Evolution, Revisited

It all started with a sign—a literal sign on the wall, not some encrypted message from the cosmos (as much as I love those slippery types of universal signals).

Sort of like this, only less digital.

Sort of like this, only less digital and GPS-y. (Photo taken somewhere along the Washingston state coast line.)

There I was in a downtown Starbucks, waiting at the end of a messy countertop for the barista to call my name. I was regretting my impulsive decision to try a piece of their banana bread (which was terrible) and feeling even more guilty about my calculated resolution to toss it—barely nibbled—in the garbage can when I saw it: a picture of corn tacked up on the Community Message Board.

Also sort of like this, only with corn.

Also sort of like this, only with corn. (Photo taken in beautiful San Francisco.)

Inexplicably enchanted by this black and white photo of rustic maize ears, I examined the poster more closely and peered at the logo in the bottom corner. A school? Could it be true? Was this really a possibility? My heart began to flutter and chirp with excitement, much to the chagrin of my less-than-impressed Rational Mind. “Remember, Dana—this is corn we are looking at”, it sniffed haughtily, while my heart did interpretive dances and gleeful cartwheels all the same. At that moment, an approximation of my name broke through my trance as it rang out from the end of the messy countertop. I took my Vanilla Rooibos tea from the barista and headed back to the Harbour without giving another thought to that sign.

A few weeks later, a subtle stirring in my heart prompted me to my laptop, where I Googled the logo I had seen on the poster: Pacific Rim College. There, I discovered their Holistic Nutrition Program. I was gripped with an overwhelming sense of curiosity. My heart and head wrestled with each other as I scrolled through the course descriptions and program information, each of them vying for the prize of my attention and, of course, my ultimate confidence.


Heart: Look at this! A whole course in Ayurvedic Medicine! And several courses in Holistic Cooking! OMG OMG OMG!!! [general rejoicing and celebrating]

Head: [non-plussed] Please. Give me a break! Dana—Listen to me. Why would you ever want to go back to school? You’ve already done six years and two degrees at university. And you became a horrible shadow of yourself while you were completing your Master’s Degree. Isn’t that enough? [figurative arms crossed in defiance]

Heart: [undeterred] But check this out! Herbal Medicine courses! Student clinics! An entire course on vegetarianism and veganism! This is totally up our alley!

Head: Seriously, Heart? Grow up already. It’s too risky. And how much does it cost?

Heart: [suddenly deflated] Oh. It’s a three year program and costs around $27,000. Never mind. You win, Head. I hate you.


Knowing that the Holistic Nutrition program would eat three years out of my lifetime and cause significant damage to my sensitive financial landscape (“New Lawn: Please Keep Off”), I shelved the idea of becoming a Holistic Nutritionist in my “If I Ever Win the Lottery” file and kept on keeping on at the harbour. Oh, well.

A visual representation of my delicate financial landscape.

A visual representation of my delicate financial landscape.

My heart is a pretty sneaky bastard, though, so one day I found myself “casually” mentioning the program to Marty. It was the first time I had ever given an out-loud voice to this crazy notion, and as soon as I “nonchalantly” told him about this program, I experienced a surge of adrenaline chorusing through my body. HOLISTIC NUTRITION, YES!! (Picture choirs of angels, cherubs, and silver-lined clouds.) As if on cue, my Rational Mind muscled its way into the situation and immediately took control:


Head: Yeah, love. I found this program on the internet that costs $27,000. [significant pause for effect] There are no scholarships or bursaries available, so I’d have to pay for the whole thing out of pocket. [pursed lips, pause] Or I could take out $30,000 worth of student loans… you know, with textbooks and all. [sideways glance] And it would take 3 years to complete. But other than that, it looks okay.


Rainbow veggie sushi roll... why not?

Rainbow veggie sushi roll… A random photo, yes, but why not?

The world stood still as I waited for Marty’s response. I didn’t dare breathe, lest my exhalation sway his thoughts out of my favour. After what seemed like ages but was probably more like 3 seconds, Marty expressed unwavering support. To my great relief, he confessed his suspicions that I would want to go back to school for something, eventually, and he was interested in seeing me pursue the holistic pathway, even if we had to budget and scrimp to our teeth to make it happen.


