Friday, November 29, 2013

Longer time no write

Wednesday was a snow day. We were pummelled all day. By the evening, the skies had cleared. The temperature was most agreeable and I decided that a run on the path was just what I needed.

A real run outside! With wind in the face and all the exhilaration of being outside near dark. I followed the mini-snowplow that lumbered like a beneficient bear along the path, clearing a wide berth for me and the...cyclists? I saw a couple of dog walkers, two cyclists and no runners at all.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Livin' on a prayer

I couldn't run today because I was feeling under the weather, so here is a good old fashioned food post.

The fella and I ran out this afternoon and came back with a car trunk stuffed with bags of food. We trucked in so many edibles that the cupboards and fridge had to cleared out before we could safety stash our finds in suitably cool and dark areas of the kitchen. And what a blitz it was! A dizzying number of containers holding bits of previously-tasty meals forgotten and left to spoil had to be sepulchered in the trash can. A moment of silence....

(A ten-pound bag of potatoes and another of beets! We'll be eating borscht until christmas.)

One leftover item I refused to toss was a couple of large sweet potatoes roasted to even sweeter perfection during their short but stellar career as holiday side dish. Maybe you've heard of them? They were quite popular in these parts about a week ago. Anyway, they were waiting for me to repackage their has-been careers into a Vegas-y show a la Bon Jovi and with help from a few carrots and some Thai red curry paste I made their dream come true. OK, it was my dream. 

PS> This recipe uses raw sweet potato, but if yours are cooked as were mine, slice them and add to the carrots with the Thai curry paste. 

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup
serves 4-6
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed 
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • smashed ginger and garlic to taste (I added a heaping teaspoon of each) 
Combine these items in a large pot and cook, covered, until carrots and potatoes are pierceable with a fork, about 20 minutes. 

  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1-2 tsp honey
Cook for 5 minutes, then blend it up and add salt to taste. If too thick for your liking, add a half cup of water and blend again. 

Return to the pot and cook on medium heat until bubbly and hot. Serve garnished with cilantro, roasted squash seeds, and a few cranks of the pepper mill. And a bottle of pinot noir.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Man on a bike

One of my favorite places to run is a path along the river heading east. It's popular with people who live close by and enjoy strolling with their dogs on Sunday mornings. Some with fishing poles scramble down the rocky embankments to the water's edge beyond the tall grass and short trees. That's on the river side. The other side of the path is forest, or what counts as forest in a city. A small patch of land heading uphill, dense with trees the colour of flames.

A perfect aspect of this place is the affordability of quiet. You can leave the city behind. You can rip your ear buds out and jack in to peacefulness: gentle waves; the scuff of your shoes against gravel; the absence of traffic noise. Even the blue sky emits a serene vibe.

My head was probably swimming in my own Universe of Nat at the very moment when the man on the bike rode by. His horn startled me,  It was a clown's horn - honka!-honka!-honka! - and I glanced up to see a man with white hair and mirrored glasses. On the back of bike two large flags were somehow secured and they bobbed with his pedal strokes. Not a smile escaped his lips.

I think that he honked that hilarious horn to make me laugh. And he succeeded!

Also: I tested a weird gel. It was oddly delicious.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hiking the hills

I'm crouched over my laptop at an Edmonton Starbucks, sucking back coffee and wifi. There's a scent of homeless man around, and I think it's coming from the table behind me. A smallish man is quietly reading a paper to himself and coughing into a napkin. I may relocate even though he's respectful (re: use of napkin). Wow, the frosty streets of Edmonton are a far cry from the beauty of Banff, which is also cold - colder in temperature and cooler in attitude.

The bus pulled into the station at 6:00, and my flight leaves at 16:00, so I'm dawdling in the most pleasurable way under these circumstances by drinking coffee and writing. Yesterday I stored my luggage at the hotel (which was much classier than my hotel in Ed last week) for the day and set off for the hills to do some hiking. Yeah, "hills."

But first, Banff. A resort town nestled between looming, snow-capped mountains, where streets are named after wild animals (Buffalo, Elk, Wolf) and lined with boutiques, cafes and chain stores. On the sidewalks groups of people walk about looking happy. Without glancing at the grey skies and snowy mountains behind them, you might guess from the contented faces that these people were vacationing at a beach in 35 degree weather. Or maybe you wouldn't, because these people, dressed in fashionable fall jackets and gloves, appear happier than those at beach resorts. There is no rush for buffet food or drinks in this place. Here, few people compete for many resources (for sale), which is to say there seems to be a lot to go around (like hotels and restaurants). The air smells fresh and pure. Judging from their accents, most service staff are far from home: I heard Japanese, Aussie, Kiwi, British accents, and many other languages spoken. Mornings start out cold and warm up around noon, then the chill deepens in the afternoon and in the cozy caffeine shops Lululemon- and Sorel-wearing families decompress over chai lattes after shopping for skis for the kids and before dinner at The Keg.

HA! But that's just the external expression of spending habits, and who gives a North Face about that, really. I encountered lots of friendly folks while hiking in the woods. And I was in them thar hills (wearing all of my sweaters like Heidi in all her dresses) for hours. I climbed upwards, past crystal clear turquoise streams and towering pines, not knowing my direction or what to expect but admiring everything around me, and after a few hours I turned on my heel and started the tramp downhill, giving my calves a break. I followed up with a huge dinner with wine in anticipation of a long bus journey. Which started with a half-hour wait in the cold wind, put out like a dog for the night because the bus station manager was closing up. The small inconveniences of a small town.

My affair with Banff was over in a lover's heart beat. I'll be back.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A scent of snow

Mountains today! I stepped off the night bus at 6:00, bleary-eyed and excited. My hotel room was ready when I arrived so I checked in and took a nap. Ran around the Safeway to find snacks and apples. Walked up part of a steep mountain and grabbed a gondola with a couple of British girls the rest of the way up.

