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Run Like You Stole Something

It’s been an interesting year on the running front. I personally hate running, or at least I did until very recently.

Lee and I decided that it would be a good thing for us to do together. Lee enjoys running, whereas I have not enjoyed it much. At all. But it seemed like a good thing to do, because a) it’s free exercise, and b) it’s something we can do together. Oh, and c) apparently it’s good for you.  There is a hidden d) that’s worth adding – entering ‘fun’ runs (and I use the term lightly) gives you an excellent goal to train for.

Our running journey of 2014 started with entering the Elmira Endurace, which consisted of a 5km run, and an 8km run two weeks later. Sure, why not, what could possibly go wrong? I’ll tell you what can go wrong. Your husband, the one who who enjoys running, goes and gets himself a soccer injury leaving you to do both races on your own! But do them I did, and so began my attempts to get better at running, and try to enjoy it.  Enjoy it I did not.

People say that when they run, their mind rests. They can do their taxes in their heads, come up with an award winning, world changing idea that will make them millions, or simply be at ease. For me, all I could think is “I hate running. I hate running. I hate running.” A friend told me that it will take about 6 to 12 months to start to enjoy the running process. 8 months in, all I could think of was “I hate running. I hate running. I hate running.” But I kept at it.

We entered a few other runs, there was a 4km colour run, the 5km Colour Me Rad run (basically you run and they throw colour bombs at you and hose you down with coloured water), and a couple of other 5km runs in there somewhere.

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We initially entered the North Face Endurance Race, 10km of trail running up and down ski hills in summer, but thankfully we had a conflict and went camping up Tobermory way with friends instead. Much more pleasant! But the nagging feeling that we missed out kept eating at us both, so I found the Toronto Night Race. 10km, at night, wearing a head torch.

Training consisted of 5km runs every so often (maybe twice per week?) and one 7km run into Lee’s work one weekend. That’s it. So saying that we felt under prepared is relatively justified. Having said that, two weird things happened. Firstly, we made it. And in decent time. The second… well… this one is shocking.  Something happened. It’s like a penny dropped, or the coins in Connect Four aligned. You could even call it my Oprah ‘ah-ha’ light bulb moment. Something was different. It wasn’t the sign some lady was holding up that read “RUN LIKE YOU STOLE SOMETHING,” although it probably helped. It was something else.

I didn’t hate it.

In fact, I rather enjoyed it, and the feeling when sprinting over the finish line with husbandman is something I can’t really describe, other than one of elation and buzzing like a pollen hungry bee in a field of daisies.  The process of training, and enduring all the “I hate running” thoughts finally came together and showed me an awesome result. Who knew?! And I have to admit, it’s fun to do with friends (although I still refuse to actually run side by side with anyone other than Lee). The post run beers taste that much sweeter!

 

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So what’s next for us in this category? More running! Neither of us are interested in half or full marathons (hell no!), but thinking maybe a couple of duathlons together in 2015, and perhaps a sprint triathlon for me, but that’s months away. Plenty more to do in the meantime before then!

 

 

 

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Candy Crack Cookies

Look out people, there is a new kind of crack in town. Irresponsibly yet intentionally, this new crack is in the form of an innocent cookie. I give you… PC’s Candy Cane “Eat the Middle First” Cookies.

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First I heard about these cookies by word of mouth. Not just any mouth, but my boss who has impeccable taste and a refined palate that I generally trust. She joked about how her and her husband accidentally went through two boxes in two days, without the help of their kids. Recreational use, I thought. She was just looking for a good time, a sugar buzz. She may have hinted that I should try them, but now that I think about it, not directly. I wonder if her delivery included a slight warning that I didn’t recognize, or perhaps I refused to hear the warning bells on my quest for a new experience to shake up my otherwise non-existent cookie eating life.

