On My Plate

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Dinner was brown rice with black beans cooked with chicken broth. I used a can of organic black beans and long grain brown rice. I “steamed” a carrot and broccoli in a pan with a couple tablespoons of water, then wilted some baby spinach.

Yesterday, I found a beautiful piece of salmon at the store for $4. I was too lazy to cook it then, so I seared it with a little garlic and olive oil today. Half of it is left over, and I will probably eat that for lunch or dinner tomorrow.

The half avocado is random, but I didn’t want it to go bad in the fridge, so I tossed it on top of the veggies with a teaspoon of low sodium soy sauce.

I used brown rice because in the nutrition course I am taking, I learned about the dangers of refined carbs for what they do to our blood sugar and the chronic illnesses that can trigger over time. Whole grains like brown rice release their energy more slowly, giving us a smaller rise in blood glucose that our bodies can handle better.

At the store, I looked for organic brown rice but didn’t find any. I am trying to make a real effort to buy organic whenever it makes sense for me (some essentials are still too expensive). I’ll have to try a different store for rice next time. My main concerns with conventional farming are runoff (which ruins the surrounding ecosystems) and pesticides.

Five Podcasts I Love

Listening to podcasts is one of my favourite ways to stay occupied on my 45-minute commute in the mornings and afternoons. I love sitting back in the early mornings and letting my mind drift to the conversations and interesting talks these podcasts provide. I keep all of my podcasts on an app called Pockets Casts on my Samsung Galaxy. I wanted to mention this app because it’s been great at letting me find podcasts, keep them organized and set them to update as I wish. Below are my top five favourite podcasts; let me know if I’ve missed any really good ones!

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The Inquiry: // This is a BBC World Service programme that is also available in podcast form. A new episode is available each week and runs only about 20 minutes long. The premise, as the name suggests, is to answer a question or inquiry. Some past episodes have explored questions like, “Should we Give Homeless People Homes?” and “Can you Believe What you Read on Wikileaks?” Many of the questions are current events related and listeners can submit questions, as well. The answers are presented simply, through expert or character interviews, and I’ve loved most episodes. Honestly, I can’t remember much of what I’ve learned listening to these programs, but I do think that being a dedicated listener has taught me to think differently about the questions I face in my own life—to really think outside the box. Two of my favourite episodes are “Can we Eat Our Way out of Climate Change?” and “Is Retirement Over?”

Food Non-Fiction: // If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that it started as a food blog and of course I’m a big food fan (really, who isn’t?) So my next favourite podcast is Food Non-Fiction, which features short episodes (10-12 minutes) about the origin or behind-the-scenes story of certain foods, fresh or packaged. I liked the episodes on ramen noodles and the one about sriracha.

History Extra: // This podcast is produced by the people bringing us BBC’s History Extra magazine. They broadcast one show each week and it’s about an hour long. Past show titles have included, “Regency scandal and the history of canals,” “Magna Carta and the Holocaust,” “Witch trials and feuding queens,” and “Crusade logistics and the battle over the slave trade.” Honestly, some of the topics simply do not interest me and given the levels of historical detail the show gets into, I find I can only keep track of the conversation threads if I’m very curious. This said, they have covered lots of really interesting topics as well. The absolute best show i’ve listen to from them is the one about the Joan of Arc trials. I recommend this episode even if you’re not going to become a regular listener.

Awesome Etiquette: // I got the idea for this blog post from The College Prepster, and actually was turned onto this podcast by her post. It’s a podcast about modern etiquette broadcast from the Emily Post Institute. Emily Post was an American author and authority on etiquette matters. I really appreciate the show because the hosts answer listener questions regarding everyday situations. I don’t always agree with the level of consideration the hosts advocate for—it borders on the ridiculous—but listening guides me in the right direction both in terms of my actions and my mindset… It’s easier to compromise one of my wants when I know exactly how or why it might bother another person. But avoiding bananas in the office because they “smell”? That’s a little much for me…

Revisionist History: // This is a podcast series by Malcolm Gladwell, and by podcast series I mean that there are only 10 episodes, a number specified at the outset. The show is meant to highlight the flaws in the ways that history remembers real events. Gladwell looks back at events from the past, sometimes well-known and sometimes not, and analyzes whether the accepted version of events is what actually happened. The cliche “master storyteller” is the only way I can describe Gladwell in this series—no other words will do.

