Sparrow in the Tree Top
Find your song and sing it
July 22, 2014

dock-at-cottage

Blogging has been frustrating me lately. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s summer and there’s so much else I’d rather be doing, but I’m finding it hard to sit down and hammer “it” all out.

Sometimes I get bogged down with the echo that a  blog has to “be” something… it’s like the Rat Race of the internet world. For me, that’s when it becomes overwhelming. To be honest, sometimes (especially when you know, Life) the thought of sitting down to create perfectly polished content takes the fun out of it for me.  Right now I’ve got a lot of really beautiful to-do items on my brain, but I don’t like the idea of blasting wedding stuff all the time – because I think that can come off as pretentious – and a bit “GETTING MARRIED IS THE ONLY THING.” And then otherwise I’m like… “Heyyyyy. Here are my half drafted thoughts.” TakemeasIam.)

You see this is me at my core; I’m a bit of a happy-go-lucky-pinteresty-photo-taking-cynic – because a good blogger doesn’t really show the un-composed side. Sure she might show the “real” side, but un-composed? Unedited. Never.  It’s a curse and a blessing in regular real life for me – because I’m really transparent which can either bring you waaaayyy down or it can let people know that you’re on the same side. As in, we’re all un-edited; I mean, I truly get that. And I like to think it keeps me grounded…It’s probably also why I have a small (but amazing!) circle of blog readers – I’m thinking I’m not main stream enough for the analytics kick-backs. (Funny story; one time I actually had analytics. (What? That’s the end of the story.)

And that’s ok because blogging doesn’t, despite what the “blogger-psychoanalysts” say (how are there all of a sudden so MANY of them), have to be about validation. It really doesn’t. That’s why, in my world, it’s a hodgepodge of stuff; it’s baking and DIY and long rants about life like maybe about changing your name or dropping out of school.

Sometimes I have fun editing pictures and being useful to someone out there in the great wide world, but much of the other time I like the idea that a blog is a blog – nothing more, nothing less. That’s probably why they called it a “blog”; the world’s most nondescript, sloppy, and arcane sounding name. I’ve never been the sort of blogger to fine tune content that “takes my readers into consideration” – when I get to that point, I always think to myself, it’s time to take a bit of a step back from the whole beautifully edited world that is the internet.  And so I did.

But I came back.

We always do, don’t we? (Except for “Project: Baby Blog” (remember!?)…. she’s been gone a long time now… it kind of makes me nervous… like you’ll never know where she’ll pop up. Kidding! #bloghumour)

So you see. This is the sort of random-ish rant piece you get when I don’t write regularly.  In the back of my head earlier today was like… “oh yea, you have all those posts you’re supposed to do.” Until the reality check kicked in and I remembered:

A blog is a blog.

And sometimes it looks a lot like this. ^^^

July 9, 2014

Pickled-Radishes

Radishes on their own aren’t my absolute favourite, but enter some vinegar, garlic and pickling spices? Something in the world happens and the end result is what has quickly become my favourite summer condiment.

This recipe is super quick and easy to throw together. I love how the colours bleed a bit when it’s all mingling in the jar. And because the colour is so rich this is a great little side for a summer plate – I love it with corn on the cob, sausages or a pulled pork sandwich.

pickled-radishes pickled-radishes pickled-radishes pickled-radishespickled-radishes

Pickled Radishes

Pickled Radishes

Ingredients

  • One bunch of fresh radishes (about 10 in total - thinly sliced)
  • 2 teaspoons pickling spice
  • 6 cloves of garlic, whole and unpeeled
  • 2 cups of white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar

Instructions

  1. Trim and clean radishes and garlic.
  2. Add to jar with vinegar, pickling spices, sea salt and sugar.
  3. Close Jar and shake to dissolve sugar.
  4. It's recommended to refrigerate and marinate for 3 days before serving, but we've eaten them within about 6 hours and the result is still pretty tasty!
  5. stays good in jar for about a month
http://sparrowinthetreetop.com/food-fare/pickled-radishes/

recipe is a variation of this one here on Epicurious.

What’s on your BBQ table this summer?

July 8, 2014

Hey there speedsters. This is the Second instalment of The Need for Speed Runner’s Clinic on Sparrow in the Tree Top. I’m on a mission to pick apart the art of digging deep and finishing strong. The first post in this series was about using your mind to get  faster. Today’s post is all about physical Strength training. Join me! 

Need-for-speed-running-clinic

And just like that, the Need for SPEED is BACK.

If you’ll recall, it’s the series I started (ahem over a month ago now) to get to the bottom of speeding up your running pace. It’s been a bit of a lapse in time and I’ll come clean about why; I’ve been dreading this post. Mostly because I’m a big believer in “practice what you blog” (or blog what you practice, whatever way you want to put it) and strength is not something that I feel I practice enough.

Needforspeed2And when it comes to blogging I feel like there are so many other qualified experts you could look to to tell you about strength training. (Like is it just me or is Jen a total superstar?)

