Thursday, November 14, 2013

Finally: an H&M in Ottawa!

As evinced by my past overnight adventures in the world of H&M collaborations I and H&M collaborations II (psst those are links), in addition to a good bit of my wardrobe consisting of their seasonal creations, I clearly, obviously, duh-ly love Hennes and Mauritz. Yet, for horrific reasons unbeknownst to me, Ottawa has been the last city on the planet without the store.  Kingston has had one for a while, as well as Barrie.  Those two places are heehee worthy, but then a few months ago I was passing by the outskirts of Montreal, where you'd normally see one-of-its-kind waffle houses and stores with four dollar bras, and saw the glowing red letters yet again. That was when I knew that enough was enough.  I let a single tear slowly run down my chin (which is like the most uncomfortable feeling in the world), and considered moving.  Then, it was announced: H&M is opening a store in Ottawa, at the Bayshore mall.  What whaaaaaaaaaaaat.

Of course, just waiting for opening day wasn't enough.  By some stroke of fashion luck, I wound up at the VIP Unveiling Party on October 15th (2 days before the store was to open), and let me just say, it was a night to remember. 

Before leaving for the party, I quickly threw some absolutely essential items into my Fall 2013 H&M bag and then took everything out to take this picture...


Acqua di Parma Gelsomino Nobile perfume, H&M dress, H&M necklace, Chanel lipstick, H&M bag

Then, when I was done haphazardly strewing my belongings about, I met up with my bestie and got the party started.

All in all, the event was magnificently put together, from the decor to the entertainment (Oh Land performed an amazing set), to the impeccable organizing, to the lush red carpet.... and in order to do the evening justice I have split my more specific thoughts into two fairly labelled categories:

The right thing to say:  It was so lovely to see some of my favorite fashion bloggers, the atmosphere was magical, and we loved our swag bags.

What I really want to say: I ate a lot of food that looked really fancy, I thought Oh Land was just a gorgeous girl with purple hair and only realized it was Oh Land when they started performing on stage, I drank more than a couple glasses of champagne, and the waitress let me have as many desserts off her tray as I wanted. I ate a lot of desserts also.

Oh, another highlight for me was realizing I have less than zero social skills, when my girlfriend decided to walk over to the guys from the band and ask them for a picture.  Obviously, as is always the case, my brain went into full loser mode, and I followed her over averting my eyes from anything at all. Yes, that looked as awkward as it sounds and let me just say it's not easy to not look at anything at all ever while you're standing still. The thing is I didn't want these guys to think I liked them because every girl in the world likes them and I didn't want to be annoying. Plus, it's not like I liked them, I was just there with girlfriend and would just be taking a picture or two.  Of course, everyone hit it off well because they're fun people and likely attended kindergarten where you first learn the art of small talk (I skipped those years, instead playing with an Airedale Terrier named Jennifer behind the house), so everyone was all "yeah we like touring, it's been fun" and "we love your songs! you're such cool guys!" and I was all "how do you feel it is, politically, if it isn't like so in Sweden, but only in the North American continent, if you were to consider such a continent, even?"

Let's forget that part because I still feel queasy when I think about it. Well, actually, not only do I think about that part but also the part where I acted out the scene later as we walked out, mimicking my conversation topics, and their reactions, with a hideous exaggerated manner...only to (OBVIOUSLY) find them standing right there, by the doors, smoking.  Wonder Years, are you still casting?

Back to the topic at hand, though, I really can't praise this super fun night enough.  We had such a fun time dancing, shopping, and meeting the exciting people that make up Ottawa's fashion and entertainment scene. 

I'm going to skip over the part where I was outright asked if I was anyone important, and then reminded that I was not anyone important, and then asked if I could identify anyone in the room who was important because press pictures needed to be taken.....and then reminded again that no, I could not point to myself...and I'll just say, lastly, that it's about time, H&M.  Welcome to Ottawa.




hehehe



girls girls girls!





Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Captain Phillips (a biopic)

I’m not sure if I’ve ever blogged about a movie before. It’s not every day that I’m moved by a film enough to write about it, but last night’s film made such an impression on me that I still find myself calming the last of my knee shakes, in a racing rhythm with the pulse in my fingertips.

Directed by Paul Greengrass and starring the absolutely, inescapably brilliant Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips is a biographical film of the story of merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somali Pirates while en route through the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa. 
To be honest, when I first caught a glimpse of the preview, I saw: Tom Hanks, ocean, boat, yelling, and this made me think: No, no, no, no.  My Wilson-tried ignorance led me to believe this would be a dud- another capitalization on readily available storylines, resulting from the exhaustion of movies yet to remake, folklores to animate, and the like. Despite its Hollywood appeal (Kevin Spacey is one of the producers!), Captain Phillips is raw, genuine, excruciatingly painful, and the sort of movie that finds one forgetting to breathe. 
Luckily, my ignorance often leads me to miss international news, and I was not aware of the progress-or, perhaps more importantly, resolution- of this story, so I truly had no idea where it was going. Without giving away any of the plot, I’ll just say that it is NEVER over when you think it’s over. Until it’s over, and you feel your body slowly sink into a shock – the next segment of the film. Perhaps the best part of the story is the commitment you’re forced to embark on with the characters, such that you refuse to feel anything but terror when they feel it, decline the moments of saccharine relief because you know better, and dart your eyes around the screen wildly, inhaling every scream, jolt, shot, wave, plea, in a silent submission to the poignancy in this ingenious performance.

Lastly, I was absolutely smitten by the performance of the Somalian actors.  For Barkhad Abdi, this film was a breakout debut, and will hopefully lead to an Oscar. The rest of the actors were just as phenomenal, and I could not recommend this movie enough, if only for supporting these incredible people in what I can only imagine were both ethically and artistically complicated endeavours.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Half-Marathon #2: This Time It's Personal

I can't believe it was just yesterday morning that the long-awaited Ottawa Army Run took place. It seems like it was so long ago, or like it didn't happen at all. Was it all just a super exhausting dream? No. It wasn't.



