Hot and Sweaty February Playlist

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Let’s face it, February is a dreary month. For the bulk of us it is cold and dark outside, and that jolt of motivation inspired by New Year resolutions is starting to wear off. There is, however, one wonderful thing about February (at least in my opinion): Valentine’s Day! Say what you will, but there is nothing I love more than an entire day devoted to celebrating love and romance. February is also a great time to start gearing up for swimsuit season. With all of this in mind, I am dedicating this month’s pump up playlist to all things love: spreading it, receiving it, and making it.

Could You Be Loved – Bob Marley – This song is a great tempo for starting up a workout, and it also reminds me of my favourite fitness film, Blue Crush. Nothing makes me work harder at the gym than thinking of Kate Bosworth as a kick butt surfer!

We Used to Be Friends – The Dandy Warhols - This is the perfect break up ballad. It says to me; “we’re over, and I’m going to be so much better off without you”. Getting into shape at the gym is a great place to start!

What Is Love – Haddaway - This tune by Haddaway is kitschy as heck, but it never gets old.

Billie Jean – Michael Jackson - So iconic. So fun.

 Hungry Eyes – Eric Carmen - This song is from one of the greatest love films of all time (in my opinion), Dirty Dancing. How could I not include it?

Oh, What a Night – The Four Seasons - “You know I didn’t even know her name, but I was never going to be the same. What a lady, what a night”.

Not in Love – Crystal Castles ft. Rob Smith - The high energy tempo of this song is perfect for a mid-workout pick-me-up!

Do I Wanna Know – Arctic Monkeys - The Arctic Monkeys are coming back strong. This song is so very sexy.

Sex on Fire – The Kings of Leon - I always like to show the Kings of Leon some love on my playlist, and this song is a perfect fit for Valentine’s Day.

No You Girls Never Know – Franz Ferdinand - This song epitomizes what it must feel like to date the high school bad boy…and this one happens to be an exchange student from Glasgow.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love – The Darkness - I would love to see this song performed live. The Darkness’ energy is so infectious!

Lovefool – The Cardigans - Would a playlist be complete without a great 90s throwback?

Love Long Distance – The Gossip - If you haven’t yet, google Beth Ditto, lead singer of The Gossip. She is one rocking chick. The song is pretty cool too.

Save Tonight – Eagle Eye Cherry - I love the idea of having a finite amount of time with someone and making the best of it. I think we have all been there at some point.

Love Rollercoaster – The Red Hot Chili Peppers - This song is so under-appreciated. I will always love the Peppers.

Geek in the Pink – Jason Mraz - I definitely have a soft spot for the geeks of this world. I love the idea of the underdog triumphing in the end. It’s also great motivation material!

Sexual Healing (Remix) – Marvin Gaye - This song reminds me of really dated sexual motifs: fur rugs, bath robes, and way too much bubbly. The tempo of this remix makes it perfect for a post-workout cool down.

 

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Hello 2014!

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Hi readers! If you have been wondering about my absence over the past little bit, I was not actually the victim of a turkey coma (quite common around this time of year), but was away on vacation in the beautiful little island of Curaçao! One of the wonderful things about travel is that without all of the stresses and distractions from our daily lives we are free to become a little more thoughtful and introspective. I also found some time to do a bit of yoga on the beach which is definitely something that I don’t get to indulge in at home in Canada!

All silliness aside, I think that it is always helpful to step back and evaluate our lives and selves at the start of a new year. January 1st is really just an arbitrary date on the calendar, but with the right approach it can also provide a blank slate and the opportunity for massive positive change. It is important, however, to approach your resolutions with an optimistic attitude. Don’t assume that they will only last a couple of weeks, because they will. Instead treat them as if they are sacred. When I was in high school I had a terrible habit of leaving my homework to the last minute. One New Year I made a single resolution not to procrastinate any longer. It was a big habitual shift at first, but I took it seriously and slowly became that irritating person that is gathering books for a research paper the day the project is assigned, seriously! Here are some of my goals for the coming year:

Stay informed. – I have the BBC set as my homepage on my computer, but I find that often I am in a rush to seek something specific, and skip right past it. This year I am going to try to devote some time every day to reading up on current events.

