Cooking – ABCs of a Passionate Life

Cooking for a Passionate Life by Marissa Campbell

Cooking by Marissa Campbell

Disclaimer: I don’t like cooking.

There. I’ve said it. It’s out in the open (I also dislike cleaning, laundry, and organizing but perhaps that’s best left for another post.)

Here are a few things you might need to know about me:

  1. I teach yoga.
  2. I dislike vegetables.
  3. ‘I don’t like cooking’ is such a weak phrase, I’m going to try that again—I hate cooking.

As a yoga teacher, people often assume that I love nuts and seeds and binge on berries and pomegranate, all the while sitting cross-legged. While I can certainly eat cross-legged, I can’t eat nuts and seeds, since they irritate my IBS and cause all sorts of debilitating intestinal distress, and I really don’t like pomegranates. I love berries, though. You have me there.

The truth of the matter is, I eat like I did growing up. My mother wasn’t a fan of cooking either, and I often lucked out at super time with delicacies like Kraft Dinner and Chef Boyardee. To me, that was fine dining (and way better than the stews and pot roasts my brother and I would occasionally have to endure.) Dinner was often served with canned or frozen peas and/or corn and mashed potatoes. I really hate peas. Even more than I hate cooking.

With such a varied diet, I never developed a taste for vegetables. At all. Couldn’t stand them. I even went to a hypnotist to try and convince myself I liked vegetables. I didn’t work. What did work was a concerted effort to add these foreign substances to my plate, bit by bitter bit. Several years and many failed attempts later, I can now tolerate Caesar salad, garden salad with balsamic and olive oil (this garden salad btw is just lettuce, nothing else, all right, maybe a shredded carrot ribbon or two, but no other weird crunchy substances.) I can abide mushrooms on my pizza, maybe even adding a roasted red pepper or two, or sundried tomatoes with spinach. I’ve even developed a fondness for onions, though only the Vidalia sweet ones. Regular onions continue to haunt me long after I’ve eaten them.

I love potatoes: mashed with garlic, baked with butter, scalloped with cheese, roasted with oil and herbs. I even enjoy sweet potatoes roasted or julienned for French fries. Of course, a nice chipotle mayonnaise dip is a lovely addition too.

Due to my lack of vegetables, I’m happy to fill the void with carbs and sweets. I love cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, ice cream, turnovers, cupcakes, fudge, brownies, chocolate, candy … am I missing anything?

Are you perhaps sensing a theme? I eat like crap. I’ve known for years that my bad eating habits would one day catch up with me, and I knew I had to do something about it. So, I decided to embark on a quest.

I wanted simple eating, cooked simply.

I gobbled up lots of information on the Mediterranean diet, but there were so many recipes that involved nuts, seeds and fish, I couldn’t do it. Oh, did I forget to mention, I dislike fish as well? :)

All my research and internet poking and prodding brought me to Lisa Leake and her book: 100 Days of Real Food. http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ Lisa’s book is all about eliminating refined sugars, grains, and cooking oils and focusing on foods that contain a maximum of five ingredients (the number of ingredients are actually flexible, but they should be things you can pronounce and elements you would use in your own kitchen.) This seemed reasonable.

Armed with the book, my husband and I headed to the Whole Foods Market (a thirty minute drive from our house) and bought whole wheat pastas, organic vegetables and fruits, healthy spaghetti sauce, natural white cheeses and whole wheat flour. We even drove thirty minutes in the opposite direction to visit a mill to pick up organic whole wheat pastry flour.

With our cornucopia of plenty, we enlightened our children as to our new diet and met an explosion of discord. They would not give up their granola bars or their chocolate chip cookies. This diet was grounds for mutiny. Things seemed pretty shaky.

After listening to their grievances and realizing the amount of work involved to bake cookies and granola bars to appease their adamant taste buds—all the while juggling a wholesome dinner, oh, yeah and a life outside the kitchen—I decided a compromise was in order.

