Eat Clean – It’s Salad Time!

One thing I’ve learned about eating well is that it is WAY EASIER if you are organized. The only way I get through a week with balanced meals is if my house is stocked with the basics, I hit up the grocery store for all that I need and I plan out the week. 

Lunches can be tricky. I’ve always been a big fan of salads — easy to throw in your bag and a quick, delicious mid-day meal. With that said, salads can be mega-boring. Unlike some, I’m not someone who can eat the same thing, day in and day out. My go to basic salad is arugula, mixed greens, roasted chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts and raw caesar dressing {see below!}. When I’m wanting to switch it up though, I scour the internet for the best of the best.

My Evernote recipe vortex is super full these days, but in order to save YOU a pile of time, I’ve pulled out my favourites:

And a few fabulous dressings:

Happy salad-making! Happy Sunday!

PS – Shout out to Joanne at The Healing Cuisine for passing on the best caesar dressing of all time!  Combine 4 tbsp olive oil, juice of 1 lemon or lime, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tsp dijon, 3 cloves garlic (pressed), pinch salt… and blend!

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With a blink… it’s March

181b03584b88e11c0aa9485bb4fad232I’m a planner. A big one. In the beginning of January, I would have told you I knew how 2014 was going to play out. I’d be back to training, running — racing! I’d be engaged with my work and the value I was adding to the community. I would have opportunities to travel and perhaps make that trip to Ireland happen this summer. I’d be in in the usual whirlwind of dating. I’d be keen, excited — and trying to make it.

It’s funny how much can change in the blink of an eye.

It’s been a wild 6 weeks. It feels like my entire life was thrown in the air, jumbled up like a big load of laundry and landed square in front of me — with a “figure it out.”

Everything and nothing has changed.

I’ve had moments of absolute bliss, as high as you can possibly be on cloud nine and the happiest I’ve been in ages. I’ve also had the worst anxiety of my life, been completely overwhelmed and ended the day in tears.

One thing I know for sure is that during periods of change, growth is inevitable. You can either resist change — or you can accept it. The key is to focus on what you can control {like your thoughts and actions} and figure out how to process the rest. I fully acknowledge that life continually teaches us lessons and at some point, we’ll reflect back on life and see how the pieces fit into the puzzle.

I don’t know what I’ve ‘achieved’ over the last month, but I do know that I’ve been blessed to learn a ton. I’ve been at my most vulnerable, unsure if I would be accepted. I’ve dug deep inside me to find strength. I’ve leaned in and asked for help. I’ve put full trust in others. I’ve spent days doing absolutely nothing and totally over the moon about it. I’ve made commitments to myself surrounding boundaries, balance and taking care of me. I’ve been my best self. I’ve been my worst self. I’ve rocked out some days, I’ve totally screwed up other days — but slowly, but surely, I’ve made progress.

10 things I’ve learned {and re-learned} in 6 weeks:

  1. The past does not equal the future. Reflect on the past, stay focused on the present and work towards the future.
  2. Setting boundaries is a way of caring for yourself. Pay attention to the people and places that energize and drain you.
  3. Nourish your spirit by taking care of your soul. Get some fresh air, slow down, sleep.
  4. Never underestimate the power of a hug. They can turn a bad day into a good day — and a good day into a great day.
  5. Laughter is an instant vacation. Laugh until your belly hurts. And then do it again. And again.
  6. Sleep solves everything. Fact.
  7. Say thank you. Show appreciation for anyone and everyone who brightens your day.
  8. Let go of who you think you should be — and just be who you are.
  9. You don’t have to have everything figured out all at once.
  10. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe deep. Repeat.

Life is by no means bad, it’s just different. And I think I like… different.

Embracing the unknown and headed into March filled with light and love.

“Of course there is no formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.” – Arthur Rubinstein

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10 Days to Celebrate 10 Years

When I came back from London, I threw up a quick post highlighting how the trip was everything I could have asked for and more.

