What does nearly 4.5km look like?

One of the most interesting things about wearing a FitBit is figuring out how far you went on that early morning or after work walk. When I tell many people that most days I log 4 to 5 km every day before starting work, they think that’s overwhelming. It sounds so far. In reality, it’s about an hour of brisk walking. To put it into context, it means I can do a loop from my house, down through the Distillery District, over to the east near the St. Lawrence Market, and complete the square by coming along Dundas Street.

I love to record the sights and sounds I encounter, the changing light, and even the weather, with quick snaps from my phone along the way. I’m no professional photographer, but it’s okay with me if the photos are a little bit imperfect – usually our memories are, as well.

Looking back at these photos reinforces why I walk – it’s not just about the fitness. It’s also about connecting with neighbourhoods and nature. I love how every time I take a walk, even if it’s a route I’ve covered before, I’ll get a perspective that’s just a little bit different. I might see a building from a new angle, or spot a change in a shop window.

Maybe a quirky sculpture will appear where I haven’t seen it before. Or possibly the visual will trigger a memory of something my husband said while we were making our way through that section. Other times, I snap because there’s something I want to look up or investigate when I get back home.

Taking these little shots along the way also gives me something to share with friends and family who don’t live close by. That way they can share the memory, even if they aren’t able to be here with me in person. I like to see the subtle changes that occur in familiar settings, like how the tables in the outdoor cafes and bistros are taking on a summery appearance that they didn’t have, even a month ago.

Seeing something like this park, where I’ve been many times, from a different vantage point, means I notice the expanse of grass, and how green it is. Later in the summer it will be tired and yellowed – it won’t have that early season freshness that is just here for today.

Coming up through the market, I can compare photos from this time last year, and see alterations to the skyline. Even the market itself is getting refreshed, with a new market building being erected to the north of where this iconic South Market stands. Vendors from the North Market are currently in one of those giant white tents that you may have seen for temporary installations near you.

I am also sometimes surprised by the low-hanging cloud cover, and I wonder whether this is only noticeable because the buildings keep getting taller and taller. All of these thoughts, as well as plans for my day, new ideas for writing or speaking, or working through challenges, happen while I’m making my way along the sidewalk.

Next time you’re out for a long walk, take time for a photo or two – you might be surprised at what you do and don’t remember about the pictures you’ve made along the way.

 

Love it when a plan comes together 

It’s great to see that holiday weight coming off – and three things are responsible: planning, effort, and patience. The planning part is twofold: meal plans, and scheduling daily exercise into the routine (and pushing that with extra weights and stretching). Those who know me already know that I am an avid walker, daily, but I may forget to include weights…but then I saw a photo of how great my arms looked a couple of years ago!

Meal planning is truly the centre of it all. It keeps me from buying what I don’t need, and I double-check for things that are key to health: calories, fibre, low sugar, low sodium. This no-salt vegetarian pea soup is a great example. Breakfasts are similar most days: smoothies, oatmeal, homemade granola, and sometimes eggs. Lunch? Leftovers, soup, or salad.

Here’s the dinner menu we’ve been eating this past week – the tofu is a new try from Vegetarian Times. It’s important to incorporate new choices that fit your new lifestyle, but wholesale swings to an unfamiliar diet are frequently a recipe for disaster. Take your time, and make good changes every day.

Bok Choy with Spicy Tofu Triangles

Lentil and mushroom vegan shepherd’s pie

Black bean, corn, and zucchini enchiladas

Mom’s burger casserole

Country captain chicken 

Cashew cream pad Thai

Miso glazed salmon and bok choy

We are not vegetarians, nor vegans, but we recognize that a plant-based diet is the way to better health, better use of the Earth’s resources, and it’s absolutely better for the animals. We have slowly migrated from one vegetarian day a week to alternate days, and planning four plant based dinners helps keep us on track.

While I have your attention, don’t forget that #BellLetsTalk day is this week – let’s be sure to make time for self care on the mental health front everyday also – and please reach out to someone today and let them know you’re there for them.

What changes have you made for better physical and mental health in 2017?  

Your Most Valuable Asset

What if someone gave you a fabulous new vehicle, that was capable of doing virtually anything you could imagine? Further, what if they told you that as long as you took good care of it, it would last for the rest of your life, and it would carry you anywhere you wanted to go?

Guess what – you’ve got it! It’s your own body. Take good care of it and it will carry you in style to the end of your days. I know there are exceptions, sometimes bodies let us down, through no fault of our own. Illnesses and conditions can make our physical performance less than optimal, compared to others. That’s the great thing, though. When it comes to your own human health and performance, you don’t need to measure up to anyone but you.

