Archives for December 2015

Let it snow!

I have a confession to make. Last Saturday I didn’t get out of my pjs until about 6:00pm. On Sunday, I didn’t get out of them at all (unless you count the 40 minutes that I put leggings on for to go get take out, after which I put my pjs back on). Monday was not much better.

I had planned on going for a long run on Sunday as I start to train to run the Around the Bay 30km road race. However, with no one to run with on Sunday and the choice to instead enjoy that post-holiday bliss on the couch with never-ending “Friends” episodes, I chose this option and didn’t get out there. On Monday, I had tentative plans to run with a friend that didn’t pan out (i.e. I slept in) so I was faced with another long day of pjs and “Friends”. “I’ll go later” I kept saying. I find it so easy to just continue down a path of laziness once I’m on it, am I alone in this?

I really don’t like going for long runs on my own and I especially don’t like them when it’s -14 with the wind chill. I just kept thinking about this all day and it was making me pretty grumpy. WHY HADN’T I GOT UP AND JUST GONE!?  I thought about doing it on the treadmill in our condo gym, but the thought of running in the same place with nothing to look at for over an hour made it even more unappealing. Naturally, the solution seemed that I just shouldn’t run at all.

At about 4:30pm I had been thinking about this (a.k.a. whining about it) for a solid 6 hours. “ENOUGH,” I said (okay, I didn’t actually say that, but my husband did). “If you want to go for a run, then go for a run!” He was right. The more I sat around and thought about it, the later it was going to get. Eventually it would be too late, and then I wouldn’t go at all and would be so grumpy from two full days of no movement. “It’s cold!” I whined. “Then what did you buy all that expensive running gear for?”. He had a point. Besides, I had to get into my training at some point if I really did want to run Around the Bay and it would only take about an hour out of my evening, which included approximately 0 other plans.

At about 5:40 I FINALLY had all my run gear on and was ready to go. I headed out, and quickly realized that it was very windy and then ice and snow started pelting me in the face? oh well, must keep going, it wasn’t that bad. Only it kept getting worse and eventually I was running through the thick of Toronto’s first snow storm. I knew that it was cold and a bit windy out, but you’d think with all the excuses I had come up with, I would have looked at the forecast a little more closely and noticed the storm warnings (and then used this as the ultimate excuse to not go running). The streets were pretty dead, and the snow was starting to pile up. I considered turning around and heading back, but just around this point I found my pace and noticed what peace can be found running through a winter storm (occasional blustering gusts of wind aside).

I told myself there wasn’t really a good reason to turn around now and running through this storm was perhaps my punishment for putting it off for so long. I set out to do this, and I would do it, if just to prove to myself I was stronger than my excuses. Plus, there is something so satisfying about getting out there and doing something that others may find crazy. I think I’m a little masochistic that way at times. Why run 12km in nice conditions when you can do it through a blizzard? Take THAT excuses. I had already put of this run for so long I didn’t want to give up, even if it wasn’t the best of conditions. Somehow, I made it to my turn around point at 6km. The distance back never seems as bad, and it really wasn’t. I was actually surprisingly warm too, proof that all you need is the right gear and a little movement. I passed another runner on my way home and we shared a friendly nod and wave as if we were in on some secret together. There was some comfort in knowing I wasn’t the only crazy one out there, and that’s what I love about this sport. Even on the strangest weather days, you’ll always see a runner out there.

There is always going to be a reason not to get out there and move. Trust me, I am the queen of excuses. Too hot, too cold, too humid, too rainy, too full, too dehydrated, too tired, etc, etc. However, as long as you have the right gear and aren’t putting your safety in jeopardy, you’re never going to regret a run. Even in the blowing wind and snow, it felt GOOD to move after two days of being sedentary. Besides, “crazy conditions” are all relative. Through the bad windy patches I reminded myself of my cousin who goes on day-long snowshoe expeditions in the Northwest Territories. On any given day there, it is -40, before the windchill! Yet, she gets out there and moves, for fun and because it feels good to move and be active. On the opposite end of the spectrum there are athletes who train through 100% humidity and 40 degree weather!

We don’t have control over the weather and this was a nice reminder that if I want to run a race in early April and train through the winter, I will probably be faced with more days like this. I owed it to myself to at least try. Now that I know I can do it, I know I don’t have any good reasons to not follow through on my training and run this race come April 3rd.

It’s all what you make it my friends. Stay tuned for more anecdotes as I attempt to take on a full training schedule throughout the winter months, a first for me.

BRING IT ON 2016!

Creamy Cashew Chai Milk

Something about the Holiday season that just makes you crave delicious warm and cinnamon-y flavoured things, amiright?