I loved Lisa’s message. I wanted on that bandwagon, but my family was ready to throw mama from the train. Here’s what we came up with:

  1. When I baked, I would use whole grains (see the gingerbread recipe below.)
  2. I would try and use the bread machine I bought several years ago. Using only whole grains, I was determined to find something that didn’t taste like cardboard.
  3. I would try and cook at least two real, honest-to-goodness nutritious meals a week.
  4. I would blare my music and drink wine while I cooked. Lots and lots of wine.
  5. My kids would eat the strange new food stuffs I was slaving over … for hours … creating a kitchen masterpiece of sauce splashes, scattered diced vegetables, discarded measuring cups and spoons, stockpiled pots and pans, and a smattering of waste products worthy of Jackson Pollock.
  6. My kids could keep one favourite refined, highly-processed treat.
  7. We would try and fill our plates at least ½ full of fruits or vegetables.
  8. I would enjoy more wine. J

This week, I made almond ‘sugar’ cookies http://foodbabe.com/2013/12/22/healthy-sugar-cookie/ and gingerbread cookies http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/001536.html. The gingerbread being a bigger hit than the almond ‘sugar’ cookies. With all the strange and new ingredients in the ‘sugar’ cookies, I knew they’d sense something was amiss.

From Lisa’s book, I’ve made Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Quinoa stuffed peppers and you know what? My kids survived. They complained. They wondered what was inside the meatballs: “Is this real meat?” possibly referring to my stint at becoming a vegetarian and only eating tofu. I honestly did try. I survived on tofu nuggets and fruit smoothies.

The concepts in Lisa’s book are not foreign to me. Reducing our consumption of refined, highly-processed foods, eliminating toxins and foods filled with antibodies, hormones, pesticides, and fungicides are things we should all be striving toward. Making time to sit down with our families, enjoying the satisfaction that comes from a meal cooked with love (yes, blood, sweat, and tears too) is a quarry worth pursuing. I can’t say for certain how this scheme is going to end, but this week anyway, I’m determined to give it my all.

So by now, you might be wondering how this affects you. Here’s another C word “Christmas.” In tandem with this festive season comes lofty expectations and constant stressors. Part of that equation might involve cooking for family and friends. For instance, I’m cooking a turkey (truly my nemesis) but I’ve learned that by compromising, by accepting my limitations and not sweating the small stuff, I can make it through this ordeal relatively unscathed.

Turkey is a lot of work, but fortunately, I’ve learned my lesson and my expectations are low. My side dishes will not be ready at the same time as the main event, and the entire process will be long and involved … but I’m not stressing about it. Whatever will be will be. The same with my real-food cooking experiment. Our family met in the middle. I realized cooking for hours every day was going to be impossible and would set up unrealistic expectations that would add a ridiculous amount of stress to my life—something I strive to eliminate and reduce at all costs.

The house doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does the main course and trimmings. Things may not look like what we had in our minds, and often that’s a good thing. We are, many of us, perfectionists by nature and very hard on ourselves when things don’t turn out the way we expected. Lose the image and be happy with whatever manifests. Let go of expectations and the pursuit of perfection. Be flawed. Accept that. Revel in that.

In the grand scheme of things, life is short. Worrying about minor details is trivial and wasted time and energy. Enjoy being with the ones you love and let go of the end result. Living a passionate life is all about going with the flow and loving the moment. Have fun with it. See where things take you.

Remember when you were young? When you used to ride your bicycle down a big hill and you closed your eyes and lifted your hands from the handle bars. Remember the feel of the wind on your face, the sound of the air whooshing past your ears, the sense of freedom, of invincibility, that anything was possible. Life’s meant to feel like that—wondrous, thrilling, exciting, and fun. Find a way to let go of the handle bars. Loosen your grip. Close your eyes and fly.

Who knows where your passionate life will lead you. :) xo

In gratitude,

Marissa

Avelynn: It’s coming!

Avelynn; it's coming!

Avelynn; it’s coming!

Balance – ABCs of a Passionate Life

Balance by Marissa Campbell

Can too much of a good thing really be bad?

Chocolate? Perish the thought.

Time with good friends? Never.

Shopping? Say it isn’t so!

Yet, I am loath to say that yes, indeed, too much of anything isn’t good. We need balance. A little of this, a sampling of that, a pinch of something old, a smidge of something new. Taken all together it creates a wonderful harmony, a delicious symmetry in life.

Too much work causes stress. Too much worry and fear leads to disease. Too much blood, sweat, and toil leads to disillusionment and dissatisfaction. There must be time to enjoy ourselves, to stop and smell the roses. To nap, to read, to play. There must be passion and motivation to drive us toward our dreams but we must seek to find a work ethic that maximizes efficiency yet allows ample time for relaxation.

