I used to run, many moons ago. Like, in 2004 or 2005, and then I stopped. In January 2015, in an effort to start exercising to go along with my eating lifestyle changes, I picked up the couch-to-5k program and followed it through to the end. And then I kept running.
In fall 2015, my boyfriend joined a 10k running club, so I joined them for runs when I could (I was simultaneously taking night classes that oftimes conflicted). The coach was excellent – she’s been running for over a decade and has been through it all. During one Sunday morning run in the snow, towards the end of the clinic, she asked me what my running goals were. I didn’t have a clue. That’s when she suggested I would rock a half marathon. That she could see the determination and patience in me that half marathoners need to succeed. I laughed. And then probably coughed because the damn cold air makes my lungs hurt.
But I held on to that thought.
And I talked it over with her some more.
And with my boyfriend.
And then, before 2015 was out, I took the leap and signed up for the half marathon clinic.
The training went really well – nutrition was on point, I missed very few runs, the running friends I’ve made were (and are) encouraging. And in May 2016 I completed my first half marathon in under 2:20. Upright. Smiling.
Let’s say that again… in less than 18 months, I went from running a minute at a time, walking two in between, with over 80 lb. extra on my tiny 5’3 frame, to running a half marathon 60 lb. lighter and kind of kicking its ass.
So, if I can do it, anyone can.
To be transparent, I ran a second half marathon in the fall of 2016 but everything that was great about the first half marathon fell apart for the second: training was sporadic as we were temporarily homeless and living with family in between house possession dates, my nutrition fell apart during that time of transition, I put on weight due to stress… So, my second half marathon was not as successful at my first. There were no smiles. But I still finished. Upright. And the scenery was gorgeous. You gotta find the positives, right?
So, what’s on deck for 2017?
Getting my nutrition in check
I’m already a week in on this one. Good nutrition is everything… not only does it fuel your body, but it helps regulate your hunger, helps with fat loss and muscle gain, aids with sleep, and generally just makes you feel better.
Cross-training like a mad woman
I mostly gave up on any sort of cross training during my fall training, which meant muscle loss and decline in overall strength. It may be hard to reconcile that gaining strength is important for running, but you need to strengthen all of your leg muscles, and especially your core, if you want to be a strong runner. Plus, who wants big muscular legs and a flabby upper body? No one!
Picking out my goal races
I train better if there’s a goal in sight. Otherwise, I feel a little aimless. I’m already signed up for a few, including the 15k Eyeball the Wall (Apr), the Sporting Life 10k (June) and the Lululemon Seawheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver (Aug). I’m also pondering a sprint triathlon at some point, probably late spring or early summer. Crazy? Yeah, probably.
What are your health and wellness goals for 2017?
*takes out duster*
Is this thing on?
Sorry to have been quiet for so long. It’s been a busy couple of years.
- Finished my WSET 2 class (and passed, with flying colours)
- Finished my Public Relations Extension Certificate from Mount Royal University
- Withstood the crumbling of the Albertan economy, even while being employed by an oil and gas co
- Got engaged!
- Planning a wedding
- Sold my house
- Bought a house
- Ran my first two half marathons
- Countless visits to Okanagan wine country
It’s always there for you. And the Okanagan is probably my favourite quick trip nowadays, even though we end up buying more than we intend to.
We’ve visited, probably, upwards of 50, 60 wineries? But there are a few that have really stuck in my mind. I thought I’d share them.
(You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly that we seem to favour the southern end of the Okanagan for wine)
Moon Curser – Osoyoos, B.C.
This is, hands down, our favourite vineyard – so much so that we inquired whether they do weddings when we started looking for a venue (they don’t).
The view is beautiful, the facility crisp, and the wines varied and impeccable. We’ve never had a bad experience tasting here – except the time we visited in the off season and missed their opening weekend by a week. But they’re open year-round now, so that’s never a problem!
Moon Curser grows varietals that you don’t see anywhere else in the Okanagan, like Tannat. And they were at the forefront of some of the varietals that are gaining popularity in the area, like Carmenere. They specialise in big, bold reds – the Contraband Syrah is an old favourite – but their whites, Afraid of the Dark and Arneis, are unique and sure to please even red wine drinkers.
And their wine club is affordable for even us middle class joes. You can score some of their more popular wines in stores in Alberta, but not everything – and it’s really worth trying everything.
There’s a reason why these guys win countless awards every year – don’t pass them by as you travel down the highway.
Culmina Family Estate Winery – Oliver, B.C.
To be fair, we’ve only been to Culmina once – we’d like to go again, and probably will this year – but even just that first visit left such an impression on us that it makes our list of favourites.