After seeing some chai flavoured nut milk in a store a few weeks back, I thought I’d have a go at it. This could be made with other nuts (almonds, coconut) or hemp, or a combo of any of these but I was really looking for something rich and indulgent (tis the season!) which I why I went with cashews.

When I visited Kenya 7 years ago we had chai every afternoon. “Chai” literally means tea, but in North America, we call it chai tea because it has a distinct flavour different than our every day black tea. The chai we had in kenya was super creamy, slightly spicy and so full of flavour. It didn’t need much sweetness (or any at all). When I returned to Canada, I couldn’t drink a chai latte again- it was all wrong! I’ve tried many times to re-create the chai that I had in Kenya by boiling the spices directly in water, adding plain black tea and then adding milk and letting in simmer. It’s not quite the same, but it’s pretty close.

This cashew milk was inspired by 1. seeing chai nut milk in a store as mentioned and 2. my recent fondness of putting cardmom in my coffee. Throw all of this together with my never-ending quest to create that super creamy Kenyan chai experience and this is what I came up with.

Yesterday morning I tried it in my latte and OH MAN was it all the Holiday cheer I needed to get through a busy day of running errands and hosting friends.

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Cashews are incredibly versatile when it comes to vegan baking and cooking. Use them to make cashew sour cream, cashew “cheese”, as the base in a vegan cheese sauce or as a creamy filling in a raw pumpkin pie. Seriously, they’re amazing. I often have some laying around soaking and ready for use because I end up using them so often. For this recipe, I soaked 1 cup of raw cashews overnight in water (to speed this up you can soak them in boiling water for an hour or so).

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I also added 2 medjool dates for a little bit of sweetness. I recently discovered that my older dried out looking dates can simply be rejuvenating by giving them a little soak (this makes it easier for blending).DSCF7633

Once the cashews and dates were good to go, I rinsed the cashews and added them to my blender with 3 cups of water, pitted the dates and threw them in and then added the spices.DSCF7632

After a good blend on high for a few minutes, the creamy milk was pretty much ready to go!DSCF7636

I strained the milk with a nut milk bag but this step isn’t necessary. Cashews (especially once soaked) blend up really well and creamy and don’t really produce much pulp, but I do prefer to strain mine, totally just a personal preference. Once blended, store in the fridge in a container with a lid. 

As mentioned, it was amazing in a latte, but this would also be delicious with some granola or cereal, in a smoothie, in some oatmeal, or simply warmed up on it’s own for a cozy evening drink.

This recipe can be made with either more or less water, depending on your preference for creaminess. Less water gives it more of a coffee cream consistency, whereas the 3:1 water to nut ratio that I used gives it the consistency of whole milk.


Creamy Cashew Chai Milk

1 cup raw cashews, soaked

2 medjool dates, pitted

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger (this would be amazing with fresh ginger as well)

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp. cardamom

A couple twists of ground black pepper

3 cups water

Directions

Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend for 1-2 minutes. Strain through nutmilk bag (or omit this step) and pour into container with lid and refrigerate. Enjoy within one week.

 

Healthy Vacationing

I’m going to go quite a few weeks back in time again and talk a little about our honeymoon. However, I’m not going to bore you with a recap, rather I want to talk about how you can make your vacation a little healthier. Don’t get me wrong- Zach and I drank more than our fair share of beer as we explored the rockies and the pacific northwest, and we definitely ate a lot of ice cream and charcuterie. Even with all of this indulgence though, we tried to keep our vacation as healthy as possible. With the Christmas holidays upon us many of you are probably getting ready for a winter vacation, so I thought I’d share a few tips on how you can stay active while away (at least to balance out the intake of junk- because let’s get real, you’re on vacation and I’m not going to preach “eat a salad!”)

