How to REALLY learn from your mistakes

how to really learn from your mistakes: a blog post about how to make real behavior change

Get that coffee away from that computer!

Do you all remember about two years ago when my computer and external hard-drive both died on me and I lost months of work because I hadn’t been backing things up more than a few times each year?

Well, earlier this month, I accidentally spilled a half-cup of tea on my laptop keyboard. I was editing a LinkedIn profile, and I picked up my little cup of tea, and somehow it slid between my fingers and fell on the keyboard.

Luckily, because I’ve been drinking out of my grandmother’s bone china teacups, it wasn’t a very big amount of tea. I had already drank at least half of the cup, and it was just white tea, without any sugar or milk (and, thank goodness, the cup itself didn’t break or crack!). I called to Mr Science for help and quickly saved my documents and shut the computer down before we blotted the tea. Then we turned the computer over, and it was rather a shock to see the liquid pouring out of the keyboard—there couldn’t have been much more than two or three tablespoons in the cup, but it all went straight into the keyboard! Mr Science Googled what we should do on his computer while I continued to wipe up the mess as best as I could.

We turned my computer upside down and set it aside, having learned from our Google searches that it’s best to leave the computer to dry for about 48 hours.

Thinking critically about our automatic reactions to situations that arise

I didn’t freak out or have a melt down the way that I did the last time my computer and external hard-drive died. Throughout the entire process of watching the tea spill onto my keyboard and cleaning it up, I was rather calm about the whole situation. Part of this might have been that I knew I had three back-ups of my work, which at the very least saved everything from two weeks before (I was due for another back-up), and also that I knew I had my old computer to use while my regular computer was recovering.

But I don’t think those are the only reasons why I reacted the way that I did. I also expect that a large part of why I was calm is because I’ve grown as a person from two years ago and, even though a whole lot of my life is on my computer, I think I acknowledged almost instantly that what was done was done. I had already spilled the tea and we had done what we could to clean it up, and all that was left to do was wait to see if my computer would work again a couple days later.

To be honest, this realization made me extremely grateful for where I am at today. We learn so much about ourselves by the way that we react in situations, and the fact that I was calm outwardly and inwardly about the situation demonstrated to me that I’ve really learned to let things go. I’m handling my anxiety and not letting it take over my life.

The results of spilling tea on my computer

At first I was going to turn my computer on after just waiting 48 hours, but then I was nervous that it might be too soon. So I ended up waiting a full 3.5 days before turning the computer on.

It was such a relief to see that my computer didn’t appear to have suffered, and that I didn’t lose any of my work! I quickly did a big back-up of everything, of course, but it seems as though my computer is going to pull through even after getting tea spilled all over it.

How many times do we need to make a mistake before we really learn our lesson?

I was thinking about the above question a lot during the day that I had spilled my tea. It happened almost first thing in the morning, so I had plenty of time to think about it.

Here’s the thing: when my computer died a couple years ago, I was devastated. I had lost so much. After that, I began backing up on Dropbox, a flash-drive, and also a massive household external hard-drive. I made sure to back-up once every week or once every couple of weeks.

What I obviously failed to do was to back my work up every single day. I feel like I learned part of my lesson a couple years ago, but I certainly didn’t learn it well enough. I now have a little sticky note on my desk to remind me to do a back-up at the end of every day. It’s not such a big deal if I lose some things within a two-week span, because I tend to do a lot of work on the Internet or else I’ll send documents very quickly to my clients. But if I had been working on a document and hadn’t gotten around to backing things up for a week or if I hadn’t yet sent the document to my client, that would be awful!