Read more books. – I love to read. You can hand me a book on just about anything and I will almost certainly devour it, however, I find that between studying, working, and all of the other things that life brings on I can sometimes neglect my reading time, viewing it as a luxury rather than a necessity. My plan for the year is to devote the 30 minutes before bed to reading for pleasure. Knowledge, after all, is power.

See the world. - I have been fortunate to do a fair bit of travelling in recent years, but I really want to put it on myself to make sure that I continue doing so. I think it is so important to immerse oneself in other cultures as frequently as possible. As far as I’m concerned, money spent on a trip is never money wasted.

Patience is a virtue. - I consider myself to be a highly driven person, but I am also a person who becomes frustrated when things don’t happen as I’d like them to almost immediately. It is really true that anything worth having takes a lot of time and a lot of work. I need to keep reminding myself of this daily. There is no quick fix for success.

Count my blessings every day. - Despite any hardships I may happen to come across, I am so very lucky. I have had so many opportunities in work, life, education, and travel that I would not trade for anything. Most importantly, I have an incredible group of friends and family who love me so very much. I think that a lot of us can often become fixated on what we don’t have rather than what we do, but it is so important to remind ourselves that there are always individuals who have it worse than us. Instead we should make a conscientious effort to stay fixated on the good, and try to bring good into the lives of others with less. If there is one truth that I have learned in recent years it is that when you project positivity it comes right back to you in amazing ways.

Of course, I also have many fitness goals (what kind of fitness blog would this be without them?). I am trying to get in better shape and have written down the first eight weeks of a six month plan. I also am considering doing another Half Marathon, and have registered for a Tough Mudder at the end of this summer! I will be sharing more of these with you over the coming months. I am really looking forward to starting 2014 on a great foot, and I hope you all are as well. I would love to hear about your resolutions as well. What are you planning for the New Year? My (virtual) door is always open for discussion.

Cheers, and Happy New Year! :)

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Booster Juice

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If you’re even remotely interested in health and wellness, or have an active Pinterest account, I’m sure that juicing has been on your radar for quite some time. It certainly has been on mine and like many, I was more than a little bit skeptical. After doing my due diligence and looking into it a bit (and also after watching a documentary called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead), I decided to make my first foray into juicing by purchasing a bottle of kale, pineapple, and orange juice from a Toronto juice bar. Staring at the green contents made me less than excited, but I gave it a try and was surprised to note that it was actually…kind of tasty? Excited about the possibilities that could ensue I suggested (asked, begged), that my parents buy me a juicer for Christmas. Having received it a couple of weeks early I was keen to experiment. With little juicing knowledge of my own I decided to use a quick guide from a friend (seen below), and blended my own version of “Greens 2″.

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The wonderful thing about juicing is that you can pack an inordinate amount of nutrients into one single glass. Like THIS many!!

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The key is to remember that when you juice you are still getting the bulk of the calories and sugars in your drink, so I would suggest focusing on lower calorie (but high nutrient) veggies, and adding in a sweeter fruit or two to prevent it from tasting too bitter. I also love the idea of using leafy greens like kale, parsley, and spinach, however being leaves they don’t yield too much juice. The majority of my juice came from the cucumber, celery, and apple.

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I wound up getting a centrifugal juicer, (also known as a “fast” juicer), because they are efficient and easy to clean. They also tend to be more economical. I’m sure that if I get really into it, however, I might feel the itch to purchase a “slow” masticating juicer.

How did my first home juicing attempt turn out? I wound up preparing my juice at around 5:00pm as an intended snack prior to dinner. I don’t want to come off sounding like “one of those people”, however, I truly felt a jolt of energy almost instantaneously after having a few sips. It is quite honestly more effective than a caffeine shot at waking you up! I was also quite shocked to discover that at 9:00pm (four hours later) I still was not hungry for dinner. This was the most miraculous part for me, as I am one of those people who ordinarily thrives off of three full meals daily (I’ve been known to get a tad hangry at times). It was also fairly tasty though, to be honest, I might up the sweetness ratio just a bit next time!

I think a glass of fresh nutritious juice would make a lovely breakfast option, and plan to employ it as such over the coming weeks. After all, is there any other way that you can pack THIS MANY nutrients into a morning meal?

