Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gourmet Burger Company

My quest to eat every burger in the city of Toronto to (hopefully, but not likely) find the best one led me to revist a place I've been once before and is conveniently around the corner from me.
After returning from the long weekend Niagara trip we took amazing naps before deciding we were too lazy to cook anything.
Burgers it was.
And fries/sweet potato fries.
John, never one to say no to bacon, got the smoky bacon burger.
I sampled it, it was pretty good.

But for my personal preference, it didn't top my choice.
The spicy cajun burger was amazing. It doesn't quite come through in the picture but the flavours were incredible. The creaminess of the avocado countered the spicy kick of the jalapenos and the burger itself was juicy and tender. I planned to only eat half and ate the whole thing it was so good.

I highly recommend checking this place out if you want to join me on the quest for the best burger in Toronto.
Or if you just want to enjoy a delicious burger this summer.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pulled Pork & Cornbread Crepes

I spent the long weekend in Niagara on the Lake in a rented house with a group of amazing people.
We sipped wine in between bike rides, finished a keg, played a lot of drinking games, swam and sat in the sun (somebody got a serious sunburn. Hint: it was me).
We also did most of this in costume.
It was Frisky Business vs. Cherry Poppins vs. Teenage Mutant Drinking Turtles.

At Hinterbrook we did a tour of the facility and samples a riesling, a sauvignon blanc, and a very interesting franc blanc. John and I ended up buying a bottle. It's a white that is as hearty as a red.

Then we hopped back on our bikes and headed over to Strewn where we sampled a bit more and I bought a bottle of a gewurtz/reisling for the birthday girl.

It was a bit cold but riding with the wind in our faces in beautiful wine country felt amazing.
Especially since I was on 2 (seperate) hours of sleep and needed something to wake me up.
Night shifts...
Plus we had a bike 'gang' of 11 people and the guys kept trying to do tricks like stand on the seat, lie on the seat... in the picture you can see the guy in the middle has his legs up.

My team was the Turtles.
The other teams really coordinated their outfits and we took ...a different approach.
I did paint abs and a shell on my shirt though.

And I don't know why this picture is so stretched but.... ladies and gentlemen, your warning to always wear (and reapply liberally) sunscreen:

Now to your recipe.
I love pulled pork and try to make it about once a month. It lasts a few meals and you can use it in a lot of different ways - sandwiches, salads, etc.
I was inspired by a friend who had made pulled pork for her teams brunch on the weekend. She also did a pan of roasted root vegetables.
So I bought some potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and onion and roasted them in some olive oil and maple syrup.

I also wanted to go the cornbread route but with a different spin.
I made cornbread crepes!
But I had no eggs so I kind of just didn't add eggs...
They turned out a bit thicker than I was hoping which is my error cause I didn't thin them out enough in the pan. But they were still tasty!

Cornbread Crepes

(recipe courtesy of Southern Living)

3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides. Transfer to a bowl and chill 1 hour.
  • Coat a 7-inch nonstick skillet with vegetable cooking spray; place over medium heat until hot. Pour 1/4 cup batter into pan; quickly tilt pan in all directions so batter covers bottom of pan. Cook 3 minutes or until top is set. Turn out onto wax paper; cool. Repeat with remaining batter.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Feel Good Friday: a confession I've wanted to get off of my chest for awhile

If you love alliteration as much as I do then you might appreciate this new series I want to start.
Feel Good Fridays.
Dedicated to health & wellness, beauty inside and out.
I thought for the first ever Feel Good post that I would share something with you that I've wanted to talk about for a long time.
I've written posts before but they always ended up saved in my drafts, too terrifying to publish publicly.
It's strange and honestly very frightening to lay it all out on the table but sometimes it's the best way to really heal.
Plus this is like my diary so if you're not in for a heavier post then turn back now.

For the past (almost) 10 years I've dealt with an eating disorder.

Webster's Dictionary defines it as:
"any of several psychological disorders (as anorexia nervosa or bulimia) characterized by serious disturbances of eating behavior"

That was my attempt at lightening the mood. We are all aware that every good speech starts with a dictionary definition.
I won't go into detail but I can assure you that pretty much any mental image you're conjuring in your head right now I've likely experienced.

This may (or may not) come as a shock to some people, but my close friends and family are well aware that I've had this problem for a long time.
It ebbs and flows - both my weight and my state of mine - but I've found that the times that it gets out of control are when I'm under a lot of stress.

