I think it’s time to break up with sugar…again. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the sweetness of life without adding white flour and refined sugars. It’s a lesson I’ll learn over and over, and a lesson that I’ve already learned: simple carbs make me feel gross.

Does this mean that I won’t occasionally indulge in some decadent dark chocolate or a flakey-buttery croissant? Of course not. But I’ve been dipping into the white powder (let’s be honest — it may as well be the illegal kind) a little too much lately, and I simply do not like the way it makes me feel (bloated, groggy, spacey, etc.).

I’ve got a Pinboard going for recipes for desserts that do not call for refined sugars, which will come in particularly handy this time of year — cookie season. I want to enjoy social functions, family gatherings, and cozy nights on the couch with some treats, but without sacrificing my physical and mental well-being.

Have you been trying to cut out sugar? What are your strategies? If you don’t know where to start, a beautiful and inspiring friend of mine can lead you on a personalized 10-day sugar detox — check it out! Need more convincing that sugar in our diets really needs to decrease? Read this Hufff Post article.


Ode to the Lentil: Part III

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about my beloved lentil. Last Friday night I made Sean one of his favourite dinners — Cabbage Rolls with Tomatoey Lentils & Mushrooms.

Rather than get into the minute details of how I made them, I’m going to provide an outline. The fact is that this is one of those dishes that requires a frame but does not require a recipe. All you need is steamed cabbage leaves and a delicious stew of sorts in the middle!

[photo slideshow of the prep below non-recipe]

Preparing the cabbage:
Take off the icky outside leaves (if they’re brown and floppy) and rinse the whole head. As best you can, tear off the biggest whole leaves possible. If they break, don’t worry; you can use them later.

Boil the individual leaves in a big pot until they’re tender and malleable (5 minutes or so). Remove them and set aside.

At this time, you can throw your broken leaves into the boiling water to tenderize them; they can be added to the dish to make it like a casserole.

For the inside:
I sauté garlic and onions in a bit of olive oil in a saucepan and then follow these basic lentil-cooking instructions. I also add herbs and spices; this time I went with rosemary, thyme, and red chilli flakes. About halfway through the cooking time, add some sliced mushrooms.

Once the lentils are cooked completely, pour over a whole jar of spaghetti sauce. (Of course, homemade marinara would be better, but it was Friday night, people!) Stir in the sauce and allow it to heat up.

Finally, place a dollop of the saucey lentils into the centre of a cabbage leaf and roll it up like a burrito or spring roll. This is an opportunity to add a bit of flavour. If you have some sun-dried tomatoes or pesto or olives in the fridge, a little spoonful in the rolls tastes awesome. I also sprinkled some raw scallions on the inside for freshness and tang. The leaf rips or it’s too small to wrap? Don’t worry about it! Just put the undone roll into a medium baking pan with a little olive oil. The insides are bound to spill out.

Once you’ve filled all your cabbage leaves and added them all to your pan, any extra sauce or extra broken cabbage leaves can be placed on top to make it like a casserole.

To heat it all up before serving, place under your oven’s broiler for 5 or so minutes — longer if you want a little crispiness on top.

Scoop out the rolls, put a little extra sauce on top, and enjoy!

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Lentils, how are you so wonderful? 

If you are a lentil fan, check out Ode I and Ode II to this mighty little bean.


Mindfulness Every Day

I am at the very, very beginning of my meditation/mindfulness/yoga journey, but I wanted to share a few resources that have helped me dive in deeper. While I’ve practiced the physical practice of yoga (hatha yoga, the yoga of asana or posture) on and off for 12 years, I’ve really only been exposed to the spiritual aspects of yoga for the last four or five years. And now that I’m in yoga teacher training, I’m delightfully immersed!

*A book that I’ve written about previously that really opened the doors, so to speak, to meditation for me is Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a simple, well-written guide to beginning a meditation practice. I absolutely loved reading it, and will re-read many times in my life!

*I like when I have a time limit and a person talking to me during meditation. This is a stepping stone toward being able to do it on my own for extended lengths of time. One great way to have both is to listen to the “Learn to Meditate — Meditation Podcast” put out by the Meditation Society of Australia. The FREE podcasts are usually 20-30 minutes and include a small talk and then guided meditation. I love them so much. One may download the podcasts through iTunes/the App Store or listen via their website (link above). Their website also has yoga class videos, email subscriptions for daily meditations, and more.

*In addition, I have found that I really like the [free] app called Headspace. I’ve just begun using their app, which as 10 days of 10-minute meditations, among many other features. I haven’t fully explored all that their app and website offer, but I’m looking forward to it. They have a meditation reminder alarm, interesting and well-designed videos, aesthetically pleasing infographics, and great information about the science behind mindfulness. Check it out!

