Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Turning 40

It wasn't exactly billed as my birthday weekend trip - it was actually a trip over to Vancouver Island to buy our new car. But as Chris's luck would have it he was able to kill 2 birds with one stone, get the new car AND treat me to a weekend away - he's smooth like that ;-)


He wasn't quite so smooth when it was decided that the best way to get there was via Greyhound. A 10 hour journey that started in Kelowna at 11pm on a Friday night. Trust me, the greyhound depot in Kelowna on Friday night is NOT classy. At all. I'm getting too old for this shit! 2 people were refused boarding by the driver for being too drunk and another was arrested. And then the on-board toilet was out of order. For a 6 hour journey. Okaaaay then!

After a couple of hours stop-over in Vancouver at dawn and then a couple more hours on the ferry we finally arrived in Nanaimo. A long story short, the car was everything advertised and we bought it (because by that point it was going to have to have something majorly wrong with it to convince me not to buy it and have to get the Greyhound home again!!) So by mid-afternoon the weekend was ours and we had a new set of wheels to cruise in - yeah baby!

We drove down to Victoria and arrived at The Empress Hotel right on the harbourside. Our only other visit to Victoria was back in our second year of travelling - 2006 and we were still in the early years of our RV'ing adventures and long before we even considered emigrating to Canada. And I remember thinking how wonderful, grand and majestic the Empress Hotel was. And it was now our home for the next 2 nights! 


At check-in time our room wasn't quite ready. They'd upgraded us to a Harbour View so to appease us they took out luggage and sent us to The Bengal Lounge for complimentary cocktails. Darn it, don't you just hate it when someone plies you with free drinks?! 3 hours later and long after the room was ready we headed upstairs. A shower was long over-due after the journey and we had brewpubs to visit!

Our first night we headed for The Swans brewpub. We scored a table in the conservatory area which was perfect for people watching and kept a slight barrier between us and the live music - it was good but, hey I was nearly 40 and that music was loud!! And O.M.G the burgers.....I ordered the Swan Song burger but switched out the plain beef patty with a cajun-style charred beef patty and then it was loaded with bacon, mushrooms, cheese, crispy fried banana peppers and beer braised onions. I was drinking their delicious Raspberry Ale - it was so full of berry flavour and in an medium coloured ale - not some dark stout as is so often the case. The berry was so intense it was almost like it was a regular pale ale that they'd then added a couple of shots of rich raspberry liquor in it! Intense, high in alcohol and one was enough to sip on all evening!

The next morning was grey and drizzling but I headed out for a run regardless. A gorgeous, invigorating 4 miles along the harbour on a Sunday morning. The spring flowers were out - I saw daffodils, crocus and snowdrops, a man walking his parrot and some funky driftwood art 'Fan-ta-sea-Isle' (which I vaguely recalled from 2006 but it's much larger and rather more established these days - the same sailor is there!)


For a late brunch we took a water taxi across the harbour from our hotel to Spinnakers Brewpub. More great local craft beers and a fantastic menu to choose from. We settled in and received fabulous service from our host (who was a fellow Brit!). And when I say we settled in, we sure did. We said goodbye to our friendly server at the end of his shift paid our 'lunchtime' cheque and then welcomed in the new shift for the evening and opened another tab. 8 hours later we took a slow, ever-so-slightly tipsy stumble back to our hotel!! I barely remember what we ate (for either of our meals) but it was good!


I woke on Monday morning with a 4 in front of my age. 40 does seem old. I was so excited to reach my 30's, but 40, nah.....not so much. After a quick bite to eat in a local tea room we hopped in our new car for the journey home. Our final gastro treat for the weekend was Moby Dick's Fish n' Chips in White Rock - I'm telling you ma' man is classy and smooth when it comes to 40th birthday dining!! (But it was a particular delicious choice which I could highly recommend!)

An awesome weekend to remember in a beautiful hotel in a beautiful city. So maybe turning 40 isn't so bad after all. (But how did Chris manage to end up with the new car for MY birthday?!)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Part II of my 21DSD!