Heart: Haha! TRUE LOVE CONQUERS ALL! Woot woot!

Head: I have irrationally strong thoughts of anger and resentment toward you, Heart.


A visual representation of how it felt to have Marty support my wacky idea.

A visual representation of how it felt to have Marty support my wacky, going-back-to-school idea.

Since then, I have looked into a number of different Holistic Nutrition programs, ranging from 11-month courses in Vancouver to 18-month options in San Diego. (I ended up nixing the 3-year course at Pacific Rim pretty early on, once I discovered that 2012 was the inaugural year of their program, that there were still significant vacancies in their teaching staff, and that most other schools offer similar graduating credentials after only 1 year of study.) Every school offers a slightly different spin on the generic “Holistic Health” foundation, but I used a killer combo of heart-driven intuition and head-driven logistics to narrow the choices down.


My final two contestants (say in Chris Harrison, Bachelor-style voice) were both located in Vancouver—the Big-To-Me-City. Both options take 11 months to complete, and both of them have similar course profiles. I was in Vancouver during Marty’s aforementioned Artist Residency, and I used the opportunity to visit both of the schools on site and to let my gut make the final decision. I visited one of the schools on a Monday and felt alright. I noticed that my Rational Mind was doing a lot of the talking, though: “I could make this work”, “It seems decent enough”, “The owner seems professional”. The next day, I visited the other school and experienced a full-body explosion of joy! My heart was about to explode with ecstasy, and even my stodgy Rational Mind got in on the excitement. “What a great instructor!”, “I see myself belonging here!”, “This course seems so comprehensive!”

How it felt when I visited the second school. Starfish jump!!

How it felt when I visited the second school. Starfish jump!! (Photo taken– obviously– on historic Route 66, California leg)

Ultimately, there was no contest between the two institutions– one of them gave me a tentative feeling of ‘meh?’ (not even a definitive ‘meh’.) and the other one felt like I had come home. (Even saying that ‘coming home’ part to my mom got me all choked up, so I took it as a good sign.) That’s my big news, though (sorry for the month wait): I am going to go back to school! And I’m going to pursue certification as a Holistic Nutritionist!

In case you were wondering, the tunnel to heaven is located in Port Townsend, WA. You're welcome!

In case you were wondering, the tunnel to heaven is located in Port Townsend, WA. You’re welcome!

I don’t know why this new direction in life came as such a shock to me—me who has more photos of salad than of scenery; me who fawns over beets and has an ongoing love affair with quinoa; me who can’t resist buying bundles of rainbow carrots whenever I see them (and who exclaims “How beautiful!” every single time I slice open a purple one lengthwise); me who has relished every aspect of our Elimination Diet, including the initial food restrictions and even my pesky food sensitivities!; me who loves to cook and make everything from scratch; me who converted to the Cult of Raw Kraut and is now actively recruiting new members; me who bemoans getting off track every harbour season but is determined to fit in my ‘off-season jeans’ every autumn. My passion for whole foods is fairly obvious when I think about it this way, but who knew I would flip the switch of passion and consider turning it into a career? I think I know what I want to be when I grow up now, and I couldn’t be happier! 🙂

A few of my favourite things: lighthouses and homemade (garlic-free) guacamole. Heaven!

A few of my favourite things: lighthouses and homemade (garlic-free) guacamole. Heaven! (Photo taken along the Oregon coastline.)

Obviously, I wasn't going to publish this post without including a photo of kale. Who do you think I am?

Obviously, I wasn’t going to publish this post without including a photo of kale. Who do you think I am?

Fermented Food: If It Doesn’t Poison You, It Will Make You Healthier (…Right?)

I have never been a big fan of cabbage: let’s just get that out there in the open. Cabbage and I have a surface-level friendship at best, one whose stilted conversations (at mandatory social functions such as summer barbecues and family reunion picnics, etc.) are fraught with long and uncomfortable silences. Oh, hey Cabbage– I acknowledge your existence as a vegetable… I guess. [extended pause while Cabbage and I telepathically affirm our decided lack of common ground.] Well, I’ve got to go now. Have a good day, and easy on the mayonnaise!

