Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Matter of Lifestyle

Today is a perfect example of the lifestyle I have been able to build with my business. Why? Because my daughter is home sick. She is also supposed to go to the dentist this afternoon.
Freckles has had a few health issues over the last year that have caused her to miss a handful of school days (today it's just a fever and a cold). I have had the ability to go into her room in the morning and realize that she needs to stay home and just let her stay home. I then come into my office and work - just like I would if she was at school. 

The point is this: I don't lose income when this happens. I can still go to work. I don't have a boss I have to call to get time off. I don't have to miss out on my wage because I had to stay home. It's not a big deal with a bunch of red tape.

Even if she wasn't sick today, I would have had to pick her up to take her to the dentist. If I had a traditional job, this would have meant getting permission to leave early and, most likely a loss in pay for those hours that I was away. Maybe it would have meant working through my lunch hour so that I could leave an hour early.

I often have the opportunity to go for coffee or lunch with a friend during the day. I can make my own appointments during the day instead of evenings and weekends. I can decide to take a day off if I've done a trade show over the weekend. I can plan my schedule around my family.
That's the key: I plan my schedule around my family. I look at our family calendar and our commitments that are already in place and I tell people the dates I am available for parties. I control my schedule. It means I ultimately decide how much time I will put into my business and when that will be.
This truly is a lifestyle business. I can go and earn a paycheque anywhere. But I choose to earn it from home. I love the freedom and the flexibility to be here when my kids are home sick. I love being the first face they see when they get off the bus. I love going on field trips and taking cookies into the classroom to surprise them.
When our children are young, they are very dependent on us. As they grow, they need us even more - just in different ways. For those of you with little ones, this is the perfect time to build a business from home so that as they grow, you too have the freedom and flexibility to choose how you fill your calendar!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Time to Dream Bigger!

On Friday, my kids were off school and we were driving in the car when Frogurt said, "You know what I would wish for if I had 3 wishes? I'd wish for the biggest Lego set ever, (some special Pokemon card) and $1000!"
It is interesting how our perspective of what is possible changes. If I had 3 wishes, I'd be wishing for a lot more than $1000. But for a 7-year old boy, that's a big dream. As our experiences expand, so should our dreams.
I am a big promoter of dreaming big. There is a great commercial on right now for one of the lotteries that says that we wake up every morning not remembering our dreams - maybe it's because we just aren't dreaming big enough.
So what is your biggest dream? If there were no obstacles to stop you, what would you do? Where would you be? Who would you be with?
I think that as moms, especially, we learn how to "settle", to put our dreams on hold. I don't think this needs to be the case, however. I think that in pursuing our dreams, we become stronger - as women, as wives and as mothers. We set an example for our families of what it means to pursue something - and achieve it!
When we look longingly at what other people are doing and think "if only" or "someday" or even "must be nice....". we are short-changing ourselves. It takes no more effort to think about big dreams than it does to think about small dreams.
The pursuit is where the effort comes in. But, like all things, by moving in small steps each day, we get closer to achieving it. I have had the pleasure of achieving so many of my dreams. Have I reached all of them? No. Some I missed and some I am still working towards (we always need something to be working towards). But even when I have missed, I have grown as a person and stretched myself so that the next time, I am closer and it is, perhaps, a bit easier to begin.
What is your dream? Make it a big one! Make it worthy of your effort and your longing! You deserve to achieve it and you can make it happen. Start with one small step today to move you in the right direction. Tomorrow you will be just that much closer.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Pain of Discipline or the Pain of Regret?