It started the summer between the end of high school and the beginning of University.
I can't pinpoint when it stopped being a healthy lifestyle and moved into more dangerous territory but I can remember going for a long run one day because I felt guilty about eating several cookies.

Then I had a hard time adjusting to being at a new school where I didn't know anyone and most of my friends had gone away for University so I was suddenly alone in my own city too.

In between classes I started going to the gym because it meant I didn't have to sit alone in the cafeteria. I had been eating healthier during that summer and then I was cutting out high calorie foods and then I was trying not to eat more than I had burned off that day.
It became a fixation and it took my mind off of missing my friends and the challenges of university.

I won't post my weights but by Christmas I had dropped somewhere between 10 and 15 pounds and on a 5'3 body that is a lot.
I can remember my mom rubbing my back one day then confessing how worried she was because my spine was so prominent.
(To be fair even when I'm rocking some extra weight my spine still sticks out. I lovingly refer to it as my stego-spine because it might as well be stegosaurus plates).
She also made me get on a scale in front of her to prove I weighed what I said I did.

But then I started to make friends and my friends came home and I was going out more and eating again.
And I gained all of the weight back that I had lost, as well as an additional 10-15 lbs.
My metabolism had essentially shut down, convinced it needed to save every calorie I put into my body. Which only meant that I felt very uncomfortable in my new body and which led to other complications.

Things sort of stayed stagnant, I'd have good days and bad days, until eventually, about a year later, I was back down to my regular weight.

I started going to a support group a few years later when I confessed everything to John.
He was so supportive. He listened, never once judged me, and started researching it and keeping notebook. He looked up every way to support me and it's something I've never forgotten.
I went to a once weekly group at Sheena's Place for a few months but eventually stopped going. I found a lot of the stories to be inspirational but many also made me feel only like I was a failed anorexic.
So to stop myself from falling back down that rabbit hole I decided to focus on myself and try just leading a normal life.

And it worked!

Until my final year of university.
That summer (our first anniversary) John woked on a dig in Jordan (the middle east, not Jordan Ontario) and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. At one point I went 4 days without eating.
I dropped a bit of weight but not nearly as much as the first time and I was able to gain what I had lost back thanks to a romantic reunion and an insane amount of delicious food in Europe.

I went a full year without harming my body but old habits have a tendency to die hard. Things didn't change and, again, I'd have good days and bad days.
I'd have days where I felt good and days where I hated what I saw in the mirror.
I'd have days when I laughed and days when I cried.
Days when I enjoyed myself and days when I cringed thinking about how much I had eaten.
But even though I wasn't healthy, I believed I had things under control.
Until the latest relapse last summer.
Again, more stressors. Graduation. Trying to find a job. Planning a wedding.
I started my training for the sporting life 10 k earlier than usual and kept it up.
That turned into almost daily runs, none shorter than 45 minutes.
I was going for 10 mile runs and eating almost exclusively vegetables.
By July I had dropped to the weight I had been at my worst. And then I lost a few more pounds.
My best friend invited me to grab a coffee then tearfully confessed how worried she was about me.
My mom continually asked was I okay? Was I eating? Had I fallen into my old habits? Even my dad asked and he notoriously avoids those kinds of situations.
Another friend who I had confessed to years ago called to offer support because he had seen pictures from my bachelorette and was worried.
John begged me not to lose any more weight.
Even my boss at the time told me I was not allowed to lose any more.
The sad truth is that while the scale confirmed I was in fact losing weight, I didn't see it in the mirror.
Looking back now I see it.