Rendezvous in Kensington (Reflection)

It’s not true that you can’t travel back in time…

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Sometimes the past calls us back to itself and forces us to face it. Yesterday I found myself in the Toronto of my teenage dreams. I couldn’t have suspected it, in fact my mind was on the mostly terrible eight months I had spent living in a Chinatown basement apartment a few streets down, as the 510 Spadina streetcar cruised down to Nassau—Kensington Market.

And still I didn’t suspect it when I walked onto Baldwin St. in search of Kensington Ave. but it didn’t take long for me to check my phone, then ask a passerby, and find my directions. And once I’d done that there was nothing left to do but turn my head up and actually look around. And that all but knocked the breath out of me.

Here was a kombucha cafe, limitless numbers of thrift shops, a tibetan juice bar, and a cannabis dispensary among colourful shopfronts. I’d come here to find Courage, My Love, a vintage/thrift shop in search of jewellery to get myself a Sunday treat. I walked down the couple of blocks from Baldwin until the sky blue exterior of the brick house remodelled into a shop (most of Kensington Ave.) came into view but not before stopping at a couple of other thrift shops first.

Here were serious-looking women looking at tie-dyed white jeans and destructed denim, a grown man holding up a black-and-white striped pair of wide leg, high-waisted pants, and university students getting excited about the varieties of incense on offer. In short, throngs of people each exuding a vibe I never felt in my clean-cut Yorkville surroundings: pure, cutting freedom.

Maybe I imagined it.

But I felt deeply out of place, as if a cold howling wind had penetrated the centre of my chest and upset the balance inside. This was a Toronto I’d assumed was a relic of my 17-year-old mind, then viewed through the myopic lens of youth and well, completely nonexistent. But it was well and, well, alive and very real though the more hours pass since retreating into my own world the less sure I become.

At Courage, a woman with short blond hair behind the counter asked me if I needed help and I asked if I could try on some of the rings. Rings are my favourite. She lifted one of the glass coverings on the counter and I busied myself trying on ring after ring after ring. And none of them looked good. None of them looked…conventional enough. Big or small gemstones, amethyst, others blue aquamarine and red that I didn’t recognize, were neatly arranged row after row, a mix of shapes and sizes.

I compulsively slipped rings one on one finger then the other finger as if this could make a drastic difference in aesthetic and then grabbed the next ring even as I knew that it too would fail to please me. I didn’t know what else to do. I was unhappy with the whole lot. This colourful, hippy store was exactly what I’d had in mind, but I’d expected tamer people, not a crowd dressed in black combat boots with colourful hair, curly hair, short hair, no makeup, laughing and shouting and having absolutely no regard for standards of dress or fashion or even behaviour in their browsing. This was far too raw for what the 26-year-old me had accepted as “reality” by now.

Ignoring the mounting sense of panic, I thanked the shopkeeper and defiantly stepped to the back of the store for one final look. I refused to give in, to accept my difference with these people I had once been and who now I was already accusing of a million moral crimes in my mind.

Still, the feeling persisted and I decided to leave. As I all but ran to make my way back to the streetcar I locked eyes with a handsome tall man in black lace-up boots, a black t-shirt and black sweats. He was a vision of my teenage dream. He had long hair, half up, and he turned his neck as I walked by him. Despite myself, I forgot my fear and felt flattered.

The next day, I texted my best friend out of the blue,

“Went to Kensington. Weird place
Lots of hippies”

to which I almost immediately got,

“Lol yeah that’s like their hood”

Why hadn’t I known when at 18 I’d taken a hatchet to everything I liked, everything I did, to become an adult? Would I have sought people like me instead of trying to conform? I wouldn’t change a thing. I do wish I could observe the alternatives just the way I can look back on life as it actually was—or as I remember it to be. It’s part curiosity and part something darker, a hope for proof that this is the best possible alternative for me, an acquiescing of all past wrongs. This seal of approval from the world that reads, “you tried your best.” How else can we really know.

I didn’t wait long to punch back into the screen,

“Wasn’t my place. I left quickly”

And there was no response.

Ballet Beautiful

While the internet rages over Khloe Kardashian’s “Revenge Body” workout, I wanted to take the opportunity to share what home workout I have been using lately to stay healthy and happy.

Some background: I have been in exile from the gym, where running shoes are a must, because I left both pairs of mine at the family home over the holidays. I will be getting these back soon, but I haven’t missed a beat without them thanks to Mary Helen Bowers.

