30 Good Things Before 30: #22 – Donation matching for the Canadian Cancer Society

As you probably know, I’m running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October.

As you may also know, I’ve decided to run that marathon to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society.

30-good-things-before-30The idea is that I can balance out the self-involvement that comes along with marathon training by doing it for a good cause — one that’s affected my family and the families of many I hold dear.

Raising money for the Canadian Cancer Society is a good thing. And from now until Canada Day, it’s twice as good thanks to #22 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:

Donation matching for the Canadian Cancer Society

Since I’ve started my fundraising, I get periodic emails updating me on my progress and giving me some tips to help in my efforts. This most recent email, however, held some extra good news!

With almost half of all Canadians developing cancer in their lifetime, the sad reality is that just about everyone has been affected by cancer in some way.

However, uniting in the face of adversity is a big part of who we are as Canadians – we stand up for each other! So in true Canadian spirit, a group of passionate and committed donors has come together to match all donations made before Canada Day.

That means any donations from now until July 1 will have double the impact! That’s twice as much money for research. Twice as much money to provide community-based support for people living with cancer and their families. The potential to save twice as many lives.

With just under four months to go, I am already at 73% of my fundraising goal thanks to the amazing generosity of my family and friends. With my 30th birthday coming up next week, the best gift I could ask for is to get to 100%.

If you’d like to make this happen and have been thinking about sponsoring me, now’s the time! Take advantage of this awesome donation matching opportunity and donate online here.

30 Good Things Before 30: #21 – Clif Shot Bloks

It’s Sunday. And I’m in marathon training mode.

You know what that means, don’t you?

It’s LSD day. (You know you’re a runner if you automatically translated that to long slow distance run and didn’t assume I was on some kind of psychedelic voyage.)

I’m in Week 2 of training and I wandered around all day yesterday thinking I had to run 10 km today. When I finally checked my plan this afternoon, however, I realized I was actually supposed to get an 8-miler on the books.

This was disappointing news.

Not that an 8-miler is that much longer or more difficult than a 10k. It’s just that I was up early yesterday and on the road for a family get-together and that I ran 4 very hilly miles on unforgiving concrete last evening and that I drank way too many coffees and not nearly enough water this morning and that I could barely keep my eyes open on the drive back home today.

But, so far, I’m at 100% adherence to my training plan and I didn’t want to break that streak so I suited up, laced up, and got ready to hit the treadmill (trying to do a couple of my weekly runs indoors to give my joints a break as they get used to this increased mileage).

30-good-things-before-30It was around this time, several hours post-brunch, that I realized I was kinda hungry. But having barely mustered the energy to tackle the run, I couldn’t stop to make something to eat.

Along came #21 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30 to the rescue:

Clif Shot Bloks

I was forced to begin toying with eating during runs when I embarked on my marathon training last winter. I’d received a couple of energy gels in swag bags at previous races so I started experimenting with them.

This did not go well.

I’m a texture girl. Consistency is important. No matter what flavour gel I tried, each one threatened to come back up every time I gulped it down. I just couldn’t get past the slimy goo sliding down my throat.

I don’t know why. It’s a mental block. But I knew I couldn’t be the only runner to feel that way.

For my first marathon, I was going at it alone. Google was my coach. So I turned to Coach Google for alternatives.

There I discovered there was a whole world of candy-like alternatives that could fuel my miles. I picked up a variety of options and quickly became hooked on these:

My two favourite flavours of Clif Shot Bloks

My two favourite flavours of Clif Shot Bloks: Citrus and Strawberry

Clif Shot Bloks are like gummy bears for endurance athletes. Each package contains six 33-calorie cubes that have a great chewy-but-not-too-chewy consistency with a sweet-but-not-too-sweet flavour. They’re my go-to on all my long training runs and on race day.

My mind also occasionally turns to my stash of Clif Shot Bloks longingly when I’m craving a sweet treat. They’re that good!

A Mountain Berry Clif Shot Blok

A Mountain Berry Clif Shot Blok

Today, I started popping a couple of Bloks two miles into my long run when my legs were already feeling like dead-weight. In minutes, they felt revived.

That’s why I love these things.

If gels gross you out but you need some good long distance fuel, check out Clif Shot Bloks. Also, I should mention that I have not received any kind of compensation from Clif Bar for this post. I just live off these things during marathon training–and occasionally when I just want a treat…

Do energy gels gross you out?

What are your favourite fuelling products for long runs?