It wasn't because today I can't walk down stairs, and when I do succeed in walking, I look like Gumby.
But that doesn't matter because I'm so super excited to have had a fantastic experience running and, this time, it was all because I kept it personal, or in other words, I focused on myself.

I sometimes get competitive, especially with people I don't know.  When I first ran the 10K races, or the previous half-marathon, it was so difficult not to feel pressured by the people around me to keep running, even when I felt I needed a break.  If you've ever run before, you'll know what I mean: walk on the side of the road for five seconds, and a hundred people will pass you.  And that pace-bunny you were right behind for the past 10 kilometres is now nowhere in sight.  Comparing yourself to other runners can be good for whipping you into finishing another mile at your best pace, but it can also be really bad if you end foregoing much-needed breaks because you're focused on keeping up.

And compare, compare, compare I always do.  But this time, I focused on my Nike running app, pacing myself as per my training plan, and when I wanted to speed up because senior citizens were zipping by me, I just looked away and at the river on my other side. I looked around and imagined that I was running alone. And when I took my one walking break, I looked straight at my watch to avoid seeing the seven million sprinters passing me. Granted, I resumed running after two minutes of walking, and didn't let myself stop once since then, but at least I'm starting to get it! I was able to pace myself so well that I easily sped up at the end of my race for a last quick sprint, and honestly didn't even realize the finish line was approaching. I felt great after the race, and can't wait to do another one.

So, a new tip for anyone thinking about running a half marathon: pay attention to your body.  It's tempting to follow everyone into a starting sprint, but you don't know these people and their plans! They could slow down significantly mid-way through, or take a ten minute walking break somewhere down the line. Everyone has their own strategy and if you don't follow your heart *cue saxophone* plan, you'll end up confusing your body, leading to exhaustion, cramping, and let's not mention what else, but it starts with a d and ends with iarrhea.
But enough about that! On to the fun part: I finished in 1:55, which, given all the colds/viruses/crappy stuff I've faced this year, is a pretty awesome time!
And once more, I have to mention how incredible it is to see all of the spectators. Standing outside in the freezing cold, holding hilarious posters in their hands, smiling, waving, cheering on people they've never met before- what an overwhelmingly inspiring moment, and one safely in my vault of unforgettable feelings.






Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Target Ottawa- finally!

I've loved Target for as long as I can remember shopping in the US. The store itself is so cheery, so bright and fun, and always full of amazing stuff at crazy-low prices. Their collaborations are pretty terrific too...I still get butterflies when I think of the Rodarte dress hanging in my closet. 

I've been waiting for Ottawa to get a Target for years, and finally, my budget shopping prayers were answered when the ever-so-cute Billings Bridge announced the arrival of the famous Bullseye...and then my budget blogging prayers were answered when I was invited to a Bloggers Breakfast event just prior to the store's opening! 

It was great to meet some of the Ottawa bloggers while loading up on chocolate...


..and then it was time for Target to open, and for me to head to my fabvorite section: beauty. The lighting is always so fun in Target's beauty department, like you're in a cosmetics spaceship. Destination: concealer. Har har. Anyway, look what they have! Dr.Bronners! No more driving across the border for me!



Thanks Billings and Target :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Coming up, in running...

Well, it has been about six months of training and at last, next Sunday, September 22nd is the long awaited Army Run! 21 kilometers of running, sweating, smiling (and maybe crying)....but also, a really, really exciting thing is set to happen during that half-marathon: at some point during this race I'm going to hit the blue level (1000Km) in my Nike Running app!!!! Stay tuned for a detailed listing of all the food I'll be eating in celebration...


Friday, September 13, 2013

Liberté Mediterranean Yogurt: yum!

I have kind of a weird thing for yogurts.  I'm not sure where or how it started, but every time I'm in the dairy section of a grocery store, I obsessively look at the different yogurt flavors trying to find one that's unusual or particularly exciting.  I'm so over the usuals: vanilla, strawberry, blueberry- yawn.  Fruit on the bottom used to seem like a treasure, but you know what's an even better treasure? CARAMEL ON THE BOTTOM. Yeah, that's right. And if caramel is too Plain Joe for you...how about, oh I don't know, COCONUT? ON THE BOTTOM? That'll do it, yeah? Though I'm usually an adovactor of Greek yogurts for their fantastic protein content, this Liberté Mediterranean yogurt was an awesome break from the norm.  The yogurt itself was creamy and rich, like they promised, and the caramel had a true caramel taste, as opposed to the 'somewhat flavored sugar' that you can sometimes get from different brands.  The coconut version was also delicious and when I mixed the coconut part with the yogurt, it basically turned into ice cream. Or something equally as delicious.  These yogurts aren't particularly low on calories, but if you're going to indulge in a somewhat healthier dessert, these guys are definitely worth it.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Help me, I'm poor

I recently made the decision to move back in with my mom. I was tired of paying ever-increasing rent, and realized that I'm not 16 as previously thought but rather 26 which means I should probably seiv. Or is it sayv? Sav? Whatever, it's this concept where you like, take money and like, not spend it. You put it away somewhere (sock, bag, mattress, up to you man, I don't care) and you just...leave it. So, I decided to give that a try, because apparently, according to the world slash everyone's prophecies, there's also this thing called a Rainy Day, which is what everyone is saiveng (savying?) for, which looks something like this:



...with those who haven't saved (GOT IT) for this "rainy day" obviously playing the role of Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 (now do you get the photo reference??), though I won't post a picture of her melting skeleton.

So, with that said, I moved back in with my mom and sister, and was lucky enough to get my sister's old room.  This room has a wooden "V" on the door, because that's the first letter of her name. To avoid uncomfortable and confusing situations for my potential future visitors, I plan on converting that V into a charming and positive message: Velkommen, ja. So, welcome, one and all, to my new room!



Let me tell you how fun it is to stuff the contents of your entire one bedroom apartment into a pre-teen sized bedroom: it is very fun.  Sort of like Tetris, but you have to live on everything, and none of the carefully organized blocks ever go away. Why hello, Mister Toilet Brush, please make yourself comfortable between my pillow and armpit. (Alright, alright, I got rid of the toilet brush).

