28 Aug

5/3/1 for Women – Cycle 8 Recap

I just finished my 8th cycle of 5/3/1.

I can’t believe I’ve been doing this programme for 32 weeks already! That’s the longest I’ve ever stuck with any routine, so I’m clearly jiving with it. I like that the programme focuses on increasing strength in the big muli-joint lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press) but lets me play around with the other exercises that I do in addition to these lifts.

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women

Main Lifts

During my 3 weeks of YTT (yoga teacher training) I completely cut weightlifting out. When I got back I tried to pick up where I left off, repeating my pre-YTT loads in cycle 7 but I lost a lot of strength and failed miserably at hitting my deadlifts and squats.

So for cycle 8 I went way back to my cycle 4 loads and I’m trying to build back up from there.

Deadlift: 225lb for 3 reps
Push Press: 115lb for 4 reps
Squats: 210lb for 3 reps
Bench Press: 135lb for 4 reps

the number of repetitions that I completed for each exercise was identical to what I did back in April for cycle 4, so at least I know I scaled back properly.

Accessory Lifts

For cycle 8 I went back to doing a variation of the ‘boring but big’ accessory lifts:

– the Main lift, then
– the Main lift in a different form (eg. squats + front squats, bench press + dumbbell bench press, etc), then
– 3 accessory exercises with a higher rep range (10-15)

But I find this quite boring and also I was becoming pressed to get cardio exercise in so I’m switching back to complexes and circuits that will elevate my heart rate and a get a good sweat going in just 10-20 minutes.

Some of these circuits I make up myself, others I steal from crossfit football.

Deload Week

I think I only got one weightlifting session in during deload week. Woops! 😛

I opted instead for more yoga, stand-up paddleboarding, and hiking sand dunes.

27 Aug

Warren Dunes State Park Michigan

On Friday Matt and I and my friend Tina loaded up the car with all of our camping gear and ample foodstuffs and headed to Southwestern Michigan.


We arrived at Warren Dunes State Park just before sundown and raced to erect our tents while we could still see them. Our friend Daniel rolled up an hour later, after having battled the stress of heavy traffic on his drive from Minneapolis.

As the sun set, Matt and I tried to hone our fire-building skills but just confirmed the fact that we really have no fire-building skills (we’ve had this problem before). It didn’t help that, by this point, it was too dark out to search the woods for kindling. It took the burning of nearly an entire Weekend Edition newspaper before finally getting some logs alight and I’m convinced that everyone uses lighter fluid or some sort of fire starter to get their fire going.

Camping Warren Dunes (35)Daniel works to get a fire going.

We managed to get a respectable fire going on Friday night and a better one on Saturday night (when we actually used a fire starter kit). I’m still trying to wash the smoke smell out of my hair but I’ll admit that I’m secretly hoping it lasts a little longer.

Water Sports

Surprisingly, Lake Michigan has really good surfing and we (or at least I) was itching to try it while we were there. I’ve never gone surfing before so I booked a lesson for the 4 of us but, naturally, there were absolutely no winds this weekend so we never got a chance to try it.

Camping Warren Dunes (6)Me, Daniel, Matt, Tina, and two old fisherman who photobombed us.

Instead we went Stand-Up Paddleboarding on Saturday morning. This was my second time doing it (the first time being a SUP Yoga class during my yoga teacher training) and it was my favourite part of the weekend. I find it really relaxing, even when I’m trying to row fast. Because you can put more of your body into it, it doesn’t feel as tiring for the arms and back as canoeing and kayaking do.

Plus I love to stand, so there’s that.

Hiking the Dunes

Camping Warren Dunes (24)Daniel, Matt, and Tina at the sand dunes

There are impressive sand dunes all along the west coast of Michigan and, though I’ve been to different parts of western Michigan on several occasions, I’ve never been to any of the dunes. Warren Dunes State Park is made up of a number of massive sand dunes dotting the coastline of Lake Michigan.

I’ll be honest and say I don’t like sand dunes. We climbed a few of them, one really steep one in particular, and while I loved the challenge of the climb— ie. the extreme incline coupled with the ground sinking beneath your feet so a single step is more like half a step— I mostly hate sand which is, of course, is the essence of the dunes. It’s a nuisance.

Camping Warren Dunes (12)This dune was even steeper than it looked. Especially near the top. . .