What’s your tried-and-true strategy for consuming calories on long runs?

30 Good Things Before 30: #20 – Gardein Fish-Free Golden Filets

I’ve been a vegetarian for… oh, about 4 years now.

It’s been a pretty easy transition for me. I was never a huge meat-eater to begin with so cutting it out of my diet didn’t feel like too much of a sacrifice.

Except that I desperately missed fish ‘n’ chips.

Brought up as a good Catholic girl, I was heavily stewed in the tradition of celebrating Good Friday with a feed of battered fish and fries. It wasn’t something we indulged in very often beyond that — and perhaps that’s why I loved that meal so darn much when we did.

30-good-things-before-30So when I cut all meat and fish from my diet, it was fine. Except that I missed my fish ‘n’ chips.

And not just on Good Friday. All year round.

Enter #20 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:

Gardein Fish-Free Golden Filets

Imagine my joy when one wondrous Saturday not too long ago, I was browsing through the frozen food section in the natural foods corner of our grocery store. Right next to the beefless beef tips (also delicious, by the way) and “chick’n” nuggets, I found these:

What witchcraft is this?

What sorcery is this?

I snatched ’em up, brought ’em home, cooked ’em up and served ’em alongside some crash hot potatoes, burnt broccoli, and home-made tartar sauce.

Maybe not the most beautiful plate in the world,  but then again neither are real fish 'n' chips. At least I included a vegetable!

Maybe not the most beautiful plate of food in the world, but then again neither are real fish ‘n’ chips. At least I included a vegetable! #PersonalGrowth

And maybe it was the prolonged absence of fish ‘n’ chips in my life, but, my god, they were delicious!

I baked mine (though you can also deep-fry or pan-fry them) and was impressed by how nicely golden-brown and crispy they become. On the inside, they flaked just like the fish filets of my youth. Delicious.

As for healthfulness? Bottom line: it’s a processed food. That means you aren’t going to want to eat it every day. Just like you wouldn’t eat fish ‘n’ chips every day.

Make it a treat. Have it only once in a while.

Say, every Good Friday?

If you need a good fish alternative in your life, check out Gardein’s Fish-Free Golden Filets. Also, I should mention that I have not received any kind of compensation from Gardein for this post. I just want to eat these everyday. I won’t. But I want to.

30 Good Things Before 30: #19 – #LoveWins

There’s really only one thing I could write about today. I30-good-things-before-30f you’ve been on Facebook, Twitter or any news site, you’ve definitely seen this good thing posted all over the place — and rightly so.

#19 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30 is:


In a 5-4 decision released today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay people have the right to get married in all 50 states!

Immediately thereafter, the Internet exploded in a ball of rainbows and positivity, which you can bask in by checking out #LoveWins. A tiny sampling is below:

If you didn’t gather from that last tweet, I’m Canadian. One of the things that makes me darn proud of that fact is that same-sex marriage has been legal here for almost a decade. The Civil Marriage Act was enacted on July 20, 2005, making Canada the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nation-wide.

The Supreme Court’s decision makes the U.S. the 21st.

As Obama tweeted, it’s a “big step in our march toward equality” but we’ve still got a long walk ahead of us — on both sides of the border.

In 29 states, people can still be fired for their sexual orientation. In Canada, the bulk of our provinces and territories (mine included) still allow sexual orientation conversion therapy to be performed on minors. In both the U.S. and Canada, transgender people report high levels of violence, harassment, and discrimination when seeking stable housing, employment, health or social services.

Sally Kohn puts it very eloquently:

Today we have undone a major link in the chain of discrimination based on sexual orientation, but the chain remains thick and strong and wrapped around the necks of far too many. So, today’s victory isn’t an invitation to relax but a reminder to fight on, for the unjust status quo is only toppled when enough people join together in protest. Winning today is a reminder of what we can and must win tomorrow.

Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we keep up the good fight. #LoveWins.

30 Good Things Before 30: #18 – Bard in the Barracks

Is your summer shaping up to be as busy as mine?

Between meeting up with my running group three times a week, getting in two more weekly solo runs on top of that, attempting to establish the veggie gardens, and the celebrations that are quickly booking up our weekends, I’m already panicking about the summer getting away from me.

30-good-things-before-30It seems like fall will be here before we know it if we don’t reach out, grab a hold of something fun, and force time to slow down a little bit so we can just sit back and enjoy it.

