12 Jan

Links for a Sunday Morning

Doctors Claim Meditation Can Beat Pain and Depression – Daily Mail

Scientific studies have now shown that mindfulness not only prevents depression, but that it also positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to-day anxiety, stress, depression and irritability. This means that when distressing thoughts arise, they dissolve away again more easily.

How Body Size Shapes our View of Exercise - NY Times

Overweight women’s brains were put off by exercise. . . Emotionally, the brain scans suggested, they anticipated disliking physical activity much more than they expected to disdain sitting.

16 Reasons to Go to Detroit Now – The Delicious Day

Yes, Detroit has a side of it that is in an incomprehensible state of decay, but it also has absolutely amazing corners, people, food, architecture, culture, art, music, diversity and all things that make great cities – great. 

Instead of Dressing Her Daughter as a Princess, this Woman Dressed her as 5 Distinguished Ladies – Jaime C. Moore

It started me thinking about all the REAL women for my daughter to know about and look up too, REAL women who without ever meeting Emma have changed her life for the better.

Does Prince Charming Really Need to be Reinvented – The Atlantic

What the Prince Charming fantasy does is encourage girls to aim for good guys. It is aspirational, the way superhero films encourage boys to emulate honor and honesty. Unfortunately, though, it has become all too common in our culture to shame girls for their fantasies.

How Much Weight Should You Lift – Stumptuous

Middle-class North American ideas of what women “should” be doing have no basis in physiological reality. In other words, we are told by “celebrity fitness trainers” and fluffy “fitness” magazines that women “should” only lift a few pounds at most. And that is total. Bullshit.

Yin Yoga 101 – Mind Body Green

Yin Yoga is unique in that you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscle and move closer to the bone.

It Was So Cold In Canada, the Ground Exploded – Gizmodo

Even before the polar vortex put large swathes of the US into a deep freeze, subzero temperatures in Canada were causing frost quakes. 

09 Jan

Arches National Park – Favourite Places

This is part of my series on Visiting Utah in November including Zion National Park and Moab.

Arches National Park is absolutely gorgeous. The landscape is so varying that you can see ‘petrified’ sand dunes, snow capped mountains, hoodoos, buttes, desert brush, and rock fins all in one sweeping vista. Oh, and arches too.

La Sal Mountains

Most of the hikes in Arches aren’t overly strenuous. There are the ‘Devil’s Garden’ hike which is a day-long hike with steep inclines and declines and lots of scrambling as well as the ‘Fiery Furnace’ which is a challenging ranger-guided hike, but aside from those the other hikes are pretty tame.
So hike here for the views and not necessarily for the challenge.

Park Avenue

Park Avenue 2
Park Avenue

A simple and easy stroll, this was surprisingly my favourite. It’s only about 3km (out and back) from the Park Avenue parking area with little change in elevation overall but the views make it worthwhile.

Park Avenue
Park Avenue

The trail takes you through a canyon with sheer, towering rock structures that are imposing and awe-inspiring and give you a sense of the grandeur of nature. I’d walk here over the real Park Avenue any day.

Sand Dune Arch

Sand Dune Arch
Sand Dune Arch

A flat, easy trail from Sand Dune Arch parking area only about half a kilometre from the parking lot. I liked this one because the arch was located basically in a sand pit that was secluded by sandstone fins. It felt like a secret place (although I’m sure during the busy season it doesn’t quite feel this way).

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch

This is probably the most popular arch in the park; it certainly photographs well. The 5km out-and-back trail and the arch itself were very busy with people of all capabilities which surprised me considering that the path to the arch is nearly entirely uphill, which can be strenuous, and the last 100m or so are along a steep rock ledge.
Seeing the arch standing alone and surrounded by nothing but sky, makes it worth the hike.

Partition Arch

Partition Arch
Partition Arch

This is just a stopping point on the trail to Double O Arch, but for me it was a destination in itself. I thought it was the most perfect place, a window to the beautiful landscapes beyond. I wish that we had brought some food to picnic here because I felt like I could just sit under this arch all day and soak in the views. We didn’t stay for long, but this was by far my favourite place that we visited in the park.