The summit was windy and cold and crawling with shivering tourists (like me). The treetops were at nose level and the snow that hung to the top branches and way down on the rocks below smelled fresh when the wind picked up. I have been trying all day to dissect the scent of snow but all I understand is that it has a single note. Pure. Clean. Fresh. (Sounds like a laundry detergent commercial.)

I languished in the outdoor turquoise spa pool with the other tourists until the heat and lack of space got the best of me. The air was about 8 degrees but the water was a lovely 35 or so. I received a free towel because I asked for one just as the girl's manager was leaving the room.

Relaxed and warm, I trudged down the hill towards the centre and reflected on the day. The only disappointment was that the wildest animal in my environment was a bold chipmunk eating peanuts on a wooden fence. I heard that the bears moved on when the berry supply dried up, and I was probably too close to traffic for anything else to show.

Dinner was a bowl of udon with tempura shrimp and veggies and a seaweed salad in a tiny hole in the wall resto on Banff Ave. I think I've had some form of east asian food every day since leaving Ottawa and I'm contemplating more for tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Take a message

A late night. An early flight. Looking out the window. Another flight. Waiting for a shuttle. Unpacking, channel flipping. A walk and a look around. Weighted eyelids, stifled yawns. Jammies at 8pm. Night night.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grand sweeping statements

I ran for 49 minutes tonight and set a PR for the fastest 1k recorded by this GPS - 5min/k. Kind of embarrassing: a few changes in recent years! I ran along the usual circuit but opted for an altered route with more flowers, plus I got swept up in a gaggle of runners I didn't know, and I am sure that's where the improvement happened. Change demands results. And I was treated to some flamboyant stranger gossip that I really shouldn't pass on (to all one of you, haha).

When I got home, I wanted to do some shoulders but my left one is sore, so instead I did legs with two 5-lb weights:

  • forward lunges x 20, 2 sets
  • leg lifts x 10, 3 sets each leg

It worked up my appetite for veggie pizza made with a pita, spicy sauce, spinach, broc, zucchini and dairy-free shredded cheese which isn't nearly as awful as you might think. It kinda melts, and it kinda tastes cheese-like, but perhaps not if you pride yourself on having a refined taste for cheese.

Where are my shoes?

We haven't even talked about last Sunday yet. 19k. I had planned on hitting only 15k but everything was going so well. I took to the other side of the river to see the trees and again, got swept away.

Michael C. Hall was a guest on Q today. I need to go now and listen to the interview and that deep voice again. :-)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday night fun run

Friday night runs are invigorating, and the weather tonight was perfect - not too hot but still warm. A few ducks still playing around in the lake, and a few cyclists. Not many runners. Plus rain started to fall just as my apartment building came into view - a bonus either way you look at it (Running in the sweet rain, yay! Or, almost home, yay!) 

I ran for an hour with speed increases during the Diamond Rings tunes on the playlist.

Had a moment. I realized that the crunchy material I'd been running on down by the university was a mess of fallen leaves, and I was struck by the realization that I was interacting with the first signs of autumn. It's tragic to see the signs of summer's passing but transformation is inevitable. Cycles provide opportunities for change as well as the security of routine. And really, all changes occur in cycles that carry on without us or our consent. 

So don't worry! Everything is moving along the way it should.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Big Tuesday

So much happened today! And didn't happen. To explain, allow me.

It was Back to Work after a long weekend. It's not uncommon for a steep plunge in motivation on the first workday morning following a long weekend - and I know I'm not alone here. But today was an exception and I think I know why. See, I've been plunking my butt into my desk chair 30 minutes earlier for a week now, and I think those extra minutes have isolated the crest of my energy wave! Wow that sounds like I've ingested some funky mushrooms; however, it's pretty accurate. I get to work, and then I get to work. Less dawdling, more focus. It's pretty cool that a change this small can have such a significant effect. My crappy job hasn't even changed! I'm just more alert and conscious.

|| Cutting naan dough into triangles ||

And I won a tee shirt on my way to the office! I gave a group of Shinerama kids a bill, and in response they pulled a white T-shirt down from the concrete building it'd been duct-taped to and handed it to me, screaming wildly. I got a high five from a tall guy in an alligator onesie. I barely got away with my life, haha. An awesome start to my morning.

|| Fryin' up the naan ||

I didn't run tonite but I did some yoga when I got home and it was amazing! Those 75 minutes pass pretty quickly during this amazing video.

I'm typing quicker than fire all of a sudden - I'll blame/tip my hat to the fantastic trance music revving my ear drums.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dr. Financestein

I think I have been pretty quiet about the shift in my spending habits these last seven months. Don’t worry, it’s nothing personal. I just haven’t explored the data myself, and I have only scratched the surface when it comes to considering the progress I’ve made. And I have made progress for sure.

So here goes. Since January 1st I have been trying to live more frugally. (I had to, just now, edit the previous sentence because I had added, “…and consume less,” and really, that is just not the case. I am probably consuming less – I'll explain in a future post – but reduced consumption was never a goal of this adventure.) My true goal was to save half of my income this year. Looking back, I didn’t think too hard or too long about doing it, or how I would do it. It was late December, maybe a week before the January 1st deadline, and I just jumped in. I created a simple Excel spreadsheet and threw in some income and expenditure data, and pretty much left it at that.

Around that time, I heard of a 100-day challenge where particpants were encouraged to exercise every day for 100 days, and to keep records. I think a minimal amount of exercise minutes was expected every day. Wow, I thought, that sounds great! So I started a second spreadsheet and filled in my exercise particulars for that day. But that’s as far as I could take it, because by the end of the third day I had fallen off the exercise wagon. To think that all this time, I thought I preferred exercising over saving money.

So I deleted the 100-day challenge spreadsheet, and spent a surprising amount of time hunched over my laptop, poring over the financial one. This was my experiment, and I the eccentric Dr. Financestein, compelled by my competitive nature to excel at this new science of money. I wanted life! Life instead of working and wasting, and wondering how I’m going to leave my yucky job and move on to something else.