Camping Warren Dunes (13)
. . . here’s the same dune from the top. It’s so steep Matt’s on all fours.

There are trails in the park that wind through the woods where the ground is firm but it seems like, ultimately, all paths lead to dunes.

They are quite impressive to see and I’m glad we got a chance to hike them, but it wasn’t my favourite thing.


We spent Saturday afternoon at the beautiful beach on Lake Michigan. The sky was clear, the sand was soft, and the water was blue. It felt a lot like a Caribbean beach with fresh water.

Camping Warren Dunes (27)

Unfortunately we were ill-equipped for an afternoon at the beach. Having brought no umbrellas or cabanas we were left baking in the sun which, I understand, some people actually enjoy but for me it feels a lot like torture.

I kept my clothes on most of the time to avoid getting burned which just made me hot and cranky. Luckily the water was cold and refreshing to give me some respite.


I have a philosophy of eating well while camping and I’d say we ate very well.

I made mushroom hand pies, lentil fatayer, and roasted corn for dinner one night and pan bagnat on homemade baguette the next lunch.

Tina came ready with banana pancakes, pb&j french toast, and mini quiches for our breakfasts.

Camping Warren Dunes (2)

Daniel provided us with a picnic of very spicy chili and sweet cornbread to refuel after our paddleboarding adventure.

Camping Warren Dunes (7)

We also had ample fruit like clementines, peaches, and . . . ummm. . . brandy?

Of course we didn’t forgo the campfire classic, roasted marshmallows, this weekend. On Saturday night we made s’mores and I surprised myself by only eating two even though Tina had the genius idea of using Reese peanut butter cups instead of milk chocolate.

Two s’mores is still more sugar than necessary, but I’ve been known to eat an unreasonable number at bonfire outings so I consider it an improvement.

Camping Warren Dunes (36)All signs point to s’mores

My restraint may have been due to the fact that I was sitting next to a dietitian, Mrs. Prevention RD herself(!), whom I finally got to meet in real life. And I must say she is just as fun and bubbly as she is on her blog.

Overall I had an awesome weekend and I’m so glad that I got to go camping with good friends this summer.

22 Aug

Three British Things

I’m looking forward to the upcoming premiere of Series 4 of my favourite show, Downton Abbey.

Downton Abbey Cookbook

Last week my friend Andrea gave me The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook for my birthday and I am SO excited about it. Maybe even more for this than for the show.

The book is broken down into an ‘Upstairs’ section– dining with the Crawleys, with recipes for a full 7 course service– and ‘Downstairs’ section– dining with the service staff, with hearty no-frills recipes. I love how each recipe ties into the characters of the show and how tidbits of historical information and turn of the century etiquette are peppered throughout the book. I’m both a history nerd and a cooking enthusiast, so I find it all fascinating.

I haven’t made any recipes from the book yet but I’m eyeing some classic recipes like Saxe-Coburg soup, Beef Wellington, 7-Hour Leg of Lamb, Battenberg Cake, and Custard Creams.

AND I’m very seriously considering hosting a Downton Abbey themed dinner party or, if that’s too ambitious, at the very least an afternoon tea.


In other British TV news, I started watching Broadchurch.

It’s a mystery about a the murder of a boy in a small coastal town and how various townspeople are related to the events of the death. It’s quite captivating so far and I’m only 3 episodes in.

I recommend it.

Major Pettigrew

And following what seems to be a British theme in this blog post, I just finished reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simpson.

It’s a book about a dignified, retired army Major living in the English countryside, his relationship with a woman of Pakistani descent, and their interactions with their families and neighbours. The characters are really charming, particularly Major Pettigrew, who it written with such an extreme sense of duty and manners that it is almost comical.

Overall I really enjoyed the story, finding it elegantly humourous and really well written.

20 Aug

Good Food: Ice Cream

I find when the weather is too hot (and I keep my house air conditioned as little as possible) my ice cream maker starts to warm up before the churning is finished making the ice cream come out icy. Not fun. But this temperate summer has been really good for ice cream making.

Back in July I made 3 ice creams for a cake and ice cream social at my sister’s new house. They’re all variations of recipes from Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, who, judging by my experience with her recipes, really knows her stuff. I’m almost tempted to buy her cookbook of ice cream concoctions but I’m not sure I can make room on my bookshelf for a book devoted to one very specific food.