This isn’t to say I don’t understand the value of strength training. I understand full well, that if I want to get faster, I should be doing more of it. I think I’ve known this for awhile, but it was even further grilled into my running brain when I interviewed Brian Mckenzie, who is the guy behind Crossfit Endurance, last year for iRun. Anyway. I’m on board. Just someone tell me how to like, embrace the buffet. (Talk about mental blocks for running, who knew they existed when you weren’t, you know… running.)

So where I’ve got a lack lustre track record, I make-up for in knowledge. And in terms of strength training (including with weights) here are some rules and lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1. Strong back, strong legs: In my opinion, a strong back is the most underrated muscle group for runners. Strong backs keep it all in line; as in, your hamstrings stabilized and your core muscles in place. If you’ve got tight or pulled hamstrings, it’s more then often related to the strength of your back.

2. Dead-lifts are a runner’s best friend: Closely related to #1, the deadlift is a great weight-lifting exercise for runners. I’m not going to go into the mechanics here (since I’m anything but qualified from walking you through one), but if you work out at a gym or have a go-to trusted source for instructional exercises, I’d recommend you learn how to do a deadlift properly, and do it often. Deadlifts work muscles that are a runner’s best friend: including the lower back, the glutes and hamstrings. When you strengthen this group, you can drive it home when you tell yourself to turn it on; I’m serious, when my mind says “Kick-it” at the end of a race, this is the part of the body I’m speaking to.

3. Strong core, strong mind: If you read my first post in this series, you’ll know how big of a part I feel the mind plays in becoming a faster runner. I can’t say it loudly enough, but guts are more or less tied to your frame of mind. And literal guts are likewise related. One winter I did the Ab-Ripper X work-out about 3x a week and I’m not exaggerating, it’s the only time in my running life that I can say I actually felt stronger. Like sometimes I’m aware I’m building muscle, but this time, I could feel it when I turned a sharp corner or when I bent over to pick things up, and I stood taller, literally. Strong core muscles make you feel strong and when you feel strong, you act strong. As in, you tell yourself to run faster and you do.

4. Don’t Overkill it: This one might be contested among the more hard-core cross fitters out there, but I would argue, there’s a time for strength-training, and I don’t think it’s all the time. I think weight training is a good thing throughout the year, but when you are taking it to the next level in a lead up to a race, I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing to back-off on the weights while you focus on a strict regime.

5. Don’t be afraid of Weight: Is it common knowledge now that heavier weights won’t make you bulky? I remember that’s what I thought until recently. I was a bit under-educated in the gym (I usually stuck to the treadmill or elliptical) and when I went to use the weight machines, I’d barely put enough on. I’d get done 20 reps and think “That was easy.” More weight is good (once you’ve worked up to it of course, gradually) and it won’t make you bulky. Make your effort worth it!

6. Move with intention: If you’re doing strength exercises, they need to be controlled but at the same time involve ballistic intent. The purpose behind the burst of strength within the movement is to really foster the fast-twitch muscles. That’s what I learned from x-fit anyway :) I’m still working on this one but I have to admit it’s my most favourite part of the weight regime. I love the idea of pushing it like I own it with a hercules-type of movement.

7. If you can’t do the Weights, put in the fab four: I had to put this in because let’s be honest, the gym still intimidates me and my attendance is patchy. If I’m trying to make myself feel better, I know that there are four things I can do from the house that will help (not to the same degree as a proper weight program but it’s a pacifier): Abs, arms, squats and prone. Oh and the often over-looked runner’s calf lift.

Well. I made it through this post. I have to admit, I’m kind of reinvigorated about the whole thing. It’s a pretty busy summer so I found it hard to stick to a gym routine (it’s way easier to just take 45 minutes for a run when I get home and not have to drive anywhere) but hopefully in the Fall I can come back to the basics again. I’d love to see if it could help me shave some time off of some of the Fall races I have planned!

Need for Speed

What about you? Is strength training something you’ve found to help you get faster?

July 7, 2014

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I’m not really in the habit of weekend recap posts, but yesterday as I hauled shelves from our fridge in the garage into our backyard, where I sat and scrubbed exploded-beet, while wearing a sunhat, rubber gloves and a tube maxi dress yanked up and tucked into jean shorts, it dawned on me that this weekend doesn’t really fit anywhere into normal.

The maxi dress? Avoiding tan lines.

The jean shorts? Trying to avoid beet-back-splash from the hose.

The exploded beet? Do I really have to get into that one?

We live in the suburbs. Our backyard is a television of sorts for the neighbours. It probably looked a little like a massacre happened in our house and I was too stupid to conceal it by cleaning up the evidence in the laundry room tubs in our basement.

I have to re-wind a bit to Saturday around 3 pm when I had my second dress fitting. Yay! Except not yay in the least. You might recall the first fitting. It was a weird experience. I showed up on Saturday with a  smile on my face. When she opened the door to let me into her house, I said cheerfully “Hi how are you?!”