My takeaway from this whole experience is that it’s not enough to know that we made a mistake. Instead, we have to take a step back from the situation, and ask ourselves a few questions:

  • What is the real issue here? My issue was not that I spilled the tea. My issue was that I hadn’t backed things up for two whole weeks (and maybe that I shouldn’t have a beverage so close to my computer!).
  • What was the worst possible outcome in this situation? In my case, it would be that my computer would have completely died and failed to start up again, and I would have lost my work that I hadn’t backed up (and also that I’d be losing out on an expensive piece of equipment!).
  • What can I do to change my behavior and ensure that I never have to face this situation again in the future? For me, I will be doing two things: first, I am backing up documents that I’m working on to Dropbox throughout the day, as well as doing an end-of-day back-up onto a flashdrive; and second, I’m keeping beverages at least a couple feet away from my computer at all times.

I have now made the same mistake twice. I am determined not to make it a third time! Here’s to backing up our work every single day, letting go of the things we cannot change, and changing our behaviors so that we don’t make the same mistake again.

Have you made this particular mistake? How frequently do you back up your work? Do you avoid bringing food and drink anywhere near your computer? What mistakes have you made that have been hard lessons to learn? What behaviors have you had to change so you don’t make the same mistake a second (or third!) time? Share in the comments section below!

Product Review: Nature’s Path (Part One)

I love Nature’s Path. They have some super tasty products, they are big proponents of choosing organic, and they have a nice balance between choosing healthier ingredients for their items without sacrificing flavors (because, let’s face it, a lot of commercial whole food cereals and bars just aren’t quite the same as the ones that use plenty of HFCS). It’s so nice to be able to partner with them! Nature’s Path sent me a huge box full of goodies to review.

Nature's Path products

Nature’s Path box PACKED full of treats.

Here’s what I received (one box / bag of each):

  • Honey Oat Crunch Bars
  • Love Crunch Gingerbread Granola
  • Honey Almond Granola
  • Qia Superfood Chia, Buckwheat and Hemp Cereal (Original)
  • Sunrise Crunchy Cinnamon Cereal
  • Sunrise Crunchy Maple Cereal
  • Sunrise Crunchy Vanilla Cereal
  • Flax Plus Multibran Flakes Cereal
  • Mesa Sunrise Corn, Flax, Quinoa and Amaranth Cereal
  • Chia Plus Coconut Chia Granola
  • Flax Plus Pumpkin Flax Granola
  • Pure Oats Variety Pack (Brown Sugar Maple, Spiced Apple, and Homestyle)

…Like I said, quite the haul! I’ll be doing my product reviews in three installments, since there’s no way one blog post could do all of those goodies justice. Nature’s Path also directed me to a bunch of recipes on their site, and I was quite excited to try them out. Granola, for example, is tasty, but I usually just munch on it as a snack rather than enjoy it with milk as breakfast—I’m looking forward to making parfaits and cookies and pies using the granola!

For this first blog post, I wanted to try four different products: Honey Oat Crunch Bars, Love Crunch Gingerbread Granola, Vanilla Crunch Cereal, and Honey Almond Granola.

First up: Honey Oat Crunch Bars! Mr. Science and I both really enjoyed these. They are nice and crunchy with a lovely sweetness to them: not too sweet, but just the right amount. Each package comes with two thin bars in them, so you could share them with a friend, but you’ll probably want them both to yourself (just saying ;)). There’s about 2 tsp of sugar per package, but you’re also getting 3 grams of fibre, 3 grams of protein, and 21 grams of whole grains.

The ingredients are nice and wholesome: rolled oats, granulated sugar cane juice, sunflower oil, flaxseeds, honey, invert cane syrup, oat fibre, oat syrup solids, and sea salt. As far as a snack bar goes, this is pretty good! It’s also a satisfying snack for under 200 calories. I definitely devoured these immediately.

Next, we’ve got Love Crunch Gingerbread Granola. Guys. The ingredients!  Rolled oats, evaporated cane juice, molasses, soy oil, crystalized ginger, rice starch, sea salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, natural flavour, tocopherol (added to enhance freshness). I could pretty much make this in my kitchen, just like the bars above. This is what I like about Nature’s Path! Their stuff tastes better and has just as great of a texture as any other product you’ll find at the store, except they use more natural ingredients and choose organic and fair trade.