Once I realized how concerned everyone was, I started cutting back on my running and started eating more. And I gained the weight back, to the point where I no longer fit into my bridesmaid dress for my best friend's wedding! I had to have it let out in the hips and even then it was still tight but I was too embarassed to ask for them to let it out more.
I could tell you that right now I'm not starving myself and that I'm perfectly healthy and cured but that wouldn't be true.
The nasty thoughts and sick mentality aren't something you can just turn off, especially when they've been a part of your life for a decade.
I know I have a tendency to overdo physical activity. 'Anorexia athletica' I've seen it refered to. Add it to the other titles I identify with.
I still binge eat sometimes and sometimes eat only tomatoes.
I have good days and bad days and I suspect I always will but I've said it many times before - I'm sick of being unhappy when I look at myself.
Why? Our value is not determined by a pant size or a number on a scale.
I don't want to deal with stress anymore by counting calories instead.
So here is my promise to myself.
I will be happy with who I am because I have people who love me, really love me, and it doesn't seem right that they have no problem loving me regardless of my weight when I don't.
Today 'I'm going to eat better' stops being code for 'I'm going to severely cut calories'.
Today 'I need to go to the gym more' stops meaning 'I need to burn at least 500 calories every trip'.
Today 'I'm fine' stops meaning 'I'm struggling'.
So often I want to jump on the "eating disorders are just people being selfish and self-absorbed and wanting attention" train because I know so many people suffering from illnesses that they don't inflict upon themselves. And let's be serious here, I feel stupid admitting that I struggle with something that I do essentially inflict upon myself.
But mental health issues are like that image of an iceburg that I hate.
So much of it is below the surface.
I wish I could shut off the voice that screams in my head when I overindulge and I wish my heart didn't sink when the scale says something higher than what I wanted to see.
I wish I didn't automatically turn to dieting and over exercising when I get stressed.
It's my coping mechanism and even though I'm well aware that it's a bad strategy, it's strangely comforting at times.
Which is sick, I know.
All I ask is that you don't judge me, and just read this as a long overdue confession that I needed to make in order to start healing my mind and my body.
I know I'll never look like this (Chicken Tuna, my instagram creep crush) :

mainly because as much as I may over do it, I'm wayyyyy too lazy to commit to the kind of gym time and diet that this body requires.
But I do want to get strong instead of skinny.
I want to be healthy - body, mind, and spirit.
And honestly I think that's the first step in this new, right direction.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

To all of the mother's in this world - new and experienced, young and old,

Restaurant Review: The Lobster Trap

I love Groupon & Buytopia.
Love them.
I've purchased yoga classes, restaurant coupons, massages, a watch, and an assortment of other things.
Most recently I purchased one for The Lobster Trap.
John is a big seafood fan and this restaurant gets good reviews so I took him for a surprise dinner outing on Thursday night.
$30 for $70 worth of entrees sounded like a lot but the prices are quite high so the deal from Buytopia was perfect.
We enjoyed some deliciously buttery garlic rolls and John ordered a half dozen oysters ($16).
He maintains the best oysters he's had are from The Miller Tavern but he certainly devoured the ones in front of him pretty quickly.
I ordered the filet mignon ($32) with a baked potato while John opted for a 1 1/4 lb lobster ($36).
The steak was easily one of the best I've ever had. It was cooked perfectly and was so tender I barely had to move my knife to cut through it.
Even the lobster was delicious and I am not a big seafood fan.
We were shown by our server how to find some secret meat in the tail - lobster meat can be pretty sweet but the tiny morsels of meat from the tail was perfection.
The staff were very friendly. The restaurant doesn't feel overly upscale but the prices certainly seem that way.
The food is well worth the price if you're willing to splurge a bit.
Or, better yet, find a deal!

Late Night Ramblings

I found this website.
Now I want to plan a trip to Orlando for either January or February.
It gives me a better reason than just really wanting to go explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Really really wanting to go.
Anyone want to run a half marathon in Florida with me?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

How Good it Feels to Accomplish Your Goals

I love running.
I'm sure I've talked about it enough over the years and I'll admit I do have a love/hate relationship with it.
When I'm in the zone it's all I want to do. My body craves it.
Then I take breaks (often well needed as I have a tendency to push myself too hard sometimes) and can't understand why I ever wanted to get off of the couch.
But that runner's high is exillerating when you feel it.
I've gotten goosebumps just feeling the air and taking in my surroundings on some runs.
I started really running the summer I graduated from high school. I had run some gentle cross country in middle school for track days but I was more interested in the soccer team, the volleyball team, and believe it or not the basketball team. Yeah, all 5-foot-3 of me made the basketball team.
The summer after I finished high school I worked with a girl who was big into fitness.
So I decided that I would start exercising too. My dad was a runner so it seemed natural that that's what I would do.
I started going for runs around the neighbourhood, slowly building up to longer and longer distances.
Last Sunday I ran my 3rd half marathon.
It started up by Mel Lastman square and ended right by Lake Ontario at Ontario Place.
What a beautiful run it was too. The weather was incredible - sunny and warm with enough shade every now and then to keep from completely overheating - and the course took us down Yonge Street then through a more secluded and tree-lined area that I had never been through before.
Once we ventured back into downtown Toronto we were 17 km into the run and the finish line was starting to feel more real.
So I ran.
21 km.
I even managed to sprint the last few hundred metres to the finish.

