A short read on sugar

My dad came home with six full-size chocolate bars Sunday. I was elated. My mom, not-so-much.

“Why would you bring these in the house?” she asked.

“Was there a sale?” I asked.

“It’s a will-power test.” My dad said.

“So, is there a sale?”

“If they weren’t in the house, you’d be looking for them, so now that they are in the house, let’s see what happens,” he philosophized.

“Are. There. Full. Size. Chocolate. Bars. On. Sale.”

“Ya, three for something.”

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of sugar. I’ve long theorized that I’m biologically programmed to crave it for breakfast because that’s just how they do in Italy. Normally after my morning shot of sweetness, I’m good to go for the day and happily eat cottage cheese, greens, eggs, and all the other things that are deemed “healthy.”

However, for the last two weeks the cravings have been non-stop. I’ve found myself in bed with chocolate on several occasions, I’ve gone for donuts in the middle of the afternoon, and I’ve forgone dinner for cake.

Yes, I’ve seen Fed Up.  I know sugar is “bad” for you.

Worried I was growing a dependency, I decided I’d give up all added sugars for one week to clear out my system. I was tired all day. By 4 p.m. I was elbow deep in a bowl of M&Ms and sour watermelon gummies.

Maybe it’s a dependency, but maybe (and the theory I choose to believe) it’s winter. It’s dark all the time. It’s cold all the time. My skin is dry. I am not made for this weather.

So, yes, I could stop eating sugar and maybe I would bounce back eventually, but I choose sugar. Last week, when I chose an afternoon donut instead of my cottage cheese and apple — I can’t remember the last time something felt so right. And can something that feels so right, be wrong?

The point is, be kind to yourself this winter season. Where else in the world does the body have to get used to 30 degree weather in the summer and then, just a few months later, get used to weather that is 60 degrees cooler? Don’t go bat shit crazy, but don’t be a tight ass. Eat the donut.

Note: before you crucify me for being one to endorse an unhealthy diet, I eat whole foods 80 per cent of the time. I read nutrition labels, I ensure I am getting adequate protein and fibre, and maintain a healthy balance of fruits, veggies, grains, and meat/alternatives. I like sugar where sugar belongs (in donuts and Palm Bays), not added to my salad dressings, meat, cheese, bread, fruit etc.  

suzy q, donuts, palm bay
Ready to raaaaaaagae

Naughty & nice alternative advent calendars

Two years ago I waited too long to get my advent calendar. By the end of November I could not find a single decent one, only the kind that  you can find at the Dollar Store made with mocklate rather than chocolate.

Last year, I was ready. First week of November I was walking out of Shoppers $40 lighter, carrying four Kinder advent calendars to be gifted. But come December 1, my mom calls to tell me she’s just picked up an advent calendar for me, my then-boyfriend, and herself because they were on sale that day for 99 cents each.

This year, I give up. I refuse to become prisoner to the commercial hell that is advent calendar stress. And you should too. Take chance out of the equation and put matters into your own hands. Here are two ways you can do that.

Naughty 
There’s only one time it’s legitimately acceptable to be intentionally naughty past a certain age, and that’s when dealing with your SO.  Treat him to something else sweet this year; send him a dirty pic a day or 24 shots of you in lingerie. And guys shouldn’t shy away from this one – come up with something cheeky to try every evening, get a nifty gifty for the bedroom. And I think both parties would be happy with a PG13 massage, amirite?

Nice 
Not that naughty isn’t also nice, but for the real deal think of 24 gestures. Wake up early to shovel the driveway. Pop out for their morning coffee. Have dinner prepared when they get home. Those sorts of things. Save yourself some trouble and think them all up ahead of time so you can prepare accordingly.  And don’t be afraid to throw in a few material things – things can be great. A tube of their favourite lipstick, a can of their favourite beer, and chocolate. Chocolate is always nice.

