29 January 2012

Last night was a late one - very late - and I'm not usually one to stay up or out past say 12am... So last night as we sat chatting in B & R's living room and noticed the clock said 3:38 I nearly stopped breathing.   10am yoga class was going to be there before you knew it lol! The other reason that I don't stay up late is that I honestly can't make myself sleep in.  This morning I tried hard to just keep laying in bed even if I wasn't sleeping but alas, by 8:15am I had to get up!! But it was all worth the lack of sleep - we (the 12 of us!) had a lovely dinner at Take Five - I wish I had more of an appetite though because there was kangaroo on the menu and I would have loved to try it.  Next time I guess... The scallops were still very delightful and I'd recommend for those hankering for a good chunk of meat who don't feel like going down to The Keg.  

Needless to say today I'm slightly sluggish however we got a beautiful blustery snow storm so I just hunkered down and cooked & cleaned - I know my domestic abilities are beyond awesome!! Today's menu was a curried lentil & chickpea soup, chicken breasts encrusted with almonds & quinoa salad.  Here is what I did (I think ;))

Curried Lentil & Chickpea Soup 
1 onion diced 
5 celery stalks diced 
2 c diced carrot 
1 sml zucchini diced 
1/8 tsp cinnamon 
2 tsp curry powder 
salt & pepper
1/2" piece of fresh ginger chopped tiny
3/4 c green lentils (rinsed) 
1/4 c red lentils (rinsed) 
2 c cooked chickpeas (or 1 can if you don't cook your own) 
1 c strained tomato
4 c broth (chicken or vegetable) 

Saute onion in grapeseed oil over med high heat, add in fresh ginger, celery, zucchini & carrots and saute until veggies softened.  Add lentils & tomato and saute for 1 min.  Add in curry & cinnamon and then broth.  Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer for 1/2 hour - stirring occasionally.  After 25min add in the chickpeas until finished cooking.  

For the chicken I used my new favourite product (Greek Yogurt Artichoke & Asiago Dip) and topped the chicken breast with a layer of the dip and then covered in slivered almonds.  Bake at 350 for about 20min.  

Qunioa salad - cook the quinoa as directed on package.  I added in sliced kalamata olives, tomatoes, green onions, sunflower seeds, shelled hemp seeds and feta cheese.  I made a little olive oil, balsamic and cilantro dressing.  Once quinoa is cooled - all all in a bowl and mix! I cut up the chicken breast & served over the quinoa.  Will be even better for lunch tomorrow!! 

What could be better than a weekend full of good friends (new and old) and great eats? My heart and my stomach are both full! 

25 January 2012

Take the show on the road.....

I'll be honest - I love to make people laugh.  Like I LOVE IT, love it! Sometimes I try really hard to be witty and bring on the laughter and yet there other times when it just oozes right out of me unintentionally.  Usually the later includes me falling down or running into something because I"m naturally very clumsy as well. But no matter how it happens, I LOVE IT! Sometimes the audience may not be one you would think you should crack jokes in front of, however I'm pretty sure my fertility doctor used to be thoroughly amused by me. I used to save up jokes for our appointments! (Side note, I did see him and his lovely wife out for sushi the other day when I was picking up take out but I wasn't sure they would remember me after all these years.  Plus it would be kinda awkward if they didn't and I was all like 'hey remember me? you used to be all up in my lady parts? oh and btw that marriage didn't work out so I guess it's a good thing neither did the fertility!") Anyhoooooo.....
Last night was ballet class night and as usual there was a lot less dance moves than laughter happening in the studio.  It started for me as I was getting dressed for class (I like to make it all about the outfit and channel my inner "Fame" starlet) when I couldn't decide between purple or silver glittery leg warmers.  And then I really wanted to wear my tutu but I was walking to class and I couldn't figure out a way to close my long winter jacket over my tutu-butt.  For those of you who know me, I already have quite a bit of 'junk in the trunk' so adding in a layer of fluff pretty much made that impossible.  Besides wanting to of course dance in my tutu, (b/c just like ice skating, I'm better in the correct outfit) I wanted to also wear it to make my teacher laugh - seeing as I was walking over to her house to then walk to the studio together.  How hilarious would it be for a 5' 9" grown-up ballerina to show up at your door at 8:30 at night?? 

