Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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To the Bakery and Back

Christmas tree, Distillery style

With no companions for this run and so-so weather, I knew I would have to gear up mentally for my 12 miler, my longest run since the NYC marathon. Yesterday, I did my first treadmill workout due to the slushy, messy road conditions and icy sidewalks that come with precipitation when the temperature hovers around 0C.

I decided to run an unusual route in that normally I run routes with minimal pedestrian traffic but with the threat of slippery sidewalks, sticking to well-trodden routes is a necessity. My route incorporated a run along Church Street, King Street East and the Distillery District, three areas which are off our beaten path.

Art in the City

I ran east on Davenport and then down Bay street, over to Yonge, east on Wellesley and down Church Street. I was able to get a glimpse of the new Loblaws housed in Maple Leaf Gardens. I never did see a Leafs game although went to quite a few Canadiens games while growing up in Montreal. I think I’ve seen three concerts at the Gardens, Neil Young, Rush (free tickets) and Hall & Oates. I think the bulk of my mega-concert days took place in Montreal at the Forum.

Brick Street Bakery

North of Queen and Church was a striking mural and close by a large Metro grocery store. There seems to be big-time inner-city grocery wars happening. I guess that is a sign of a very liveable downtown core. As I got closer to my planned turnaround point at Trinity near Front, it dawned on me that one of my favourite pastry treats was very close-at-hand. At Trinity and Mill street in the Distillery District is the Brick Bakery. WooHoo! While I woke up this morning with the mantra “no more chocolate” reverberating in my head, I said a big YES to an eccles cake pit stop.

Eccles cake

Brick Bakery offerings

Eating eccles cake

Fueled up I began the return leg westward via the lakeshore. The stretch of the lakeshore east of Yonge street is quite dismal but it is usually quiet enough to run on the road and one of the first roads to be plowed after a snowfall. I made another pit stop at Harbourfront Centre where I was able to check out an art show featuring portraits. A portrait by Louie Palu of a 22 year old marine serving in Afghanistan was particularly compelling and I found myself saying a prayer for our troops.

The rest of the run was part of my usual six miler which always makes the time seem to go by faster. I felt comfortable and steady all the way, with energy to spare when I returned home. Energy which will be put to good use this evening as we have as guests our 5, 7 & 9 year old nephews and niece. Muppet Movie, here we come.

I am almost 100% committed to a spring goal of running a fast 5K. I’ve never really trained specifically for 5K but I think I need to do this to get some speed back. This will involve joining  a hard-training track club. Yes, you’ve heard it before, the false starts I’ve made in signing up but I think 2012 is the year that I will finally do it.

What is it that you might finally do in 2012?

Happy New Years all!

p.s. Ever since tasting my first eccles cake a few years ago, I have been meaning to bake them hence another finally-do for 2012. I got the contact info I need from the clerk to get the Brick Bakery recipe.

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Christmas Greetings

Best wishes and blessings to all! My last post about our trip to Stratford, Ontario was written from Edmonton while visiting my husband’s dad for a few days. The difficulty when you are busy, busy, and fall behind with blogging is that it is hard to know where to start. Over the next while, I’ll have to forgo the immediacy of a linear narrative in order to catch up.

While I may not be blogging much, I’m always be aiming to run every day with the odd exception. In the past, one exception has been days of early morning travel (leaving house at 7:30 a.m. or earlier) as I give myself a “pass” upon reaching the destination. On our trip to Edmonton I surprised myself by bounding out the door an hour or so after arrival for an easy, shake-off-the-jet-lag two miler. I enjoyed four memorable runs while in Edmonton which I will blog about shortly.

In the past 12 days I have cooked for four parties, two here and two in Edmonton. I crowned myself Queen of my father-in-law’s kitchen due to the three meals and batch of cookies I baked while there. On returning to Toronto I cooked dinner for 16 on Thursday, a farewell gathering for a workmate and then hosted our family dinner for 11 adults and 10 kids on Christmas day. I cooked the turkey, stuffing and provided cookies and an appetizers while three siblings (I have five) and my parents provided all else. There is a at least one very good cook in every family so this works very well for our clan.