So, how did the granola taste? Pretty good! It comes in nice little clusters and had a subtle chocolatey / coconutty flavor to me. Of course, we had to try the granola in a recipe! We made the Gingerbread Crunch Cookies, which were quite yummy and chocolatey. I added a sprinkle of cinnamon (because cookies can always use a little extra cinnamon!) and exchanged the white flour for spelt, but otherwise kept the recipe the same. We served these cookies at our annual Holiday Cocktail Party.

After the granola, I tried the Vanilla Crunch Cereal. Super delicious! I liked that there was a combination of little crunchy puff balls, flakes, and rice-type crisps—it provides some great texture for munching on! The flavor also has that signature Nature Path subtle sweetness without being too sweet. You’re still probably getting a good 2 tsp of sugar per bowl of this stuff, but you definitely don’t need to add any sugar. Just pour some milk in the bowl and enjoy. The ingredients are much the same as the above products, too: you’ve got things like quinoa, flax seeds, and evaporated cane sugar, for example. And it’s gluten-free!

Lastly, I had the Honey Almond Granola. Oh my goodness. Mr Science and I ate nearly the entire package in one evening (and when I say “Mr Science and I,” what I really mean is “Mr Science had maybe a handful and I chowed down on the rest, Fantastic Mr Fox style”).

I could eat that stuff for every meal of the day. It’s ridiculous how tasty it was! And, of course, the ingredients are just as good as in the rest of their products. This ingredients list includes rolled oats, granulated sugar cane juice, sunflower oil, roasted almonds, clover honey, flavour, rice starch, sea salt, chia seeds, tocopherols (added to preserve freshness). It kind of blows my mind that products with names like “Honey Almond Granola” actually include real honey and almond! How annoying is it when you realize the number of commercial products out there that use “artificial flavor” instead of honey, or some combination of weird ingredients to get a taste similar to almonds rather than just using real almonds? Nature’s Path, I ♥ you.

Check back next week for the next installment of my Nature’s Path Product Review blog series!

Do you like Nature’s Path products? What’s your favorite product of theirs? Are you a cereal / granola fan? Share in the comments section below!

Tips for Hosting a Holiday Cocktail Party

We are in the thick of the holiday season, and you know what that means—it’s party time!

Last week, Mr Science and I hosted a lovely little holiday cocktail party. I adore hosting parties (like, seriously. It’s ridiculous how much I love having people over as long as I have planned and prepared accordingly ;)), and figured I’d pass along some quick tips  in case you have any upcoming events to host at this time of year:

  • Create multiple, in-dept lists at least one week before the party. These lists should have a general idea of who will be attending, the types of food and beverage you plan on providing, and your to-do list leading up to the party. I would recommend doing this three weeks in advance to give yourself plenty of preparation time (so it is perfect for you to be reading this blog post right now if you are planning to host a New Year’s Eve party!). Figure out what you will need to do the week leading up to the party, the day before the party, and the day of the party. Now is also a good time to send out the invite to your guests!
  • The week before the party, crack down on the food and beverage menu. If you will be hosting more than a dozen people, you should nail down the menu two weeks in advance of the party.
  • Stick with easy-to-eat finger foods. Go with things like chips / crackers with dip, cheese, veggies, pre-cut brownies, cookies, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts (those things disappear when Mr Science makes them!), stuffed mushrooms, etc. If you can make things ahead of time and if they can be served at room temperature rather than piping hot, even better.
  • Always make sure you have more food than you think you will need. Mr Science and I pride ourselves on being all about the food (and, *cough*, beverages) for our parties—there has only ever been one occasion in which I underestimated the amount of food we’d need at a wine & cheese, and I shall never make that mistake again. Assume that all of your guests are really hungry: worst case scenario, you’ll have dinner for the next four days (did I say “worst”?).
  • Keep it simple with the beverages. For our holiday cocktail part last year (yeah. It’s an annual thing ;)), we offered more than six different cocktails. And that was awesome, except it makes it challenging for guests to choose between all the drink options! If you’re having a smaller party (a dozen people or fewer), aim to have one to three cocktail recipes on offer at your party. I recommend having additional beverage options on hand just in case guests want to make different cocktails.
cocktail dress

Mr Science and me, all dressed up and party-ready.

