Monday Musings: ask and you shall receive

As you are reading this, I’m likely having dinner with a bunch of executives in Minnesota. I still don’t understand how this trip came to be, but I can tell you one thing: I’ve never had a desire to visit Minneapolis, particularly in the dead of winter. This has nothing to do with today’s post, but rather it is a total aside. I simply felt the need to complain about being in Minnesota. In December.

What’s really important is that my Christmas advent calendar wish came true this weekend! If you recall, last week I lamented  the lack of advent calendars all around me. By the time the weekend rolled around, I had given up hope of ever finding my beloved Lindt calendar. They seemed to have vanished into thin air. In fact, just yesterday as we were driving home from some errands and yet another day of seeing nary an advent calendar, my boyfriend said to me “I guess we have to give up for this year.”  It was a sad holiday moment for me.

Well, all I have to say is that you should never underestimate the power of the universe to deliver on your wishes. Last night, when we arrived at my friend’s son’s first birthday party she excitedly told me she had something for me and not to leave without seeing her. I do love a good surprise, but I admit I thought it was maybe a Christmas card.  As it turned out it was so much better (which is saying a lot because I love a good Christmas card!).

As we were getting ready to head out from the party, I went to say goodbye and my friend excitedly told me to come with her. She looked way too happy for this to just be a card. As I followed her into the kitchen, I was wracking my brain for what it might be but it never occurred to me it would be so grand: my Lindt Christmas advent calendar! I am sure my face looked like a child opening the best gift ever on Christmas morning. Others who were there to witness looked confused by my level of excitement. They clearly didn’t understand that I had looked everywhere. Moreover, I had actually given up.

Isn’t she a beauty?

There are few things as wonderful as the unexpected surprise of finding yourself holding something you didn’t believe would be yours. I understand that an advent calendar is rather trivial in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes the little things are everything. Great joy can be found in small moments of total surprise and excitement. In fact, it is the stuff that Christmas magic is made of.  As we near Christmas (two weeks away to be exact!), I’d like to remind you to keep dreaming and making wishes, both big and small.  Though this is a small example, it goes to show that sometimes what you ask for, you will receive.


TWIR #87: getting back to it

Another week of nothing but strength training and my body is starting to bounce back from its latest and greatest SI issues. I also haven’t even thought about the torturous spin bike in so long that it seems like a distant memory. I do not miss it. I am, however, sort of starting to miss running. That’s not an entirely accurate statement. It’s that I miss the thought of running, the freedom of being able to throw on shoes and work out at a moment’s notice. Having to go to the gym, on weekends in particular, feels like such a burden and ten times more time consuming than a quick run.  I suppose this is why they say you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Great, now I am thinking about cake…

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: co-hosted brunch for 17 + ate more cake (with ice cream no less)
Observations: I believe my cumulative step count for the day was at an all time low. I know that I walked fewer than 2 km, which is just insane and trust me when I say my sciatic was not pleased with me. Even though I certainly wasn’t walking, I did stand around on hard, unforgiving floors for probably close to six hours straight. In other words, my body wasn’t happy with me by end of day, so I absolutely had to appease it with cake and ice cream and a very, very cheesy made-for-tv Christmas movie.

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: golf!
Observations: I was going to go the gym, I really was, but the forecast had promised me sunshine which convinced that I had to spend as much of the day as possible outside. If you had lived through almost three straights weeks of rain, you’d feel the same. Well, the sun didn’t exactly show up but it didn’t rain either, so we hit the links for a 9-hole round. I did squeeze in some bench push ups and step ups while waiting to tee off, so it wasn’t a totally write off for activity. Plus, there was a lot of jumping up and down when I got my par. That’s gotta work the heart muscles out, doesn’t it?

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations:  I honestly have little recognition of what I did in this workout. This seems to be a Monday-related thing. Perhaps the horror of returning to work after the weekend combines with the exhaustion of returning to early mornings to render my memory utterly useless.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min. (upper and lower body)
Observations:  My trainer never ceases to amaze me with her ability to repeatedly integrate activities that I absolutely despise into my workouts. This week’s torture: something she calls prowler supermans. Basically this involved getting into a low squat with the prowler in front of me and keeping my arms/shoulders anchored and straight as I pushed the prowler forward to a plank position, then walked my feet back towards the prowler while still keeping my arms/shoulders straight and anchored, which is then repeated over and over again. Across the whole damn length of the carpet. It’s hard to explain. What you really need to know is that it sucked. A lot.

