Mid-Week Tangent: Best Holiday Candies!

Ahhh, the holiday season, where my love for the festive can be united with my love for the chocolate.  Christmas is second only to Easter, in my mind, for quality seasonal candy items. Don’t even talk to me about Halloween. All it offers are mini-sized versions of everyday candy bars. Give me the unique seasonal fare!

As we roll into December, it’s time to start stockpiling this stuff and jamming as much into your greedy face as you possibly can. It will be gone soon.  Don’t worry about extra calories. Did you know that your body’s basal metabolic rate increases in the the cold? That means you will burn more calories just by doing nothing! Sure, the additional calories burned are negligible, but every little bit counts. And, as I shared yesterday, the holiday season affords you with all sorts of opportunities to amp up your calorie burn with outdoor activities.  There is no better way to refuel than candy.

Looking for saccharine inspiration? Here’s my top six favourites for the holiday season.  I had to throw in a sixth just so you don’t think I’m biased towards mint-flavours.

#6. Almond Roca: My token non-mint seasonal favourite. My love for this confection is purely nostalgic. I used to get a canister of it every Christmas. Mostly, I sucked the chocolate off the outside then suffered through the cloyingly sweet, sticks-in-your-teeth-forever filling. It’s best in small doses but the iconic pink tin screams Christmas to me, so I had to include it.

For best results, just eat the chocolate off the outside.
For best results, just eat the chocolate off the outside.

#5. Ovation: This is yet another nostalgia bomb for me. Ovation candies were a major part of my childhood. They seemed classy, each coming in its own little monogrammed sleeve, and they had a delightful candy snap lacking from their soft and oozy, yet often-preferred cousin, the After Eight. I don’t even think they sell these in Canada anymore, which is better for my waistline but worse for my heart.

It saddens me that the Ovation people have moved away from their signature, quirky, upright square box. Though it was highly flawed design–when you pulled the lid off, the sticks inside splayed and made it virtually impossible to put the lid back on–it reminded me of my childhood.

#4: Mint M&MsThese addictively delicious little bastards are notoriously hard to find. You see a festively colored bag of M&Ms on the shelf and your heart soars with anticipation until, upon closer examination, you realize that, no, they are just regular M&Ms in holiday colours.  Your heart sinks and you continue in your search for mint M&Ms elsewhere. When I find them, I buy only one bag, because I would eat all of them at once if I were to buy more than one bag. That, my friends, is the hallmark of an excellent candy.

One bag. Promise yourself you will only buy one bag.
One bag. Just promise yourself you will only buy one bag.

 

#3. Hershey’s Kiss Candy Can Mint CandiesFirst, and most importantly, do NOT confuse these with the Hershey’s peppermint bark bells. Sure, those are fine in a pinch, but they don’t hold a candle to these gems. It’s also important to know that I am a major white chocolate fan (as you’ll see from the next couple items on my list). If you are not, to you I say: great! more for me! Also, you probably won’t like these, although I do find that the peppermint cuts the sweetness a fair bit.

I think the second I finish this post, I may have to go i search of these beauties.
I think the second I finish this post, I may have to go in search of these beauties.

#2: Lindt Lindor Candy Cane: See? More white chocolate and mint. I am obsessed.  I curse those people at Lindt for making such perfectly sinful little chocolate balls. I especially curse the person who said ‘let’s take white chocolate and peppermint and turn it into a Lindor.’ Now I must exercise willpower every time I visit the grocery store, or else I’d buy a whole sleeve of the damn things and eat every last one of them (relax, there’s only 5 in the sleeve).

Forget Lay's potato chips, THIS should be the product with the slogan "Bet you can't eat just one".
Forget Lay’s potato chips, THIS should be the product with the slogan “Bet you can’t eat just one”.

#1. White Chocolate Peppermint M&MsThere is one reason and one reason alone that I lament Target’s failure in Canada: the white chocolate peppermint M&M. It was the only place I could find these bites of perfection in Canada. Yes, I could order them from the States, but one of the small handful of lessons I’ve actually learned is life is that if I order a dozen bags of candy, I will eat all of them single-handedly and in short order. If you can find these, I implore you to indulge as often as your stomach can tolerate during the holiday season. They are sweet. They are minty. They have a slightly thicker candy coating shell that, if bitten properly, can be cracked off leaving the entire orb of pepperminty white chocolate behind to blissfully melt in your mouth. Perfection. Holiday perfection.

