Spring Forward

This past winter has felt like the longest of my life. It's the first full winter I've spent in the Ottawa/Montreal region, and it was in the range of -30 for two months and I've never wanted to feel the warmth of the sun more intensely. I surely would have escaped to a all-inclusive vacation destination by now if I wasn't planning and budgeting for a wedding this summer!

Here are a the ways I'm improving the ongoing experience of this slow and painful ascent into springtime temperatures.

Learning to run using the Couch Potato to 5K app.

I'm not in terrible shape. I can complete an hour long high-intensity zumba class, I don't get out of breath running up stairs, and I routinely do some sort of exercise on a weekly basis. But when it comes to jogging, I last literally one minute before I get tired and just simply do not want to go on. It's partly motivation and partly technique, I'm sure.

This past fall we purchased a treadmill which has ended up being a great decision. Winters are cold and long and extremely snowy where I live, so getting outside to exercise isn't easy. So upon recommendation of my friend Heather (sidenote: check her design work out here) I am trying the Couch Potato to 5K app. The program is based on a book of the same name from the 1990's, and it is designed to get just about anyone running 5 kilometers or 30 minutes in 9 weeks. The philosophy is to get you running a little bit at a time, to ease you into the routine of doing it, stretching your skill and ability over time, until you've taught your body how to run. For me, it's been working quite well, and I'm finding that exercising to the point of sweaty exhaustion has been the best way to beat the winter blues.

The app is $2.29 and it has a number of great helpful features to get you moving and keep you motivated. Check it out here.

Retail Therapy/Buying floral denim. 

Speaking of the 1990's...

Floral denim is a perfect wardrobe transition item because they feel spring-like and fresh but they're also warm enough when it's only +2 outside and you probably should still actually be wearing winter clothes. Like these ones? Check out Maker's Denim, a Montreal-based denim company online for where-to-buy.

Virtual travel

Still life with flowers in a glass vase, Jan Davidsz. de Heem, 1650 - 1683

Travel isn't prioritized in the budget right at the moment on account of various tent rentals and catering deposits, but I'm still travelling online and a favourite destination of the moment is the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum is a Netherlands national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. Their website is an incredible and vast resource of inspiration for me. And speaking of floral print...the Rijks has undertaken an ambitious digitization project, putting over 130,000 images of their collection online royalty-free.  What is especially cool about the Rijks Studio project (check it out here www.rijksmuseum.nl/rijksstudio) is that users are encouraged to download the high-resolution images and create products with them, remix them, or use them however they wish.

Listen to New Music

The XX album is one of my favourite things of the past few years, and I never tire of listening to it. Jamie XX's  debut solo album In Colour is due out June 1, and some tracks have been released online in advance. Check out the video for "Loud Places" below.

I can't wait to go on a nice summer evening walk and listen to the whole of this album through earbuds.

Other things I'm into right now:
Broad City  - watch full episodes online in Canada here.
Bucket handbags. - practical and fresh
XXYYXX - XXYYXX - a good album to listen to in the office.
Chanel Spring 2015 Couture - colour/shape/graphic


Winter Lifesaver: Throat Tea

In the cold snowy winter months I find I get a very sore throat. I think it's mostly from the dry heat (I've got electric heat in my place) and I find it sometimes difficult to sleep, no matter how much water I drink.

This morning I made up a batch of what I call Throat Tea. I'm not sure where I got the recipe from, but I've been using it for years and nothing cures a sore throat faster! I'm feeling good as new now that I'm having my large mug full.

I made it recently for my fiancé and even he remarked,

"Whoa, this stuff really works!"

So I thought I'd share my recipe.

Throat Tea

1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother 
Juice of half a lemon (or about 1 tablespoon from a bottle)
1 teaspoon of honey (preferably local)
1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon loose herbal tea

As to what kind of tea to use, I used Seven Sisters peppermint today. Chamomile is also nice and soothing, or try any herbal tea you prefer, but stay away from kinds with natural or artificial added flavours. Use herbal tea because they are not dehydrating like caffeinated teas. Using natural herbal teas is the most soothing to the throat and any added ingredients or caffeine will have an opposite effect.

Start by boiling water, and in the meantime add the other ingredients to a very large mug. I use a super extra large one, so the recipe is probably more like a recipe for two cups. As for the ginger, I buy the large pieces of fresh ginger and keep it in the freezer until I want to use it. This keeps it fresh and it's very easy to shave off pieces. You can grate the ginger with a grater, or just shave off thin slices with a knife. Fresh lemon juice is best, but in a pinch use the kind in the bottle as I did today.

Pour just-boiled water over the concoction and stir to mix. Leave for about 5 minutes to steep and stir again, and drink while hot.

Ginger, honey, and lemon in water is a classic sore throat remedy, but the addition of pure unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar boosts this drink's antibacterial properties which can help neutralize infections in the throat that cause pain.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think.


Product Review: Seven Sisters Tea

It's a chilly -20 degrees in Vankleek Hill today.

It rained yesterday, and it's icy everywhere, the whole town is like a skating rink. I ventured outside only to pop over to the pharmacy, and since I work from home I can spend the rest of the day bundled up inside.

Once I came back in and got ready to settle into my afternoon in front of the computer working, I decided to brew up some of the Seven Sisters loose-leaf tea I have been given.

I received four teas to sample. I requested a creamy earl grey, a peppermint, and two surprises.

The first I tried is the Cream of Avalon, which Seven Sisters sent along to fit my creamy earl grey request.