At first, my record keeping was sparse. When I look back in a few months, January will not be a month from which I will learn how I managed my cashflow because that page is just a list of expenditures and income all mashed together, probably with missing data. Around mid-February, I started to play with my spreadsheet design, adding a separate page for each month, and notes that detailed where I had spent and what I had bought. And where had I spent my money? Well, I can tell you where it didn’t go: toward weekday lunches or clothes. Let’s meditate on the fact that I can save money by not indulging in two wildly unnecessary areas. Now I bring my lunch to work and I don’t go shopping for clothes for myself unless I need them. Pretty simple.

Last week I took a brief look at how much I've saved. I was relieved to see that I'm on track, and not bringing my lunch everyday for nothing (my brother was right, this saves a bundle!). If I continue on this path, by December 31 I will have more than 50% of my income stashed.


Monday, August 5, 2013


You have to give a little to get a little. You have to spend money to make money. Everything has a price. "Common knowledge" is rife with the idea that you can't have something for nothing. 

I discovered a recipe for peach cobbler that is so much more divine than I expected, given its list of standard ingredients. The combination of butter, sugar and peaches is pretty unbelievable. 

It's summer, and peaches are everywhere; since stumbling upon the cobbler recipe I've bought several boxes of ripe, delicious-looking peaches. It always seems a shame to cut up the beautiful fruit for a batter when I get so enjoyment from biting into a fresh peach. 

I do it anyway.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A little cooler

The temperatures have dipped down just a shade, and the morning running is much easier. I guess it's a trend. Again today the air felt cooler than it did last week. As I slowly jogged away from the apartment building and toward the running path, I tried to conjure the faint chill of fall on my bare arms but couldn’t – it’s not THAT cool.

Instead, there is less icky sticky sweat rolling down puffy skin; less thirst during a 5k in the freakin' morning; less plodding through a dense wall of humidity…and more runners.

I totally get it. Everyone and their grandma wants to be outside to wring the most sunshine and vitamin D from July now that the discomfort has subsided. And it’s not so bad having runners floating just ahead, inspiring me to work my edge, push harder – and try to pass them! I get passed often enough that I feel no shame in passing the odd runner myself. It just shows that I'm no slower and no faster than most runners out there.

But now that it’s gone, I realize I was getting used to running in the humid heat. I hope a bit of that sauna effect returns before summer runs out – maybe this sounds crazy, but I miss it.

Frannie's Incredible Watermelon Smoothie

You will think you're drinking candy. Give it a try.

What you will need:
  • Protein powder (this one is greenish, maybe cuz it's vegan)
  • Watermelon chunks
  • Banana (for thickness and overall smoothie support)
  • Water 

Step 1: Assemble ingredients and then whirl.

Step 2: Drink with much panache
while admiring the torso of the Greek god Achilles.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Checks and balances

This summer, and for the first time, I live in a high rise with hundreds of neighbors and not a house with just a few folks. Also for the first time, my bike doesn't live in my immediate surroundings: I keep it locked in the bike nursery. Which means I can't just unlock the padlock on the shed door, grab my bike and take off, eh.

There are a few more steps to this process. Let me tell you all about it!

:: I was excited to see this bike and then I spied the questionable Native American design :: Lisbon ::

First, I make sure all my ride accessories are with me when I leave my apartment - hand pump, gloves, helmet, replacement tube and tools, sunscreen, phone, keys. This includes the keys to the bike room. 

I take the elevator down to the basement (then realize my water bottle is still on the kitchen counter and take the elevator back up - heh), unlock the bike room door, locate my bike, release the bike lock and give the tires a quick pinch. Usually one or both feel flat so I dig out the hand pump from my pack and get to work unscrewing caps and begging the pump to play along. 

When the tires are nice and fat - or just fat enough to protect my butt from bumps in the road - I wheel my bike out of the room and meet the first security sensor, which I lovingly call a "checkpoint." I retrieve my key chain fob and dangle it in front of the red light sensor. When the sensor beeps its approval, the door ahead unlocks and I am permitted to lead my bike awkwardly through the door, and then through a second one.

Keeping my fob in one hand, I pedal along two floors of the underground parking lot, hit the second checkpoint, dangle the fob once again and say "open sesame" loudly to open the garage door. At last I'm free to pack my various identification materials away and pretend I don't live in a paramilitary building.

I biked along the parkway. It's partially closed to cars on Sunday morning and you can really get your speed and/or sweat on. No cars, and lots of kiddies pedaling their little hearts out. Pretty sweet!

I checked out halfway through my ride, found a grassy sunny spot and read a chapter of my novel.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trees and plants

// A flexible tree in Sintra, Portugal //

We're experiencing a stolid wave of humidity and the air everywhere feels squishy. As though one could wring it and dry it out. It was 40 degrees yesterday; apparently just shy of setting a record in this city. 

The wet heat reminds me of a yoga hot room without the undercurrents of citrus and bliss (and with the ever-present scents of garam masala and turmeric in our curry-obsessed corner apartment - I cooked up a spinach, chickpea and sweet potato curry last night). I love the feeling of heavy heat even though it adds a dimension of difficulty to running, which as I see it can be performed only in the early hours before the sun has gathered its vampiric strength. When you get right down to it, I am a wuss! I watch people run by me on the sidewalk in direct sunlight and a churning wave of nausea creeps up. Biking in this weather is a lot easier on the core temperature.

I ran yesterday morning at 6:30 for 38 minutes, and 90 minutes later my face was still a tomato!

Next February, when I'm outside and can't feel my toes in my thick boots, the memory of this sticky heat will seem unreal. 

// Road to the palace: Sintra //

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day 6

Yesterday: I got up at 8am (I slept in!) and hit the bike path with Bessie. The sun was just starting to get things underway. The path held just a scattering of people and dogs and everyone seemed to be relaxing in the relatively cool morning temps. These days I see a lot of tourists around the canal, so I wasn't surprised to see the line of boats moored near the NAC, many with names painted along the side: "Second Chance" and "Queen Mary." 