My goal was to beat the 2 hour mark and as I rounded the 16 km marker at just under 90 minutes I had a good feeling I was going to do it.
Once I spotted the finish line and saw the clock I ran with everything I had left and finished in just under 1 hour and 55 minutes.
And now I've added this big beautiful medal to my small but growing collection.

Warrior dash in 2011, my first half marathon in 2010, and my second half marathon in 2011.
Tomorrow morning I'll be running the Sporting Life 10k for the 5th year in a row.
I'm excited because it's a great course to run, because I expect to see a lot of people I know at the finish line, and because for the first time ever John is running it!
I'm so proud of him - I'm torn between wanting to run beside him the whole way and wanting to sprint ahead so I can try to capture the moment he crosses the finish line.

And because I want to be a little bit of a braggart (if you've participated in any runs check out this website to see your times!) I'm posting the record of my runs and gun and chip times.
My half marathon times have improved vastly - from 2:11 to 2:06 to 1:55!
Last year's SL10K isn't on there, I think because the organizer changed.

And I've obviously signed myself up for a bigger challenge:
30 km in August!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Quinoa + Fall Vegetables PLUS: Bedroom Redecorating Update

Sometimes I make great choices. Case in point: the new bedroom set I purchased recently.
Sometimes I make poor choices. Case in point: not sleeping at all on Wednesday until the bedroom furniture was set up.
My dad made the mistake of phoning me on Tuesday and got suckered into coming to Ikea with me to help me carry a bed frame and 2 side tables.
Tuesday night I started to piece together the first of the tables but then I had to go to work so I didn't get too far.
I came home on Wednesday morning and decided that I would set up the bed frame then go to sleep.
Taking off the mattress, wheeling out the old frame, sweeping the floor and clearing out enough space for the new frame took about half an hour.

Then I built.
It took unil about 1 pm before I had this:

I was exhausted but it was so worth the effort. It looks so nice and the bed is so high, it's almost like sleeping in my sister's bed (ed note: she has the most insanely comfortable bed I've ever slept in).
Now I need to get the matching dresser, a new tv, and to put up some photos on the wall above the bed.
I tried out a new recipe the other night using the food de jour: quinoa.
It was hearty and very tasty.
The recipe can be found here.
I left out the eggs.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Time for a Change

When I was living with my parents - once we'd moved into our house and I had my own room - I used to redecorate and move furniture around at least once every 18 months or so.
I think it's healthy to change things around, clean out the clutter that's accumulated and start anew.
I've been living in my apartment now for 4 1/2 years and not once has anything really changed. Sure we got a new shelf here and there, we did buy a wardrobe because the closet became too small (I selfishly took it over) some new pictures to hang up, we cleaned out our closets and shelves a few times, but apart from that everything has been more or less untouched for almost 5 years.
I've been itching to change things around for a long long time. I've wanted to paint the place since we moved in but we've never gotten around to it.
I know John isn't such a huge fan of change (as indicated by the desire to not paint or really switch up furniture, also he said as much yesterday) but I figured it was time to stop talking about it and hoping he'd get on board and just go for it.
I moved a bookshelf out of our bedroom and into the living area where it actually works quite nicely.
That gave us some extra space in our oh-so-cluttered bedroom. I uncramped a corner and pulled the bed out into the centre of the room so that John has room on his side of the bed to open his wardrobe, walk, etc.
Then I went to ikea.
I'd been eyeing a few items for awhile and I finally put my mastercard to work.
Here's what I bought:
 A Hemnes bedframe in black-brown.
2 new matching Hemnes sidetables, also in black-brown.
Next on the list is the 8 drawer Hemnes chest, seen below.
Also a flat screen TV for the bedroom so we can get rid of the state of the art TV with built in VCR that currently occupies space on our dressers.

I started to assemble the side tables as soon as I got home so tomorrow will be spent finishing them and starting on the bedframe!
Then out for some Korean food with a friend.
Hurray for change!