The last time I went to London it was 2005. I was 21 and headed on Contiki {If you’ve never heard of Contiki, please google it. If you’re under 25, it’s an absolute must do!}… high level: 5 weeks, 10 countries, 50 youth — rowdy. It’s fair to say that I don’t recall a lot about the London, other than I loved it. We did a lot of touristy stuff back then, so it was super great that I didn’t have to add that crap to the list this time. :)

This time, I flew out on the red eye Christmas Eve, arriving into Gatwick on Christmas Day. Fun fact about the UK… they shut down on Christmas Day. Yep, like no transit, no trains, no nothing. Melissa had arranged for a car service to pick me up, so before you knew it I was en route to West Hampstead.

I don’t travel well, like… don’t. travel. well. I love to travel, but the thought of being on a plane for more than a couple of hours stresses me right out. On this flight, I lucked out. {Merry Christmas to me!}. The plane was probably half full and I scored 3 seats — woop!

I arrived at Melissa’s with a — holy shit, I can’t believe I’m actually here. It’s somewhat a bizarre feeling to sleep most of a flight and wake up in a different country. Anyways, it was officially Christmas Day and to celebrate we caught up and ate swordfish. Probably the most non-traditional Christmas I’ve ever had. And you know what? It was perfect. :)

I made a commitment to myself that I wouldn’t make a lot of ‘plans’ during this trip. I needed to go with the flow. I needed to relax. I needed to recharge. We took each day as it came, went with the flow and adapted as necessary.

On my first full day in the UK, we toured around Central London — 17,000 steps later, we had covered Oxford Street, Mayfair, Embankment, Southbank and Bermondsey. London was quite a bit more chilly than I was expecting, so the cold kept up our pace and it was lovely to have a local as a tour guide. We popped into a cafe for tea, then a pub for mulled wine and just enjoyed each other.

Melissa and I go way back to 2003. I had met her through friends when I was in first year at the University of Calgary. We had ridiculous times together. She was an English major {and brainiac} and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. When we weren’t attending classes, we were making a disgrace of ourselves at the university bar, going to costume parties and having an absolute blast. 

When I had arrived, I had given Melissa a card that she wasn’t allowed to open until Boxing Day evening. Once we got back to her flat, I told her it was time!! She opened the card to learn that we were headed away for the weekend {high five to me keeping a secret from her!}… destination: unknown! She was all stressed out about what to pack and I kept on playing mind games with her to make her think we were leaving the country. :)

The next morning we were up bright and early, en route to the train station. With this whole “no plans vacation,” normal day-to-day crap that would normally stress you out {i.e. tube construction, train delays, etc} didn’t phase me at all. A few hours later, we were on the train and moving at snail pace. When we got to our stop, I told her — we’re here! The mystery destination was — Bath, UK aka a beautiful town full of history, roman baths and a divine boutique hotel.

We spent the weekend seeing the local sights — Royal Crescent, The Circus, Pulteney Bridge and explored via the cobble stone streets. I had tweeted Alastair Coote {born in Bath, lived in Vancouver, now in NYC} for his recos, so make sure to keep them top of mind if you have Bath on your bucket list! Our hotel was perfect, the Thermae Bath Spa was the perfect cure for our hangover and the restaurants we ate at were incredible. Other than spraining my ankle {more to come on that later}, the weekend was absolutely perfect. That is until we left Bath to head back to London — and got on the wrong train… headed in the wrong direction…

Once we were back and sorted in London, Melissa and I had a quick chat about the next few days. We had plans for NYE — headed to a dinner party at her colleague’s house, but other than that… NO PLANS. Hurrah. I got on the Google and figured out a few places I wanted to check out.

On Sunday, we explored Camden and then headed to Leciester Square, Covent Garden, Chinatown and Picadilly Circus. The last time I was in London I remember having just awful food, so this time I went on a mission for good eats. Melissa and I had come up with a list of the places we wanted to fill our bellies with yum. Sagar in Covent Garden was on the list.

One thing I absolutely loved about this trip was that we took our mornings easy. We woke up, had tea, made breakfast, showered when we felt like it and got out of the house when we were ready. On Monday, Melissa headed into work for the day and I went exploring. I met up with a friend from Calgary in the afternoon and then Melissa and I headed to Soho for dinner. Melissa introduced me to Regent Street and Lexington Street — big shopping streets and they both kinda gave me anxiety. So. Many. People.