Another fabulous aspect of moving back home is that your mother assumes you have regressed to your childhood years and/or are handicapped in every way possible, and questions your every move.  Every time I go upstairs, regardless of whether she's making dinner or in the middle of a coma, everything is dropped and I am requested to explain where I am going.  I'm never going anywhere exciting: I'm going to sleep, I'm going to read, I'm going to take out my contacts. But, every time, she must know where I'm going - a sentence that implies a dissatisfaction with my sudden absence from her platform of ultimate control.  So, here's the fun part: I now invent new reasons why I would be leaving the living room to go upstairs.  Yesterday, I told her I was making hats out of skin.  This evening, I ran upstairs to aggressively touch old photographs.  Sometimes she laughs, sometimes she doesn't, so for now, I'm just going with it.

Seriously, though, if ever you're considering moving back home, yes, it's slightly painful...I basically feel like Kristen Wiig from Bridesmaids all the time. I mean I've always felt like her, but now it's like...for real, and complete with the part where she moves back home. Yikes.


 

It's slightly painful, but it's also nice to have people around who constantly worry about whether you packed a lunch or put on a scarf this morning, or call you if you're late coming back from work.  It's annoying, but I know one day when I'm rolling in riches and sleeping on a bed of lobsters, I'll miss the smell of my mom cooking something buttery downstairs, or the sound of their incessant laughter as they watch the same episode of Friends for the eighteenth time.  Living with your parents can be hella lame, but it can also be your one last chance to feel like you're really, truly home.  So that's what I'm doing - making a new home in my old home, one shelf at a time. And if it all means I have a couple more fives in the ol' savings account, well then you just can't go wrong.



Gotta go, mom's calling..



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Breaking It Up

The Dragonboat race is fast approaching and honestly, I can't believe it's been 6 weeks (or 7?) since we started practice.  I'm so excited to be part of a team-based race and being on the water is so new to me, and we even get t-shirts...so all in all it has just been an awesome experience.

Our practices are on Monday nights, and while normally Anais, being the nicest person in the nation's capital, would drive us there and back, but for the last two weeks, we've been running to our practice.  The concept of Run-Paddle-Run is simple: run 5K to practice, row for an hour, run 5K back.  The first time we did it in the rain, which made me feel (and look) like Rocky because everyone was all omg you so crazy just take the bus back and we were all no way, we got this and then we got home late at night and felt super accomplished.  To be completely honest, it's not anywhere as challenging as people think it is, and that's almost certainly because we are breaking it up.  Taking that hour-long break between the two runs where we focus on completely 'opposite' muscles makes for a great rest period while keeping our heart rate up. It doesn't actually feel like we ran 10K all thanks to the fact that we broke it up into two short(er) segments.

Another fun boost to your workouts (if you can't really schedule a mid-run interjection à la rowing) is to run with a purpose.  That is, not just a loop around, or distance-driven set run, but a run to the grocery store (pick one that's far enough away), to a casual event where it's cool to look sweaty, or to your office barbeque where your co-workers can pass you as you run and then all comment on how they saw you running, in unison, as you hyperventilate into a burger and wonder what secret route you'll take back so as to avoid similar future embarrassment. 

But really, try breaking it up.  It will likely make both of your runs stronger, more focused, and feel easier.

And now, some things I see while on the water:






And how the sky looks when we run back home...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A (Sort of) Juice Cleanse



Remember that time I went nuts for a month and did a raw diet? Remember that time I punned outta control by saying "I went nuts", because my raw diet was comprised of 80% nuts?  Okay, now that we're all on board, this week I went...juice...or something, and I did a sort of juice cleanse!
I first got the idea from watching a Dr.Oz special with Joe Cross, who went on a super long juice cleanse and lost 9 million pounds or something, and they were both discussing the results with such excitement that I thought I could give it a whirl, as well. Joe Cross' 3 Day Cleanse seemed simple, the ingredients are all basic (cucumbers, tomatoes, ginger, kale etc. nothing wonky), and it claims to make you glow, re-energize you, detox your system, and make you feel lighter.  Sounds awesome!  What makes it a 'Sort of' juice cleanse is that you get to eat fruits and vegetables for dinner, so it's not 100% juice for three days. Among the things I learned, below, is that it really, really helps to eat a salad for dinner because by evening, you start to lose apetite not only for juice, but for life, in general.
Here, a little breakdown of the days, and how I ended up feeling:

Day One:

I had to force myself to finish the breakfast and mid-morning juices, and was full until mid-afternoon by which time I realized I was two juices behind...and then I realized Joe Cross' juice cleanse amounts are probably meant for dudes. I bypassed the pre-dinner drink on account of not wanting to drink a beet and sweet potato combo. Not bad for a first day, but most of all, I missed my breakfast muffins and hot coffee.
General feeling towards muffins summarized as follows:



Day Two:

I had a really bad headache all day and had a hard time concentrating at work. I was really cold all day, feeling really weak, and got woozy a few times.  Still, it wasn't that bad, all in all. I had my baked sweet potato dinner to look forward to, so that made the day less painful.  Oh, and had mangoes and cherries for dessert! Had to say no to cake at lunch, and to going out for dinner in the evening with friends.  I don't even mind the hunger part of it as much as I mind foregoing social events....





Day Three:

Though I felt weak all day, I wanted to get some exercise to help push the toxins out, so I did a Zenergy Cycle class at The Athletic Club.  To my surprise, I didn't faint, and made it through the class without stopping for breaks! I did tone down the intensity of my workout, but I felt great after!  I wasn't planning on stopping the diet strictly at Day Three so I wasn't really feeling relieved or anything as the day ended.

