Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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The Urban Landscape

Normally, I try to run through parks as much as possible.  Not just because of the extra oxygen emitted in these green spaces but for the softer footing on dirt trails. Winter of course limits this option so one of my regular routes takes me through the West-Queen-West and Ossington area between Dundas and Queen.  This strip of Ossington is described by Toronto Life as having gone from no-go to bo-ho in a matter of years.  For those living in the vicinity it seemed even faster than that.  I think the redevelopment started when a huge car wash-auto body business was replaced by townhouses.

Today, I enjoyed a leisurely 5 mile run on the treadmill.  I was discouraged from running outside by the lightest sprinkling of snow, and the possibility of very icy sidewalks, which comes with this hovering-around-zero weather.  And for a change of pace, instead of running up Ossington, I had a chance to hang out as a pedestrian and browse the galleries and shops.

The main focus of my trip to Queen and Ossington was World Sewing Machine on the northeast corner.  This business is old-school Ossington with the most low cost signage going, although I think it may have been a Buddhist temple not long ago.  They are open Monday to Friday 10-6 p.m. and carry an outstanding selection of sewing machines in all price ranges.  I bought a Singer that does the basic stitches and buttonholes for $119.  It was light enough to carry on the bus ride home.

Crafted Coffee Bar

I speculate that a 3/4 mile radius, with Dundas and Ossington as the centrepoint may have the highest density of coffee bars in the city.  To name a few that I have tried; 2 LIT Espresso bars, the Dark Horse, Ezra Pound, the Communal Mule, 5 Starbucks and Crafted on Ossington which I visited for the first time today.

Heard on Ossington, Here

While enjoying my latte and the very intricate latte art design, I overhead a conversation about the film, Small Town Murder Songs which I blogged about earlier this week.  The man and woman involved seemed very in-the-know, about the film and theatre scene in Toronto.  They were talking quite loudly, in that way that suggests they want to be heard, however they were not obnoxious.  Having a personal interest in this film, I actually took notes of their conversation.

Latte Art on Ossington

The man said he had gone to high school with the director.  The woman said she had worked twice with the director and remarked that Ed Gass-Donnelly knows how to create an environment that is conducive to creativity and getting the best out of yourself.  She also said he is great at casting and the cinematography was strong.  Both commended the actors although felt that had the male lead (I think he was in Fargo) given a stronger performance the film might have come together more strongly.  I’ll call this the “Heard on Ossington” review.

Propeller, Black & White Show

I had a look in a couple of  galleries, Propeller and The Stephen Bulgur Gallery and enjoyed this drawing, coated in resin by Frank Caracciolo.  I looked at the title card wondering what the artist was asking for the piece but the price was covered by the traditional red dot, indicating the piece is sold.

Frank Caracciolo

A final photograph, taken of a storefront.  Is that cat real or painted?  Only the photographer knows for sure.

The Painted Cat?

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All About the Food

Today was busy.  To get my run and weights done prior to work, I had to get up at 4:45 a.m. as the workday started early and I wanted to allow myself an hour to get to an off-site location north of Mel Lastman Square.

I hit the YMCA at 5:45 a.m.  At times I lose perspective on my habits and recall excitedly reporting to dinner guests who live in our neighbourhood that our local YMCA was now opening 15 minutes earlier than the previous 6 a.m. opening.  Not one found this to be exciting news.

Dolmeh Felfel

Here are the food and beverage highlights of the day:

  • A big bowl of carrot cake oatmeal.
  • I made it to Mel Lastman Square 25 minutes ahead of schedule due to perfect transit connections so was able to grab a quick latte at Starbuck’s.
  • At my workplace, between noon and half past, a dinner bell rings to call everyone to share a meal, cooked by either staff or a volunteer.  Today the meal was a very authentic and tasty Iranian dish called Dolmeh-Felfel.
  • I tried a new location of Ezra’s Pound coffee shop on Dundas and had a fairly good latte.
  • I met a friend for dinner at a fairly new restaurant called Caffe Mercatto in the MaRs complex at College and University.  The highlight was coconut ice gelato that followed the lobster fettucine.  I found it a bit hard to choose my meal as there were several things on the smallish menu that I’m not fond of; goat cheese, calamari, lamb and rabbit.  The glass of prosseco they served was the smallest serving ever and was quite flat.  I should have taken a photo as proof.  The atmosphere is very nice and the service friendly.

Ezra's Pound on Dundas


Seen On & After the Run

I was eager to run to the lake to see the effect of warm temperatures on the ice.  The ice formations yesterday had an eerily, compelling, euw quality, similar to photos of blood platelets.

Blood doping platelets

I imagined that the ice would have an even more pronounced, rounded circular appearance. However today’s ice was not as dramatically shaped as I expected.

In the final mile of my 7 mile run, I stopped in at LIT Espresso Bar to pick up some Bolivian Buenavista coffee. I told the baristas that I have mentioned Stumptown coffee and LIT on my blog and gave them my blog address.  One of the baristas is a musician who runs.  We chatted briefly about running in snow with Yak Trax and what type of coffee my cafe owner-architect brother uses at the Baked Cafe in Whitehorse.