I have never ordered coleslaw in a restaurant or made it myself at home, and cabbage is definitely not at the top (or even at the bottom) of my grocery list. Cabbage is like the Ugly Duckling of the vegetable kingdom; the socially awkward kid you used to say hello to in the hallways at school just to be polite; the stinky and inexpensive last-resort foodstuff; the least glamorous item in the produce aisle. No seriously, Dana– tell me how you really feel.

It is in this context of general cabbage hating that I inexplicably launched into making my own Countertop Sauerkraut a short while ago. Yes, me! And cabbage!! Who knew that I– She of the Cabbophobia and Upturned Cabbage Patch Nose– would ever purchase copious amounts of the green stuff, ferment it in a jar, and then actually attempt to eat it, all the while praying that I wasn’t going to contract some deadly strain of food poisoning? Never say never, my friends: Never say never!

Preparing for the solemn sauerkraut-making task ahead

Of course, this was all undertaken as part of my Personal Beauty Detox Journey. Kimberly Snyder provides a recipe for what she lovingly refers to as “Probiotic and Enzyme Salad” in her book. I was all excited to try this exotic-sounding dish until I realized that it was basically cabbage. Fermented cabbage at that. Blech. However, in the spirit of trying new things and blossoming into a shimmering goddess of radiant health, I forged ahead with the recipe and made my own, honest-to-god raw sauerkraut! (Naturally, with some pitfalls along the way. What else would you expect from me? Almond milk, anyone?) Allow me now to outline how I managed to eff this really simple recipe up not once, but twice, before finally getting it right. Heh.

My First Attempt At Making Raw Sauerkraut

There are a total of four ingredients in this particular sauerkraut recipe: shredded cabbage, fresh ginger, miso paste, and water. The instructions are basically “mix” and “put in a jar”, but somehow I still managed to get things wrong from the get go. (Leave it to me, right?)

My Vita-Mix blender and KitchenAid food processor: partners in crime!

My first mistake was purchasing a medium-sized cabbage that apparently wasn’t “medium-sized” enough. Thus, my inaugural batch of sauerkraut ended up looking like shredded cabbage soup in the jar– there was a ton of liquid and not nearly as much cabbage.

Something about this looks a little… off… no?

The recipe is supposed to yield 12 cups of sauerkraut. My modest-sized cabbage was on par to yield me 3 or 4-ish cups of kraut and 4-5 cups of brine… if I was being overly generous with my cabbage tally and grossly underestimating the amount of liquid I’d have left over. Is this how my sauerkraut is supposed to look?, I asked myself doubtfully as I tucked my jar of sloshing liquid into the back of a kitchen cupboard. For some reason, I think this is supposed to look more cabbage-y.

Yes, this definitely doesn’t look right.

Nevertheless, I let the gigantic jar of brine (and a modest amount of shredded cabbage) sit in my cupboard for the recommended 5 days. Then I let it sit for an extra 4 days when it didn’t seem “fermented” enough to my untrained eye. (What does “fermented” even look like? Should it bubble? Froth? Foam? Smell? Snap, crackle, and pop? Hiss? How should I know?)

Finally, after ten or so days of stealing wary glances at this jar of suspicious liquid, the moment of truth arrived: it was time to eat a half-cup of the fermented kraut with my dinner. Could I do it? Could I overcome my lifelong aversion to cabbage? Would my decision to eat fermented cabbage come back to haunt me in the form of food poisoning, violent projectile vomiting, chills, fevers, rashes, or even an untimely death?  

My sauerkraut jar, after 10 days spent in the back of my kitchen cupboard

Nope! (Obviously, it didn’t kill me, since I am still alive– enough– to tell you this tale.) I ate the kraut, after fishing some lonely cabbage flakes out from the virtual pond of brine. Amazingly, it was delicious! Super delicious, in fact– I was beyond surprised! Emboldened by my success at Winning Sauerkraut (despite technically failing the easiest sauerkraut recipe on the planet), I went ahead and made another batch.