I honestly think if someone were to put up a secret camera while our class was happening, the ridiculous shit comes out of our mouths (in addition to our dance moves) may make you pee your pants a little.  Last night I did threaten to "live tweet" from class because some of the statements were just too funny.  And to be honest most of them weren't meant to be amusing which in turn just really makes it funnier! To sum it up - the class started off with our instructor offering us sour patch kids "with juicy crap in the middle" to get hopped up on crazy sugar and dance. Trying to perfect a move, there was the question "is this move supposed to make my back fat scrunch up when I do it?" There was some running into the wall after doing turns across the room (I was quite dizzy lol!!) and doing our leaps across the studio JC busts out with "we don't even SOUND graceful!".  Maybe you just have to be there - maybe we are just crazy but I tell you what, that one hour of supposed dance class is more about the laughter and friendships that have been cultivated than the moves.  Cuz let's face it - the only one with the moves is our teacher and we are most likely the least obedient and graceful students she has ever had but also likely the most amusing! 


One of the lovely ladies I follow on Twitter has recently taken up speed skating as just one of the many things she hasn't been afraid to try. She's pretty hilarious and very insightful and I recommend you take a read at www.speedskatingmom.com.   Not to toot my own proverbial horn, but I've realized that I'm not really afraid of much.  I guess I sometimes take that for granted when others express their trepidation over something I try to convince them to go for it.  I really will try most anything and I'm not afraid to make a fool out of myself (luckily so, since I am pretty much the clumsiest, most embarrassing person ever!) The above quote is so totally true and refers back to me whole post on not being afraid to say I Love You.  I've never really put too much thought into it but after the craziness of the past year or so, people have often expressed how well I seem to have handled things. Now I've certainly had my dark moments but I do choose to see my divorce more as starting a new chapter in my life rather than starting over.  Starting over would imply that what came before was trying to be replaced by new and I truly don't want that.  It's the 'everything else' that brought me to 'here and now'.  Life isn't about forgetting the chapter before, those lines build all the characters in the story.  A new chapter is a new beginning - a new chance to make a change, to try something new, to develop the character, to push yourself in an uncharted direction.  Ask yourself - what is something that you've always wanted to do? What's on your bucket list?  What's stopping you? Push your own boundaries.  You don't have to be good at it - you just have to give it a go.  Maybe you'll rock it! Maybe you won't like it after all.  You may suck at it.  You may even talk about 'being so ill that you poop the bed' in ballet class... You just never know!! Whatever your dreams may be - chase them.  Don't let them pass you by because the worst thing ever would be to see you were nearing the end of the book and realize that you forgot to read all the chapters. You get one life.  LIVE IT!

24 January 2012

Celebrating my girl Sophia with maple & walnuts...

As I've said many times before, I am forever grateful for my time with T and one of the reasons why is for the amazing people he brought in to my life.  One of those people is my friend Soph.  She is beautiful, loving and creative.  She truly has been there for me anytime that I've needed anything during this whole ordeal.  And not just because she happens to live upstairs from me!! Well last week was her birthday and since we've both been going a million miles an hour lately, we found time to have a little get together last night which of course was an excuse for me to bake! I have of course adapted the following recipe using a new gluten-free flour blend....

For Maple Filling:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pure maple syrup

For Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup greek yogurt 

Top with Cinnamon Glaze (see below)
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Butter and flour a 9 or 10-cup bundt, tube or coffee cake pan. Tap out excess flour.

For Filling:
Using fork, mix flour, butter and cinnamon in small bowl until crumbly. Stir in walnuts and maple syrup. (This will be a liquid streusel).

For Cake:
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric stand mixer and paddle attachment, beat sugar and butter in large until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in two additions, alternating with sour cream, just until blended.

Spoon half of batter into prepared pan. Spoon about two-thirds of maple filling over batter. Spread remaining batter over filling and smooth top. Dot with remaining filling. Bake until tester inserted near center of cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer pan to rack and cool 15 minutes. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Invert cake onto rack, then invert cake, streusel side up, onto platter. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar when cool or drizzle with Cinnamon Glaze.