I miss you White Chocolate Peppermint M&M, and I adore your snazzy christmas cap.
I miss you White Chocolate Peppermint M&M, and I adore your snazzy christmas cap.

So there you have it. I have given you all manner of ways to start your holiday season off on the wrong foot. Remember, there is always New Years for renewed pledges to your health and wellness.

 

Training Tuesdays: Let the Winter Workouts Begin!

Well, it’s not yet December but it’s clear that the holiday season is upon us. Stores are filled with all manner of seasonal decor and constant loops of Christmas tunes. You cannot escape it.

I personally love the holidays. I’ve already had my picture taken with Santa, as a group of adults with no children, because you don’t have to be a child to get in the Christmas spirit.  I have my advent calendar lined up and ready to go for Thursday. I have boxes of Christmas cards ready to write and send off the old school way, because I miss receiving mail and believe that Christmas cards are a lost art form. See? Love the holidays.

The holiday season also aligns with the return of another one of my loves: winter workouts. Though we get little snow in the city of Vancouver, we are surrounded by local mountains that make getting out in the snow easy and quick. Over the last week I’ve watched the snow line get lower and lower and I know that means it’s time to pull the snowshoes out of storage, get my traction spikes dusted off, and drag out that storage bin of base layers.

yay-snow

If you’re looking for some ways to bring variety to your winter workouts, here are some of my favourites:

  • Skating: There’s a couple outdoor rinks in and around Vancouver, but I’ve also been known to hit a Sunday afternoon public skate at an indoor rink. I could skate indoors year round and yet I’m only interested in it in the winter. It’s not a hard core workout by any stretch, unless you count dodging children who lack any sense of shared space, but it’s a good time and better than sipping hot chocolate all day (my usual alternative).
  • Cross-country skiiing (maybe…): Skiing combines my love of snow and mountains, and it provides a good workout particularly when skiing uphill. If only I could master the whole downhill part without looking like a deer learning to walk…If you can find solitude on skis, the quiet and stillness of a snowy forest will rejuvenate even the most tired of souls.
  • The Snow Run: This isn’t an event but rather a run in the snow, which feels sort of like an event here in Vancouver where we only get snow on the city streets maybe once or twice a season. In Alberta, this was a season long event, made torturous by frigidly cold temperatures. Here, I live for the snow run. It’s milder and running through falling snow is magical, and there is something about snow that brings a distinct quiet and calm to city streets.
  • Snowshoeing:  Fluffy, deep powder screams for snowshoes. I am generally not a huge fan of snowshoes. I find them to be clunky to walk in, even though I bought a narrow, running snowshoe (sidenote: I don’t know how anyone could successfully run in them without tripping over their own feet). But when I am headed to legit mountain territory and there is the promise of deep snow, count me in for snowshoeing and the opportunity to go off-trail.  Who needs ski touring, right?
  • Snow hiking: This is, by far, my winter activity of choice. It’s all the fun of summer hiking without the annoying loose rocks and tree roots. Quite delightfully, snow fills in all those trail hazards and leaves a nice, level surface that is much kinder on the clumsy. On a well-travelled trail, you can ditch the snowshoes and go straight for some great traction devices. You’ll move faster and with infinitely more grace.  And, since everything looks better with a blanket of snow sparkling in sunshine, you’ll see old trails through new eyes. Even better, you won’t sweat to death like some people (i.e. me) do in the summer.

And so, as the temperature drops I’m going to fight the urge to nest inside all day. Join me.  Invest in good outerwear (it really does make all the difference) and kick off the holiday season in winter sport style! See you out there!

Monday Musings: sometimes you just need a day

Today, I woke up bright and early and felt surprisingly awake. I had some coffee. I made breakfast. I went to the grocery store and assembled a crock pot beef bourguignon for dinner tonight. I did some laundry, washed some dishes and unloaded the dishwasher. I felt accomplished and like I’d tackled all I needed to tackle for the day. It was 10 am. Now what?

I felt tired. I felt lazy. I wanted nothing other than to curl up on the couch and get lost in some Netflix, to relax and enjoy my first day since leaving work when I had absolutely zero plans. But then, as it always does, the guilt crept in.  I felt like I should take advantage of the first rain-free day that we’ve had in about two months (I’m not even joking about this). I felt like I should get in a great workout. I already took yesterday off, after all. How lazy does one need to be when she has all the time in the world to take advantage of outdoor adventures? Faced with so much evidence of my laziness, I caved to the guilt.