*I’ve also just begun using an app called Transform Your LIfe by Cheri Huber, author of There is Nothing Wrong with You. I am not familiar with the author, but the app has daily thoughts to which a user responds. The app stores responses like a personal journal. Today’s “thought” was this:

“Let us be kinder to one another.” -Aldous Huxley

…and the “assignment” was: Today, let kindness direct your every movement. And then there is space to write thoughts, reactions, goals, etc. It’s quick, easy, and a great way to cultivate loving-kindness on the go!

*Lastly, for yoga teachers and serious practitioners out there interested in learning the Sanskrit words for your asanas, there’s a flashcard-style app called Yoga Quiz by Drishti (available at the App Store for $1.99). I strongly recommend taking a course, picking the brain of a Sanskrit-speaker, and/or paying very close attention to YouTube videos (like this one by Stephen Thompson) to learn how to pronounce Sansktrit words. I had my introduction to Sanskrit today, and it was quite challenging but very fulfilling. It is thought to be a divine language that, when spoken correctly, creates specific vibrations that can positively affect one’s mind and body, particularly when chanted.

I know you’re all super busy people, and you’re probably thinking, “Kate, you’re in yoga school full-time, so no wonder you have time for all of this!” The reality is that I don’t do each of these things every day, and the other reality is that I want to! If you want to make mindfulness more part of your life, you have to start somewhere and you have to start by carving out five or 10 minutes each day to practice. Maybe start with Headspace, which guides you through a quick 10-minute meditation. See how it makes you feel; you may be inspired to continue down the mindfulness path!

Questions? Comments? Other resources? Do share!

What A Week!

My first week of yoga teacher training was fantastic!

*twenty-six new friends
*lots of asana (physical yoga postures)
*lots of kriya (cleansing practices, like kapalbahti breath)
*lots of breathing and conscious breathing
*anatomy lessons
*philosophy & history
*opportunities to teach
*a loving and peaceful space where it is expected of us all to develop our own personal yoga practices

I am SO excited to be able to teach my own yoga students; it’s a little overwhelming, however, that I’ll be able to do that in just five weeks! Want to be my first student?!

This wonderful week ended with… 
*a birthday celebration for my cousin-in-law


Happy Birthday, Tori!

*a lovely day running and eating and bicycle-shopping with my husband (no bike for me yet, but I’m in the market!)

*a romantic date night on the False Creek Ferries and dinner at a fabulous restaurant…all thanks to my new aunt, uncle, & cousin-in-law! (Taste Test below)
*a very successful 36-kilometre/22-mile run through Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale, and UBC (marathon in four weeks!)

photo*an educational hour at Williams Sonoma with my mother-in-law and a friend from yoga teacher training; we learned about using a VitaMix. The free classes over the next few weeks will be all about Thanksgiving foods!

*spending Sunday afternoon lounging around (OK, homework and laundry too), eating a lot, and drinking coconut water for the electrolytes!

*watching The Princess Bride and eating sushi with Sean

*remembering that I can/should/want to do yoga at home now…especially after such a long run!

Provence Marinaside
1177 Marinaside Crescent

What a lovely place! The staff, the food, the wine, the bread (and free tapenade!) were all fantastic. I had halibut, Sean had seafood linguini; our appetizers were roasted eggplant with tomato and goat cheese and caprese salad. It’s the perfect place for a romantic date night, especially on a nice night like we had last night. It’s very easily accessible from the marina at Yaletown. Sean and I took a False Creek Ferry (tiny boat would be a better descriptor…which made it much more fun and quaint!) from Granville Island, and we cruised around False Creek after dinner, just for fun. Thanks so much to the Miles family for our gift certificate and ferry passes! 

Foodie Day

Today was a fabulous day, full of culinary adventures.

First, Sean and I went to Bean Around the World. I, of course, had a delightful almond milk latte.

Then, Sean went to help his cousin and his cousin’s wife lay cement for their porch.

Nice job, eh?

Nice job, eh?

I, meanwhile, met up with our friends, Winnie and Arthur, to check out Unfi in Richmond, an unassuming warehouse in a business centre with a Saturday market for crazily reduced priced packaged goods! For $30, I got:

– 2 bottles of Synergy kombucha
– 8 packs of Enjoy LIfe trail mix
– 1 loaf of healthy nutty bread
– 2 bottles of liquid stevia
– 1 box of almond coconut milk
– 2 packs of rice crackers
– 1 box of Udi’s allergy-free snickerdoodles
– 2 packages of onion bullion
– 1 package of Barbara’s fig cookies

How much would that all cost at Whole Foods?! I’m estimating at least $60. Score! Some products at the market are dangerously close to their expiration date (which is why they’re so cheap), so, for instance, I did not buy the 12 containers of hummus…even though the whole case of 12 was going for $2. A great place to hit up before a party!

