The sun was shining this morning so there was no excuse to keep me from exercising. So I pulled on the spandex and quick-dry, laced up the runners and headed out with my fellow Canuck for a looooooooong walk along a path that follows a river to Almaden “Lake” (by “lake” I mean a man-made reservoir that collects all the rain water that flows down from the foothills in the surrounding area).
Once we got there, here was the view looking back towards where we came from:
All told, we walked about 10 kilometres there and back, but I kept a running tally going for the day until I sat down for dinner and started typing this. When I checked my pedometer I was pleasantly surprised to see this:
I would LOVE to burn over 500 calories a day EVERY day! Can you imagine??? All I have to do is walk or run ten kilometres! That should be a cinch! (not)
I admit, my puppies were barking a bit after that walk. My arthritic foot with the bunion, especially. But as they say, “no pain, no gain.” Or in this case, “no weight loss.”
The only problem with that is, as I have said before, I am my own worst enemy. I got in the car and this is what I proceeded to do:
So there go 200 of those 500 calories.
But I persevered. I had healthy snacks today on my walk and I had a glass of red wine with the most amazing dinner. E.V.E.R.
That’s spaghetti with white truffle oil, roasted garlic, fresh campari tomatoes, wilted baby spinach, fresh arugula and shaved parmesan cheese. I think I could eat this meal every day if I had to. It’s the white truffle oil and roasted garlic that does it for me. I think I am part Italian or it’s somewhere buried deep in my genetic code.
Tomorrow’s project: container gardening. It might not help me burn 500 calories, but I’ll definitely get something out of it for all the effort I put in. We got all the planters, soil, fertilizer, seeds and plants. Now we just have to put it all together and we have an instant vegetable garden! I’ll post pictures soon…
Moving to the surfing mecca of the world means moving to the Land of the Beach Body, which I do not possess (yet). So I figured it was high time I got one. Problem is, it’s really, really, really hard to get a Beach Body. They are highly coveted and contrary to popular belief, require a lot of work to maintain. The amount of time and energy spent on cultivating and nurturing a true Beach Body pretty much means having no other hobbies (or a 9 to 5 job so I’m told) and following a very strict eating regimen (not the ‘d’ word). Many publications have done a fantastic sell job convincing women like me that we, too, can have a Beach Body, if we just follow these 10 easy steps in 30 days!!!! If only it were that easy, we would all have them and those publications would be obsolete.
I also heard one of the must-haves for a Beach Body is self discipline. While writing this, I scarfed down a delicious bowl of pasta with garlic, tomatoes, spinach and arugula, followed by a few freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. This Beach Body thing isn’t going to be easy to get.
And then I remind myself, “you used to be a high-performance athlete and coach. You ate self-discipline for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This should be a cinch!”
HA! No, double HA! Those were the pre-children, high metabolism, I’ve-got-all-the-time-in-the-world-and-I-can-eat-anything days.
Motherhood, gravity and a general lack of motivation have taken up residence in my body over the last twenty years. I can’t exactly evict them so the Beach Body can move in, but maybe there’s still some room in that there body of mine for a new look and feel, or so I think.
Today was my “soft launch” to getting a Beach Body. It started with a simple Yes/No decision: are you going for a run today?
It was a crappy weather day, but I said “yes.”
I managed a short and fast run…
Food is a different story. When it comes to will power the outlook is pretty grim. Why? Because I. Love. Carbs. And. Sugar.
Here’s a rundown of what I consumed today:
Raisin bread with natural peanut butter and homemade strawberry jam
Tea with honey
Vanilla yogurt with a handful of coconut cashew granola and fresh strawberries
A slice of sourdough bread with tuna, tomato and cucumber
Hummus and sugar snap peas
A navel orange
5 mini peanut butter chocolate cups (that’s like 300 calories!!!)
Spaghetti with garlic, fresh tomatoes, spinach and arugula with some parmesan
5 mini homemade chocolate chip cookies (that’s like 300 calories!!!)
Not egregious, but not exactly a lean diet either. I know I can do better. I just have to want to do better.
