Tag: happy new year

Foodie Swellness: Cooking for Chinese New Year

Braised mushrooms with sesame bok choy

Did you know that February 16th is Chinese New Year and it’s the Year of the Dog? While I haven’t celebrated in any formal way since I was a little kid, I will always use any excuse to cook and eat something delicious, and much of the new year revolves around food so I think it’s time to fire up the stove!

I find myself often craving Chinese dishes I grew up with, but I can never make them as well as my mom does. And while she has shown me how to make a few things, it’s hard to learn because it’s always, “add a little of this, a little bit of sugar, and that’s it!” I need precise measurements, Mom! In any case, I have been attempting to make more dishes I grew up with as I don’t get to eat my mom’s cooking often since she lives in another city. I now make congee and fried rice occasionally, my sister just recently taught me how to make wontons and I also made hot and sour soup for the very first time using a recipe I found online.

For Chinese New Year, I think I’ll make this recipe for Braised Chinese Mushrooms and Sesame Bok Choy (I made it recently to test it out first before making it for friends). It was surprisingly easy to make and the best part is that I didn’t have to make a trip into Chinatown for the ingredients because Real Canadian Superstore carries all of the ingredients at great value. And I know they’re authentic brands because I recognize them (brands such as T&T and Rooster) from my mom’s kitchen.


So creating a dish for Chinese New Year, or just when I’m craving Chinese food with the best (aka mom-approved) authentic ingredients, is easy because I can just pick them up during my regular weekly grocery trip. I know my mom is very particular about the ingredients she uses, and I love that I can get everything she would use at an easy-on-the-budget cost at Real Canadian Superstore (because let’s face it: I’m way more likely to cook these dishes I love from my childhood if I can get the ingredients easily). Now, I’ll just have to hound my mother for more precise recipe instructions so that the dishes taste just right!

Oh, and here’s the recipe for the Braised Chinese Mushrooms and Sesame Bok Choy. I actually had all of the ingredients on hand except for the mushrooms and bok choy, so this dish cost me next to nothing to make.

Happy New Year, and happy eating!



2 Comments February 8, 2018

New Year Swellness: So long, 2014. Hello, 2015!

With my bestie on the beach in Anguilla

As I’m sure many of you have been doing as well, I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on the past year, which has flown by. Even faster than the year before — is that possible?

And I wish I could say I look back at this year fondly, but it’s been a relatively rough one. Many ups and downs and, well, it’s been tough to keep a light heart. So much so that great things that I realize should stand out just seem a blur because I’m just going through the motions and not appreciating them for what they are. I happened to look back on my Instagram account yesterday (I’m @healthandswellness — follow me, do it!) and realized it’s been less than a month that I was on the sands in dreamy Anguilla (where I managed a scary untethered climb down a cliff that absolutely terrified me — but was patting myself on the back for completely, shaky legs and all). And just eleven weeks ago, in Chicago I ran my best marathon. A very unexpected feat that when I actually spend a sec to think about that morning and how everything just came together and how I came less than two minutes from qualifying for the Boston Marathon, I’m astonished and proud. Yeah, that happened. No, scratch that. I did that.

But lately these good moments are being overshadowed. And that happens. And that’s OK; it’s OK to feel this way. All I think you can do is try really hard to focus on the things that are good and that you’re grateful for, until those things and and thoughts are the ones taking place front and centre and things shine a little brighter. And so, if the holidays or the year as a whole has been a bit of a rollercoaster, think of the highs, surely there have been some. Do it with me now. Yes?

For me, I’m proud of running a personal best not only in the Chicago Marathon, but in Around the Bay 30k, Sporting Life 10k, and in the Nike Women’s San Francisco Women’s Half-marathon. I love that I had the chance to explore Texas not just once or twice, but three times this year (I think Frederickburg was my favourite). I had the opportunity to travel with one of my best friends to two tropical paradises (Bonaire, where I truly hope to return so I can get better at windsurfing, and Anguilla. which once again proved itself to be a foodie’s dream).

Anguilla and Ani Villas

In addition to my incredible group of friends, I added a few new friends this year to my life — all of whom I simply don’t know how I’d survive without. I ate so very well with these friends, both here in Toronto and abroad. Work continues to inspire and challenge me, and I was included in a nomination for a P&G Beauty and Grooming Award this year for a piece I contributed to for Glow magazine. And there’s the random fun-ness; I mean, I did happy hour on a helicopter, for crying out loud; I skiied with an Olympian; I went to some great concerts (JT, OVO Fest, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Nick and Knight, ha ha, and best of all, in the freakin’ pit for the Backstreet Boys, eeeeeeeeek! If you know me at all, you know how major that was).

