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English: The end of dinner

English: The end of dinner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was walking Cadie through a darkened park yesterday thinking about how sluggish, over-fed and tired I feel. Let’s be honest, this over-fed, bloated feeling as I flit from one celebration to another is the epitome of a “first world problem” so I don’t want to complain, or sound ungrateful. I know I’m very blessed, and this is my favourite time of year. Still, I miss the warmer weather, the longer days, and my solitary walks along the trails with my little girl. I miss them so much that I thought I would dedicate today’s blog post to some of our favourite places, as I dream about how the days will be a little longer starting Saturday.

1) Cherry Beach. We don’t get there often, but it is the perfect place to watch the sun rise over the city. Especially in the winter: the wind is cold and brisk and gets the blood pumping. Cherry Beach has some of the city’s best views; whether you’re looking out over the lake, or back towards the city.

The view back towards the city from Cherry Beach

The view back towards the city from Cherry Beach

2) Sherwood Park. Sherwood Park is a great place. It’s a huge park, with a long, off-leash walking trail. It’s only a thirty minute walk from our apartment, so Cadie and I tend to go a lot. Less in the winter because of the shorter days, and the sidewalks are pretty mucky with salt, but we always have a great time once we get there.

Hello old friend, nice to see you again

Hello old friend, nice to see you again

3) The Brickworks. This is one of those places that I would hear everyone talk about, but I had never been there myself. This last fall I went with my friend A. The two dogs had a great time, and I was shocked to discover that it was within 20 minutes walking distance of our apartment. Guess what our new favourite place is? That’s right, Cadie and I were there almost every night from September until the time change at the end of October. I’m hoping we can get back out there for some weekend walks in the winter.

Some places deserve to be remembered

Some places deserve to be remembered

4) Mount Pleasant Cemetery. On our way home from a walk along the Brickworks trail we would always cut through Mount Pleasant Cemetery. This fall they changed their policy, and now dogs are allowed to walk through, provided they follow certain rules. I  know it sounds macabre, but I love the cemetery, and I’m thrilled that dogs are now permitted to walk through. Every where I look I see something old and beautiful. Trees that have been there for years, and people who have done amazing things.

In Mount Pleasant you’ll pass Sir Frederick Banting, Alexander Muir and William Lyon Mackenzie King, to name only a few. I’m also told that the cemetery is the resting place for some of Canada’s top generals from WWII. But I don’t just go to gawk; Mount Pleasant is a lush “living cemetery,” full of people  jogging, reading, strolling, and looking at the same things I’m looking at. It’s also one of the few places in midtown where you cannot hear the traffic. It’s might be a cemetery, but it’s a magical place.

5) Alexander Muir Memorial Gardens. When I first came on this small park it was dark, and I was walking quickly up Yonge Street. The front gate was so imposing and stately, I was sure I’d fallen in the book The Secret Garden, except for the fact that the garden isn’t secret. So I recommend that you take in this garden, if only to see the gateway in all its splendor. It’s a highly manicured park, often with tennis players in their whites moving around the back part of the park. It is definitely a place that you should see.

Garden escape

Garden escape (Photo credit: AshtonPal)

6) Sunnybrook Park. This is a huge park, connected to Toronto’s parks and ravine system. It’s not close (it takes nearly an hour to walk there), but it’s full of nature trails, an off-leash area and even some stables. Cadie and I have been known to spend a whole morning taking various trails, just to see where they would take us. This is the park where Cadie first overcame her fear of going into the water. We usually drive, park, and walk through the park to the off-leash area. But sometimes we walk up Bayview, and get the best of an urban walk, and a nature hike.

Cadie, grabbing a quick drink.

Cadie, grabbing a quick drink.

When I find myself feeling locked in I just try to remember that soon the days will start to get longer, and Cadie and I will be back on the trails. Are there any other trails that we should get to know this winter?

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Ice skating in Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto...

Image via Wikipedia

TGIF everyone. I am exhausted today, so I have nothing interesting to say…but I’ll still do a post. 😀

The upside to this week is that I made it to both of my gym classes and I am going skating today at lunch time, so goal-wise this has been a very productive week.

