Bell Let’s Talk Day!

Today is one of my favourite texting days of all time. It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day, a day to spread awareness about Mental Health initiatives in Canada. For every text sent, tweet with #BellLetsTalk and share their photo gets on facebook, Bell will donate $0.05 to mental health initiatives.

For
Me
This
Means
Sending
Texts
One
Word
At
A
Time
And
Retweeting
Like
Crazy!

Join the fun and help start the conversation about mental health! (And if you have an iphone, don’t forget to turn off imessaging!)

You can brighten someone’s day with infinite I LOVE YOU’s and help a great cause all at the same time!!!

Nothing to Bragg About

My last post was about an amazing run that I had in the West Bragg Creek day use area. Unfortunately my awesome run was dampened by some pretty sad stuff.

About a year ago there was a petition circling because the Spray Lake Sawmills announced that they were planning on clear cutting over 700 hectares of land in Kananaskis country, including much of West Bragg. CLEAR CUTTING. Unfortunately the petition wasn’t successful in stopping the logging and as a result it has already begun. (Visit Sustain Kananaskis to learn more).

It’s not really a secret that I care deeply about the environment, the wilderness and preserving our undeveloped wilderness for future generations, and this just made me sad. While I was there I was running through areas that had already been clear cut, across logging roads blazed right through the bush and over the piles of rubble that the loggers have created. It really got me thinking about the importance of preserving wilderness.

Remember this beauty of a photo?

Beauty of a panorama. It's views like this that remind me how much I love the mountains.

Beauty of a panorama. It’s views like this that remind me how much I love the mountains.

Well sadly directly behind me it looked like this:

Sadly THIS was right behind me when I took the panorama. How do we let such a beautiful area succumb to industry?

Sadly THIS was right behind me when I took the panorama. How do we let such a beautiful area succumb to industry?

You can’t see it all that well (I was just using my iPhone), but there are just a few trees and then a huge area that has already been clear cut.

As I continued along I found even more sad areas.

On the trail right before getting to this type of thing there is a big stop sign saying that the giant machine that eats trees is working here. Luckily it's not out on Sundays but I couldn't help but think that the squirrels, birds and chipmunks can't read the stop sign!

On the trail right before getting to this type of thing there is a big stop sign saying that the giant machine that eats trees is working here. Luckily it’s not out on Sundays but I couldn’t help but think that the squirrels, birds and chipmunks can’t read the stop sign!

A logging road blazing right through a beautiful poplar grove.

A logging road blazing right through a beautiful poplar grove.

All of the wood stacked up

A bunch of trees stacked up.

But it was only when I got back to the parking lot to find that there were over 100 cars in the parking lot that it hit home one of the many reasons WHY it is important to preserve areas like this.

Let’s do a little math: Since I got there at 9 am and the parking lot was full by 11 am, let’s assume that it was pretty much full between 10 am and 4 pm when it begins to get dark. If we say that there was likely an average of 3 people per car, and the cars were probably there for about an hour and a half, there were likely over 1,200 people that used the West Bragg day use area in ONE day alone. And I would even hazard that that number is conservative.

There were skiers, snowshoes, hikers, dog walkers, mountain bikers and even a horse. Families, friends, kids, dogs, you name it. There is no question that that area was well used on Sunday, February 3rd and likely every other weekend day for about 90% of the weekends of the year. And this is just one of hundreds of areas that people can get out adventuring in Kananaskis Country, let alone the Canmore area, Banff, Lake Louise, Yoho and every other national and provincial park across the country.

But somehow projects like clear cutting West Bragg are happening all the time. The reason that I alluded to a few paragraphs earlier (which I will admit is just one of the many many reasons that these areas are important) is that today, this very moment in Canada, we have an incredibly serious obesity issue on our hands. Over 60% of Canadian adults are considered overweight or obese putting them at higher risk for chronic disease and making them a huge extra cost on our already overburdened health care system. And for the first time in history, the current generation of children WILL NOT OUTLIVE THEIR PARENTS. Even with all of our advancements in healthcare, the serious damage and risk that kids experience through obesity at a young age has the life expectancy of the current generation lower than the one before.

Think of the thousands of people out enjoying the mountains on the weekends. This is one way that we can fight this disease. This is one way that we can help protect our children from their terrible fate. By families getting out and being active together while enjoying the fresh air, children are learning positive habits about being physically active, they are decreasing their screen time and fostering a healthy appreciation of nature.

Making sure that these areas continue to be available across Canada is incredibly important and can play a big role in decreasing obesity across all generations.

