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Posts from — December 2010

At the last minute

I always do my Christmas shopping, or at least the bulk of it, at the last minute. This year, I am actually ahead of the game, as I ordered one present online, and I am going to hit the stores both tonight and on the 24th.

Shopping on the 24th is surprisingly calming for me.

First of all, the malls are actually less crowded on the 24th than they are at any other time in December. Most people think of last-minute shopping as being 3 days before Christmas. By the time the 24th comes around, these people are all at home eating cookies.

Second, I work well under pressure. On the 24th, I seem to have no problem making  a list, checking it twice, and getting presents for 5-10 people in the span of 5 hours. I get off work at 12, and the stores are open until 6. These clear time boundaries make me so efficient.

Shopping on the 24th is a lot like writing a standardized test: you know how much time you have per question, and you are comfortable with picking a good-enough answer.  Maybe that’s the real reason it works so well for me.

Maximizers Unite

Remember when I talked about being a maximizer and how satisficers are happier? Well, on the 24th, I turn into a satisficer and I love it.

On December 1st, I might find the perfect present, but I am almost guaranteed to wonder if a better present will come along in the next three weeks.

On the 24th, I don’t wonder this. I am happy to find something that works.

Do you know how amazing this feels? If your answer to this question is “Yes, it’s sweet relief from the prison of unlimited choice” then you, too, are probably a maximizer. If so, try shopping on the 24th.

Why I am chilling today

So as people keep asking me if I have finished my shopping and recoil in shock and horror when I say I’ve barely started, I smile. I smile, because I know that I can actually relax this way. I will shop at the last minute and I will have fun doing it and it will all turn out fine.

Speaking of chilling, are you feeling holiday-related stress? If so, you might like my earlier post on three steps to getting through the holidays without all that guilt the magazines want us to feel.

I have dinner at my mom’s tomorrow, and then dinner at Ryan’s on Saturday. I’ll post some of the highlights next week. Speaking of next week, I have the whole week off! Including weekends, this means that I will get to sleep in for ten whole days in a row. Naturally, I am beyond excited.

I may also try to redesign my blog … in which case, if it goes down for a while or looks really funny – well, actually I won’t know how to fix that. So, if anyone has any tips or resources, I’d like to hear about them.

Are you guys excited for Christmas? Taking the week off? Doing anything particularly special?

December 23, 2010   4 Comments

Staff Party

Yesterday, I really wished I had brought my camera to work.

Or at least brought my iPhone camera to the staff party. However, I was wearing a frilly skirt with no pockets, so it was not meant to be.

My staff party was catered by Sucré, Salé, a pastry shop that specializes in sweets and savoury appetizers. The food was pretty impressive: there was a gorgeous pile of colorful macarons, an entire table dedicated to chocolate fondue, chocolate tarts, amazing éclair-esque pastries that contained ice-wine…

… and I don’t have photos of any of these things.

Nor do I have a photo of the filo pastries stuffed with brie and cherries that were everything I never knew I always wanted in an appetizer. I guess I will have to go there in person and do a proper review one day.

However, this morning I woke up and remembered that I have a blog.

So I internally apologized to my blog and my readers and decided to take a couple of pictures of what’s left of the loot I brought home.

There was more, but Ryan and I had our way with the rest.

What can I say? I can’t be held responsible for my lack of forethought around chocolate.

Have you guys attended any work holiday parties? How was the food?

December 21, 2010   15 Comments

Two Months

I started this blog exactly two months ago with a post called “My food philosophy in a nutshell.”

This idea behind this blog was to provide me with a creative outlet and perhaps a forum to discuss the merits of butter (the runner-up blog name was Sweet Butter Love.)

Every sane person in my life vetoed Sweet Butter Love.

I am still a little sore about that.

So Duty Free Foodie was born, as a way to practice and talk about finding the joy in eating food and in living healthfully. And also a way to show others, and myself, that it is very possible to have fun with food and health even after years of restrictive eating or throwing up on purpose.