On New Years Eve, it POURED with rain. The only day I wish I had my Hunter boots with me. We headed down to Borough Market for local eats and a coffee, then made our way to Soho for lunch at Mildred’s aka the top vegetarian restaurant in the city. Divine.

I love fireworks, like, LOVE FIREWORKS. Part of me wanted to head down to the chaos in Central London with the kazillion of people and experience the show. The other part of me knew that was exactly the opposite of how I needed to end the the year and get started off on a great note. Instead, Melissa and I headed to Latifa’s house for incredible food, red wine, Cards of Humanity and a ton of laughs. We closed down the party around 3 and headed back to Melissa’s to drink another bottle of wine and went to bed just before the sun came up. We must have been channeling our inner 20 year old’s. :)

The next few days flew by… Melissa and I talked about what worked and didn’t work in  2013 and what changes we wanted to make as we entered the new year. Our last day together was spent in Westminster, Victoria Street and Pimlico. We met up for breakfast with our friend, Dan, and then ran over to Westminster Abbey to get one last photo. I had forgot about Westminster Abbey. It’s breathtaking and I’m so glad we squeezed it in before I ran to the train.

My flight home was awful. To my left was a girl throwing up the whole flight, to my right was a guy with “man cold.” I sat there for 10 hours assuming I would either arrive home with the plague or die mid-flight.

I’m still alive to tell this story — so, moving on…

If you head to London, these are my musts:

Sights

  • London Bridge. It’s gorgeous — especially at sunset.
  • Covent Garden. There are tons of cute stores in the Market, the performers outside are entertaining and all the patios are heated!!
  • Soho. Located in London’s West End, Soho is the mecca of fantastic food and drinks. 
  • Borough Market. Filled to the brim with fresh food, culture and good vibes. Check their hours before you pop over!
  • Primrose Hill. Best view of the whole city.

Restaurants

  • Wahaca in Soho. Try the plantain tacos, black bean tostadas and sweet potato & feta taquitos. Off the hook.
  • Mildred’s in Soho. Organic, vegetarian and ah-maz-ing. Try it all.
  • The Orange in Pimlico. We hit it up for brunch. You can’t go wrong with an omelette and mint tea.
  • Green Rocket Cafe in Bath. Again, vegetarian. Cute cafe that does breakfast, lunch or dinner. Small town feel with an unreal menu.
  • Yak Yeti Yak in Bath. The most fantastic meal I’ve had in ages. We had the cauli pakora, yak yeti yak chicken, aloo channa, bhuteko bhat, a couple of Nepalese beer and ended our night with the chiyaa ice cream. To die for.

What did I learn while away?

  1. It’s a waste of energy to stress about things that are not in your control. Take a deep breath, re-evaluate and remove yourself from the stress.
  2. Going with the flow isn’t a bad thing. Forget this YOLO/FOMO crap, it is hugely empowering to do just do whatever you want.
  3. It’s crazy important to take time for YOU. Maybe it’s a trip away, maybe it’s time with your best friend, maybe it’s time on your own. Figure out what your soul needs — and do just that.

I recently discovered a new iPhone app called Replay. It helped me turn a whole pile of photos into this cute video! My heart is beaming. 10 days in London was an absolutely wonderful break from reality:

Melissa, thank you for 10 years of life, laughter and love. Blessed to call you my friend. xo

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Boyfriend Roulette, Shrinking Yourself Down & Doing Your Own Thing

Love

Men. Gah.

Women. GAH.

All the time I get asked — “Are you dating anyone right now?”  Sometimes the answer is — “Gawd no”… other times it’s “dating around”… often it’s “I can barely take care of me, why on earth do you want me taking care of anyone else?” ROAR.

I’ll meet a new friend, who happens to be of the opposite gender — and BOOM — the friends pounce. “Who’s the new guy?” “Awe, you two would be so great together” “This is PERFECT. You can bring him to our wedding this summer.” …blah blah BLAH. I usually respond back with a “We’re just friends.” — and  about 64 eye rolls. The debate then starts on whether women and men can be friends. The girls say — of course, they can! The guys — ALWAYS say, nada, no way, not in a million years, babe.

UGH.