How to make running not awful

I wouldn’t call myself a runner by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve never loved running, although I used to think I did, or at least that I should. I’ve played soccer since the age of eight and I can run a 10k without training. I did two half marathons just because I thought I was a runner, but after the second one, I realized I was living a lie.

I didn’t run for a long while after that. Then, this past summer on the day of Hope Volleyball, one of my teammates asked me if I wanted to run to Mooney’s Bay. It was only five kilometres so I knew I could do it, but I wasn’t happy about it.

So we ran and it actually felt great. Literally shocking.  But my hips were sore for DAYS.

After I recovered, I started running small bursts just for an extra calorie burn. Three to five kilometres at a time, that’s all. I found I enjoyed it. No pressure to go any further or faster than I wanted.

Then I started incorporating errands into my runs, which put me around 5 to 7k. And that led to my first running accessory – and wouldn’t you know that accessories make everything, even running, that much more fun? I still refuse to be caught dead in those weird water bottle holders or running skirts, though (#sorrynotsorry). Here are some of my faves:

My MEC backpack

backpackI love this thing. It’s simple and comfortable and it makes returning library books on your run a breeze.

Spotify
I know, not an accessory. I have a subscription to Spotify so I can easily update playlists for spin class. It’s super easy to get new music which is great for running motivation.

Nike Run
When I first got Nike Run, you had to have a chip put in your shoe and an adapter on your phone to track you. Now it’s so easy to use and really fun to rack up kilometres. It also tells you your calories burned, tracks your route, and has motivational commentary from celebs/professional athletes. And it’s freeeeeeee.

My shitty running shoes (see above)
My fake Yeezys were purchased from a drifter on a beach in Barcelona for 15 euros. They’re fairly comfortable but I’m sure they’re horrible for my feet, shins, knees, and body – but, like I said,  I don’t run too far. They’ve lasted five months so far and in addition to running, have carried me through spin, strength class, boxing, and a variety of other physical acts. I love them.

Skullcandy headphones
20161110_100323

They are simple and small, come in fun colours, and with a bunch of the ear buds in difference sizes to accommodate even the largest of ear canals.

A mean French braid
kombucha
French braids are God’s gift to people who don’t like to wash their hair often. Keeps everything in tight and no one can tell how dirty your hair is.

Editor’s note: Today I did my first cold-weather run. It was -4 out. I had no idea how to dress. I ended up in two sweaters and tights. It wasn’t long before the top layer sweater came off and I was pretty comfortable temperature-wise, but there was so much snot. I think this may be the end of my outdoor running season for now.

Actual helpful thoughts for cleanin’ out yo’ closet

When I look at my most favourite pieces in my closest as of late, they are mostly pieces that I thrifted or snuck from my grandfather’s closet: an over-sized soft flannel and a Florida crew neck sweater with a lovely, gaudy graphic on the back. This one in particular has a fond place in my heart because my mom specifically said “you’re not taking that home with you,” as we were clearing out his things, and I promptly placed it in my suitcase. 

and-this-one

this-one

And it kinda makes me want to vom thinking about all the money I spent on clothes throughout my years. Trends, patterns, colours of the moment. I’ll count myself lucky if I wore everything once.

I’ve cut my closet down at least 75 per cent in the last nine months. I started trimming away a few months back when I thought my then-boyfriend would be moving in in the near future and he’d need some space.

Then I read a review in Flare on the Japanese organizational book everyone is raving about: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever. One note from the author was all I needed, though: keep only what brings you joy. I looked at my closet with a new set of eyes. Just because something cost a lot, or others think it looks nice on me, or I have only worn it once (or not at all) – that’s no reason to keep it in my closet, my space, my life.

Another surprisingly helpful book, “How to be Parisian,” prompted me to continue with my whittling. To paraphrase: a Parisian doesn’t fall for trends (damn you, tribal print circa 2011) – she may buy one or two pieces if it flatters her, but ultimately stays true to her style.

I started to figure out what my style was. Turns out it’s a lot of neutrals and basic colours, almost no jewellery, and that’s ok. It also included a middle part and man bun.