Because that’s what I am doing now. Having fun, I mean.

What I’ve learned so far

First of all, I noticed that when I write in the morning, I don’t need as much coffee before work. Writing makes me feel like more of a morning person than anything else I’ve tried (which is not saying a lot, but still).

Second, somewhere, in my mom’s husband’s condo’s storage unit, there lies a box that contains several attempts at short stories I would really rather not talk about. I thought, based on that, that it would take me months, if not years, to learn to write the way I talk. But it hasn’t.  I write the way I talk, or at least the way I write emails. That really surprised me.

Maybe it’s because this blog is the product of two years of procrastination. I’ve written in my head for so long, that maybe I just got all the fake writing out of my system already?

Thirdly, I really want to buy the Thesis theme, which I have long admired, for my blog for Christmas. Is it wrong to give your blog Christmas presents? And in the context of what I spend on my other hobbies, is it really that egregious?

And finally, I started this blog mostly to give my right brain a place to play, since I have to check it at the door at work. But my favourite part of writing, by far, is the conversation and discussions that happen here.

My blog is still a baby, but it’s already enriched my life. So to those of you who read or comment, thank you.

December 20, 2010   13 Comments

Most Hated Pose

Last night, I came home to this:

I always do the grocery shopping, but due to time constraints and yoga requirements, Ryan had to do it last night.*

* We grocery shop daily. Don’t ask.

Whilst in the produce aisle, he was inspired by these hot red peppers to make delicious caper poppers and hot pepper-flavoured olive oil.

They were very impressive.

However, I have one thing to say in response to this display of culinary skill: my boyfriend claims to make “the best crème brûlée,” but has never once made it for me. And it’s my favourite dessert. I want to know who is eating this hypothetical and amazing crème brûlée. If, in fact, he even actually knows how to make it.

The Pose I Really, Really Dislike

As I mentioned, I went to yoga last night. At the beginning of class, the instructor asked us what we wanted to work on. A few people mentioned hips. All was well with the world, I’ll happily take pigeon any time.

Then she asked: “What do we NOT want to work on?”

I sensed a golden opportunity.

And I blurted out “Chair Pose.”

Chair pose, or Utkatasana, is basically a squat with your knees close together. And it’s the pose I would vote “least likely to be included in any vinyasa I would ever design.”


I think maybe I actually hate it. I mean, I don’t like to throw around big words like that, but I think I do. I mean, it hasn’t made me cry the way Crow has, but whenever I am in Chair, all I want to do is not be in Chair.

This pose seriously harshes my mellow.

It’s highly irrational: I don’t even feel that way about Thunderbolt (which is basically Chair with your heels off the ground, and should theoretically be even more unpleasant but is actually kind of fun).

The instructor told us a story, then, about Inverted Triangle: how she hated it for years, and then had to spend 20 minutes in it during Teacher Training. She said that at some point during those 20 minutes she understood what the pose was trying to tell her. She apologized to the pose. And she never hated it again.*

* And she had us do both Inverted Triangle and Chair last night. Lesson: Don’t answer questions in yoga. Just don’t.

Well, maybe Utkatasana wants to teach me something too. So I think tomorrow morning, I will try to spend 10 minutes with it. We’ll see if it kicks my butt for writing this post.

See you guys on Monday, if I survive.

Do you have a most-hated pose (or workout)? Or any good crème brûlée recipes for that matter? (I may have to take the situation into my own hands).

December 17, 2010   18 Comments

Put some mussels into it

Mussels are so simple to make, and so delicious.

In a soup pot, combine a generous pat of butter, minced garlic, a bit of thyme, and dry parsley (fresh would be even better).

Finely chop and add a few carrots …

… an onion …

… and a couple of stalks of celery, along with salt and pepper.

In a large soup pot (we used two medium ones instead), sauté the vegetables until soft.

Then, turn the heat up to high, add two cups of wine, and steam your mussels until all are open.

While your mussels are cooking, make sure you don’t let the remaining half-bottle of wine get lonely.