Here’s the thing… if I wanted to snap my fingers and be in “a relationship” right now… I could be. Simple as that.

It’s not hard to find a young buck, lock eyes and frolick into the sunset. Hell, people do it each and every day. You go out, meet a few guys at the bar, plan a date with one of them — and then continue on that rotation until you find one you can tolerate for a week. You both “settle” — likely because you both don’t know what you deserve, want or need. You both don’t talk about that though… you talk about everything else, planning weekends away and date nights with friends. Soon enough, you’ve been together for 3 months, 6 months, a year — and then depending on how self-aware you are, you either accept that this is what you deserve or you break if off.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. In 2012, I vow’d to never do it again.

DATING FOR THE SAKE OF DATING

Lots of people date for the sake of dating (aka DSFD). They like meeting new people, like the stories that come from bad dates and end up carving out what they’re looking for. It’s social, fun and can make you feel like you’re working towards something.

I get why people do it. I really do.

When I think of DFSD, I think of boyfriend roulette. You walk into a coffee shop,  a guy looks you up and down, and you think — YEAH, BABE. He approaches you over your Grande Soy Americano Double Whip Misto Crap… asks for your number and you agree to Friday night at 7pm. Romantic. You go to dinner to find out he’s a nice guy but there’s no chemistry. You don’t want to reject him {he’s not that bad after all}, so you agree to a second date.

At the gym the next morning, you notice a new guy lifting weights. You smile at each other and continue busting your groove on the elliptical machine. When you head to the mirror to do some squats, he approaches you and starts up conversation. Soon enough you’re laughing, he’s not staring at his biceps anymore — and you agree to coffee on Sunday. You skip Sbux, hit up a local joint and lock eyes over itty bitty cups of espresso. An hour turns into two and soon enough, he says, “I’ve gotta run. I’ll call you.”

You never hear from him and he never returns the gym. You go back to coffee shop guy and meet up for date #2…

Dating for the sake of dating stresses me the hell out. It’s not the conversation, time or meeting someone new that’s the problem… it’s the meeting someone who you wouldn’t normally spend a second of energy on.

I don’t have anyone in my life that’s average. Yep, true story. The people I have in my life and the people I continue to surround myself with are anything but average. {We’re not talking physical folks, we’re talking smarts. Not saying that they’re not babes… but you know what I’m saying…} The biggest challenge I have in the dating world right now is that I feel like I have to dumb myself down to get through a date. No, I’m not a brainac, nor the most awesome chick on the planet. I’m just a girl who cares more about a 9 to 5 job, a cat and watching football on Sunday’s. Not that there is anything wrong with cats or football…

THE FIRST DATE

I agree to the date, actually legit look forward to it — and meet the guy. He has it all together — good job, friend circle, hobbies and doesn’t seem to be a serial killer. The problem? It feels superficial. I ask him about his job… he tells me, he’s been there awhile and it’s ok, pays the bills. I ask him about his friends and he says, that he’s had them for years and they’re the best! His hobbies include watching TV and playing hockey a couple of times a week. He sits there content and happy, without much care in the world. I try to dig deep and I get — nothing.

At that point, I have two options:

  1. Play down who I am and just give him high level — which generally means a second date.
  2. Be who I am — which generally intimidates/terrifies him and we end the night with a hug and “it was nice to meet you.”

Generally I choose the latter. How the hell are you going to meet someone amazing unless you show up and be who you are? I go into every date with the best case situation of making a new friend. More than that? Not even on my radar.

When  they ask me what I do for work… I tell them — with passion, excitement and energy. When they ask me what I do outside of work…. I tell them — giving back to the community, working with youth and travelling the world. I babble on asking them about their life, telling them about mine and eventually he says:

I’ve never met a girl like you. Awe. A sweet nothing. UGH.

There is a huge difference between… I’ve never met a girl like you {and there is no way on earth I’m ready for it} and I’ve never met a girl like you {and I’m stoked for the challenge}. The illusion of dating women like me is intriguing. I get that. But you know what? It’s also tough as hell. Dating a woman like me means you are going to have someone who asks you to be vulnerable and authentic — all while encouraging you to dream big, follow your heart and be the best version of yourself. And in today’s world, lots of people aren’t ready for that.