So, I did continue the diet partly on Days Four and Five (today), because I don't think stopping abruptly is a good idea.  On Day Four I had all salads and some quinoa and popcorn because I went to a movie so whatever...and on Day Five I had a juice for breakfast and lunch, and will be making pizza tonight for dinner! I do plan on having a juice here and there to balance out future meals, because I do think it's a great break for your digestive system, but would I do this diet again, for longer than three days? No thanks. I prefer solids and not feeling like this on a daily basis:





All in all, here are some things I can share to anyone thinking about doing a juicing cleanse:

-To anyone trying specifically the Joe Cross diet, if you're a woman, I suggest half-ing the amounts in the recipe.  I made the original recipes, and the caloric value ended up being double my regular daily value and I literally could not finish all the juices- a waste of vegetables and calories, for those trying to lose weight.

-Make sure to drink lots of water between juices, to help keep hunger at bay

-Always, always, always start your day with a glass of hot lemon ginger water. Your body requires it to help start-up the cleanse.

-Ease yourself into the diet with no processed foods or caffeine for two days prior to the diet, and three days post.

And that's that!






Sunday, June 9, 2013

Outdoor Workouts

Fantastic, warm summer weather means you can save money by canceling (or pausing) your gym membership and taking your workouts outside.  I used to be a little apprehensive about this idea because I felt my toning exercises lacked direction without an instructor, but then I discovered the wonderful world of YouTube (and its 4, 7, 10, 30, and 60 minute ab videos), as well as downloadable videos, and my personal favorite for the sake of being able to do these outdoors: magazine exercise cutouts.  Self magazine has these awesome cutouts, each showing a different toning move to be done in sets of 20. There are 9 moves, and you do the circuit 3 times (3 reps of sets of 20 for each move). I tore the flashcards out and took them with me to the park, and to my surprise, nobody stared or laughed or threw things at me while I went from burpees, to under-the-knee claps, to lunges, to jumping squats, to twist jumps, to...well you get it, I worked out.  Then I skipped on my speed rope for 30 minutes, and then I went home limping because it was a very great, tough workout.  I feel just as sore as I used to feel in my boot camp or core classes, and best of all I really feel like I got the most out of the warm, sunny day. Sure, I would've loved to chill with a mango daiquiri on a patio somewhere, but I had a giant brownie for breakfast (on top of an already greasy dish prior to that), so I had work to do before kicking back!

I would definitely recommend the Self Drop 10 Challenge workouts that are in every monthly Self magazine (and they're always different, so you get to switch it up every 4 weeks!), and don't worry about not getting enough of a challenge when working out on your own - these will definitely make you sweat.  Combine with a cardio session (skipping or running) for a real toughie ;)



Friday, June 7, 2013

The Athletic Club: Zenergy Cycle

So, of course after ranting about how much I don't like spinning, I went and did it again.  I was perusing the list of group fitness activities on The Athletic Club's program page, and was feeling particularly weak (more on that later), when I spotted the Zenergy Cycle class, described as a spinning class in a dark, candle-lit room, with soothing music playing so that "you don't even know you're working out".  I figured that was exactly what I needed. After all, I like my cycling like I like eating my desserts- in the dark. LOLSOFUNNYOKTHANKYOU

Anyway, I got to the class expecting to hear Enya or at least pan pipes, but what I realized was this class is exactly like any other spinning class in terms of intensity, but, as advertised, it was in the dark. One flameless candle illuminated our imaginary paths, but the music was super fast and hardcore, so honestly, I don't know what was supposed to really be "zen" about it. Oh, we also did a bit of arm work with a set of dumbells. Everyone was all "Yeah I'm a big deal, I'll go with the 5lbs" and I was like "Whatever, I'm sticking with the 2s" and then people were all "ouch ouch I can't do it" and I was like "YEEEEEEEEAAHHHHHHH!!"
Gone are the days of:


I am dumbell victorious! Well, almost. Needless to say, I had a great time! I pushed myself as much as I could, and didn't stop once (!!) and the hour went by pretty slowly, but in the end, I felt a very wonderful kind of pain in my legs. You know, the kind that's like "You done good, have a cupcake."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Athletic Club: Cycling

For as long as I can remember, I've hated biking. I just really don't enjoy the pulling on my knee muscles, the very little reward for all that spinning (unless you're going down a mountain, but then you're just going to fly into a rock and die probably), and the fact that my mom was in a really bad biking accident when I was seven. All of those factors contribute to my general feeling of non merci.  So, of course, having that fantastic 30 day pass to the Athletic Club, I figured I might as well do something I really hate doing, just to see if maybe my mind can be changed with a great instructor.  Currently, I'd say my cycling expertise is as such:




So, given that, I picked a bike at the very back of the classroom. However, only 6 people showed up that day, so the instructor made sure to give me plenty of attention.  She was one of those really, really happy people who genuinely enjoy fitness. I briefly thought about how we could be friends, but then she mentioned that earlier that day she had turned down a donut (and not just any donut but a Suzy Q donut), so all thoughts of friendship were squashed. 
She was a really great instructor though, despite her lack of pastry-eating. Energetic and positive to the point of making me think that spinning is actually tolerable.  We climbed imaginary hills, sped through imaginary races, took twenty second breaks between songs, and pushed ourselves to varying degress of our abilities. That was one of my favorite things: "Go to your 70%" she would say, and we could decide what 70% looked like for us. For me, it looked like a sweaty 30-degrees-outside-and-I-forgot-my-water-bottle beast. But still, this beast did the full class and no slower than anyone else, might I add.  I wouldn't say there's anything special about the Athletic Club's "spin" (SOMEBODY STOP ME) on a cycling class, so if you're a regular devotee of cycling, give it a whirl. Personally, I was hoping for disco lights and glitter raining out of the vents (look I'm still in Zumba mode, minus the glitter, that's just a personal dream of mine), but it was pretty functional, instead: just a room full of stationary bikes and a medium-sized fan at the front.    All in all, did it make me like cycling? Not at all. Did I feel the burn? Yes. And sometimes, to feel the burn, you have to do things that you don't like doing. Maybe that could be my new motivation...?