Stumptown Coffee from LIT Espresso Bar

It was a busy day as I had to prepare and print two photos for my photography class and demonstrate the use of various  Adobe Photoshop techniques.  Before my class I stopped at a long-time favourite concession stand, Sakura in Village By the Grange which serves homestyle Japanese cooking.  I had a large bowl of Japanese chicken noodle soup for $4.00, tax included.

Heart with a bell

Afterward, I dropped into the gift shop at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and picked up a belated Valentine’s gift for my husband and little something for my father-in-law who will turn 95 on February 24th.  A very long line-up was forming outside the gallery as the doors were about to open for the AGO’s free night.

I was a bit early for my class so I had a quick look at the student exhibit of human figure art. All this activity left me feeling somewhat young at heart, like the art student I was, several decades past, rather than the middle-aged mom, marathon runner of the present.

Check out the sampling of some of the Ontario College of Art (OCAD) student work below. I’ve tried to keep loosely to the running theme, which was not that difficult given the subject is the human body.


“The Sugar Blues”

According to some mental health experts, Monday, January 17th was the most depressing day of the year. Mainly due to the arrival of bills in the mailbox and gloomy weather. In addition, by this time, many will have abandoned New Years resolutions, short of the 21 days that it supposedly takes for good habits to take hold.

I don’t usually make New Years resolutions as I find that September is the month when I feel most upbeat about tackling new projects.  It must be all those years of mom-hood that have me stuck in the school-year cycle. Today however I feel the need to resolve to reduce my sugar intake for the rest of the year.

The reason for this belated resolution is that I have not quite recovered from the holiday season sugar overload and I’m hooked, with the energy lapses and subtle mood swings to show for it.  Some have called refined sugar consumption, “Death by installments.”  I read and was influenced by the book Sugar Blues in the late-seventies and this coincided with my return to regular exercise after a five year lapse. The results of these two important lifestyle changes were that my energy level became very consistent and stable through the day. Mid-afternoon sleepiness and drowsiness after meals can be avoided by reducing the refined sugar in our diet, and foods ranking high on the glycemic index.

Here is an enthusiastic review of the Sugar Blues by a more recent reader:

A true health classic! February 3, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from New York City
I’m sugar-free ever since reading “Sugar Blues.” I was sluggish, moody, hungry, etc. I remembered that John Lennon mentioned Dufty’s book in an interview once. So I bought it at the local health food store. He starts off with his own sugar hell and redemption and then delves into the whole history of the cane. Very interesting, health-wise and also politically. . . When I tell people I’m sugar-free they usually scoff, saying sugar’s not that bad for you, why give it up completely. Well, now I wake up clear and I get through the afternoon w/o any flagging of energy. At various times of the day I’ll feel some energy racing through my body. (A great feeling; keeps me motivated.) Now I need less food on my plate, and my hypoglycemia has all but disappeared. (Think about THAT one, folks.) Never eat “refined sucrose” again! It can be done! Sky’s the limit! Thank you, William Dufty!

Sugar Blues by William Duffy

Apparently, John Lennon used to regularly give away copies of Sugar Blues. Well I’m a believer in “baby steps” so here is what I did today to lessen my sugar intake, I had a non-sweet latte, at LIT, foregoing the usual triple-venti-whole-milk-vanilla latte and I skipped a sweet treat. Once I’m back to minimal sugar consumption, a sweet treat can be enjoyed every now and then without ill effect and it will be truly a treat rather than the satisfaction of an unhealthy craving.

I won’t delve into the more serious issues related to blood sugar levels such as Diabetes for which my knowledge is limited to first-year Biology and Nutritional Food Science but one starting point might be this link to The Canadian Diabetes Association.

LIT Latte Art

Here is a great quote from Jack Lalanne, the Godfather of Fitness who passed away recently at the age of 96.

Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen put them together and you have a kingdom.

Just say NO, to sugar!


Another Week of Winter Running

The wickedly cold Edmonton temperature during our visit last Sunday of -26C has been displaced by +5C.  What is going on?  And here in Toronto, the capital of not-so-cold-but-damp-cold it is -17C.  Wrong place at the wrong time.

Total mileage this week was 50 miles, with four indoor and three outdoor runs.  Five or six years ago during a particularly cold January, I ran 31 days with only three outdoor runs.  So it could be worse.  Thinking of worse I’m reminded of the power failure two winters ago.  Funnily enough, our gas furnace was so old (since replaced) that it was able to continue to produce heat and with gas stove and oven, the hardship was not severe.  I’m also remembering that a few years ago, I ran the Robbie Burns 8K in Burlington in a time of 34:58 in -20C temperatures on packed ice and snow.  Needless to say, I felt that were conditions better, I might have run faster.

The Communal Mule

We have stayed close to home these past chilly days.  Once again, we considered a movie outing and once again, we chose to hunker down on the homestead our only outing, to shop with a coffee break enroute.  We tried a new coffee bar The Communal Mule on Dundas west and enjoyed as my husband calls it, “Being tourists in the land of youth.” as inevitably we seem to be the oldest people about in our travels to nouveau espresso bars.  I had an excellent shortbread with white chocolate chip cookie and my husband enjoyed his latte.

