleven I was introduced to the art of writing.  My grade six teacher urged us to express ourselves in ways that I had never thought about and from that moment, I was hooked.  I began to write poetry and short stories.  I was so addicted to words that I got my library card and became a voracious reader.

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I was also introduced to cooking at an early age and, under the tutelage of my dad, learned to create meals that did not come from a recipe.  I learned to experiment with flavors and was able to create some impressive dinners with simple items found in any pantry.  And I made a point to commit his cooking faux pas to memory – NEVER make scrambled eggs with Egg Nog!

I have been able to take all of my spare moments over the last few months and really focus on the things I love – cooking and writing.  This past weekend, I added three thousand more words to my novel-in-progress and spent some time in my own kitchen creating some fantastic and creative soups for myself and my family.  The time is slowly running out for me to have the time to focus on the wants instead of the needs.  Soon the resort will be back in full swing and my spare time will be a dim memory of my past.

My email address is a glaring reminder of how I will spend my remaining days and nights before my world changes – “carpe diem – seize the day”.

I usually hate it when he’s right, but not this time

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I have a great friend who is sometimes is too smart for his own good.  But his advice is sage, his common sense is welcomed and his support is evident.  The combination of those things has recently led me to draft a couple of letters to companies that have been manufacturing the products I have been using for the venture I began for our local Food Bank.

I penned a few well-constructed emails today to let the companies know how integral their products have been to the success of our Freezer Crockpot meals.  In a world so full of negativity, it’s nice to be able to spread a modicum of happiness.  In those letters I did nothing more than tell the truth about how much of a difference this project has made to our small community and how much their product has helped with that success.

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In a few short hours, I had my first email response.  Nowhere in my email did I ask for anything but, after being so impressed with the project and inspired by our story, this company immediately offered to send us some complimentary products to “help continue our excellent work”.

For those of you who know me, or follow my blog on a regular basis, you will know that some tears were shed after I read that email.  And I’m not completely sure if the tears were of pure joy because this company didn’t hesitate to help or because my friend was right….again.  Regardless of their cause, my cheeks welcomed the emotion.

This Food Bank project has been a labor of love since the beginning and the more time I spend organizing, shopping and setting up the volunteers, the more I know this is not just a one-shot deal.  This enterprise has become a part of my life, and one I hope to continue for a long time.  And now that I know even more support is out there, more home-cooked meals will make it into deserving homes during their tough times.

 

 

 

 

To Paleo, or not to Paleo….that is the question

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Along with aging comes change…..in everything!  Some of that change is welcomed, like a new sense of self and not being concerned with what others think.  And some is not so well-received, like white hair, bags under the eyes and the digestive system constantly changing the rules for our metabolism on a daily basis.

I never had a care in the world when it came to food.  I suffered no allergies.  I was not a victim to food sensitivities.  I had absolute freedom in my culinary world.

But something has drastically shifted over the last couple of years.  I have heard of this phenomenon but never thought I would have become a statistic in this game of “what do we cut out of the daily diet today”.   Choosing what to eat has become more like Russian Roulette.  One misfire and that bullet of discomfort is going to rocket through my intestines.

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I’ve been looking at the Paleo Diet and it seems to cut out all the components that could potentially cause inflammation or general malaise without necessarily cutting out the options for a very tasty selection of meals.  I have already become the person who puts beets and turmeric in my breakfast smoothies, so I think I’ve pretty much taken the first step in admitting that I’m not the girl who is able to eat what she wants anymore.   And that recipe in the photo looks delicious!   Wish me luck…..I’m goin’ in.

 

 

Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?

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If you have read my past blog posts, you’ll know that I have started a wonderful project to help our local food bank.  We are making Freezer Crockpot meals so families can feel the satisfaction of having a home-cooked meal on the table, once or twice a week, that is made with REAL food.  The ingredients are things like chicken, stewing beef, ground beef, ground turkey, vegetables and potatoes.   It has been a love affair of mine since it began last winter and continues to capture my heart.

After a sneaky email from a friend, I was recently interviewed by a local TV news station and the reporter and her fellow newscasters were impressed by the project as well.  We had a small segment on the 6:00 news to help promote our cause and gain more coverage to help increase donations.  The coverage was also put on the TV stations’ and my Facebook page to  help spread the word so we could try to help more people who could use a hand this time of year.

I received some fantastic comments and queries from others who wish to start the same type of project in their community, which is exactly what I was hoping would happen.  But amidst the praises and pats on the back, I should have known there lurked a few eyes that glowed eerily in the darkness.

After watching the clip on the news, a woman called the lodge where I work (and the kitchen we use for prepping meals) and was irate that we were not wearing gloves while we prepared these meals.  Upon first hearing of this call, I was taken aback…..and then I was angry.  I have volunteered countless hours of my time to make life a little better for those who struggle through the winter months, only to have this woman challenge my culinary safety practices.