Candy cane cookies, a favourite

Once a year, we splurge on eating out to celebrate our son’s birthday. We were all well-pleased with our Asian fusion meal at Lee’s on King street last week. We were especially impressed with the grilled tofu.

Birthday dinner at Lee's Restaurant

As for the weekly mileage tally, I hit the 40 mile mark two weeks ago but last week I had to cut back as I have been fighting a scritchy throat. It was disappointing to cut back my planned 12 miler to 6 miles last Saturday but perhaps today is the day, that things turn around. I usually wake between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. but slept in past 8:30 a.m. this morning and I’m hoping that “sleep, the wonder drug” will have worked its magic. We normally attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve but opted for 9 a.m. mass this year in order to maximize the benefits of regular sleep routines. I have to confess that I enjoyed not having to fight off drowsiness at Midnight Mass. Wishing you all peace, joy and good health!

What child is this?

Christmas is the renewed invitation not to be afraid and to let Him-whose love is greater than our own hearts and minds can comprehend-be our companion”               

Henri Nouwen

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Winding down and warming up for the holidays

Season of hope

The past week has been a transition from hyper-busy to a bit of calm before the holidays. We will be away a for two long weekends in December so I’m working hard at getting a lot done now, to make up for the away time. Take note Steven and Alain in case you were thinking of hosting a party 🙂 I ran 35 miles this week with a long run of 7 miles. I’ve been doing upper body weight work and doing walking lunges and hope to start lower body weights next week. My only speedwork since the marathon has been to pick up the pace for about five blocks when my husband passed me on his bicycle on College Street.

To prepare for hosting three festive events, I’ve been cleaning and organizing like crazy. My mantra: Out with the old and then MAKE DO! I have been accused of having some Luddite-like views in certain areas. Such as the refusal to own a dishwasher and the belief that if I cannot keep my own home clean and tidy I have too much space and too much stuff. I have too much stuff and consequently my home is far from being as clean and tidy as I would like it to be 🙂 I am having a farewell party for a co-worker who is returning to Hungary on December 27th, hosting our family Christmas dinner for 21 guests and then a farewell party for a friend who is going to cycle from Cairo to Capetown as a fundraiser for the Ethiopian orphan sponsorship program that we support by organizing a gala. My friend Bev is 61 years old, has two kids and two grand kids. I’m going to blog about Bev’s trip soon.

Cairo to Capetown

Bev (centre) introduced at Ethiopian Community Dinner by Board Chair (right)

We attended Advent Vespers at St. Basil’s church which always makes for a special evening but I was a bit disappointed that for the second year in a row, Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel was not sung. Here is a good version by Sufjan Stevens.

After Vespers we dropped the church hall for a snack and coffee and then went for a drink atop the Hyatt Regency at the famous rooftop bar that dates back to the time when this hotel was the Park Plaza. It was my first visit to this famous Toronto lounge.

I’ve already sent one Christmas card and began playing Christmas carols last week. I cleared our dining room table of my work-work and volunteer work paraphernalia and my husband and I enjoyed a nice sit down dinner. I guess things must be settling down if I have time to arrange flowers. Dickens is a favourite author, with David Copperfield my favourite of the four Dicken’s novels I’ve read the others, Great Expectations, Bleak House, Dombey and Son. I think I’ll read The Christmas Carol over the holidays. Yes, I am feeling very happy to have the time to thoroughly enjoy, appreciate and contribute to the best of the coming season of hope and joyful expectation.

It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child himself.

Charles Dickens

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What I did while not running. Holiday Highlights

With the late start to holiday preparations due to the marathon, I’m feeling that the holiday season came and went a little too fast.  Through this period I interspersed the fun times with the fun of running 40+ mile weeks.  Since my five days of rest following the marathon on December 5th, I’ve run every day.

We were all off between Christmas and January 3rd.  Our son Steven was home from Kitchener-Waterloo where he is an intern at Research in Motion.

Christmas morning

Much of December 24th was spent preparing for our family dinner and we ended our day by attending midnight mass at St. Basil’s church.

