Healthy Swellness: 2020 Year in Review

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What can I say about this past year…I debated not writing this post this year, but then I started thinking it might be helpful to look back and see that this year wasn’t a total write-off…

This year started off really well for me. 2019 had ended amazingly with a phenomenal trip to Thailand. And I felt like 2020 was going to be my year. Work was going well, I was working with many smart and kind people and was in a groove. In early February of this year, I had the phenomenal opportunity to run the Dead Sea Marathon (I just did the half distance as I was not in race-shape) and extended my trip and fell totally in love with Israel. The phenomenal food, the sights, and I will always remember Tel Aviv as the city where a complete stranger secretly paid for my lunch, just out of the kindness of his heart.

Then I came back in early March from a press trip on a cruise and the pandemic had fully grabbed hold of Toronto a few days later. And 2020 all went to SH*T. It was most definitely not going to be my year, or anyone’s year. And it’s been hard AF.

But a couple of weeks ago it dawned on me that this year has not been the most challenging year I’ve experienced, and since then, this has made me feel more prepared to make it through each day. I feel like I’m always a work in progress when it comes to being more resilient and if anything this year has shown how resilient we all are. Day to day life has been a struggle for sure, and as overwhelming as those struggles have been, I’m happy and proud of a few things I managed to do this year:

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I ran my first ultra race. I worked my ass off and ran 1,021.68 kilometres in 91 days, and then ran and walked another 1,021.68k before the official end of the four-month period of the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. Thinking back to May and June now, I truly can’t believe I ran sometimes as much as three times a day to complete the race more than twice as early as I initially planned to complete the race. And to have doubled the distance with including a ton of walking. I had Laz Lake comment on one or two of my Facebook comments so having this running legend correspondence, plus doing this virtual race with my friend Aylin, well, this experience would not have happened without the pandemic as I have always sworn that I am not someone who runs every single day, including getting up to run at sunrise (which in an of itself is an accomplishment for this non-morning person).

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I read 17 books. I started the year with a few goals, and I only managed to complete one of them. While I failed at learning how to use my camera and doing workouts other than running, I crushed my goal to read one book a month. I’m thrilled to have returned to my passion for reading. I took too many years off from reading books and being able to disconnect from social media and escape into a book has helped me regain a sense of calm. I have an ongoing list of books to read and plan to continue and hopefully boost how much I read in the new year. (Of the two books pictured, I reco Ask Again, Yes; I didn’t get to the Gladwell book yet!)

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I found new ways to spend time with friends. My go-to for catching up with friends is typically to meet for dinner and drinks. While that will always be something I love to do, with restaurants closed for dining much of this year, it means with some friends, we have discovered new ways to see each other. Including hiking (something I love but somehow with certain friends we just have never made the effort to), or just meeting at a park or for a bike ride. And enjoying the outdoors always serves up a fantastic mood boost.

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I rode my bike more than I have in my entire life, and on city streets. I only started riding my bike towards the end of August, as I was entirely focused on completing as many running and walking kilometres for my virtual race up until then. But once I completed that race, I rode my bike (even on busy streets like College St.!) to get around the city, and I met up with friends to go for a ride, usually with our destination being a delicious local food spot. I still am not 100 percent comfortable with riding in the city, but this year I’ve ridden at night, in the rain and snow and was on my bike up until December 29th. Today there’s some snow and ice on the roads so I might need to pause until spring, but all of the kilometres I completed on two wheels these last few months is a major feat for me.

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The biggest and best thing to come out of this year, though, is that it’s forced me to remember and appreciate what really matters, being in good health and the people that are important to me. I’ve tried my best to nurture both those things; that said, I regularly fail at getting enough sleep, though, and have developed a chocolate habit the past few months; and sometimes I just don’t have the bandwidth to check in on loved ones. I try not to beat myself up about it, we are all doing the best we can, after all. We survived this unprecedented way of living and that’s a lot, and it’s enough if that is “all” you can chalk up for this year.

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Take a moment to think of the best that’s come out of this past year. I think you too will find there are those moments, even if small. Even if fleeting. Even if the only thing you can think of that you accomplished is finishing a puzzle (I have only managed to complete one, turns out I’m terrible at puzzles. But I’m still working at it!).