According to Jim Rohn, a master speaker and author, there are 2 major pains in life: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret.
There have been many days where it is well past 9:00 in the evening by the time I get around to exercising. There was a time when by that hour of the day, I would just crash on the couch and say "Maybe tomorrow."
There are many mornings when the alarm goes off at 6AM and my bed feels so warm and cozy that the last thing I want to do is get up and read. 
There are times when the phone seems to weigh a ton and I am feeling tired or down or just plain lazy and it takes effort to pick it up anyways and make the calls I need to.
That is the pain of discipline. I have found over the years that the momentary pain of doing what I don't want to do far outweighs the pain of regret. Choosing to let myself off the hook in that moment ultimately leads to feelings of "I should have done this. I wish I'd just done that..."
Once you get through the initial pain of discipline, there is great joy that comes. As much as there are mornings that I would rather sleep for another hour, I know that when I get up and spend that time preparing for my day, it pays off in so many ways. As much as I'd rather just plop down on the couch and not exercise because I'm too tired, I know that pushing through that gives me more energy in the long run. And as much as I'd rather sit there watching Oprah everyday eating bonbons, I know that the effort put into picking up the phone will move me towards my goals and give me long-term fulfillment.
It is a decision that we can each make today. Right now. Don't worry about what you didn't accomplish yesterday. Don't worry about the regrets of the past. Move forward. Commit to the actions needed to get you where you want to be. Realize that ultimately the pain of discipline brings with it long-lasting happiness and fulfillment. The pain of regret just brings more regret.

Look at the day ahead of you and think of one thing that you will commit to doing - one thing that you will be disciplined about no matter what. You will find that by accomplishing that one task, you will gain inner strength to do it again and more!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


"So many of our dreams seem impossible, then seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
--Christopher Reeve

I don't know about you, but when I first had my babies, my life seemed to take a back seat. Everything I did was about them and for them. I was lucky if I managed to get in a shower. 
I have learned over the years, however, the importance of dreaming. No matter where you are at, I want to remind you to dream. When we dream, we look forward. We inspire ourselves. We continually realize our greatness. Yes, you are great! Everyone of us has something brilliant inside of us just waiting to get out.
But sometimes it seems easier just to let it go. Sometimes that voice inside tells us that those dreams are meant for someone else. Someone with more time, more talent, more drive and determination. Well, my friend, that is hogwash!
You are unique and wonderful and meant for greatness! You can pursue your dream. You can find that spark inside you and let it grow into a roaring flame!
It all starts with the little things. Start with a plan. Give that dream wings by figuring out what needs to happen to make it a reality. Break it down. Seek help and support. 
Most importantly, believe. Believe that you can achieve it and that you are worth it. Know that you are deserving and smart and resourceful.
Remember, that in this moment, all you have is this moment. Don't worry about yesterday - it's gone. Don't fret about tomorrow - you're not there yet. Focus on right now. What can you do in this moment to move you towards your dream? What can you do right now to help develop a plan? 
Take small steps. You can drive all the way across the country at night only seeing 200 meters ahead of you with your headlights. You don't need to see the end destination. Only the next step. Take that next step and each time you do, your dream will be closer and will become inevitably yours!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane - How I Earn Incentive Trips

This morning I got to colour in another piece of my Costa Rica trip tracker (actually this is something I get to do on a regular basis). As of this morning, I am at 85%. That's pretty exciting for me as my goal this year is to earn Double President's Club (that means doing twice the requirements and earning an extra trip for 2).
As most of you know, I have been with DT for 7 years and Costa Rica will be our 6th incentive trip. I cannot stress enough how incredible these trips are. We are put up in the most incredible resorts and treated amazingly! If you want to get your husband/significant other on board, earn a trip!
There are a couple of keys to my success in this area. I want all of you who are reading this to realize that you can earn this trip. We have seen people join in the fall and go on to earn the trip in just a few short months. Anything is possible - which leads me to the first key to sucess:
1. Believe - this might sound like an oversimplification but there is a reason it is first on the list. If you look at the pictures and the emails that come out and just wish and dream and hope, you are selling yourself short. You need to believe that you can achieve it. You need to realize that you are just as deserving as anyone else to earn that trip.
2. Be consistent - When people ask me how I earn the trip every year, this is one of the things I always mention. I don't do anything magical; I just go to work every day. I am consistent in my efforts. 
3. Make it a goal - Do you have it written down? Are you tracking it? Do you know what the requirements are? If you answered "no" to any of these, I encourage you to take action. Know where you are at and where you need to be. 
4. Break it down - I like to equate everything into parties. Figure out what your party average is and then break it down. How many people will you sponsor each month? You can only do so much on your own but if you have 4 or 5 team members who are out doing the same thing, all of a sudden, that goal is much more attainable.
5.Believe again - Now that you have decided to put in the effort, written down your goal and figured out (in parties) how you're going to make it happen, take a deep breath and realize that you can do it! Make it real for yourself. When you look at the pictures, see yourself there. Hear the ocean and the music. Smell the sea air and the wonderful food. Feel the sand in your toes and the breeze in your hair. I don't know about you, but just simply typing that put a smile on my face!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Are You Ready for Fall?