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I will keep you posted on my progress, but I fear I might have switched to the dark side (the dark green side, that is). What are your thoughts on juicing? Do you have any recipe ideas? Let me know! :)

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Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers with Cucumber + Yogurt Sauce

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A couple of months ago I purchased Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest cookbook, It’s All Good and have been keen to try out some of the recipes. When I finally decided  to foray into Paltrow’s culinary realm last week I was, for some unexplicable reason, drawn toward a small nondescript recipe for Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers that had no accompanying photo. Intrigued, I gave it a shot and was surprisingly delighted with the results! Not only are these burgers super easy to make, but they are also incredibly healthy, and so full of flavour that I think I might still be able to taste them (not actually…that’s gross)!

Since I had so many leftover herbs from the first round, I made these twice. The first time I prepared them alongside the recommended NY Street Vendor Salad, but the second, lacking romaine lettuce, I got a little crafty and prepared my own salad using the same dressing. Not to toot my own horn, but I might actually prefer mine. I’ll post both though and leave the judgement up to the real experts, you guys. ;)

Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers

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Makes 4 large burgers, or 6 regular size.

2-4 shallots, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)

2 small cloves garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons dried oregano

8 large basil leaves

3 handfuls baby spinach

Zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound ground turkey

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

“Blitz the shallots, garlic, oregano, basil, spinach, lemon zest, salt, and pepper together in a food processor until finely chopped. Place the mixture in a large bowl along with the turkey and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Form the mixture into even sized patties and refrigerate for a few hours if you have extra time (to let the flavours settle in). Heat a grill pan to medium heat, brush the burgers with olive oil, and cook until firm to the touch and nicely browned” (Paltrow and Turshen 108).

Yogurt Sauce

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and finely diced

2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

Leaves from 2 sprigs of mint, finely sliced

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until blended.

I served mine with the yogurt sauce and the salad, and found the meal to be quite satisfying, but you could also serve them on a bun if you’re a bread junky! Also, these patties are eerily green before they’re cooked (and still quite green afterward, to be honest). Don’t be alarmed. This is simply because they are jam-packed with healthy leafy greens and herbs which contribute to their awesome flavour!

NY Street Vendor Salad

Serves four.

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1 large head of romaine lettuce, chopped

A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and diced

1/3 red onion, very thinly sliced

Yogurt-tahini dressing

Toss the lettuce with the dressing, distribute evenly onto plates, and top with the remaining ingredients.

Yogurt-Tahini Dressing

2 tablespoons tahini

1/4 cup boiling water

1/2 small garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup plain yogurt

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients until evenly distributed.

Nikki’s Salad Variation

Serves four.

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1 1/4 cups diced cucumber

1 cup diced cherry tomatoes

1/3 red onion, chopped

Yogurt-tahini dressing

Mix it all together and enjoy! Yup, it’s pretty darn simple, but aren’t the best things in life that way?

Just to be clear once again, the recipe for both the Burgers and the Street Vendor Salad came directly from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook. I plan to review the book in the near future, once I’ve had the opportunity to try out a few more recipes, however, my initial impressions are all good: I love that it’s all easy-to-make, healthy, gluten-free, and the art direction is stunning! Though I am sharing these recipes with you, the book is full of wonderful ideas, and I would definitely recommend picking up a copy for yourself!

Sources:

Paltrow, Gwyneth, and Julia Turshen. It’s All Good. New York, NY: Grand Central Life & Style, 2013. 108, 62. Print.

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Why We Should All Aspire to be a Little More Like Angelina Jolie

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There are many words that could be employed to describe Angelina Jolie. Actress, mother, sex symbol, husband thief, humanitarian, and possessor of the world’s most famous pair of lips are just a few that come to mind. She is most definitely a controversial figure, and before somebody jumps up and crucifies me, I will be quick to acknowledge that she has some demons in her past and has certainly made a few enemies over the years (ahem, Jennifer Aniston). If you are one of the many who err in favour of America’s Sweetheart, I will not apologize (as we are officially in the habit of channeling Angelina now), however, I will ask you to stick around and hear me out. Perhaps you will come to see that there is a little Angelina Jolie inside of all of us that you could afford to bring out from time to time. Without further ado, here are the reasons we should all be channeling Angelina Jolie:

#1 She does good things (and actually does them).