I believe that the thing that makes me different from let’s say — “average,” is that I am assertive and self-aware. Dropping truth bombs like it’s hot. The part I struggle with about “I’ve never met a girl like you” is that if you truly believe in surrounding yourself with people who lift you higher… then you should have friends like me. Right? <Insert Silence>.

Recently on a date, I asked a guy: “What excites you?” {… thinking it was a basic question.} He paused and responded with: “That’s a hard question. I’ll have to think about that and get back to you.” I sat there… stunned.

To be honest, he could have said anything. The answer itself didn’t matter. What mattered was that he cared about something that was bigger than himself.

I’ve dated people who don’t get me. I’ve dated people who’ve pretended to get me. I’ve pushed every ounce of me aside in a relationship to give to a significant other. In every single one of my past relationships, I’ve dumbed myself down. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

I recently read a post by Danielle La Porte that hit the heart. Within it, she wrote:

“The next opportunity to meet, to work, to dine, to interact, to kiss, to speak, to spend, to serve (no matter how shiny, sexy, lucrative, coveted, necessary, obligatory or useful it may seem), ask yourself this:

Will I have to shrink to make this work? or Is this a place where I can expand?” 

Simple, profound and something we all need to keep top of mind. In order to be your best self, you need to surround yourself with people who will help you shine.

SETTLING FOR LESS THAN YOU DESERVE

Settling scares the shit out of me. 

I don’t want to ever meet someone who thinks — damn I thought I could do better than Jillian, but hey, this is better than nothing. Does that give you hives? I think I’m already breaking out.

According to some random article that I recently read, the #1 thing that people settle on is personality. PERSONALITY. Good gawd. I’ve been there, yes I have… and I don’t wish it upon anyone.

I think we’re  all realistic enough to know that a lot of people are on the search for perfection {terrifying}. When they can’t find what they’re looking for, they settle. All of those people need a little wake up call on real life. Oh hey, you’re not perfect, your significant other won’t be perfect and NO ONE is perfect. A cat, a dog, 2.5 children, bills that pay themselves and a white picket fence? That’s imaginary land!

Deep dive into your relationship. If the bad outweighs the good, you owe it to yourself to get out and move on.

Get to the root of what’s motivating you to settle. Lonely? Fear of being single? Frustration with years of dating? The ticking time bomb in your ovaries? For years, I settled because I believed I didn’t deserve any better. Awful, eh. If there’s any ounce of learning that comes from this post, I hope it’s the following:

If you don’t value yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to value you either.

Once you’ve thought through why you’ve been settling, then figure out your deal breakers. Smoking and drug use are obviously turn off’s, but I’m also an absolute no go if someone isn’t passionate about something. Whether it be your love for running, writing, science or the arts — you gotta be living for something.

What are those those things that you must see in your significant other or must have in a relationship? For me, it comes down to values. Respect, communication and support are huge for me. If I trust you, I tell you everything. I give more than I take — and friendship means the world to me.

KNOWING WHAT YOU WANT

Here’s the thing about getting older… you start to figure out what you want. Yeehaw.

When I was a young bird, I mostly dated the bad boy aka the jerk. They were charismatic, a shit ton of trouble and the worst communicators {no offense meant guys, I’m sure you’re good guys now}. I would clamor for attention. They would get drunk, not come home, sometimes cheat and keep me around for fun.

Eventually I grew up and learned that I deserved better than that. I went from dating bad boys to meeting good guys. My immediate reaction was — “wow, he’s boring.” Seriously. The thing about bad boys is… they’re challenging — and a little part of them is intriguing. You think you can change them. Part of you thinks that their disrespectful behaviour is normal. All of it is a bit of a effed up bad news bears vortex.

Slowly I learned that just because a guy is a nice, lovely and treats you well, doesn’t mean he’s boring at all. In fact, nice guys and nice girls generally make healthy relationships. Surprise surprise! Honesty, trust, empathy, respect, shared values — all seems pretty good to me.

When I think about what I want in a relationship, first and foremost, it’s emotional connection. I need to ‘get’ the other person and they need to ‘get’ me. I believe relationships hit all new levels when there is compassion, laughter, an understanding that it’s ok to make mistakes {and learn from them} and a mutual desire to grow, both individually and as a duo.