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Athletic Club: Design Method




I had heard of the Tracy Anderson Method before, and was really excited to try what I can only assume is the Athletic Club's version of it (dance-based toning moves, geared at awakening muscles we don't normally think of using).  I did another lunch-hour class, and once again, I was so happy that I had kept it to a 40 minute experience, because it was really tough.  The instructor led us through a dance routine that incorporated the use of various muscles (and you really do identify those muscles by the 8th time you re-do the routine, they hurt!) and in between sets of routine repetitions, there was mat work. Glorious, glorious mat work, complete with toning our inner thighs (oww), our hamstrings (oww #2), our outer thighs (help), and frankly, muscles I'm not even aware of.  I'll leave out the part where I describe how ridiculous I always seem to look in comparison to everyone else, and I'll just say this: I LOVED IT! I loved this class for the grace in the motions, for the little twitching I felt from every muscle in my arms (for days after), and most importantly, for the energy of our dance moves.  I would highly recommend this class to everyone, partly because now I kinda feel like I'm that much closer to Gwyneth Paltrow (who works closely with Tracy Anderson....whom I'm closer to now too, I guess. So then I'm also closer to Hollywood in general, so.....I don't know. Celebrity ova here.)  I would also highly recommend this class to everyone, because it's one of those classes where you can feel the potential for results from the first moment you start. Just a great experience all around!

Oh and by the way, if you're interested in the class but no gyms in your area offer them,  try Tracy Anderon's DVDs...you'll need a good amount of space and potentially a mat.  Enjoy!



Monday, May 27, 2013

10K: Round Two

This past weekend, I ran the 10K race during the Ottawa Race Weekend. Before I get into that, I wanted to write a bit about what I learned at the running expo that took place at the Ottawa Convention Centre where runners picked up their running bibs. (Taking these pictures always excites me so much and I just LOVE the Ottawa <3 Boston sign in the corner!)





Aside from the usual mini displays of last minute running items you could buy (like in case you forgot that you need running shoes to run...?), there was also a corner dedicated to hosting a guest speaker. That guest speaker was John Stanton, president of the Running Room, and he was pretty awesome.  Here he is, and I'm not quite sure what he's demonstrating here...



Among the many tips he shared with us (though mostly geared towards those running the marathon), I found these to be most valuable to anyone starting to run, or looking to sharpen their regime.  Without further ado, some running tips:

1. Stretch only after you run. Stretching your muscles sends a signal to your body to calm the nervous system. This is great after your run, to tell your body to chill out.  You don't want to calm your body before your run, so use your running warm up segment for stretching purposes.

2. Try to end your run the way you started it.  That is, cool down the way you started- with a jog. Never stop running abruptly. Keep moving.

3. After your run, it's okay to feel dizzy.  It's not okay to faint. 

4. It's okay to hit a wall.  This is a period of time where your body switches its source of energy. Give it a few minutes (don't give up), check that you aren't dehydrated (have a few sips of water, if possible) or that your energy isn't completely depleted (maybe you need a quick gel pack), and keep at it. The wall will break in a few minutes. 

5. A decrease in 1-2% of your body's water will lead to fatigue (!!!)

6. If you're doing endurance training, you absolutely need to replenish with food high in Iron and Vitamin C.

So that's that - some great tips to rejuvenate your running techniques, and some stuff to help you feel better about running in general :)

And so with that, on to my 10K running experience:

So, it seems I didn't train as hard as I thought.  I was almost late for the race too, and almost twisted my ankle climbing the fence to get into my corral group...oh and I ran with a splinter in my foot lol jeez...


I expected for the race to be just like a regular run, but I forgot how competitive I get while running, and how painful it is for me to watch dozens of runners pass me by while I take a walking break. It kills me.  Watching that pace bunny disappear further into the crowd until I can't even see his ears anymore...it really hurts.  For that reason, I never take full breaks as I would normally do while on a regular run. I just can't. (And yes, I'm working on it!)  So, given all that, I ended up putting my body through an unexpected beating, with endurance and speed combined, and that wasn't a very healthy thing to do.  But onto nicer things...
Towards the end of my run, I definitely hit a mini wall. I say it's a mini wall because the race itself was relatively short, but it certainly didn't feel little. I started to walk while everyone around me ran. I walked and walked and walked and slowly felt my face drooping into a frown when suddenly, I saw someone's hand stretch out towards me. I looked up and saw a man cheering me on.  As I walked past him, I couldn't help but make a face like "PARDON??"  to which he yelled "RUN! KEEP RUNNING! GO!"  and at that exact moment, he gestured for me to stretch out my hand, and high-fived me.  It was like a jolt of love, of energy, or that inexplicable commoradery that I have only ever seen while running. I felt my face turn back into a huge smile, thanked him and burst into a run.  The wall was still there, but I was too happy to care.  The last 3 km of my run were difficult, but I couldn't stop smiling. The signs, the people, the smiles, the clapping, the bells, the outstreched hands waiting to encourage us...what a beautiful reflection of humanity.  I finished at 0:53:13 beating last year's 10K time by a whopping 5 minutes, which means, given my lack of training this time around, that I am just in better overall shape, which is the best gift my body could ever give me.  Despite feeling really sick after the run, I'm really happy with my time (and I still don't even know how I managed to do that!), and am really looking forward to training for the half marathon in September!  Yep, I signed up for the Army Run. 


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

so salmon, kale, and quinoa walk into a bar...

....and I cook them and have them for dinner.

Sometimes, I don't want feel like guessing what type of food is healthy. Sometimes I want to take the most cliché health staples and throw them together for a meal that's guaranteed to be good for me, but doesn't take three years to put together.  Enter the three amigos: salmon, kale, and quinoa. If you aren't familiar with these three foods, they're like the Downton Abbey/Blue Ivy/pastels of the grastronomical empire. Here's a quick synopsis of why (although there are far many more reasons than just these):

Salmon: contains omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) which are really, really great for your heart.

Kale: is intensely packed with vitamins A, C, K (and I thiiiink some others), and is a powerful antioxidant!