Culmina is situated at the top of a hill, near Road 13 (more about them later). The setting is immaculate – buildings gorgeous, views cannot be beat. Their tastings are a little different, in that they take place at scheduled times. You are welcome to drop in but might have to wait for the next seating. There are a number of different tasting options, including a vineyard tour – but if you’re looking for a place to quickly pop in and out, this likely won’t be the spot!
When we visited, we had the honour of meeting Don Triggs briefly – it was off season so only the two of us were in the tasting session and it took place in their private tasting room. We heard the story about how the site was chosen, the soil testing that took place to determine what varietals would grow best and the winemaking philosophy at Culmina.
While their wine portfolio is smaller than other vineyards, everything we tasted was delicious and the hardest part was narrowing it down to just a couple we could bring home (how many cases can one bring home from a long weekend trip? 6, apparently).
If you have the time, and want a different tasting experience, I highly recommend Culmina as a stop.
Road 13 – Oliver, B.C.
I alluded to Road 13 a bit back. I fell in love with Road 13’s Pinot Noir back in 2009 at a Gold Medal Plates competition, and it still ranks as one of my go-to vineyards. While our first visit to the tasting room was a bit disappointing (it was my first experience with a limited selection menu instead of being able to taste all wines in the portfolio, plus they were out of the Pinot Noir!) we’ve been back almost every year, faithfully.
Road 13 continues to surprise and delight with their wines – both standard and innovative. This summer, their Marsanne and Rousanne were excellent; we came home with a bottle of the latter. In fact, my mom, who is a die-hard red wine drinker, even liked the Rousanne enough that she purchased a bottle as well. Hear that, red wine drinkers? There are full-bodied white wines – you just have to find them! And they don’t have to be oaked. Also, white wine aficionados? Try an Okanagan or Oregon pinot noir – they’re light and fruity. Yum!
Road 13 also has the Lounge, which requires a bit more of a tasting fee, but is more comfortable, quieter and has an expanded wine tasting menu – plus you can order food. If you have the time and are looking for something to nibble on, it’s worth it.
Black Hills Estate Winery – Oliver, B.C.
The last winery I’ll feature is Black Hills. These folks are on the Black Sage Bench, which has a number of amazing vineyards, as you might expect. I can’t recommend their Syrah or Viognier enough – both wines just burst with flavor when you sip them. But, again, I can’t recall there being a single wine in their portfolio that is short of delicious.
They have a beautiful patio, with a fountain/pool, so if you’re visiting during good weather, I’d recommend the Portfolio tasting. Again, it takes longer, so you can’t be in a rush, and it’s a little pricier, but we split one tasting between the two of us, so we each get to try all six wines (expert tip!).
This is not an exhaustive list – there are so, so many wineries that I haven’t covered. And I’ll likely expand on this in the future.
As you can see, there’s a theme here – if you want better tasting experiences, don’t be in a hurry to hit up ten wineries in a day (no judgment – we’ve done it). Pick your top five or six, make it a leisurely trip and don’t forget a) water and b) to stop for lunch. Actually, this might be better expanded in to a blog post in the (near) future, too…
What are your favourite wineries? Any region! And why?
*I wasn’t compensated to write any of this – I just love these wineries that much!
I used to think I couldn’t drink wine. Especially red. My parents like dry reds. Very tannic reds. The sort of reds that suck the moisture out of your nose when you put it near the glass. And I figured all reds must be like that.
So, as a young adult, I drank Arbour Mist. Wine, right? (Wrong).
However, over the past few years, I’ve started experiencing more and more wines, and the variety that comes with it. I ‘d say that the turning point was a ladies event I attended at J. Webb in the latter half of 2011 – there were many wines for tasting and I started to get a feel for some of the varietals I most enjoyed, namely syrah and pinot noir.
With that, 2012 saw our first visit to the Okanagan for wine touring, and we’ve been out at least once a year ever since. I think the number of cases we buy doubles every time we go out now.
Since then, I ‘ve branched out. Cab sauv is a nice, bold wine that goes well with meals. Merlot is great with or without food. I’m starting to get into whites, especially oaked, like some chardonnays from California. And we’re finding that rosés can be quite tart, not the sickly sweet rosés of times past that we all drank when we were in our late teens – a perfect addition to a barbeque or on the patio in the sun after work.