The most disheartening word I hear often is ‘guilt.’ We feel guilty if we take time for ourselves. We feel we should be doing something else—slaving toward financial freedom, toiling toward the next rung on the corporate ladder, striving and struggling for the bigger house, the prestige, the title, the coin. Ambition is a wonderful thing, but not at the expense of our souls, our life force, our passion, and our enjoyment of life, with all its wondrous experiences waiting for us to savour.

Yes Man with Jim Carrey is a wonderful movie, filled with inspiration. A reminder that fantastic things happen when we stop trying and just let life happen, giving into the moment, allowing ourselves to experience. I try and say yes to each new opportunity that flows my way, not worrying about why they are presenting themselves. If it is something I am interested in, or find entertaining, I will usually give in to the experience, and rarely am I disappointed. While I appreciate, I can’t spend every waking moment smelling the roses, I make sure to grab each opportunity as it arises and make space for the unexpected and pleasurable.

Take a nap. Read a book. Go for a walk. Dance in your living room. Laugh over lunch with a friend. Put the work down. Breathe. Live. Enjoy. Relish a quiet moment. Break the mold. Rebellion is exhilarating. :)

In gratitude,
Marissa xo

ABCs of a Passionate Life – Awesome!

An Awesome Life by Marissa Campbell

An Awesome Life by Marissa Campbell

To take my one-word-a-post concept even further, I’m going to attempt to go through the entire alphabet, highlighting the keys to an abundant, passionate life one word at a time. And to start this crazy train off right, I’m picking the word: Awesome.

I love the word awesome. I remember meeting someone who said that awesome was overused. He complained that we had lost the original meaning of the word and it was just superfluous. Bummer, man. Seriously.

Here’s what my tried and true, 1977 edition of The Living Webster has to say: Awesome: Inspiring awe; as, an awesome display of talent; characterized by awe. Now let’s flash forward a few years to my 2006 edition of the Oxford Canadian Dictionary: Awesome: 1. Inspiring awe; 2. slang excellent.

Great, fantastic, excellent, wonderful . . . these are all good, but awesome? That hits the spot. It’s a simple word expressing supreme awesomeness!

“How do you feel today?”

“I feel awesome!”

“How was the concert?”

“Totally awesome!”

“What kind of day would you like to have?”

“I’d like to have a lovely day.” or

“I’d like to have a wonderful day?” or perhaps

“I’d like to have a wicked, totally freaking awesome day today!”

Even if we added all the adverbs to lovely, wonderful, or great, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it. And who’s to say we have lost the original meaning of the word? I’d love each day to inspire and create awe in me. I’d love to be blown away by life, in awe of each moment. I want my life to be most excellent, dude. I want it to be freaking awesome!

Far from being overused, this word isn’t used nearly enough. Why? Because most people don’t feel awesome every day of their lives. We get too bogged down in expectations and demands. We force ourselves to fit into other people’s visions for us, to allow their judgements to influence our behaviours and our choice of words, clothes, actions, careers, music, etc. We can’t be awesome when we are giving up our authenticity, or our passions and dreams. There’s no room for awesome there.

Awesome stems from being enlivened by life, by allowing our passions and dreams, our goals and desires a place to grow and flourish. When we allow others to tamp down our vitality, it’s very difficult to find awe in our daily lives, to find awe in each moment. But if we plant our feet firmly on the passionate path, staying true to what makes us happy, being honest with ourselves and others when we explain what we need and what we want out of our relationships, careers, etc., we will find that life can and should be totally awesome.

In gratitude,

Marissa xo

A Passionate Life

 

A Passionate Life

A Passionate Life

Years ago I started a little blog over at www.lifelivinginfulfillmenteveryday.com to help celebrate the wonderful message in my book Life. But it’s really hard to juggle two blogs at a time, so from this point forward, all things Marissa Campbell will be held in a nice, neat, and convenient place: here. :)

When I started on the path to writing Life, I had a plan. I wanted to live a passionate life. I wanted to feel the wondrous love of living. I wanted to experience the delicious scoop-full of vitality in my daily life. Part of the quandary was recognizing and appreciating what I already had, another part was looking for new and unique ways to bring more joy and fun into my life.

My philosophy is simple. Follow what feels good to you, what feels right. This cannot be done in a vacuum, we have to be considerate of other people’s feelings, but we also have to be considerate to our own and live our life authentically, being true to who we are and what we need and want. There must always be compassion for others as we embark on this passionate path, but we cannot compromise ourselves in the process.