Present-ation plus

You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier

Ready to roll

Rolling the chocolate roll

Nearly 7 hours for a 22 pound stuffed bird

Christmas dinner was well enjoyed by all and we gathered round the fireplace, oops, I meant computer to see a slide show put together for grandpa’s birthday celebration.

Watching family slide show

Boxing Day was spent relaxing and eating leftovers including a lot of cocktail shrimp and a melted brie and maple-pecan appetizer. We ate turkey for five days straight.

On the 27th we ventured out with two nieces, a nephew, our son and his girlfriend to see Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, a modern fairy tale, at the Bell Lightbox Theatre.  Afterward we enjoyed snacks at the OB Cafe which is part of the impressive TIFF-Bell Lightbox complex.

Our crew, prepared for the 3-D version of Nightmare Before Christmas with 3-D glasses

Entrance to MOMA exhibit of Tim Burton's oeuvre

Unidentified civil servant still craving sweets despite holiday excesses

Snacks at the OB Cafe on site at Bell Lightbox

We drank a lot of Stumptown Roasters coffee at home and at LIT Espresso Bar on College street. On December 28th I ventured out into the wilds of Boxing week sales with a trip to MEC and Europe Bound. I did not find what I was looking for however did drop into LUSH and took advantage of their sale prices. Apart from the fun atmosphere and great sale at LUSH, I found the shopping expedition vaguely depressing, un-festive and decided to stay away from the shops, and have only visited grocery stores since.

Stumptown coffee at LIT espresso bar

Groceries for Japanese rice dish Maze Gohan

We shopped at PAT, the Asian grocery store in Little Korea to pick up supplies for our family New Year’s dinner as each family member usually prepares a Japanese or Asian dish.  While preparing a rather complicated rice dish called Maze Gohan, we watched a remastered version of a Luchino Visconti classic, The Leopard. This version recently became available and my husband had put it on hold at the library and had finally made it to the front of the waiting list. Three cheers for the Toronto Public Libraries! Visconti is best known for the film, Death in Venice. The Leopard features an outstanding performance by Burt Lancaster with the orginal Italian version using a dubbed voice and an English version featuring all of him.

Friends had kindly invited us to their default New Year’s eve party at their friend’s place in the Beaches.  Since our son and our roommate Alain were hosting a New Year’s eve party at our house, we decided to stay at a B&B in the Beaches on Balsam avenue, the Balsam Beach Inn, 6-7 blocks from the party in the beach and give “the boys” their own space.  We were in the two-bedroom upper suite and were quite charmed by our quarters.

B&B on Balsam Avenue in the Beach

B&B on Balsam Avenue in the Beach


Blogging at the B&B on New Year's Eve

Fabulous cookie treats made by our New Year's Eve hostess

Unidentified couple (not us!) participating in three-legged race on the boardwalk

The highlights of the party included; beef brisket (smoked meat) from Montreal, a test of sobriety on the beach which involved walking along wooden barricades, partially sunk into the sand, three-legged races along the boardwalk, an outstanding selection of homemade cookies and dancing to a range of hits including Poker Face, the Clash and local heroes from the past, Teenage Head (I kid you not middle-aged Torontonians). The teenagers present showed great tolerance to the dance antics of the adults.  I overheard one discussing what songs might keep the grown-ups on the dance floor.

Maze Gohan

New Year's cookie selection

We made it back to our B&B around 2:30 a.m., and set a record for sleeping in due to the utter quiet and the light-shading drapes. I think the last time I slept past 11 a.m. was as a teen. In just under 30 minutes we brewed our Stumptown coffee, packed up and were on the road as we had mass to attend and food to cook. My plan to start the year with a run along the beach while thwarted did not feel as much of a disappointment as the morning was grey and foggy and you could not see the water from the beach.

We had a wonderful dinner at my sister’s home in Richmond Hill. I’m sure it had been a busy day for her as she is the mother of an 8, 6, 4 and 2 year old. In spite of her busy life as a mom she runs every other day and plays hockey. Over the holidays one of her teams competed in a tournament. I ended my evening with triple servings of dessert and a large can of Poppycock on my lap. Having decided to make the most of the season’s end I munched away with abandon.