With this in mind, for the better part of a year I looked at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses that are available through Fine Vintage in Calgary. I put it off, partially due to the cost, and also because the program runs on Tuesdays and Miki and I volunteer at a seniors home on Tuesdays. But, the stars aligned and I managed to find a session of the course earlier this year during which I’d only miss one visit with Miki out of the four weeks. I justified the cost as spending money on my own development and a hobby I have great interest in.
I learned so much when I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the subject. The format was four weeks (although they also offer it in a one-day course) in the evenings. We tasted seven to nine wines each class, but you are required to SPIT, which is a foreign concept for most of us (the one-day format must be cheaper because they taste fewer wines – there’s no way you could do that many in one day, even though you spit). You learn how to properly taste, identify characteristics of the wine, guess the aroma and taste on your palate (sometimes the answer is obvious but quite often no two people would have the same answers written down). I’m also much more particular about what wines I pair with food (or without).
Throughout the four weeks, you get to know your fellow students. An interesting observation is that less than half of the attendees work in the industry, either hospitality or with wine directly. Most of us were just there for general interest, or a possible career change. The instructor said this was fairly typical, but as you start going up in levels you’d see more and more industry members and fewer “just checking it out” students.
We also learned about different varietals, their characteristics, what terroire is and how it affects the wine, the difference between viticulture and viniculture, and many things in between.
At the end of the course, there is a test – it is sent to the WSET headquarters and you receive your grade in six to eight weeks. If you don’t pass, you cannot take the next level. It’s a bit nervewracking, even though the pass rate is fairly high. However, if you did the math, about two of the people in our class were slated to fail. (Don’t worry, I passed. In fact, I aced the test. I’m a keener).
Did I enjoy it? Well, I signed up for Level 2 before I even knew if I’d passed Level 1. Happy birthday… and Christmas… to me, for the next few years. I would recommend Level 1 for anyone who has a keen interest in wine. Your ability to hold long conversations about wine at parties will explode. I’d recommend the four-day, instead of the one-day marathon – after one night of tastings, we all felt that our palates were shot. No idea how you’d do it all in one day.
Several people have asked me if I’m doing these courses to become a sommelier. To be honest? I’m not sure. The further you go in the program, the more of a commitment, to the point that they liken Level 4 to a university program and it takes two years to complete. At this point in time, I’d say I’m not interested in going that far. But, who knows? Five years ago I’d’ve laughed if you said I’d be taking wine courses. The world is a strange place.
Has anyone else done the WSET courses? Past Level 1? Thoughts?
You’re likely going to see a new topic take over my blog for the foreseeable future.
You see, I’ve gone to the wine.
No, not whine – although, I do a fair bit of that too – but wine. Sweet, dry, red, white, tannins, acidity… these are all terms that flow off my tongue daily for the past few months.
It started with our yearly visits to the Okanagan for some wine and time off. But I’ve found myself buying more and more wine at liquor stores. Not beer. Not hard liquor. Wine.
Which then enticed me to take a wine course through Fine Vintage and write the WSET Level 1 test – and now I find myself perusing the wine list wherever I go. What regions, what varietals? What will go best with what I’m eating?
So, like any good blogger, of which I’m not because I sorely neglect this blog, I’d like to share my experiences and knowledge in the hopes that I can shed some light on this delicious yet mysterious hobby of mine.
Hope you can come along for the ride.
And, yes, I will still continue to post about other topics… and pictures of pets.
On Friday, December 20, 2013, I went to Gimbel and they made small, permanent holes in my eyes. No, seriously – they used a laser to punch holes in my irises, also called a laser iridotomy. This procedure is quite often used for people who have glaucoma, which results in increased pressure in the eye. The little holes allow another exit for the fluid in your eyes so that the pressure doesn’t build up. Because of the addition of a second lens into my eye in the ICL procedure, it can block the fluid from exiting in a normal manner, so the iridotomy is a precaution to lower the chance of increased pressure in the eye.
During my procedure, the left eye literally took two shots of the laser, the total number of holes put into the iris, whereas the right required about 20, and they hit a blood vessel. I guess it has to do with how well I manage to hold my eyes open and the angle of the hits – apparently my left was more cooperative than the right.
The following Monday was D-day. I arrived for my appointment quite early – which just left more time for panic. The pre-tests were quick and they gave me a mild sedative to calm my jitters, but not enough to put me out. I didn’t think it was working, but when I went to stand up to go into the operating room, I almost fell over. So, here’s my public service message: you likely can’t drive after having those few drinks, even if you “feel fine.”