So it's been a few weeks since Chris came home from his trip and I finished up my 10 days of the 21DSD. On his return we had 7 days of eating with no boundaries. Then together we embarked on a mini 7 day Sugar Detox, following all the rules of the program. And then it was my 40th birthday weekend and a trip away for us (so, of course we didn't detox then!)

I'm still very passionate about the Detox and especially the incredible recipes. I think there is a HUGE place in my life for this program, and having been 'on and off' the wagon and given that I never actually completed the full 21 days anyway I'm beginning to figure out how things can look for me and how I'm going to incorporate elements of the program into my life..

What I love about Detox Programs (in general!);
  • I LOVE detox programs to get me 'back on track'.
  • I work well when I have rules and boundaries to follow that someone else has set!
  • It doesn't matter what I'm cutting out of my diet depending on what detox I'm doing, it's the discipline of cutting something out!
  • They introduce me to new ingredients and recipes - which are easily incorporated to make a permanent change to better, healthier options
What I've learnt;
  • I learnt that I can handle 7-10 days of detoxing - since I'm an all-or-nothing kinda girl with this I struggle beyond that time frame
  • I learnt that I can't socialise during a detox!! I know there are guidelines for eating out, but seriously, I don't go to a restaurant to pick a salad robbed of half it's delicious ingredients and no dressing! I can do that at home where there are no other temptations bothering me!
  • I learnt that our evening meals are pretty much ideal anyway. 'Eating clean' has been on my radar for at least a couple of years and I have always focussed on our main meal - using whole ingredients, plenty of fresh produce and whole grains
  • I learnt that all the other meals of the day are where we slip up. Lunchtime and snacking in particular
  • I learnt that Meal Planning is the key to success - Diane says it over and over and she ain't wrong. Whilst we've meal planned our evening meals (hence we do so well in this area) we've never sketched out a plan for breakfast or lunch (or even snacks for that matter) - it's gotta happen!
  • I learnt that Breakfasts need to be switched up. For the last 5 years or so Chris and I have had a smoothie for breakfast. The 21DSD has opened my eyes to lots of great alternatives and really just as quick and convenient to prepare than ye 'ole smoothie!
  • I learnt some new 'healthy alternatives' to our pantry items - we'll be making a permanent shift to the new choices from now on! I love that switching out ingredients in baby steps makes it completely sustainable and easy! This time round I realised you can't buy stock without sugar in it - from now on I'll be making bone broth. And Soy Sauce - we'd already made a switch a year or so ago from regular soy sauce to a more natural, non-GMO and lower salt Braggs Liquid Aminos, but now I'll think I'll skip the soy altogether and go with the Coconut Aminos the 21DSD introduced me to!
  • I learnt that Pancakes without any kind of sweetener just taste like cardboard and are really not worth the effort. Some things just need sweetening!
I honestly did not experience any change in energy, mood, skin condition or digestive issues. I think in the big scheme of things we eat pretty well already and I wonder since there wasn't a radical change in diet then I shouldn't have expected a radical change in any other aspect. And that was one of the reasons I think I was ready to 'quit' early. But I did totally enjoy the new meals I discovered and the discipline of meal prepping for snacks and getting batches of stuff ready and in the freezer - it's a lotta work but so worth it. I'm moving forward with lots of great 'experience' and recipes to make many changes more permanent. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Take me back to Chicago (in Kelowna!)



Back in my teens I listened to the band Chicago. I loved their music. At the time I think it was probably an odd choice for someone my age. None of my friends listened to them, and I don`t really remember them hitting the charts much in England but I think with lots of family trips stateside I must have heard them on the car radio and just loved their sound. My Dad used to get my their albums on cassette for me on his travels.