These pictures might just be the motivation I need. They are the unvarnished truth that I cannot deny–my mom body. It doesn’t help that my face is beet-red from running.
So here’s what I know about me: if I can train for a half marathon, then I can train for the beach. I will never deny myself foods and even junk foods that I enjoy. I had to when I was 15 and competing on the national rhythmic gymnastics team and I think subconsciously I will rebel against that for the rest of my life. Okay, not so subconsciously. I like goals; tell me what I have to do and I’ll do it: reps, weights, exercises, activities, I’m your girl. I’m competitive (no shit!). I will eat the 500 calories I burned even after I tell myself not to. I think being lean and muscular is way more attractive than being skinny.
Based on what I know about myself and my patterns of behaviour, here is the challenge I am setting for myself:
I could be setting myself up for failure here, but even if it’s a long walk or a half hour of abdominals and arms, I’ll take what I can get.
Health(ier) eating habits.
There is no sense in setting unrealistic goals so I’m not going to bother. There’s already a bunch of stuff I can’t eat (mostly dairy) because it upsets my stomach, so I’m just going to do my best to make healthier choices. A little less bread, a little more veg.
Logging my activity and eating.
This is really what will keep me honest. I will see plain as day where I am falling into old habits and what I can change.
If anyone reading this has been on the Bar or Bat Mitzvah circuit in Toronto, you can probably tell someone who doesn’t know any better what to expect at a typical evening reception for a 13-year-old kid:
Gender stereotypical themes like Tiffany boxes and fashion labels for the girls, pro sports teams and rock n’ roll for the boys
Obnoxiously loud pop music, flashing lights and a couple of sweaty dancers charged with enticing reluctant self-conscious pre-teens on to the dance floor by baiting them with made-in-China giveaways
Barely teenaged girls in barely there dresses, high heels and Kardashian-style smokey eye make up
A sit down dinner for the adults who attempt to exchange pleasantries but can’t hear each other over the thumping bass music
A buffet of fast food favourites for the scores of kids that generally include burgers, chicken nuggets, hot dogs and french fries
A photo booth with tacky feather boas, sparkling cardboard top hats and wacky glass frames for accessories that dole out pictures not meant for any photo album
A kids’ candy buffet overflowing with gummies, gum balls, sour keys and every other sugar-laden treat imaginable the adults secretly covet
We decided to forego the serial (and predictable) evening reception for something a little different. I call it a 13-year-old boy’s birthday bash extraordinaire.
Mere hours after the brunch reception that followed the Bar Mitzvah service, we changed out of our fancy duds for jeans and cozy sweaters and headed down to the William P Wilder Arena at Upper Canada College.
We rented one of the ice rinks for an hour and a half for the kids (and any adults who wanted to) to skate and play some shinny. We hired a former hockey trainer of the boys’ to do some fun games and activities on the ice–we did have giveaways for the kids, but they didn’t know it. We slipped the trainer some gift cards to give to kids who participated in the activities.
We also rented out the lounge that overlooks the ice rink–this is where non-skaters and the few adults invited could hang out and watch the skating.
My son likes music but isn’t into dance parties, so he made a playlist on Spotify to play over the sound system inside the rink. I had my playlist going over the speakers in the lounge.
I hired Jacqui, who owns TWSS Balloons, to do a big balloon display over the entrance to the lounge as well as a couple of balloon bouquets inside the room–nothing crazy, but definitely festive.
I also brought some board games from home for those who didn’t want to skate and were looking for something to do. I was glad I brought them because it kept some of the younger kids entertained while the adults could enjoy a drink and conversation.
My son’s favourite colour is red, so I purposely decorated the tables with inexpensive red table cloths with a small stack of hockey pucks and a votive candle for a centrepiece. This was a kids’ party after all, so any effort on decor was for my benefit–not the kids’.