Poppycock, discovered on New Year's by me, former Cracker Jack aficionado

My husband asked me to move away from him as he too was hooked and was annoyed that I did not comply with this request, leaving him to rely to his own self-control devices 🙂 It was my first encounter with Poppycock and I woke the next morning wondering where I might buy some.

Those who fear snakes were made a little uneasy by the prized gift of one of our six year old nieces, as shown below.  And, for the record, we have 3 six year old nieces.

I got a western hognose snake for Christmas!

We had talked about going to see True Grit and The Social Network but somehow the days flew by and we did not make it to either.


Reindeer ensemble, a treasured gift from our son's girlfriend, Thuy

On Monday we drove our son back to K-W and had our final holiday dinner there.  It was very nice to have him home and we miss him but our nest is not quite empty as we have his friend and now our special friend, Alain home with us.  Happy New Year!


Farewell dinner in K-W

“For I dance
And drink and sing,
Till some blind hand Shall brush my wing.”

William Blake

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Merry Christmas all!

Busy day.  Ran one mile to  buy the missing ingredient for punch.  Family dinner, turkey, children, an infant and a birthday cake for Steven.  Purchased from ITunes a beautiful Christmas tune performed by Steve Winwood, who has been around forever. Check it out below on YouTube.

Two grandmas and their four month old grandchild, baby Zack


Good times! Belated birthday cake for a 23 year old



Big week ahead

I’m not sure if sipping a glass of red wine is the best preparation for the 75-80 mile week ahead however here I am in recovery mode from a weekend of shopping.  Shopping is something I try to avoid while in heavy marathon training as running becomes top priority for expending leg energy.  It was however a nice diversion for my easy week of running.

Waiting to be filled with Christmas cookies

The main source of fun is often, a trip to Target.  A lot of the purchases made at Target were in preparation for the holidays, wrapping paper, festive cookie containers, stocking stuffers and paper party products.  I am an avid baker and I’m looking forward to posting photos of my holiday baking as well as the recipes.  I love the holiday season and in our household it officially kicks off with the Advent Vespers at St. Basil’s church.  I’m finding it hard to hold off on the temptation to start listening to my playlist of Christmas Carols on my IPod.  And, I’m looking forward to seeing the festive tree in Union square, San Francisco on our post-marathon days there.

Ready for holiday wrapping

Yesterday morning, I was quite tired, mentally, from the late night at work but I did get out for 3 miles before leaving town.  This morning I ran another 3 miles on the treadmill.  With all this rest, and the missed speedwork on Friday, I should be feeling pretty peppy tomorrow.

The plan for the week is something like this.

Monday – a.m. 5 miles / p.m. 8 miles with tempo work or speedwork

Tuesday – 7-8 miles

Wednesday – a.m. 3 miles / p.m. 8 miles with tempo work or speedwork

Thursday – a.m. 3-4  miles / p.m. 8 miles easy pace

Friday – a.m. 7-8 miles easy pace

Saturday – 18-20 miles

Sunday – 7-8 miles very easy

Total for the week 75-80 miles

What will it take to pull off this week successfully?  Number one, it means carefully monitoring hours of sleep and getting to bed at a decent hour.  Eating a good breakfast and making sure to have some protein, no longer than 20 minutes after each workout.  Limiting alcohol consumption.  Alcohol interferes with REM sleep, among other things.

I enjoyed hearing about the fitness routines of my sister and sister-in-law.  Both, do most of their running in the evening as their mornings are very busy.  As mentioned earlier, my sister has four kids and my sister-in-law has three kids.  My sister’s PRECOR treadmill has held up very well.  She has had it for six years and it has survived an episode of an exercise ball getting pulled complete under the belt.  I guess these things happen when you have four kids.  They both took it easy this morning but were planning to run later this evening.

The elusive Petite, Size 0, on sale

The border crossing was not as bad as earlier trips with 30 minutes to clear customs and no waiting at all to pay duty.  We always declare what we have purchased, a family tradition, instilled in us by our mom.

We had a wonderful time together and talked about our next outing, hoping to include our mom and another sister-in-law who gave birth to a son in August.  My parents have 14 grandchildren, with an even split between the sexes.

Well, better tuck into dinner and get prepared for the week.

Happy end-of-weekend to all!