Activity: strength training (mostly lower body)
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations:  My goal for this workout was to get my back squats back into action with a reasonable amount of weight, and I succeeded. I’m still not back to pre-SI-reinjury weight, but I’m getting closer. Also, I forced myself to do negative pull ups after weeks of avoiding them. In the moment my arms felt fine, but I assure you they did not feel fine on Thursday.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min. (mostly upper body)
Observations: Even after the dreaded negative pulls ups from Wednesday, I wanted to do a bit more work with my upper body. By the end my triceps and shoulders were screaming, which I assume means I did a good job of testing my arm’s limits (which continue to be very, very low).

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 30 min. (mostly lower body)
Observations: I added another ten pounds to the prowler! I can’t say I even noticed the difference so I’m going to add another ten pounds next time around. After the hellish exercises my trainer makes me do with the prowler, standard high and low prowler pushing feels like a vacation. Bring on the weight! I also forced myself to try dead lifts on my own, which I’ve been afraid to do since the evil kettle bell incident a couple weeks ago. I kept the weights on the light side and checked my form before each lift and I am pleased to announce I have emerged unscathed!

I feel pretty good about this week. I didn’t fit in a lot of long workouts, but I do believe the workouts I had were quality workouts.  I’ll have to keep that momentum going this weekend, though, since I’m travelling Monday and Tuesday and others have micromanaged my schedule to the point that there is no hope of a workout. Sigh.  I’m trying not to think of that for now. Instead, I’m thinking of wine and holiday treats and two blissful days of freedom.  Happy weekend!

Mid-Week Tangent: where oh where have the advent calendars gone?

I made a very grave mistake this year, one that I am reminded of each and every morning when I wake up, knowing a new day is upon me and also knowing that I cannot rejoice in the new day arriving by opening a tiny cardboard window. This year I have failed to procure my Christmas advent calendar.  The only excuse I have is my cheapness, and it has haunted me for the last five days.

Let’s backtrack here. Last year, my boyfriend and I made what we thought was an amazing discovery: once December 1st struck, the advent calendars went on sale. And I’m talking about some steep discounts. We got our primo Lindt advent calendars for just 7.99, a good 30% less than the pre-December price. We thought it was the ultimate score.

Flash forward to this year. We’ve been brazenly walking past the advent calendars for weeks, confident in our ability to secure post-December-first calendars at a fraction of the cost. I’d even scoped out the Lindt advent calendar pattern that I really wanted, so supremely certain that it would be there for me this past weekend.  It never even occurred to me that last year’s experience may have been an anomaly.

On Sunday, while running errands, we looked  at our local Save-On Foods. Nothing. I wasn’t too stressed. We had lots of other options. Then we went to No Frills. Then Shoppers Drug Mart.  No calendars.  By this point, I was beginning to get worried. I tried to convince myself that it’s just because No Frills is a bit dodgy. I mean, they probably never had Lindt calendars in the first place. And the Shoppers Drug Mart by our place is rather tiny and has the most pitiful of Christmas sections. Surely those were the issues, and once we visited bigger and better stores we’d be rewarded for our savings mindedness.

Now, two days later, I’m no longer sure that’s the case. Today, we collectively searched six more stores, many of which were large stores in the city centre. There were still no advent calendars to be found!!!!! My boyfriend found some of the crappy advent calendars, you know the ones, the ones with confections that bear only a slight resemblance to actual chocolate. I ain’t got time for those.  My search was even less fruitful, though. I visited stores that didn’t even have the cheap advent calendars. Sure, I would have snubbed them even if they had been there, but it begged the question: where oh where have all the advent calendars gone????

I do not know the answer to this question. I have hypothesized that it’s because we live in the city now, and perhaps the excessive stocking of advent calendars only occurs in the suburbs where there are more families. After all, I’m not sure that the primary market for chocolate advent calendars is childless adults in their late thirties. Or, as an alternative, perhaps the retail machine has finally learned to order appropriate volumes of goods. Maybe last year’s scores were due to retailers over-estimating demand and we just lucked out. Perhaps, though, the reason is a lot simpler. Maybe it’s just the universe’s way of telling me not to be so bloody cheap. After all, can you put a price on tiny balls of Lindt chocolate for 24 consecutive days? The answer to that question is a resounding no.

I have learned my lesson now, although perhaps a little too late. Next year, I promise you I won’t tempt the advent calendar gods. Next year, I will fork over the full price without any hesitation.  Next year I will wake up every morning in December with the excitement that only comes from knowing that chocolate is in your immediate future.* There truly is no greater excitement.