I got lots of praise for the dinner menu, but credit really goes to my son, who asked for his favourites; burger sliders, chicken wings, caesar salad and penne in a pomodoro sauce. The food was catered by my neighbourhood friend, Suresh, who owns Avondale Foodworks. He’s catered for us before and he consistently produces delicious and flavourful meals that are always crowd pleasers.
Before dessert was served, the kids all gathered at one end of the lounge and were treated to a show by Magic Dan. He was great with the kids, held their attention, encouraged lots of participation and kept everyone, young and old, entertained. My youngest was particularly freaked out when Magic Dan made him float in the air!
Dessert was probably the most fun. I asked Suresh to order donuts and chocolate milk from Tim Hortons because what kid doesn’t like donuts and chocolate milk? And yes, there was another cake! I actually wanted to order a cake from a bakery because I really didn’t think I’d have the time or the energy to do another cake, but I made a deal with my husband that if I baked the cake (and prepared the icing), he would decorate it. So I baked four marble cakes, recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart. Then I left it to my husband to ice it. You can see the results below–a cake that looks like a giant hockey rink.
I did end up doing a candy table for the kids, but I had my rules: no bowls of open candy that grubby, germy paws could dig their hands into. I ordered retro candy and gum from a wholesaler and set it all up in galvanized metal trays and buckets. Kids would take a loot bag and fill it with their candy loot.
At the end of the candy table, kids picked up their parting gift: a red and white trucker-style baseball cap with a custom design embroidered on the front.
All in all, it was a great party with lots of variety for the kids and the adults. The vibe was just right. There were still plenty of details to remember and lots of elements that maybe others would have happily left to a party planner, but I really enjoyed researching all the options and coming up with a party concept that I knew would be emblematic of my son.
This post has been a long time coming…13 years to be exact! Although I didn’t know it thirteen years ago.
My oldest had his Bar Mitzvah just over a month ago and I feel like I’ve just recovered from the big event.
He did an amazing job reading from the Torah, giving his speech to our guests, and maintaining his confidence and composure the entire day. He really shone like a star that day and was deserving of all the accolades and attention.
My job was to set the scene for our guests after the pomp and circumstance and for that I spent many months planning, plotting, “pinning” and preparing. There were so many details and so many checklists, but here, I will give you a brief glimpse into the celebration that followed the ceremony.
Our brunch began by welcoming our guests to “the cottage.”
I hired a graphic designer, gave her the guest list in a spread sheet with the table assignments along with some suggested fonts and icons and the dimensions for the foam core board. She was amazing to work with and had the poster delivered right to my front door. We simply mounted the board on an easel right inside the entrance to the reception room.
As people wandered in and found their tables, there was a slide show playing to music projected on to a drop cloth that I had hung on the wall, with patio lights framing it. Â The “screen” was flanked by red plastic Muskoka chairs that were draped with wool camp blankets and throw pillows with wildlife imagery such as owls, deer and moose.
All the photos in the slide show were of the family at various family cottages in both summer and winter. Putting together that slide show was a labour of love. I also printed all the photos on to 4″ x 4″ paper, which were used as part of the centrepieces.
My mother, my husband and I did an assembly line, punching holes into each photo and tying jute twine through the holes. These photos were then hung on the young birch branches in the centrepieces.
Speaking of the centrepieces–these were probably the cheapest DIY centrepieces ever and yet the most personal. I got little red socker plant pots at Ikea–there was a lot of red in the decor because that is my son’s favourite colour–filled them with pea gravel and off cuts of birch branches from my girlfriend’s cottage in North Bay, and the young birch branches were from my mom’s cottage on Georgian Bay.
We stood the pots on round wood “coins” that my husband cut with his chainsaw from fallen trees in the ravine in our neighbourhood. I just had to schlep them all to the car!
And the final touch were the rocks around the bottom of the pot, which were collected by me and my son from the harbour near my mom’s cottage.
So I think all told, we spent about $5 on each centrepiece and the biggest expense was the printing of the photographs.
The additional expense came with the guest keepsakes that I put on each table. These were maple syrup candles in tins. They certainly didn’t come cheap, but I thought it was important to give guests a small memento from the day as a thank you from us.