If you’re having trouble fitting fitness into your schedule, try working it in a little at a time. Make sure you make a commitment that you can keep. For me, for example, I know very well that if I plan to work out first thing in the morning, no matter how early, the odds are better that it will happen. If I try and leave it to the end of the day, life seems to have a way of intervening.

Other tips for making sure you give your fabulous vehicle the care and feeding it deserves?

  • Find a workout buddy who will keep you accountable
  • Start small – even parking at the end of the lot and walking to your office is better than no exercise at all
  • Don’t overdo – trying to compete with your younger self isn’t helpful and it may just set you up for an injury
  • Try different activities until you find one you like
  • Don’t invest in a pricey gym membership until you’re sure you’ll go – try as many “taster” classes as you can
  • Check out your local YM/YWCA or Community Centre – they’re great places to sample a wide variety of drop-in classes until you figure out the things that are fun
  • Try something you’ve never tried before, just once – who knows, you might like it!

Have fun, get fit, and here’s to your health. You’ll be grateful when you feel great every day.

When Should You Walk?

You know my initial response to this question is, “as often as possible”, or “whenever you want”. But there’s more to my question than that. 20161114_115006187_iosLast night I had the privilege of attending a series of presentations by social entrepreneurs from all across Toronto at the Centre for Social Innovation. These women (mostly) and men were focused on how we build healthier communities, and the solutions were as diverse as the presenters. At the event, I was discussing a rule-of-thumb I learned from a Parisienne acquaintance of mine: it’s the one kilometre rule. It works like this: if your errand or appointment is one kilometre or less from where you are, walk. No cab, no bike, no streetcar or metro. Just use your feet.

Sure, you say, that sounds great, but how do I know if it’s a kilometre? Won’t it take long? I’m a busy person! At a brisk pace, but by no means race-walking, a kilometre will take you about ten minutes. So if you walk to the store and back, you’ve gained twenty minutes of exercise that you wouldn’t have done otherwise. How long did you spend waiting for your last public transit, or looking for a parking spot?

It’s worth it for your health and a longer lifespan – instead standing around checking your smartphone, or circling around looking for a parking spot, invest that ten minutes in yourself. Your stronger heart and your clearer head will thank you.

How Big is Your Neighbourhood?

IMG_5508Although we live in Regent Park, we’re not limited by the borders of community as decided by city planners or other folks. Instead, we measure our neighbourhood by walkability. Travelling a city or town on foot can quickly acclimate you to the shops and services that are available, and let you get to know people and places far beyond the immediate blocks near your home. For us, a 5-kilometre loop is a regular occurrence, happening several times a week. As a consequence, we regularly experience sights, sounds, and shops far beyond the borders of the quarter where we reside.

On this particular day, our walk included a stroll south to Queen street (above). After that, we wound through some of the tinier streets (Bright Street is a favourite) toward the Distillery District. Headed for Cherry StreetWhere Sumach meets Cherry, we passed under this maze of streetcar wires, making our way past the secret data centre and the incredible new Cooper Koo YMCA complex. As you can see, it was early – definitely pre-7am, although we are enjoying the light while it lasts. We know we’ll need our full armada of reflective gear in just a few weeks as the days get shorter.

Distillery It’s always fun to cut through the Distillery District and see all the amazing shops and food vendors (although typically during our pass through in the early morning they aren’t open, we’ve made the trip there often enough that we’ve seen the insides and the people as well). The juxtaposition of the ancient distillery buildings with the CN Tower in the background makes us wonder what the original occupants might have thought.

SculptureThe various art pieces offered by the shops are fascinating – like this guy. We especially like how he has an iron for a nose! Some are practical, many are beautiful, and most are things that we don’t have room for in our minimalist lifestyle – but we appreciate the opportunity to see them as we pass by and continue our fight against years and gravity.

Esplanade On this particular day, we also made our way along the Esplanade, past Crombie park, heading southward, finally, on Jarvis Street. via Jarvis we can get all the way to the lake, crossing the street near Sugar Beach and the amazing, huge sugar elevators on the waterfront. It’s like another world, passing beyond the whizzing traffic and the hustle and bustle of workers, people walking their dogs, and construction crews continuing their endless quest for one more building.

Lake OntarioThe Lake is beautiful early in the morning, and it is a great way to get centered before jumping into the fast-paced world of work. Being able to see birds, flowers, trees, and water at the same time as planes, trains, and automobiles is very satisfying, because it reminds us that we can find peace wherever we are, no matter how fast the pace.

For our return trip, we made a straight shot northward up Sherbourne Street – arriving home just in time to grab coffee and a smoothie before facing the events of the day. Is it worth getting up at 5:30 or 6 in the morning to fit all this in at the start? I’ll let you be the judge.

Who Needs Toast?

I like a toast soldier as much as the next guy, but this is a great way to get more flavour and vitamins if you favour an eggy breakfast.