The Cream of Avalon is a, "high grown Ceylon delightfully blended with creamy caramel, oil of bergamot and grapefruit notes," and it's lovely, creamy as the name suggests, and has a hint of sweetness hidden in the delightful tartness typical of a black tea.

The oil of bergamot is the flavour typical in earl grey teas and ads a mysterious floral taste that is just perfect.

One reason I love this tea is it tastes great hot or cold. I love an iced tea (unsweetened please!) and I think part of that love grew from a habit of making a giant cup and only drinking half of it before it got cold on my desk...but I still drink the rest. I regularly make unsweetened ice tea and keep it in the fridge, it's a perfect pick-me-up in the hot summer months, or even in the winter when you wake up feeling dry (especially if you have electric heat like me).

Today I'm making a smaller cup, so I can try all of the varieties! It's the perfect excuse to use my vintage mid-century Wedgwood tea cup and saucer I found at a thrift shop.

I also love my Ikea Vagrat tea strainer. So cute and functional!

I mentioned earlier that I also requested a peppermint tea to try. Peppermint is my favourite variety of herbal tea. A proper peppermint tea is made with peppermint leaves only (no artificial flavours please!)

Peppermint tea is cooling and uplifting, a great refreshing tea. It's helpful for digestion, so if you've had a heavy lunch and are feeling drowsy, this is the tea for you.

I mentioned that I asked to be surprised with the other two teas and wow, the third tea I opened definitely surprised me! It's not something I would smell and pick up for myself, so it was nice to be given it to try. The Lapsang Souchong black tea is a, "unique black tea from the Fujian province in China [which] is dried over pine embers and oxidized in wooden barrels creating a smooth crisp character with the remarkable and heady aroma of a pine and oak wood fire."

The scent of smoke is the first thing you notice when you open the tin of this brew. Smoke isn't generally a flavour I find appealing, though in small amounts I can appreciate it.

The story goes that this tea was created during the Qing era when the passage of armies delayed the annual drying of the tea leaves in the Wuyi Mountain. Eager to satisfy demand, the tea producers sped up the drying process by having their workers dry the tea leaves over fires made from local pines.(source).  

I'm surprised to say I really enjoyed this tea. Though the smoky aroma of the tea in the tin was too much for me, once it was brewed, the smoke flavour becomes more subtle as the citrus, clove, and vanilla flavours come forward, in this earthy tea that is perfect on this chilly winter day.

Click here to see a recipe video for a cocktail using smoked tea and mezcal, an agave spirit similar to tequila, that also has a smoky flavour. I'll admit I haven't actually tried it, but my instinct is to mix an iced Lapsang Souchong tea with rum and orange flavours. I found a similar recipe to that instinct here in the form of a smoky Manhattan. I'm putting that cocktail on the to-try list!

The last tea I'm trying today is a herbal blend, what Seven Sisters call the Yogitea.

The Yogitea is a calming tea that I think would also be really lovely as an iced tea. It has strong citrus scent and the spearmint flavour is also quite pronounced. This tea contains citrus peel, chamomile, orange blossoms, lemongrass, spearmint, hibiscus and rosehips.

It would make a lovely tea for after a yoga class, is that where the name comes from? Who knows, but I can imagine the calm meditative mindset would pair well with this tea which is rich in flavour but still subtle and soothing.

The Seven Sisters website lets you order their wide range of loose leaf teas, tea infusers, and other accessories online, and also has a great blog with all sorts of recipes from tea-infused beer (um...that sounds like a yes to me) to tea-infused salad dressing! The Seven Sisters company is run by Markcol, a small independent Canadian coffee and tea company based in Bowmanville, Ontario.

Read more about the health benefits tea on Canadian Living.com.
Read more about the health benefits of various herbal teas.
Suffering from winter skin? Read about how chamomile tea can help.


Looking Ahead to 2015

2014 was a big year for me. A year ago I was moving to a new (tiny) town, starting a new job, and moving in with my boyfriend of a year and a half and hoping for the best.

In that year I've travelled to Halifax and Las Vegas for fun, Toronto, Edmonton, Essex Vermont and Montreal for work, and all across Ontario on a regular basis for visits with people I care about. It's been busy and fulfilling and fun. And I've grown to adore this tiny town I now call home. 

And while in Las Vegas, I got engaged to my favourite person ever.

So 2015 looks like it will be a doozie. I've decided to focus on my own creativity in 2015, in spending time getting various ideas I've had for a while moving again. Since planning our wedding is my major project for the year, I want to take on limited volunteer work or projects that I'm not totally passionate about to make time and energy available to myself. 

I want to spend more time reading books, and less time reading things on the Internet. Unplugging is important. I received a copy of Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women for Xmas and it reminded me how much I enjoy short stories...especially good now that my attention span is so short. I want to read more short stories and possibly write some as well. 

I want to draw more, write more, create more, blog more, and so on. I definitely intend to focus on my output being more consistent and not just for specific needs, but also for relaxation. Sometimes it's hard to disconnect from consuming content and remember it's just as relaxing for me to create it as it is to quietly consume it.

As for career goals, this year I want to get around to creating an online portfolio and have already started building it. Otherwise in this area I think 2015 will be fairly stable as I plan to focus on other areas more. For too many years in a row I've been overly concerned with career development. It's time to focus on personal creative development. 

I guess I see planning a wedding as part of that too. That's creative and part of my personal life as well. I am just pinning like mad and the vision is starting to come together. 

I'll share my projects here when appropriate but be sure to follow me on my other social sites as I travel through my 35th year. 

Happy New Year to you! 
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