Lemon Blueberry Frozen Yoghurt

This Lemon-Blueberry Frozen Yogurt was a HUGE hit.

It was nearly everyone’s favourite, including my cousin who claims to not like dessert (I fail to understand how this is even possible). He called it ‘gorgeous‘ upon tasting. This frozen yoghurt is made with gelatin (sorry vegetarians) which gives it this light, almost whipped, mouthfeel. Plus it’s tart and not too sweet. It’s basically a win all around.

Jeni claims to “never make frozen yogurt as a low-fat replacement for ice cream” but uses it instead to bring out the tanginess of fruit. I like her style.

chocolate ice cream

For that same cake and ice cream social I made this variation of her Chocolate Ice Cream.

I have made this recipe in the past and it is so smooth and creamy with a milk chocolate-y taste that’s it’s pretty irresistible. And I don’t even like chocolate ice cream. It was my sister’s favourite.

sweet corn ice cream

And finally, I also made this Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry Ice Cream, substituting Saskatoon berries for the blackberries. I enjoyed the eccentric taste of the corn in ice cream, but this was the least popular of the three. I think only one person deemed it their favourite.

It’s a cool novelty but I don’t think I would make it again.

What I like:

I like that these ice cream recipes don’t include eggs. Most homemade ice creams have an obscene amount of eggs in them which deters me from making them. These are thickened with cornstarch or gelatin instead. It’s a cool concept.

What I don’t like:

One thing that is recommended in the recipes is to place the ice cream base in a ziploc bag and cover it with ice water to cool it down prior to churning. I always take this step out, favouring instead to make the base the day before and refrigerate it overnight. I find that when I do the whole ‘ziploc bag thing’ it gets messy and there’s a whole lot of wasted ice cream stuck to the bag afterward.

14 Aug


It’s time for the next Baking Partners Challenge!

Previous themes included Cake, Chiizukeiki (also a failure), Super Soft White Bread, Macarons, Pie, Christmas Cake, Kaiser Buns, Cupcakes, and Cookies.

This month’s theme is World Cookies.

We all know how much I love cookies, so I was excited for this challenge. We had the option to make Dutch Speculaas (which was obviously enticing for me because they are my favourite cookie), Italian biscotti, Chinese almond cookies, or Greek kourabiethes. I decided on the kourabiethes for the simple reason that I had all the ingredients on hand.

Crescent Cookies (2)

What are a Kourabiethes?

Kourabiethes, Koo-rahb-YEH-thes, are traditional Greek shortbread cookies made with toasted almonds. They may have been imports from the Middle East because of their similarity to Iranian Qurabiya or because their crescent shape, which is said to date back to the Turkish occupation to represent the Turkish flag.
They are an integral part of important celebrations like Christmas, Easter, and weddings because they traditionally required serious effort; the butter and sugar would have been beaten together manually for over an hour!

I made these for my birthday this year and shared them with the yoga class that I taught in the park in the middle of a downpour (but luckily under a pavilion).

The Good

The miracles of modern technology (ie. mixers) mean these cookies are really easy to make. They’re tasty in a subtle way that’s not too indulgent but satisfies the sweet tooth. They went quickly in our house (though not as quickly as the ANZAC biscuits which I made at the same time). I certainly ate a lot of them.

The Bad

I need to invest in multiple shiny metal baking sheets. I always run into the problem that when I use a shiny metal sheet my cookies come out perfect and when I use a dark metal sheet for the same time and temperature the cookies come out slightly burnt. The baking sheet makes a difference you guys!

The Variations

The recipe I worked with was flavoured with orange zest which doesn’t seem to be a very common flavour for kourabiethes. With a little googling I found most recipes used brandy for flavour and a few recipes listed rose or orange blossom water as an ingredient. I’d be interested to try them with brandy next time.

Crescent Cookies (1)


Recipe Source


250g butter, softened
2 1/2 cups pure icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 orange, rind finely grated
1 egg, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup almond meal (ground almonds)


Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 shiny metal baking trays with parchment paper.

Using an electric mixer beat the butter, 1 cup icing sugar, vanilla, and orange rind until pale and creamy. Add egg and beat until well combined. Sift flour and baking powder over mixture. Add almond meal. Stir until dough comes together.

Roll out one tablespoon of dough into an 8cm-long log, and bend to form a crescent shapes. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing each cookie on baking tray, allowing room for spreading.

Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden. Stand for 5 minutes on trays until firm but still warm.

Place the remaining sugar in a bowl. Coat warm biscuits, 1 at a time, in sugar. Place on a wire rack to cool. Sift any remaining icing sugar over biscuits when cool.

Crescent Cookies (3)


05 Aug

Four Things

French Press

I’m really digging my French press. Matt bought it for me for my birthday and it’s been getting a lot of use so far (as I try really hard not to develop a caffeine addiction). I don’t own a ‘real’ coffee maker– only an espresso maker and a percolator– so this is another non American-coffee making contraption to add to my collection. I love how convenient it is for cold brew coffee too, which is awesome for the summer time (although I’m still not giving up my Greek Frappes)

ANZAC Biscuits

And then there’s this recipe for ANZAC Biscuits. These cookies are popular in Australia and New Zealand and, more recently, my house. It’s weird that every time I make these they turn out slightly different, but regardless they’re always awesome. Oatmeal, coconut, butter– what’s not to love?

Fire Roasted Corn Chowder

It’s sweet corn season again (yay!), that means making and eating lots of my favourite soup: Fire Roasted Corn Chowder. I literally get giddy with anticipation just to eat this soup, I like it that much. Yesterday when I announced: “I’m going to fire up the barbecue and make some soup!”, I was greeted with looks of confusion and judgement. But that’s okay, because sweet corn chowder is one of those summertime things that makes me happy.

Wheel Pose

I’ve been teaching yoga! Every Saturday morning since I graduated teacher training I host a vinyasa yoga class in Brunet Park in LaSalle and so far it’s been going pretty well. It’s mostly my friends and family, but I’ve got a few other regulars as well. I’ve been putting a lot of effort into planning challenging and meaningful classes and I’m really starting to become more comfortable teaching and starting to find my voice as an instructor. I hope to start teaching in a studio one day soon.

01 Aug

Stop telling your daughter she’s fat

This is my plea to all mothers (and fathers too, but usually it’s the mothers): please stop telling your daughter she needs to lose weight.

Fat & Sassy

(source: PonyBoy Press Etsy Shop)

Your daughter is fat. This is a fact. Maybe she’s always been this way or maybe not. Regardless, your daughter knows she is fat. She can look down and see her own body. She can feel her softness, her fleshiness. She can see herself in the mirror. The fact that she is fat is not lost on her and she doesn’t need you to remind her.

Your daughter lives in the same fatphobic, war-on-obesity, body shaming, fatty bullying Western world that you do. She reads the same magazines, sees the same advertisements, and converses with the same type of people that you do. So, no, she’s not oblivious to the fact that our culture stigmatizes fat bodies. Your daughter is fully aware that her body shape condemns her to being ‘undesirable’, ‘lazy’, ‘unhealthy’, and all those other negative stereotypes that come with being a fat chick. The last place that she needs to hear this message is at home.

So please moms, stop putting so much emphasis on your daughter’s size, something that is meaningless when it comes to living a meaningful life.

Please don’t veil your concern for her aesthetics as a concern for her health. Deep down, you know that her size is irrelevant and that she can be healthy in a body that is big or small. (Just look at all the different body shapes of Olympic athletes!) Encouraging her to lose weight (rather than, say, implement  healthy lifestyle behaviours) is about aesthetics not health and it just reinforces the bogus idea that fat=unfit.

And please, don’t root your own self-worth in the appearance of your daughter. The fact that she is fat doesn’t reflect poorly on you or make you a failure as a parent. Chances are you raised a good person who will find success and happiness in her life and make you proud as a result. Does it really matter what size her jeans are as she does it?

Every single day your daughter feels all kinds of pressures to lose weight and be thin. As a woman you know just how hard it can be to cope with fat shaming messages that you’re not good enough because you aren’t thin & fit and that your fat body is somehow wrong. It’s very, very damaging.

You have the chance to be your daughter’s biggest advocate here. You have the opportunity to cultivate an environment that doesn’t disparage her for being fat but encourages her to derive meaning from her capabilities (and to take pride in them!) regardless of what her body shape happens to be at the moment. But first you have to end the discussion about losing weight.


I wrote this because I’ve started to notice a number of women my age mention, sometimes blatantly and sometimes subtly, that their moms are giving them a hard time about their weight. This makes me sad because if your mom isn’t on your side, then who is?