I’m hoping to have a lot of great pictures for you next week; I’m having a little party tomorrow–Our “Ladies Holiday Luncheon and Scrabble Grudge Match.” Yes, I’m still wrapping up holiday activities. Anyhow, I have a ton of cool ideas for take aways and appetizers, plus, I’ve committed to making a cheese soufflé for lunch. So wish me luck. And I wish you the very best for the weekend.

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I don't know how much more of this I can take!?!

Since it seems that the entire northern hemisphere is snowed in, rather than stew about how inconvenient the weather’s been–how it’s kept me from getting to my cardio classes, and causes me untold stress at work–I’ve decided to dedicate a day to celebrating ways to enjoy the snow, and getting fit at the same time. After all, winter’s only just beginning.

Walking
Equipment: good boots, warm clothes.

Benefits: walking in the snow is a good way to up the ante on your walk workout. The snow provides extra resistance, so a 20 minute walk at a good pace will feel more like a 40 minute walk. I took Cadie to the park on Saturday to walk in the deep snow. She loved it, and the dog who usually needs 2 hours of exercise was ready for a nap after only an hour. Plus, the temperature is usually warmer when it snows, so it’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the scenery.

Street view

As you can see my super takes good care of the building; she usually has us all dug out before 6:30 am. Still you can see the street just beyond the sidewalk; it’s not a good day for a drive, but it is a good day to go snowshoeing.

Snowshoeing
Equipment: regular boots, snowshoes, warm clothes.

If you are looking for an exercise that will really work your legs you should think about snowshoeing. The idea behind snowshoeing is that the large surface of the racquets sinks only a little, compared to the projectile shape of the foot, that will sink right through loose snow. That’s important to remember, because what it means is that snowshoeing works best on fresh, deep snow. One of my favourite memories of Cadie as a puppy was a cold winter day when she and I went snowshoeing together on the beach. She trotted along ahead of me, and I struggled to keep my feet straight, and underneath me.

The snow may not be deep enough yet for snowshoes

The real exercise comes in trying to maintain your balance, so it’s good for your thighs, butt and core, plus it’s a lot of fun to watch people fall into the snow.

Hide and Seek with the dog
Equipment boots: warm clothes, dog toy

This is a great hiding place for a dog toy

Most dogs love snow, and it’s a good way to burn a lot of energy outside the house. Cadie and I discovered Saturday that hiding her tennis ball in the snow made for an exciting tracking game. It was great; she got to use a lot of little-used natural dog skills, like sniffing, digging and barking. The combination of physical exercise combined with mental exertion tired her out super quickly, and she had a lot of fun at the same time.

This picture isn’t going on the internet is it?

Tobogganing

Equipment: boots, warm clothes, toboggan, hill, tight, packed snow
 
Hiking back and forth up a hill while carrying a toboggan offers fairly obvious exercise opportunities, but they are coupled with the thrill of going down the hill. Tobogganing is a lot of fun, and no one is ever too old to enjoy it.
 
Skating
Equipment: nylon socks, warm clothes, skates, ice

Skating is a great activity; the only problem is that, when using an outdoor rink, you can’t skate during or right after a blizzard, when the weather is warmest, and the scenery most beautiful. Still, skating is a good, low-impact workout, and a great way to catch up with friends while staying active.

Of course there are more activities you can do, this is just a sample, and I tried to focus on activities that people can do almost anywhere. Don’t worry if you look a little silly, no one looks good during a blizzard. The most important thing to remember is that a relaxing thawing out routine is essential to enjoying winter weather. Mine involves a cup of hot chocolate and a quick nap under a warm blanket.

 

Are my paws dry yet?

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Step Aerobics Class at a Gym Category:Step aer...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve had no trouble adding Step Class to my routine; I discovered that the gym closest to my office runs a Step Class at 4:30, which is perfect timing for me (lots of time to get there and get changed, but I’m still home to walk the dog by 6).