I know that’s out there and one day when I’m ready, it will find me. Someone will walk into my life, look into my soul and see me for me — crushing my fears, embracing my dreams and loving perfectly, flawed me.

It won’t be perfect. It wont always be easy. But 100% it will be worth it.

ADVICE FOR ME (AND YOU!)

The most lonely you will ever feel is when you realize that you’re in a relationship that’s not right for you.

Be happy with yourself before you try to find happiness with someone else.

If you want to date someone great. Be someone great.

// end rant

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Eat Clean – Best Recipes of 2013

Avocado ToastEver since cutting out dairy and wheat {mostly}, I’ve spent A LOT more time in the kitchen. It can be tricky eating out — and almost always stressful when you are starving at your desk at 2pm with chocolate and latte cravings. When I eat crap, I feel like crap. When I eat dairy or wheat, I feel disgusting. So, about a year ago, I made a commitment to myself to pay more attention to what I put into my body and start making clean eating a priority.

I’ve learned that I fuel my body with the best when I’m organized. For me, this means having a plan of attack before heading into a new week, thinking through meals, weekly grocery shopping and finding new recipes that I’m excited about. I’m very much a learner and have thoroughly enjoyed stepping outside of what I know and experimenting with the unfamiliar.

For the most part I eat vegetarian, no dairy, no wheat. Every so often I eat fish or seafood. Why? I like it.

Throughout 2013, I tried a ton of recipes. Lot of wins, some failures. When I’m looking to try something new, I tend to check out: Oh She Glows, The Kitchn, Elana’s Pantry, Edible Perspective and Vegan Yack Attack. Pinterest also has many gems — Whole Foods does a great job of curating content.

This year I learned that… you have to add banana to a green smoothie in order for it to not to taste like ass; it’s super easy to overcook rice pasta — set a timer; you need to rinse quinoa {high five!}; overnight oats make for healthy {and efficient} breakfasts; sorrel is a tasty green; and that I love avocados more than any other fruit or vegetable. Obsessed.

These were my favourite recipes of the year:

…. um, YUM. The strong majority of them get 5 stars, a few get 4/5 stars, all are worth trying them out.

I’m not going to pretend that trying out new recipes doesn’t take time. It sure does! My advice to you would be stock your kitchen with the ingredients you always use {for me, this would be grains, beans/legumes, nuts, seeds, oils, vinegars, almond milk and coconut milk}. Then, buy the fresh veggies, fruit or meat you need weekly {or daily or whenever!}.

I never ever EVER eat well every day of the week. Something will happen in my week that throws me off track and the next thing you know I’m at Starbucks having an Awake Tea Latte for “lunch.” Heh. I almost always take time over the weekend to think through lunches for the week and find a few new recipes to try {usually 2 max}. The more recipes that you try, the more often you’ll be able to wing meals. With a large recipe rolodex in my head now, I’m a lot less dependent on recipes and often couple “winging it” with new recipes and a bit of the basics.

Never forget about the basics. I’m pretty sure my favourite snack on this planet is avocado on {gluten free} toast with crushed roasted red peppers and sea salt. I  love rice pasta with olive oil, garlic, lemon and sea salt. Pancakes are my best life. Love love love.

When brainstorming basics, think about mexican {tacos are simple and amazing}, italian {pasta with veggies — easy peasy},  thai {stir-fry with basmati rice} or a simple salad. Any of them can be whipped up in a pinch!

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” - Julia Child

Interested in salivating a little bit more? I save all recipes I find {and fall in love with} in my Evernote vortex. It’s public — no need to have Evernote, to view them! Although, I highly recommend you get it. :) It’s an awesome way to keep life organized!

Got a fave recipe that you’ve tried this year? Share it with  me. I’d love to try something new!

Major gratitude to Joanne at The Healing Cuisine for always teaching me a new thing or two about nourishing your body with good. If you are ever in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, look her up! Her cooking classes are off the hook!

PS – Be mindful that your  meals are balanced — ensure you have calcium, protein, iron, vitamin B12 and omega 3′s in your diet!