The trail to Double O Arch is 6.4km round trip and takes you past Landscape Arch, the widest in the park, and then becomes more challenging as it takes you up steep rock before leveling off. There are small side trails that lead to Partition Arch and Navajo Arch (also worth seeing). Then the trail to Double O crosses narrow rock fins. If you’re okay with heights the views are amazing.

Because of the snow and frost on the slickrock, we had to turn around just before making it to Double O but what we did experience was fantastic.

Landscape Arch
Landscape Arch

Rock Fins
Rock Fins


07 Jan

All the Cookbooks

I was fortunate to receive so many awesome gifts this Christmas from my husband, my family, and my friends, many of which were cookbooks. I’m up to my ears in cookbooks right now, baking books to be more specific, and I like it.

All the CookbooksAll the Cookbooks

500 Desserts

My mother-in-law bought me 500 Desserts which has a recipe for pretty much every dessert that you can imagine. This will be a good reference when I need a dessert idea on a whim, since there are so many to choose from.

Recipes I’m Eyeing: Layered Lime Sponge Cake with Lemon Frosting, Rich Chocolate Pots de Creme with Coffee Cream.

The French Baker

Just before Christmas I received a review copy of The French Baker from which I’ve so far made one recipe. The book is full of recipes for classic French breads and pastries and even some hearty French meals. I’ll do a full review soon and post a recipe.
Between this and the Bouchon Bakery cookbook I foresee my kitchen pumping out a lot of French baked goods in the near future.

Recipes in Progress: Sourdough starter. The author is a proponent of sourdough breads so many of the bread recipes are based on homegrown natural yeast (ie. sourdough).

Recipes I’m Eyeing: Bouillabaise, Death by Chocolate, Croissants

The Great Scandinavian Baking Book

I also received The Great Scandinavian Baking Book from my Secret Santa Micaela which has been on my must have list for a while. There are even more recipes in this book than I expected including recipes for breads, both savoury and sweet, cookies, and cakes. Each recipe is introduced with a little cultural information about the food and how or when it is eaten, and I like having that kind of background. I’ll be sure to post as soon as I try a recipe.

Recipes I’m Eyeing: Norwegian Browned Butter Cookies, Icelandic Jewish Cakes, Swedish Soft Spice Cake, Swedish Ham Pie with Mushroom Sauce

Bouchon Bakery

Matt splurged on the Bouchon Bakery cookbook for me which I have been talking about for the last year. I’ve already made the oreos in the past and I’m looking forward to making a few more cookies from this book. But it’s not all cookies; there are recipes in the book for cakes and tarts and macarons and breads (yay!) and quite a few extraordinarily-complicated-looking treats which I am looking forward to making over the next little long while. I like that the instructions are very detailed and the authors tell you why you’re doing something, which means you actually learn the significance of the recipe steps and don’t just follow recipes blindly, hoping for the best.

Recipes I’ve Made:

Pear Feuilletés. This recipe involved so many steps and components (including homemade puff pastry) that it was a several day process. I made them for a New Year’s Eve dinner party but I forewarned my friends not to ask questions if, in the end, I showed up without them.

Pear FeuilletesPear Feuilletes

Luckily, they were a success, although I wish I had a larger cookie cutter to make big ones that could hold more of the delicious filling.

Bran Muffins. Probably not the first recipe people jump to when they open this cookbook, but because they use a small amount of the pear filling from the aforementioned feuilletés I decided to make them.

Bouchon Bran Muffins

They’re good. Matt liked them and he hardly likes muffins, let alone bran ones.

Recipes I’m Eyeing: Better Nutters, Pain Palladin, Tropezienne, Caramel Nut Tart, Croissants

30 Dec

Top Posts of 2013

Here is a list of my favourite posts from 2013 and readers’ favourite posts from 2013. I tend to favour reading over my body image or fitness posts as a reminder to be good to my body and to find happiness in it. I prefer writing about things I’ve cooked or baked and places I’ve travelled, which makes up more of my content.

My Favourites

These posts didn’t make it in the top 10 number of hits, but I loved writing and re-reading them.


Lifepower Yoga Teacher Training
Work Out ‘Like a Man’
Waist Goals Update – One Year Later 

Body Image

Stop Telling Your Daughter She’s Fat
‘You Look Like You’re Lost Weight!’