We were at the supermarket, and suddenly found myself deliberately looking out for these cookies. I hadn’t had one yet but was already prowling the aisles in a cookie hunt madness. Eager doesn’t even cover it, I found the idea of their wickedness unavoidably appealing. More non existent alarm bells.  Suddenly, a moment where time stood still and the sound of pre Christmas chaos in a normal supermarket was muffled. I was looking through a lens that had this box in the centre, crystal clear in its brilliant colourful glory, everything else faded into an uninteresting blurry mess. I saw this:

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One won’t hurt, I thought. I just want to try it, see what the fuss about. How bad/good can these be? I mean, they are only cookies!

The time came in the evening where the cat was fast asleep and we had the evening to ourselves.  Why not, we thought. Let’s try just one in the comfort and safety of our own home. Within seconds the box was ripped open, the cellophane torn away carelessly in anticipation, and with a huge hearty sniff the decadent fragrance of evil wafted up our nostrils, and it was exhilarating. It started with a small nibble. Then a larger bite. Before we knew it, we had spiraled out of control and had demolished three cookies each within minutes. These Candy Crack Cookies had us hooked, and there is no other word for it, they are addictive. The consuming process was a vicious circle – the intoxicating scent, the pure pleasure and satisfaction of eating, then the heavy plummet of realization, sad and broken knowing the cookie has gone, leaving only the need for more. Just one more cookie… JUST ONE MORE!

You have been warned. Move over bloody caesars, turns out these candy cane cookies are the new crack.

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Gluten free redemption…

Ah, the injustice of it. Having to go gluten free bites the big one. It’s no secret how I feel about gluten free products or lifestyle, or my experience with GF bread at my favourite sandwich place in the world, Vincenzo’s.

The last ‘real’ sandwich I had from there was nothing short of amazing, but it gave me one hell of an uncomfortable afternoon at work to get through. Still avoiding the GF bread, I have started to try different treats The Chenz has to offer. On today’s lunch run, I came across gluten free brownies.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I bought two anyway, palmed one off to husbandman, and head back to work.

The time came sooner than I expected for my afternoon snack. I was sipping on a cup of cinnamon herbal tea, and thought yep, the time is ripe.

Lets do this thing.

I don’t think it even lasted two minutes. By the time it occurred to me to take a pic and blog about it, well…

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DESTROYED!

Thank you, Vincenzo’s! You are restoring my faith in GF products. Now to figure out how to make these bad boys…

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Just write a f#@%ing blog entry!

Um… yeah. So all of a sudden its October.  Both of our birthdays have come and gone, the trees are releasing their captives that hardly had time to changed to the burning brightness of golds and reds before being forced to fall gracefully to the ground. The heating in our building has been turned on, and our neglected jackets and boots are receiving a well deserved dustoff for the months of usage ahead. The smell of spiced pumpkin lattes intoxicate the senses of Starbucks customers, cinnamon is suddenly in everything once again, and soup is making a comeback on the menu. Yes, it’s autumn here, it snowed yesterday, and we are not entirely sure how it could possibly be October already! But October it is, and Team de Souza is gearing up for the silly season to commence.

Oh the shame of realising we haven’t actually written an update (and I say ‘we’ as in the Team de Souza collective) since April. In the spirit of  the year of ‘just f#@%ing do it’, this blog entry is born. Here’s a quick run down on the highlights of the last six months, all of which deserve an entry of their own.

We had the pleasure of having some visitors from Australia in May consisting of Steve, Megan and Sandra.  Their visit included quality time spent mincing around wine country, Owen Sound and local KW goodness. And of course, serious rounds Cards Against Humanity were played.

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My hair went purple, although that was intentional, because guess what? I wanted to so I just f#@!ing did it! I wont lie to you, I loved it. One day I will do this again. They say blondes have more fun, but clearly they have never gone purple.

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We had an amazing weekend camping up north in Killarney, involving some hiking, beer drinking, rubbish bag stealing raccoons and nervous midnight pee breaks while bears could be lurking in the dark outside our tent.