If that isn’t worth saving the West Bragg Creak day use area and every other area that is currently at risk, then I’m not sure what is.

It’s the final countdown

Do do do do, do do do do do, do do do do, do do do do do do do.

Anyone catch the tune? I’m on my final countdown to graduation!!! While I don’t have my exam schedule yet and therefore don’t know what exact day I’ll be done, I know that it will be by April 30th at the latest! And hopefully it will be a few days BEFORE that, since we have officially booked tickets to fly to the Philippines on May 1st!

This semester is promising to be busy (who am I kidding, I’m four weeks in and it’s already been busy) but the carrot in front of my nose is dangling and I’m full speed ahead!

I have four academic classes this semester and a practicum and what I’m enjoying the most by far is my practicum. It’s at an integrative health clinic called INLIV that specializes in “Inspiring Amazing Lives”. Right up my ally right?!

So far I’ve been shadowing an exercise physiologist doing mostly baseline fitness testing (CPAFLA protocol). Since I’ve learned this protocol in many of my classes I get hands on experience running the tests which has been great. I have also shadowed some of the trainers and helped with a blood lactate test, all of which has been great experience. Coming up this week I will be put through a workout by the Fitness and Health Director (yikes!) as an ‘initiation’. I’m actually really looking forward to it, but not the next day when I can’t walk! Clearly I do predominantly cardio workouts!

This was me gazing into my future at my high school graduation. Can't believe this was SIX years ago!

This was me gazing into my future at my high school graduation. Can’t believe this was SIX years ago!

This is a few of my girl friends and I celebrating at our high school grad. In a few months I will be doing the same thing, except that I'm skipping the cap and gown and hitting the beach in a bathing suit. Or whatever other adventures we have is SEA!

This is a few of my girl friends and I celebrating at our high school grad. In a few months I will be doing the same thing, except that I’m skipping the cap and gown and hitting the beach in a bathing suit. Or whatever other adventures we have is SEA!

Happy 2013!!!

Whew! What a holiday! Somehow I’m finding myself exhausted these days…perhaps a result of all of the fun stuff that I did this holiday!

My last exam was on December 17th and after plowing through a bunch of spanish homework, the holidays began with pizza and beer with friends at a super cool little restaurant call HopNBrew. It was a great way to unwind and catch up with some friends before we all blasted off for our respective holidays.

My parents arrived on the 20th, followed by my brother late on the 22nd. After a bit of a hairy drive out to Canmore in a snowstorm after Michael’s flight was delayed, we arrived just after midnight and hit the hay in order to be ready for a big hike the next day.

The view from the top of the mountain from Michael's perspective

The view from the top of the mountain from Michael’s perspective

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Ha Ling

The weather was quite cold, but we piled on the layers and headed out to tackle Ha Ling, a hike that is right on the outskirts of Canmore and the Spray Valley. We didn’t take snow shoes because this hike is predominantly tree covered and quite steep. It’s generally not long (in summer it’s probably under 3 hours round trip if you’re quick) but with the snow it slowed us down considerably. Of course we had our trusty trail breakers Michael and Keith who set out ahead while Mum, Dad and I followed up the rear in their tracks. Of course within about ten minutes all those layers that we piled on came piling off…except for Dad who left his parka on and managed to sweat right through it! Mum and dad called it quits just after the treeline where there was only a short scree left to the top, and the boys and I carried on. Instead of peaking Ha Ling, which we’ve done before, we decided to go right instead of left to the peak and check out a different part of the mountain. It was spectacular!!! Looking down on snowy Canmore with more mountains in the background is certainly breathtaking! Before we could get cold we started flying back down with the goal of catching mum and dad before the bottom.

Summit!

Summit!

Of course we couldn’t resist boot skiing on the way down and we made short work of the path…because we kept ditching the switchbacks in favour of sliding down the steep parts in between! It was so much fun, I could barely breath for laughing so hard! Before we knew it we caught my parents when they were on a particularly long switch back. As we were whooping our way down the middle we managed to pass them. Of course they couldn’t resist joining in so on the next good sliding spot we all had a turn!

Post family hike

Post family hike

The group!

The group!

The next day, after supper with old friends from Yellowknife we headed down the Spray Lake Road again, this time with two other Yellowknife families to Grummel Lake for some snowshoeing! It was great to get all of our families together again, we hadn’t had everyone together since about 1995! There was a lot of bushwacking through deep snow just for the heck of it and we reached the lake and then proceeded to jump off some snow
‘cliffs’ into more snow before heading back out. It was a lot of fun and an absolutely beautiful day.