September is here - I can hardly believe it! We are moving into our busiest season of the year. Thought I would share some tips that I have found to be helpful over the years in staying organized and making the most of this time of year.

1. Be ready for business. Have you got your fall catalogs and new fall products? Are your catalogs stamped? I like to take an evening or 2 at the beginning of the season and get ready. I get all my paperwork ready (stamped, etc) and make up my hostess packages.

2. Set some goals. One of the goals I set every fall is how many parties I want to do between now and Christmas. I make up that many hostess packages and have them in a pile. It is a great visual to watch that pile get smaller. On the flip-side, if it is staying the same, I know I need to pick up the phone!

3. Sponsor! Sponsor! Sponsor! Now is the time to talk to people about joining your team so that they too can make the most of fall.

4. Mark your calendar. Pull out your calendar and mark all of your family and personal commitments. Mark local training events and conference calls. Then circle your available party dates. Focus on booking those dates. One of the benefits of direct sales is that we get to set our own hours. Knowing when you're available will help you feel more organized and avoid double-booking yourself.

5. Meal-plan. I am a huge advocate for meal planning. There is nothing worse than going to the fridge at 5:00 to start making supper, only to discover you don't have everything you need - AND you have a party that night so time is of the utmost! By planning your meals at the beginning of the week & making one trip to the store to ensure you have everything you need, you will save yourself so much stress. Bonus idea - cook double. If you are making lasagna, make 2 and throw one in the freezer for a busy night.

6. Close your parties.This is a great way to stay organized and it is also a courtesy for our hostesses and her guests. I strongly suggest not leaving a party open more than 24 hours. Whenever possible, I close the night of the show. Let your hostess know this ahead of time so that if she wants to collect orders, she can do it before. If there are people that can't make it last minute, they can check out the website and get their orders in by the next day (keep in mind most guests are deciding that evening so giving someone a whole day is plenty of time). When shows are left open too long, guests who took the time to make it to the show are now waiting longer for their orders.

7. Work when you're working. This might sound a bit redundant but as multi-taskers, it is very easy for us to be doing several things at once at any given moment. If you are making phone calls, turn your email off. If you are reading to your kids, don't answer the phone. When you are not working, don't think about work. This is a common thing that happens - we feel like we are always working because we are always thinking about work. Learn to be in the moment and make the most of that time.

8. Take care of yourself. When we get busy, we tend to move ourselves down the priority list. It is important to look after you so that you will have the energy to look after your family. Be sure to get some exercise and proper rest. Eat well (the meal planning helps with this too!) and take time for you.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What About Me??

I don't know where I first heard this quote but it is one I live by: When we say we don't have time for something, we haven't stated a fact, but rather a priority.

There are several priorities in my life that have shifted in the last year in order to "make time" for things. One of which is my physical health. I now exercise every day (5 days a week) and I shop locally at the farmers market as much as I can (by that I mean I go every week and buy as much of my food there that I can find: if they sell it, that's where I get it).

As moms in particular, we tend to let our health go. Last night we were out visiting. It was 9:00 at night and I said to my husband "We really should get going. I still have to exercise." This has become a priority for me. I make the time every day, even if it is the last thing I do before bed.

Another thing I often hear is "I don't have time to cook," or "I don't have time for breakfast." But then that same person spends 20 minutes in the drive-thru at Tim Hortons. Hmm - like I said, we haven't stated a fact but rather a priority.

By taking time to look after ourselves, we in turn will have so much more to give. Pick one thing you would like to improve that would help you feel better and work on making it a habit this week. It might be eating breakfast, adding more fruit and veggies to your daily intake, exercising more regularly, reading a book that doesn't rhyme at the end of every line, getting to bed before 11. Don't try to change everything all at once. Start small. Make one thing a habit and then add another change.

Another favorite quote that I know I have shared but just seems so fitting for today:
I am worth 30 minutes of my own time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Name Brand

Kleenex. Q-tips. Google. What do these things have in common? Major brand identity. How many of us ask for a tissue or use a cotton swab to clean our ears. How many of us "search" for something online?