Which brings me to #18 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:

Bard in the Barracks

Bard in the Barracks is a non-profit theatre company based in Fredericton. It was founded in 2006 with a mandate to  “produce innovative and entertaining site-specific outdoor productions of the plays of William Shakespeare.”11149683_799923410092040_8330965087357849064_o

Simply put, they make Shakespeare interesting.

They derive the “barracks” part of their name from the fact that they got their start in downtown Fredericton’s Barracks Square. From 2006 to 2008, they staged their plays in this little national historic site named for the 3.5-storey structure it houses. The barracks, built by the British Army in 1827, once accommodated more than 200 soldiers. (Yep, I Googled that.)

In 2009, they (the company, not the soldiers) moved to Odell Park — the crowning jewel in my city’s parklands — where they stepped up the innovation big-time. Scenes were staged in different areas of the wooded park and the audience walked from scene to scene.

In 2010, I saw their production of Macbeth and became the company’s biggest fan. I will never, ever forget the trio of witches lurking in the woods, scaring the bejesus out of the audience as we navigated the trails.

I’ve been attending every year since (with the exception of last year when Tropical Storm Arthur brought Fredericton to its knees and cut short the company’s run of Hamlet). It’s a summer tradition. An evening out that the husband and I look forward to.

Now, I’m not a Shakespeare buff. Not by a long shot.

I studied a few of his plays in high school and university. Turns out I was much more enchanted with the idea of reading Shakespeare than with the stuff the guy actually wrote.

However, Bard in the Barracks always manages to capture my interest with their unique costume and staging concepts and talented cast members that infuse every line with way more meaning than I could ever hope to get off the page.

This year, to celebrate their 10th anniversary, Bard in the Barracks is staging two plays: a return to their roots with Romeo and Juliet in the barracks and another shot at Hamlet in Odell Park. You can find full show details on their site over here.

Their advertsiing is also totally on-point. This was waiting for me on the sidewalk outside the Running Room after my 6k tempo run tonight.

Their advertising is also totally on-point. This was waiting for me on the sidewalk outside the Running Room after my 6k tempo run tonight.

We’re picking up tickets for both shows tomorrow. Summer is busy, sure, but Bard in the Barracks is worth slowing down for.

30 Good Things Before 30: #17 – Burnt Broccoli

30-good-things-before-30You know how to tell if you’ve found a really good thing? If it stands the test of time and still has a place in your life years down the road.

That’s what I’ll be talking about tonight with #17 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:

Burnt Broccoli

I was turned onto this little beauty of a cooking method by a friend back on my west coast days. It was about five and a half years ago.

I know this because I was so totally in love with this method that I wrote a blog about it.

Five and a half years later and I’m still very much in love.

The Method:

  1. Cut up a bunch of broccoli.

    Tiny green trees

    Tiny green trees

  2. Throw 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a covered pot and heat on high just until it starts to smoke.
  3. Quickly — very quickly — throw all the broccoli in, cover, and leave for 2 minutes.
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot and give it a shake. Put back on burner for another 2 minutes.

    Don't be afraid if it gets real smoky in there. That's what you want. It's burning in all the deliciousness.

    Don’t be afraid if it gets real smoky in there. That’s what you want. It’s burning in all the deliciousness. (Also don’t mind my stovetop: I’m a messy cook. I’ll clean it up when I’m done…)

  5. If broccoli aren’t at desired tenderness, put on the cover, give another shake and put back on the burner for 2 more minutes.

That’s it.


Scorched little green trees

Scorched little green trees

And delicious.

I had these tonight alongside a Mexican ground “beef” wrap. It was inspired by runger and, more specifically, by running past Mexicali Rosa’s in the last few hundred metres of my 13 km run.

Came home. Made this.


The runger is real


By the way, you can also do burnt broccoli in the oven. It’s every bit as easy but requires more forethought since it takes them quite a bit longer to burn just right. Not the kind of thing you’ll come home and do when the runger is this real. A good recipe for that method is over here.

30 Good Things Before 30: #16 – Run Fatboy Run

It’s another rainy day here in Freddy Beach. And it feels like it.

In lieu of sleeping last night, Kenzy spent eight hours alternating between kicking me and kicking my husband. All three of us are exhausted, which means this is the perfect time to ignore the sheets of rain outside, curl up on the couch, and watch a movie.

We have a pretty staggering collection of DVDs but only a few we’re willing to watch over and over again. For my husband, these include The Edge, Frost vs. Nixon, and Fracture. For me, there’s The Devil Wears Prada, Friends with Money, and A Chorus Line.30-good-things-before-30

Not a lot of overlap, as you can see.