As I sallied forth into this gloriously passionate life, I figured I would reflect and blog about things that I have experienced or insights I’ve had. I’ve tweaked and messaged my original idea and have come up with a new concept. Going forward, I will pick a word and expound upon it, and in my own unique and humble way, I’ll give you the nitty-gritty on feeling giddy. :)

Stayed tuned, and join me in a passionate life!

In gratitude,

Marissa xo

 

 

Let’s Make a Deal!

New Historical Fiction by Marissa Campbell

New Historical Fiction by Marissa Campbell

I am thrilled to announce that Avelynn will be published in the fall of 2015 by St. Martin’s Press imprint Thomas Dunne Books. Gratitude and much love and respect to my wonderful agent, Margaret Bail, of  Inklings Literary Agency.

As a reminder, here’s a little ditty all about Avelynn. Can’t wait to see it on the shelves!

Avelynn wants equality. She wants love, respect, and the freedom to choose her life and follow her pagan faith. Unfortunately, she lives in Anglo-Saxon England.

It is the year 869, and Somerset has flourished under twenty years of peace. But with the whisper of war against the Vikings threatening their security, Avelynn’s father makes an uncompromising decision forcing her into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status.

As tension mounts between her unwavering convictions and Demas’s ambitions, Avelynn stumbles into a passionate affair with Alrik the Bloodaxe, a Viking warlord. In a summer of awakening passion, Avelynn finds the love and respect she craves, while Demas’s tactics to possess her become more desperate and increasingly brutal.

Avelynn challenges the country’s most powerful men, disregards the Christian church, leads an army into battle, and faces Alrik on the battlefield. Passion and desire come at a high cost and through her inexorable choices and actions, Avelynn risks losing everything she values most.

Set within the social and political turmoil of Alfred the Great’s England, Avelynn brings the Dark Ages to light and illuminates one woman’s passionate struggle to fight for what she believes in.

Join me for a wonderful journey into ninth century England and on the road to publishing!

In gratitude,

Marissa xo

 

Good-bye

Goodbye: A short, short story by Marissa Campbell

Goodbye: A short, short story by Marissa Campbell

Raindrops glisten and plop, falling off glossy leaves. My boots shuffle, the dirt loose under foot. The shovel rests against a slender sapling in silent vigil. A smooth grey rock, streaked with veins of pink and white, placed with care—a reminder. The peony weeps velvet blossoms. The air is still, heavy with damp. The clouds mourn, mixing with my tears. Plop, plop. I clasp the worn collar in my hands, the leash limp hangs by the back door. Good-bye.

 

 

 

Vikings are Sexy!

Raven's Blood by Marissa Campbell

Raven’s Blood by Marissa Campbell

A little Viking foreplay … a peak from Raven’s Blood … Enjoy :D

By the time the wine was finished, I was feeling warm and languid. “You’ve been to Francia and Ireland … but where is home?”

“I am from Västergarn, Gotland, an island off the eastern coast of Sweden. My Grandfather is Jarl there.” He leaned against the log, the fire between us. “And you are from England.”

“I live a day’s ride from here. It was quite the adventure to meet you this evening.” I proceeded to tell him about Ealhswith and her daring plan to help me with my deception.

“I am forever in her debt.” He poked the fire with a stick, sending a procession of hot, orange embers floating upwards. “I hadn’t thought of the means necessary for you to meet me. I was focused solely on what it took to make my way back to you.”

It hadn’t occurred to me there would be challenges for him either, but I felt rather pleased with the notion that he had gone to some length to see me again. “What could possibly stop a Viking from getting what he wants?”

The distance between us evaporated, and he pulled me onto his lap, my skirt rucked up to my waist, his intentions hard and clear beneath me.

“Nothing,” he said and proved it.

Blonde

As part of my new risk taking adventure … I set up an appointment to colour my hair. I am very partial to my long hair, so cutting it was not an option, but I thought perhaps I could colour it, change in baby steps. I took a photo—the before photo—and prepared for my trip to the hair salon.

The before picture

The before picture

I talked with the hair stylist, asked about colour choices, and decided on red. I went strawberry blonde about fifteen years ago and it was a blast. Something about having red hair made me bolder, brasher. I liked it. :)

But when I considered the arduous journey back to blonde, my feet started to grow colder. Colour doesn’t damage the hair as much as bleach. So, to put the colour on, to go red, wouldn’t destroy my hair, but what if I didn’t like it? What if I grew tired of being a redhead? The trip back to blonde was fraught with dangers.