  • Always provide several non-alcoholic beverage options. This one is easy to overlook when you’re hosting, but it is much appreciated by the DDs!
  • Have good music on hand. Get yourself a Spotify account and choose from any of the playlists on offer (might I recommend Mr Science’s Indie Evolution playlist? :)). Music is a must!
  • Bring the food and drink to wherever the guest are. In our little 700-square-foot open-concept condo, this isn’t really an issue: we have the bar set up in our massive kitchen, and the tapas  on the coffee table in the living room. But if you want your guests to congregate in one area of your house, bring it to them. Otherwise everyone will just end up in the kitchen (you just know that’s going to happen).
  • Don’t neglect the details. Have piles of napkins at the ready, and ensure that fresh glasses, plates, and cutlery are easily available. Take the time to do something with the decor, too: Mr Science and I usually keep it simple with lighting some candles, but at this time of year, we add holiday garland, fairy lights, and other festive touches (one of my favorite people, Carly, always has the best party decor when she’s hosting—get inspired by other people in your life who are hosting events!).

Got any other holiday hosting tips? Do you love hosting parties? Are you hosting any events this holiday season? Share in the comments section below!

Healthy Baking Ingredients

This is the perfect season for baking! I adore tasty baked goods, but they can pack a whole lot of sugar and butter that we don’t really need. Enter healthy baking ingredients! My top three, favorite, go-to healthy baking ingredients include:

PUMPKIN | ZUCCHINI | BANANA

roast pumpkin

Nothing like some extra fruits and veggies to add to our meals!

Why are pumpkin, zucchini, and banana good additions to baked goods?

Pureed pumpkin, grated zucchini, and mashed banana add a lovely moistness to most baked goods. You can use them in place of some (or even all!) of the butter/oil in your recipe. Banana also adds a nice sweetness to your baking so that you can cut down on sugar. Depending on how much you like the taste of pumpkin, zucchini, and banana, you might want to add larger or smaller amounts to your baking.

Pumpkin goes great with plenty of cinnamon and other spices like nutmeg, ginger, and allspice; both zucchini and banana pair beautifully with chocolate. These three ingredients are best added to denser baked goods, like breads or muffins.

Caution!

It’s important to note that we can’t use pumpkin, zucchini, and banana in every recipe and have it taste just right. Instead, it’s a good idea to be strategic about when to use these healthier items.

As mentioned above, use pumpkin, zucchini, and banana in denser baked goods. I would advise against using the three ingredients in one recipe – just use one of pumpkin, zucchini, or banana in your baked good (the flavors might be a little strange all combined!).

When it comes to something like sugar cookies, just go with butter and sugar. You could use a bit of one of the above ingredients, but it just won’t taste the same or have the right texture. When we’re talking about using healthy ingredients in baked goods, we still want to preserve as much flavor and texture from the original recipe as possible!

Other ways to make your baked goods a wee bit healthier

There are other, simple swaps you can make which won’t reduce the calories or sugar of your baked good, but which will still be much better for your body! Here are some of the swaps I always make:

  • Spelt flour instead of white flour
  • Cane sugar, honey, or maple syrup instead of white sugar
  • Real vanilla extract instead of fake
  • Himalayan pink sea salt instead of table salt
  • Non-aluminum baking soda instead of commercial

I haven’t used white flour, table salt, or commercial baking soda in my baking for years and you can’t tell the difference. The Himalayan sea salt actually brings out more flavor, and the spelt flour still makes your baked goods just as light and fluffy as if you were using white flour. I’ve never used fake vanilla extract, and lately I’ve taken to making my own out of vodka and vanilla beans (it’s fun to make and it lasts a long time!).