Alright, so 2014 has had its moments…

As for 2015, I haven’t made specific goals, yet. I still aim to devote more time to sleep; a healthy sleep schedule continues to be a struggle for me. For running, I’m gunning to qualify for Boston, but am giving myself until the end of 2016 as my timeframe to reach this goal (I’m giving myself more than a year since I can only manage to try two or maybe three qualifying marathons a year). As for everything else, it’s all a work in progress.

Skip into the new year with me, with high hopes for it being the best one yet. Make it happen.

— Karen xo

Skipping on the beach, Sandy Island, Anguilla




2 Comments December 31, 2014

New Year Swellness: Make 2014 your year

This is your year

Happy new year, my pretties!

On this first day of 2014, I’m sitting here typing this post when it seems like just a few days ago that I was summing up 2012. Can 2013 really have flown by as quickly as it did? Looking back, this year was some kind of wonderful:

  • Every race I ran in 2013 was a personal best. Three marathons completed this year, each one faster than the last (the most recent was in November in Philadelphia. And my Around the Bay 30k was faster then the time goal I’d set for myself). I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time until I place in my age category…kidding! I wish!
  • Even more close to my heart than the personal bests that I ran was the support I received from everyone who voted for me in the Inner Champion contest I took part in. I think about your support during my long runs and it helps motivate me to keep going. And going. And going. (A marathon is long, yo!)
  • I received several notes from blog readers and friends telling me how something I’ve posted has inspired them — whether it was to work out that day, or to try a great local restaurant, or to make a meal from scratch — and as sheepish I often feel (over) sharing about my running or traveling, knowing I may have played a small part in making your life a little more swell, well, that makes it all worth it.
  • I had the opportunity to partner with some fantastic brands, such as Aveeno Active Naturals, Ford Canada and Shoppers Drug Mart.
  • My one travel goal for 2013 was very, very simple. All I wanted to do was make it to New York City as it’d been much too long since my last visit. I made it to the Big Apple three times (twice for work and once on vacation — where I not only saw Kanye West in concert in Brooklyn, but my Instagram of Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington at the show made it onto The Cut, Jezebel and Fashionista).
  • I was fortunate enough to explore more places than I ever had in a year. From the stunningly gorgeous Sonora Resort in British Columbia and the sunny beaches of Anguilla, Jamaica, Barbados, and Mexico to the cultural sights in Paris, Madrid, and Nice and the unexpected fun times in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Door County, Wisconsin and Roanoke, Virginia — to name just a few — I had a wealth of opportunities to absorb and learn from. And I hope through my sharing of this travel, that it has inspired you to explore — whether it’s somewhere far flung or even if it’s just to the other end of the city. Explore, try new things!
  • I’ve made so many wonderful friends, ones I know I will stay in touch with, even if we can only manage to connect through Instagram or Twitter rather than in real life. (And my old friends, for the past few years, I realize more and more each year how important you are  in my life and I hope you know what your support means to me.)

So yes, I’d say this past year pretty great. At the same time, in writing an article for Glow about how big a fan I am of using social media, I became more aware of how it both benefits and detracts from my happiness. Writing the article helped me get my FOMO in check, but it’s also made me aware of the shiny, happy edited self most of us (present company included) present on social media. Has it been a year without any stress, anger, guilt, resentment or sadness? Of course not. But I think it’s important to try to keep things positive, and let’s face it, it’s easier. Cut me some slack — I’m not about to Instagram a makeup-less selfie in my PJs in front of my computer or tweet about my life falling apart.

Not that my life has fallen apart, knock on wood. More than anything, 2013 for me was a year I felt incredibly grateful. I had more than a few moments where I thought “Is this really my life?” before soaking up the surreal experience at hand (like when I had dozens and dozens of eagles soaring above me while out on the water at Sonora Resort). Moments that I felt quite lucky for, but I came to eventually accept that the moments were a result of a combination of both good fortune and my efforts. I helped make these moments happen.

So for 2014, I ask you to think of it as your year. But don’t leave it to fate. Make it happen. Take the steps you need to to bring you closer to your goal.

Do it, and it’ll be a fantastic year. I can just feel it.





2 Comments January 1, 2014

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