The problem I’m having is keeping Body Pump in my routine. It’s not that I don’t like the Body Pump, or that I’m looking for excuses not to go to class, it’s just that things always seem to come up on Thursdays. Last week I had to do some banking, and this week we had a largish (by Toronto standards) snow fall, and since I’m nervous about driving in the snow I decided to head straight home.

I was disappointed; I’ve always thought the combination of Body Pump (weight training class) mixed with Step Class (cardiovascular training) would make for a good training schedule. Plus, classes are Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is good because it leaves Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for me to fuss about the dog. Oh well, I remain optimistic that this is a good plan, I just have to get to the gym, and I might have better luck next week.

The silver lining to last night’s snow is that it gave me the chance to walk Cadie’s legs off. We started at a park where I threw the ball for her, then we walked a little bit, and then finished off at another park, with more ball throwing. She was thrilled; it’s kind of like taking a kid to an amusement park. She was practically airborne as she bounded around the park, and tried to pull me back to the park when it was time to leave. In total we were out for 2 hours, and while we were in the park she was attentive and responsive (i.e. she came when she was called), she was well-behaved, and when I got her home she was calm and sweet…in short, she was my dog again. So even though I didn’t get my workout, the night was a total success.

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Flying Around…

My WikiStatus: busy

Image via Wikipedia

Every now and then I feel completely overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that has to get done in a week. This first week back to work has been pretty bad, which is only to be expected I suppose. This week the issue is that the dog, who has been spoiled by having me home and at her beck and call for the last week, is sulking that I now have to go back to work. The sulking that takes place during the day turns into a rangy temper tantrum as soon as I walk through the door. 

Last night I announced, to anyone who would listen, that I was going to “walk her until her legs fall off.” This didn’t happen; she bested me, and after nearly 2 hours of walking up and down city streets, and throwing the ball in a park, Cadie was still bouncing off the ceiling, until about 11:30 pm. It’s at these times that I ask myself how do working mothers do it all. I mean it’s one thing when it’s a dog driving you nuts, you can lock them in the bathroom for 30 minutes if you have to, but you can’t do that with kids. How do you manage rangy kids, rangy dogs, a pile of housework, and a busy work schedule, while not losing your mind, and what’s wrong with me that I can’t do it at all?

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Yesterday was a bad day. I mean it was a good day, I got a lot done, but it was a bad day in terms of nerves. It seems that I had completely forgotten that it’s Christmas, a time for celebration. Since today is Friday–also a time for celebration–I am going to take it down a notch, focus on festivities and try not to stress.

You may recall that my mother decorates the front of her house with a giant blow-up Homer Simpson. I live in an apartment, which doesn’t have a yard, so my homage to the Simpson’s (probably the most commercial family tradition I’ve ever heard of) is a small decoration on my tree. You might notice that I’m also so lazy that I haven’t even hung this ornament properly. That’s because perching him on the branches, I believe, allows him to stroll through the tree at his leisure.

I was so eager for Christmas this year that I broke all of my rules and started decorating the second last weekend in November. Sadly though my apartment is so warm that I haven’t really had the lights on. Still I’m going to focus on the things that make me happy before I plunge into my work.

 I can’t really tell you what was going through my mind when I decided that I should put up a tree dedicated to gingerbread. Sometimes–most times–I seem to forget that I should be watching what I eat. Funnily enough most of these ornaments have a story. There’s one there from my trip to Quebec City in 2004; that’s a nice memory, Quebec City is beautiful and it was a fun trip. There are also a couple of ornaments given to me by the kids I used to babysit when I was in high school. That’s also a nice memory, they were the best kids, and that was the easiest babysitting gig ever.

If you look hard you can also see gold and silver apples. They’re from the dollar store. It’s not much of a story, but I will tell you I was humming that “Silver and Gold” song from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer while I was buying them–that’s like half a story right? One quarter of a story?

I bought this tree my first year away from home;  it was the perfect size for a residence room, and it was the perfect size for my bachelor, but now I am beginning to feel that I’d like a much bigger tree. I mean I do have 2 trees and 2 boughs already, but it’s not the same as having a nice tall Christmas tree right?