Cinnamon Glaze
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Instructions:
In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar, milk and ground cinnamon. Drizzle over the cooled cake, letting it drip down the sides! 


Served with a nice mug of peppermint tea, Tiina, Sophia and I got to enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted girl time - catching up from before the holidays and toasting Soph's birthday.  Two lovely women whom I would never have had in my heart, had it not been for my time with T.  It's a good time to also note that on another blog The Hungry Runner Girl, she today mentions a study done by Laura Klein, PhD that states that women who have close ties with other women have lower blood pressure, heart rates and cholesterol levels.  As well, woman who maintain close and consistent relationships with girlfriends over a 9-year period cut their health risk by 60 percent! By contrast, women who do not maintain close female relationships have health risks similar to those caused by smoking or carrying extra weight. So, since I actually met these ladies over 9 years ago, they have not only enhanced my life but they have also made me healthier.  See there is always a silver lining. 

19 January 2012

a tribute

It's been five years since she took her last breath as I held her hand and cried.  She was most certainly one of the most cherished people in my life and I am forever grateful for the time I got to spend with her.  I am blessed to have so many memories and to have had such a special relationship.   There are so many things I wish I could have said to her - so many words that I hope she heard as I whispered them in her ear those last few days.  Just how much I loved her.  How she inspired me.  How strong she made me.   

As with everything in my life when I don't know what to do I run or I write.  The night before she died, when I couldn't sleep, it was too late to run and so I put pen to paper and wrote my goodbye to her.  I didn't know that they would be some of the hardest words I've ever had to say.  I'm not usually at a loss for words - nor shy in front of crowds - but the day I had to say goodbye to her was likely the most difficult time I've ever had speaking.  I'm pretty sure I started three times because I started to cry every time I opened my mouth. I take a moment to read through that eulogy every year on this date and I still only make it a few sentences in before the tears roll.  


As a mother, and a grandmother, she was most certainly the center of our family.  There was at least one of us at her house every day.  It was our place to gather as a family - whether it be on the front porch, around the kitchen table or in the sunroom.  There was always something cooking, coffee brewing and laughter.  When we knew the time was getting close, I started to secretly video tape her when we visited to catch some of her stories on tape.  I wish I could have videotaped her cooking more than anything else.  I wish I had more of her voice.  More of her laughter. Today I sat and watched her last birthday when my sis, T and I went over for cake in the evening.  The total randomness of the conversation made me laugh and cry.  Hearing her voice, her words... When she blew out her candles and said she was wishing to go see Nannu and we begged her to just hold on through the holidays. We gave her our gift of a bag of Sunchips (which she said she was going to hide in the cupboard) she told us that being able to celebrate her birthday with us was like someone gave her a thousand dollars.

She taught me how to cook and when I would ask her how much of an ingredient and she would tell me "you know, enough" or "until it feels right".  It used to drive me bat-wing crazy that there wasn't an actual measurement - she gauged things with a handful or a water glass. And yet, now as I cook or bake it's exactly how I do it.  She is with me always.  Her "i love you's" were in the form of food and as a family we were always well fed. The unique thing is that you can ask everyone in our family and they will have all their own crazy memories of this wonderful woman. 

I will always carry her with me in my heart.  There are so things I miss but the memories I have are more precious than anything.  I miss hearing her tell me about what she had watched on tv the night before - anything from a nice story on puppy dogs (the Lion King), soap operas (in Spanish) and the infamous late night Puppetry of the Penis (eh, maybe it was a piece a wood!).  I miss opening the door to the kitchen and smelling peppers & potatoes frying.  I miss her little white head peering out the window at the back door when you left her house at night. I remember my the day I left for University - I called her just before we left for Ottawa to say one last good-bye.  My grandmother, usually made of steel, cried and asked me why I had to go so far away from her.  She used to freeze everything - even milk - which would baffle me.  She would re-use the bread bag about 100 times before she would use it for trash.  She would also hide Sunchips or Cool Ranch Doritos and sneak bowls at night.  It is those memories and stories that comfort us when we miss you, that bond us closer as a family as we remember.  I do hope that you and Nanna watch over us all and that you are proud of the legacy that you leave behind. Nothing will ever be the same without you.  Ti amo bella. Ci manchi di tutti i giorni.  