As for me, I’ve become a bit stuck on Stumptown coffee.  Give me Stumptown coffee, Stumptown I say!  I’m a believer.  There is only one place in Toronto (2 in Canada total) where Stumptown coffee is available, LIT Espresso Bar. We have only been to the College street locations.

Stumptown Coffee at LIT Espresso Bar

Quiet days mean more time to read and I finished The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble. The “elegiac” writing and pace of the first 250 pages led to a disappointing finale, complete with a surprise ending, where everything came together, not with elegance but more like a season-ending episode of Desperate Housewives.  My very humble opinion for what it is worth, although still recommended as a pretty good read.

The final pages of The Sea Lady contain these words from Scotland’s favourite son, whose birthday is celebrated on January 25th.  And — to my husband, I’ll dedicate these lines from Robbie Burns and repeat that NO, the final quote of yesterdays post was in no way related to your plan to watch six hours of football this weekend.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:

I will love thee still, my Dear,

While the sand o’ life shall run.

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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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The first half

And we are off – sort of.  Although I was only 20 meters from the start line where the transponder chip attached to my running shoe registers my start time, it took me 37 seconds to get there, more than the 23 seconds it took me to cross the mats at the Chicago marathon.  So there you have it, the distinction between “gun” time and “chip time”.

Transponder chip, tied to running shoe

Concerns going into the race; would my heart rate watch behave, would the hitherto unknown sports drink Ultima throw off my usual routine of marathon beverage consumption, would I be able to read my pace tattoos with my rapidly deteriorating middle-aged vision and would I experience foot cramps which I’ve had bouts of recently.

Pace tattoos in place

Following the advice of the three, 27 time-CIM-runners I took the significant downhill in the first mile very easy.  I was relieved to see my heart rate register on my watch as the night before I realized that I had brought the more complicated watch of the two I own, the one that I don’t really know how to operate.  I had frantically downloaded the manual and spent much time pressing this button and that, each press triggering a high-pitched beep, to my husband’s dismay as he quietly read.  Together we were able to get the watch into a mode that would display both the heart rate and elapsed time.

I missed the one mile marker but was running around 8:25 pace at the two mile mark and it felt quite easy.  I noticed some runners stop at porta potties and realized that I too, had to pee.  Canadian masters legend Diane Palmason suggests that you should drink continually up until an hour before a marathon.  And then, have another drink 10 minutes before the marathon.  I had forgotten this and so I spent the next 8 miles in search of a porta potty with no line-up or a some sort of private spot a little forest or such.  In spite of this slight discomfort the pace was very comfortable as I ran with my heart rate from 140-145.  At this point I had no trouble keeping my heart rate under 145.  What was interesting is that a few times my heart rate went down to 135 a lapse of concentration perhaps.

The weather was turning out to be perfect.  I had tossed my hat at the one mile point and knew that it would not be long until I would feel the need to take off my vest.  That would be a complicated maneuver as my race number was pinned to the front.  But, first I had to find a pit stop.  Shortly after mile ten we went by an industrial park which had a freestanding brick wall as part of the landscaping.  I had no choice but to quickly and discreetly duck behind this makeshift porta potty.  Ahem, well on the subject of  TMI my husband overheard the following conversation on marathon day.  A woman was explaining to her male companion how she had made a pit stop but that her muscles were very tight and she could only pee very slowly.  The lack of modesty shown by long distance runners in discussing these matters has something in common with the intense physical rigours of childbirth and the willingness of participants to discuss the details thereof.

Race bib

The logistics of removing my vest while running loomed.  I relaxed into the race for a couple of miles and then tackled undoing the four safety pins holding the race bib in place and redoing these same pins to attach the race bib to my shorts.  Then I removed the vest and tried unsuccessfully to tie it around my waist.  There was not enough length to do this.  So I put placed the vest around my waist and fastened the lower part of the zipper so it encircled me.  Then I twisted and twirled the vest so that it fit snugly around my waist.  You may ask would it not have been easier to just stop.  Well, as I write this I wonder too.

I ran the rest of the race in my short,shorts and sports bra, a racing outfit that my son used to refer to as a bathing suit.  Consider the embarrassment of teenager who has a mother who has raced down Yonge street in her bathing suit.  Now that I’m closer to 60 than 50, I do not feel inclined to expose so much of my body and avoid this “bathing suit” look when at all possible.  However, such were the weather conditions on this day and with all that training on the line, the seconds gained by cooler body temperature won out over vanity and dignity.

As for the race tattoos.  I should have given more thought to their placement as they were virtually unreadable in spite of pulling my skin this way and that.  Bottom line, print too small for middle-aged eyes.  I should have stuck to my old method.

So the first half passed with much distraction.  My time for those 13.1 miles / 21.1 km was 1:48:19.  It felt great to be able to finally focus on the race.  And as they say for the marathon, the race really begins at mile 20.