Fast forward 25 years. Last night we went to see them in concert. It was one of my birthday treats from Chris, and they were visiting Kelowna! And as I watched them I realised a few things;
  • Whilst I liked their music I actually knew nothing about them. I didn`t know what they looked like, who they were, their names, nor did I give much thought 25 years ago to what instruments they played - how they actually made their music. I just liked their sound. I liked their lyrics and especially their ballads and many a song from Chicago made it to my homemade mix-tapes - especially when I was dealing with a teenage broken heart!!
  • I am getting OLD! Though not as old as these guys!! They`ve been making music together as a band for longer than I`ve been alive! Which means much of their music was before I was even making my own choices in what I listened to (I`m telling you - it`s weird how I ever got ìnto`them in my teenage years!)
  • They are uber-talented. 9 guys on stage - an amazing percussionist, and I loved the sound of the trombone, trumpet and Sax - we don`t hear enough of those real instruments these days! I have to say though I do recall the vocal talent of Peter Cetera on many of their bigger hits that I listened to so the songs they played sounded a little different - not bad, just different.
  • These old boys have more energy and staying power than me. They were on stage just shy of 3 hours and performed an amazing set! Though it did seem to be a bit of a blast from the past when there was a 20 minute intermission! (but no young ladies with ice-cream sandwiches and popcorn for sale in the aisles)
Photo: Robin Jones from Castanet.net

I recognized around 50-60% of the set. And the rest was just great, easy listening - real toe-tapped stuff for me! I loved an evening of awesome music. Much of it has a great 70's feel to it - like a 70's TV show soundtrack (Charlie's Angels anyone) and the brilliant percussionist with his shakers and bongo drums created a real Tiki Bar vibe on a couple of occasions. It was fascinating to watch 9 talented musicians making music. We have so many brilliant musicians these days of course but the glory is often reserved for the vocalist and you don't often to really get to watch the people playing the instruments, actually making the music.

Besides I could listen to someone play Sax for me all night long.....
And for this old lady, it was a late night on the town. Now let me settle down with a nice cuppa cocoa....

Sunday, February 16, 2014

21DSD Days 8-11

The last few days have been challenging. Not in what I'm eating, but just the 'boredom' of doing the detox. Which sounds ridiculous I know! I think starting out it was all shiny, new and exciting and I was up for challenge. I rode the wave and did really well, and felt surprisingly unaffected by the change in diet.

But moving in to week 2 that feeling wore off a little. Right from the start I don't think I've experienced any of the changes in energy, digestive issues, skin condition - for the good or bad - I just didn't feel like anything had changed - which in so many ways was a good thing - it made it easier surely?! But at the same time after the week was up and I wasn't feeling like I was seeing any benefits I think that's where the boredom crept in - why was I doing this?

I stuck with it, in terms of following the detox 'rules' but I I started slacking with the meal prep and eating! A couple of evenings I felt a little nauseous and I really wasn't hungry so dinner didn't really 'happen', and then that ended up with a slight knock-on affect when most lunches are supposed to be the leftovers. OR whilst I'm at work I'm often in the habit of eating lunch really late - and often have 2-3 snack sessions rather than 1 'big' meal and sometimes the 'big' meal that the detox program tends to call for didn't really happen. But the thing was I wasn't really hungry - I was kinda freaking that that I should eat rather than I wanted to eat. And as for those modifications for working out - um, yeah, wasn't really doing that either (but then I don't feel like I needed it either - certainly haven't suffered for energy so far).

I had a couple of evenings where I had planned a Spaghetti Squash Bolognese meal. In fact I think I first planned it out in week 1 and it got pushed back. And then it got pushed back again this week, I got lazy and reached for one of my freezer meals instead. There's a clue there.....I obviously wasn't excited about the meal and perhaps I shouldn't 'force it' on myself! - Jeez....let it go!! And that didn't help either...

Friday I did cook a wonderful salmon steak with sweet potato bites and salad (sweet potato is one of those 'no' foods unless you need the extra carbs for working out - and that day I did a P90X3 workout, an hour dog walk and a 6.5 mile run so I feel very justified!!), but pretty much everything else these last few days have been repeats or non-event meals!!


So I got to double digits - 10 days complete with NO sugar - Yay for me!!

Because on Day 11 it all went horribly wrong! I was mildly aware ahead of time that this day might be my downfall. A friends 50th birthday party - I'd already avoided his restaurant meal out, so couldn't skip the open house! But it went wrong before that...