Happy Friday

 

Alright–deep breaths–I think I’m ready. I think I’ve had a good dose of Christmas spirit and I’m ready to take on the day. If I need any other encouragement I can remember Friday’s traditions too.

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This is like half of the work I need to do before next Friday

I spent most of yesterday afternoon thinking it was Tuesday. I told myself over and over again that I had tons of time–3 more days in which to work on work. At 4 as I stood to start packing up my desk and change into my boots I heard someone say something about Wednesday. That’s when the dream died, and came crashing down around  my ears. I have a million things to do at work before I feel like I can leave for a break.

Thank God the Christmas stuff is in hand, because now I’m going to need to marshal all of my energy to tackle those remaining 9 tasks on my to do list at work. Plus, I really need to clean this desk; I mean the dust on the monitor alone is several inches thick. This is the time of year when I start slashing my to do list, when I start asking myself “what absolutely has to get done?” Then I focus on that and let the rest wait.

This is also the time of year that I really have a hard time sticking to my exercise plans. Tonight is BodyPump, but I won’t be going. In addition to feeling a little overwhelmed at work I’m also starting to feel a little run down, which is manifesting itself as a little lump building at the bottom on my throat. Since I have so many personal and professional chores to get done in the next week or so I’m not going to push myself, instead I’m going to focus on feeling better and wrapping up all my loose ends.

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You might think this is a gingerbread house, but in reality it's a tennis club

So less than 8 hours after making a proclamation that I will have results to show you on my hundredth post I blew off my workout. But I have a good reason… If you don’t live on Ontario, or possibly Michigan, you might not know about the highway drama that has been playing out here; yesterday more than 230 motorists were rescued from their vehicles by provincial police after they had been trapped on the highway for almost 24 hours. Why were they trapped? They were trapped by a snowstorm.  It looks like an ungodly mess, with another 70 or so motorists abandoning their cars and being picked up on foot by police, while the 230 or so in their cars were airlifted to warming zones.

While Sarnia is nowhere near me, this snow storm is really kind of scary. So when I saw the flakes start to fly past my office window at 2:30 I started to get anxious, but those delicate flakes soon started looking like Star Treck light speed, and I started to sweat. At 3:30 the emails started “drive safely, it’s starting to look bad out there.” I appreciate the thought, but by this time I could hardly keep my butt in my seat. It was at this time that I decided that I would not go to the gym; instead I would come right home. Besides, Christmas is a little over a week away, so I do actually have a million things to do: the gifts needed to be inventoried and wrapped, I was asked to make something yummy for a large party at the end of this week, and Cadie needs her walk.

Yes! That's right. I run with the Aspen crowd

You know I love the snow, but I know I made the right decision. Visibility and traction were poor by 4, and it still took much longer than normal, but at this time I would like to thank Bene for my snow tires, it did make the drive a lot safer. People who left after I did had a much harder drive home.

Once I, very slowly, made my way to the underground parking garage I felt much better, and Cadie and I took off for the park for some play. It was such a great night to be in the park. Warm, and magical, as snowy nights tend to be. Have you ever seen dogs play in the snow? They love it! And Cadie made sure that she was good and snowy before she would ever consider coming back inside.

Cadie Claus

But then it was time to get to work. I started by making supper. While that was heating up I gave some thought to my baking project–I need a recipe that will be yummy, and will make a large quantity to feed all of my co-workers. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks. Jenna’s pumpkin mini muffins. I trotted over to the computer and found her recipe, and started throwing it all together. So while I ate dinner, the first batch was cooking up nicely.  When it was all said and done I had 72 mini muffins…well, maybe 68.

Exhibit A: Proof of domesticity

As the second batch went in the oven I pulled out the gifts and my box of wrapping paper. I made a list, I checked it twice, and after a trip to the bank, and finding the perfect little stuffed toy for my friend’s baby, I am all finished my Christmas shopping and wrapping.

Exhibit B: Proof of seasonal domesticity

It was a long evening, but I got a lot done, and at least I was home, and not stuck in traffic somewhere. Besides it wasn’t so bad, Cadie gave me a little help too.