My Second Attempt At Making Raw Sauerkraut

[I have no accompanying photos for my second go-round at making sauerkraut. The reasons for this will become evident rather quickly.] This time around, I bought a much bigger cabbage. I also purchased different (smaller) jars to put the kraut in so I could have multiple, cuter jars of sauerkraut available in place of my Big Mother Sauerkraut Jar. (By my reasoning, the new jars would look more quaint in the fridge after the fermentation process had been completed, it would be easier to fork sauerkraut out of smaller jars vs. one gigantic and deep jar, and did I mention that the smaller jars were cuter looking?) 🙂

The shredding of the cabbage and the mixing of the ingredients came so easily and naturally the second time around– I was sure I was going to be a Sauerkraut Making Professional. Everything fit so snugly into the cuter jars. My cabbage looked so great and perfect when I lovingly tucked it into my kitchen cupboards to ferment. I win countertop sauerkraut!, I announced to myself as I washed the prep dishes afterward. I deserve silent congratulations and a symbolic pat on my own back!

When I went to check on my jars after 24 hours had elapsed in the cupboards, I noticed that they were sitting in small puddles of liquid. It was then that it dawned on me, the Perpetually Slow Learner, that I had possibly– nay, definitely– packed my cute, small jars too full of cabbage and brine. The fermentation process had started, but there was not enough breathing room left in the jars for the mixture to properly expand. Something would have to give, and that something would most likely be glass. Images of shattered mason jars and shredded cabbage all over my kitchen cupboards came to mind.


I resigned myself to utilizing my Big Mother Sauerkraut Jar once again (pictured above). I would just transfer this newly fermented cabbage from the two small jars into the one big jar. Easy peasy, right? WRONG! Because my brain is wired to be School Smart and Not At All Street Smart, I simply opened the first of my stuffed-to-the-top cute jars like I was mindlessly twisting open a container of peanut butter.

This was not a wise move.

Suddenly unencumbered by the protective vacuum seal, shredded cabbage and brine exploded all over the kitchen (and over my clothes, and into my hair) with the force of one of those t-shirt cannons they use at half time for football games. Kapow!! Fermented juice and smelly cabbage EVERYWHERE!!! On the walls, on the ceiling, on the floor, on the countertops, on my jeans, all over my girly top– sauerkraut was literally everywhere. What a way to suddenly round third base with the otherwise awkward and socially inept cabbage patch kid! Who knew I would get so up close and personal with cabbage??

[This is why I did not take any photos. I was too infuriated and otherwise occupied with picking shredded cabbage out of my ponytail to care about documenting this ordeal on camera.] Through gritted teeth, I salvaged what I could of the mixture, stuffed it into my large jar, and then braced myself to open the second small jar.

This time, I opened the jar carefully and in the safety of my kitchen sink. It still went KAPOW!!, but most of the carnage was inflicted on the sink instead of all over the kitchen (and, more importantly, on me!) Again, I salvaged what I could and transferred the cabbage into my Big Jar for fermenting.

This batch, despite the trials and tribulations I endured to make it, also yielded delicious results, so when the third time comes around for making my own raw sauerkraut, I’ll be totally prepared:

1. I’ll know what size of cabbage constitutes a “medium”.

2. I purchased an extra cute jar so I won’t have to stuff my original ones so tightly with cabbage again.

3. I will never again open a vacuum-sealed jar of still-fermenting cabbage right in front of my precious face and slower-than-average brain. It’s not worth it!


PS: My middle sister, who is a Raw Foods Champion and also an honorary She-Ra of Foods That Are Good For You, expressed shock and concern over the miso paste and ginger that are used in this particular recipe. (Apparently she makes her own Countertop Kraut using nothing but cabbage and some high-quality sea salts, but who was I to argue with a recipe that Kimberly Snyder explicitly calls “sacred” in her book?) I have since learned from K.S. herself that the miso and ginger are basically just added for yummy flavour, so if you decide to embark on your own kraut-making adventure, these two ingredients aren’t 100% necessary. Otherwise, go nuts! 🙂

Update: You can read about my ongoing kraut adventures and try a red cabbage/shredded beet kraut recipe on my more recent post here. See you there!

Perms and Combs

Despite the tantalizing title of this post, I will not be meandering through the fascinating world of chemically-induced curls or the instruments of follicle torture teasing today. Nope. *Let down alert:* When I say ‘perms and combs,’ I mean it in the geeky Math Club way– permutations and combinations. (Us math wizards just like to abbreviate certain “terms” to keep our secret language of “arithmetic” on the “down low”. Thx!)