It used to be that this type of branding was reserved for large corporations but things have changed radically. Do you know who is a brand now? You are. Each and every one of us are not just "consultants" for our company; we are a brand. People look at us to see what it's all about. When we present our product, we also present ourselves.

So what does this mean? How can you use this to your advantage? What do you need to be aware of?

In an age where so much communicating is done virtually, every thing you say is fair game. For example, if you are on Facebook and you have identified yourself on there as a consultant, it is best not to have posts that include swears or inappropriate material. If you're having a bad day or you're mad at someone, don't post it. Just a suggestion - but if people are aware of what you do, then everything you say is linked back to that. Whether or not you intend it that way, that is the perception.

Also, when you are doing business, whether its a party or just talking to a mom at the park, be sure to put your best face forward. I have learned to no longer go to the grocery store in sweat pants and a paint shirt and to always take the extra 2 minutes to run a brush through my hair and throw on some eye makeup. I don't go to the store in a 3-piece suit, but I do look respectable - like someone you wouldn't be afraid to invite into your home.

When we are prepared for business, business shows up. My kids have been taking swimming lessons every day for the past 2 weeks, which means I am sitting at the pool every day for a couple of hours. I have made sure to have catalogs and business info with me and to join in the conversation. I have some great leads from opportunities like this.

When it comes to branding, the main thing is awareness. Know that people are tuning in. How we present ourselves in non-work situations often speaks louder than when we are in consultant-mode.

Leslie (our VP of Sales) loves to say "Be Proud Out-loud!" I totally agree! Opportunity is everywhere. Be prepared to share with the people you meet. You are a brand. Make it the best brand you can!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Three Essentials

"Three essentials: Know what you're doing, love what you're doing, believe in what you're doing."
-- Steve Musseau

What a great quote!
Know what you're doing:
We live in a time of the savvy consumer, a time when word-of-mouth is paramount. It is important for us to be knowledgeable. Know your products. What is the best way to do this? Use them! Get on the floor and play with your children. Plus take advantage of the training available. Read books and blogs and articles about child development. This doesn't have to take mass amounts of time but it is essential. Just like any other career has a training program and a learning curve, so do we.
Love what you're doing:
I truly love what I do. I wake up in the morning excited to face a day of possibilities. When we are passionate about something, it shows and people are attracted to that. They want to be a part of something that gets people that juiced. Let your passion shine through in everything that you do. You will be amazed at how people react!
Believe in what you're doing:
Can you think of anything more important or exciting than the future of our children? We have the opportunity to help parents learn about the way developmental play impacts brain development. What a mission we have! To me, it means so much to see a child truly engaged and learning with their whole brain. There are so many that have completely tuned out and it makes me sad to see it. I believe that we have something important to share and if we don't do it, who will?
Being a part of this company is so much more than just moving product from producer to consumer. It is the opportunity to change a life. It is the chance to help a child soar to reach their potential. It is the opportunity to help someone reach their dreams and goals. Who are we to keep that to ourselves?
I encourage you to step out of that comfort zone and talk to someone new today. Realize what we have to offer and then offer it. You never know who you might meet along the way!

Monday, August 23, 2010

In Search of Solitude

For the past week or so, I just haven't quite been feeling my usual self. I've still been in a fairly good mood and still been happy to talk with people and share all I have to share, but underneath it all, there was something that just wasn't quite right.

Then yesterday came and it was just a compilation of little things that became a much bigger deal than they needed to and I was downright grumpy. I even burned the cookies I baked. That was the final straw.

And then the realization came: I haven't been having my quiet time. I've been sleeping in and missing my time of reading and journaling that normally starts my day. It had become much more hit-and-miss over the last month. The effects had finally caught up with me.

So this morning I got up with the alarm, made my coffee and sat down to start doing my morning routine. Ahh. Things were feeling right. And then my son woke up early. No big deal - he went downstairs to watch a little something. But not 5 minutes had past when I heard the call from the basement. He had spilled the tea I had left in a mug next to the couch last night. Sigh. I got up to dab it out of the carpet. Apparently since I was the one who left the tea in a bad spot, I was the one that had to clean it up.