Breakfast-time. And the realisation that pancakes really do taste like cardboard unless there's at least a little maple syrup!!! So I indulged. Literally just 2 teaspoons over 3 pancakes. And it was enough. The rest of the day was a gong-show. I didn't eat properly and I headed over to the open house at 5ish. I restrained myself from everything except cheese for the first half an hour. And then I let riiiiiiip!


Bread, salsa, cheese, caramel chocolate, chips, fruit pie, cookies, and since I was eating bad I may as well have a glass of wine, or two!. There was nothing good in any of it, but damn did it taste good!

I woke today with a mild 'sugar hangover' (I've had them before when I've drunk too much cola - same as a regular hangover but without the fun factor! but luckily soda hangovers wear off!) This too cleared up and I got busy with my day. The leftover pancakes - and you know? - maple syrup. Because I can.

I've made the decision to 'postpone' the remainder of my detox for a couple of days. Chris gets home today and we have a day off together tomorrow - and I'm owed a Valentines treat!!

But this isn't over....! And as Arnie says....I'll be back!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Green Booster Juice


Usually when we juice it's just a mis-matched random assortment of fruits and vegetables, often chosen based on how soft, squishy, wilted or shriveled looking something it is! And no matter what we juice it always seems to come out a sludgey brown colour. Often tasty, but rarely visually appealing. So it was about time I created something with a little more intention!

Since I'm following the 21 Day Sugar Detox program I can only have very limited amounts of fruit, and since Chris is away I can also have a lot more celery than usual (he hates the stuff, but it's so awesome for juicing with great juice content!) Really I just pulled out anything green from the fridge and set to work - I love the zing of the fresh ginger and everything tastes better with some mint, no?!

This turned out perfectly and the fresh ginger and mint give it a real boost!

Ingredients (makes approx 2 cups)

  • 1 green apple
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1/2 lemon
  • handful fresh mint
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 1/2 package of power greens or spinach
  • 1 cucumber
  • Stalks from 1 bunch Kale
This made about 500ml of juice for me which I split into 3 portions and topped to a 1 cup serving with a little cold water.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

21DSD Days 6 & 7

Yesterday was Family Day in British Columbia - a new statutory holiday for us (it's only our second year!) After my distinctly blah afternoon on Sunday I had an early night with 'The Book Thief' on my kindle. And another sleep-in so I got a fabulous 9 hours! However when I woke up I felt quite weak and light-headed. I pottered around the house getting some chores done but I did decide to skip my morning workout. I cooked up the second batch of pancakes with the batter left over from yesterday, and I added a healthy dollop of Greek yogurt and hemp hearts on top, along with the vanilla coconut butter and some mashed banana. I wanted to make sure I started out the day with breakfast first thing packed with plenty of protein - mission accomplished!

After an hour of dog walking through a fresh layer of snow in the morning I headed to a local community event where I was working. I was sure to pack some snacks and (not to slip up yet again) my lunch! I used some of the left over chicken from the Tahini Chicken, along with some sliced avocado and chèvre and wrapped it all up in some giant lettuce leaves - tasty and delicious!!

Last night's dinner was a Chili I'd started before I'd headed out to work, so just a little more simmering when I got home and dinner was ready in no time! I'm enjoying my dairy still since I'm only on level 1 of the detox program so I threw a little cheddar cheese on top!

Today marks the end of my first week! Hurrah! I've started feeling a bit blah about it all. I think the shine and excitement of it all has faded a little and I'm left with the stark reality that is sugar withdrawl!!..or not! Seriously though, I'm not sure I'm that desperate for sugar. I think about it a lot, but more in the sense that I want what I can't have - if I could have sweeteners and not dairy I'd be desperate for dairy (been there on the previous detoxes I've done!). I think the recipes in the book are excellent and varied. I've really enjoyed flipping through and picking out choices for dinner. Meal prepping is getting a little easier and I've built up a decent stash of meals in the freezer so I'm seeing an even easier week next week! - that's one perk of having my sweetheart away!

