Safe cycling in the city

My cycling commute is often my favourite part of the day. It’s a great way to get a little sunshine into my day when I spend so much of it inside tied to my desk. But it can also be stressful, and frustrating, and often even scary. I know lots of people that are too nervous to ride their bikes in the city, especially during rush hour, and I honestly can’t blame them. Toronto isn’t the most bike-friendly city, and even though about 50% of my commute includes bike paths, they hardly seem to offer any additional safety.

So I’ve compiled my tips for riding safely in the city based on the issues I see most often on my commute!

cyclist

6 Safe Cycling Tips

1) Slow down. I see so many cyclists that zoom through traffic, but the faster you ride, the faster you’re going to be slamming into that car, door or pedestrian. Slow down to give car drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists a chance to see you. Slow down to give yourself a chance to spot obstacles like streetcar tracks, pot holes and people or pets running out into traffic. I’ll admit I ride my bike really fast on my commute, but once I hit the downtown core, I slow waaay down. There’s so much going on, you really have to watch it!

2) Avoid right-turning vehicles. Wait patiently or carefully pass on the left. Passing on the right of a right-turning vehicle is the #1 stupid thing I see cyclists doing frequently. I’d say the only exception is if you can cross along with a whole group of pedestrians, but even then proceed with caution.

3) You are invisible. Drivers generally aren’t looking for cyclists when they’re looking to make a maneuver like crossing through an intersection or turning into traffic from a side-road, and even though you’re right there in front of them they honestly might just not even register your presence, since they’re looking for other cars (remember that basketball-gorilla experiment?). If possible, try to make eye contact. Even then, don’t assume. This one got me into trouble once. I was waiting to make a left turn onto a main road. A driver slowed way down, and I assumed he was letting me in. Nope. Just as I crossed through, he started to accelerate. I only got tapped, but it was definitely not a good situation. I think he’d actually slowed looking for a street sign and hadn’t seen me at all. Continue Reading

Wedding Stress & Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Smoothie Recipe

banana chocolate oatmeal smoothieLast night, I tossed and turned for hours while I stressed over tiny wedding planning details. It seems like every couple weeks I have one of these sleepless nights when my anxiety completely takes hold before my emotions simmer down again. Things always seem worst at night in the dark, don’t they?

We’re still more than 6 months away from the big day, but there really is so much to do. Other than our venue, we don’t have anything else confirmed! Now, we’ve made significant progress in narrowing down our other vendors, but I know I’ll feel a lot better when we have a few more deposits down and contracts signed.

My sister reminds me that I should spend at least as much time being happy and excited as I am stressed, but it’s really hard! I am so excited to marry Mike, and I know that our wedding is going to be wonderful, but there are just so many things that I need to get into place between now and then that sometimes, like at 4am last night, it all just seems so tremendously overwhelming.

Wedding planning has also been hard because it really makes me feel my mom’s absence. It’s strange, but even now, 6 years after her death, I sometimes almost forget that she’s gone. It’s that momentary urge to pick up the phone to call her, and lately such a strong presence in absence when I visualize my wedding day. To be honest, since my mom died, I don’t really think of her very much in my day-to-day. When she died, everyone told me that she’d always be with me, and would always be watching (kind of creepy!), but I’ve never felt that. I’ve really never felt her with me, but lately I’ve more strongly felt her absence.

This ties into my stressing lately when I have those moments of feeling sorry for myself because I don’t have a mom to help me plan my wedding, and I don’t have a mom to actually step in and take care of things, like moms do. Before she died, I remember talking to her about this. I remember wondering, “But mom, when you’re gone who is going to help me??” And she logically responded that I’d find differently people to help me depending on what it was that I needed help with. Totally makes sense. If I need help fixing the sink, I’ll call a plumber. If I need help with the seating chart, I’m sure I have a friend that will come help me out.

Her response was comforting to me at the time, but now I realize that it misses that moms offer a sort of help that no one else does; it’s that  comfort and assurance that everything will be ok, always. But even when I’m up all night stressing over how we’re going to coordinate flower pick-up, and who’s going to light the candles for dinner, and how we’re going to learn to dance, I do know that everything will be ok, always. I guess way down underneath all that stress and anxiety, I really do have that comfort and assurance somewhere deep within, so maybe that’s how my mom is helping me after all :)

Now I’ll follow that up with a delicious Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Smoothie that is wonderfully thick and creamy and a deliciously indulgent way to start the day!

Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Smoothie
 
Prep time
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Author:
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 cup almond milk, divided
  • 1 chopped and frozen banana
  • ½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • ¼ cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 handful raw spinach
  • ½ cup ice
Instructions
  1. Soak oats in ½ cup almond milk overnight, or for at least 1 hour
  2. Add spinach and remaining almond milk to blender and blend until smooth
  3. Add remaining ingredients and blend, adding more almond milk if necessary

banana chocolate oatmeal smoothie

Sporting Life 10K race recap: 58:51

crowd

On Sunday, Mike and I ran our first 10K, and it was so much fun! We’d already gotten our race kits in advance, as locals are required to do, so we just had to show up shortly before our start time (9AM). We drove up to the start line because it was only 20 minutes away, while taking the TTC would have taken about an hour. I was a bit worried about finding parking, since the race website warned it might be a problem with the 25,000 participants that day, but turns out it was no trouble at all! We parked a few blocks away in a near-empty lot, since we figured we’d lucked out and the closer lots would be full. When we walked up though, the parking lot right next to the start line still had some empty spots!

Everything was pretty well organized, and we didn’t have any trouble figuring out where we needed to be. We got lined up, managed to find my co-worker, Joanne, and were ready to go. We really lucked out with the weather, since during the week the forecast had warned of rain and maybe even thunderstorms. We ended up with a nice, sunny, but not too hot day. I heard from someone that ran in a later wave that it was super humid, but we didn’t find it humid at all, so I think we really lucked out with near-perfect conditions. The breeze as we approached the lake near the finish line was so wonderful.

As I’d mentioned, my goal was to finish in under 60 minutes, but I wasn’t honestly sure that I’d be able to do it. On most of my casual training runs, I was coming in at over 30 minutes for 5K, so it didn’t quite add up, but still, I was determined. My official time was 58:51! Woohoo!

race-results-sporting-life-10k

I didn’t struggle too much physically or mentally during the race, but I definitely did feel my legs start to tire around the 8K mark. My sister and her bf came out to cheer us on and we conveniently ran by her bf’s condo, so they got to see us run by at the 7K mark, and then they came and met us at the finish, too. It was so fun to have them cheering us on, since overall there weren’t a whole lot of spectators on the course. There are a couple designated cheer spots, but most people were just at the end, so a lot of the race was almost eerily quiet. My favourite signs were “Your legs will forgive you” and “Worst. Parade. Ever.” haha.

laura-jill-mike

I was keeping my eye on my pace throughout the race, so by the halfway mark I knew I was cutting it a bit close for hitting my sub-60 goal. I knew that if I didn’t get in under 60 minutes, it would probably only be by a minute or two, so I really didn’t want to let that happen. I wanted to do whatever I could to achieve that goal if it was at all possible. I knew I was going to feel good about finishing, but I knew I would feel great if I hit my sub-60 goal. So I didn’t stop for water or walk at all. Even though I’d run a 10K distance before, I’d never run it 100% without stopping because of the usual streetlights and all, so I felt pretty proud of that, too.

Mike took of on a sprint in the last 100 or so meters, so I ran as hard as I could. I wasn’t able to catch up to him, but I did run so hard that I definitely felt like puking the moment I crossed the finish line. But the feeling passed, and I felt pretty good, and not too sore for the rest of the day. We took a nice long walk in the afternoon, and I stretched a little, so I’m feeling pretty good today. A little stiff, but nothing major. I’m playing volleyball tonight though, so I’m  not sure I have much hustle left in me.

IMG_4622

It was really fun running the race with Mike and Joanne. We left Joanne behind somewhere around 6K when she stopped for a water break because of my sub-60 goal (and we’re jerks!), but it really helped to have friends to run with. Mike was really funny during the race because he was all, “I’m never running a race again” and then after we finished he said, “ok, maybe I’d run another 5K or 10K sometime” and then by the evening he was wondering when the next race was! I’d like to run another couple races this summer, but my big goal is going to be the Scotiabank Half Marathon in October. While 10K wasn’t too painful yesterday, running that two times over and then some seems pretty crazy right now. But so did running a 10K!

post-race-recovery

Sunday is race day | Sporting Life 10K

How is the Sporting Life 10K already here so soon? How is it even May?

On Sunday, Mike and I will be running our first ever 10K race! We’re excited, and maybe a little nervous. We’ll also be running with my co-worker and running buddy from my twice-weekly lunchtime runs, so I’m at least feeling great about running with people that I’ve run with before (and 30,000 other people, what?). We’re sort of all around the same speed, so it should work out ok.