Okay so I came back upstairs and got back on track. Then I spilled my coffee on the couch. Bigger sigh (maybe some cursing too). I got up and cleaned up the mess that I had made. I sat down again and looked at the words I had just written in my gratitude journal: "I am so thankful for this quiet time to start my day and help me focus." The words were ringing hollow at that moment.

I continued on. Once I finished journaling, I picked up the book I was reading only to discover my bookmark had been removed. This was becoming laughable - except that I wasn't laughing. When I finally found my page and started to read, things began to fall into place. It's an excellent book, entitled Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk.

The lesson I learned? Things don't always go smoothly and sometimes when we think we've got the perfect plan, obstacles will arise and try to derail us. How we react will determine whether we succeed or fail. I could have very easily walked away and said that I'd try again tomorrow. But I didn't. I stuck with it and ultimately - eventually - it became a beneficial time that did help me focus.

We usually don't have to look very hard to find reasons or excuses to give up on something. But when we look for the lesson and push through, ultimately it is worth it. That is when true growth happens. Look for the lesson and of course, be willing to laugh - especially at yourself!

Focus, Cindi....Focus!

I had a bit of an epiphany over the weekend with regards to my blogging. I am a little unfocused. I have several things that I am passionate about but the 2 biggest are inspiring other women (which was supposed to be the purpose behind this blog) and more recently, food and food production.

For that reason, I am starting a separate blog for all my food-related posts. Also, I realized that I send these great emails to my Discovery Toys team every morning and thought I should start sharing them with you. So you can look forward to those each morning.

I hope that by streamlining and focusing this will become more coherent and enjoyable!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'm not out to change the world...well, maybe a little bit

At my Weight Watchers meeting this morning, I realized that some people might view me as a bit of an extremist.... I bake my own bread, I soak and dehydrate nuts, I buy only organic meat and strive to buy as much local food as possible, I get up at 7:30 every Saturday to make it to the farmers' market before 9AM, I eat hemp seeds for breakfast....

And then there was the microwave... There were many comments on- and offline about this. One person who is dear to me said "You can blog all you want about the evils of microwaves but I'm not getting rid of mine." My response was simply, "I didn't ask you to."

That's the point I want to get across. My purpose is merely to share information and how it has affected me and leave the decision making up to each of you. I realize not everyone is going to run out and purchase a dehydrator or burn their Costco membership cards. I would never suggest such a thing - I have a Costco membership myself. I just find I don't go there as much anymore.

I am on a journey - we all are - and at each stop I make, I want to learn something and maybe share something I have discovered as well, like that full-fat yogurt is worth the 2 points versus non-fat 0-point artificially sweetened yogurt. I tend to be rather passionate and outspoken. My hope is merely to cause people to think. If there is something I share that seems like a good change that would work for you, I encourage you to try it. A friend of mine, after a deep discussion about organics, local food and such emailed me the next day to let me know she didn't buy the Chilean grapes. That made me happy!

Its about looking for ways that we, with small changes, can make this a better place to be and live more fully aware. It is about realizing that "dominion over the earth" implies a partnership and symbiotic relationship with its other inhabitants. So, no, I'm not out to change the world. I'm just on a journey and I want to share it with you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

There's A Reason They Call It "Nuking"

Alright so I've been on the fence about this one for a while, but yesterday during a side-discussion at a meeting, a friend of mine said to me "You don't still own a microwave, do you?"

I had to admit that I do and that I use it - not terribly often, but at least once a day to heat up my coffee and maybe one other time during the day to heat up something else, like leftovers. I have at least learned not to use plastic containers for reheating but I have to confess, I use my microwave.

Said friend emailed me some pictures and an article, Ten Reasons To Throw Out Your Microwave (see below). It was quite enlightening. Although I had heard about how it changes the molecular structure of food, what I realized through a bit more research is that it actually kills the molecules. There are bi-products created when we microwave food that our bodies don't know what to do with. Plus if you use plastic wrap in the microwave, the level of carcinogens is astronomical. There are many, many articles on this and I encourage each of you to check them out and decide for yourself.

So we are experimenting. Today, the microwave is going into storage. I have a feeling it won't be that hard to live without. I can put my coffee in a thermal travel mug and reheat leftovers in a pot on the stove. I'll keep you posted. Until then, here are the photos and the article:

Ten Reasons to Throw out your Microwave Oven
From the conclusions of the Swiss, Russian and German scientific clinical
studies, we can no longer ignore the microwave oven sitting in our kitchens.
Based on this research, we will conclude this article with the following:

1). Continually eating food processed from a microwave oven causes long
term - permanent - brain damage by 'shorting out' electrical impulses in the
brain [de-polarizing or de-magnetizing the brain tissue].