I biked for an hour, sometimes following schools of cyclists, sometimes dodging them, until I arrived at my destination close to the park's entrance. I gently lay Bessie against a picnic table and sat down on the table top, removed my helmet and picked a small bag of nuts from my pack. Macadamia! The best nuts in the world! After a snort of water, I lay back on the table, facing the sun, and listened to Day 6 on my player. A good thought-provoking listen and some glorious sunshine is like a day at the spa for me.

Since it's summer, Day 6 was a rerun mashup. One piece was an interview with three criminal lawyers in USA and Canada who defend persons accused of committing acts of terrorism and other heinous crimes. These lawyers described aspects of their jobs that they enjoy and described it as an honour to defend those who are most despised and thus most likely to have their rights take away from them. All three seemed to have strong values/ethics concerning justice and fairness, and I found their conviction and energy tremendously uplifting. From the tone of their voices, it was clear that they believe they are making a difference. 

By the time I turned off the radio the sun was a-sizzle and the bike path a-buzz, but my timeout was worth the sweat and tears.

Freaky birds at sunset in Seville, Spain.

Today: A 70-minute run (a slow jog) along the canal in sweaty humidity. I wanted to follow that up with some weights so I attempted some pushups and squats but I only did one set of each. I sat down to stretch and found that much easier to get into in this heat. I held some stretches for a minute; my hamstrings haven't had that much attention in quite some time. 

The funniest thing happened. During the run, my ipod shuffled through my tunes and decided to grant me the most energetic songs for the run. I had Apple on my side. 

Iced coffee is the tastiest hydrating drink ever. 

Friday, July 5, 2013


It's been a feverishly busy couple of weeks, so I'll post a food pic from the trip.

Churros are long and sweet, and usually dipped in a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. I tried them a few times in Spain. They look like they contain honey but they're not that sweet for those of us with sweet-sucking palettes.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday whatevers

I'm not feeling all that motivated these days. Motivation is not a dragon breathing down my neck and making me do stuff that needs doing--stuff like exercise. I love to bike and run in the summer. I like doing weights and dropping into a yoga class for some stretching, and all manner of hiking and wandering. I like these activities, I really do! Except when it's humid and I have homework to finish.

Someone had the audacity to bring a set of digial scales into my home last night, and I couldn't resist stepping on. Oy! Ironically, this person also cooks up an array of delicious Indian curries that would put the entire city of Mumbai to shame, and we have been feasting on curries every night for a few weeks now.

Biking and running were not options for the evening, but I wanted to find an activity.
The humid heat in our apartment feels a lot like the atmosphere of a hot yoga class. The warmth is comforting, surrounding our bodies like blankets.

I tried a few sequences of sun salutations and noticed that I didn't overheat after even a half dozen go-arounds. (These were performed entirely from memory, and although I'm rusty I wasn't too far from the video I watched on It was pretty fun. My stuff back needs some serious stretching after sitting all day, so I think a few rounds of sun salutations after work would be a nice fix.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tomatoes and cheese

One of the awesome things about travelling is getting around on your own to explore and experience the new world in which you're immersed. Arriving in a new place is like meeting someone: you form impressions which are really beyond your control, and then it's necessary to observe and listen to deepen these impressions.

I especially like to observe from my table at a cafe, and through my "morning eyes," when, still hazy with sleep, my sight is filtered and the imperfections of my environment are airbrushed away. So, "suits" striding down the sidewalk to office jobs appear as characters in an 80s movie, and my chocolate-covered pastries are not an unhealthy breakfast but an example of my efforts to try local cuisine!

Along the aquaduct // Evora, Portugal

When you travel on your own schedule you can take time to stroll (or bike, or run) and watch a day in another country slowly unfold. You can linger and gush over whatever you want: colourful flowers, burmese cats, a game show host - whatever.

Exploring natural areas is even more special because few people are around to tell you that you can't be there.

A 16th century aquaduct runs from the town of Evora into somewhere in the woods. We read in the guidebook that it could be possible to follow the aquaduct to its source, so we packed food and water and headed toward the town centre. We found the massive arches of the stone structure - hard to miss - and followed it through narrow streets, petting cats and smiling at shy kids, until we were deep in grassy fields and on foot paths through farmland. We passed horses and houses, and a nunnery still in operation. Water is a wiley element, however, and we lost our hold on the aquaduct somewhere in the brambles under the hot sun. 

Lunch at the top of the hill

We climbed higher to see the town laid out beneath us like a map. There, on the smooth rocks of the plateau of a hill, we unpacked our food and spread out our ingredients on a towel. We took swigs from water bottles and made sandwiches from a small round of cheese and ripe tomatoes from the market. D, ever prepared for spice-related emergencies, unpacked two bottles of Portuguese hot sauce and the pepper mill I'd brought him from Canada. When everything had been devoured, we lay down and sunned our bodies like lizards.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hay Buenissimos

Spanish snails are friendly and edible!
I might have just polished off a glass of red wine when I snapped this one, yet I think that if you replaced the snail's stein with a red wine stem our trip would not be entirely ill-represented by the chalky, long-lashed caricature you see here.

There were wines, smiles and unfamiliar languages so musical you could hear the upside-down exclamation marks.

There were pots of seafood, baskets of bread, soft creamy cheeses, perfect olives and er, curries and naan.

A bowl of snails one time (which ended up being a super gross experience but it had to be tried), coffees and pastries and lots of other goodies. Let's see how well I can describe these and other Spanish and Portuguese treats in future posts....