The brunch was delicious, catered by L-Eat. Niki and Tony did a fabulous job and the presentation of the food was simple and elegant. We made sure everything that was served were things we would typically eat for brunch: french toast with maple syrup, quiche, bagels with all the fixings, yogurt with granola and berries, and as a special treat we arranged to have smoked trout from Kolapore Springs trout farm up near my parents’ cottage.
But the best part of brunch was the dessert table! This is where I truly got to showcase my baking skills, with the help of my mom, sister and mother-in-law. First, I decorated the table with objects that represented my son and the cottage–Scrabble pieces that said “Help Yourself”, antlers, a red model sports car, an old cribbage board, a vintage waterski, red oil lanterns, and a photo of my husband holding our son as a newborn.
All the baked good were displayed on red tin trays, big glass cookie jars with red lids, even the waterski was used to display the homemade butter tarts.
There were homemade salted chocolate chunk cookies, s’mores bites, butter tarts, honey cake, shortbreads, poppy seed cookies, ginger cookies and also chelsea buns from the Thornbury bakery (the only thing I didn’t bake!).
It wouldn’t be a celebration without a cake, right? Of course I baked a cake! It’s the giant, incredibly chocolatey cake recipe from Deb Perlman’s Smitten Kitchen. It’s the same cake I baked for my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, except this time I made marshmallows, charred them and put them on the cake. I also made banana chocolate chip cake “logs” and I made flames from melted red and orange lollipops. A candy maker I am not!
I can’t say the cake turned out as nicely as I would have liked from a visual perspective, but it tasted damn good.
Credit for all the photos goes to Julius Ding of Julius and James Photography. This was their FIRST Bar Mitzvah photo shoot, and they really did capture the essence of the celebration, rather than the staged photos of the family and Bar Mitzvah boy that we all too often see. This was a celebration in real life and I’m so glad Julius was there to capture the moment.
There is so much more to tell you about the day because it didn’t end with the brunch! But I think I’ll save those details for another post. I’m starting to get tired just thinking about it again. Phew!
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to learn more about what I did and how I did or where I got my ideas from.
I have set myself a goal that I hope is achievable: 4 months to whip myself into shape (and get awesome looking arms in the process. ha!). Just in time for my oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah. The goal is this: exercise every day. Even if it’s only 20 minutes. And make it count. That means not undoing 20 minutes of exercise by mindlessly munching on potato chips while laying in bed watching Netflix. So I’ve printed out calendars to track my progress.
I know exercise is only half of the equation. Nutrition is the other half that tends to be my undoing. I’m pretty diligent about exercising. I am not so disciplined when it comes to making healthy choices. I don’t eat a lot of fast food or junk. I can’t–it would wreak havoc on my stomach. But I like sweets. Cutting out sugar–chocolate especially–is near to impossible for me. I’ve done 30 day challenges of no chocolate in the past. I’ve even cut out sugar. But I don’t believe it’s realistic for me to maintain that kind of rigor in my day-to-day life. So what it comes down to is moderation. Can I get through 121 days and be disciplined about what I do and don’t eat? I Â honestly don’t know.
My days start out well with a breakfast of steel cut oats (sprinkled with cinnamon, maple syrup and almond milk), a banana and some yogurt. But things go downhill after lunch when the 3 o’clock munchies kick in and I’m like a raccoon on the prowl for hot neighbourhood garbage.
I know my intentions are not that noble–I would love for people to show up at our family function and whisper to each other, “she looks great! she doesn’t look like the mother of a 13-year-old!” And deep down I know this is about more than vanity. This is about my overall health and well-being. This shouldn’t just be about trying to fit into a dress or impress a crowd. But hey, it’s a good excuse.
After watching CookedÂ on Netflix, I was inspired to make my own sourdough bread. After all, Michael Pollan swore it was the easiest thing in the world. All it takes is flour, water, and some wild yeast encouraged by the bacteria floating through the air in your house. Easy!
My first attempt to make sourdough starter was an abysmal failure. The flour and water looked–and smelled–like glue, which I guess it was.