Snowshoeing on a beautiful Christmas Eve

Snowshoeing on a beautiful Christmas Eve

For Christmas Eve we had a family night and had tourtiere (family tradition!) and played Wizard. Last year to Keith’s chagrin he lost in EVERY Wizard game that we played (and I think we played about five times!) but he turned things around this year and I think got second! What a champ! And lucky for us he wasn’t as grumpy as last year about the game (hehe 🙂 ).

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Christmas morning disaster!

Christmas morning followed more traditions…first we opened our stockings and then made a feast of a breakfast. Every year for as long as I can remember we have a Stolen made by family friends. The last two years my parents have brought it all the way from Yellowknife. Christmas morning just wouldn’t be the same without it! Along with that we had fruit salad, sausages, bacon and eggs. After a few more seconds then we all needed we hit the tree and once again Santa spoiled us rotten! I am so grateful that not only do I get to spend Christmas with my family in peace and safety, but Santa also spoils us every year.

Christmas Even ladies

Christmas Even ladies

Christmas dinner was spent with the Snowshoeing families which was both scrumptious and hilarious. It was great to reconnect with the kids that we grew up with way back when (and get to know them all grown up!) and see our parents (who ‘grew up’ together in the north a million years ago) all back together. Needless to say our kids against parents games got a little crazy (and maybe a little inappropriate – ahem parents!). Hilarious to say the least.

On Boxing Day Keith’s family came through for coffee and snacks before taking him off to Kimberley for some downhill skiing. Dad took Michael to the airport so he could get back to training before coming back for one last relaxing evening before I followed to Kimberley on the 27th!

Right outside our door on the hill!

Right outside our door on the hill!

After an uneventful but BEAUTIFUL drive through Banff and Kootenay National Parks, I made it in time for supper and a walk to scope out the cross country trails and ski hill, both of which were RIGHT outside our door. The next morning Keith hit the hills right at nine o’clock while I hit the cross country for a quick ski before joining him on the hill. I have to admit, while I don’t love downhill skiing (I’m a scaredy cat, I get cold easily, and I have trouble wrapping my head around sitting on a chair lift for MORE time than you actually get to ski), I had a fun first day and relished a little fearlessness (which for me is totally relative!).

The next day Keith and I pulled a pretty epic day of activities. We hit the hill right at nine so that we beat the rush for a few runs with no chairlift waits. At about 10:30 we headed back to the condo to switch to cross country for about two and a half hours with Keith’s family before heading back to the hill for another

Family skiing photo:)

Family skiing photo:)

two hours or so. After a quick break at four when the hill closed (which involved a nap in a pond of drool for me) we headed back out with Keith’s dad for another hour and half of night skiing! We were both SO beat that night that we could barely stay awake at dinner! My legs were totally exhausted I can’t even believe looking back that I didn’t crash on those night runs.

The next day was a bit of a drag for me, I woke up still quite tired and not really feeling like down hilling. Turns out I should have listened to my gut and not gone, but instead I headed out and didn’t have much fun, crashing a few times. I felt like I’d lost my ability to turn as my left leg just kept ignoring what my brain was telling it! I took a couple hours off (nothing like brooding on the couch with a book and tea!) before going out for

Keith's worst crash of the week was in cross country...not downhill!

Keith’s worst crash of the week was in cross country…not downhill!

the last two runs of the day in order to “get back on the horse” aka get over my fear a bit so that I didn’t end the trip with a bad taste in my mouth. It worked as I had fun on those runs.

We capped the trip off with a delicious meal at a German restaurant in Kimberley where we all ate until we were stuffed! It was an awesome holiday, although definitely one that I needed a few days to recover from!

Raclette on New Years Eve

Raclette on New Years Eve

We drove back to Calgary on New Years just in time to host some friends that we had over last year. Unfortunately last year was a bit of a bust as two of the friends (ironically the two that brought cheese and chocolate fondue to share) went home with food poisoning about an hour after they got there (disclaimer…it was DEFINITELY from food they ate before coming over!) So we did New Years take two and thankfully no one went home sick!!!

Champagne for our friends Kirsti and Math who got engaged this Christmas!!!

Champagne for our friends Kirsti and Math who got engaged this Christmas!!!

Since then I have been laying low, unpacking, snowshoeing and visiting. Trying to rest up before heading back to school! I guess I realized (what perhaps all adults already know!) that holidays aren’t all that relaxing when you’re organizing, hosting, travelling and cooking! They are certainly fun and filled with friends and laughter, but when all is said and done they take a little bit of time to recover from them!!!

Mum in her new coat and oven mitts!