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tea and toast

As the countdown for lift off ticks away steadily like a metronome, my fridge becomes more and more empty. I'm almost out of milk, so I won't be drinking coffee at home. I have perhaps two servings of leftovers that I can depend on a hot sauce or two to perk up, otherwise those meals will be on the spare side in terms of colours, flavours and textures. I soon will have no need for the fridge light as there will be little to see or look for! It's possible that by the time Saturday rolls around I'll have no choice but to close the fridge door on condiment bottles and a bag of cooking onions and go out for dinner!

I had a friend who studied nutrition, and she told me about the "tea and toast" phenomenon, which is basically a sad summary of the eating habits of older people living alone without much money. They don't want to shop for themselves (or haven't the full wallets to do so) so they subsist on tea and toast. A sugary cuppa and slices of hot, buttery toast can feel like a hearty snack, particularly on a cold or rainy day, and it can certainly bolster the spirits, so I can see how that combo could become habitual. Not for a few decades yet, though. (Mental note: a jar of peanut butter would be a nice addition although I would have to find a secret storage place to hide it from D!)

I've run twice this week and plan to run again tomorrow. I felt the presence of my calves this morning as I tramped down a flight of stairs. Nice to know the're there.

I'm still adding 20 squats and 10 burpees on the end of shorter runs (the 5 - 10k distances, nothing over 20k), and I'm up to 4 full pushups with the burpees. Did you get that? Four! I hope to continue this routine while away - bodyweight exercises are freakishly portable. I can't WAIT to get to 10. Patience, young grasshopper!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Trust the bush

Curious kitty with basil and morning burrito

Today's run
What I expected:  windy 20k in cool temps.
What really happened:  22k loop in warm sunshine with a chaser of refreshing breezes.
It's all about perspective.

Wedding cake

I went to a wedding yesterday with some friends, and after the ceremony we ate *a lot* of cheese from the table of appetizers. They had all the stinky blue cheeses I could ever want, and I sampled each type several times just to be sure it was still good, lol. A pretty woven basket held rectangular crackers that had interesting seeds, but the best cheese vehicle on the table was what I will call French bread crisps. These were ultra thin slices of toast so flavourful I could have munched on them alone! And probably should have, since the deli cooler amount of cheese I ingested cancelled my appetite for the rest of the meal. 

I managed to squeeze in a bowl of the velvety roasted cauliflower soup, but my grilled mushroom entree was mostly left uneaten. Still, I ate the chocolate-orange mousse that was placed in front of me. And then a slice of red velvet wedding cake and a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie. Followed by a giant strawberry (the size of an apple!) covered in white chocolate. The gluttony.

All that food in my tummy made me sleepy, but also gave me plenty of endurance this morning. I felt strong until about 16k, when I started to anticipate a rest and a stretch at home. Then I remembered I had hidden my hat and outer tee shirt under a large bush and would have to collect them before heading back, so I looped around which added another few km to the trip. I didn't mind the extra mileage - I am always pleasantly surprised when I find my hidden items where I left them a few hours before. No one swiped them, and I gained the freedom of going hat- and tee-free! We all win! Ok, I win. 

Cake and bouquets

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

State of sleep

Yesterday was a kick ass day in terms of the minimum exercise allotment! I enjoyed a 40-minute morning run and followed that up with 20 squats and 10 burpees. Add in an hour of walking (to & from werk) and conclude with a 90-min bike ride on the paths, and that way exceeded my plans. Not bad for a Monday, hehe.

Unfortunately it didn't help me sleep any better, and I tossed and turned all night, waking hours before my alarm. At the moment I'm feeling kind of exhausted, but the minute I lie down and close my eyes the mood is gone, like a phantom scared away. I started to drift off while reading on the sofa, and hurriedly moved on to a bed to capture the spirit of sleep but nothing happened and after a few minutes I got up (with a loud sigh).

In this state, I might not get around to doing much today. That kind of sucks because I have the momentum of yesterday behind me, and I'm generally on a roll (to trim down my stomach roll!) so perhaps I'll try a routine of weights or body weight exercises later, although experience has taught me that exercise tends to shake me out of a state of sleepiness rather than lure me down into it. I suppose I could drink the lone bottle of beer in the fridge left over from our soiree of two months past, but I prefer to save it. (I don't really know why.) Maybe I'll take on the 6 rounds from last week and see what effect that has. Don't you just love experiments?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Dreaming success

Weird dreams! Finally my mind led me somewhere interesting last night, and I had dreams about exactly god knows what but they were urgent and colorful, and woke me up at least once. It was great to be released from the humdrumery of deadbeat dreams - waiting for elevators and the like - and free to run around in my head.

After polishing off another crunchy bag of salty snacks from D's care package (gracias!) I did this simple workout last night:

6 rounds of:
  • 10 squats with 5 lb weights
  • 10 sit ups with 5 lb weights
  • 10 push ups (modified)

Followed by 20 squats with 8 lb weights, and then 10 burpees. All to the soundtrack of the Ottwa-Montreal hockey game as I tried to coax some testosterone from the players into defecting and joining my bloodstream team. As far as I can tell, it was no go.

This morning I headed outside for a 40-minute run in the beautiful sunshine, then another set of 20 squats and 10 burpees in the living room, the cat acting as my spotter. The back of my shoulders have been stunned into a light soreness which will heat up into paralyzing grassfire before long. Burn on.

I sorely (haha) need to get my push up game on. I have always wanted to be able to do 10 full push ups in a row but never could get past 3 or 4, and currently that number is probably more like 1.

Hmmm, this is sounding disturbingly like a plan being broadcast and I'm not really comfortable with that. But there it is. I said it. 10 full push ups by the end of August! That gives me lots of time to meet this goal.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Whose lesson is this?

Last night I walked my flat-tired bike, Betsy - you might have heard about her - a few blocks to the gas station. It was a warm, beautiful evening.

The "compressed air machine" is much more effective than any of the tire pumps we own. I pumped up the first tire until it was fat and beautiful, and then as I started in on the second tire some young bozo appeared, hands in pockets, and looked at me anxiously: "Uh, do you know what you're doing?"