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Charity is hugely important, however, there are many different ways to be charitable. Donating money to a cause is certainly helpful, and if you have the means to and are doing so, I commend you. Angie herself splits her income equally between her savings, her life expenses, and her humanitarian efforts. There are so many other charitable things that all of us can do, however, which exist on an interpersonal level and carry huge meaning. These can be small things such as always making sure to hold the door for the person behind you, doing a favor for a neighbor, reading books to children to provide them with a love of learning and literature, whatever you can do to make this world a better place. What I really admire about Angelina is that she doesn’t stop at just putting her money (a considerable amount) toward a problem. She is actually in the trenches doing the dirty work: meeting people hailing from various circumstances all over the world, and making a tremendous difference. She is leveraging her position in a way that is enormously powerful. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

#2 She has started multiple movements.

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Another way that our girl Angelina leverages her influential position is by getting people to talk about important issues. She has sparked a huge movement toward adoption, shifting the public opinion from something that may have previously appeared to be a “last resort”, to perhaps a first choice. She has demonstrated the value of adoption, and that one must not necessarily have their own biological children to form a beautiful, loving, and rewarding relationship. She also announced a preventative double mastectomy in May, which brought attention to an under-the-radar issue. In fact, referrals to cancer genetic clinics tripled after she went public with her mastectomy. Incredible.

#3 She’s fit.

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Being a health and fitness blog, it seems fair that I would bring this up amidst all of her other accomplishments. The girl looks good. So good in fact, that the public paid $275 million to see her kicking butt as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. What I loved about her role in Tomb Raider is that she appeared incredibly fit and healthy, but not at all scary skinny. It is a body type that feels attainable, and sets a healthy standard for girls and women who may be trying to emulate famous actresses.

#4 She represents powerful women on film.

Angelina Jolie in Wanted.

One thing I love about Angelina is that the majority of the time she is kicking butt on film, and is doing so in a leading role. Watching her makes me want to channel my inner martial art goddess/stealth secret agent (yes, I have an inner secret agent somewhere…)

#5 She knows what works for her.

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It seems unlikely that you will ever catch Angelina looking ridiculous on the red carpet in an outlandish couture creation. That is because it just does not work for her, and she knows it. She has a trademark style: clean, classy, and always a little bit sexy. Many of the most iconic women throughout history have also developed a trademark style (think Audrey, Marilyn, Jackie). Knowing what works for you and making the most of it is an underrated skill.

And my primary reason…

#6 She does not care what you think about her…at all.

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How many of us constantly feel like we have to apologize for our decisions, conform to a social norm, or keep a key component of our lives or selves a secret? I’m willing to bet that most of us have felt these pressures, and have often succumbed to them. Angelina on the other hand does not appear to care what anyone thinks of her. Case in point: she has been married to three men. At her wedding to Jonny Lee Miller she wore a shirt with her husband’s name painted in her own blood, while married to Billy Bob Thornton (20 years her senior) she wore a vial with his blood around her neck, and she famously lured Brad Pitt away from his then wife Jennifer Aniston. She has also acquired numerous tattoos, adopted children from all over the world, and has taken on diverse film roles. After all of this, she still maintains a brazen “I don’t give a damn” composure, which is oh so enviable. Even amidst controversial rumors of adultery she held her head high, and continued to do her thing.

Arguably, this is the only way to achieve success, as legions of people can adore you, but there will always be somebody who dislikes you, or what you stand for. If you are keeping everybody happy all of the time you probably aren’t doing anything worth talking about. This past New Years I resolved to try to channel that attitude a little bit. When I am in a tough situation I now ask myself “What would Angelina do?” Perhaps it sounds silly, and I am by no means suggesting that you throw your moral code out of the window. What I mean by this is ask yourself “Is this what I truly want right now?” and “Is this what is best for me?” If it is, do it, and don’t let anybody try to tell you otherwise.

WWADPhoto courtesy of Shannon Hughes

I feel so strongly about this ideology that I even had matching “WWAD” bracelets custom made for my friend’s recent birthday (she is also an Angie fan). Perhaps they are a little bit silly, but it is just another daily reminder of how I want to live, and the type of person I aspire to be. I had them made by Tom Design (on Etsy), and would highly recommend working with them! One of my absolute favourite quotes is “Be the person you would be jealous of.” I am jealous of Angelina, she is amazing. However, I think what is even better is to aim to be the best possible version of myself, a woman who is cool, multi-faceted, charismatic, charitable, dynamic, artistic, smart, independent, confident, classy, eloquent, gracious, and loving. In short, myself with the best parts of Angie thrown in. :)

Which strong woman (or man) do you channel? I’d love to hear all about it!