Quinoa: is rich in fibre, iron, and magnesium (among a ton of other nutrients) and is a good source of protein

If you're picking up veggies, fish, and grains, you really can't pick a better trio.
Anyway, now that your interest is (hopefully) piqued, here's a super easy dinner to make and Instagram ad nauseum *just me*:


Salmon, Kale, and Quinoa on a Plate:

Ingredients:

Kale salad:

Head of kale
Dressing:
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tsp Himalayan salt
1 tsp pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Optional: grated parmesan

Salmon:

1 (preferrably wild) salmon steak
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
maple syrup to taste (optional)

Quinoa:

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
1 Knorr vegetable or chicken stock cube

What you gotta do:

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Combine the dressing ingredients for your kale and massage them into the leaves, tearing into bite size pieces.  Set aside.

3. Pour a tiny bit of olive oil onto an oven-safe dish, place the salmon, and rub the teaspoon of olive oil on top. Sprinkle salt and pepper, and, if it's a special night, drizzle a bit of maple syrup on top. Throw into the oven and set your timer to 20 minutes.

4. Bring your 2 cups of water to a boil in a small pot.  Add the stock cube and the cup of quinoa. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all the water. If it looks a bit runny by the time your 15 minutes runs out, turn the element off and let it sit a few minutes. All of the water should be absorbed.

5. Check that your salmon is a very pale pink (cooked) before you take it out, place it on a plate with the kale (sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese if you wish) and quinoa, and have an amazing, healthy, and easy dinner, Instagram included...



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

rainy running

With Race Weekend fast approaching, and in light of my recent four day running hiatus (in favor of a wonderfully relaxing weekend in Caledon, Ontario!!), the pressure is really on to keep my running stamina up. This is the last week leading up to my 10K run, so I basically couldn't get out of running today.  Tomorrow is a scheduled day off so that I can eat food and think about things I would like to eat in the future, Thursday is my mandatory second day of running plus spinning, Friday I have rowing practice, and then Saturday's the big day. So, since I can't do back to back runs anyway (even if I did cancel my day of thinking about/eating food in the present/future), it was really today or bust. So, of course when I absolutely can't get out of running, it rains. It rained like all sorts of metaphorical felines and maybe even some heavier, more industrial sized farm animals too. Luckily, I changed into my running clothes before I had a chance to see what was really happening outside, and truthfully, I did stand by the doors of my building for about five minutes, concocting last minute negotiations with myself as to when else I could fit in that run. But, there was nothing to do but go. And so I ran, and I got soaked, and it was very uncomfortable but one exciting thing I can report is that somehow, for some weird reason, it makes running feel easier.  Maybe it's because you're focusing on how uncomfortable your face is, make up running off you like a mime act gone wrong. Maybe it's because the rain keeps you cool. I don't know what the reason is for feeling so great, but I barely took a break at all, and only noticed how attractively crimson my face and chest were when I was changing back into my work clothes. My speed was better, my lungs felt fresh (you would only find that weird until that hot summer day when your lungs feel like a paper bag set on fire), and gosh darn it, it was just fun being the only one out on the path.  Slash it was a little scary slash I figured rapists wouldn't want to get soaked like this slash I just hoped for the best. Here I am at the beginning of my run, being all "oh look at this drizzle hehe"....



 .....30 minutes later, my face has become an abstract painting as I wring out my t-shirt mid-run.  There is no photo of that, fortunately.
Oh, and here I am, about ten minutes into the run. Don't let the photo deceive you: you could barely see through the rain! (shoes are now aquariums...hopefully not permanently...)


You know, I have a strong aversion to being uncomfortable, and though I definitely was uncomfortable running in the middle of a rain-a-thon, I would highly recommend it to everyone! Variety is the spice of life or if you're not into sayings, just think how hardcore you'll look to anyone eating a grilled cheese sandwich while sitting in their diaper on the bus. You, stallion of endurance, majestically slamming the puddles like insects under your fervent gallop*. You, unbridled, a champion of athleticism, wincing while boldly piercing rain droplets with your stoicism, passing them as they collect on your glistening biceps and rock solid calves*. You- a rain runner.

*I did not resemble any of this. My appearance was more akin to a wet eggplant rolling down a moderately slanted hill.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Athletic Club: TAC Physique

Imagine the following scenario:  You enter a ballet studio. A warm afternoon sunshine falls onto the pale, polished wood floor from the windows by the ceiling. A ballet bar runs across the length of the room. Sultry Latin music fills the air. A single chicken breast lays at the back of the room. I am that chicken breast.

Or such is the extent of my flexibility, grace, or endurance, as I've come to learn this afternoon at the TAC Physique class at The Athletic Club.  Never mind that I decided to stock up on booze before my favorite liquor store supposedly goes on strike tonight, and subsequently decided to nonchalantly walk into the gym with two bottles of red wine, already adding to my confusing image, but I, despite my best efforts, looked ridiculous all around.

TAC Physique is described as a toning class focused around ballet-style movements. The instructor took us from dumbell-heavy toning moves, to squats, to push ups, to pliés, to something called a Second Position, to high ballerina-style kicks, to side kicks and twists and lunges and then I died. Or at least I thought I was going to.  How can running endurance be so different from toning endurance? Look, I didn't think I was a pro, but I thought I would at least look like this:




And instead, well, you get it:




I can't remember the last time my muscles felt like they were tearing, but they began to burn about ten minutes into the workout.  Hamstrings, why you gotta be like that? I thought we was close, with all that running!  But anyway, that's just TAC Physique for you - an intense (but actually really fun) muscle-toning class where you feel like you've got all the grace in the world (thanks to the legitimacy of the ballet bar) despite all the sweat running down your chin.  I'd love to go back, although admittedly, I could barely handle the 40 minute lunch time class I did, so I'm not sure I can handle the full evening hour-long version. 

Thank God there's wine.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

writers vs. storytellers

Yesterday, while on the bus, I happened to be sitting beside a woman with an e-reader, and in typical fashion, taking advantage of my creepy reflective aviators, I read several pages of her book with her. It seemed to be a drama revolving around politics, and some of it went something like this:

"Rachel was definitely nervous now."