I had a moment in my mind right then, cracked into two distinct sections. First: WTF? get the hell out of here, of course I know what I'm doing, and by the way, did I ask you for help, no I didn't, so go. now.

Second: What do you mean? Is something broken? Amiss? What am I doing wrong?

My facial reaction probably exposed the latter partion of my thought process (goddamit) and encouraged, Bozo launches into an explaination of how to use the adapter I was currently using.

Even as I write the words, I feel the rage. Let's look at what's happening here.

I was putting air in my tire. I was in the middle of performing an action I have done many times before - a simple action. I didn't need help. I didn't even look like I needed help. I was confident. I was not floundering. In the least. I was not hurt. In fact, I was pretty much in my element.

But of course he knows more about this simple task than me - he's a man! And men know. And they always have to help the silly ladies with their stuff. Because. They're men. They know!

I got back to work filling my tire - rather expertly I must say - and when the tire felt right to me, I asked the driver of the truck parked beside me if he needed air, since the machine was already going. Driver said, no thanks.

Turning my attention back to the bike, I twisted the caps on to the valves and informed Bozo, who was still loitering about like a testy raccoon, that I know what I'm doing - look, my tires are full of air! - and I don't need him. Bozo walked away but threw me some parting words: I'm not an asshole, y'know. I used to be a bike courier.

My hero, the bike courier. Because of him, I will certainly unleash a fury of irritation on the next unenlightened bozo who tries to teach me about my bike. God help you, Unknown Bozo. You have no idea you're stumbling into the path of a hurricane. Wish I could help you!

Betsy and I rode off, and spent the next 90 minutes rediscovering spring, the path and each other. No raccoons required.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


There's no chaotic booze here - um, at work! - but it's to celebrate that taxes have been filed before the due date and that is one heady feeling. I started in on the tax duties before yesterday, and then last night I felt I should look things over before I submitted the file. I was treated to some pre-submission excitement when I realized CRA had my previous address and not my current one, and I wouldn't be able to file until that matter was, ahem, addressed. I spent some time waiting on the line. All done now.

Even after that mental weight was lifted and I was giddy with irresponsibility once again I didn't sleep well. I fell into more than a few reality-based dreams, the kind where I find myself involved in banal activities the same as in my waking life: waiting for an elevator, or completing a crossword puzzle. I feel cheated, slighted even, when Morpheus, playing the punishing parent, prevents me from trekking across a Fellini dreamscape at night. As though I am a toddler attempting to stray across a highway. All I want to do is to explore the absurd side of the moon, man.

When my alarm freaked I pushed myself out of superboring dreams and right into my running kicks and tackled the 5k loop. It was warm. I wore my skirt. Last week, I wore substantially more, including a hat and gloves. Spring is like that. Yesterday I did some shoulder work and I still feel a little tender. Love that.

Monday, April 15, 2013


My fitness goals fell beneath the treads of a tank last week. Things to do and people to see. Now that all of that is over with, I have some space to think about how this week will shape up. I started the day with a 5k run, so things are looking up.

Actually I shelved running for the past two weeks, even going so far as to miss two long runs in a row. Sometimes I can't go running when I think that I should be doing something else. Usually that's school work. It's a type of misplaced guilt mixed with procrastination and a dash of fatigue. Anyway, a couple of long runs should be easy to bounce back from, and anyway I still have time to prep for a marathon this year if I find one. Without considering any constraints, my preference is the east coast race my good friend is training for. Unfortunately the mid-summer trek to smalltown NS might prove too difficult to integrate into my as yet undetermined plans. I'd rather wait for a race that's closer to home.

For the week ahead, I'd like to run on the odd mornings, and tackle two Z-wows on the mornings in between. I have no social commitments or school deadlines this week - what a gift! - so I should be able to go to bed early every night, plus a yoga class! Now that is something to be excited about.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Woozy doozy

I didn't tackle another Z-wow workout this morning after being so dedicated the last two days. This morning I woke up feeling not exactly tired, more like spread too thin after last night's long spin class, so instead I grabbed some hand weights and did a shoulder workout that I have done before. I will try not to judge myself. The day's not over and I can still do a workout later. I have my sights set on #14. It's a doozy.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Step it up

It's Tuesday. Back to work (yawn).

I started my morning with the latest Z-wow, a decent 12-minute workout that targets legs and butt. I don't have them, but I could have used heavier weights for the kettle bell squats -- Z rocked a 20+ pound kettle bell while I dawdled along with an 8-pound handweight -- but even with the lighter weight I felt resistance from my muscles, and plus my burpees are much slower than hers (I can do 5 in the time it takes her to complete 10!). I will probably feel those one-leg squats tomorrow. I hope I do.

Like any machine, my body maintains a collection of strengths and weaknesses that it seems loathe to adjust. Long distances can be pulled off without a lot of prep but my muscles are in need of conditioning. You can't grow when you don't experience stress. One day I'd like to go on a severe camping expedition that tests my muscles with Tarzan-like vine swings over raging rivers, rock climbing and hauling my body up cliff ledges. Sounds great, doesn't it? But for now I will try to commit to completing a Z-wow workout each morning of this four-day work week, plus running and cycling after work. It's a jungle out there and I want to get in shape for whatever lies ahead!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Saturday goose

The geese are back. 

They're starting to appear in small clusters along the river. Yesterday I walked by three of them, still as statues. Dum dee dum, what a beautiful day for a jaunt, oh look, three geese perched on rocks, I wonder what's for din -- wait, what?! I stopped in mid-step and looked straight ahead at the closest one. My first goose sighting of the season! Amazing. How are ya, Goosie?

Goosie stared back at me, sideways, out of one onyx eye, flatly underwhelmed by my presence. I'm not sure if it's been in town long enough to expect bread from humans. I think not. It held my gaze a little nervously. It reminded me of a tourist, freshly arrived and stiff from travel and from exercising new-place caution. A tourist who just got into town and doesn't know where to hang out and doesn't want the locals staring at his dumb clothes and untanned skin. But wants to be here.