Sources:

Burns, Roger. “Angelina Jolie Biography.” IMDB. IMDB, n.d. Web. 1 Dec 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001401/bio&gt;.

Hagan, Kate. “Breast cancer: Genetic testing soars after Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy.” The Sydney Morning Herald. The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 11 2013. Web. 1 Dec 2013. <http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/breast-cancer-genetic-testing-soars-after-angelina-jolies-double-mastectomy-20131112-2xelm.html&gt;.

Images:

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. N.d. Photograph. n.p. Web. 1 Dec 2013. <http://news.softpedia.com/newsImage/Angelina-Jolie-and-Brad-Pitt-3.jpg/&gt;.

Angelina Jolie honoured for her humanitarian work. 2012. Photograph. London Evening Standard, London, England. Web. 1 Dec 2013. <http://www.standard.co.uk/showbiz/celebrity-news/angelina-jolie-honoured-for-humanitarian-work-8156036.html&gt;.

Angelina Laughing. N.d. Photograph. n.p. Web. 1 Dec 2013. <http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/d8/60/1d/d8601d8bc197b1d591ddcabcdbba4118.jpg&gt;.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. N.d. Photograph. E! OnlineWeb. 1 Dec 2013. <http://ca.eonline.com/mvc/hudson/photos/2320/82945&gt;.

Oscars 2012 – Angelina Jolie shows leg in Versace. 2012. Photograph. EcorazziWeb. 1 Dec 2013. <http://www.ecorazzi.com/2012/02/27/oscars-2012-red-carpet-angelina-jolie-shows-leg-in-versace/&gt;.

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Staple Shrimp Salad

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Readers, it’s about time I introduced you to one of my good friends, the Staple Shrimp Salad. I initially constructed this recipe based on one of the best pieces of nutrition advice I ever received: build a colourful salad. This is a good guideline to follow, since different colours of fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients. This salad is super healthy, is full of delightful mediterranean flavour, and, because it is made of diced raw vegetables rather than sitting on a bed of leaves, it is extremely satisfying! It is also deceitfully easy to make. I usually prepare one large batch on a Wednesday evening, and pack it for lunch on Thursday and Friday. What a great way to end a week! Here’s how you build it:

 Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup diced cucumbers

1 cup diced tomatoes

1/4 cup canned chickpeas (rinsed)

1 cubed inch of feta cheese

8-10 de-thawed, frozen shrimp

1 tbsp butter

1 clove minced garlic (optional)

Dressing:

1 tbsp extra light tasting olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2-1tbsp honey mustard (to taste)

1 pinch of salt

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1. After dicing the cucumbers and tomatoes dump them both into a medium-sized bowl. Add the chickpeas, and crumble the feta cheese on top.

2. Heat up the butter on a small pan, and add the garlic. Once the garlic begins to cook add in the shrimp and cook them through. This time around I did caramelized brown butter shrimp. To follow suite, leave your butter on the stove top until it turns light brown and begins to give off a sweet scent (watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn)!

3. Add the shrimp and the dressing ingredients to your bowl, toss the salad, and enjoy!

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There you have it. It’s really as easy as 1, 2, 3! You can also dress it up or pare it down, to suit your caloric and dietary needs:

Dress it Up: You can dress up this salad with additional ingredients such as nuts or avocado (bear in mind that these add additional calories)!

Pare it Down: This salad only rings you up at about 320 calories, but if you are looking to reduce this amount further you can get away with cutting out the feta cheese, although it adds such a wonderful flavour, doesn’t it?

Lift Factor:

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Taste Factor:

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Fit Factor:

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At about 17 grams, this salad isn’t as dense in protein as a chicken breast or protein shake might be, however, it is still quite a bit for one meal, and it is also low calorie (only about 320 calories),  highly satisfying, and provides a lot of nutritional goodness from all of those veggies!

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Cold Weather, Hot Body Playlist

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 This month I am doing some tough workouts to tone up for my December vacation, and have created a playlist full of high energy songs to keep me going in this dreary Canadian weather. If you are anything like me you probably have a great deal of “guilty pleasure” songs that you reserve solely for the domain of fitness. These songs are perhaps not the most credible on the trendy music scene, but they certainly get you moving! With that being said: here is my guilty-pleasure-gets-you-moving-playlist for the month of November!