Oh, I almost forgot to check my 2020 Top Nine on Instagram…about half are fitness-focused. A couple of travel shots, and one is from my Billie Jean-centred partnership with Giant Tiger (she’s still snacking on the treats from that partnership!). And one is all about gin, which makes sense as I sure sipped more than a few cocktails in 2020!

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And with that, I wish you a brighter, safe and happy 2021.

k xo

Leave a Comment December 30, 2020

Healthy Swellness: 3 Good Morning Essentials

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With every day of living through the pandemic being pretty draining, I’ve come to really appreciate a few things that brighten up each morning and help set me off in a better mood for the day. Currently making my mornings better:

My Starbucks milk frother. I hemmed and hawed about buying milk frother for many, many months (maybe even over a year—I just have so many appliances, and didn’t want to add yet another). But when a neighbour was selling hers, I snapped it up and it’s by far the best purchase I’ve made during the pandemic and my most used appliance (other than my Nespresso machine). While I’ve always savoured my morning coffee, being able to make frothy lattes now elevates my morning cuppa joe and, healthy bonus, I’m getting more calcium in my diet. I truly do look feel as happy as I am in this photo when I’ve got my morning coffee! And that’s not even with latte art!

The frother I bought is an older Starbucks model that I don’t think is available anymore as I can’t find it online, but based on my months of online research, the Nespresso Aeroccino is one of the sleekest ones I’ve found (and design is so important when it’s an appliance you have out on your kitchen counter all the time). If the $100 price tag of the Aeroccino is a bit steep for you, my friend Gabrielle is happy with the FKANT handheld milk frother she recently purchased (and btw, you should follow her on IG for her delightful sardonic wit!). And yes, I discuss milk frothers with my friends, don’t you? Haha!

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Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Face Wash in Pink Grapefruit. Now, I’m not a morning person (although I’d like to be but I’m just not hardwired to be one) and I really appreciate anything that helps to perk me up in the a.m. and it was such a surprise to find it a brighten-my-day product in this inexpensive ($12!)  facial cleanser. The Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Face Wash‘s pink grapefruit scent is a refreshing wake-up in the shower as I cleanse my face. Plus, it contains salicylic acid so it helps clear blemishes (and I’ve been struggling with occasional maskne breakouts).

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Stojo Collapsible Pocket Cup. I try my best to plan my time well, but it seems no matter what, I’m often running out of the house in a rush. So more often than not, I have to take my coffee or smoothie to go, sometimes it’s when I’m walking Billie Jean in the morning. As I’m usually getting to places on foot for my errands, a collapsible cup to go works best for me so I can easily collapse it and tuck it into my bag for the rest of the day. The only downside to the Stojo is it’s not insulated so it doesn’t keep my bevvie hot or cold (I use a Hydroflask for that, like if I need hot chocolate to keep me warm on a winter hike). My Stojo cup was a gift from a friend, who got it from Logan and Finley, an eco-conscious shop here in Toronto (shop local!). I don’t believe they carry the Stojo anymore, but they do have this glass reusable takeaway cup that looks great, love the cork band.

What are your morning essentials?

Leave a Comment December 23, 2020

Travel Swellness: Your Guide to a Dog-friendly Getaway to Prince Edward County

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Just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Toronto, Prince Edward County is a bucolic wine and food lovers’ escape that many of us in Toronto flock to in the summer. I’ve visited several times (once to stay in a tiny house, another time for a girlfriend-and-pups vacay, and yet another time for foodie girlfriend road trip, to name just a few). But what about PEC in the fall? The County has loads of gourmet indulgences and wouldn’t the fall be a cozy time to explore? I set out there recently to discover what it’s like for a dog-friendly fall getaway.

Note: This is about Prince Edward County—not to be confused with Prince Edward Island (those outside of Canada often confuse the two!).

Although it was fall, we ended up with very summery weather for our whole stay! Something else unexpected: I only visited quickly once last year, and this trip I discovered that several of my faves in the County have closed down. That was disappointing, but I also found that there are lots of darling new spots to enjoy.