On 90 Years and Being Happy
New York City Cookies
Tips for Visiting Zion


Lemon Orzo Soup
Finnish Oat and Rye Rieska

Most Hits Overall

10. All About Chiffon Cake

9. How Heavy Lifting Works for Me

8. Torta Margherita

7. 5/3/1 For Women

6. Martin Picard Tourtiere

5. Chiizukeiki

4. Coconut Cardamom Macarons

3. Celebrity Look Alike

2. This Body Wasn’t built for Asana

1. Super Soft White Bread

Super Soft White Bread

27 Dec

Christmas with Samantha

Typically my sister and I host an appetizer party on Christmas Eve at my dad’s house for all of our aunts and uncles and cousins. It’s a lot of work– a few days of cooking at least– and always exhausting but I love it. It gives me something to do (I feel incomplete when I’m not busy) and it makes me happy to cook for people.

It was quite a change this year when my uncle and aunt decided to host the Christmas Eve festivities. A welcome change, since my sister is currently pre-occupied with a 6 week old baby and not entirely willing to simultaneously nurse her child and roll sushi for 25 people. And, of course, it would have been a lot of work for me to take on myself.

Christmas Eve

So I find myself with nothing to do on Christmas Eve day. It is actually pretty nice to spend the morning lifting weights and shopping for things I plan to buy on Boxing Day and spending the afternoon drinking coffee and watching British television until it is time to get dressed and leave.

Christmas Eve is my favourite celebration because all 20 of us dress to the nines, drink, shout, and nosh informally on enough appetizers to feed 100 people. This year is like every other until shit gets extraordinarily depressing as we learn of an unexpected death in my cousin’s family that puts a dark cloud over all of us. So there’s that.

Christmas Morning

Christmas morning is perfectly relaxing for Matt and I. With no children or family to speak of we wake up late and exchange presents (more on those later) while watching Muppets Christmas Carol, my favourite Christmas movie. Later we get dressed and stop by my dad’s house for coffee and a rum cake that’s more rum than cake (Merry Christmas indeed!). He gives us our presents (which is dad-speak for “envelope of money”).

Christmas Night

Later in the day we head to Matt’s aunt’s house for Christmas dinner. Here I’m required to drink half a bottle of prosecco and/or practice my meditation skills as the conversation trails from the ‘damn socialist government’ to the ‘damn gays’ to <insert controversial, socially conservative opinion here> while Matt does his best to try and steer us toward lighter yet equally upsetting topics like the Detroit Lions.

We leave relatively early, partly to avoid being roped into watching The Trailer Park Boys Christmas Special but mostly to open presents at my in-laws’ house. I use the term “open” loosely since Matt’s mother is overly generous and there are far too many gifts for her to bother wrapping any of them. Our presents are put on display like raffle prizes at a church bazaar, and you’re never quite sure which is yours. We take all of our loot home in garbage bags (we really have that much stuff) and hide the chocolate and cookies from our voracious sweettooths in the deep recesses of our kitchen cupboards.

Boxing Day

I head to the mall just after it opens so I can pick up the clothes that I had already scoped out for myself on the 24th. I impulse buy a pair of skinny pants from The Gap even though I still don’t know how I feel about the “skinny” style on myself. It might look weird. Of course I buy a cardigan too. I spend most of my time at SportChek picking out a spring/fall coat and then trying to decide which of the funky workout tights to buy (they’re one of the things on my wishlist). I leave the crowds after an hour of shopping with my purchases.

After returning home Matt and I take down the Christmas tree and box away the decorations. That’s why it’s called ‘boxing day’ amiright?

And then the rest of Boxing Day becomes a repeat of Christmas Eve– hot beverages and British television. Matt asks me if I want to watch Star Wars and I’m so bored that I oblige, but only agreeing to watch it in one hour intervals.

How was your Christmas?

20 Dec

Moab in November

This is part of my series on Visiting Utah in November including Zion National Park and Arches National Park.

Arches National Park


Moab seems like one of those places that would please everyone. Even if you’re not the hemp-wearing, granola-eating, tree-hugging outdoorsy type you can just pile into your gas-guzzling vehicle and drive around to see some pretty world-class vistas.