Toss your mussels with your broth to get a nice mixture of veggies in there. The broth is possibly the best part of this, by the way, so serve it with the mussels.

Make a side salad if you feel so inclined. A baguette with butter is delicious on the side as well.

A 3 oz serving of mussels provides 20 grams of protein, .7 g of omega-3s, 340% of your RDA for B12, 289% RDA of manganese,  109% selenium, 32% calcium, 24% phosphorus,  21% riboflavin, and 17% thiamin, among other things.

Mussels are a tasty nutritional powerhouse, so enjoy.

And if you think your mussels look like they are talking to  you, have another drink.

It helps.

December 16, 2010   9 Comments

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

These photos were taken at my stepfather’s cottage on a weekend in October.

I vaguely remember thinking about how cold it was…

… which I now realize was only because I had forgotten …

… what cold really felt like.

  When all sorts of plants are still green …

… and you can wear a light coat …

… and you don’t shed a single lonely tear walking across the street to buy a coffee …


… or pray for Santa to bring you a remote car starter …

… and you voluntarily go running outside for fun …

… well, that’s actually heaven, is what that is.

December 15, 2010   6 Comments

Sushi Kan, Reloaded

Good morning, Sunshines!

I finished an Agatha Christie mystery last night, Elephants Can Remember. It’s really not her best work, but there was a great scene in the book I had to share, between Mrs. Oliver (based on Christie herself) and Mrs. Rosentelle, a hairdresser:

“[Mrs. Rosentelle]: … You’ve got a splendid crop of hair – very thick still – I imagine” – a faint smile came to her lips - “you enjoy doing things with it?”

“How clever of you to know that. It’s quite true – I enjoy experimenting – it’s such fun.”

“You enjoy life altogether, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. I suppose it’s the feeling that one never knows what might be going to happen next.”

“Yet that feeling,” said Mrs. Rosentelle, “is just what makes so many people never stop worrying!”

I now feel inspired to start experimenting with my hair as a small step toward adopting Mrs. Oliver’s attitude toward life. But my hair is so fine, flat and hopeless I guess I need an industrial-strength teasing comb. Any ideas for fine hair?

Sushi Kan, Reloaded

In other news, last night I went back to Sushi Kan.

I promise, I am done with sushi for at least three weeks now.

I have to say, on Monday they took even less care than usual with presentation (which, however, did not detract from the taste).

We ate approximately a ton of sashimi (that’s salmon in the front, with some butterfish and surf clam in the back). Yes, that’s a scientific estimate. I lift weights, you know.

… and of course, our beloved mystery rolls (white fuji rolls).

I don’t know what’s in them.

And I don’t care.

Do you enjoy experimenting with your hair?

December 14, 2010   9 Comments

Comfort Food: Mac ‘n Cheese Edition

“What is this giant pile of cheese for?” you may be asking yourselves.

It is for very, very delicious things, let me assure you.

You see, I have found a “healthified” mac ‘n cheese at the local grocery store.

Annie’s Mac & Cheese has a fairly short ingredient list. Its only flaw appears to be the low fat content.

However, I am an enterprising individual, and I will not let such a thing deter me from enjoying a perfect meal.

Now I will share with you my secrets on how to make the ideal macaroni and cheese to eat by the fire on a cold slushy winter night.

First, You must grate as much cheddar cheese as your conscience will allow, and then grate a little bit more.

Then, when you are mixing in the cheese sauce and milk that comes with your macaroni, you must mix the majority of your grated cheddar in right away. It will melt and become part of the sauce. It will make the mac & cheese creamy, rich and satisfying.

And then, after you serve the mac & cheese, you must sprinkle some more cheese on top. This cheese will only melt a little, wrapping your macaroni lovingly in its embrace as it travels to your mouth.


Happy Monday, everyone!