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Expand Your Mind – Best Reads of 2013

Last week I was giving myself a hard time because I hadn’t finished a single book in 2013. Gah. I have been given books. I have been lent books. I have bought books. YET, NONE READ. {None finished would actually be more accurate. Been working on Steve Jobs’ biography for like 10 months}. I am the kind of person who gets super caught up in a book. I love reading and once I get started, I usually can’t put the book down. I’m often hesitant to start a book during the work week as I always have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to affect how much sleep I get. And hell, I’ve needed all the sleep I can get this past year.

A few days after I was getting all mental on myself for not reading, I arrived back on planet earth. It only took a quick browse through my Evernote and Twitter favourites to remember that I read ALL THE TIME — just not books. :) Articles, posts and random doses of inspirations fly through my social media feeds every moment of every day {often in a somewhat overwhelming way}. Every now and again, I’ll click a link and be swept away. Whether it be a post that completely resonates with where I’m at today {or where I want to be tomorrow} or a big reality check in the face or something that gets my creative juices flowing… I read, re-read and share it with anyone I think might love it.

While I’ve been reflecting on 2013, some of my favourite posts of the year have come top of mind {in no particular order}:

If you’re keen on being a better human, getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, thinking outside the box and drilling down on what’s most important, than you’ll likely enjoy some of these reads.

“A good book is an education of the heart. It enlarges your sense of human possibility what human nature is of what happens in the world. It’s a creator of inwardness.” — Susan Sontag

Do you have a favourite post {or book} from last year? Spread the love. Share it with me.

PS – Since last week I’ve finished 2 books — “Doppler” by Erlend Loe and “Start” by Jon Acuff. Hurrah! Books {and sleeping} will be a part of my 2014. Setting that intention right now.

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Kicking Off 2014

Last night I returned back to Vancouver after spending the last 10 days in London with my best friend, Melissa.

We’ve both had a tough year and the one thing we both knew was that the best possible way to move forward into 2014… was with each other. The trip was everything I could of asked for — and more. We celebrated our friendship {we meet 10 years ago at the University of Calgary!}, honoured our past and got giddy over the future.

Cheers to laughter, friendship and creating new memories.

MJreunion

January 2nd – Westminster Abbey

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2013 Blogging

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In 2013, I wrote 41 new posts — which in all honesty is itty bitty compared to previous years. There are many times this year where I’ve felt like I can’t write publicly {I know, I know — goes against what I’m about}. I’ve been confused as to if I’ve felt censored, or just not ready to share what I’ve been thinking. More to come on that in the next few weeks.

The busiest day of the year was November 3rd with 935 views. Woop! That’s the day I went on a rant about Instagram and how people need to start embracing their true selves. Yep, true story. The post: #RealTalk.

Some of my most popular posts have been from previous years — thank you to everyone who’s still reading the story of my breast lumpectomy. Although it feels like I was writing that post an eternity ago {2010}, I still flashback to that summer every day.

My readers have come from 119 countries — with a whole pile of fan girls {and boys} in Canada! This year I’ve grown a readership is Bosnia and Latvia, which seems pretty random — and awesome!

Thank you for reading, pushing me to dream bigger and being a constant source of inspiration.

Happy 2014. xo

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A Grateful Heart

UntitledLast weekend I celebrated Christmas with the family {… early!} and today I’m en route to the UK. A little bit wild — and proof that I’m oh so very blessed.

I had been thinking about my flight to the UK over the past few weeks. As much as this vacation isn’t supposed to be about crossing things off a list or doing work, I knew that I needed to spend some time writing.

A half hour into the plane ride, I pulled out my laptop and pounded out word after word. The plan? To reflect on this year, pulling out the highlights, learning’s and please-don’t-let-this-happen-again’s… {will be posted early in the New Year}.

If last week, someone would have asked me how my year went, I likely would have said — horrific. It’s been a tough one. But once I started reflecting and writing, it became very apparent that although a whole bunch of shitty stuff happened this year, there has also been a hell of a lot of good.

So I switched gears from my reflection post… and started writing friendship love notes aka “gratitude bombs.”  You know those people in your life who just get you, those people who stay with you through thick and thin, those people who add so much value to your life, you can’t even put it into words… those people, are who I wrote to.

