Archive for the ‘Things I Love’ Category

Hope, believe, love

 

August and Everything After

The west, so far, has been very good to me.

I’m slowly piecing myself back together, feeling my heart begin to heal and I finally feel alive again. The haze has lifted and the sun in beginning to shine brightly.

I’ve found a job at a great bar filled with the most amazing people who have embraced me as part of their big, crazy family. They really, REALLY care about each other and after such a short time here, I am secure in knowing there are good people who have my back. I’m spending my time with people who make me feel things again, who make me laugh, who are helping patch up my bangs and bruises, defrost my heart, challenging me and supporting me as I begin to define life under my own terms. I’m settling into a new apartment and making it into my own little home. Every single day I’m mountain climbing, running, biking and camping and letting the mountains work their magic to soothe my soul.

There are moments when I miss my old life like crazy. Moments when I cry thinking about my pups and how desperately I wish I could cuddle with them, have them underfoot, have to sweep 10X each day. There are moments when my family is all together, and my nieces and nephews are giggling, that I would give anything to be with them all. Moments when I miss the familiarity of “my people” and Paisley. But this fresh start and new scenery are what I needed and this trip that has turned into a move (Temporary? Permanent? I’m still operating with no plan…) is proving to have been the best thing I could have done. I’m slowly beginning to figure myself out and enjoying getting lost in exploration along the way.

Nihahi Ridge

Stampede Night Out

 

The Girls

View from the Summit of Temple Mountain

 

Temple Mountain Summit (exhausted, cold, exhilirated and proud!)

Kananaskis Lake

Fernie, BC

 

Heading West

Trip is AMAZING so far! As soon as I get back into Canada I will post stories and photos.

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Raw, vegan banana chocolate-chip soft serve

This post very well might, definitely, change your life.

I posted a picture of this delicious treat tonight and was asked for the recipe. You’re going to laugh at how insanely easy (and delicious) this is and you can thank me for introducing you to your new favourite “treat” later!

Ingredients:

frozen bananas (I take perfectly ripe bananas, peel them and cut them into a few pieces, toss them in a container and then put them into the freezer – just makes it that much easier to make the soft serve! I generally make at least 2 bananas at a time.)

raw chocolate nibs (SUPER high in antioxidants – a true superfood. For Bruce County folks – I buy mine at Fine Fettle in Kincardine.)

Directions:

Toss the peeled, frozen banana into your food processor (you can use a blender too but the food processor seems to whip the bananas up better and creates the best texture). Hit the on button and whiz the bananas around for 4-5 minutes, stopping every once in awhile to scrap it down, until they become light, smooth and fluffy. Toss in a teaspoon or two of raw chocolate nibs and whiz it all for another 20 seconds or so (just to break up the nibs and incorporate them into the bananas).

As an alternative to adding the nibs, you can make some raw chocolate syrup by combining 2 tablespoons of agave nector with 1 tablespoon of raw cocoa powder and make yourself a little sundae. Or throw some nuts in there. Or you can add some frozen strawberries to get banana-strawberry soft serve (but you still need the bananas for the right texture…). Or do all of the above. Possibilities are really endless.

You’re welcome.

B’stilla (Moroccan Chicken Pie with Dates)

I love to cook. I can happily spend hours in the kitchen playing with recipes and random ingredients to create a meal. I experiment and use friends and family as my tasters. Sometimes my experiments don’t work out, but generally (and judging from the feedback of my rather honest and blunt testers), I think I do pretty well and tweak recipes according to taste and comments. Since I spend so much time cooking, I figured I might as well start sharing my creations!

I haven’t made B’stilla in a long time and was craving it today so this is the first recipe I am sharing!

I remember the first time I had this dish. It was at a lovely little Moroccan restaurant in Ottawa and I was having dinner with our Model United Nations (CANIMUM) team, from Laurentian University, after a very successful (and slightly scandalous) conference.

From my very first bite, I fell in love with the delightful and delicious combination of both savoury and sweet flavours.  In addition to the fantastic flavour, this dish looks really beautiful when served. It works great as a dinner combined with sautéed vegetables (beans and carrots) or, alternatively, with mixed greens, pomegranate seeds and orange slices (my personal favourite way to serve and eat it).

Ingredients:

2 tsp vegetable oil

3 chicken breasts, bone in

2 ½ cups onions, finely chopped

1 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cloves

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp chili flakes

½ tsp turmeric

1 cup chicken stock

salt

pepper

3 large eggs

1 cup dates, coarsely chopped

¼ cup golden raisins (optional)

½ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

½ cup slivered almonds, toasted

8 sheets phyllo pastry

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

icing sugar and ground cinnamon for garnish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

2. In a Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté chicken breasts until browned on both sides and then remove from pot. Chicken will not be fully cooked at this point, just browned.