I’ve run a 10K distance a few times now, so I know that I can do it. Now it’s just a matter of how quickly can I do it, and how much am I going to love/hate doing it. My goal is to finish in under 60 minutes, which I think it reasonable as long as I push myself just a little bit. Everyone says that race days are always quicker, and this race is on a slight downhill, so I’m banking on those factors to help me get in under an hour. I know I’ll be thrilled just to finish anyway :)

Earlier this week, we threw some intervals into our lunchtime run, and OMG, it was so much more painful. Ever since my official running group dropped off over the winter, I’ve totally slacked on any of the speed work in the program, so after this 10K, that’s going to be my focus.

I’ve even started thinking about signing up for the Scotiabank Half Marathon in October. It’d be great motivation to keep running consistently over the summer. But I won’t get ahead of myself, and I’ll see how things go on Sunday first!

Wish me luck!

Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Hot Sauce

Habenero Hot Sauce | Sweet and Spicy

Some people looove hot sauce. I’m not one of those people. I am ok with spicy things, but I could take them or leave them, and rarely add hot sauce to my dishes. But when you have a big bag of habaneros that are quickly wrinkling up because you couldn’t resist grabbing them from the discount produce rack ($0.22 for so many peppers!), hot sauce seems like a good option.

I’d never made hot sauce before, but it’s actually super easy: wash, chop, blanch, toss, blend, pour, enjoy. The hardest part is getting through it all without crying and coughing once all that spiciness gets all up in the back of your throat, but pro tip: leave the kitchen while your fiancé takes care of the rest.

This habanero chili hot sauce, based on Pepper Joe’s Island Hot Sauce recipe, became Sweet + Spicy Pineapple Hot Sauce out of pure necessity. We ended up with nearly a half gallon of mega-spicy just-a-dab’ll-do hot sauce. We were planning on freezing a lot of it anyway, but we really didn’t need a 10-year supply of hotter-than-hot hot sauce, so I googled ways to bring down the heat.

Adding a big can of crushed pineapple seemed like the most delicious option. So rather than a 10-year supply of hot sauce, we have a large quantity of Sweet + Spicy Pineapple Hot Sauce that we can use a lot more liberally. So far, I’ve enjoyed it tremendously on my scrambled eggs, baked fish and pork chops.

Breakfast Burrito with Sweet and Spicy Hot Sauce | Pineapple + Habenero PeppersHomemade Hot Sauce | Sweet & Spicy

Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Hot Sauce
 
Prep time
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Author:
Ingredients
  • 8-10 habanero chili peppers
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ tbs salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 can crushed pineapple
Instructions
  1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat
  2. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds (avoid touching eyes after handling peppers)
  3. Blanch peppers in boiling water for 30-40 seconds, remove from water
  4. Add onion, carrots and peeled garlic cloves to water and cook until soft
  5. Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth
  6. Store in a glass jar or bottle in fridge, or freeze in batches

Homemade Hot Sauce | Sweet & Spicy Habenero Peppers

Birthday month stalled my weight loss (and why I’m ok with that)

birthday cupcakes boots and bourbon

March is birthday month in my group of friends, so we’ve been doing a lot of eating, dancing, drinking and celebrating lately!

For my own birthday, we went to Boots and Bourbon, a local country bar. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to ride the mechanical bull, but I had such an amazing time with all my friends that came out. I felt so loved. Thanks, y’all!

bday flowers

The downside of a month packed full of celebratory occasions, is that my weight loss progress totally stalled. It wasn’t just birthday eats, but also some stress-eating during a few emotional low points (wedding planning! work! friends! life!), which sabotaged my weight loss this month.

chill ice house

But I’m OK with it. I still tracked things pretty consistently on MyFitnessPal.com and stuck with my running program. Rather than letting myself get discouraged because I didn’t lose any weight all month, I focused on the positive progress I’ve been making (running 5K like it’s no big deal now, yeah!). And honestly, just that is progress in itself. Losing weight without being crazy about losing weight is just as big of a goal as dropping those pounds.

high tea birthday

Especially when trying to lose only a small amount of weight, the difference between maintaining and losing is only a few hundred calories per day, so it’s really easy to go over, especially when birthday cupcakes are thrown into the mix. A few extra dinners out on the town and an extra slice of cake can spell the difference between losing weight or not, or even gaining. So while the difference between losing, maintaining, or gaining can be super teeny tiny, the difference between losing my sh*t and just taking it all in stride is the biggest deal ever.