Today for breakfast I had a pumpkin spice muffin all mashed up and mixed together with greek yogurt and hemp hearts - a big moshy messy bowl of yum! Those muffins really are fantastically awesome - If I'm 'craving' something sweet they are hitting the mark! I'd also made the faux-caccia over the weekend so had a slice of that for a mid-morning snack along with a green juice. Lunch was leftover chili and this evening was the Asian Meatballs. I also made myself some 'treats' - the lemon melts from the book - 4 ingredients - coconut butter, coconut oil, vanilla bean seeds and fresh lemon juice and zest. They are delish!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

21DSD Days 4 & 5 (and Crockpot Tahini Chicken recipe)


It was the weekend here. I was glad of the lie-in opportunity on both mornings! I made a dash into town on Saturday (to spend an hour lining up!!) to purchase some awesome organic vegetables at the weekly warehouse sale at Urban Harvest (good job it's worth it - I bought 3 dozen eggs - you think that might be overkill?!). I then picked up some Macademia nuts at the local Bulk Barn. I have to say shopping is not easy whilst on detox! Everything that I can't have seemed to be jumping off the shelves at me, and Bulk Barn...yes they have a British Chocolate section - all my favourites nustled up in one place taunting me! Dang!

Saturday I started my day with a carrot & pumpkin muffin and carrot & ginger juice. During the day I snacked on boiled egg, cottage cheese and another muffin (whoops! - they are addictively good!). I did manage to remember to eat lunch and had the leftover stuffed pepper from day 2. The evening ran away on me and before I knew it, it was getting late and the Spaghetti Squash bolognese I had planned seemed too much like hard work. So I had a giant salad loaded with feta, chicken and avocado. And then I made dessert....a 1/4 avocado, 1 frozen banana, cacao powder and some full fat coconut milk, and a couple of ice cubes blended up into a wicked little 'treat' - hey, it was Saturday night!!



Today was the first day I've felt a bit BLAH. The day started off great. Another lie-in, a 45 minute Insanity workout and then Pumpkin Pancakes. These were the first recipe from the book that I haven't loved. The pancakes were just a bit too eggey for my liking (the ratio was 3 eggs to 1/2 cup coconut flour after all). They did cook up to perfection and didn't fall apart like lots of my pancake batter concoctions, but I couldn't get excited by the prospect of them - they were fine, but the all the other recipes I've tried have been WOW!. I accompanied them with a glass of green juice and a couple of rashes of bacon. A great start to the day! I then joined some friends for an awesome snowshoe hike with the dogs up at Sovereign Lake and then a quick visit to our local ski resort  - Silver Star where they were celebrating the winter carnival with some snow sculptures.



When I got home I just felt a bit drained. I hadn't really eaten anything out (although it wasn't late when I got back home - maybe 2.30?) so I snacked on kale chips, 2 boiled eggs, and raw veggies. With hindsight of course that's really only a snack by the 21DSD standards and whilst it would normally be considered lunch for me perhaps it isn't enough during the program (or after more than 2 hours of pretty intense exercise today?!). I took a little afternoon nap and I still haven't shaken the blah feeling. I'm coming to the conclusion that perhaps I'm not not getting enough fuel inside me - that's 2 out of 3 days that I've skipped lunch.

This evening I really wanted something. Not sure what! Although it wasn't specifically something sweet I was craving wanting think I just felt for the first time the restriction of the program and it kinda got me down. Perhaps I was just feeling down in the dumps and it turned into my own little pity party. The good news is I didn't succumb to anything!

On the upside was Dinner! I cooked a fabulous Crockpot Tahini Chicken which I saw in a Facebook group and sadly I don't remember by who, so I can't credit it. This is so flippin' easy - love crockpot meals - it does it all for you pretty much!. I adjusted the original recipe to make 2 portions and I want to get the details down here so I don't loose it;

Crockpot Tahini Chicken


Ingredients (Serves 2)
  • 1 lb Chicken Thighs
  • 1/4 Cup Coconut aminos (I'm sure Braggs, or regular soy sauce would also work here)
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 3 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1/5 Tbsp Tahini
  • 1 large clove garlic chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Place the chicken in the bottom of the crockpot
  2. In a bowl mix all the other ingredients into a paste/sauce
  3. Pour over Chicken
  4. Cook on high for 2.5 hours
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