3. In the same pot, add onions and cook until golden (should take about 10 minutes). Add garlic, cumin, ginger, cloves cinnamon, chili flakes and turmeric. Stir.

4. Put chicken back in pot with onions and spices, add chicken stock and season with salt and pepper. Cover with lid, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

5. Remove chicken from pot and let cool. Shred the meat off the bone into bite-size pieces.

6. Stir chicken together with the contents of the pot, add eggs, dates, raisins, cilantro and almonds. Combined well and season to taste.

7. Place 1 sheet phyllo pastry lengthwise on your work surface, brush lightly with melted butter. It does not have to be completely covered. Place second sheet on top of this, sideways to form a plus sign. Repeat this process until the 8 sheets have been layered; the last sheet does not need to be buttered.

8. Place sheets in a buttered 9-inch cake or springform pan. Fill pastry with chicken mixture and spread out evenly. Enclose by pulling the overhanging pastry up and over chicken mixture. Brush the top with melted butter.

9. Bake pie for 40 minutes or until pastry is golden and chicken mixture is heated through.

10. Serve hot with sifted icing sugar and ground cinnamon overtop.

Puppy love

I know they’re not puppies anymore, but to me they always will be.

Kahlua

Dax

365 days to 30

Today I turned 29. With 365 days remaining until the big 3-0, I have decided to make some positive, healthy changes in my life in order to ensure I enter my next decade with the energy, confidence and spunk I need to tackle the next challenges in life.

There was a time when I lived incredibly healthy. I ate the right food, I trained for hours each day and I devoted my energy to my sport (biathlon); all of which made me very happy. I entered my 20’s in excellent shape and never gave any thought to my body beyond what I could push it to do. Throughout the past nine years, I have fallen in and out of my (considerable) vices; smoking, drinking, eating garbage food and not dedicating the time I should to exercise and sport. I have allowed myself to think of my body in terms of how it looks rather than in terms of what it can do.

No more.

I will not make a grandiose statement that I am going to completely ditch my vices and eat 100% clean. For me that is simply unrealistic. I enjoy a good party far too much. I also love a cold beer on the beach, a nice glass of wine by the fire and cheese – any kind, anytime- far too much for such declarations. That said, I am going to make a conscientious decision to eat at least 80% clean and consume the sorts of food that make me feel good.I am going to work on putting nutrients into my body that will provide me with the energy I need to accomplish my daily goals.

I am going to continue to slowly work on recovering from my back injury and find new ways to strengthen it to prevent future injuries. I am going to work on creating my own modifications in order to be able to return to all the activities I love as my back strengthens and allows it. I am going to swim, cycle, and eventually, I am going to hit the pavement running again. I am going to do everything I possibly can to put my gloves back on and get back to boxing. I am going to work on improving my flexibility, something I have long neglected, through extensive stretching and yoga. I am going to push myself forward every single day.

365 days from now, as I enter my 3rd decade, I intend to do it with a running leap forward. And I intend to be healthy and feel good.

Let the countdown begin!

Just keep swimming…

For the first time since I hurt my back in November, I did a FULL HOUR of cardio today! I have been very frustrated in the past couple of weeks as a result of trying to do a proper workout and having to call it quits 15-20 minutes in because my back has been hurting too much to continue. Well this morning I did an entire hour of steady, continuous cardio! I finally gave up on trying to force running (the impact really was not doing much to help heal my herniated and torn discs…) and decided to hit the pool. I was a bit concerned that the twisting motion of a front crawl might hurt, but surprisingly, it didn’t at all. Breaststroke, however, did not go so well. I got two lengths into it and had to abandon that idea as the slight back extension during a breath was causing pinching and some shooting pain down my left leg. Back to the crawl and I swam for a WHOLE HOUR! I’m so ridiculously happy! The real test will be how I feel later tonight and if I’m able to get myself back into the pool again tomorrow. I’m hopeful that swimming might be my next recovery breakthrough!

 

My Old Stomping Grounds

This past weekend I made the long drive east to Ottawa. A trip that should have taken me 7-8 hours ended up taking two full days after the CRAZIEST white-out snowstorm I have EVER driven in (and that’s saying a lot coming from a girl who lives in Bruce County…) left me storm-stayed in Belleville for a night. While I was disappointed to have to miss dinner plans with my friends Nicole, Rob and their son Max, I decided to make the best of it and  think of it as yet another travel adventure and story. Turns out every hotel in town was sold out of rooms and full of stranded travelers! Some beers and stories in the hotel lobby with fellow strandees and I could do nothing but laugh at being stuck somewhere en route to a destination AGAIN!