But there is one more we can usually both agree on, and that’s #16 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:

Run Fatboy Run

Runners are often creatures of habit when it come to pre-race preparations.

Maybe there’s a specific thing they like to eat the day before (pasta salad) or the morning of (banana and peanut butter in a wholewheat wrap). Maybe there’s a lucky sports bra or pair of shorts they like to wear (yes and yes). Maybe a familiar set of warm-up stretches or exercises they go through at the starting line (standing really, really still, looking terrified)

For me, it’s all of the above. I also like to settle down the evening before a race and watch Run Fatboy Run.

The ritual began with my first marathon last spring.

The day before the race, I was a bundle of nerves capable of no other thoughts than marathon-related ones. So on the evening before my marathon, when the pasta salad was eaten and there was nothing left to do but wait for sleep to come, my husband suggested we watch a movie and this was my first choice.


Looking for pre-race me? Oh, I’ll be here. On my couch. Watching this movie.

Run Fatboy Run is a 2007 British-American comedy, directed by David Schwimmer (Ross, you guys!) that stars (and is co-written by) Simon Pegg.

Pegg plays Dennis, a down-on-his-luck security guard who left his fiancee Libby at the altar five years ago and has regretted it ever since. When Libby begins dating a successful, marathon-running businessman, out-of-shape Dennis decides it’s time to prove he can commit by pledging to run a marathon. Hilarity ensues.

Samples of said hilarity in the trailer below:

The movie get mixed reviews, but I think any runner could find a lot to love in it. It’s got lots of running-related humour around chafing and blisters that always swaps out my pre-race jitters with a case of the giggles. There’s also an amazing scene that offers a very literal interpretation of what it feels like to hit that dreaded wall.

I give it four well-worn running shoes out of five. And a big ol’ press of the play button as I wrap up this blog!

Any running-themed movies you love?

Any pre-race rituals you can’t run without?

30 Good Things Before 30: #15 – Loose-leaf tea

The sky has an awfully dreary cast for the second day of summer.

My at-home weather-station tells me it’s 22°C both inside and out. I’m pretty sure it’s a liar on both counts, however, because my hands have been cold ever since Kenzy and I got in from our 30-good-things-before-30walk.

Which makes this a perfect afternoon for a cuppa tea.

And, as it turns out, the perfect time to discover a new favourite way to brew up the perfect cup. All thanks to #15 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:

Loose-leaf tea

A long time ago (2 years ago) in a galaxy far, far away (down the hall and to the right of where I’m sitting), my husband gave me a tea infuser.

After I’d bought my mom some loose-leaf tea and an infuser for Christmas, my husband had correctly inferred that this might be something I’d be into as well.

So under the tree that year, I found this little guy:

I call him Cousteau

I call him Cousteau

I was pumped, thinking about all the adventures we would have together, the different teas we would explore.

And then the Christmas tree came down. I packed Cousteau away in my teabox. He languished in the cupboard for years. Every time I would bring down the box, he’d feel a small spark of hope that was quickly snuffed out as I snatched a teabag.

Until today.

As I pawed through my selection of teas, a little tin from Silk Road caught my eye:

Silk Road Monk's Elixir

Silk Road Monk’s Elixir

It was a green tea with lemongrass and citrus extracts that I’d tucked away for…a special occasion? I don’t know.

This dreary June day felt like the perfect time to give it a try so I measured some out, handed it off to Cousteau and sent him into the boiling depths of my mug:


Le Monde du silence

Three minutes later and I’m chasing the chills away with a perfectly-brewed cup of tea. (Cousteau is lounging on my cutting board.)

There’s something rewarding about brewing a cup of loose-leaf tea. Somehow it feels like more of a treat, more of a break from the everyday.

Plus it opens up the doors to all kinds of new tea-making experiences! The Urban Almanac is a local downtown shop, which has a whole wall of tasha tea varieties! Cousteau and I can’t wait to try them all!

What’s your go-to beverage on a dreary day?

Any varieties of loose-leaf tea you really enjoy and think we should try?

30 Good Things Before 30: #14 – Group Runs

It’s not quite 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning as I’m starting to write this. There’s not yet a stir from my husband or my furbaby. (My husband is making the most of the one day of the week he can sleep in; Kenzy is content having some company for her regular sleeping in routine.)

And me? Well, I’m just sitting back with a strawberry-banana smoothie, a cup of coffee, and a bottle of water (I think it’s best to have at least three beverages on the go at all times). I’m freshly showered, snug inside my office, watching tree branches wave under the rain.