*If you live in Vancouver and know where I can find full price or discounted Lindt advent calendars, please save me from my crippling regret and tell me where to go.

Monday Musings: par!

My friends, Sunday was a great accomplishment in my golf life. Maybe I was inspired by watching Rickie Fowler’s 7 consecutive birdies (!!) in the Hero World Challenge.  Maybe I was picking up some pro golf techniques by osmosis as we watched hours on end of golf coverage. Or maybe, maybe the universe just knew I was due for a golf win. Whatever the cause, the end result was this: a sweet, beautiful, all-natural, mulligan-free, legitimate par. My first ever on a non-pitch-and-putt course.

It was just like any other day on the greens. I was trying desperately to get some air on my hybrid shots, hacking away (literally) at chip shots, and putting like a champ (seriously, it’s the only decent part of my game), and I was still lucky to shoot a 5 on a par 3. Then I stepped up to the fifth hole and everything changed.

I teed up. I grabbed my trusty hybrid club. I took a deep breath and hoped for the best because, let’s face it, that about all I can do most days and it’s even more true when I haven’t played golf in two months (unless you count the tiny putting green at Golf Town…which you shouldn’t). There were no practice swings. There was no positive self-talk. There was no conscious thought whatsoever. There was just me and my hybrid, in the zone for one brief moment.

I made good contact. I know the sound because it happens so rarely for me. I watched as, miraculously, the ball took flight up in the air.  I watched it flying closer and closer to the green, only to drop to the ground just shy of the green. But then the universe handed me a gift. I got a generous bounce, and then another generous bounce, and then a thank-you-lord little roll. Before I knew it, my ball was on the green.  I’ve done this only twice before. This in itself was a miracle. There may have been jumping up and down.

Once I made my way to the green, I knew this was going to my first legitimate birdie. Spoiler: it wasn’t. The ball was a good 40 feet from the hole but, here’s the thing, I am occasionally freakishly good with my long putts. I was also still riding the high of perhaps my best tee shot ever.  I was going to sink this putt. I took my time, lined up the putt, practiced a couple putting strokes. Then I putted.

I missed.

It was tracking the whole way, right on line, and it was all looking so magical, that is until the ball just petered out and came to a stop.  I didn’t get the weight right. I was still four feet from the hole, a dangerous putt for me since I have a tendency to think I don’t need to line it up from that distance. My boyfriend told me to take my time and line it up, and for once I listened. I looked at that ground from all angles, determined to find any sign of a break. I took another deep breath and gave that putt my all.

As a casual (i.e. undeniably unskilled) golfer, there is nothing sweeter than the sound of a ball falling to the bottom of the cup on a par putt. You would have thought I hit a hole-in-one for all my excitement and jumping up and down.  I know, I can see some of you giving me serious side eye right now, wondering how on earth one par score over months of golfing is worthy of an entire blog post. To you I say: you cannot steal my sense of pride and accomplishment here. I got a par. Without a mulligan. On a reasonably long par 3. That is a good day in the life of a wannabe golfer and I am going to ride this wave whether you think it worthy of celebration or not.

Never you mind that I shot a 10 on the next hole…


TWIR #86…for the second week in a row

Apparently, I can’t count so last week I posted TWIR 86 when it should have been TWIR #85. I know the only person that cares about this is me, so I’ll just move right along.

This was an interesting week for workouts. It was my first week experimenting with no cardio, and I have to say that it felt liberating not to contemplate suffering on a spin bike for 40 minutes. It also proved to be challenging in ways. Varying my strength activities over six workouts was more difficult than anticipated, as was making sure that I didn’t overdo it since my SI was still a bit wonky. I survived, though! So let’s see what I got up to.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: carb and sugar overload
Observations: Well, I ate a dulce de leche donut, which was heaven. I then reintroduced rice with some pretty mediocre sushi, which made me sad since it’s been a month since I had sushi and I was so looking forward to it. I topped it off with the white chocolate peppermint M&M fiasco.  It’s safe to say I ended the day with a pretty serious stomach ache.  Lest you think I did nothing but eat all day, we also walked to the farmers market and attempted to Christmas shop forgetting it was still black friday hangover (i.e. it was very short lived). My point is, we did walk and we did leave the house so, yeah, that totally makes all the carbs and sugar okay.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: After Saturday’s aggressive carb-ing, I opted to hit the gym on Sunday. My SI was still tender but I stuck to controlled movements, just with more weight, and emerged from the gym unscathed. I also avoided any contact with carbs or sugar. Not surprisingly, it was easy after Saturday’s gluttony.  Also, we decorated!!! Although most of our decorations are in storage, we have just enough to make our place feel cozy and festive. Bring on the holiday season!