2). The human body cannot metabolize [break down] the unknown by-products
created in microwaved food.

3). Male and female hormone production is shut down and/or altered by
continually eating microwaved foods.

4). The effects of microwaved food by-products are residual [long term,
permanent] within the human body.

5). Minerals, vitamins, and nutrients of all microwaved food is reduced or
altered so that the human body gets little or no benefit, or the human body
absorbs altered compounds that cannot be broken down.

6). The minerals in vegetables are altered into cancerous free radicals
when cooked in microwave ovens.

7). Microwaved foods cause stomach and intestinal cancerous growths
[tumors]. This may explain the rapidly increased rate of colon cancer in
America .

8). The prolonged eating of microwaved foods causes cancerous cells to
increase in human blood.

9). Continual ingestion of microwaved food causes immune system
deficiencies through lymph gland and blood serum alterations.

10). Eating microwaved food causes loss of memory, concentration, emotional
instability, and a decrease of intelligence.

Prepared By: William P. Kopp
A. R. E. C. Research Operations

Friday, June 4, 2010

To Do List for Today: Nothing

First of all, my kids are awesome. Yesterday, the car was loaded up, the gas tank was full and we were just hitting the road for a 2-day trip to Calgary. We were going to see friends - one of whom, Little Star, has been battling cancer on and off for the past 2 years (did I mention she's only 3?) She has been doing well & they are scheduled to return home next week so we wanted to go see them before they left Calgary. However, Little Star wasn't feeling well yesterday so her mom said it probably wouldn't work to get together.

Why are my kids awesome? Because, already in the car and on the road to the Calgary Zoo, I told them I was turning around and taking them to school. Yes, there were a few tears but ultimately they understood and their concern shifted from the fact that they wouldn't be going to the zoo to the fact that Little Star wasn't feeling well.

Okay, so now I can get to the point. Every day I do a to-do list and email it to my accountability buddy. I had sent one before we left saying that we were going to Calgary for the next two days. When I got back home, I was in an interesting frame of mind - kind of sad, kind of tired, kind of restless. I didn't know what to do with myself. Technically, I was out of town so I didn't need to announce to everyone that I was back. On the other hand, here was an opportunity to catch up on some things - that fridge won't clean itself. I had a mile-long list of phone calls I could make...

After talking to my accountability buddy on the phone, I send her another list:
To Do List for Thursday:

Ahhhh! It felt great! I realized the need to just take a day off and do nothing. Can't remember the last time I ever did that. I've taken days off from work but I usually end up filling them with other things. I even took a nap! I never nap! I paced back and forth deciding if I actually should take a nap and then found myself laying down under the covers in the middle of the afternoon. Heaven!

The world continued on without me. I can power-down for an afternoon without self-combusting. I am not indispensable. I am worthy of a day of nothing-ness and recuperation.

I can start today feeling much better and more focused. I feel well rested and ready to take on the day. The bags are re-packed for our trip which begins after school today.

As for the fridge, well, there's always next week.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Road to Greatness

The subtitle of my blog is "Stories along the road to greatness." Today marks the 30th anniversary of a most memorable journey along that road. I am inspired and know that I have no excuses. May you find your road today and everyday and may you find the strength to travel it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

You Had Me At Tangerine

Okay - so yesterday marked an historic trip to the Old Strathcona Farmer's Market - historic because I think Starbucks' shares are about to go down. We discovered a new bean.

Now for years, we were very picky about the ethical side of our coffee. Coffee is the one of the largest export commodities in the world (and when I say "one of the largest", I am pretty sure it is still in the top 3!) That's a significant impact! So we wanted to do our part. We ordered fair trade beans online from Level Ground Trading. It was a wonderful experience - we would order the beans online and then I would get an email saying that my beans had been placed in the cue for roasting. They then shipped them within 24 hours of roasting. That was my favorite package to get in the mail. However, for whatever reason, we stopped getting the coffee from them. I saw the same brand in the grocery store so it became easier to just pick up a bag there. Then we started buying Starbucks beans because we really liked the coffee. And then we discovered the big bulk bags of it at Costco. Well, that was a pretty economical option for self-proclaimed coffee snobs like us.