Work B___h – Britney Spears – Who better than the comeback queen herself to chime about working hard for your successes? This is the perfect song to put you in the right mindset for a gruelling workout.

Push It – Salt N Pepa – A little sexy, a little cheesy, and a lot of fun. I love this song!

Sexy B___h – David Guetta ft. Akon – Anybody who knows me well knows that this is my ultimate guilty pleasure song. I can’t help but dance when it plays in a club!

Do What You Want – Lady Gaga ft. R. Kelly – Lady Gaga’s latest hit has a super cool beat.

Con Locura – Sua ft. Jiggy Drama – I have been listening to a tonne of Spanish songs lately. They are almost always high energy, and help me envision myself vacationing somewhere exotic (talk about motivation)!

Dance With Me – 112 – Not Justin Timberlake, but it sounds a great deal like him!

Reflektor – Arcade Fire – This Canadian band always delivers the goods, and they recently announced that people will have to wear formal attire for their upcoming tour (awesome).

Monster – Eminem ft. Rihanna – Who isn’t addicted to this song right now?

Vamos a la Playa – Miranda – Guilty pleasure, one hit wonder, Spanish, fits the bill!

Lovumba – Daddy Yankee – See “Con Locura”.

Goodbye – Glenn Morrison ft. Islove – This song has been stuck in my head all week, and I found out the name just in time to include it here!

Capable – KO – This song has made the cut multiple times. It has a cool “I don’t care” attitude, perfect for pumping some iron.

Madness – Muse – I always have to throw some Muse into the mix. I think this is my favourite song of theirs yet.

Radioactive – Imagine Dragons – I’m even more into their latest hit “Demons”, however, this song has a great tempo for working out. I usually save it for toward the end, when I’m doing some core or need an extra push when I’m finishing up my weights.

Midnight City – M83 – For whatever reason this song brings with it a sense of closure in my mind. I love it for finishing a long run on a high note, or doing some dynamic stretching right at the end of my workout.

That’s all. Hopefully I introduced you to something new, or reminded you of something you’ve forgotten! What are your ultimate “guilty pleasure” workout songs? Let me know!

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Have a Conversation with Wally Lamb: Check!

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Though it was mentioned on my Life List, having a conversation with Wally Lamb was one of those more abstract goals that I didn’t actually anticipate would come into fruition. I think there is something to be said for putting your desires out into the universe, however, because once I started sharing my goals, truly incredible things have happened! For those of you who don’t know who he is, Wally Lamb is an extremely successful author, best known for his Oprah’s Book Club picks “She’s Come Undone”, and “I Know This Much Is True”. He also happens to be my all-time favourite author. His novels are beautiful, character-driven, and extremely relatable. Thanks to a kind friend who alerted me, I was lucky enough to meet him in Toronto today, where he was doing a book signing of his latest work, “We Are Water”. Wally surpassed my already high expectations. He is such a genuine and thoughtful person, traits which are evident in his prose.

Aside from being blessed with the opportunity to be in his presence, I also get to cross “Have a conversation with Wally Lamb” off of my Life List! With the chilly winter months approaching perhaps I’ll work on “Snowboard somewhere other than Ontario” next? The possibilities are endless!

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Review: Nike Studio Wrap Pack

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As many of you know I am always on the lookout for the latest Nike product, and when I caught word of these studio shoes, I knew I had to have them. I think a small part of every girl has wished at one point or another that they were a ballerina, and these shoes allow you to indulge that desire in a practical way. They come in a three part system with a “base” that has grips on the soles, ribbons to dress them up if you so choose, and durable ballet flats that can be worn overtop, or separately. You can view and purchase the entire pack here.

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The release of these shoes is rather timely as, in an effort to amp up my workout regimen, I have recently introduced weekly yoga classes back into my workouts. Fitness is all about balance, and flexibility is a huge aspect of overall fitness, which is often neglected. I have worn these three times now: once during an at-home yoga video, once to a leisurely class at my gym, and this past weekend during a more intense hot yoga session.