This year I have let 2013 get the best of me. I have gotten caught up in life, the day-to-day and often lost sight of the present. With that has come a whole pile of learning. One thing I’ve learned is that life is short and it can change in an instant. More than ever, I know the importance of speaking up, wearing your heart on your sleeve and getting comfortable with vulnerability.

I sat there on the plane writing my love notes thinking do these people know how much they matter to me? I honestly had no idea. Once I started going through my year, I very quickly realized I couldn’t have done it without them. They challenged me, they supported me, they pushed me to think outside of my sometimes-psycho thought process… they got me to today.

And for that, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Merry Christmas from London. xo

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” -  William Arthur Ward

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We all have a story to tell

I’m pretty sure I started blogging back in 2004, may have been 2003. My blog looked very different back then — both in look/feel and content. I wrote all in lower case for one! I shared every deep dark secret from the early years in uni and I believe I had about 5 followers — all of who were my closest friends. Over time it evolved into the beast it is today.

It took me a long time to get comfortable with putting my personal self out to the professional world, and my professional self out to the personal world. Everything I had been told in my early 20′s reinforced that you need to put a cookie cutter version of yourself out to the corporate world. For a long time… I did just that.  Mentally, I struggled with separating the two. For me — it wasn’t black and white. My content was all over the place — everything from the future of work to a dating tragedy to balancing work/school to a mental meltdown to my latest travel plans. I would start writing about dating and tie it back to employee experience. I would write about work/life balance and tie it back to employee health and the latest travel deal. I’m sure to the average reader, it was a bit chaotic.

At some point — I think around 2010 — I said to myself: I’m stressed out over blog logistics. This is stupid. I re-branded my blog, poured my heart into writing and finally accepted the fact that I was going to put ME out to the world. Whatever content I wanted to write, I would write. I knew that I only wanted to work for companies that would accept me, for me. I didn’t want to have to be a tamed down version of myself, I wanted to be authentic, vulnerable — and me. I knew that the people I wanted in my life would accept that.

2013CWA-3rd

A few months ago, I randomly heard about the Canadian Weblog Awards. I checked out the competition, submitted a few nominations and posted about it on my social networks. A week ago they shortlisted to top 5 in each category and I was stoked to find out that a few of my nominees — and myself — made the cut!

Today I checked my email to find out that the final winners have been announced — and I was included! That’s kinda crazy, eh!!

Why do I write? I write because reflection allows me to move forward. I write because education is super important to me and the internet seems like a pretty good place to elevate your voice. I write because maybe, just maybe, someone will find comfort in my words and realize that we’re all in this together.

Thank you to whoever nominated me and to everyone who has been along for this journey. So many greats blogs were nominated, make sure to check out the winners across the 34 categories. THRILLED that 2 of my fabulous {and very deserving} friends also won:

What blogs do I read? About a bazillion a week– some of which I’m a regular and others I just stumble upon through link sharing on social. :)

Here are a few of my favourites:

  • A Life Less Bullshit: Nicole writes about creating a life that you love and she’s a pretty badass human being too!
  • Hooray Collective: Cool people doing cool shit — and then talking about it.
  • Marika Richoz: Marika spills out truth bombs and seriously I think people do cartwheels and give high fives every time she posts!
  • Steph Corker: A must follow on the Ironman and Luon scene, Steph is always inspiring everyone around her to dream big.
  • Team Ninja: Elliot & Tom have been blogging their running journey, always authentic and generally entertaining.
  • Mary Beth LaRue: Mary Beth is a yogini, living her most blissful life — she writes posts that always hit your heart.
  • Little Lessy: Allessia has a mad eye for design, typography and finding simplicity in a big city.
  • The Day Book: Sydney has always intrigued me with the tales of her life  – filled to the brim with love, fashion and the sweetest little boy.

Stalk them, find one that’s up your alley, then add it to your favourites — you won’t regret it!

Lastly, thank you to the Elan Morgan and the Canadian Weblog Awards. Major love to everyone involved. xo

PS – Thinking about getting into writing? This post by Leo Babatua on ZenHabits is EXACTLY why I write — and it offers tips on how to get started writing too!

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