Then yesterday, the whole family went to the market (which was such a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning). We stopped at the Catfish Coffee booth, which I had been meaning to check out but hadn't bothered because we didn't need coffee yet. Well, we had a wonderful discussion about farmers and small batch roasting and ethnic seasonal flavors. He told me about the Bali Blue, which he only had a few bags left of - that would be it for several months. He said that the beans grew in between rows of tangerine trees. He told us about the farmers and how many acres they had. He said some other stuff but I said to him, "It's okay. We're sold. You had me at tangerine!"

So then as if that wasn't wonderful enough, this morning when I went on their website to grab the link to post here, I discovered that they are attached to my new favorite book store - Mandolin Books! I discovered this little used book store gem at our last book club meeting and fell in love with it. I came home and told hubby all about it - said "You have to come see this place!"

As we left the Farmers' Market, Bali Blue in hand, hubby said to me "That guy has no idea how much coffee he just sold." We brewed a pot last night to enjoy with the most scrumptious carrot cake ever and the look of euphoria on our faces was unmistakable.

They say there will be no eating or drinking in heaven. Well if God changes His mind on that, I've got a phone number for him...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chugga Chugga Chew Chew

So I am working on a new habit. As simple as it sounds, it is proving to be more difficult than I thought. The habit is chewing. My food, that is.

Since deciding to adopt this new way of eating, I am amazed at how many times I find I am half-way through my meal and haven't consciously been chewing, but rather I've been chugging. I have found, however, that when I take the time to count my chews (I aim for 30 with every bite), I am full sooner and way more satisfied. I like to eat and this chewing habit slows me down enough so that I get to eat for longer periods of time, often consuming less food!

But here's the neat thing: chewing is actually good for you! Not only does it help you feel fuller sooner, it helps immensely in digestion. Did you know that digestion starts in your mouth and not your stomach?? Our saliva gives off enzymes that immediately start breaking down our food into energy - the good kind of glucose is released.

Plus when we chew properly, we get more nutrition out of our food. Big chunks of food are harder to digest and can end up in the intestine that way, with all their goodness still trapped inside. Wouldn't that suck?! Not to mention the gas and bloating.

It is hard to do, I am discovering. It is even harder when I am eating with other people as we all tend to talk. I am learning to talk only between bitefuls (yes, I know we all learned not to talk with our mouths full but let's all admit that we are guilty). There is also the tendency to swallow before my 30 chews so that I can say something.

Who would have thought something so basic would be so difficult? But like everything else, it is about developing a new habit. Try it out - even just for one meal - and see if you can do it and if you feel any different!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Soapbox is Getting Bigger

Over the past several months, my thinking has been radically challenged by some of the books I've been reading (I guess that's what a good book is supposed to do....).

I started off by reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan right around Christmas time. I had seen an interview with him and was quite intrigued by what I saw. One of the main points he makes is that so much of what we put in our bodies is not food at all, but rather a food-like substitute. The majority of the grocery store is filled with items that were made in a lab instead of grown in the ground. Nutritionism has become some weird science, wherein we read a nutrition label before we buy something so we know what's in it. You know what's in an organic apple? An apple! No label needed. Science finds the latest nutritional breakthrough and then injects it into everything - case in point, Omega 3. One of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids is from nuts but we frown upon nuts because they are high in fat....Instead, we inject it into a low-fat yogurt-like substance. How about the new Froot Loops - now with fibre! Seriously!

He also talks about our associations with food and how a culture so obsessed with being healthy is one of the most obese on the planet...hmm. In France (if I remember correctly), the study showed that their association with "chocolate cake" was "celebration." In America, it was "guilt."

The other book that I just finished reading is The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. Now, let me make a couple things clear. Never did I think I would read a book by Alicia Silverstone and actually learn something (I associated her with "Clueless"). Also, my favorite food in the whole wide world is cheese. Bacon comes in a close second. Comfort food to me is Thanksgiving dinner - turkey, stuffing, gravy....bring it on. So the idea that I might read something so thought provoking as to make me consider not only becoming vegetarian but actually going as far as vegan took me completely by surprise. And it was the sections I read about dairy that were the most disturbing - maybe because I already knew about meat production and have been doing my part to make better choices (if you are local, check out Sherwood Meats).