Then I showed up at work with a homemade sour cherry pie (that’s another post!) and started talking about baking with a colleague. Little did I know that she, too, had been inspired to attempt sourdough bread after watching Michael Pollan and she had met with some success. She offered to share some of her sourdough starter with me, pointed me to a website that had easy to follow instructions and then I was off to the races!
I had my doubts about the starter. It failed once again and I ended up with a loaf of glue. See specimen here:
So I decided to persevere. For those who know me–and I mean, reallyÂ know me, I am a relatively impatient person. So waiting for a sourdough starter to be ready, or waiting for bread to proof, are exercises in patience for me. And you can’t rush a good loaf of bread. I fed my starter again and decided to just watch it for about 24 hours. Sure enough it came back to life and started bubbling away, and almost “breathing”. That’s the best way I can describe it. It’s literally alive! When it had filled up the bowl, I decided it was show time.
I mixed the starter with flour and water and mixed it with the dough hook. I added a spoonful of kosher salt too. Some recipes tell you to knead the bread a lot and to do some of the kneading by hand to encourage the glutens to bind with each other. Other recipes say to be careful not to overdo it with the kneading because you don’t want to destroy the wild yeast in the starter that will give the bread that lovely bubbled centre. It’s really hard to know which recipe to follow and what measurements to use when you’re a beginner. This is when the internet is not your friend, but seems to be deliberately working against you to leave you second guessing which is the best recipe to follow.
In the end I found a pretty straightforward recipe at Cultures for Health. There’s even a nifty video that walks you through the recipe, but I decided to try it without watching the video. I think I might watch the video next time.
So here are the results:
In the end the bread was quite tasty–crispy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside with some air bubbles that are indicative of sourdough bread. There is a nice tang to the flavour and the kids seemed to like it, which is a good thing. It didn’t puff up as much as it probably should have after proofing, which could mean one of two things: the sourdough starter wasn’t as mature as it should have been to help the bread rise, or else I didn’t leave it to proof long enough (12-ish hours???).
I can see why making bread is addictive. It’s not an exact science, and yet the success of your bread making dependsÂ entirely on science.
The sourdough starter is once again percolating away in the glass bowl on the counter and I look forward to my next attempt at making a loaf of sourdough. Let me know what the secret of your success is when making sourdough. I could use all the help I can get!
I admit I have not exercised every day in the past two weeks. I think I’ve missed three days. I’m not going to make excuses. Yes, there were reasons, but I’m not making any excuses. Instead, I am resolving to make the next two weeks epic.
We took the kids to the Mandarin restaurant on the way down from the cottage just over a week ago (I know, you’re thinking, “The Mandarin??? How is that a healthy choice???” Believe me, when you’ve got three hungry boys in the car, healthy choices is pretty low down on the list of priorities) and this was the fortune I got in my fortune cookie:
I’m taking it as a sign to do my best to be true to the sentiment that you can only have good health if you’re healthy and that means eating good food and exercising.
So I’m trying to stick to both without it being about how much I sweat and feel the burn or by depriving myself.
Exercise has entailed many activities included biking around the neighbourhood with my kids on this thing:
And I’ve even managed an early morning hike with my four-legged friend through the ravine in my neighbourhood.
Food is always a tricky thing for me. I’m battling gallstones right now, so most of the time eating meals isn’t that much fun, and sometimes I give up and grab something that tastes good, but isn’t good for me. For the most part I’ve been good, having lots of fruit for snacks like this:
Today, I managed to squeeze in a run at lunch time–half an hour and just over 5 kilometers. Not bad, eh?
I also just ordered a new bikini, which gives me even greater incentive to work on my figure for the coming summer.
Now all I need is a drill sergeant, a nutritionist toÂ make this into a reality TV show!