Cane sugar can be used in exchange for white sugar for any recipe. However, be a bit more careful when using honey or maple syrup instead of granulated sugar – it can change the taste and texture of the recipe, and the liquid sweeteners also tend to be sweeter so you don’t need quite as much of them.

Do you use any of these ingredients to make your baking a little bit healthier? Are healthy baked goods important to you? What other ingredients would you add to this list? Share in the comments section below!

Get your baking ingredients:

Six Ways to Get Outside in the Winter (and / or If You Work From Home)

Winnipeg winters can be brutal. From our mosquito problem in the summer to the -40 degrees C temperatures in the winter, it’s not exactly the most ideal place to live, climate-wise. And as winter rolls around again, I find myself searching for ways to ensure that I actually leave the house.

6 ways to get outside in the winter

No excuses!

This winter, it’s especially interesting for me since I’m working from home. I don’t even have to leave the house to go to work! Combine that with my introverted nature, and I could probably last for days without going outside in the winter. Part of me is delighted at that thought (hurray, no need to bundle up in seven layers and still be freezing cold!), but another part of me is, obviously, very aware that leaving the house is important. And that leads us to today’s blog post:

Six Ways to Get Outside in the Winter (and / or If You Work From Home):

1) Volunteer. This year, I’m volunteering for a resource & development committee that meets once each month, so I get to attend in-person meetings every four weeks. It’s not a huge amount of time, but it really is a great reason to get outside in the evening! It’s also an excellent opportunity to give back to the arts community and meet awesome people. The other group that I volunteer for primarily connects online during the winter months, but I did get to volunteer at our annual fundraiser last month, so that was nice.

Fruit Share

Our cute little Fruit Share booth!

2) Make plans with a friend. Go out and socialize! Spend time at a local pub or coffee shop (or a super awesome board game cafe). This is possibly one of the best ways I can think of to leave your house at this time of year :)

3) Have an in-person meeting (instead of a meeting over the phone or via email). When you work from home, it’s easy to only ever connect with clients and co-workers via phone or email. Instead, have an in-person meeting. Go for lunch at a local restaurant, head to their office and use the board room, or go for after-work drinks to chat. Face-time makes a big difference when it’s people you work with.

4) Embrace the cold with cold-weather activities like skiing and skating. The river isn’t frozen over enough to skate on it yet, but next month winter sports should be very accessible in Winnipeg! I’m always fascinated with how the temperature seems much colder when you’re walking in it as opposed to skiing or skating. Going for an evening stroll is a nice way to get out of the house in the winter, but if you have access to a skating rink or skiing trails (or if you have snowshoes!), it’s much more fun to partake in activities that are seasonal (and, therefore, more of a novelty).

5) Plan for a remote working day. If you work from home all the time, get out and work remotely! Go to a coffee shop—your favorite one, or try a new one you’ve never been to (preferably a local place—support your local economy!). You could also try working at the library or even going to a friend’s place, if they also work from home.

6) Participate in community events. My favorite? Going to the theatre! The mother dear and father dear have had season tickets to RMTC for as long as I can remember, and Mr Science and I are super lucky that they take us with them. This happens every six weeks and it is a fantastic way to get out of the house and get cultured at the same time. We also have something called First Fridays in the Exchange District, where I live, in which a bunch of local artists open their doors on the first Friday of each month and you can see what their studios are like and all of the cool art they are doing (from engravings to oil paintings to sculptures and more).

What do you do to get out of the house when winter strikes? If you’re in Winnipeg, do you have other great ideas for escaping the house and embracing the outdoors? If you live elsewhere, what activities or events do you participate in? Or do you live in a hot climate that Jack Frost never touches so winter is a non-issue? Share in the comments section below!