18 January 2012

Our last day together....

Tomorrow will mark five years since you left us and joined Nannu in heaven.  They've been a full five years with many celebrations and challenges and yet, I miss you more than ever.  I cry the moment I think of you because I would give anything to have one more day with you.  One more coffee.  A few more hours around your kitchen table.  One more story. 

I think about that last week with you - I knew you were ready.  You only asked for one more Christmas. You told me you were tired.  We knew it was your time.  Those first few days in the hospital when you couldn't feed yourself we would sit with you and help.  Then, as stubborn as ever, you started to refuse to eat.  I would go in and coax you and make you get a few morsels in but then, that Sunday knowing that food would only sustain you, you let one last sip of espresso pass your lips and that was it.  We knew you were done.  They moved you to Palliative Care the next day so we could spend our last minutes with you in private.  Those minutes ended up as days - nurses and doctors baffled by your ability to hang on and yet we knew, you would go in your own time.  You knew how much we all loved you and you knew that we needed to say good-bye.  That last night is still so clear to me.  All of us packed in to your tiny room eating Kernels popcorn, sharing stories (egg shaquat lol!!), and toasting you.  This huge group of family just filling the halls with laughter and memories. People were in and out - not wanting to leave your side and saying their goodbyes and i love you's.  I remember waking in the middle of the night and, knowing the end was near, writing your obituary and the letter which would become my eulogy at your funeral.

The next morning the sun was shining so bright and we knew that it was your last day.  Your kids were all there with you that day, as were Rawna, Gina and I.  We sat and prayed with you, witness to your last rites.  My mom turned you toward the sun and whispered in your ear to imagine it was the sun of Figline.  You'd been off all IV's and support for five days - the nurses came in and asked if there was anyone she could be waiting to say good-bye to, baffled by your ability to hold on.  So we called Lori-Ann and Anthony who were living away and put the phone to your ear so they could give their love to her.  Uncle Lou left to drive Gina to the train and Rawna to an appointment.  It was only after we went to the cafeteria and ate (making sure Tony was fed ;)) that those moments in between breaths started getting longer.  We sat at your side watching and waiting to see if another breath would come.  They slowed and slowed until the moment that you scrunched your whole face in pain, one tear left your eye and off to heaven you went.  I held your hand and my moms, 3 generations of strong women joined together.  We sent you on your way with love and everyone in our family has missed you every single moment since then.

13 January 2012

My Little Sister

As a little sister myself, I always wondered what it would be like to be the "big" sister.  The one that gives advice, tells you that you can do anything, reminds you you deserve better than the guy that you just broke up with, and goes to bat for you with mom & dad.  Our family was just R and I so I never did get that experience...well by blood anyways. 

Now I hold my family very close to my heart because I am blessed with amazing people who happen to be related to me.  I am also very lucky to have Bob & Claudia who are like a second set of parents to me, which in turn made Iain and Ness my very own little brother and little sister.  When it was Ness' formal I was the one doing her and her girlfriends's hair and makeup. We talked through break ups.  I got to see her grow from a little girl in a MASH T-shirt and Iain's old speedo asking everyone in the campground for a popsicle to a stunning beauty graduating from medical school.  We do tease her that she best elope when she decides to marry because there are just too many embarrassing childhood stories to share!

 My little sister has grown in to a beautiful woman.  She has a strength within her that I think she sometimes questions but that I can certainly shining through.  She is funny and generous and determined.  She makes me laugh with her stories and warms my heart with her "i love you's".  She is a warrior and has triumphed over challenges and heart break that I wish she didn't have to know.  Today is her birthday and I wish her every happiness in the world.  I hope that the year ahead brings new adventures as well as solace, happiness and love.  You may be far away but I always carry you in my heart.  I am so happy to be a big sister and so very proud to be yours.  xoxo 

12 January 2012

Nourishment

I've grown up learning that nourishment is not only about feeding your body but also providing fuel to your soul.  I was lucky to grow up with a mom who baked pretty much everything from scratch.  Now ask an 8yr old me who really wanted wonderbread and she may tell you otherwise but now, looking back, I see how lucky I was.  When I was sick, it was home made soup that cured my sister & I not an open can of Campbell's.  When we came home from school, it was my mom's oatmeal cookies that we snacked on.  And on though on camping trips when we were allowed a store bought treat we pushed the envelope and made our parents buy us spray cheese, I now realize just how that nourishment gave R and I the base we needed. Honestly having the memory of the smells of my mother's kitchen fuel something inside of me.  When I feel low or sad, I cook or I bake.  Sometimes I bake when I feel great - to celebrate.  I fill my home with scents like garlic & onions sauteing or chocolate chip cookies baking. I love to cook for friends and family and I know this is one of the many great lessons my mother has taught me. 