I started with a sliced onion, half a bell pepper, diced, and a chopped hot pepper in a nonstick pan. A regular pan will work also; just add water in small increments to keep it all from sticking. After it got going a bit on medium heat, I added about a cup of chopped kale.

Once all this was softening, I chopped and added two ripe tomatoes – one red, one yellow. Once it came to full heat, I cracked in four eggs, reduced the heat to medium-low, covered the pan and cooked undisturbed, save occasional checks until the eggs were done.

Quick, easy, and tasty. To veganize I might substitute cooked kidney beans or tempeh for the eggs.

And we are still eating it…

  
We have really been focusing on local veg this week. One thing I love to make is a big Asian-inspired slaw. Although it began with a recipe, in truth, it is this simple: 

Grate a bunch of winter veg – think celeriac, carrot, beet, turnip, cabbage. A food processor makes it  easy to do a big bowlful. Toss this with a tablespoon or so of sesame oil, some vinegar (change it up!), grated ginger and garlic – as much as you like, a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup, and some sesame seeds, any colour. Beets make an especially eye-catching mix. 

On day one we are it with poached fish. Yesterday we tucked some in our sandwich. And last night, we buried some Whitehouse Meats smoked wild boar sausage in it and baked it for half an hour at 350, covered. It was delicious with mashed blue potatoes.

Inspired DIY for Breakfast

  
You might look at this bowl and see fruit, or delicious walnuts, or cinnamon. I, however, see yogurt. It’s yogurt I made myself. 

I’ve been contemplating making my own yogurt for ages. The time was never right. I wasn’t organized, or finished off the yogurt, or didn’t have enough milk when the urge struck. But finally, I found my moment. Inspired by my friend from the Interwebs, The Zero Waste Chef, I decided to give it a go. I read lots of different recipes and methodologies. Most involved some convoluted method for keeping the yogurt warm without using a yogurt-maker. The beginning part was similar for most, but here’s what I did:

Heat milk to 180 degrees, stirring all the while. (I used about 3/4 of a 1L jar that I planned to used to store it in). Each expert differed on milk. Some wanted whole milk only. We drink 1% when we drink milk. I used that.

Now, cool it down to 110.

As I understand it, this helps break down the casein and makes the milk more “fermentation friendly”.

I poured it into an overnight-rated Thermos – the kind that is supposed to keep your food hot for a very long time. To this I added about 1/3 cup or 75ml of yogurt with active cultures – the kind we usually buy. Plain. No additives or preservatives. Then I called it, gave it a shake, and let it sit all day. 

At dinner time I peeked in, with some trepidation. It looked yogurt-y. It was thick enough that it was hard to pour from the Thermos. It wasn’t as smooth as a commercial variety, but it definitely tasted like yogurt. This morning, some of it was breakfast. No sugar added, just fruit that was frozen in season, a sprinkling of cinnamon, and some chopped walnuts. Probably this was the most chemistry fun I’ve had since learning the orange juice volcano.

Eat Veggies Any Way You Can!

  
We’re well into the first week of 2016 and always looking for ways to get a few more plants into the diet, and to waste less.

Today’s feature? An open-face, use-it-up omelette. It features leftover salad and some unfinished quark, but cottage cheese and any leftover veg would work. For two:

2c/500 ml leftover veg, sautéed in a lightly oiled pan

Lightly beat 3 large eggs and pour over.

Start some rye or whole wheat toast if desired.

Top omelette with 1/3 – 1/2 c quark or low fat cottage cheese and cook over low heat until golden on the bottom.

Fold and serve with toast, comme ça:

  

Turnaround Time!

  
Those of you who follow me on Twitter @WalkEatLive know that I’ve been moving over the past couple of weeks. It’s been a change, for sure. A few years ago my husband and I took an opportunity to relocate to Nova Scotia. We had a great time, and made some very good friends. We embarked on the grow-your-own food lifestyle we had imagined. But a funny thing happened. Even though we had returned to the province where we were born missed the city we had called “home” for more than 30 years. We missed our kids and big family dinners. And all the pounds we had shed during our weight loss journey started creeping back on, and we started getting fat. It turns out we were a textbook example of why communities with a high walk score are a good thing. Our motto is to that it’s always better to take action than to complain. So here we are, back in Toronto. 

We’re walking like crazy and eating healthy food. Already we are seeing a difference. And we’re not so far away from the new friends we’ve made. We’ll continue to visit for the sights and sounds of the sea, and they know our door is always open. After a couple of weeks on the road, we are thrilled to be back in our own kitchen, making tasty meals like this one.
I hope you’ll keep reading as I bring some stories, some recipes, and some meal ideas to show how homemade can be fast, healthy, and delicious.