There were a few of us in the waiting room as they could only do one of this type of procedure at once. While I was focusing on my tablet (with dilated eyes, n0t easy) in order to calm my nerves, I did listen to the conversations and chat a bit as well. A few were having cataracts removed (older people, naturally) while another gentleman was having a procedure similar to mine, although for correcting a different issue. We discovered that the people with cataracts could only have one eye done at once (because it is covered by healthcare) whereas those of us having elective procedures were having both eyes done at once. The things you learn.
The actual procedure was very interesting and less scary. It’s like when you close your eyes and rub them hard so that you see stars and colours (wait – nobody else did that? Who knows, maybe that’s why my corneas are so weird) but it went on for about 10 or 15 minutes per eye. They didn’t describe what was going on during the procedure but if it meant they were concentrating more on the surgery itself I was fine with that. They did the right eye first since the left is my dominant eye (despite being right-handed) and right away I could see more clearly out of the eye while they were prepping for the left; this made me very excited. In between eyes, the nurses and I chatted about what pie I was going to make for Christmas dinner. The left went very much like the right, although my vision wasn’t as clear immediately after the procedure.
The next day, I went back for an assessment. They told me my right eye was already 20/20 and my left was 20/40. The latter did not surprise me as I could tell that my right was much clearer than the left. Despite this, they gave me a letter that okayed me for driving without corrective lenses – it never occurred to me that people don’t need 20/20 vision in both eyes to drive. Who knew?
I struggled with not spending too much time on my phone, laptop, TV as I was off work the entire week, but having a puppy around helped with it a little (although perhaps not my stress levels or blood pressure). Despite being off work, we hosted my family for dinner twice and Matt’s for dinner once so it was a very busy time. I was a bit unnerved by my left eye still lagging behind the right, and going back to work January 2 and 3 made for uncomfortable work on the computer trying to focus, but about a week ago my left eye seemed to have caught up to my right, if not a little inconsistent – at times, especially if I’m tired or my eye is dry, it’s blurry but otherwise seems to be on par with my right.
My two- (actually three) week appointment confirmed this: I came out as perfect 20/20 vision. Yes, I know of people who’ve had better than perfect (after his eye surgery my dad had 20/15 in one eye) but I’m not going to be greedy! I am perfectly happy with 20/20; it is what my goal was. They had some concern about the amount of space between my natural and implanted lenses in my right eye at the appointment the day after the surgery, but after several tests today the doctor let me know that the space widened and they are not concerned about the possibility of cataract (which can occur if the two lenses rub together). The pressure in my eyes is also normal, which means that the iridotomies are doing their jobs.
So, all in all, everything seems to be going well. I am finished the medicated drops they prescribed for three weeks after the surgery, my eyes are humming along and they’ll see me again for my two-month check-up.
Thanks my mom and Matt for being a huge support – my mom was my chauffeur and Matt was my rock at home. And to my dad and sister for being understanding and listening to me earlier in the year, when it felt like the entire world was falling apart.
Was it worth it? Yes. I’m lucky that I was able to afford the procedure through a shrewd (but mostly lucky) investment situation. But I believe that not having to wear contacts 12-18 hours a day every day will result in healthier eyes in my future, and that being able to see without corrective lenses is safer in the long run.
And, with that, ends my eye saga.
I was inspired by one of the people I follow on Twitter – Jillian is a fan of vision boards to help frame your year. In the past I’ve heard of vision boards, though most often in the cut & paste from magazines sense, but I’ve never created one. This year, I’ve felt compelled to pave my own path with more conviction than the past two.
One evening, I set out to create my vision board. By Jillian’s suggestion, I used Oprah’s site, although I’ve never seen her show, read the magazine or watched the network. Instead of seeking out my own images, I browsed what was available.
And I came up with this:
At first, I was a bit worried – my board looks nothing like Jillian’s. I don’t have any motivational quips or inspirational images. However, when I look back at my vision board, it says everything I need it to say. I did not create my captions and seek images to match them – I found images that caught my eye, tried to group them accordingly and wrote my aspirations to speak to those themes. Maybe next year I’ll change the format but I think for a first attempt, I’ve hit the mark. No two vision boards are the same, and there’s no wrong or right way to create one.
The past year, due to many reasons, I’ve found my home to be a less-than-relaxing place. I’ve never done a good purge of my belongings, five years after moving in. My boyfriend moved in with me over a year ago, which introduced another layer of complexity. Last year I was consumed by other worries, like a stressful job and renovating my basement suite, which left me little enough time to see to the basics, never mind cleaning out my home.
So, this year I want to take more pleasure in my humble abode. We’ve already started this process – I’ve assigned one (or more) room to each weekend in January for a complete de-cluttering. All in all, I live a pretty minimalist life, but I’m finding that I have no more space, figuratively and literally, for new items in my life. I’m purging everything, donating what I can and throwing out the rest. My bedroom alone yielded two large garbage bags of trash and two more of clothing donations between the two of us this weekend, along with half a bag of stuffed animals (all mine, of course).