Over night the snow stopped and the highways were cleared and I headed back out on the road in sparkling sunshine to finish the last stretch of the drive. As soon as I hit Hwy 417, a huge smile spread across my face; I absolutely LOVE Ottawa and have the best memories of my time living there. It is a place of firsts for me; my first time living on my own and by my own rules, my first apartment, my first roommates, my first serious relationship, my first grown-up job, my first deep hurt…It is also where I lived the glorious life of a student, spent far too much time (and money) partying and had some of the most hilarious and story-worthy encounters and adventures. Ottawa is a beautiful city and will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Capitol also happens to be where some of my favourite people reside but because it’s so far away, I don’t make it back nearly often enough. Needless to say, I had a full schedule to see everyone I wanted to see while there but managed some great time with all my important Ottawa people. Noah (my NZ travel buddy) recently moved back so I used his apartment as my home-base. Friday at noon I met a work colleague (fabulous lady who knows just the right things to say to get me motivated!) at Heart and Crown for lunch and followed lunch up with wandering around the market reminiscing! Friday night we went to an old church in the Byward Market that is no longer an active place of worship and has been converted into an event space (although converted might be the wrong word…it really hasn’t been changed in anyway and the pews and everything are still set up) for a dance party.

For possibly the first time in my life, I felt old. There is a good chance I was about a decade older than a lot of the people there. Regardless, it was kind of hilarious and we had a pretty good time dancing and ended the night at Shawarma King, which is never a bad thing. When I lived in Ottawa, I assumed shawarma was standard fare in all major cities but O-town is truly the only place I have been where you can find it on almost every corner.

Saturday morning was breakfast with Nicole and Rob (delicious eggs benedict on home-made english muffins!) and cuddles with their adorable son Max. It was so great catching up with Nicole! She and I spent years traveling all over the country together competing in biathlon and I am so happy we have remained such good friends throughout the years. She is also one of the most interesting people I have ever met – the girl has traveled all over the world on her own and has some pretty remarkable stories (you should read her blog to get a glimpse of some of the remarkable adventures she has been on – www.mommaandmax.com).

Drinks Saturday night at The Lieutenant’s Pump followed by a trip to Elgin Street Diner, an Ottawa late-night institution where the line-up and wait is well worth it to grab one of their multiple flavoured, cheese-curd filled, gravy-drenched poutines. I wondered if the four-cheese variety was as good as I remembered it from my university days and it was although I wasn’t able to shovel back a full order on my own the way I used to be able to! (You’re almost guaranteed to run into someone you know at ESD and this trip proved that theory true once again as I ran into a friend from highschool that I used to work beachstaff with).

Sunday brought a morning coffee date with Tasha at Bridgehead (BEST coffee in Ottawa and it’s all fair-trade, organic and shade-grown from small growers) where I got to hear all about the plans for her upcoming nuptials! An afternoon coffee date with a long-time family friend (who incidentally I used to babysit and who’s recent engagement announcement, that she told me about when I ran into her Friday night, contributed to making me feel so old…) at Sun Cafe (a cute place that combines coffee shop and flower shop) and my caffeine levels were perfect for the day. Dinner and laughs with Norah, one of my best friends from highschool, at Clocktower Brew Pub (they brew their own beer – Wishart’s Bitter is my favourite) brought a perfect close to my weekend.

Monday I hit the road heading back west and broke the trip up perfectly with an over-night stop in Kinsale to visit my sister and brother-in-law and get some always needed snuggles in with my gorgeous niece Paige. Tuesday was a stop in Grand Valley to visit my sister-in-law (the sister-in-law who was my university roommate in Ottawa so it completed the circle perfectly!) and grab some snuggles with my handsome nephew, Callum before I finally arrived back home!

It was a perfect long weekend full of people I love and I cannot wait to plan my next foray back to Ottawa sometime very soon!

A Fairytale Wedding

This past weekend one of my very best friends married a really amazing guy. I was so honoured to be in their wedding party and to be so involved with their special day. The weekend was absolute perfection and we spent it surrounded by such an amazing group of people. The wedding itself was beyond beautiful (not to mention the stunning bride who Bridal Barbie should be modeled after – an absolute princess for her big day) and truly belongs in a magazine – it was unlike anything I have ever seen! I don’t know that any picture can do it justice but I will post some as soon as I get my hands on some (I can’t believe I didn’t take any myself!).

Meg and Steve make such a great team and I know that they will have many years of happiness, adventure and love ahead of them. They are two of the most remarkably kind and generous people I have ever met and are an absolute perfect match.

Much love to the newlyweds – xo