Some of my favourite (mostly dog-friendly) things to see and do while in the County.

WHERE TO STAY

It can sometimes be hard to find great dog-friendly accommodations, amirite? Not in Picton, though, dog parents, you’ll want to stay at The Ferg in Picton with your four-legged pal if you can snag a spot.

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This is my second stay in the Loft at the Ferg (I visited first in 2017) and full disclosure, they hosted us for this stay. It’s a gorgeous, welcoming space filled with natural light and stylish cottage country (but also sorta beachy chic) decor. There is a full kitchen if you plan on cooking meals (we treated ourselves to eating out while there). Billie Jean seemed to remember the space and made herself right at home right away. (btw, if you’re interested in Billie Jean’s backstory, check it out here!)

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Another fantastic dog-friendly spot to stay? The Drake Motor Inn (I stayed here with Billie Jean last summer). Where your pup will have a plush bed to sleep on and you get to enjoy the stylish retro-inspired space. Bring a crate (or request one from the Motor Inn) as your dog must be crated if you go out and leave your pup in the room.

WHERE TO EAT

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A new spot for us, Flossie’s Sandwich Parlor serves up very large and tasty sandwiches. Definitely go with an appetiteI was only able to finish about half of my When Porky Met Petunia (housemade sausage patty that is wrapped in bacon, topped with a fried egg, housemade aioli and old cheddar cheese). There are picnic tables on the patio and it’s got a family-friendly atmosphere; plus dogs are welcome, so it was a great spot to grab lunch at on the day we checked out of the Ferg and had Billie Jean with us. To wash down your sandwich, order one of the Lemonade Dave (another Ontario brand!).

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Yes, there’s a Tim Hortons right by The Ferg in Picton, but we weren’t in the mood for a double double and trekked over to the adorable Beacon Bike + Brew where the latte was very good but the croissant was phenomenal (they’d warmed it up and it was a delightful buttery, flaky treat to kick off the day with). As they were serving customers curbside, there was no need for Billie Jean to stay outside with one of us while the other ventured inside to order.

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If you like me go by the motto “treat yourself” while on a getaway, then you follow up breakfast by stopping to get a cookie at Picnic Cafe, another new spot to me! We’d seen some incredible salted caramel cookies there the day before, but when we went back, they didn’t have them (lesson learned: snap up delicious treats when you can cuz if you snooze you lose!). However, the peanut butter cookie more than satisfied our sweet tooth. Speaking of treats, definitely stop at Sunnydale Farms to pick up Waupoos Butter Tarts; these ample tarts (one was three servings for me!) are the perfect late-night sweet treat. Next time, I’ll get some of the Sunnydale Popcorn, too! I don’t know why we didn’t get any this time, I think we were too excited about the tarts!

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Like a moth to a flame…I feel like I can’t visit PEC and not eat at Drake Devonshire. Its dining room is one of my favourites, although we sat outside thanks to the gorgeous weather this time. The menu was more limited (due to the pandemic, I presume) but that didn’t impact how good it was. We both ordered the lobster and shrimp roll and it was so good that neither of us could stop talking about how delicious it was in between each bite. The fries were perfection as well, crispy on the outside, soft and potato-y inside. N.B. The Drake Devonshire is not dog-friendly, so enjoy a meal here when your itinerary includes leaving your dog to lounge at your Airbnb.

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My biggest regret this trip is that we missed our one opportunity to stop by for Jamie Kennedy’s J.K. Fries. They were only open the day we arrived as the next two days they were closed as they were prepping for an event, and I read the news on the Instagram too late. Some of the best meals I’ve ever had are at his restaurants. Heads up: J.K. Fries returns May 2021.

Because there are only so many meals one can have on a two-night getaway, my next stop into PEC will include trying out Bermuda. The owners are the one’s behind Guapo’s Cantina, a Mexican taco spot I’ve tried twice (the first time was during a foodie tour for work), and this is their new brick-and-mortar resto in Bloomfield.