The other thing I want to look into more as I continue on this journey is what the Canadian standards are as I know that both of these books are written with the US factory farming in mind. I have heard that Canadian standards are supposed to be better but I need to find out for sure. I will be sure to post the results I find.

Until then, I have discovered a new way of shopping (and I don't imagine I will ever go back to the grocery store model the way I used to). Independent farmers and the wonderful Old Strathcona Farmers' Market - wow, Costco's got nothing on these guys when it comes to free samples! I was so happy to discover Sunworks Farms. Not only is their meat certified organic but it is also certified humane, something that I am realizing is more important for our health than we give it credit for.

Does it cost more? Yes. But we have become so accustomed to buying mass quantities of food for very cheap. The problem is that the nutritional value is not the same and there is a price behind the scenes that we are not seeing. Plus, although we might save our dollars at the cash register, we end up paying with our health. The western diet is linked to so many of our major health issues, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes. Cultures that don't eat like we do have much lower rates of these diseases. It is about choosing quality over quantity and learning a new way of eating and living.

Am I there yet? Not even close. But I am moving along a different path. It is very easy to stay in the dark and not learn about where our food comes from but I challenge you to do some research. I know I will continue to do so and will endeavor to make the best choices I can for myself and my family.

Monday, March 1, 2010

More than just symantecs

So it is Day 1 of the No-Spend Challenge and I just got back from the grocery store. What a minefield that was!

I went with my list in hand, as I do every week, and stuck to my list. But as I was getting things, such as cereal and snacks for lunches, I realized that I am not totally sure what constitutes a "need". Yes, we need food to eat for breakfast but are strawberry flavored hay-bales really a "need"? Or is it quantity. Yogurt was on sale so I got 3 tubs - that was definitely more than we need...

I realized that this has the potential to drive me crazy and send me into my over-analytical self. I have decided not to let it. Here is what I am going to try to accomplish through this challenge:

*Sticking to my grocery list - if it's not on the list, I don't need it this week.
*Instead of meeting a friend at Starbucks, have them over for a latte instead (guess I'll finally have to learn to use our Barista).
*Making pizza from scratch instead of ordering in.
*Picking a movie off the shelf instead of going to the movie store to rent another one.
*No matter how cute those summer sandals are, it is still March in Alberta and I won't be wearing them anytime soon. They can wait.

I am sure this will be a learning experience (already has been!). Feel free to weigh in on the cereal debate and any other thoughts you might have.
I'll keep you posted as the journey progresses.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Unexpected Lessons

I have often said that what I do is so much more than just "sell toys." I have often said that this has been a life-changing experience for me. These are things that are above and beyond - not really "business" lessons, but life lessons. They are the things I never expected when I first decided to "give it a try." And they are the memories that bring me great joy.
I have learned the power of goal setting and seen the fruition of much of my hard work.
I have learned that my desk is not as spotless as it was when I worked in the corporate world.

I have learned how to make homemade granola and garbanzo bean soup.
I have stood at the foot of Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.
I have flown on a private jet.

I have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.
I have taken a crash course in belly dancing.

I have learned to take care of myself first and foremost so that I can best take care of those around me.
I have learned to always pack a sweater when you go to a tropical country - you just never know.
I have learned that in the Bahamas, a shot comes in a 4 oz glass!
I am showing my children what it means to persevere even when things don't turn out as planned.

I have learned that a limo doesn't always come with champagne supplied.
I have learned that I have much to offer and am an expert in my field.
I have learned the power of a daily to-do list.
I have learned the joy and the value of getting on the floor and playing with my kids.
I have learned the importance of "date night."

I have learned the best way to get your husband on board is to take him on an all-expense paid incentive trip!
I have learned that there are people cheering me on that I haven't even met.
I have learned the beauty of getting up an hour before anyone else in my house to read, journal and enjoy a hot cup of coffee.
I have learned that consistency in the little things leads to success in the big things.

I have learned that the importance of knowing "why" I do this is often way more important than knowing "how."
I have learned that I feel the most successful when I have helped someone else succeed.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro.
I love my life!