It’s the last day of school. A day where I always feel a little conflicted. I mean, I look back and feel a great sense of satisfaction. I made it. But also a twinge of regret (I didn’t quite get this or that unit as finished as I’d like). A day when I’m happy for the summer but sad to say goodby to my students (some of whom are moving on to a different teacher next year, some of whom are moving into the high school). But this year, I’ve got something extra to feel accomplished about.
I wrote a book this school year.
And that is huge.
At the beginning of this process, back in the spring of 2016 when I received my offer, I, of course, thought I would have no problem getting this done. You know, at the same time as I was working full-time and blogging (nearly full-time). I was organised. I had completed an M.A. at the same time as I was working a few years back. I could do this.
Well, here we are and hey, I have done this but my goodness, that was hard. So many people tell me that writing a book is meant to be “fun” but with a full-time job and a blog to maintain at the same time, I am not sure fun is the adjective I would use to describe the process. “One of the hardest things I’ve done” would be more accurate. I mean, if I step back and take the process for what it was, it was fascinating but also the hugest learning curve ever. And very early on in the process, I realised I couldn’t do everything. At least not well. So, I sat down and made a plan. Actually I sit down and make a plan (on paper!) every weekend for the week ahead. I list all the things I have to do and slot them into the times available (even down to things like what groceries I need for recipe development and when I need them). I write down when I’m going to yoga or pilates (it feels like more of a commitment that way) and I list all the writing and cooking that needs to be done and when it will get done. But I’m no Superwoman, there are a few services and companies that I could not have done without over the past few years but especially in the past year and I thought a nice way to thank them would be to share my “secrets”… So, here they are!
Neil and I have been using this grocery delivery service since the first week I arrived in Canada in August 2000. Whoah – like 17 years? Yep! For a household where the driver doesn’t like to shop, it’s ideal. You can add to your grocery cart through the week as you remember items, schedule deliveries (generally you can get a delivery window with just a day’s notice) and the service is ton notch. For someone who doesn’t drive and who often needs three separate grocery orders each week (cookbook recipe development, our groceries and groceries for cooking classes), it’s been an absolute lifesaver.
Over the winter months (or, you know, when you’re cooped up writing a cookbook), it’s not always as convenient to get out to a (farmers’) market so Mama Earth is my solution. Choose from a large selection of delivery boxes (fruit and veg, juicing and local-only) as well as a range of bakery, dairy, fridge and pantry items for weekly delivery. My box, which provides me with my fruit for the week, comes in at just over $30(I pay a little bit extra to custom choose the produce) is well worth the investment in my health and knowing that I had enough fruit for my snacks for the week meant I was snacking smarter which is important when you need to keep your energy up. Check them out (and if you do, mention my name!).
“Ok sure,” I see you thinking… “She got a little help because she had groceries and produce delivered. Not rocket science.” But wait, there’s more. Would you be surprised if I told you that very often over the past nine months, I HAVEN’T cooked dinner? I can’t tell a lie. I’m not one of those people who generally batch cooks meals in advance for the week ahead (though we both do try…) and this past year, I certainly have not had time for that. Also, cooking all that food for the recipe development for the book? Doesn’t exactly mean that cooking dinner is a “break”, right? So what do we eat?
Neil and I first discovered this meal delivery service back in around 2003 when we were looking for a gift for friends who were new parents. The meals came either frozen or fresh and all they needed was to be heated. The best part? They tasted like homemade food (we tried it before we bought for our friends!). Fast forward to a few years later and I found myself teaching the owner’s son and, to this day, even though that boy has now graduated, today’s menu provides the end of year “staff appreciation lunch” put on by the Parents’ Guild at school (it’s tomorrow – we are all so excited!). Over the years, I’ve tried other meal delivery-type services (including those ones which deliver the ingredients and all you have to do is cook but I found them wasteful in terms of all the packaging and also, my whole point this year was I didn’t have time to cook!) but we always find our way back here. This past year, today’s menu has meant we have eaten very well with very little effort (generally we’ve just had to add vegetables, although they do serve a small range of side dishes too). Recently with my first round of edits and report cards looming, I logged on, bought a week’s worth of meals (the serving size is generous so there’s leftovers for Neil’s lunch) and that was one less thing on my plate. Also, I work better with a happy tummy!