3980 Fraser Street, Vancouver

After, Winnie and I went to Graze on Fraser while Arthur went to dim sum with his family. Graze is a vegetarian restaurant that sources as much local produce as possible. I had a nice vegetable hash with some incredibly spicy house-made hot sauce; Winnie had a vegan BLTA (the bacon was made out of beets!). Both of our meals were delicious.

Earnest Ice Cream
3992 Fraser Street, Vancouver

Next door to Graze is Earnest Ice Cream. This was my second trip, and both times I’ve had a great experience. Last time I tried their vegan raspberry coconut, and this time I went for the vegan chocolate. Both were rich, creamy, and actually worth the five bucks!

Matchstick Coffee
639 East 15th Avenue

To round out the afternoon, Arthur and I went to Matchstick Coffee. Arthur is a serious coffee connoisseur, and Matchstick is one of his favourites (up there with Revolver). One quality that makes Matchstick so special is that they roast their beans on site. I tried the Worka Sakero from Ethiopia, and Arthur went for El Esfuerzo from Colombia. This makes two places I’ve tried off the Huffington Post’s list (not that theirs is definitive, but it’s somewhere to start!).

Overall, it was a fabulous foodie kind of day!


Fall is in the Air!

Having lived in Bangkok for the last couple years means that the last time I experienced Autumn was in 2011; Sean hasn’t had an Autumn since 2010! It’s our favourite season, so needless to say, we are EXTREMELY excited for it this year.

Monday afternoon I went for my first long training run in a couple weeks, and it was glorious. The forecast this week is all sun, so it’s not raining-all-the-time-Vancouver yet, but I liked having some over the weekend. The temperature was perfect — about 70F/21C — and a few leaves were showing off their vibrant Fall colours.

In honour of the first glimpse of the best season ever, I made us a harvest-inspired breakfast of Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats. With a cup o’ joe or maybe even better with some masala chai, this is a hearty way to start the day! (It’s also a great way to use up apples. I bought some mealy apples that were not great to eat alone, but cooking them into oatmeal made them ten times better!)

Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats for Two

– 2  cups milk (I use almond milk)
– 1 cup steel cut oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
– 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
– 1 organic apple, cut into small chunks
– dash of salt
– 1 heaping teaspoon of butter or non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (optional)
– drizzle of maple syrup (optional)

1. Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan.
2. Add the oats, cinnamon, apple, and salt to the boiling milk; then turn down the heat and cover.
3. Simmer for 7 minutes.
4. Add the butter, if you like, and stir.
5. Serve in two bowls and drizzle with maple syrup, if you’d like.


The Culprits

My messed up ankle (that’s a technical medical term) can likely be attributed to:

– the wrong insoles (which worked for me last time, but really don’t this time)

– worn-out running shoes (It’s usually my hips that tell me it’s time for new shoes; this time around my hips are fine. Go figure.)

– driving a manual transmission (It’s my left foot, the clutch foot. I still love Finn the Fit, but I’ll go back to driving him post-race.)

– switching back from barefoot shoes to regular cushy running shoes (I’ve now found a happy medium with some Saucony runners that allow me to use a mid-foot strike but also provide more support than minimal/barefoot shoes.)

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– not rolling my IT bands/achilles/calves (That one is big. While I had been doing yoga while training, I was neglecting the ever important act of releasing lactic acid.)
Here’s a little infographic about some basic rolling exercises.

Yesterday I ran 16K/10 miles in beautiful late summer Vancouver, and I was OK. I ran slower than usual (7-minute kilometres instead of 5:45), and there’s still a certain spot that’s quite tender when I put weight on it, but overall it was a successful training run.

The big race is just 40 days away, and for the first time in a couple weeks, I’m feeling like I can complete it. Maybe I won’t improve my time, but at least I’ll cross that finish line.

I’m thankful for the website I use for my training schedule — — which gave good advice about dealing with an injury.

And I’m thankful for my friends who commented on my blog and Facebook wall, giving great advice too!

Perhaps I’ve learned to pay attention to the billions of resources that are out there for running a marathon. I’m certainly not the first one to be doing this! I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to the subject and have barely perused it; time to get serious!