First, to bleach a whole head of hair wouldn’t be advisable. I would have to take large sections of my hair and highlight them blonde over a series of applications. Once every six weeks. Eventually, most of my head would be blonde, the remainder of the red would have faded considerably. The problem is of course, they cannot match my natural colour. They could get close, but it wouldn’t be the same. Plus all the bleaching would seriously damage and dry out the ends … leaving me the possibility of having to cut much of the ‘dead ends’ off. This could result in a serious trim, and like I mentioned, I definitely didn’t want to cut my hair.

That said, the honest and easiest approach was to cancel my hair appointment and keep things just the way they are. With me still blonde. :)

My next attempt at risk taking will be to try dirt biking … as in on a motorcycle … on a dirt trail …

In gratitude,

Marissa xo

 

Nudist Colony?

Risk Taker by Marissa Campbell

Risk Taker by Marissa Campbell

 

What do nudist colonies, biker bars, zip lining, and air travel have in common? They are all suggestions from my well intentioned friends when I asked them to give me ideas … things to do in my new risk taking adventure.

Sometimes, life swings us into ruts … periods of inaction or immobility. Lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten caught up in the safety and security of the mundane, the apathy of routine, and I find life just doesn’t hold the same passion, the same spark it used to.

Novelty is the spice of life—new people, new situations. But when we are involved in long-term relationships, long-term jobs, mortgage payments that will take twenty-five years or more to pay off … things can get … well boring. They drag. The fun gets sucked out of it all.

Risk taking brings back the excitement. It fills us with passion and vitality. It throws our world upside down. It shakes things up, enlivens us. But taking a risk, trying something new—something perhaps out of our comfort zone—also takes courage.

I suffer from anxiety. Always have. It’s just something I live with. But I’ve noticed as time goes on, my ‘threshold’ for stress is getting lower and lower. My ability to handle multiple things thrown my way has gotten smaller and smaller. Little things that would have slid off my back, like water off a duck, now stick, and congeal, manifesting as headaches, IBS, or muscle tension.   

I have big heart-pounding, stomach-clenching, hands-sweating fears around bridges, ferries, and airplanes. I don’t want to be under a bridge (it could collapse on me). I don’t want to be on the bridge (it could collapse and I would fall down with it. I don’t want to be on a ferry trapped in my car if the boat goes down. And I certainly do not want to be trapped in an airplane, since the idea of plummeting thirty thousand feet to a fiery death has no attraction for me whatsoever.

We all have ‘big’ fears, but when even little things start to throw us for a loop … that’s when we have to examine our lives and consider … how can I stop this from getting out of hand.

One way to do that is to desensitize ourselves to the fear, the anxiety. If you are afraid of snakes, you might start by looking at a picture of a snake, then imagining/visualizing yourself in a pet store with a small garter snake tucked safely behind glass. Next steps would be to actually walk into the pet store. Just being in the same building as snakes, then maybe walking to where you can actually see them, then one day, ultimately, holding one. For people who are afraid of snakes, even the thought of that final step is terrifying.

Risk taking involves building our ‘Risk Muscle’. This isn’t something we can just jump into—I for one am not about to jump out of a plane. You have to start small, build your muscle one step at a time. Baby steps. I may start with imaging myself on a bridge, then work up to actually standing under the bridge, watching my breath, in and out, in and out, in and out, until the wave of anxiety passes. And it will, if I can stay there long enough. Every strong emotion has a wave value/expression to it. It ebbs and flows. Anger, sadness, grief, even panic attacks, come on strong, peak, then reside. The trick is learning how to ride the wave.

So I have a plan. I’m going to build my risk muscle slowly. Starting small … little things like, maybe dying my hair another colour. I’ve been blonde … well, since I was born. Maybe trying something I wouldn’t normally ever eat that doesn’t compromise my gastric sensitivities.

Ultimately I’d like to get on a plane and go somewhere. This is not to say I haven’t been on a plane – I’ve been on two – each twenty years apart – and each time terrifying. But I did it, and I’d like to try and do it again.

But I need your help. I need ideas, suggestions. What are some risks I can take? What are you afraid of? What would you like to try to overcome? Maybe you might like to try the challenge with me?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

In gratitude,

Marissa xo