So I loaded up my winter gear and drove all the way out to Chilliwack determined to kick off winter hiking season. En route, I was already waffling. I negotiated with myself, trading in my planned winter hike for a lower-elevation and snow-free trail that would require less driving and less effort. I should’ve known that was a sign of things to come. I arrived at my trailhead and, before I even turned the engine off, I had one of those rare moments of mental clarity. My mind had but a singular thought racing through it: I really do not want to hike today.

For once, I listened even though I had driven an hour to get there and would have to drive another hour to get home. I didn’t want to hike today. I didn’t want to do anything active today. I wanted to lounge and relax and not feel like I had to do something. I needed a day to just be lazy. I am still learning that sometimes I just have to listen to that inner voice and indulge my inner sloth.

I know I’ll be back at it tomorrow.

RWIR #36: Return from the Cold

I’m back with another RWIR after an unplanned one-week hiatus. In reality, last week was a write off in terms of workouts so I would’ve had little to say even if I’d written. Alas, this week started out a bit rocky but has picked up as my energy has increased and my most unpleasant of cold symptoms have decreased. Let’s see what the week had to offer.

Saturday
Activity: Strength + Running Intervals
Relevant Stats: 50 minutes(ish)
Observations: Well, it was my first workout after three days off and it felt like my first workout after three days off. The running intervals surprisingly felt the best, but that’s likely because my head was fully upright. Any exercises that weren’t completed upright were accompanied by a delightful sense of dizziness and pressure in my head. Maybe I wasn’t actually better yet…

Sunday
Activity: Spin
Relevant Stats: 62 minutes + physio exercises
Observations: Yes, I am including the extra two minutes of spin. We were out past midnight on Saturday for a double-header (Canucks game followed by the Wintersleep concert), which is a rarity for us. Despite neither of us drinking, thanks to our colds, we were both exhausted Sunday morning. Even so,  I managed to knock out a one-hour cardio session so I’m proud of those extra two minutes.

Monday
Activity: Run!!!!!
Relevant Stats: Okay, okay it was only 5 km. I probably could’ve done without the exclamation marks.
Observations: It was my last day of work and I was inspired to go for a run. I had this belief that it was going to go swimmingly.  It did not. After a decent Sunday workout, my body was like ‘no, that’s enough for this week.’ I struggled through a slow and painful 5 km run and called it a day.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session + spin
Relevant Stats: 65 minutes with trainer + 30 minutes spin
Observations: Ugh. I suppose I should be happy I got five extra minutes for free but my trainer decided to ramp up our routine after weeks of fairly low-key sessions and I was not ready for it.  In addition, virtually every exercise was focused on the glutes. My legs and ass were dead by the end. Still, I had time to kill before meeting a friend for lunch and I decided what better way to kill time than at the gym on a spin bike. Sometimes I question my sanity.

Wednesday
Activity: Stairs + Strength
Relevant Stats: 4o minutes stairs + 35 minutes strength
Observations: I’ve been trying to up my workout times this week and, so far, have been succeeding. I loathe the stair machine at the gym and I’m not convinced it’s actually a legitimate workout, but I made it through the mental anguish of a 40 minute cardio workout nonetheless. I followed this with more glute work because, you know, they weren’t sore enough after yesterday. I fear I won’t be able to walk on Thursday.

Thursday
Activity: Spin & Strength
Relevant Stats: 20 min. spin + 35 minutes strength
Observations: Well, after two consecutive days of working my glutes and legs, spin was just not happening…at least not easily. I tried, I swear I did, but I had zero energy for sprints and even less energy for hill climbs. It could also have been due to the epic traffic jam I had to endure to get to the gym, which put me in a foul mood. There’s nothing like taking forty minutes to drive four kilometres. Alas, at least I did more strength training. Maybe next time I see my trainer, her workouts won’t be such a brutal shock to my body…

Friday
Activity: Rest Day
Relevant Stats: Catfe visits: 1, coffees: 3, networking meetings: 2
Observations: If you have a Catfe in your city and you love cats, DO NOT GO. Seriously, you will want to adopt at least one, if not more. I learned this the hard way.  My biggest feat today, aside from not taking a cat home with me, was bringing my Christmas decorations out of storage. You know what this means: this weekend is decorating weekend!!!! Aside from that, no real activity occurred today, and my glutes are 100% okay with that.