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The first annual TacoFest was hosted in town so naturally we tried to partake in as many tacos and beer samplings from local breweries as possible. All you can eat tacos from different vendors makes you think you are going to get your taco on and eat more tacos in one night than you have in the last five years. I can tell you right now, four tacos is actually a lot. Who would have thought?!

We returned to London briefly for a beautiful wedding in July, which really deserves a post of it’s own, so I will get to that soon. London welcomed us back with open arms as did our good friends. My mixed emotions and anticipation of returning quickly melted away with the first ‘mind the gap’ we heard, and our first cider in the street. Ah how we miss drinking in the street. London forgave me for my slurs, rude hand gestures and insults upon leaving as we quaffed many pints and pondered our 5 years in the crazy British city. Both of our works are close to London so we were able to take advantage of that and work for a few days. Unfortunately that meant I couldn’t take my camera as we were loaded with carry-on luggage already. The plan was to buy a new point-and-shoot camera at Toronto airport on our way out, but seriously? That is the worst airport ever! No duty free for us. So we are ashamed to admit, once again we went to another wedding this year without a camera.

After we got back from London, we spent another quality weekend with Team Hughzenbacher in Toronto, which involved everything from cranking tunes in the sun while riding around Toronto Island on a quadbicycle to a four person dance party on a grassy mount outside a rooftop club. Lee turned into a dancing witches hat, and all I could manage to muster between laughing so hard was ‘they were cones’.  Ah, The Wedding Singer, what have you done to me?!

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We flew to Boston for a long weekend in September, because…well, we just f#@%ing wanted to. We had a blast, and involved everything from hangovers to food poisoning. Unfortunately it was pre hockey season so we didn’t get to catch a Bruins game. Next time. Boston surprised us, it was a really cool city but not exactly inviting. Still, we had a brilliant time and some fortunate weather toward the end.

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We caught up with an old buddy from Australia who was in Toronto for work and treated him to a day filled with non stop hockey. I am not sure his poor existing hangover handled the constant drinking from 12pm well, or my constant yabbering. Thanks for the Tim Tams, Ben!

What else… oh yes, we spent a wonderful four days in Washington DC for some government shutdown fun. Unfortunately the shutdown happened after we already booked the trip, but we went anyway. I nearly peed my pants seeing the White House for the first time, hence the three different angles of it in the pics below.  While we missed out on nearly all the things I wanted to do (museums, monuments, the Lincoln memorial, the Library of Congress, a tour of the pentagon, just to name a few), we had an insanely cracking time. We even managed to catch up with a friend of ours we met in Mongolia back in 2010. Belly laughs all round. Washington DC, we will be back! Such an awesome city, and some ridiculously good food.

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And finally, Oktoberfest. If you didn’t already know this, where we live in Canada has the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany, due to the large German community here. This year we hit up Concordia, which is apparently the place to partake in Oktoberfest shenanigans. I think I might leave that for another blog entry, it’s a bit much (and too soon) to talk about here.

I have been mostly enjoying my study and quite proud of my results so far. I passed my first unit quite well, and my second even better which surprised me and reduced me to a sobbing mess. What a relief. I picked it up to two units for this study period, and while I can see the light at the end there is still so much more to do. I don’t think I will do two units at the same time again…

All of these things should have been entries of their own, I apologize for the massively brief rundown on each. I do blame a certain amount of blog neglect on my writing course (they say this about chefs too, the last thing you want to do when you are not cooking is cook). Speaking of food, we have definitely had some amazing culinary experiences over the last six months. I wont bore you with six months of details but will add this pic. We had just devoured an insanely awesome cured meat platter with crack-like pate, and I was demolishing a plate of wild mushroom pappardelle. So ridiculously delicious.

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Last but not least, our cat Franklin. What a little delightful monster he is, haha. This is one of the loveliest cats on the planet, and we are lucky to have him in our lives. We did forget what its like having a young kitteh around, and wants to play. Non. Stop. He visits us at 4am for a purr cuddle, and greets us at the door when we come home to give us smooches. Mostly, he sleeps, plays, and meows really loudly at the squirrels outside the window.