Lastly, with a big move in my future (possibly the best motivation to cut back on your crap), I’ve really been zeroing in on the keeping, tossing, and storing of items. I only keep what I truly love because I have to lug it across the ocean and only have one bag to check, I store only clothes with sentimental value (a sweater that belonged to my grandmother, a hoodie from my youth soccer days), and toss everything else. If I don’t love it enough to bring it, and there’s no sentimental value, then it’s really not worth keeping.

I had a girlie gathering so my friends could take anything they wanted that I wasn’t bringing or storing. And bless places like AMH Style where I can turn some of those only-been-worn-once (or not at all) items into cashola, which I almost always end up spending in the store (smart, smart ladies). But if I’m bringing in 20 items on any given appointment and walking out with only one or two, I think I’m doing OK. 

Feature image from HBO

Let’s all be brides, k?

When I was a child, I did not have white things. “You can’t get white, you’ll get it dirty,” my mom would say. I didn’t wear white for the first six or seven years of my life.

Then came the day I was to graduate from Velcro shoes to laces and I fell in love with my first accessory: a pair of white lace sneakers with purple accents. And I begged and begged and begged until my mom finally folded and got them for me.

Needless to say, mere hours after purchase, the shoes were white no longer due to playing with my neighbours in the mud. My mom took away the shoes and I had to wear my ugly old Velcros for the rest of the year (and explain to all my friends that I did, indeed, know how to tie shoelaces, I had just lost the privilege).

Well, I’m 27 now and although my mom would still prefer I not wear white for fear of me getting dirty, I am now legally old enough to make those decisions for myself (but only just).

If there’s one steadfast rule I’ve learned about fashion, it’s that whatever we think is cool right now, Europe thought it was cool days, weeks, and months before us. Earlier this summer I was in Spain and I saw a lot of white dresses. Low and behold, girls are out in their virginal best, braving the dirt and sweat of Ottawa summer. And I too, proudly don my whites with the confidence of European reassurance and the satisfaction that, if I do get dirty, I only have to answer to myself.

With Labour Day fast approaching, you may think your days to get your whites their brightest are limited, but let’s just say f*ck it this year. Live dangerously. Let’s just all be brides whenever we want, k? Maybe just avoid the mud.

Feature image by James Devaney/WireImage.com

Pastry picking for healthy(ish) eaters

Some of us want to eat healthy. And some of us want to eat baked goods. Some of us want to do both. That means finding the best possible ways to work sugar in to your diet.

*Disclaimer! I am not a nutritionist, baker, or candle stick maker. But I do like to eat sweets and I do like to find ways to justify eating them. The things I say below have come from doing pretty in depth research just to keep those cannoli in my life.*

Your worst choices

Unfortunately, this is where one of my faves falls: donuts. The combination of fried simple carbs and sugar are the things your spare tire is made of. Along with chocolate chip cookies, croissants, and scones. When you’re looking at the makeup of that sweet treat behind the the counter, think about three things: protein, fibre, and fats (the good ones, obvs). Try and include at least one if you want to remotely be able to categorize your treat as semi-healthy. If it’s got none of them, then there’s always the emotional pleasure you’ll get.

pastries, healthy, pastry
Sorry Suzy Q

Protein (cheese, nuts)

When it comes to treats containing some protein, you’re at least going to feel fuller for longer.  So desserts like cannoli or peanut butter squares are going to give you more bang for their calorie buck. Meaning something that’s about 400 calories may actually almost keep you full for a full 400 calories worth of time.

pastries, pastry, healthy, speculose
Speculose and cream filled donut

With fibre (fruit, nuts, grains)

Like the Starbucks oat fudge bar or the Bridgehead quinoa chocolate cake (I’ve done done my leg work), there are pastries out there with fibre. Similar to protein, fibre will help keep you fuller longer, but it also helps breakdown and digest your food and sugars. I realize this is a bit of a stretch, but I’m looking for any silver lining on my oat fudge bar (for more on how fibre works, here’s a simple article).