“Well you can’t have had today’s menu for every meal, right?” I hear you asking… Right.
Though we live in walking distance to the awesome Barque BBQ, I’m sad to admit I’ve actually been TOO BUSY to go out to eat. And for the longest time, Barque didn’t deliver. But then we found they were available to order via both foodora and Uber Eats so we can get our BBQ fix delivered right to our door. The best part about this? The price for a 1/2 chicken, two orders of their famous fries and their glorious garlic green beans (enough for two with leftovers the next day) is just a tiny bit more than for *another* chicken dinner. And just SO much better. We’ve had many a chicken dinner this past year!
This tiny coffee shop on Roncesvalles has fuelled my cookbook. Not only do I treat myself to a takeout coffee from there a couple of times a week but our coffee machine at home runs only on their Triple Fox blend. I’d been drinking their coffee for years (I pass by there on my way to and from work every day and the smell is intoxicating!) but when you’re burning the candle at both ends, you do tend to appreciate Really Good Coffee even more.
“Sure sure.. so you were well fed and caffeinated… is that all you did – eat, drink and write?”
(funnily enough, eat. drink. write. was the original name for this blog…never published but thought about)
Perhaps one of the hardest things to take care of during this process was my level of movement. On the heels of a very active year last year where I trained for and walked a portion of the Camino, this year saw my Fitbt very unhappy with me (to the point where it sent me a message the day before my manuscript was due telling me that “Over the past 7 days, you’ve been unusually inactive.” Um, thanks…). At the outset of this process, I imagined myself having time to exercise as much as before but again, early on in the process, I realised that there was only *so much* I could do. Being on my feet most of the day at school, then again when I got home, cooking for a few hours as I developed the recipes, I was exhausted most of the time but I still needed some way to calm my mind and refocus. Enter two of my favourite local places to do that:
I’ve actually known Alison, the owner for over 15 years and I’ve been taking classes with her on and off for about that long too. She’s become a good friend along the way and is one of those rare people who manages the friendship/ business divide really well (as in, it’s not awkward or uncomfortable to have a friend as your instructor which I think it might be in some cases?). Boomerang is a lovely space to practice Pilates or Yoga, they also offer various movement workshops and there are massage and naturopath services too. Fantastic instructors and really friendly people. Cannot recommend them more highly. Though I didn’t get there nearly as much as I wanted to this past year, I know it’s there when I need it and every time I dragged myself away from my computer or kitchen to attend class, I didn’t regret it. I can’t wait to get back to more regular classes once I have my life back!
Yoga Star is a relative newcomer in my ‘hood – it’s only been around for about 18 months. I initially tried a month’s worth of classes when they first opened to see if there were classes/ instructors I liked and found a few so it’s become my “yoga place” (I tend to stick to the Pilates at Boomerang, above) and up until it was crunch time for the manuscript, you could find me there every Saturday, trying to clear my mind. It’s just far away enough that I feel like I am getting in a decent walk there and back (also, I get to pass Extra Butter Coffee on the way home!) and it’s been my little oasis of “non work” through this whole process. I’m sad to be away from them for the summer but so very thankful that they have helped to keep me sane this year!
I KNOW. It sounds insane that I didn’t have time to go shopping but honestly every spare minute for a few long months was taken up with cooking or writing. So I relied on Well.ca (as I have for years and years) to get me the vitamins I need (B12!), the Kind granola bars I love as well as other toiletries and household products (love my method cleaning products!). Fast and free shipping, too! Want to try them out? Use the code “eatlivetravelwrite” and receive $10 off your next order of $40 or more (note: this is a referral code so I receive a bonus if you use it but honestly, I’d share it even if I didn’t get anything!).
So there you have it. They say it takes a village, and it absolutely does.
Disclosure: This post is not sponsored in any way. None of these businesses asked me to write about them and in fact, in most cases, I’ve been using their services for years already.