Overall I am a big fan: they offer a barefoot feel, but the grips provide stability, which enables you to push yourself further in challenging positions. I will admit, however, that they took a bit of getting used to. The biggest part for me was becoming accustomed to having something between my toes whilst exercising. They were also a little test-y during hot yoga, when any extra clothing feels like baggage. I definitely would not recommend wearing the ribbons to a hot yoga class! On a positive note: they are comfortable, adorable, and the ability to throw on the ballet flats overtop as I’m walking out the door is an unexpected luxury. They are also a great conversation piece; I’ve already made a few new friends who have inquired about them! :)

Final verdict: I adore, and would definitely recommend them. Now, I’m off to put these to good use!

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Gluten-Free Pistachio Cheesecake

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I realize that this is a health blog first and foremost, but I am a firm believer that part of leading a healthy lifestyle is allowing yourself to indulge every once in a while. It may sound corny, but balance really is the key! I created this cake for my mom’s birthday a couple of months ago, inspired by our recent trip to California, and am proud to say that it was a huge hit with the family! The smooth buttery crunch of the crust, paired with the sweet creaminess of the cheesecake are so delightful that, really, it would be unfair of me not to share it with you guys. I used this recipe as a starting point, but didn’t really like the idea of a Jell-O cake, so started to innovate about halfway through.

I also designed this recipe as being gluten-free, since I have no choice (see my note on gluten at the bottom), however, you can certainly substitute a regular flour in for the crust if you so please! Here it goes:

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 1/2 cups of gluten-free flour (I used Robin Hood’s Gluten-Free Flour Blend – it has a nutty flavour that pairs really nicely with the pecans!)
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

Cheesecake:

  • 16 oz. cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup raw pistachios
  • small carton of Cool Whip (optional)
  • green food colouring (optional)

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Making the Crust:

  • blend the two sticks of butter, 2 1/2 cups of gluten-free flour, and 3/4 cup of chopped pecans together
  • spread on the bottom of your dish (I used a 12” wide metal cheesecake pan), and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on which size dish you use) at 350 degrees until light golden brown
  • let the crust cool completely

Making the Cheesecake:

  • mix the 16 oz. of cream cheese and two cups of powdered sugar together in a blender
  • pour in 3/4 cups of pistachios and pump until there are no more chunks
  • if you want the cheesecake to be green you can also add some green food colouring at this point. You only need a few drops to achieve the desired effect..otherwise it might start to look otherworldly!
  • spread this mixture on top of the cooled crust and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • when you are ready to serve it you can put a dollop of Cool Whip in the middle of the cake if you’d like (or serve it on the side), and I also like to garnish the cake with the raw pistachios because they look oh so pretty. I definitely recommend playing with the proportions in this recipe…make it your own! You can also use this as a jumping off point to mix in whichever flavour you might like. I blended pistachios into my cake, but what about bananas and melted dark chocolate?, puréed strawberries?, the possibilities are endless! Let me know what you come up with. :)

I’ll leave you with a close-up just in case you weren’t convinced yet that this cake might be the key to euphoria… ;)

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Lift Factor: 1heart

 

Taste Factor:4heart

 

Fit Factor:1heart

[A Note About Gluten]

I was recently diagnosed as having a gluten allergy, also known as celiac disease. I have been highly iron deficient my entire life and what I learned after going through a series of tests is that if you are allergic to gluten, it can damage the villi along your small intestine, resulting in the malabsorption of nutrients. I have been entirely gluten-free for almost four months now, and it really has changed my life for the better. One of the most tangible examples of this is my Iron levels which were at a mere 12 in June (with Iron supplements), and are now up to a happy 46 without supplementation (and still climbing)! I’ve also noticed less quantifiable changes such as increased energy, a better complexion, easier weight maintenance, etc. It is certainly not always easy. I’ve had two instances where I’ve had to run to a grocery store after entering a sushi restaurant with friends to buy gluten-free soy sauce (thanks for being so patient with me guys)! With that being said, it is definitely a worthwhile sacrifice, and if you are experiencing any symptoms that you suspect might be related I would definitely recommend consulting your doctor. You can also free free to ask me any questions if you’re curious. I’ve been putting a lot of research into all of this, so I might be able to help! :)

I have also been trying to, and recommend, making healthy gluten-free choices as opposed to buying a lot of the crummy substitute products. I will make my best effort to lead by positive example on this blog, so that you don’t wind up feeling deprived in the least!

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