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If the name doesn’t ring a bell, this might: she is the creator of Ballet Beautiful, a former New York City Ballet dancer and fitness trainer to fashion models like Miranda Kerr, and she helped Natalie Portman train for her stunning performance in the film Black Swan. Ballet Beautiful, her fitness program, is based on low impact, ballet-like body weight movements at painfully high repetitions (I mean it!), which work well to build long, lean muscles—just like a dancer’s.

The really good news is that Mary has partnered with BeFit and created short segments (8-17 minute) totalling 60 minutes of workout time for different body parts. They are available on Youtube, here. This makes it possible for us all to get an idea of what Ballet Beautiful is about, even if we don’t live in New York City, where group classes are offered, or own the paid program.

It took me less than two sessions of home Ballet Beautiful to become a fan. While I feel very challenged during each workout, I love being able to get up the next day without feeling like I’ve lost half my range of mobility (I can go down stairs, lift my arms and everything!) and then get back at it again the next night.

Ballet Beautiful even has its own Youtube channel, with informative videos like an introduction to ballet muscles to useful tips like how to foam roll after one of Helen’s tough workouts. There’s even a chic series of videos titles “That Ballerina Style.” Here’s one of my favourites:

What do you do in a fitness pinch? Let me know if you try any of the workout videos I’ve linked. The abdominal one takes just eight minutes!

Clinique Seven Day Scrub

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I started using Clinique’s Seven Day Scrub Cream (rinse-off formula) a few days ago, and I wanted to share some thoughts. It’s quite different from the Exfoliating Scrub I’d been looking  for (and couldn’t find), but I still like it—maybe even more. First things, scrubbing is an amazing way to stimulate growth of new skin cells, especially after your early twenties, when skin regeneration and collagen building need an extra push.

I personally love scrubbing because it helps to keep my pores from getting congested and when I do get the odd breakout, it clears the resulting red patch faster than if I weren’t exfoliating.

The cream-like texture of the product moisturizes even after I’ve rinsed off, but there’s definitely some exfoliating action happening as well. I really like that I can mediate how deeply I exfoliate based on how long I spend massaging my skin (30-90 seconds). That way, I can get a better scrubbing some days, while giving my skin a rest on others.

This product is designed for daily use and it should be suitable for most skin types. It’s not too abrasive. I do find that for me it works best on semidry or dry skin, rather than outright wet skin (the micro-granules just slide instead of “gripping” my skin when it’s totally wet).

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How do you like your facial scrub? I’ve been a fan of the more abrasive version of this one from Clinique (the Exfoliating Scrub) for my combination skin but using this daily is growing on me.

 $26 at The Hudson’s Bay in Canada for 3.4 oz/100 ml. 

26 Things I’ve Learned in my 26 Years—

This is a steal from Klossy, Karlie Kloss’s Youtube channel. She posted a video last year that featured 23 things she had learned in 23 years. Well, today, still December 29 as I write, was my birthday. And I turned 26.

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My birthday just a few years ago :p

Though it seems like I barely had enough time to get used to saying I am 25 (and now I am 26? Already? What?) this is a hugely exciting day. It’s truly a celebration for me and it’s a time for reflection, as well. This year of all the years in my life, I have taken some of the biggest steps and I’ve learned and relearned some really important lessons!

I took notes at lunch. Here they are:

  1. Life is what you make it
  2. It’s a balance of pleasure and pain
  3. It’s good to stay connected to the past but not to live in it
  4. Education and skills are very important
  5. Being on time matters
  6. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Do the best you can where you are!
  7. Get outside and adventure to new places.
  8. Don’t spend time with people that don’t enrich your life.
  9. Social media is great for staying in touch, if you make the effort
  10. Planning saves the day, almost every time
  11. Spend money on experiences and things that enrich your life
  12. Not everyone is going to like you… Let them, in peace
  13. Podcasts might be the best thing about the new millennium—listen to them.20161230_002636_001-1-1
  14. Netflix is overrated.
  15. Kindness wins—
  16. When your neighbours are making too much noise, just turn on the fan
  17. Vintage jewelry and clothes will always have a place in my heart.
  18. Love yourself but some flaws are easy to fix…
  19. Motivation takes pushing but inspiration pulls you. You can only push so hard…so take the time to get inspired
  20. Instagram is not real life.
  21. Back up your photos and your files!
  22. Get help, you’ll live through it
  23. Sleep is essential
  24. A mug of tea, a blanket, and your favourite movie can make everything better
  25. But sometimes you need a glass of wine.
  26. Age is just a number… Growing up is hard work!
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Cousins. I’m the little one.