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So what next for Team de Souza? Well, stay tuned and we will let you know! I promise to be more committed and disciplined to updating this thing. I am planning on writing a lot more, so you may see some different style posts here in the future. Just sayin’. And maybe… Just MAYBE, one day husbandman might make another guest appearance on our blog. Did you hear that, Lee?!  *coughs* 🙂

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unpleasant anniversaries…

Dear mum,

It has been nearly 12 months since you departed this life, and even though you won’t be reading these words I thought I would write them anyway.

I have never understood why people focus on the anniversary of a tragedy or something unpleasant, and I have been trying to prepare myself to not be one of those people. I am ok with reflecting and remembering a date and its significance, but I wanted to ensure I wasn’t one who dredges up awful feelings like it happened yesterday and grieve all over again. Having said that, it’s proving to be difficult.

I think about you all the time, and I kept my promise, I am still talking to you. And I can mostly still hear your answers (funnily enough your answer is usually BBQ chicken).  I try to celebrate you and your life, especially when I am flicking through the Dictionary of Cooking and see your handwritten notes and inserts. But I can’t help but feel that pang of sadness that I will never hear your voice again other than in my memories and dreams, and will never read newly structured words in your handwriting on paper on a parcel containing something crazy.

I will never hear another voicemail with ‘Hi, it’s me mum, just wondering what you are doing, and what you are having for dinner tonight…’. I must have heard that 1000 times and got a kick out if it every time.

So I guess its safe to say I am sad. But not unhappy sad.  I am happy I still hear you, still talk to you, and can still get cooking tips and dinner ideas from you (cue BBQ chicken). I am happy that I see your face in photographs of myself, something becoming more evident over time and something I had never really considered before.

I have a lot to be thankful for because of you.

Dear mum, I miss you like crazy and I wish I could tell you about the raccoon that stole our garbage bag while camping up north. Or about the amazing culinary delights we experience, or my kitchen failures that are worthy of a glass of wine and a chuckle.  I wish I could tell you about my study as I know we would have had some amazing conversations about it, and you would have those ideas that would inspire me.  I am sorry it took me so long to figure it out, you were right! I wish I could tell you how right you were.

Thanks mum. And don’t worry, Lee is always taking great care of me.

Anna

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Caesars are the new crack

The first time we came to Canada, I was assured by our good friend Jad that I would love bloody caesars. When I asked what it was made of, and was told in the response ‘clamato juice’ I had to question it. Did you just say clamato? What the hell is clamato?! Turns out its tomato juice… with clams and anchovies.

‘NO WAY’ I promptly refused. That’s disgusting!

Yet less than a week later, feeling a little bullet proof (*coughs*), I signed myself up for one. And what I got was… awesome.

Forget your clams, forget your anchovies, you can’t taste those. Instead you have a bloody mary with a much better taste, and the spicier the better!

Next thing you know I was hooked. At the time, I had to return back to the UK unsatisfied by bloody mary’s, and was constantly prowling for a caesar replacement.  Why isn’t clamato juice available world wide?! How do I get it when not in Canada?!

When we returned to Canada to live, I was all over it. And things got weird.

At the Firkin, I saw a bacon caesar. Yeah, that’s right, a ripply piece of crispy fried bacon. In my drink. I couldn’t go past it, which probably will continue to fuel the rumours of me being a baconmonger, and I have to say, I didn’t hate it. Then came Ethel’s and their amazing caesars with pickled asparagus*.

Yet it was Mike-the-pilot who fuelled this addiction with his ridiculous caesar making abilities. He takes it to the next level, with garnishes that are essentially small meals in themselves. Just look at how happy I am!

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Next thing you know, I am mastering the art of caesar making myself, and weeknights will never be the same again. I blame pickled beans! Dang those things are tasty, and don’t taste right without clamato-y spicy goodness.  They  need each other, like bears need rabbits in the woods and unicorns need rainbows.