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: Another good day of strength training! I even got back on the prowler, albeit with a little less weight than usual. I can’t say my SI was thrilled with that move, but it held out and didn’t suffer more than the occasional twinge.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: After two day’s of strength training, I neglected to consider just how tired my arm muscles might be. One set into push ups with shoulder taps and I was whining to my trainer about my arms being tired. She must just love working with me. She took things fairly easy on me as I’d told her about my SI setback last week, but she did make me use sliders for bear crawls and reverse plank walking, both of which were torturous and, quite frankly, uncalled for.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 30 minutes
Observations: I jammed in a short morning workout when I realized I wouldn’t have time to step out during the workday.  I’m starting to get my weights back up, with the exception of back squats, which my SI and back seemed to outright reject with any weight above 50 pounds. Ugh. Still, I wasn’t on a spin bike suffering through cardio so I was a happy camper. The workout was short and sweet, which would have been fine if I hadn’t downed a massive apple fritter and two glasses of wine after work.  I swear there’s a good reason! Two actually! First and foremost, I’ve been madly craving a donut since the weekend and sometimes you just have to give in or you’ll drive yourself mad. Secondly, I got some good news at work worthy of a small celebration.  Most importantly, after that fritter, I’m done for donuts…at least until the weekend…

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: I learned a very important lesson today: don’t eat a giant bowl of tuna salad on lettuce and then go for a workout. For some reason, I always assume the whole don’t-eat-a-giant-meal-before-a-workout thing only applies to cardio. It does not. There is nothing quite like the feeling of doing ab work and seriously wondering if it might actually cause you to vomit.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: Oh, prowler, how I both love and hate you. I went back to full weights today and it was hard and I hated it but I was happy that my SI seemed okay with it. It’s still not liking back squats with any real weight, but I will beat it into submission next week. For now, I’m just going to accept that I had a good week of workouts all things considered. Time to bring on the weekend!

Here’s hoping all your weekends start to include some festive cheer. I know mine will. It’s December, people, and only 24 days to Christmas and you better believe that is cause for festive celebrations!  Happy weekend y’all.

Mid-Week Tangent: Renouncing my love for white chocolate peppermint M&Ms

Just one year ago, almost to the day, I wrote a list of my top holiday treats. Sitting atop this carefully crafted list was the white chocolate peppermint M&M, the very pinnacle of the festive season’s candy choices, so beloved that it even edged out the Lindt Candy Cane Lindor. I mean, that’s saying a lot. You can see why what I am about to say is extremely difficult for me. Today is the day that I must renounce my love for white chocolate peppermint M&Ms. Fully and completely.

How does a tried and tested confection fall from top of my list to the very bottom in one fell swoop? Even I cannot answer this question with any real certainty. All I know is that when I saw my formerly beloved white chocolate peppermint M&Ms in the store a couple weeks ago, I thought I had reached nirvana. I don’t recall ever seeing them in Canada.  I was so so excited that I eagerly tossed a bag into our shopping cart despite one very troubling fact: I wasn’t eating any sugar at the time.

Those M&Ms sat in my cupboard for a full two weeks, a true feat for my self-control. They called to me almost daily. Okay, not “almost” daily, but actually daily. I bargained inside my own head, trying to find any avenue to justify abandoning my sugar-free weekdays for just one or two sweet, sweet M&Ms. Finally, last Saturday, my cheat day, it was time to dive into the bag. I couldn’t wait. What happened next can only be described as a candy tragedy.

The first bite could only be described as a full-on peppermint overload. My actual thought: “Good God, my mouth is ablaze…from peppermint. How is that even possible????.”  Peppermint should, in fact, be an icy sensation not a hot sensation so the fact that my mouth felt as though it were on fire was particularly perplexing. My next thought was that perhaps I’m just not used to sugar/candy and I need to eat a few more to get reacquainted with the delight of sugar. I foolishly deluded myself into believing more peppermint might somehow tame the peppermint.  Well, I ate the whole damn bag and I can definitively tell you what you probably already knew: more overwhelming mint begets only more overwhelming mint. Not only did I feel absolutely ill, but the minty aftertaste was so strong and prevalent that I swear to you it felt like I just brushed my teeth…excessively…with the world’s mintiest of toothpastes.