"He ran across the street really quickly."

"They both gasped at the same time and you could even see that his palms were getting sweaty."


This reminded me of a recent book I read which included lines like:

"There were fancy dishes on the table and you could take anything you wanted."

and

"She remembered her sister back home and became sadder."

The turbo-dork inside me shuddered with each of these lines.  I mean, Rachel was definitely nervous now? How do we know that? Was she unsure of her nervousness before? Was she only sweating ever so mildly prior to this moment of clarity? And then he ran across the street...quickly? Do you mean he jogged? Did he sprint? Why would you settle on the most basic of adverbs to describe his running when you could explain what triggered his pace in one word, instead? Then they both gasped at the same time, and suddenly a third person (YOU) appeared with the ability to see the condition of his palms. This happens all the time, apparently. 

And as for the aforementioned book I read recently, I was told it was "a really, really good read", and after reading it, I was:




Here's the thing: both of the authors are "best-selling authors". Both books are likely flying off the shelves, or are at least worthy of being recommended to e-readers. One of the books even has a movie made after it.  But oh my God, the books are so badly written.  So why are they so popular? I think it's all in the storytelling.  A good storyteller captures his audience with a sequence of exciting, gripping events, all presented with fluidity of narrative motion and a sort of fast-paced thought-process that makes you feel like you're basically watching a movie made of words. A good storyteller can tell you what happened NOW, and what happened NEXT, and how that ended.  A good storyteller doesn't have time to focus on the little aesthetic details, unless they relate directly to the story and help move things along. A storyteller, however, is not (always) a writer.

A writer is someone for whom the words are a craft, not a means to a transmission of an event.  A writer molds the words, keeping in mind their texture, shape, smell, and all those other pretentious things bearded people discuss at coffee houses. A writer is an observer, an analyzer, and the person for whom it's all in the details. For writers, stories are kept in vaults until all the right words are found, and the Rubik's cube aligns to precisely capture every idea in its absolute purest, yet most saturated form.  Each word waits to be tailored like a suit, each sentence is revised until it's able to say its absolute capacity with just one little breath, and each chapter of a writer's book contains the writer's uttermost potential (hopefully). 

Some books are meant to be fast reads, and that's because they transmit very simple action-like messages that make us feel not only like we've watched a paper-movie, but also make us feel accomplished for, well, reading a book.  I'd attribute a lot of the success of these best sellers to that exactly: the opportunity for me to say I read a book, without actually having had to absorb the words too much as long as I got that in Chapter One Betty found a sword, and in Chapters Two to Eleven, she killed a man and then grew a set of wings and died. I got the story, I've moved on, I've crossed the book off my checklist. Next.
Fast food, fast books.

Although, there are some really great novels out there that fall into the 'fast read' category, so I don't want to be a hater about anything that isn't Dostoevsky.  I don't mean to say that this type of novel is unnecessary or "bad", but rather that I personally believe there is a real distinction between writing to tell a story and writing because you're a writer.

And, actually, I sometimes prefer the 'fast read' to a 'better-crafted' book, simply because I have a really hard time focusing on a story, though I could really use a beach read, for example.  I have a stack of books by my bed that I've been waiting to read for years, two of which are:





The first one I've been putting off reading because it's just too.damn.hard to comprehend, and I keep losing my train of thought while I'm reading it because it's super hardcore French, and the second one has been an exercise in meditation because I've been getting off track imagining every paragraph that describes a certain situation.  So there, the secret's out: I don't read a lot, mainly because I devote a lot of attention to the books that I read, and can't often find enough time to sit down and have a good ol' focus sesh.

And as for what type of person I think I am: I think of myself as someone who always sort of drunkenly weaves in between these two types. I try to make every word I write feel special, but you just never know what'll turn out.  It's kinda like a potato.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Athletic Club: Zumba

By now, I may have mentioned Anais a few times, as my fitness inspiration-provider. Now she's taken that term to a literal level by gifting me with a one month pass to The Athletic Club, where the pool water is of salt, and the reception area has a waterfall. Monthly membership at this gym is almost triple what I pay at the Y (complimentary rag included), so needless to say I wouldn't ever have tried it otherwise. I decided to check out their group fitness schedule, and to take the opportunity to try as many of the different classes as I could.  Remember how I was saying that, typically, Zumba gives me as much of a workout as applying deodorant?  Well, on Mother's Day, my mom (who, being a supreme baller, has a full membership at this club) convinced us to try their version of it. It's been two days since I attended this class and I still feel like this:



I am exhausted, and so, so, so sore. The class is amazingly, painfully intense.  The room is dark, illuminated only by disco lights and either a strobe light or my personal seizure, and the music is loud, Latin, and fast. You have to keep with the rhythm, and there's a muscle-contracting step for every beat, so you're never just standing around reading the paper. The only breaks you get are between songs, and if you don't take the 4 seconds to grab water, you'll be very, very sorry.  The moves are different for every song and make you feel like Shakira, or at least Pit Bull, and maybe you do look like those people, but, having caught my reflection in the mirror, that is definitely not the case for me. Grateful for the lack of lighting, I barely kept up with the shaking, twisting, reaching, slamming, jumping, and...hooting. Yes, people hoot. Or woop, I guess. It's pretty funny once you get into it, and gives you that little bit of encouragement when you're ready to sashay the hell outta there. I saw a few people walking to the back of the room midway through the workout. During the remainder of the class, while we shook our chests at the mirror and straddled imaginary stallions, they squatted and shuffled their feet in gentle defeat. My pride would not let me join them, though my heart screamed to stop.

I would highly recommend this Zumba class for anyone who's looking for a workout that, as Zumba always promises, feels more like a party.  I'm really looking forward to the rest of this month's line-up!