See. I'm helping

This morning the sun came out here in Toronto, and I hope that it also came out in Sarnia, and that all of the stranded motorists can start to make their way home.

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When will the cold go away?

So Sunday was fun, and more importantly, it was not insane. Friday evening as I was leaving work I got an email from one of the girls saying that she would have to work on Sunday, and therefore had to bail. It didn’t take long for the rest of us to bail as well. It’s kind of a bummer not to see them, but on the flip side, we now have brunch plans for January.

So, with my day streamlined, I set out to walk Cadie, but she doesn’t like the rain or the cold. It poured almost all of Sunday, and boy has it been cold ever since. I’ve tried on several instances to explain to her that she will always be cold during the winter, and that in spite of that she still needs her exercise. Alas she doesn’t listen, and she has been moping around the apartment looking for some fun. This is the long way of saying that she stepped out, did her “business” and came right back in.

From there I took her to the groomer’s–poor Cadie, she thought she was going to play with her buddy Toby– and then headed on to church.

Of course, after church I had choir practice. It’s funny how much you remember. I didn’t do as badly as I thought I would. Though I did embarrass myself by starting to cry while we were singing a song about a donkey. Why cry? I have no idea. I tried, unsuccessfully, to pass it off as allergies. Oh well, it was fun just the same, and I will practice for next week, so that the donkey doesn’t make me cry. 😀

The princess and the pea--sleeping soundly on top of my pillows

From there I had to stumble through the dark church looking for my coat and umbrella (do you know how freaky churches are in the dark?) and then pop over to get Cadie, who was ready 3 hours earlier than I had anticipated–hurray!

 She and I spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping; me on the couch, and her on the bed…wait…how did that happen?

Oh well, it wasn’t nearly as insane as I thought it was going to be, but I can’t complain. Sunday is the best day of the week when it’s a lazy day.

In other news, I’m fed up to here (oh wait, you can’t see where I’m pointing) with not making any progress in my weight loss, which, of course, is the whole point of this blog. So I’ve set a new goal for myself. I plan to have progress to show off  by our 100th post. This post is number 63, so it means that I have about 7 weeks to make some magic happen.

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Christmas carol singing in Jèrriais

Image via Wikipedia

Would you like to come for dinner?

Yes!

Are you free to meet for coffee?

Yes!

We’re going to see a play would you like to join us?

Yes!

Yes. Yes. Yes. There’s something about December that pushes me out of my shell every year. I go shopping at the mall during peak hours, even though I hate being in crowds, and I enjoy it. I get in my car and drive all over the province to visit with people who I otherwise don’t get to see. I make plans to go out on weekday evenings, which is not my cup of tea…in short I accept every invitation that I can. I have to say that with a little more than 2 weeks to go until Christmas I am starting to double and triple book myself, and I am running out of fuel.

Take for example last Sunday. I won’t bore you with all the toings and froings of my plans, but I was supposed to go to Church, then head out of the city for an afternoon visit with a friend. After service I went to use the washroom, and when I came out, a woman I’ve never seen before came up to me and very excitedly invited me to stay for a cup of coffee and a cookie. Since I never turn down an invite in December I accepted. I met a ton of people, and before I knew it I was being invited to join the choir…and I never turn down an invitation in December, so I accepted (which ps, I’m very excited about, but also very nervous about as I haven’t sung in a choir since high school.) More importantly this has big implications for this Sunday, as this is now my schedule:

6:30 Walk dog
8:00 Prep for day
9:00 Brunch with the girls
10:30 Service
11:00 drop dog at the groomers
12:00 choir practice
4:00 pick dog up from groomers
5:00 return home from walk, make dinner 
6:00 I have no idea yet, but probably something

I think this is a little too much for a Sunday, so I think I will have to edit. I have no idea how yet, and it makes me sad to edit; I hate saying no to anything because sooner or later January will hit, and there will be no more invitations, just interminable hours of winter sloth. But since January is a month of no, I’m going to make the most of December by making it a month of yes!

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