Look, I am a huge, huge advocate for chocolate and peppermint, but I have to say that if you feel like you’ve just brushed your teeth after eating a peppermint candy, that is too much peppermint.  I like my white chocolate saccharine and these M&Ms lacked the sugar hit to balance out the peppermint. To say I was crestfallen would be an understatement.  I was left only with an extremely unhappy stomach and the unnerving experience of being let down by one of my true candy loves.

I do not know if Hershey Canada has a different formula for white chocolate peppermint M&Ms than in the US, which is where I acquired these candies in the past. I do find that Hershey’s chocolate tastes altogether different in the two countries. Perhaps that is the culprit here. Regardless, I can safely say that my latest experience has soured me so much that I will never find out. I am sorry peppermint white chocolate M&Ms, but we are done.  Though I am saddened by your sudden disappearance from my list of favourite holiday candies, I am thankful that there are hordes of other peppermint chocolate confections to take your place. I bid you adieu.

Monday Musings: holiday season

For some of you, it is decidedly too soon for this conversation. I know many who are opposed to uttering the “C” word before the first of December, (some seeing even that as too soon). You can fight it all you want, but the carols are already on never-ending loops in every mall, the aisles are chock full of Christmas wonder, and Starbucks has been slinging eggnog lattes for weeks.  I get it, though. I went through a bah-humbug stage of my own for a number of years.  It’s easy to get caught up in all that’s wrong with the world, or to view the holidays as simply a consumerist and commercial affair devoid of any deeper meaning.  Let’s face it, sometimes it’s also just fun to be a grumpus or proud cynic. I really have been there.

Fun fact: I actually grew up in a family who could (and still can) only be considered as Christmas fanatics. Our home was always decorated to the extreme, sort of like department store windows used to be, only in every single corner of the house. We always had a ton of Christmas baking. My dad read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to me every Christmas Eve…probably until I was about 25 years of age.  We even invented a damn holiday: Christmas Eve Eve (i.e. the day before Christmas Eve) just as a way to prolong the celebration…and mostly as a way for me to open a gift early. Christmas magic and tradition was all around me. Despite all of this, I went through a few years as an adult where I gave serious side eye to what I perceived to be excessively early engagement in holiday festivities. I was a bit of a closet scrooge, too cool for school, and “over” the holiday spirit.

I’m delighted to say I’ve turned a corner, though, and find myself firmly back in the camp of pro-early-holiday-celebration. The holiday season has so much to offer beyond Christmas day itself.  Sure, the constant Christmas carols can be annoying. I mean, if I hear one more Michael Buble Christmas song…But aside from that, can you really deny the many small wonders of the holiday season? I mean, have you considered:

–Advent calendars: daily chocolate for no other reason than another day arriving. i can get on board with that.

–Peppermint chocolate everything. Need I say more?

–Friendlier people everywhere. I swear the holiday season brings out the best in everyone…maybe aside from fanatical bargain seeking shoppers on Black Friday…but generally speaking, the holidays put people in a good mood. We can use more kindness in this world.

–Twinkling lights on everything. Who doesn’t want more ambiance in her life?

–Made-for-TV Christmas movies. Come on, they’re all just cheesy rom-coms masquerading as holiday films, and that’s exactly what makes them wonderful.

–STOCKINGS FULL OF PRESENTS. Whoever came up with stuffing multiple presents into a giant sock is my hero. Many presents masquerading as one? I may be almost forty, but I can still get behind that.

–A month-long excuse to get together with friends or family for dinners or drinks or any other form of celebration. It’s a universally known truth that calories don’t count over the holidays.

–Most importantly, a chance to reconnect with your inner child. Let’s face it, it’s easy to lose our sense of wonder as we age. We get jaded and cynical. We stop believing in magic. Of course this isn’t true for everyone, but can you remember what Christmas was like as a child? I remember barely being able to sleep and literally counting the minutes on Christmas Eve, which I also determined to be the longest day in the history of the world. I remember waking up early and sneaking downstairs and seeing Santa’s motherload laid out beneath the tree, our stockings overflowing. I remember my family sitting together amidst twinkling Christmas lights, listening to Christmas music for hours, munching on treats and drinking fun drinks. Doesn’t that all sound pretty magical?

I rest my case. So today, exactly 29 days from Christmas, I challenge you to find that little sparkle of holiday joy that you can get behind and grab hold of it.