With fats (nuts, coconut, peanut butter)

You’re likely to find a macaroon, something laced with peanut butter, or maybe even made with avocado in today’s (good) fat-filled world. Research also shows that the good fats may benefit insulin levels and help control blood sugar (which is nice for while you eat all the sugar). And, like protein and fibre, it will help keep you fuller longer.

Peanut butter square from Planet Coffee
Peanut butter square from Planet Coffee

The glutenfree, fatfree, vegan, paleo, and the rest

We see more of these things everyday as new diets are unearthed and popularized by bloggers and the like. Dessert is dessert in my eyes and while I try to eat a high protein, low gluten diet on the regs, I don’t really limit myself when it comes to dessert. If I really want a donut, I have a donut. Probably more often than I should.  But that’s life! And if you’re good 80% of the time, why not, right?

(more justifications from a serial sweets eater)

 

Monday motivation – when you need to workout at home

Especially in the summer, the weekends tend to become extra overindulge: drinks, food, sun – leaving us dehydrated, bloated, and burnt on Mondays.

If you’re like me, you’re desperately looking for a sweaty workout and anything and everything green to eat. But when your fave lunchtime workout is cancelled and you can’t make it to the evening class because you work, you will resort to working out at home.

Luckily, I have a go-to skip circuit that I can do from almost anywhere with minimal to no equipment required (you can download a free circuit timing app and buy a  good skipping rope for about $10). See below.

0:00 – 1:00 – Skip
1:00 – 2:00 – Squats with or without weight (basically whenever I can find something heavy)
2:00 – 3:00 – Skip
3:00 – 4:00 – Wide-arm push ups to focus on chest
4:00 – 5:00 – Skip
5:00 – 6:00 – Back – supermans (lie on your stomach and lift up your chest)
6:00 – 7:00 – Skip
7:00 – 8:00 – Tricep push ups
8:00 – 9:00 – Skip
9:00 – 10:00 – Biceps – curl something heacy
10:00 – 11:00 – Skip
11:00 – 12:00 – Lunges left side
12:00 – 13:00 – Skip
13:00 – 14:00 – Lunges right side
14:00 – 15:00 – Skip
15:00 – 16:00 – Shoulders – more push ups!
16:00 – 17:00 – Skip
17:00 – 18:00 – Side plank – each side 30 seconds
18:00 – 19:00 – Skip
19:00 – 20:00 – Plank

Happy sweating!

Photo from @VictoriaSport

Mornings in Sicily

Many mornings in a small town in Sicily called Santo Stefano di Camastra were just like this one here in Ottawa. The early hour betraying the heat that would meet you as you exited your home and stepped into the full sunlight, making you instantly regret choosing to wear pants.

You set out for your morning brew to your nearest cafe. Just as there are endless options here, there are even more so there. You probably have a favourite, as I do in Santo Stefano.

And just as you think you should have taken the few moments to change into a dress, you reach your destination. For me, it was Bar Vittoria.

Through the bead curtain you enter the shop and feel relief from the sun. The air smells strongly and oh-so-pleasantly of fresh coffee and pastries. There is a flurry of action from behind the counter where the bar owner, Frank, is greeting customers, pouring espresso, and serving up cornetto (croissants filled with cream or Nutella), the breakfast of choice for those in a hurry to work.

Nutella, cornetto, Italy, breakfast in Italy
Cornetto filled with Nutella

As soon as he has a moment, he comes to greet us personally with a kiss on each cheek. Moments later my espresso and cartoccio (a doughnut-like pastry filled with ricotta cream) would appear and I would spend the next hour savouring every bite while reading my book and taking in the surroundings.

Nutella, cartoccio, Italy, breakfast in Italy
Eating my last cartoccio on the car on the way to the airport last May.