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I have been trained in kitchens since I was in college.  Before I went to college I worked in restaurants.  And in the 30+ years I have worked in the hospitality industry, I have never encountered a Chef who wears gloves, or makes their staff wear gloves, unless they have been cut and are wearing a bandage.  Hospitality staff are trained in food safety.  From the temperature of a fridge, to the cooking temperature of meats and the frequent hand-washing to avoid cross-contamination, we are well-versed in following very strict guidelines.   Watch a few videos of Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver or any of the popular cooking-challenge shows and tell me if you see their hands concealed by Latex gloves.  This is cooking, not open-heart surgery.

Sufficed to say, my blood pressure has come down and I am moving on.  One angry voice in a sea of positivity will not get me down.  I can only hope that, one day, this woman will get as much satisfaction from helping others as I do and will give the same strong-arm to anyone who tries to bring her down.

 

 

 

I don’t have a thing to wear…

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I am going to be on television.  It will be a fleeting interview about a subject I feel very passionate about but I am now starting to sweat the small details.  Can I remember not to curse?  Will the 10 lbs the camera adds make me look like a beached whale?  And what the hell do I have in my closet that will help me not look like a road beacon or a clown?

I am that much of a self-professed nerd that I actually Googled what to wear on a TV interview.  It was actually quite helpful so I’m glad for my nerd-ish tendencies.  The cursing is another subject, all things considered, but I’m certain I can hold it together.

One of our local news stations is coming up to Muskoka to do a brief segment about the Crockpot Freezer Meals I have been organizing for our local food bank.  The news personality coming to do the interview actually did a four-day challenge to eat only the food provided by her local food bank and her struggles were palpable, to say the least.  She photographed her meals along the way and the results were far from appetizing.  There is only so much you can do with processed, no-name pasta, canned sauce, tuna and canned fruit.

I have always loved cooking.  Perhaps I have taken for granted my access to fresh meat and vegetables, but this project has made me truly value my good fortune and my goal is to help create some of the same good fortune for those who struggle through the winter months.

Our town is very seasonal with respect to many things and jobs are at the forefront of the shortages.  And some families who may find success in the booming summer months are left to visit the local food banks in the winter months to help supplement their supply of necessary items to make it through the tough times.  That, to me, seems egregiously unfair and the reason I began http://www.gofundme.com/dollarsfordinners

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So, regardless of whether I look like a street clown or Shamu on a good day, I will face those TV cameras.   I will tell my story of Crockpot Freezer meals in hopes that other communities may recognize the possibility of doing the same thing in their small towns.

It takes a village, not only to raise a child but, to empower a community so we can all say we were an active part of making it a success.

 

The true spirit of giving

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This afternoon I received an email from a stranger.  It read:

“Greetings from Dwight.  We were touched by your wonderful crockpot idea to help your food bank. We have decided to make a donation on your Go Fund Me page instead of buying gifts for a few family members.  Thanks for helping Muskoka families in need.”

Over the last couple of weeks, some friends of mine who are very supportive of Dollars for Dinners have been mischievous little elves and have contacted some local media outlets to share the story of our crockpot meals for our Food Bank.  I can only guess that this lovely woman heard the story on the first radio interview and contacted the station to get my information.

After I wiped the tears from my cheeks, I smiled.  What a wonderful gift from one family that will help create meals for several other families who are struggling.  That is what the spirit of the season is about.

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But when the holiday season is over, when the Salvation Army bells fall silent, when the donation Kettles are gone and the spirit of giving seems to be packed away with the extra wrapping paper and bows, that is the time that we need to remember those families who need our help.

The end of the holidays does not signify the end of the hunger or the need for a helping hand.  We need to keep the true spirit of giving alive and well and keep that glow in our hearts, the glow you can only get from helping others, burning all year long.

 

 

Goooood moooorrrnnning Hunter’s Baaay

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Cooking has long been a passion of mine.   From the early days of watching my dad create things from a variety of ingredients in our fridge to my culinary classes in college, cooking has always been something I love to do.

I have spent my fair share of hours, and overtime hours, working in the food industry.  I have watched cooks and Chefs prepare anything from a simple crudite platter to an Amuse Bouche of Mousse Foie Gras with a Cognac foam.  I am not ashamed to admit it, I am a “foodie”….so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when my love for cooking and my enthusiasm for helping people collided into a serendipitous explosion.

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Dollars for Dinners is a project I began about a month ago.  I took an idea that began as a simple gesture for a friend last year and evolved it into a new way of getting real food into our local food bank.  With the help of many friends and many donations, we are creating Freezer Crockpot meals that allow families to have a home-cooked meal once or twice a week made of REAL food and not just packaged, processed ingredients.

Over the last week, some friends of mine have been sending this story to local media outlets.   I have done live interviews with two radio stations, one of whom has done a food challenge to eat the food supplied by their local food bank for a week, sent my story to a third radio station and am in communication with a television station that may be interested in my project.  The best part of all of this news and social media coverage is that I have a friend who has recently said that she is interested in doing this same thing in her community.

This is the reaction I wanted.  I want more communities to realize that this is a process that simply includes donations from its members and a few volunteer hours to make a huge difference to families in need.  I am not looking for my fifteen minutes of fame…..I am merely looking to everyone to give fifteen minutes of their time to help Food Banks offer healthier and tastier options so families don’t have to survive on the things we only stock in case of the Apocalypse.