It’s June 1st. Today is Day One of my month-long fitness challenge. This post is my way of being accountable. It forces me to stay honest. There is no goal. No planned outcome. No guaranteed result. It is simply my way of maintaining some semblance of fitness each day. It doesn’t have to be a marathon. It doesn’t have to mean exercising to the point of exhaustion. Nor does it have to mean depriving myself of my diet. If anything, it’s about managing my expectations. I told my husband I looked at the photos from the race I was in this past Sunday and was unhappy with what I saw. Here’s what I saw:
He said, “then you have to decide what you want to do about it and make sure your expectations are realistic. And if you want a different result, you have to do something different. But remember–make sure your expectations are realistic with what you are prepared to do.”
So I’m going to be realistic. This is not about getting on some wagon that I am inevitably going to fall off. This isn’t a diet or exercise regimen that I am setting myself up to fail at. It’s about mindfulness.
So this is how my morning began: I laced up my sneakers…
I did about 3.5km. Did a bunch of sit ups–say, 80. Got on the scale. Here’s what it said:
I know it’s just a number. It’s not a bad number. I’m just keeping it real. Keeping it honest. It may not change when the month is up. It may go up. It may go down. But it’s MY number and I’m going to own it.
I made my requisite smoothie this morning (banana, strawberries, pineapple, chia seeds and a splash of OJ). Ate a whole wheat bagel with tuna and chopped egg.
It’s lunch time now and I’m having a garden salad with a hunk of salami.
I’ve got my calendar all planned out, but as my neighbour once said to me, “Man plans and God laughs.” So this is by no means the gospel (no pun intended!), but it’s a guide. (Today is a perfect example: I ran this morning instead of doing the Body Fit class at the Y).
So let’s see how it goes!!! Let me know if you have ever done a month-long challenge. How did it go? What was the best part? What was the hardest part? Would you do it again? What would you do differently?
Tonight we had all of our friends from the neighbourhood over to celebrate the eighth night of Hanukkah with us. I think we’re on Year 5 of our annual Hanukkah Party. What started off as a one-time shindig to celebrate the Festival of Lights with all of our gentile friends has turned into a bit of a tradition. And from what I hear, the neighbours look forward to the invitation!Â
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a bit of aÂ go big or go home approach to throwing a party so it should come as no surprise when I tell you I spend days preparing for the two or three hours of crazy that we host. It begins with copious amounts of baking, a Bar Mitzvah-worthy dessert-slash-candy table with a blue, white and silver theme and some delicious homemade latkes and hot corned beef sandwiches (full disclosure: this year I ordered the corned beef from Center Street Deli and it was well worth it).
I have a lot of fun baking and decorating the table and putting out a big spread for everyone. But man, I’m exhausted! So here are some of my photos of the dessert table, which seemed to garner most of the attention.
It was my Dad’s 70th birthday this past week and to mark this amazing milestone my siblings and I planned a late afternoon wine and cheese party for him.Â
The offerings were meant to reflect my father in the foods that we chose. We did this by visiting The Cheese Boutique. It was my first time there and I can’t believe that in all the years I’ve lived in this city I have never been there! Better late than never. This place was like a wet dream for foodies. The first thing I saw when I walked in was a wall of mustards, followed by a wall of balsamic vinegars and a wall of oils. It was like walking through a maze Â of rooms, each dedicated to foodstuff. Jams. Teas and Coffees. Pastas and grains. A cold meat “locker.” Fruit and Veg. A cheese fridge–the ceilings were hanging with cheese and legs of prosciutto. And then the maze opens up to a room with a large cheese counter, the perimeter of which is surrounded by yet more culinary delights. The wall of chocolate. Pastry and breads. Oh! My! Heaven!
We got to sample some amazing cheeses and some charcuterie. These would be the centerpieces of our party. I started out by putting slabs of wood on the table that my brother-in-law had made. I decorated around these slabs with succulents and branches with berries and a few tea light candles to add some light. It was very Autumn-ish. Then came the food: cheese, meat, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, clementines, smoked fish, foie gras, fig jam, olives, gherkins, goat cheese, fresh figs, grapes. It was a veritable cornucopia of deliciousness. And it all got gobbled up! If you are looking for some inspiration, here are a few shots of the table.