Today, I eat a leftover half of a cannoli from Simply Biscotti. Not as good as yesterday, of course, but still delicious. Simply, in my opinion, has the best cannoli in Ottawa. They fill the shells with the cream only just as they are about to be placed out for sale. If the cream is in for too long, the shell gets soggy and that’s just not right.

cannoli, monday morning, coffee, reading
My morning ritual recreation

I have a stove top espresso maker and grounds from Gioiosa Marea (meaning joyful sea) – a town next to Santo Stefano – to complete my morning ritual recreation. As the pot begins to percolate, the smell of fresh espresso makes me smile.

Sitting outside, it feels just as hot as it did in Santo Stefano. And as it’s only 8 a.m., I will read for another hour before letting any of my daily responsibilities bring me back to reality.

Monday mornings, coffee, reading
Go away responsibilities.




Lush’s henna hair colour

I’d been wanting to go dark for the summer and heard about Lush’s all natural henna hair colour from my cousin. She warned that it was a lot of work and could be messy, but I ventured ahead.

At Lush, the sale’s girl was super helpful. The block of colour is in six sections, she suggested that I use all six as I have a lot of hair.

You have to chop up the colour and put it in a bowl that can hold boiling water. Then add boiling water slowly, alternating between pouring and stirring. When you have something that feels like a brownie batter consistency (but looks more like purred kale soup), you’re ready.

Lush cosmetics, henna hair colour
Chopping up the whole bar and mixing with boiling water.
lush cosmetics, henna hair colour
Mixed to a brownie batter-like consistency (but slightly less appealing).

I laid newspaper on the ground of the bathroom and covered the upper half of my body (I opted for topless), face, arms, and ears with coconut oil to make sure the henna wouldn’t dye my skin – highly recommended. I forgot to get latex gloves but luckily had a pair of those yellow rubber gloves that will be forever stained. I was this close to using a baggie on each hand.

lush cosmetics, henna hair colour
The aftermath – not as messy as I had thought.

After that, I did my hair in two sections – lower and upper. It’s suggested that you wrap your head in cling-wrap which I didn’t have so I wrapped a plastic bag around my head. When that whole bowl of paste was on my head, it was so heavy.

lush cosmetics, henna hair colour
The entire bowl is on my head and it is heavy AF.

The hardest part was keeping my heavy head up for four hours (it was suggested to leave it on for two to four hours and I wanted to make sure I had the full effect). I ended up laying out a beach towel and napping/watching movies for four hours.  In the last hour, the smell was really starting to get to me. Originally, I liked it. It reminded me of green tea.

Then it was time to rinse – it took about 10 minutes of rinsing with water, four shampoos, and a thorough condition. You can fully expect to need to scrub your shower afterwards.

Before & after
Before & after

Thoughts? Firstly, I should have taken a better before picture, but it’s too late now. Secondly, two thumbs up. The colour will deepen over the next couple days and lasts for three to four months (perf for summer) and, extra bonus, it’s all natural and the ingredients are great for your hair.




Brunch at Bazille

Atmosphere: We sat on the patio and it was lovely. It’s shaded and spacious and there are heat lamps for cooler days.

What’s on the menu: The typical traditional breakfast, an omelette, breakfast sandwich, fruit bowl, and a few other things. It’s not huge, but you can get breakfast there any time of day, you just have to ask for the menu. You even have to ask for the menu when you are there at 11 a.m. on a Saturday. They never hand it out.

Our experience: Excellent. They were cool about substitutions, refilled coffees and waters, and the peanut butter they use is the REAL STUFF. They don’t have a gluten-free toast option, but will offer you more fruit in exchange.

Cost: For the quality, fair. Regular breakfast with real peanut butter and coffee (not incl. in the regular breakfast) came to $12.38.

Perfect date: For anyone, really. I could have been sitting there with my parents, any friend, or a significant other.

breakfast, brunch, patio, ottawa, bazille

500-50 Rideau St., 613-788-6110, restaurants.nordstrom.com




Musings of an almond butter addict & Sex and the City fan.