All in all, a definite upswing from last week. I’m optimistic that next week I don’t overbook my time so heavily so I that I can maybe venture out for some snow hikes! For now, I give this week a:

bouncing-back

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Hiking the Hill of Hermitage Part II

Last week, I wrote about our discovery of the Tours des Sentiers in Tain l’Hermitage. This week I’m back to share our adventures hiking the actual Hill of Hermitage.  Also, sadly, this will be the final instalment of Throwback Thursdays devoted to hiking on our recent vacation to France and Italy. Clearly this means we must plan our next adventure stat.

Trail: Hermit to Hermitage
Distance: 5 km (for full loop) or about 3 km to viewpoint and back
Elevation: 170 m

This trail.  This trail was something we stumbled upon by complete accident (you’re likely sensing a theme here, if you’ve read my last few vacation hiking posts). We were walking back to our hotel after a disappointing visit to the Cave de Tain (which, in our opinion, had nothing on the Chapoutier tasting room in terms of a guest experience), when I noticed a cobbled, narrow road leading up into the famed Hill of Hermitage vineyards.

Destination: Hilltop.
Destination: Hilltop.

When I see a path, I cannot be deterred from following it. Plus, the sun had come out after a morning and afternoon of grey and cold. Sun + vineyards + a path to an unknown destination? Come on, with that combination you have to explore.

Like seriously, who wouldn't follow that road?
Like seriously, who wouldn’t follow that road?

The cobbled stone road quickly turned to gravel and narrowed as it made its way up the hill. On both sides of the path were rows of vines as far as the eye could see.  It was a wine lover’s paradise.

OMG so many grapes!
OMG so many grapes!
And more grapes
And more grapes
It's sort of hypnotizing to stare at.
It’s sort of hypnotizing when you stare at it.

What I found particularly amusing about our unplanned adventure is that both of us were sort of uncertain about whether we should even be there. We had encountered zero signs up to this point. To me, an absence of no trespassing signs is pretty much an indication that you can be there. My boyfriend was a little more leery, so much so that he stopped following me at a certain point. I forged on ahead up a steep stretch of trail and finally encountered proof that we were not only allowed to be there, but also on a legitimate trail!

At last! Proof of legitimate trail!
At last! Proof of legitimate trail!

Once we had official trail status, I was dying to continue onwards and upwards. However, the sun was already starting to set, and the thought of navigating rocky gravel slopes on a still slightly sprained ankle wasn’t particularly appealing.  Instead, we took a short side trail to a lookout where we were able to watch the sun set behind the hills overlooking the Rhone which, if you must know, was pretty damn spectacular.

The sun making its way to the horizon.
The sun making its way to the horizon.
Dusk descending on the Rhone valley.
Dusk descending on the Rhone valley.

Our mini-trek, which was not the full loop but a 3 km return out-and-back, took maybe an hour and that was with countless stops for photos. This is a must-do if you are in Tain l’Hermitage. Even if you are only passing through, it is well worth an hour of your time. You will be surrounded by vineyards, silence and ever-present views of the valley floor. Really, if you think about it, one can’t ask for much more in a trail.

Mid-Week Tangent: Misconceptions About Time Off

For those of you who read Monday’s post, you know that I left my job this week and am taking some time off before jumping into the next thing. In my mind, I imagined spending this time doing all the things that I never find mental energy for while working: hiking, writing, reading a real book from cover to cover, editing and organizing photos, cleaning up my cesspool of an apartment and, most importantly, relaxing.

None of this has happened. None. I thought not working would mean all this extra time on my hands. Granted it’s only been two days, but in these two days I have felt busier than I felt at work in my last two months. And the next two days look just as busy.

If you’ve ever wondered what people do to fill up their time when they’re not working, here’s a smattering of the things I’ve done/have planned for this week:
–Personal training sessions
–Lunch with an old boss
–Rush hour commuting (can’t avoid it even if you’re not working)
–Phone interviews
–Responding to prospective job-related emails
–Editing a friend’s resume and cover letter
–Applying for jobs
–Grocery shopping
–Making lunches and dinners for my boyfriend because, you know, he actually has to go to work
–Making homemade soup (see below)
–Hosting lunch for a couple friends featuring my home-made soup
–Meeting a friend for dinner
–Planning Friday night date night with a few of my favourite people
–Going to the gym, and trying to extend my workout times
–Meeting my old work team for a celebratory lunch at the Catfe

Notice the absence of frivolous activities like television watching, which really sucks as I’m trying to get through the rest of You’re the Worst before Shomi shuts down at the end of November. I know what you’re thinking, no one likes the person who complains about being busy. I promise you that’s not what I’m doing, though. I’m also not complaining about the time I have to do the things I outlined above. I know I’m fortunate to even be able to take a few weeks off work.