I know it sounds a bit feral, but folks I have to warn you, caesars are the new crack. They cure hangovers, hunger pains and misery. And they do it so deliciously.  This is one addiction that I am happy with, and if you need me, I will probably be at Ethel’s.

*Did you know that when pickling asparagus it produces a protein build up called rutin? I had to google this after a shock horror incident, only to be relieved to find that its not bad for you at all. Quite the opposite in fact. So don’t worry about the grey stuff you might find on your pickled asparagus, its natural, normal and it won’t kill you.

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The thing about Cleveland…

Oh geez, I just found this in our drafts! Shame on me.

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Husbandman and I have just returned from a three day weekend in Cleveland involving border crossings and long boring stretches of motorway, but what a three days it was. We went from thinking ‘wow the drivers here are rude’ to ‘where the hell is everyone?’ to ‘Oh my god, this is place is a gem”.

There are a couple of reasons for our mixed reactions, it appears to be a very industrial town, and we stayed downtown where apparently no one lives, and it just didn’t feel… welcoming. I am not sure how else to put it, but we figured once we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and get some shopping done, it will have served its purpose.

Firstly, the Hall of Fame….. is brilliant. We spent 2 hours roaming its exhibits and could have easily done more had we the energy (and not had so many beers & long island ice teas at Winking Lizard the night before). I would love to go back again.

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Afterwards we were hungry so we head to where we knew there were two breweries in close proximity to each other (stumbling distance, one might call it). So we rocked up at the Great Lakes Brewing Company for some lunch and a pint or two, but while at the bar waiting for our table, the lights went out, and the fire alarm pierced our poor hungover ears and it was time to get out.  We were pretty bummed and considered waiting but decided to leg it to the other brewery before the crowds did. So that’s how we ended up at the Market Garden Brewery for some pretty awesome tacos and the most amazing hot sauce I have ever tasted.  This place had such a chilled vibe, great music, and easy customers, it just seemed… right. And I can’t give the hot sauce enough kudos to do it justice. It was the shit.

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The afternoon involved a nap and cancelled dinner plans as neither of us were up for it, but we cruised on downtown anyway just to see what was happening. In some of the research I had eyed off a dinner venue, but didn’t count my chickens as we didn’t have a dinner reservation. Yet when we stumbled across it, we thought we would try our luck, and were positioned promptly in the window. We were stoked, and for good reason.  I give you… The Greenhouse Tavern.

Holy shit this place was awesome, and the menu divine. I started with stuffed semolina pasta with prunes and pecorino, which was nothing short of lush.  My main was mushroom & oxtail risotto, which was ridiculous.  Just thinking about my entire meal makes me salivate and miss it like an old friend.  Lee’s starter was something that changed his life – black walnut soup with duck meatball. This soup was something else. It was out of this world. Lee had angry eyebrows he was so seriously into it, and I think finally he understood the quote from Kung Fu Panda – I wish my mouth was bigger! Unfortunately however Lee was not overly smitten by his main which was a lamb burger with stinky fondue cheese. I think maybe the soup, and my entire meal set him up for a wee bit of disappointment. He said ‘Yeah, its good, like, yummy and stuff, but I dunno. Its just a lamb burger’. Personally, when I had a (pretty big) bite, I thought there was a lamb burger party in my mouth and other lamb burgers didn’t make the VIP list.  But each to their own, he still loved his meal so there were no regrets.

We were really sad to leave just after tapping into a whole culinary world going on in Cleveland, with much creativity and green & ethical initiatives, I wish we had another day or so just to try a few others out. But alas, the road was calling, as was our cat Franklin (we could hear him whining from Ohio), and we were beckoned home.

I approached Cleveland thinking it would be a one time thing. After all, it was deemed as the most miserable city in the US (thanks dad, haha).  However, we left feeling like we should go back, and have something else to eat.  So next time you get an inkling to go somewhere and Cleveland is an option? Don’t dismiss it. Embrace it and wear loose pants.