Monday, May 13, 2013

missed connections

This is the story of how I came on to a Mexican man.  The story takes place in Varadero, where we went on a family trip just a couple weeks ago. It was day two of eight, which is important to note because usually this type of shit only happens towards the end, which sort of makes going home exciting since all you want to do is escape the mess you’ve made...but this time it happened at the beginning, making the rest of the trip exciting in the way you might be excited to know that someone is coming for you with a knife.  


It was dinner time, and we were hungry. The three of us (myself, my mom, and my sister) arrived at the restaurant and, as usual, began looking for an unoccupied table.  Sure, the regular tables were free: the ones directly in front of the freshly produced cutlery bin that smells like hot retainers; the table at the very entrance of the restaurant which serves as a visual display of tonight’s menu for every person who walks through the main doors (“Oh look, she got the beef. It’s beef night. Oh, oh and beside her beef…I knew it- the paella’s out. Look, Randy, paella.”) Then there are the deserted tables surrounding diarrhea-covered families comprised of wailing children and their seemingly-deaf parents, and the tables that, for some deeply mysterious reason are just never cleaned.  So, what do we have left? The coveted tables by the windows. 
And, suddenly, I spot one: a perfectly clean, unoccupied table by the window and out of children’s harm’s way, with a little red carnation in the middle in a little white vase.  Let me just preface the next part with: all of this really happened. I’m not making this up.

I quickly walk over to this table  (it’s maybe 8 feet away) illuminated by the heavens above, and pull out the chair in front of me. Right at that moment, a tall blonde woman violently enters my line of vision, sprints towards this very table, and SITS IN THE CHAIR. She waves at someone and, momentarily, a tall guy comes over and sits in the chair across from her. They start unfolding their napkins and I just stare at them, my hand still on the back of the chair, so stunned by the situation that I am literally catatonic.  Then I turn to look at my sister who, just like me, is looking like a taxidermied squirrel (complete with frozen look of bewilderment), and then we both turn to look at my mom who is standing back there, 8 feet away, looking like this:


We sat at some random table, between the cutlery and diarrhea, and everyone was quiet, and then my mom was all “I can’t even believe this shit” and I was all “FOR REALZ” because by now we were feeding off each other’s anger, and then we were quiet some more and then she said what I was really, really hoping she’d say: “I’m gonna go talk to them.  They can’t get away with that.”
And that, online friends, is where everything truly went wrong. 

We were on our way to the buffet area when my mom suddenly sped up and marched towards the stolen table.  My sister, in typical fashion, looked away pretending she was but a lost bystander, and I, in typical fashion, bit the inside of my right cheek.  What wrath would my mother lay on these shameless hooligans? I couldn’t wait to hear it. And…then…this happened:

My mom:  $#$*&^@%!
Woman: ??
My mom: You don’t speak Russian?
Woman: ??
My mom (to man): Where are you from?
Man: Mexico..
My mom (now to me): Ohhh, okay. *wink*

WHAT????  A WINK??   WHY WHY WHY??? And what happens next??  I could do nothing but look at the couple, who had put down their utensils and were now looking up at us with Mexican confusion, and then looked at my mom…and winked back. Apparently, when failing to produce an adequate original thought, my brain felt that copying my mom's inexplicable gesture was the next best thing. So, there was the original inquisition, then there was an exchange of winking, and then, there was me pivoting on my heels and walking away, my mom and sister following. We were officially the three musketeers of failure.  (Take THIS, jerks! Nobody steals OUR table! Where are you from? WINK!  ...to the buffet, comrades!) 

I passed the deviled eggs, and circled the trays of canned carrots, but nothing enticed me: all I could think about was the awkwardness that we had created. I felt incomplete. I had unfinished business. I knew I could've said something better, something more poignant, something zingy, something to make them think twice about stealing people's seats like that. I stuck a fork into the tower of tuna, but it just didn't feel right.  Just then, my mom walked up to me and said: "Let it go. Be the bigger person." 

And, you know what? I'm trying. I'm trying to let it go, but all I can hear is the sound of our eyelids flapping in a nightmarish recollection of our obscure winking. I must fix this. Still, I should be the bigger person. I will just scoop up some tomatoes, and I will be the bigger person. Grab a little rice and be the bigger person. Oh look it's ice cream I love ice cream be the bigger person oh my gosh is that sprinkles? how did they... be the bigger person be the bigger person. Suddenly, I see them, standing in the line for fried beef, probably preparing to swoop in and scoop the next person's portion into their pants. Something overcomes me- call it adrenaline, or maybe I'm just ghetto.  Something overpowers all of my reasoning, and I robotically walk over to them, except I don't know what to say, and the woman just happens to be distracted by a recently-materialized platter of moldy cheeses, so it's just the man looking at me now, and so I, with every ounce of courage in my shaking body, contort my face into the shape of what I think is a dirty look.  I start by looking down at his feet, then slowly draw my eyes up, squinting the left one, and smiling in the way I once saw DeNiro smile at someone he had very little respect for. You know, like a half smile that's kinda like "keep the change, you filthy animal".






But also with..

I told you. I don't know what is happening to me at this point.





The man's expression shows little recognition as he stares back at me, so I decide to drop my gaze back down, only to realize that I have officially completed what is called the Elevator Scan. Omg barf.  All of this is happening really, really slowly, and I'm walking by him with the fluidity of an interpretive dancer (I do not know why), and finally, the man can no longer hide his confusion/fear/arousal(?) and says, quite loudly:

"Wow."

I passed him, then I passed the chicken station, then the waiters, then I walked past the front doors, and out of the restaurant. It suddenly became clear to me that I had managed to both harass and hit on an innocent man who clearly had only arrived at the original scene to find his wife lovingly sitting at a table waiting for him, while a strange Russian family touched the back of her chair in silence.
The rest of the week was a mix of terror and dread. Each time we passed each other at the buffet, I burst into a tiny fire. There was no explaining any of our collective behaviour- it was a stew of anger, multiculturalism, and perhaps even one-sided arousal. The best scenario I could hope for was him thinking I was crazy. Crazy in love, maybe, or just the kind of crazy you might get knowing that someone stole your table. I'd gladly take the latter.