Just one part of Arches' Scenic Drive

Arches National Park has an extensive scenic drive that can take you 4 hours if you stop at each scenic viewpoint. And why wouldn’t you? The views here are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Matt and I had to do the drive a few times to make sure we hit all the overlooks.

Canyonlands National Park has its own scenic drive which looks gorgeous in photos but unfortunately we never made it there because we were so wrapped up in seeing Arches! In the late fall and winter when the days are shorter it can be hard to fit in all that you want to see during daylight hours. Something I sort of forgot about when planning the vacation.

If you’re slightly more adventurous you can take your vehicle off-road which is also pretty popular, especially among the Jeep crowd, but you don’t even need an off-road vehicle (not that I would ever attempt such a thing without one).

If you are the hemp-wearing, granola-eating, tree-hugging outdoorsy type like me, then there’s even more to do. Unfortunately, we hardly put a dent in the long list of things to do in and around Moab.

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is huge here. Huge. Apparently Moab has some of the best mountain biking in the world, or so I was told by the locals, and hosts lots of races like this endurance race which looks like it could be fun if you’re not terrified of falling off your bike.

Popular area for mountain bikers

I’m barely stable on a bicycle (I blame my parents’ prohibition from letting my bike leave the driveway as a child) let alone on this kind of terrain, so we skipped out on any sort of mountain biking.

Hit the Rocks

Rock climbing and rappelling are both popular activities as well, and you can even climb up some of the towers and hoodoos.

I'm a naturalGeared up to drop down

Matt and I opted for a 1/2 day canyoneering trip with the outfitter ‘Moab Cliffs & Canyons’ at Ephedra’s Grotto.

It was fun and gorgeous, but it was basically just 2 rappels and a bit of hiking– not nearly as exciting as canyoning in Switzerland (but that’t a whole different story for a whole different day).


The town of Moab is located on the Colorado River so there are plenty of boat tours to be had.

But I hate boats, so I have nothing to suggest to you here. You’ll have to google it yourself if you want to take a boat tour. I’m sure it’s nice, but I still have yet to grow a pair of sea legs.


Hiking here is pretty good too; at least it is in the nearby national parks, particularly Canyonlands which has some remarkable backcountry hiking, especially in the Needles area of the park (which, like I mentioned, we didn’t get to)

A rock fin can be a slightly scary place

We did do some hiking in Arches which was great. I love hiking here at this time of year because (in spite of the shortened days) the weather is perfect for spending an entire day hitting different trails (or one big one). Because of the desert environment– the low vegetation, lack of shade, and dry heat– I can imagine it being torturous to hike here during summer. Late autumn however was perfect.

Fins of rock on our hike in arches

We did run into a snag when we tried to hike the Devil’s Garden. Because of the cold temperatures and the (unseasonal) snow that the area experienced before we got there, the rock was icy and frost covered in some areas and we had to turn back. It’s called slickrock for a reason and in spite of my awesome hiking boots I was still too chicken shit to venture out onto steep, icy rock.


…stay tuned for my next installment in the Utah vacation series where I point out all my favourite places in Arches National Park.

14 Dec

Links for a Snowy Afternoon

A Psychologist’s Guide to Online Dating - The Atlantic

Men tend to act like single-issue voters: If a prospect is not attractive enough, he or she usually doesn’t qualify for a first date, period. For women, however, it’s a more complex choice. . . What tends to matter for females is that the overall package is good.

As low-paying jobs grow, minimum-wage battle ripples across U.S. – Globe & Mail

Adjusted for inflation, the U.S. minimum wage peaked in 1968, when it stood at the equivalent of $10.60 in today’s dollars.

Canada Post phasing out home mail delivery, raising rates – Globe & Mail

The changes include the phase-out of home delivery. . . and hiking the cost of stamps by more than one-third to 85 cents from 63 cents.

Yoga: Why Men Don’t Get It – Sydney Morning Herald

When men say they are bored with yoga, [Denver Broncos Yoga teacher Danny] Poole thinks there may be something else going on. “Our egos are deflated because we can’t do some of the poses,” he said.