WHERE TO SHOP

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Field Made Goods is one of the shops that’ll have you wanting to ditch everything you own and replacing them with the beautiful lifestyle pieces that fill this new shop. It’s a collaborative shop featuring the work from four makers: Sunday’s Company, Bethanie Kaye, East City Candles, and Cylinder Studio, and now more than ever, I think we need to fill our lives with beautiful items that make you feel good every day, whether that’s a dreamy scented candle or a mug that feels great in your hand for the cup of hot cocoa after a walk in the brisk weather.

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I’ve always been sad that Sand & Sumac closed in Wellington, and when I walked into Keep in Picton I was excited to see many of the stunning covetable items I recall from S&S, and then we chatted with the woman running the shop as we cashed out and I learned it’s the same owner (who also owns another favourite lifestyle shop, Kokito). At Keep you’ll find decorative throw pillows, cozy throws, and beautiful tableware and more (like the Moroccan babouche shoes I pick up every single time I’m in the shop, but never end up buying as I don’t know how I’d wear them…).

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I am no green thumb but the curated gardening items and other pretty products (think candles and flannel shirts) at Carson’s Garden + Market made me want to become one! While your order at Flossie’s Sandwich Parlor (located just outside of Carson’s) is on the grill, take the time to poke around in the shop to make your shortlist of what to buy before you leave (it’s gardening expert Carson Arthur’s shop, by the way, who’s the nicest; I met him when I did a garden-centre partnership with Loblaws a couple of years ago).

WHERE TO DRINK

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While many of the wineries require you book your tastings (given the pandemic), which I personally found hard to do (given we would play things by ear), Closson Chase Vineyards was one you could pop into to have a tasting or glass on their expansive outdoor terrace. Although we admittedly stopped by just for delicious wine and to take photos at this charming space, we left with a couple of bottles in hand. Oh, and the terrace is dog-friendly (they even had treats for Billie Jean!).

Although I do enjoy a glass of wine now and then, I’m usually more likely to order a cocktail. Kinsip House of Fine Spirits was fully booked (we arrived unaware we had to book in advance) so we didn’t get to enjoy a whiskey tasting (it seems there weren’t serving cocktails like they did last summer). Pop by here (the Kinsip Maple Whiskey is fantastic) and to check out the beautiful chickens roaming the property. And cider lovers, you’ll want to make a visit to County Cider Company; I have a weakness for cider and these beautifully bottled ciders are another PEC essential of mine. My fave is the County Apple, their flagship product.

Do your tastebuds a favour and book a wine and cheese tasting at Lighthall Vineyards. It’s a vineyard but they also make cheese, and their feta is unlike any I’ve ever had, and I was so happy that my friend enjoyed our visit as much as I did my first visit there, as evidenced by the bag filled with wine and cheese she left with. It’s not in a pretty barn or Instagrammy space, but one sip of their wine paired with their cheese and you’ll forget all about “IG or it didn’t happen.”

WHAT TO DO

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On a day you’ve left your pup at your accommodations (or can take turns staying with the dog in the car), visit Shed Chetwyn Farms for their adorable alpacas and shop the store for the softest alpaca wool goods. I completely missed the sign that dogs aren’t permitted but went to wait by the car with her after stressing out the poor alpacas (I’m sorry, sweet alpacas!).

Although the lavender won’t be in the bloom in the fall and winter, a visit to Prince Edward County Lavender is worth it. Check if they’ve got lavender gelato in stock, and even if you’re not in the market for say, lavender sachets for your closet, soap and hand sanitizer is something we’re all using plenty of these days, so why not make it a luscious lavender-scented one to soothe your stressed out self during quarantine.

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It wouldn’t be a dog-friendly trip without some quality time with your pup outdoors! We ran out of time to visit Sandbanks Provincial Park for the day, but we stopped at Wellington Public Beach, which I’ve never been to before. There were so few people there so I let Billie Jean explore and we played fetch with her by the lake for a couple of hours. Oh, and if you’re staying in Picton, for your morning walk, be sure to bring your dog to the Prince Edward Dog Park, a vast and grassy fenced-in dog park where you’ll find many locals, morning cup of coffee in hand, with their puppies.

Prince Edward County is one of my favourite road trips, and now that I’ve written this post, I’m thinking maybe a winter getaway there needs to be planned! Do you have favourites in the County? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

7 Comments November 30, 2020

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