    1. Go for a ride! Rent bikes and explore the city you’re visiting, it’s faster than on foot, it’s cheaper than renting a car (and easier to park!), great for the environment and a great calorie burner (bonus points for riding up steep hills). Zach I rented bikes and explored Stanley Park and Kitsilano in Vancouver. We were able to see so much in a matter of hours (side note: the bike lanes in Vancouver are so great! Take note, Toronto.)IMG_8308
    2. Choose “active” adventures. While helicopter rides and boat cruises can certainly be an exciting adventure on a trip I challenge you to try something that also challenges you physically. For me and Zach this meant some intermediate hikes with some solid inclines. We hiked up to Upper Joffre Lake just outside of Pemberton B.C. and instead of taking the gondola up Grouse Mountain in Vancouver we opted to hike up and tackle the Grouse Grind.IMG_8226 IMG_8151DSCF7447 IMG_8335
    3. Take breaks. While sometimes long drives and train rides can’t be avoided be sure to keep your blood flowing and take some breaks to move when possible. Remember, even on a road trip half the fun is getting there. Taking a break allows you to see something new and explore a place you may have never been before. For us, this meant some short road-side walks and hikes, or even just a nice stretch break. A short hike break isn’t tough when the view looks like this:IMG_8059 IMG_8094
    4. Lace up those shoes. We chose not to rent a car while we explored Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. While a car is definitely convenient at times, not relying on it means you have to rely on your own two legs (and public transportation) which means a lot of exercise. I find exploring cities on my feet makes the experience feel a lot more authentic instead of just driving from point to point. Again, it’s nice to see so many different things as you make your way to a destination. Sometimes this does take a little extra planning, but it’s definitely worth the money you’ll save and the activity you’ll get. While in Vancouver there was an ice cream shop that I really wanted to check out. It was pretty far away but we took a beautiful long walk along the water seeing so much. By the time we got there I felt a lot less guilty about getting a double scoop (which we then chased with some samples from a nearby craft brewery)IMG_8421 IMG_8294
    5. Eat a solid breakfast. This is easiest when you find accommodations that all you to cook up a hearty am meal but having a kitchen isn’t always necessary. We tried to start our days with some protein (usually eggs) or something that would keep us going. When cooking wasn’t an option we had some instant oatmeal packages that only needed some boiling water. These types of meals are really easy to find on the go as well. I found that when I started my day with a pastry or something indulgent I spent the rest of the day hungry and wanting more junk. Starting the day off right kept the junk cravings at bay, or at the very least, left my stomach much happier when I waited until mid-day for that pastry.
    6. Rest. While it’s fun to pack as much activity as possible into a vacation don’t forget the importance of some R&R. Remember, so much of living a healthy lifestyle means taking the time to relax, unwind, take a step back and rest up. Sleep in, take an afternoon nap or lay in a park with a blanket (like we did in Seattle, pictured below). Even if you spend the majority of your vacation doing just this, don’t feel guilty. It is rare that we get the chance to do nothing and if you let it, it can be very rejuvenating!

While our trip was perfect for the warmer weather, I realize these things may not all be possible while exploring an area that gets snow in the winter. If you’re in the wilderness, rent some snow shoes, go cross-country skiing, or simply put on some good boots and go for a winter hike. If you’re exploring a city, check out the outdoor skating rinks in the area. The possibilities are endless!

For those of you travelling to a resort this winter there are also a ton of ways to stay healthy too! Go for a beach walk, dance the night away at the disco, join the water aerobics at the pool, explore a nearby town on foot, sign up for an active excursion or just bask in all the relaxation (while wearing sunscreen of course!)

Above all else, ENJOY your vacation and don’t feel guilty about a little indulgence, you’ve earned it!

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A beautiful start to a life-long love letter

Nostalgia has a way of waking me up from dreams and reminding me of all the good things that are no more. I have always been a nostalgic person, one who hates forgetting. I struggle with accepting the natural flow of life where days go on and new things happen, and without noticing, details of days and specific memories slowly slip away. While this is something I have accepted more and more as I have grown up, realizing that some things should slip away to make room for new things, there are some memories that I just do not want to let go of.

In particular, August 29th, 2015 is one that I refuse to let slip away. Of course, the most important days, like this one, have a way of sticking in our minds, and this is no exception, but I don’t want to forget any of it, even the small details that so easily blur and fade away. Nostalgia can often be a way of glorifying the past, However, when it comes to August 29, 2015, already 16 weeks ago, I don’t think this is true.

August 29, 2015 was the day I married my best friend. Given my nostalgic nature, I spent quite a few hours after the Wedding journaling about all of the details, the moments that I know will probably slip away over time- hoping to keep them forever, a beautiful memory to one day share with our future family. While I want to gush these details to anyone, I realize they don’t mean as much to everyone as they do to me and Zach so I have decided to at least share the highlights here with you all.

It is difficult to pinpoint a favourite event or moment, because each part was so amazing and meant so many different things to myself and to Zach. However, I thought I’d go over all of it as briefly as I can for you, highlighting the things that stand out the most in my memory, the moments that are so special, I can’t find the words for. While I am going to try my best, I also have to share some photos from our incredibly talented photographer Ash Nayler because her photos have a way of capturing emotion the way my words never could.

The highlights:
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Ali&Zach-192Getting ready with my girls in the morning. It was amazing to spend such a large chunk of time that day with these incredible women. We laughed, we cried, we drank champagne, we told many inappropriate jokes and we shared so many special moments together. It was so incredible, and the last moments I had with my girls as a single woman are something I will cherish forever

Ali&Zach-219The few quiet moments that I had with myself as I looked out the window at our venue and saw every single person I loved gather for the purpose of us. The string quartet was warming up and it was probably the only moment of this day I had by myself to sit with my own emotions. It hit me at this moment that I was really getting married and I felt SO calm and relaxed and was ready to burst at the seems with love.