Anyway, in case I have crushed some of your hopeful hearts a little bit with my double-barreled tactics of:

a) Not talking about permanent wave hairstyles


b) Forcing math upon your resistant brains instead,

I would like to extend a peace offering of sorts– an olive branch, if you will:

(Here is a photo of me with a fresh perm and an oversized, paint-splattered T-shirt dress. You’re welcome. Thank you for reading my blog and for indulging my random tangents and whims!)

So where was I? Oh, yes: permutations and combinations. Aside from cutting out dairy from my diet (which I’ve been successful with since January 2010), one of the first major recommendations I’m tackling in my Personal Beauty Detox Journey deals specifically with proper food pairings. Kimberly Snyder goes into considerable detail in her book, The Beauty Detox Solution, about which foods should be paired together to help optimize digestion and which foods should be eaten separately for the same purposes. Food combinations are not a new idea at all– indeed, I had heard the concept a number of times and a number of years before reading this particular book, but I had never really incorporated it into my lifestyle.

(OK, OK– you’ve got me: In all honesty, I actively resisted the notion that I should give up my beloved fruit/nut, hummus/crackers, eggs/toast, almond butter/anything else combos in the service of better digestion. The knowledge about proper food pairings was received, then considered… then consciously ignored. Ahem.)

But I’m on a Beauty Detox Journey now! And I’m willing to try new things! So I decided to attempt better food combinations as an initial step because it doesn’t involve adding in any unfamiliar foods to my diet or eliminating any of my routine staples, either. Instead, this suggestion simply asks followers to rearrange their already existing diets to minimize/eliminate any poor food combinations, which can be extremely taxing on the digestive system. According to the ‘real-life’ vignettes in Kimberly’s book, many people have benefited greatly from this one step alone– success stories of weight-loss, increased energy, and better digestion abound!

The First Step: Breakfast

After a quick review of the food combination guidelines (which are neatly summarized here— check out #3), I came to the immediate and dismaying realization that my normal breakfast dish– oatmeal with dried cranberries, ground flax seeds, and a modest trickle of flax seed oil on top– violates nearly every fundamental rule of food combining. It mixes seeds (protein/fat) with a grain, it incorporates oil, and it mixes in a fruit, which should always be eaten separately (let alone ripe and raw instead of dried!) 😦 Baby steps, right?

Undeterred (well, maybe a little bit deterred), I finished up the rest of our cranberries in our usual breakfast style and left them off the grocery list when they had run out. Then, to preserve the semblance of sweetness in our morning oatmeal sans cranberries, I started to cook the oats with a small amount of natural vanilla extract and added some nutmeg and cinnamon as well. I’ve still been using some flax oil on top– the ground flax seeds moved onto my afternoon salads– but the goal is to wean myself off of the oil as well when my bottle runs out. (Eventually, I will possibly even graduate to drinking a Glowing Green Smoothie at breakfast instead of cooking oats at all, but for the time being, a cooked a.m. meal is still de rigeur in Chez Baby Steps.) No big deal.

The Next Step: Lunch

Lunch hasn’t required as much of an adjustment on my part, because I usually eat a She-Ra sized salad in the afternoon, anyway.


I did transfer my ground flax seeds from the breakfast to the lunch time slot, and I’ve also subbed my regular balsamic vinegar with raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar– look at me, Princess of Power in the Beauty Detox department!! 🙂 Other than that, I’ve just been careful to include only one protein on top of my greens, instead of 2 or 6 or 8. Simple is better, no? I’ll either toss some pecans or slice a boiled egg on top of my salads now– not both anymore.

The Final Step: Dinner

Speaking of how simple is better, I was getting into the habit of making really elaborate, complex, and decadent dinners, most of which contained eleventeen hundred ingredients and naturally violated the fundamental tenets of food pairing. So I’ve yanked on the reins of my free-spirited inner chef and tried to keep things more simple in the kitchen. Baby steps! Simplicity! We eat a lot of greens, stir-fries, or soups for dinner, so nothing much has changed here. (Proper food combinations are a lot easier to achieve for a woman who never grew up with the typical “meat and potatoes” dishes.) Moving right along…

The Bonus Step: Fruit

Incredibly, fruit has been the most challenging food pairing recommendation for me. Defeated by fruit! Fruit is supposed to be eaten on an empty stomach (so either 30 minutes before a meal or a full hour– or more– following a meal). I have caught myself munching on homemade granolas or trail mixes that pair fruits with other foods like nuts or seeds, and I’m also mysteriously craving things like fruit pies and pastries (which I wasn’t really interested in until I learned that fruit should be eaten by itself!) The fruit thing will be an ongoing step for me, but like any new habit, all it takes is a little bit of time and patience.