Hear me out. I just find it fascinating that I had such grand visions of hour upon hour of time to fill with projects I’ve been putting off. Little did I know that the more time I’m given, the more I will fill it with things that keep me away from those projects just as much as working ever did. It turns out my procrastination isn’t as job related as I thought.

Touché universe, touché.

procrastination

*p.s. I also just wasted ten minutes trying to figure out how to HTML code an accent aigu for ‘touché’, as well as refreshing my memory on the difference between accent aigu and accent grave, so you can see just how easy it is for time to disappear.

Training Tuesdays: To Ski or not to Ski

It’s getting to be that time of year when the ski hills open and Vancouverites flock to them en masse to capitalize on an always fleeting ski season.  Occasionally I am even one of them. However, I must make it clear that I am not a fan of the downhill variety of skiing. In fact, downhill skiing is one of the most terrifying things I have done in my life. I am clumsy. I lack technique. I am tense with fear. That is a dangerous triad when it comes to skiing.  No, my skiing of choice is the cross-country variety, classic cross-country to be exact. I’m not even cool enough to be a skate skier.

I don't look nearly this stylish...nor poised.
I don’t look nearly this stylish…nor poised.

Hear me out before you judge me for partaking in the choice winter sport of the elderly (as I was once told by a random person behind me in line at Nesters in Whistler).  It is a great workout. I love skiing uphill. Love it. In fact, if I could only ski uphill and never have to experience the sheer horror of careening down a sheet of ice on two narrow slats I would be overjoyed. Seriously, if you think you can’t bail uncontrollably on cross country skis, you are wrong.

The point is, I love the workout of cross-country skiing. My SI, however, does not. Years back, the last time I had more significant issues with my SI, my physiotherapist at the time suggested I take up skate skiing if I wanted to ski cross country. She said that the forward motion of classic cross-country would aggravate my SI. She was right. Last year I definitely noticed my SI acting up slightly, its aggravation worse the icier the conditions. It’s mostly due to lack of skill, but when my ski slips backward on ice while going up hill, it’s the exact motion that pulls on the ligaments surrounding my SI. In short, cross-country is bad news for me.

So now I’m left with a conundrum: do I give up cross-country completely or do I give skate skiing a try to see if it’s a better fit for my many injuries?  If you don’t know me, you’re probably thinking ‘yeah, just give it a try’. To you I say, you have no idea just how completely lacking in natural skill I am. Here are my fears:

  • I just, and I mean just, got the basic hang of slowing down outside of tracks. Yes, after five years of cross-country skiing. Prior to that, I relied on perfectly groomed trackset routes and hoped for the best.  It’s a wonder I never killed myself or created a world-class collision with someone else. Last year my dear friend Alexa finally explained slowing myself in a way that made sense to my uncoordinated self and, while that helped tremendously, I am still full of fear when skiing downhill and prefer tracks to open slopes.  Skate skiing requires control in downhill stretches.
  • Related to the above, I legitimately fear bailing epically. When I lived in the Rockies, I had the luxury of professionally groomed Nordic Centre courses and good, old-fashioned Rocky mountain snow. Here in BC, track-setting seems like more of an afterthought, and the delightfully moist air and fluctuating temperatures turn most of the tracks into glorified ice chutes. As a result, I’ve taken some seriously impressive spills here, even on moderate hills. Picture arms flailing, head first, tangled ski nose-dives and you’ll have a good visual for my experiences.  An epic bail of this nature would surely wreak havoc on my SI.
  • Skate skiing requires legitimate technique. In classic, you can get away with knowing nothing.  The tracks do a lot of the work, and the motion itself is similar to walking. Skate skiing, as you would expect from it’s name, uses a skating motion. That’s fine on nice, little ice skates, but trying to use a skating motion with long skis seems like a recipe for disaster to me. I can envision myself stepping on the back of my skis and falling forward in the most ungraceful of tumbles. With my general lack of grace and coordination, I imagine the whole act of skate skiing would not only look awkward, but would take me way too much time to get the hang of.

See? Conundrum. It’s such a fabulous winter training activity, and yet a veritable minefield of opportunity for injury or embarrassment. If anyone’s a skate skiing expert, I’d love to hear your thoughts!