Mum in her new coat and oven mitts!

Super creative birthday/Christmas card from my friend Mitchie!!!

Super creative birthday/Christmas card from my friend Mitchie!!!

Sonja chilling in the snow. There were a lot of crashes as everyone sprinted through the deep snow!

Sonja chilling in the snow. There were a lot of crashes as everyone sprinted through the deep snow!

Family photo snowshoeing! It was incredible...we woke up to a cloudy day but the sun came out right when we got to our starting point!

Family photo snowshoeing! It was incredible…we woke up to a cloudy day but the sun came out right when we got to our starting point!

Everyone in their brand new Expedition Botswana t-shirts!

Famjam in their brand new Expedition Botswana t-shirts!

Keith and I snowshoeing:)

Keith and I snowshoeing:)

Happy New Year everyone! Cheers to 2013 – your best year ever!

A cookie a day keeps the doctor away: part 2

My friend Laura sent me a recipe that her family always makes for Christmas. It’s really simple, and involves sweetened condensed milk (how can anyone not love sweetened condensed milk?!) so I decided to try it. Turns out they are just as delicious as she promised. AND just as simple.

Snowballs – McLeod Style

1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups graham crackers crums
1 cup chocolate chips
Icing sugar or coconut flakes for rolling

Note: the original recipe asks for coconut, but I don’t like it, so I just used icing sugar instead.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sweetened condensed milk and graham cracker crumbs. Pour in the chocolate chips and keep mixing until combined. It will be really sticky.

Put some icing sugar or coconut in a small bowl and, using your hands, roll the mixture into 1 inch balls. Roll in the icing sugar and set aside. Once all the batter is gone, place the snowballs in the freezer. Take out a few minutes before serving to let them warm up a bit.

Enjoy! And thanks Laura!

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Eating my cake…and making it too!

Happy birthday to me! Today is my 24th birthday! I’m a little bit shell shocked, because I am now firmly planted in my MID twenties. GAH. Where did the time go?

We are heading out to Canmore to do some hiking with a couple of friends and then spending the night at my cousin’s place (she just moved to Canmore and travels a lot so has given us a key! Hooray!). My request is that I lie on the couch drinking eggnog while Shea, Sarah and Keith make supper. I figure I’ve hosted cooked enough for the three of them over the years that this is allowed!

But the one thing I reserve the right to make is my cake. Now I know what you’re thinking…what a control freak. But baking the cake is truly half the fun for me! I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity! And lucky me this time, I’ve managed to find an excuse to make two!

Reuben and the Dark

Reuben and the Dark – Check them out at www.reubenandthedark.com

Last night Shea and his band Reuben and the Dark played a show, so before hand I had a few people over to eat cupcakes. Enter ‘cake’ number one. The other day on a blog I read about this totally amazing cup cake that was based off of some chocolate bar that I’d never heard of. Unfortunately I didn’t bookmark it (story of my life) and couldn’t find it again. So instead I just took inspiration from that one to create one of my own! Cue Caramilk Bar Cupcakes!

I started with a dark chocolate cupcake recipe, melted down some caramels to pipe into the centre of the cupcakes, made buttercream icing (with caramel swirled in) and topped it off with a piece of the actual caramilk bar! They were quite time consuming, and the inserting of caramel didn’t go quite as smoothly as I’d planned, but overall they were delicious and totally worth the effort! (Then again, I rarely think that things aren’t worth the effort. Except when it’s chestnuts).

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

1/2 cup of butter, cut into pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup cocoa
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream (I used plain yogourt because I didn’t have sour cream)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with baking cup liners (for muffins etc I don’t use liners because of the waist, but since the point of cupcakes is that their pretty, I used them for ease of getting them out of the container in one piece).

Combine chocolate, butter and cocoa in a medium heat proof bowl and place over barely simmering water (or use a double boiler if you have one). Heat the mixture until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and everything is well combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch (you don’t want the hot chocolate cooking the eggs!)

Whisk flour, baking soda and powder in a measuring cup and set aside.

Whisk eggs in a second medium bowl and add sugar, vanilla and salt whisking until fully incorporated. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and stir until combined. Put about half the flour mixture into the chocolate and stir until combined. Add sour cream (or yogourt) and then other half of flour. Stir until it is thick and combined.

Divide batter evenly among 12 muffins pan cups. Bake about 18-20 minutes, until an

'Naked' cupcakes

‘Naked’ cupcakes

inserted skewer comes out clean and the tops spring back when touched.