December 13, 2010   10 Comments

Committed to Nonviolent Change

So, I was lurking about on The Fluent Self, as I often do, and I came across this article, which is sort of about de-cluttering. At the end, Havi said this smartness that struck me all over again:

The only constant is that we’re committed to nonviolent change… In other words: whatever works for you is cool, up to the point that it doesn’t involve self-abuse. If we try to change our patterns through hurting ourselves, that is the pattern that needs loving attention.


I’ve made a lot of healthy changes over the past few years. I have become a regular exerciser.

I have started to buy and eat vegetables on a regular basis, completely of my own free will.

I have cut down on processed foods a lot, and I’ve felt so much better as a result.

And it all happened, effortlessly, when I stopped beating myself up about “willpower” and what I “should” be eating and doing, and remembered that how I felt was more important than any “should” could ever be.

So, when it comes to making changes, I am pretty committed to nonviolence.

Not Perfect

The only thing is, I have this long-standing pattern of perfectionism and since I’ve discovered the awesomeness of non-violence, I keep falling into the trap of trying to do it perfectly.

Like so:

I was about to fall asleep at work the other day, so I took drastic measures to wake up: I bought a chocolate bar from the vending machine, made a coffee, and sat down to enjoy these two imperfect choices when I was assailed by a thought kind of like this:

“What are you doing? You are not supposed to have coffee in the afternoon. And you are definitely not supposed to hit up the vending machine, EVER! Hershey’s is not a whole food!!! You have a health blog, you terrible person who is killing baby pandas with your gratuitous afternoon sugar consumption!”

Nonviolence Fail.

And then, when I realized I was failing at not just healthy eating but also non-violence, I thought:

“Wait a second! You are supposed to be at least as nice to yourself as you would be to a friend! You claim to be so over criticizing yourself, but you are not, you fraud fraud fraud!”

…. But then I became aware of what was going on in my head and I thought, “I am going to enjoy this chocolate bar. And maybe go to bed extra-early tonight. And yoga it up after work. Because clearly that’s what I need right now.”

So I went to yoga. And fell asleep at 9 over an Agatha Christie. And I liked it.

Is there anything you need right now that you could do for yourself just to be kind?

December 10, 2010   15 Comments

Kiko Sushi Bar

Last night, Shamima and I went to Kiko Sushi Bar on Preston. We have accumulated quite a few food-related Groupons and LivingSocial deals and we are now in the process of trying to eat our way through them. We also have a long “to try” list.

We figure if we go to a restaurant on our list once a week, we should get there by spring.

So last night it was Kiko.

We were actually kind of annoyed to find out that we couldn’t both use our deal, as it turned out that it was “one per table”. This means we’ll have to return to use the other one – but the food was pretty good, so I guess I can live with that.

We started with salmon sashimi…

… which was amazing, and turned the night around for me. Sashimi always lifts my mood.

The next thing we ordered were Kamikaze rolls. They were flavourful and a little bit spicy, which is extra-great if you don’t like wasabi.

I know, you are thinking “Who doesn’t like wasabi?" What’s wrong with these hypothetical people who I am sure don’t even exist?”

Well, it turns out I am very close friends with a wasabi-hater. I know. I’d rather not talk about it.

We also had an order of Green River rolls, which had the most promising presentation…

… but turned out to be kind of underwhelming.


I still enjoyed it, though (with the addition of wasabi and soy sauce). The crispiness of the cucumber did add an interesting texture to the roll.

We were still a bit hungry after this and had an evening of shopping ahead of us. One must fuel properly for activity, yes?

So we had a second order of Kamikaze rolls, which it turns out had an addictive effect on me. Our game plan for next time is to order just Kamikazi rolls and sashimi.

So here are some things I learned last night:

1. Read the fine print on your Daily Deals before you convince friends to buy them and have to commit to going somewhere twice.

2. If you are going to screw up Lesson 1, do it with sushi, because who can have enough sushi, ever?

3. I need to learn to use my point and shoot. I had major issues using macro without flash. Le sigh.

Have you bought any restaurant groupons or other daily deals? Do you like wasabi?

December 9, 2010   12 Comments

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