Up and To the Right…

Flatiron Building TorontoI spend a lot of my time writing about food. I spend more of it writing about keeping fit and getting out to explore the city by walking – at least 5K per day.

As you might guess by my @WalkEatLive handle, though, there’s another component: living. I like to do that exactly the same way as I do everything: up and to the right. What does that mean? It means with my meals, I always focus on improving what I am eating – making sure I am taking in healthy fuel to keep me going. With walking and exercise, it means challenging myself to make good choices and not slack off just because the weather is lousy or I had too much fun with friends yesterday. And in life, it means finding ways to improve on a daily basis, because without movement, there’s stagnation. I’m always building these healthy habits because no matter what direction life takes, there’s great satisfaction in saying, “I did my best to be better today”.

Fuel Up! Keep Your Body and Mind in Shape…

When you start to think of food as fuel, instead of comfort, you re-evaluate what you eat all the time. Salty, sugar-y treats don’t look so appealing any more. But in a busy life, it can be difficult to figure out what to cook. One of my go-to dishes when I’ve had a long, stressful day is homemade pizza. We make the whole thing ourselves, starting with the crust. Here’s how:

Turn on your oven to 425F so it will be ready.

In a measuring cup, put 3/4c of warm water with 1t of maple syrup or sugar, if that’s what you have. Sprinkle with 1T of yeast and let it rest. I sit mine on the stove since that will be giving off some warmth. While that happens, relax. Have a glass of water. Check your Facebook. Read a blog. Give yourself a little neck massage. Put away some laundry. Whatever.

Next, stir the yeast mixture and pour into a medium bowl. Sprinkle in some oregano, hot sauce or smoky paprika for  flavour. If you don’t have any, no worries! It’s good plain. Add whole wheat flour, stirring in with a fork in a circular motion, a little at a time until it begins to come away from the sides of the bowl. Then sprinkle a little flour on the counter, dump the dough on that, sprinkle with a tiny bit more, and knead a couple of times to form a ball (not for ages, maybe a minute at most).

Spray the bowl with cooking spray or oil it lightly, and put your dough ball back in. Cover with a tea towel and put it in a warm place (like the top of the stove) to rise for 10 minutes.

Put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or pizza pan. This will save you cleanup time! Pat the dough out to the size of the pan on the parchment, using floured hands to keep from sticking. Top lightly. For this one we used 1/2c marinara, a few sliced mushrooms, and a diced red pepper. If you eat dairy, add cheese – 2oz of feta and 2oz of manchego. That’s it! Bake for 18 minutes, cool slightly, and serve. For two, you can do 6 slices, and save 2 for breakfast. Ready in less time than to select, order, and wait for delivery. The best part? When you get up as early as this to fit in a walk the next morning…

…when you come back home for breakfast, those extra slices will be waiting. Great topped with a poached egg! Feeling grateful, hope you are as well.

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.

 

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.

How do I Find A…in Regent Park?

Dive In!Regent Park is a neighbourhood in transition – where new residents are meeting and mingling with folks who have lived here for a very long time. So some of us newcomers, like me, are finding our way around to the services, people, and places that surround us.

One of the places to connect is our amazing aquatic centre – with this friendly guy at the entrance. There are lots of other opportunities to connect also; all you have to do is dive in! (Yes, I’ve been known to like a pun or two).

Today, for example, and every Wednesday for the summer, you can get an amazing, tasty meal for only four bucks at Regent Park. Just show up around 6pm, and buy a ticket from the folks in the Community Food Centre booth. Get in line, and be prepared for something delicious (last week it was rice, lentils, curry beef, and salad – tasty!) While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the vendors on site, selling fresh bread, Ethiopian coffee, and lots of other treats.

One more great way to get involved in the RPNA Logoneighbourhood is the Regent Park Neighbourhood Association, or RPNA. You can also find the RPNA on Facebook, or follow what’s happening on Twitter. There are lots of amazing people to meet, with tremendous community spirit, and whether you want to simply find out what’s going on, to communicate with others who live in this fantastic community, or you need to find where to get a…well, you name it, the Neighbourhood Association’s got a place for you.

So come and visit, or if you live here, walk around – there’s so much to see and do. And if you’re so inclined, follow my WalkEatLive blog, or my tweets where I talk about places to walk and sightsee; healthy, fresh-made food; or other stories about the way we live and get the most out of life.

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.