It appeared on the thin side for a goose. I mean, not really, but the geese fatten up here super well from the lush, possibly genetically modified by experimental farm scientists, grass along the river's edge, and so post-arrival, pre-grass feeding frenzy, it appeared underfed and hungry. Goosie continued to stare at me from its rock until I turned and walked away. Quickly.

Easy run today. Relaxing and hat-free! 20k.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Blueberry breakfast

A day off.
I cook pancakes.
I wish I could eat them all.

Stack em up

They really soak up the maple syrup!

Blue flash in the pan

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sweet potato and corn patties

// Pan fried //
The recipe made a large batch of raw "dough" that I am more than happy to work through for the rest of the week.

These fried little sweeties taste amazing with a good tart tamarind chutney.

// Plate side //

Monday, March 25, 2013

Looks odd, tastes great

He made it! 

D survived a couple of train fiascoes and found his way to shelter with new friends, red wine and dinner. I'm relieved to hear he got there and was stoked to see a pic of the "pilgrim's meal" he was served: fries, sausage and a blop of a something that might have suggested a new take on mac n' cheese. Or, was inspired by such. I'm sure it would be appetizing if you hadn't had so much as a crumb all day, haha.

Speaking of. I tried a recommended recipe from the Gaz. I think I got the ingredients right because the muffin-y things tasted delicious and I felt happy n' satisfied afterwards. But let's talk presentation. I over-filled the muffin tins with batter, and after rising in the oven they looked like baby aliens erupting from their metal incubation units, shrieking with rage.

Raaaaa!! A face only Sigourney Weaver could love.

Like an alien predator myself, I ripped them apart while still warm and stuffed them into my mouth. Yum yum.

You look tasty and weak. Are you our mom?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rich dinner, poor l'il me

This evening's dinner plate was a showcase of new adventures and comfortable standbys. I cooked up a hot batch of sweet potato and corn patties (photo to come) paired with a couple of cool summer rolls made of buckwheat noodles and tofu. All hand food! Who needs you to have a good time, fork?

The recipe for sweet potato patties I discovered on Budget Bytes, one of a few blogs I've been consulting as I try to save a large - nay, dinosaur-esque - portion of my income, while also shelling out for a few luxuries like an upcoming tramp through Europe and paying those pesky educational fees. The road to financial freedom is as hole-ridden as a colander, but since the shift in vision I'm starting to see evidence of success in the form of healthy bank accounts. How on earth did I have lunch out and buy tons o' clothes and still think of myself as a "saver" all these years? Tsk tsk. Now I'm cutting back on stuff that matters not, like restaurant lunches and mindless shopping, and taking comfort in the fact that our cupboards are well stocked with tins of coconut milk, Cuban coffee beans and spices galore assembled from two kitchens nearly bursting with all the packs of dried herbs a home chef could want. The necessities. Couldn't stage this revolution without 'em.

Alas, 'tis a sad evening for yours truly. D departed today for his solo expedition through France, Spain and his own sweet soul, and now my dining room table looks bare, adorned with just one place mat and one plate. We've shared many dinners facing each other across this wooden table over the last few months. And in a few months more we'll be sharing tapas in southern Europe. I hope the months pass quickly!

Ran 8.75 km today in 50 minutes. Yes, running outside is free but I was too blue to run further. Gah.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When you think you're the worm...

... you might actually be the fish!

I ran 6km tonight after work while the sun still shone, at least for the first half. The days are getting longer and the snow on the canal from the last blizzard blast is melting; I spied one large hole forming in the snow/ice and there could easily be more of them.

The next season feels close by yet hidden, gathering strength in the shadows, gearing up to chase my cherished winter solace away. I don't feel hibernated enough; I don't want winter to leave just yet. Just a few more weeks in the belly of the igloo. Please?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Without limits

Yesterday afternoon I was moping around and looking for something fun or challenging to do when I had a wonderful, terrible idea: a ZWOW workout! After a week of holiday during which I sampled various communist carbs in the form of rolls, oily white rice and shortbread cookies (you can taste the comrade-ship!) and drank copious amounts of delicious, delicious rum, a short workout is exactly what this lady needs.

So, I call up the latest vid and find that its title refers to vomiting. But for whatever reason I'm not worried by this. 80 push ups? Cool. 40 burpees and 60 jump lunges? No problemo. 

HA! I was loco to think that that could all go down easy like a Banana Mama. No, I would soon find out that it was more like a Zombie, the holiday beverage containing three types of rum that granted me the only holiday hangover ever. (Well, I did consume two in a row.)

After ZWOW #57, I felt great, just as I did after the Zombies. 

Today after waking up, I felt sore muscles spring up like tulips in April. A few around the shoulder area, a pair sprouting on my backside. More of them taking root on my quads. 

And right now, after a 23km run, my body feels like a twisted garden of zombified Venus Fly Traps at the height of growing season, craving small children and stray dogs to quench its overgrown thirst! 

Keep the Ibuprofen flowing, Che.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Welcome home run

Yesterday I experienced a kind of dual citizenship of the world. I woke up in a tropical country and after a four-hour flight fell asleep in my own bed in the northern hemisphere. I've had the good luck to live the experience of exchanging temperatures, languages and what at times can feel like mirror opposites in a cultural sense a few times, just by stepping into a plane, and I wonder how that can actually be possible. Pico Iyer has written some good essays on the experience of jet lag, when you travel frequently around the world, waking up several days in a row in different beds, still overtired. Just think of the Air Miles points.