hollywood-birthday-party

Some days, weeks and months I’ll be able to stick to my diet and lose weight, and other times it just won’t happen. It could be social events, stress, hormones or a combination of all those things, like it was this month, but life happens and feeling bad about it isn’t going to help anything (and usually only makes things worse!). Weight loss isn’t linear, and the ups and downs are part of the process. The best thing I can do is just keep tracking, and keep coming back to my goals and keep working on my relationship with food.

newshoes

Another thing that I’m hoping will help me stick to my goals without getting totally crazy around food is Kimberly Snyder’s new book, Beauty Detox Power! I love her advice regarding super healthy food, but losing weight would be easy if it was JUST about the food.

The reason many of us run into trouble is because our relationships with food are SO COMPLICATED! And Kimberly Snyder’s new book promises to cover so much more about the mind-body connection. Can’t wait to learn more!

Also, with pre-order, Kimberly Snyder is offering the most insane giveaway including a chance to win 15 Vitamix blenders and a trip to Mexico! AND SO MUCH MORE.

Click here for all the details!

birthday flowers

From around the web:

About the psychology of eating.

Got food issues? Sign up for free coaching emails.

A journey towards IIFYM.

An honest post about binge eating.

And avoiding the slippery slope (and more tips).

Wedding Checklist: Save the Dates – Done and done

New Year's Eve Save the Date

Since we nailed down our venue, the next thing on our wedding to-do list was to send out Save the Date cards.

I don’t think Save the Dates are done very much (at least I haven’t ever received one), but because of our New Year’s Eve wedding date, we wanted to make sure to give all our guests ample notice. It’s a busy time of year, so sending out Save the Date cards would give everyone plenty of time to plan, especially for our guests from out of town.

Instead of sending snail mail, we used PaperlessPost.com to send out electronic Save the Date cards. It was so convenient and the designs are super cute and can be tailored to fit any theme. They have thousands of templates and designs to choose from, and it was so much fun to design a custom card that suited our New Year’s Eve theme.

I just uploaded a picture that was taken of us on our trip to Paris, where we got engaged, chose a template and added some text. In just a few minutes, I had our Save the Date ready to go. Although it’s not the same as getting a letter in the mailbox, you do get all the satisfaction of personalizing the card with a background, envelope and envelope liner, which your guests get to open electronically. Plus, you can track if your Save the Date was opened, so you know who to follow up with if you see that your less tech-savvy aunt didn’t check her email.

A really cool feature on PaperlessPost.com is that you can select an option to collect your guests’ mailing addresses, which we’ll need when we’re ready to send out the invitations later this year. Guests are also able to send you a message within the system to send their congratulations or to ask any questions they might have. Now that our guests’ email addresses are in the system, we can conveniently use it to send out individual or group messages throughout the year if there are any changes or if anything comes up closer to the wedding date. We’ll also be able to send little reminders to any guests that forget to respond with their address.

We’re planning to send hard copy invitations out to our guests in the mail later in the year, which can be ordered straight through PaperlessPost.com, too. Once our guests reply to the Save the Date with their mailing addresses, they’ll be conveniently ready to go for the invitations.

Save the Date Envelope

Running Update! (and Wedding Plans)

I ran 10K!

I’m really excited to share that I ran 10K for the first time ever on Saturday! I ran it in a slow 75 minutes, but I did it! I still have another two months before the SportingLife 10K to get my speed up, since my goal is to run it in under an hour, but it just feels great to know that I can actually run that distance. Honestly, guys, running for 5 minutes straight was a huge accomplishment for me last year. Running 20 minutes straight for the first time seemed crazy, and when I reached 30 minutes straight I was so amazed that my commitment was paying off.

Since January I have been running around 5-6K at least 3 times per week in accordance with my training plan from my work running group, and although I found it getting easier each week, I still didn’t see how I could possibly double that distance. But on Saturday, I slowly ran a full 10K and I’m still thrilled by this accomplishment.

I have never been a runner. When I was in 7th grade, I started running with the cross-country team and at our first race, I quickly found myself at the back of the pack. Only a few minutes into the race, I came around a bend and saw my mom in the crowd and just ran off the course to her, saying I didn’t feel well. And I never went to cross-country practice again.