Ali&Zach-198Zach and I chose to keep things traditional and not do a first look. We had a really early ceremony (1:30pm) so we didn’t need to do pictures before and this is what felt right for us. I wanted Zach to see me for the first time as I walked down the aisle. However, we did have a quick moment beforehand to connect. It was actually pretty strange to not spend time with Zach the night before or the morning of as we had worked so hard to put all of the wedding together as a team, but this short moment kept me grounded and reassured me that we were in this together and all would go well.

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Ali&Zach-261I always imagined myself walking down the aisle to Canon in D (I know, typical) and taking in the music and crying. Even though my string quartet dreams had come true and this song request was a reality, I wasn’t even focusing on the song! In fact, I had to ask Zach afterwards if they were playing at all (they were!) Walking down the aisle I was just bursting with joy seeing everyone’s faces and looking at them. Until I saw Zach. At that moment I couldn’t focus on anything else. I didn’t cry but I do remember thinking “Zach is losing his shit” and I may have even said that to my parents. Never thought he would cry that much! I think I blocked everything else out and just smiled the biggest smile, so excited to marry this man! It was like I had tunnel vision.

Ali&Zach-292Our Ceremony was perfect. Short but not too short, non-traditional but traditional and very much our own. I find that as a guest at a wedding the ceremony often gets lost in the day as the excitement for the party takes over. But in this moment, experiencing it first-hand at our own wedding it was so beautiful and made me realize how it is arguably the most important part of the whole day. Zach and I chose to write our own vows and this was probably the most romantic moment of my life.

Ali&Zach-337Immediately after the ceremony we took a few moments to spend some time just the two of us. While I held it together during the ceremony, now it was my turn to lose my shit! I’m not even sure we spoke in those 10 minutes we took to ourselves because I was pretty much bawling the whole time. We both thought it was really important to find some time for just the two of us to drink in everything we were feeling right after becoming husband and wife(!). It was such a special moment to experience with one another (and probably the only time we were alone that whole day!)

Ali&Zach-607After spending a good hour with our guests and taking the family portraits we wandered off with our photographer to take photos of just the two of us. Ash has a way of making everything feel natural and easy. She captured our vision for the day and everything we were going for (ethereal, understated elegance, midsummer night’s dream-esque) so perfectly. I was actually a little bit anxious to just get this over and done with because I really wanted to be with everyone having a good time, but after a few minutes it donned on me that this is actually a pretty special time. It is easily one of my favourite memories from the day. We got to spend some quality time just being all gross and cute and being present with one another. Hanging out with Ash was just like hanging out with a friend who was there to celebrate the fact that we just got married! I don’t think we left an inch of the property untouched. We played in the vineyards, hiked through forests, sat on a tree swing, took photos in front of the drapes from the ceremony, stood in the beautiful tree covered drive way, and hung out on the porch of the beautiful estate. (I can’t wait to share the rest of these photos with everyone!)

Ali&Zach-374A textbook type “A” I had spent months going through every detail to make sure that it was perfect. The moment I first saw the reception area I actually gasped. It was even better than I had imagined. This was definitely a superficial moment of satisfaction but come one, how gorgeous are those live-edge harvest tables? I was so happy to see this! (and a HUGE shout out is in order- thank you to our goddess of a co-ordinator Liana of Birch and Lace for executing all of this!)

Ali&Zach-715The reception was AWESOME. I can’t pick a favourite speech because they were all equally touching and endearing (and hilarious – thanks to my sister for tearing me apart in the most loving way possible). When Zach and I got up to say our speech I was completely overcome with emotion. I think this is the only time during the whole day that I cried in front of everyone, but I was just so full of gratitude and everything came rushing out. It was amazing to see everyone we love sitting in front of us as we were able to thank them all.

Ali&Zach-919Ali&Zach-929The sun was about to go down and even without a pretty sunset we had reached “magic hour”, with the twinkly globe lights in all the trees, it really did feel like a true magic hour. We cut our cake (so delicious, wish I had actually eaten a piece) and then started our first dance (turning page by sleeping at last). I’m not even going to try and describe the first dance because the photos do a better job. What. a. moment.

Ali&Zach-960The Party. It started with backstreet boys and only got better from there (if that’s even possible). This was also the time when I finally was able to catch up and speak with people that I hadn’t yet spent any time with. I had SO much fun dancing with everyone and seeing everyone else dance the night away. What a night!

I realize now that I pretty much summarized every moment of the day, but there is so much more that I want to share. I hope that you all enjoyed this re-cap and I will be sure to share more details soon including all the tips and advice I have for planning a wedding.

Much love!