What about you, dear readers?

Had you heard about proper food pairings before?

Do any of you follow the principles of food combinations to help your digestion?

Anybody else defeated by the simple apple? Anyone? Bueller? 😉

Baby Steps to Better Health

My health has improved in leaps and bounds over the past ten years, and it has even improved significantly in the last 15 months. I have never been wholly unhealthy, at least in the sense that I have never had any major diseases, required extensive hospitalization, or broken any bones. Plus, my height, weight, and standard doctor’s office measurements (blood, thyroid, liver, kidneys, etc.) have always fallen within the “normal” range. (But what does “normal” mean, anyway?)

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on diet and nutrition recently, and all of this ‘new’ (to me) information has encouraged me to re-examine what I put into my body as far as food is concerned. Sure, I could probably continue on indefinitely without altering a single thing about what I eat or how I eat it, but at this point, I’m simply curious about the effects that certain dietary changes could have on my body. I’m not interested in undertaking any particular changes with the sole purpose of losing weight– I’m actually at one of the lowest weights I’ve ever been at during my entire adult life and adolescence right now– but I am interested in improving my ever-challenged digestion. Besides: the Latent Science Nerd in me never really got a chance to shine in school, and now she is (geekily) asking her turn. Can we please use the scientific method together, Dana? Please please? Pretty Puh-leaze???

My major motivation to make some changes has come in the form of a wonderful book: “The Beauty Detox Solution” by Kimberly Snyder. I have been following Kimberly’s Health & Beauty blog since January 2010 (when I cut dairy out of my diet), and she recently released a comprehensive book about her dietary recommendations, food combinations, and freeing up digestive energy for beautifying and cleansing purposes.

Kimberly Snyder demonstrating her impressive yoga skills. Image borrowed from http://www.kimberlysnyder.net/blog

I don’t know about you guys, but to me, Kimberly epitomizes the very definition of radiant health. (Doesn’t it seem like she’s literally glowing with health, beauty, and positive energy? What an inspiration! And way to lead by example!) She has extensive (and occasionally overwhelming) knowledge about nutrition– yes– and sometimes it can feel like there are so many little things to keep track of when it comes to diet– yes– but if there is even the slightest chance that some of her suggestions can work for my body and render me into a shimmering goddess of proper nutrition, then I’m willing to try it out. Healthy glow, here I come! 🙂

See? She's glowing! I will be, too. (Image borrowed from http://www.kimberlysnyder.net/blog)

Luckily for me, I am not starting right from Square One. I have already incorporated many of her recommendations into my daily routines without even realizing it– I don’t eat dairy anymore, and my meals are comprised of a whole lot of fresh vegetables and smaller amounts of whole grains. I actually consume ground flax seeds on a daily basis, and I already know what mysterious foods like “quinoa”, “millet”, “amaranth”, “dulse”, and “chard” are. That gives me a leg up, so to speak, but I’m also planning to take this opportunity to test out other recommendations of hers. It will not be a complete overhaul of my diet and lifestyle (at all), and I’m planning to incorporate her suggestions gradually, not overnight, so I can minimize any potential shocks to my body.

I am so excited to try this, though!

I’m going to create a new page at the top of my blog that is specifically targeted to the Beauty Detox Solution. (When I get around to it), I would like to make a list of most of the main suggestions that Kimberly outlines in her book, and then– as I incorporate them into my own lifestyle– I’ll cross them off like they’re on a Healthy To Do List and let you know how it goes! 😉

Like I say, this is not simply a weight loss endeavour; it’s a more holistic attempt to transform my body for the better, from the inside out. I get very excited about good foods (as you might have already guessed from my humble blog), and I’m so inspired by Kimberly’s own true beauty that I’m ready to embark on this new program myself. Baby steps to better health, indeed– wish me luck!