The key to this recent success can be chalked up 100% to consistency. I have run at least 3 days per week, and usually more like 5, each and every week with a really gradual build-up that avoided injury and burn out so that I was able to stick to the program. Woohoo!
in it for the long run

Upping the Pace

I’ve now downloaded the next level training plan which will bring me to a half-marathon distance at the end of 8 weeks. Although the distance will increase over time, I’m mostly interested in the speed work components of the program that will help me pick up the pace so that I can finish the 10K race in under an hour. I have a really hard time pushing myself to go faster since most of the time I’m just pushing myself to finish, but just the way that my distance built up gradually over time, I know my speed will, too.

Wedding Planning Update

We have a venue and a date! I’m so so so excited! We’re going to be getting married on New Years Eve! I got the idea of a NYE wedding from an episode of the show “Four Weddings” that I saw last fall and just fell more and more in love with the idea as time went on. I am so excited to celebrate our wedding and then ring in the New Year with a big party and all our friends and family.

We’re going to be holding the ceremony and reception in the same place, which is exactly what I wanted. The venue we chose is so perfect for this because it’s a lounge with distinct areas that will accommodate the flow of the evening from ceremony to cocktail hour to reception.

Also, in other super exciting wedding news, I went wedding dress shopping for the first time! I was really nervous about it because I was worried that I wouldn’t find anything that looked good on me. I was dreading that frustration that I usually experience when clothes shopping where nothing looks good, but it was actually the opposite! I didn’t find the dress, but I have a much better idea of what I’m looking for, and I can’t wait to set up more bridal shop visits.

Next steps are to lock down our caterer, find a DJ/MC and send out those Save the Dates! And then onto the other million little decisions that need to be made that make this wedding planning thing so much fun 😀

High Protein Biscotti

healthy-breakfast-biscotti

I work in an office, and out of habit and boredom, I’m a frequent snacker. I try to bring a big variety of healthy snacks to munch on throughout the day, but by the time 3pm hits, Starbucks treats are calling my name. Since 400 calorie muffins aren’t doing anything to help me achieve my weight loss goals, I know I need to find a way to kick that habit.

I’ve been logging my food on MyFitnessPal.com for nearly two months now, and I’ve noticed that my daily protein intake is quite low, often at only 40-50 grams per day, which is less that half of what I really need. No wonder I’m always snacking, right?

I was pretty surprised to see this, since I already drink protein in my smoothies, eat fish and chicken often, and snack on nuts. It’s still not enough! I’m going to be making a big effort for the next few weeks to double my protein intake to find out if I’m left feeling more satisfied and less snacky.

So while I find myself craving carby snacks like those 400 calorie muffins, protein has greater satiating power, meaning it keeps you feeling full longer. Since a cup of protein-packed cottage cheese doesn’t exactly seem that appealing when my afternoon munchies hit, I decided to arm myself with a higher protein baked good. I’m working towards progress, not perfection!

To help me along my journey, I made a batch of biscotti to enjoy at work each afternoon along with a big mug of herbal tea.

With double the protein for half the calories, a couple pieces of this High Protein Biscotti should help keep me full longer than my go-to muffin.

quinoa-flour

High Protein Biscotti
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup (28g), quinoa flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 whole egg + 1 egg white
  • 3 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tbs melted coconut oil
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 scoop (30 g) Vega Protein & Greens Vanilla protein powder
  • Mix-ins: ½ cup mixed nuts and dried fruit
Instructions
  1. To make quinoa flour, rinse well and spread in thin layer on an ungreased baking sheet
  2. Bake in a pre-heated 350F oven until dry and lightly toasted, about 15 minutes, remove and allow to cool before grinding in a coffee grinder or blender
  3. Pre-heat oven to 325F
  4. Add dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix to combine
  5. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, maple syrup, melted coconut oil and vanilla extract and beat gently
  6. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix
  7. Stir in desired mix-ins
  8. Form dough into a long log (approx 4"x12"x1.5") on a non-stick baking mat or lightly floured baking sheet
  9. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from oven an allow to cool before slicing on an angle (approx. 10 pieces)
  10. Bake on each side for 15 minutes, until browned
Nutrition Information
Calories: 103 kcal Fat: 4 g Carbohydrates: 11 g Sugar: 5 g Sodium: 194 mg Fiber: 1 g Protein: 5 g Cholesterol: 19 mg

Based on Protein Powered Breakfast Biscotti from Powerhungry.com.

biscotti-high-proteinDo you worry about how much protein you get? What are you favourite sources of protein?