Cool cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack until you can touch. Remove them from the pan and place on a wire rack. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container until ready to decorate. These can be made the night before.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing

1 cup butter, softened (but not melted!)
3-4 cups icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
up to 4 tbsp milk or cream
2 pkgs caramels, unwrapped
12 pieces caramilk bar

Beat butter with the paddle attachment of an electric mixer for a few minutes until smooth. Sift icing sugar in a cup at a time beating until smooth each time. Likely before the 3rd cup you will have to add a bit of liquid. Don’t make it too thick (it will be hard to pipe) and don’t let it be too thin (then it will just run all over the place).

Meanwhile, place a heatproof bowl over a pot with simmering water (like a double boiler). Put the caramels in and let them melt. This will take a while. When they are mostly done, put a few tbsps of milk or cream in and stir it up. It should be relatively running but not too much!

Let the caramels cool a couple of minutes then put about 1/3 into the icing and mix with a spoon. To achieve swirls you have to be really gentle (which I have yet to achieve). Set icing aside.

Get out cupcakes and a sharp knife. Cut little cones into the centre of the cupcakes and cut the bottom off the cones. Place caramel in a piping bag. I used a plane thin round head. Pipe caramel into the middle of the cupcakes. Don’t fill them all the way up, but be generous. Replace the ‘cones’. Don’t worry if they don’t look good, they will be covered anyways.

In another piping bag, place the icing. I used a sort of eight sided star thing for this one. Pipe the icing onto the cupcakes. I just went in circles, but you could get creative. Once all the cupcakes have been iced, put them in the fridge to set for about 10-15 minutes.

Heat some more caramel and place it in the piping bag. Take out the set cupcakes and pipe a little bit of the caramel over the icing. Place back in the fridge to set once again.

Take out one more time and put a square of caramilk bar on top! I just dug the corner in. And voila! Take some pictures. Pat yourself on the back. Maybe pour yourself some wine and get ready to bask in your guests awe:) these are crowd pleasers!

Put them back in the fridge to make sure they are good and set and take them out 10-15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

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100 Miles in [Insert Month Here]

In September I was invited to join a group on facebook of nearly all complete strangers. I was invited by one of my co-volunteers from i2P (whom I haven’t actually even met in person) and was immediately intrigued by the group name: 100 Miles in [Insert Month Here].

The concept of the group is simple: it’s a community of like minded people encouraging each other in the pursuit of health and physical activity. There is nothing complicated, in fact it is so simple that it is sort of hard to understand. People just post their mileage, whether it’s running, walking, cycling, etc. The goal, I guess, is like the title says, to get 100 miles in a specific month, but within the group there are all sorts of different goals. Some are pushing 200 miles, while some are vying for 50. There are experienced ultra runners and those training for their first 5 k’s. Heck, there are even people who don’t race at all, but the overarching attitude is that everyone encourages everyone else to strive for their particular goals.

100 mile 3

On a run in September with friends, I was telling them about the group and one exclaimed, “That’s such a great idea! Sometimes I want to post something on facebook about a really great run but feel weird doing it”. This is the place to do it. Every post is flooded with ‘likes’ or encouraging comments. And the crazy thing is that I don’t know anything about these people except that they like running (or some other type of physical activity) and are really good at sharing their positive attitude.

The group founder is a man named Andy Zeigler from Kansas. He started the group as a way to create positive peer pressure to be healthy and get out running, but it has grown into much more than that. Andy was recently featured in the October issue of the i2P newsletter “The Ambassador” and his group has inspired people all over North America.

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I love checking everyone’s posts, reading about the struggles and triumphs. Everyone in the group is focused on their own mileage, with only enthusiastic encouragement (no competition!). The positivity really demonstrates the power of positive peer pressure and the types of community that modern social media makes accessible.

If you’d like to check the group out and start your own 100 miles in [Insert Month Here] you can find the facebook group here. I promise, you will be inspired by the collective spirit of the group!

100 mile 1

This Is Where It Begins

I’m a planner. A daydreamer. An idea girl. I love thinking about the future, planning my days, weeks and months. Filling my dreams with happiness, fulfillment, success. But somehow even with all the ideas, plans and dreams I skip out on the most important part of it all:

Action.

I have work ethic, drive, and commitment. I am engaging, nurturing, a good listener. But I fall short when it comes to:

Courage.

My dreams and plans remain just that. Dreams and plans. But as Christine Mason Miller says

And so today is the day that I’m taking action. The day that I am being courageous. The day that the dreams, plans and ideas begin to take on a shape of their own.

Welcome to An Appetite for Running; I sure am glad to be here!