When you cannot change what is happening ‘to’ you, the stressors going on in your life, what you can change is your reaction to them. Have you heard this before? Actually, this is true even when you can change some of the details, you can still change how you react. Up until the past week or so I have misunderstood what that really means. I was thinking that it meant I could ‘choose’ to not be upset, or frustrated, or hurt, etc… and this week I had an epiphany. That is not what it means at all! Which is a good thing because I was failing miserably at my attempts. While dealing calmly and confidently in every situation would be lovely, it is not going to happen for most of us. What it actually means is that I can choose to take better care of myself in many different ways. I will be coming from a healthier, mentally and physically stronger place and I will have better ‘recovery time’ from the traumas and stress that happen each day. This is true for all of us, though the methods will be different for everyone. I think this is particularly noteworthy as the holidays approach because they are inherently stressful. Our bodies do not differentiate between ‘good’ stress and ‘bad’ stress, we have essentially the same physiological reaction to both situations. Here are some things I am choosing to pay more attention to:

*Eat better, which for me means small meals and snacks based on protein several times a day. This will help me think more clearly, keep hormones and blood sugars balanced, and be able to get to that calm place more often.

*Start walking and exercising again. This will help me sleep better, balance those pesky hormones and blood sugars, give me energy, and help make me stronger to get me through those exhaustingly busy times. Some days I have to do some work the minute I wake up and that is ok; I can get in some activity in the afternoon and it will still be good for me! (I tend to think if I don’t get it done in the morning I lost my opportunity) It will also help me maintain my regular schedule a bit more tightly, which I want to do.

*Connect with myself more. I like to journal, though I can be a bit rigid in how much and how often I think I need to be doing that, so I am playing with journaling however much I want, whenever I get the urge, be it several times a day or once a week–3 pages or 3 words. And it does not always have to be in the official journal.

*Connect with family, friends and community. This gets more difficult to make time for in spite of this age of connectivity. I don’t consider a text message or a facebook message to be as personal or meaningful as a face to face, a phone call, or even an email. Which leads me to:

*Give myself permission. Permission to lighten up my self expectations. Permission to be creative in how I do live up to those expectations. Essentially, permission to treat myself as I would treat anyone I love, including my staff team, family, friends, etc…

*Take more personal time. Even just an hour a day… that is not watching any programs, or reading any trade materials, or having a business meeting. Time that is just for me (the daily walks help with this) and then at least once a week have about 2 hours just for me.

I have been good at each of those things in the past, sometimes even all at the same time! Some how I have let them slide and they have not all been in sync for quite a long while. I am taking small steps in each of those areas and I want to encourage you to find those things that can help you feel better, stronger, calmer and generally happier. So what led me to all this insightfulness? Mark and I got away last weekend! 4 whole days off! I had some time to rest and relax, explore and even contemplate. And read! I read a novel, finished ‘The Happiness Project’, which I have been reading since February, I think, and I got through a couple dozen trade magazines that I was way behind on. We played cards, caught some crab, and explored the area a little. Friday, on the way up to Genoa Bay, we stopped at the following wonderful places to provision ourselves:

Merridale Cidery for a cider tasting and for a delicious lunch. Local foods abound and they prepare them with care and expertise.
Silverside Farm and Winery provided us with fresh eggs and blueberries and enjoyed a tasting of their wonderful fruit wines.
Rocky Creek Winery (yes it was a very leisurely drive up) where we not only tasted their wines, we also tasted their salt and pepper chocolate. It was absolute perfection with their blackberry dessert wine and we are going to borrow that idea for sure! SO GOOD!
Then we hit Cowichan Bay and had an ice cream at Udder Guy’s Ice Cream. The toasted coconut was by far the best toasted coconut ice cream in existance! The ginger was wonderful, too.
True Grain Bread provided us with a fabulous multi grain loaf that went way too quickly, as well as some Scottish oatmeal.
Hilary’s Artisan Cheeses was a fun stop and we picked up some chevre, as well as their washed rind ‘Red Dawn’, both were fantastic.
And of course coffee! Relationship Coffee was open so we got a lb of medium dark roast ground up, since we didn’t know if there was a grinder at the cabin. While we waited for the grinding we enjoyed the best iced coffee that we have ever tasted! I don’t know if we can duplicate it, though we are going to try.

Our lovely weekend was well under way and on Saturday we rounded it of with a trip to Salt Spring Island. The Saturday Market there reminded me of the market we visited in Siena. It was absolutely mobbed with people and they must have over a hundred vendors! It is an amazing market and we had fun picking up more locally produced goods. Lots of produce and some perfect French macaron cookies! We nibbled on potstickers as we made our way back to the car and it was a relief to be leaving the madding crowd.

We visited all the wineries on the island! Ok there were three: Salt Spring Vineyards which had the most beautiful grounds that would be really fun to have an event on. Garry Oaks Winery and Mistaken Identity Vineyards, which most reminded me of Italy.

When we got back to the cabin we gathered all the ingredients together and took the picture above for you to see. I cannot seem to put more than one picture on a post, so I will do another post right after this with the plated results of our antipasti that very evening. We already had with us some pork chops & sausage that we got from Possum Run Farm right here in Kitsap, as well as some good olive oil and a couple of other things. The farm stand down the road from the cabin filled in a couple of gaps and we had some great food all weekend long. Being in the Cowichan region, celebrating local food by the simple act of seeking it out and eating it, and enjoying the immense generosity of the Doc and his cabin with a view, made for a lovely weekend indeed. It rained on Monday and was chilly, so we even got to have a roaring fire and stove-top popcorn in the afternoon! Even the French-language radio station was sublime. Simple pleasures that bring me the utmost enjoyment.

Those are the things that made me realize that our 4 day vacation was the longest we have had in over 4 years and it is the most we will be getting for awhile yet. Stress will always be there and it seems to just want to build and build these days. We were able to live in the joy of the moment last weekend and I have to get work out the stress in lots of different ways. All we can do is keep trying our best at whatever we are doing and once in awhile just enjoying a good book!

Fall is in the air and it is feeling like soup and stew season again, so here is your recipe:

Carrot Ginger Soup (it’s quick & easy, healthy, and you can get the ingredients at farmers markets this weekend!)

2 TBS canola oil
1 1/2 lbs carrots (about 9 good size), peeled and chopped medium
1 onion, chopped medium
2 TBS grated fresh ginger (ground is just not good enough)
3 C chicken broth
3/4 C 1% milk
1/4 C juice of oranges
salt n pepper
minced carrot tops, if your carrots came with them
optional: 1 TBS minced, fresh chives or scallions

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or heavy bottom pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the carrots and onion and cook until vegetables are softened, about 7+ minutes.

Stir in the ginger and cook about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat to med-low; cook until carrots are very tender, about 16 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender, in batches, until smooth. (Remember when blending hot liquids: leave at least a third of the room at the top, remove the plastic center from within the lid and cover with a quadruple folded towel, and start on a low speed, slowly building up. This leaves room for expansion)…… Return the soup to the pot and stir in the milk and juice, cooking gently over med-low heat until the soup is hot again.

Season to taste and top with carrot tops, chives and/or scallions.

If you reheat the soup, do not boil it. Ciao for now!