It was gloomy and rainy here today.  Winter has gotten lost somewhere along the way and has sent a perpetual spring with 50degree weather and WAY too much rain.  It's just dreary and blah.  So tonight, I baked.  Something quick and simple and pretty much healthy but just sweet enough to fill my apartment with the a warm, yummy scent.  If you need a little pick-me-up or just that warm fuzzy feeling of your mom's kitchen - give these a try! 

Chocolate Chip Scones 
2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 large eggs
1 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate (73% cacao)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the grapeseed oil, agave nectar, and eggs. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined, then fold in the chocolate. Drop the batter, in scant 1/4 cups 2 inches apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 17 minutes, until golden brown or a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean. Then.... enjoy :) And maybe call your mother.  (Since mine is likely reading this... Love you mom xoxo)

04 January 2012

Happy New Year (a few days in....)

I spent the last few days of 2011 with my second family in Ottawa just doing absolutely nothing and enjoying every minute of it. I've never really been one to make New Years Eve a huge deal - usually spending it with family or dinner out and then watching the ball drop in the comfort of someone's living room.  Now as many of you know, 2011 was a crazy, busy year full of changes and challenges.  I was looking forward to starting this next year off fresh, happy and ready for new good things to come in to my life.  The day before I left for Ottawa, I received word that our divorce had become final and I was in fact (legally) a single girl.  It's hard to explain how it felt - quite anti-climatic in comparison to the joy of our wedding, sad to know it is 100% over even though I already knew it was and comforting to have the closure, ready to face the coming year full of possibility.  I was thankful to be able to take this year and all of the changes that happened and move forward.  As much as this was something I never imagined, it feels good to close the chapter and look ahead.  I come out of this past decade richer for the memories, the love, and the people.  I would never have moved back home and never subsequently moved overseas. I would never have been a sister-in-law, an aunt or a god-mother. I would never have met some of the friends I carry closest to my heart.  I wouldn't have my own business.  I wouldn't be me.  I am the me I am because of every moment I've lived - not only the past 11 years with T, but all the experiences in my life.  I don't have a shred of regret.  I have lessons learned.  I have my soul strengthened.  It is time to move forward and I'm predicting many good things ahead.  

Now after a few weeks of reduced exercise, increased eating, highly increased sugar intake and working like crazy, it's no wonder that I am starting the new year fighting off a bit of the cold that is goiing around.  Of course I think part of it is also due to the 4 flights in 3 days and recirculated air.  Whatever it is I am pretty determined to fight it off - unless I feel like a vomitting spree is imminent and then, to be honest, I'll let it run it's course cuz that is a great way to drop the holiday 'lb's'. In addition to my onslaught of vitamins that I normally take (photo to the right) I am trying to increase my fluids, veggies and fruit intake.  I've been making a lot of smoothies as both a treat and an antioxidant boost! Today's was 1/2 an avocado, handful of spinach, greek yogurt, frozen strawberries, handful of blackberries, pomegranate seeds, honey, hemp seeds, chia seeds, ground flax and a bit of OJ.  


This little bout of sickness has made me have to lay off the running a bit but I'm hoping to get back out there soon as I've booked my first 1/2 marathon of the year May 6th and I'm determined to reach the goal I was hoping for before October's injury.  It is just one of the many good things I am sure 2012 has waiting for me.  I believe that this is going to be my year.  New adventures, new memories and fingers-crossed new love.  I started the year surrounded by joy and I intend to carry that with me for the next 361 days.  May this year be one of happiness and positivity and many new blessings for everyone.  Let us be thankful for the moments we have that not only warm our heart but that also strengthen them.