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.

Even better? My 10k long run is already done.

For me, that’s unheard of. When I have a long run on my training schedule, I always preface it with several hours of moping around the house, debating if I’ve had enough to eat or drink, wondering what I should wear, what I should listen to, and where I should go. The general rule of thumb is that I do this for approximately30-good-things-before-30 three times as long as it will take me to complete the actual run. Which means I’m always late getting out.

So what’s up with me today? No, I’m not suddenly some super-motivated version of myself. I can chalk it all up to #14 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:

Group Runs

Up until this week, I’ve been a lone wolf when it came to running. I’d run with a friend on the rare occasion, but 99.9% of the time, it was just me out there. Alone. With my thoughts. (And often zombies.)

I’d heard about running groups, knew that the Running Room offered free group runs a couple times a week, even met their little running posses on occasion when I was just a one-woman wolf-pack taking on the trails.

And while I always wondered what that would be like, thought it looked like fun, and figured it would be a great way to stay motivated, I held back because:

  1. What if no one talks to me?
  2. What if while they’re all ignoring me, they’re also all running way faster than me?

I ran my first group run on Thursday, the first night of my 18-week marathon training clinic. It. Was. Awesome!

First-ever group run!

First-ever group run!

Today, was my second group run, and guess what? Every. Bit. As. Awesome!

Second-ever group run

Second-ever group run

It’s funny how our minds can work in the face of uncertainty, coming up with worst case scenarios that, when examined under a logical lens, just don’t hold up. For example:

  1. “What if no one talks to me?” Really? Have you ever known runners as a group to be anything other than incredibly upbeat, supportive and friendly? Case in point, this smiling group from my local store’s Learn to Run spring clinic:
  2. “What if they’re all faster than me?” Within five minutes of us arriving for our first run on Thursday night, one of the ladies in the group asked “Are you guys fast?” To which we all simultaneously smiled and shook our heads. Everyone thinks they’re slow, regardless of their PRs! And even if you are the slowest one, so what? This article from Women’s Running sums it up well:

“Chances are there is always going to be someone faster than you. Fast is relative. I get it. You run 12 or 15 minutes per mile and are embarrassed to call yourself a runner because a lot of people are faster. Here’s a secret: ‘fast’ runners feel the same way.”

In my group runs, there were definitely a variety of speeds but no one ran alone. We’d find a buddy, match their pace, carry on a conversation and let the miles speed by. I’ve never ran a 10k that seemed so short!

My only regret about running with a group? That I didn’t start sooner.

So all you lone-wolf runners out there? Take it from me and give a group run a try. I think you’ll be glad you did.

The Fredericton Running Room has free group runs, open to anyone, on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. See you then!

30 Good Things Before 30: #13 – “Brand New Key” by Melanie

30-good-things-before-30You know those songs that instantly take you back to a very specific address on your own personal memory lane?

That’s what Lucky #13 on my 30 Good Things Before 30 list is all about:

“Brand New Key” by Melanie

In my early 20’s, I was fortunate enough to find myself in the same city as one of my closest high school friends. She was back on the east coast for what would turn out to be a brief respite from the Big Smoke.

Her souvenirs from her stay in Toronto included an encyclopedic knowledge of indie music. She burned me several CDs chockful of bands I’d never heard of and so my education began.

Somewhere among all the Arcade Fire and Belle and Sebastian, she introduced me to this tune:

I assumed Melanie was another Toronto-based folksy singer-songwriter. Never really looked into it. Just dug it. Dug it so much, in fact, it played automatically when you visited my MySpace page.

Turns out “Brand New Key” was a somewhat controversial song from 1970’s, banned for its “sexual innuendo.”

I didn’t hear that.

I heard a song that felt in perfect harmony with where I was at that time: a little bit flighty, a lot naive, bouncing along through a sunny summer break from university, my biggest concern what we would do that Saturday night.

Tonight — a very different Saturday night than the ones my younger self planned — I was driving home from the grocery store with my husband. We were both dirt-covered and exhausted after another day of gardening.

He was telling me about a couple of hipsters he saw riding a tandem bike downtown. Suddenly the lyrics, ” I rode my bicycle past your window last night” came bopping through my brain.

And I was instantly transported.

I haven’t heard that song in years. Makes me wonder what other amazing tunes I’ve forgotten about.

Think I’ll spend the night down memory lane…