Bad Eating Habits Start in the Womb – NY Times

Researchers believe that the taste preferences that develop at crucial periods in infancy have lasting effects for life. In fact, changing food preferences beyond toddlerhood appears to be extremely difficult.

Good Body Image Goes Hand in Hand With Happier Relationships – Medline

Women who had previously dieted or were currently on a diet were more likely to be unhappy with their weight and more self-conscious regarding their bodies, the study found. . . The women most critical of their bodies were less happy in their relationships.

Study Reveals Gene Expression Changes With Meditation – Science Daily

Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs.

13 Dec

All I Want for Christmas 2013

All I Want for Christmas 2013

My 2013 Christmas Wish List:

1) BooksHarvest by Jim Crace, The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, and The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond are topping my list right now, but I’m open reading to others.

2) Flannel - I like this flannel shirt from L.L. Bean. Actually, anything from L.L. Bean is acceptable.

3) Minnetonka Moccasins - again, I will put some variation of moccasins on my Christmas list every year until I get them.

4) A Kitchen Scale – I just can’t bake properly without an accurate scale.

5) The Iron Islands – I can wear this necklace as I anticipate the next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Plus it’ll look awesome with my direwolf t-shirt.

6) An Agenda – it’s suddenly becoming necessary in my life to keep track of what I’m doing and when. These agendas are super cute, plus my friend’s girlfriend makes them.

7) Yoga Pants – I like the long, fitted variety and I certainly would not be opposed to these awesome samurai yoga pants.

8) Yoga – Some passes to local yoga studios would be awesome. I love to practice in the community.

My Christmas Wish List looks a lot like last year’s and I’d still accept anything from my 2012 list. I guess my tastes change little from year to year and I rarely buy things that I want.

What do YOU want for Christmas this year? Maybe I’ll buy it for you!*

*Under no circumstances am I obliged to buy you anything for Christmas.

11 Dec

Zion in November – Other Hikes

This is part of my series on visiting Zion National Park in November.

I have already mentioned the grand hike that is The Narrows but here are a couple of other hikes that we did while we were in Zion.

Weeping Rock

Weeping Rock

I wouldn’t really call it a hike, per se. It’s an extremely short trail (it may take you 30 minutes round trip, tops) to the Weeping Rock lookout. Getting there is entirely uphill, but since it’s an out-and-back that means it’s as easy going down as it is strenuous going up.
The Weeping Rock is probably more fun to check out on a dry day because you’ll be able to see how the porous rock is seeping water. On a dreary, rainy day like the one we had when all the rocks in the canyon are weeping, well, it’s not so impressive. Another cool part of this hike is the ability to see ‘hanging gardens’ as ferns and other plants grow right out of the moist rock.

Angel’s Landing

Angel's Landing

Ahh…Angel’s Landing. Everyone wants to do this one to prove themselves. Everyone except people afraid of heights.
The first 2 mile portion of the hike is almost entirely uphill, beginning with a series of steep switchbacks. . .

Switchbacks on Trail to Angel's Landing

then a more gradual climb. . .

Trail to Scout's Lookout

. . . followed by even more switchbacks called “Walter’s Wiggles”.

Walter's Wiggles

This takes you to Scout’s Lookout which offers gorgeous views of the canyon and marks the beginning of the challenge.

Scout's Lookout

The last portion 1/2 mile of the trail is made up of narrow paths along the steep cliffs of a rock fin. There are anchored chains available to hold onto to keep yourself from falling off the rock face to your death, nearly 6000 feet below you.

Angels' Landing Hike
Note the chains in the background

I’d like to say that I did it, because I really wanted to, but alas I did not. With the harsh rain we experienced the combination of the cold, wet chains and the very slippery rock held me back. I began the trail and then reconsidered.

Oh well, maybe next time.

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools Trail

Aside from The Narrows this 3 mile hike was my favourite because it is one of the most scenic.

In this case the rain worked in our favour as we were able to see waterfalls that aren’t flowing most times of the year.

Emerald Pools Trail 2

There are three parts to this trail: Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald pools. The trail to Lower pools is paved and not overly challenging. Beyond that the trail is unpaved and more rugged but never gets too strenuous. I usually prefer a really tough climb, but the views on this trail definitely make it worthwhile.

Who doesn’t love waterfalls?