I ran on the canal for 30 minutes some time after our return. It was dark, maybe around 8pm. The ice was soft from the temperature (zero-ish) and there were kids in snowpants goofing around under the row of street lamp lights. Right now, running on the ice (or any surface) sounds like a monstrous undertaking. I somehow landed the role of host for a gastro bug about a week back, and while the effects are moderate, I am loathe to leave the comfort of my couch, or even change out of my pajamas. A citizen of my living room for today. If only the cat could run out for a few groceries while we convalesce.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Gertie the Garmin

I tried out my new running toy today - the Garmin Forerunner 10. The Running Room sent an email cooing about its latest set of running toys; caught in a vulnerable state after missing a Sunday run, I sourced this Garmin's dependability online, and ordered one after finding it well received by critics. Strapped to my wrist today, it proved to be a valuable tracker of time, distance and related factoids. I'd forgotten what a mental stone it can be, always wondering exactly how far I've gone and how much farther to go, the sports watch I'd been using for the past year too simple to provide me with the necessary details. Figuring out metrics like distance from my watch sounds like no big deal, but clearly it expended a certain measure of mental juice because today I ran long and comfortably, knowing that someone else was at the helm and managing things. I believe I will name her Gertie.

I stuck to some usual routes around downtown and then danced onto the canal with the skaters, who I've noticed have a healthy fear of the massive and deafening machines that brush the ice clean, and move promptly out of the way when these machine approach in a convoy, their blue lights flashing. They are escorted by cops on quads, a sight that often provokes a giggle. Anyway, we all made way for the sweeping vanguard, and after it passed, everyone with something sharp on their feet darted for a piece of the cleaned ice, clear and tinted turquoise. Smooth sailing.

Would have included a photo of the blueberry pancakes I cooked after the run but I gobbled them too quickly! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Treadmills of the future...

...will do the running for you while you hibernate in stasis to preserve precious heartbeats.

Just when I was starting to dig winter running again, the temperature maple-dipped into my orange pekoe discomfort zone, and visions of treadmills began steeping in my dreams (I often dream of mechanical things, like mandroids, doesn't everyone?). I don't need warm weather for running, but I have my limits and those limits are shaking their old man fists in the air and barking orders at me right now. You'll keep us inside until the mercury rises like zombies at a brain party, a warm brain party, and not a minute before! Okay okay, take your hands off me and grab a kabob instead:

// Delicious array of Turkish delights (but not the actual Turkish Delight) //

Yesterday I ran on a treadmill for 18k, and although I was really motivated when I started, I felt increasingly alienated from my goal and my entire body because machines are weird, and why can't they be more like robots of the future that will understand exactly what you want and then give it to you immediately. The machines at my gym are programmed to stop after 35 minutes, and OBVIOUSLY I've only been running for 20 years and haven't quite mastered the 18k in 35 minutes miracle yet OBVIOUSLY. After slipping into a nice groove and maintaining coordinates, the speed would suddenly slow to a crawl and after the shock of re-entering society after being inside my head for a half-hour, I would be faced with punching in my specs yet again, of course while keeping my head down to avoid eye contact with any treadmill-desiring gym person looking to perform a hostile but ultimately fair & legal takeover of my machine, and going through the warm up phase for the umpteenth time. And I had to go through this insane process four times because my hand accidentally made contact with the emergency bar at one point, and the treadmill froze up, thinking I was suffering a stroke and needed immediate assistance. Sigh. Back to the beginning. "What kind of run do you want? How much to do you weigh? Would you like me to run for you while you shave your legs in the steam room?" That's the question I never get asked.

This treadmill experience even affected my appetite. Usually by 18k I would have consumed at least one gel but I didn't feel hungry until I headed home, and by then I could have dismantled and devoured a treadmill by myself, bolt by bolt. I don't think I'm as aware of myself on the treadmill, but on a positive note I definitely have an increased awareness of the awesomeness of avoiding hypothermia! See you soon, TM!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cold but asleep

The weather report sounded like an error: -7 degrees Celcius with a wind chill of -22! I chalked up the difference to Atlantic-strength gales, and swaddled my neck and head in woolly cloths before leaving the building (looking like a small sasquatch from the neck up). The swaddling turned out to be an awesome idea. The wind was fierce in areas. I was thankful to be asleep for most of the run (although I was quite awake by the end). Later on my walk to work I felt the cold more deeply and wished I could have the buffer of sleepiness back. 

People and trucks littered the canal. There were so many red and yellow flashing lights I thought something was genuinely happening there, but sadly, no. Just the signs of canal workers getting on with their daily decision of whether to let thousands of skaters slice up the ice. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Shifting weight

I always look forward to running on the frozen canal on sunny days in the middle of the winter. Staying on the shoulder usually keeps me out of harm's way (that is, out of the way of weak or fast skaters), and the smooth surface is more forgiving than asphalt if I slip and fall.

Running in January darkness on the bike path puts a different spin on the icy run adventure. The milder temperature loosened up the snow that wasn't scooped into trucks and carted off to Navan or wherever, and eventually the snow relaxed so much it regressed into puddles. Then it changed its collective state of mind and froze solid just to "feel different," I think. I don't mind running on ice when my shoe treads can find a bit of traction, but when I step onto a surface for the first time I can never be sure how it will greet me. Today the ice was frozen solid and not slippery, mostly. It had frozen and thawed a few times, a cycle which usually doesn't create silky-smooth canal-grade ice, but it wasn't slippery or slushy, and it was smooth enough to reflect the lamp light well so I could see where to place my foot for the next step. I had to shift my weight as I ran from ice to asphalt and back to ice, over and over, but this exercise made me anticipate, which is a great frame of mind for doing anything. It means you're in a groove. So I was grooving with my running partner, who just happened to be a mutable surface beneath me, and it was cool.

Only one section of the icy path had to be avoided, a long stretch of perhaps 20 metres. I approached from one end and started to run, but I heard warning creaks that seemed to come from the very core of the puddle and reminded me of the bruised hull of the Titanic about to give way. Beside the puddle I saw a raised shoulder of snow that had been padded down by previous feet, so I hopped up and ran there. Plenty of runners out this morning. My legs felt strong and my stride full. I had no troubles at all.