We’ve also re-arranged my living room so that the TV isn’t the focal point, and that there’s a conversation/lounging area, meant for reading, being on your laptop, or just taking a nap. Throughout the year, I have plans to further simplify my home so that it’s a peaceful retreat instead of a beast that constantly needs to be tidied or fixed.
Respect my body
While we’ve done well at making meals at home, with all the energy that went into my career and other responsibilities last year, my choices away from home weren’t always the best. And exercise has been minimal. In order to be the person I want to be, I need to respect my body in three different ways:
Eat healthier – choose to bring meals from home, pick the healthier choices over the ones I crave at the moment, and ensure I am sticking to meal plans instead of giving into laziness and ordering in.
Exercise – in 2008, I was the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life and I’d like to get back to that state. A big part of this will include exercise: get myself moving, continue to push myself harder and mixing up my activities to keep my body guessing.
Stop consuming dairy – it seems like a no-brainer, but I keep falling prey to my cravings and eating items that I know likely contain dairy. If you didn’t know, I am dairy-sensitive; consuming any product derived from any sort of dairy causes inflammation in my body. For example, last week, after 10 days of staying at home and eating well, I chose to eat a scone from Starbucks; 10 hours of abdominal and back pain ensued – I counted. That’s not to mention the 24 – 48 hours of general malaise I feel afterwards. If I “fall off the wagon” for a couple of days, I start to feel joint pain and have trouble sleeping. No rational person does this to herself.
Find time for myself
I find that last year I was focused on many things, namely work and volunteering. I neglected to carve out time for myself. I didn’t find time to exercise. I didn’t find time to puruse my interests. I didn’t find time to appreciate the good aspects of my life. These are all things I do because I enjoy them, but also because it makes me a better person. I need to take care of myself. I am an introvert – I need down time. Others can go out and socialize every night of the week; if I don’t have at least two nights off, I implode. This also means being more selective about where I spend my time – I should be getting more out of my interactions while still maintaining a schedule that is conducive to me.
A friend who had a very tough year created a “year in review” for 2013 – despite undergoing incredible upheaval in hear life, she still managed to have an amazing year. It was a tough year for me, too, so I tried to do the same thing, but I found I had much less to document. My year was, very much, as terrible as it seemed; this is partly my fault. My friend proved that just because one aspect of your life isn’t working the way you planned doesn’t mean you can’t throw yourself into other pursuits while trying to pick up the pieces. Instead of shutting down if things are falling off the rails, I want to push out of my comfort zone and try things I wouldn’t ordinarily consider. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, I know from personal experience, but it’s a reminder to myself that things can, and will, get better, and my actions throughout will determine what life looks like before, during and after. Embracing adventure also means travelling to new places, instead of the same old, and considering smaller trips to new places rather than grand vacations. At the end of 2014, I want every month to be an accomplishment, even if there are (and there will be) challenges along the way.
I am an avid scholar – I enjoy learning new things. I took a marketing course last year which, naturally, fell at the worst possible time and ended up being more of a stressor than I’d hoped, but in the end I came out with a greater appreciation for the field. I want to keep learning, although this year my focus will be communications and PR more than marketing – I am looking to taking courses to ground my knowledge in my chosen career. However, learning doesn’t always have to take place in the college sense. Learning can be honing skills with my camera or taking an artistic course, which for a non-creative type is terrifying in itself. I want my learning to be planned, spontaneous, alone, together… I want to meet up with more people, network, have coffee, listen to what others are doing. Last year was very much spent folded into myself: this year I am going to broaden my horizons.
Live with purpose
I know this is an overused phrase but it does describe how I want to conduct myself going forward. Instead of going with the flow and following an invisible path along with everyone else, I want to re-evaluate the commitments I’ve made and take steps towards maintaining better control of my life. This will largely fall out of some of the themes above – all of them include being a more active participant in my own life. I see this year being a defining one, a step towards deciding where I want my path to lead and how I can modify my short- and long-term goals to get there. My path will not look the same as anyone else’s and, while I will need advice and support to get there, only I can determine what the light at the end of the tunnel looks like.
The above may or may not make sense to you. I’m still trying to make sense of some of it myself. But it does give you insight into where I am going with this year. I have a fairly good idea of goals in some of these themes, still developing them in others.
On to you: have you created a vision board or similar concept for 2014? What does yours look like? Link it!