Good.” Was her response. And then she slammed the door behind me.

Clearly she was lying.

At any rate, the fitting ended with me in tears in the car sitting in front of her house. My dress in a pile in the back of our Honda. I’m trying to keep my cool as I explain to the dress shop that referred me,

“WHY WOULD YOU SEND ANYONE TO SEE THIS WOMAN?!”

Fast-forward:
Dress-shop brings me in, sets me up with a new seamstress. Lovely lady; goes by Hung. Hung says we’re good to go and will have the rest of it wrapped up by August 1.

And then it’s 8 pm Saturday night I’m filing into Bluesfest and by 9 pm Lady Gaga is on a stage in front of me owning a thong-body suit:

“WHAT’S UP MOTHER F**%&*RS?”

“YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL TONIGHT. I LOVE YOUR SPIRIT.”

And suddenly the night is beautiful and clear. The sunset is perfect. Enter feeling of calmness, happiness, erasing memories of basement where Lebanese woman was yelling at me about gaining weight.

Sunday was a new day, as Sunday often is.

It’s productive. I made the world’s most moist chocolate cake. With rich coca. Zucchini. Chocolate chips. It’s vegan. It’s to die for.

It’s now in Cliff’s stomach.

(why don’t I learn?! Why do I never learn.)

It’s 7pm I’m on the phone with emergency vet services:

He’s about 90lbs.”

I dunno he looks fine. He’s starring at me right now.”

Well it started with a ¼ cup of coca…. Yea but he only got about ¼ of the cake.”

Well everything on the internet says he’s going to die and go into kidney failure.”

Ok vomiting and diarrhea? I’ll call you back if any of the above happens.”

It didn’t. And we’ve all recovered. I realized this morning while in the shower that I still had some of the beet back-splash on my legs. And that’s when it hit me that it was just the strangest sort of weekend.

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July 4, 2014

20140704-091109-33069520.jpg(Just a girl and her dog #summerlovin ^^)

I inadvertently tucked another item off of my summer of 29 list! Which if you haven’t been following, was my attempt at trying to do some things for me this the summer dubbed whirl-wind of life. It was Canada Day when I got to jump in the lake for the first time (and hopefully not only time); I had made it Number 8 on the list of things I really wanted to do before the summer was up and I turned 30! Apparently I’m not the only one wanting to carve out a bit of time for just me. Alicia from JayBird blog has got a “Wanna List” going on (as in, forget your typical “Bucket List” extreme and let’s just try and tackle space for things that are simply gratifying). It’s something I’m continually trying to remind myself since the I know in the back of my head that “life is really what happens when you’re busy making other plans” but it’s harder to commit to real-life when things are busy all around you. If there’s anyone out there doing the same, I’d love to hear your take on stopping and smelling the roses.

Having my picture taken while wearing a bathing suit makes me squeamish. (not just me? Ok good.) So needless to say, there’s not usually to much proof of me swimming. But actually, I LOVE the water. I love floating and just staring at the sky. And I love it when it’s so hot outside that jumping in is the biggest relief. So self-confidence, be dammed, picture be proof. And summer of 29? I love you.

July 2, 2014

canadaday

(Canada Day in Ottawa on Anniversary 1)

Yesterday around 10:00 am while we were in the midst of staying really still in the sweltering heat, I realized it was our five year anniversary. This was an important discovery since I got to bring it up first, which of course gave me free reign to say. “I can’t believe you forgot our anniversary.” (Winner!)

It’s always funny to look back on how as a couple you got together and analyze that moment that you decided you were going to stay together. For Mike and I it happened on Canada Day. Yesterday’s weather was a lot like the first Canada Day we spent together – that was the day we spent the morning wandering around downtown Ottawa (which is awesome on Canada Day and everyone has to do it at some point!) and we found ourselves caught on Parliament Hill during a torrential downpour, the likes of which you only see in movies like the NoteBook. We weren’t in Ottawa yesterday, but just after lunch there was a Tornado warning for the entire area (which luckily didn’t amount to anything) and I think from every Canada Day here on out, especially if it’s stormy, I’ll always wonder who else might be on Capital Hill starting something beautiful.

Here are Five Things I’ve noticed about Five years: 

1. Time goes by way too quickly. That first Canada Day we spent together seems like yesterday.

2. I know a lot about you, but I’m still learning things everyday.

3. I remember who I am with you; I feel like my own person and that’s really important to me.

4. I’ve learned how to compromise on who gets to choose the movie we’re going to watch.

5. There’s still so many exciting things in store for us, and I’m not just talking about this summer.

mike

June 30, 2014

family

(Summertime lovin’ circa 1985; sister, sister, me!^^)

Let me just first say that I’m loving this heat we have going on in Ottawa right now. This morning I walked out of the house in a sleeveless dress – it was the first time this summer and the sticky morning air felt not disgusting but amazing. And I slept with the fan pointed directly on me and my eyes are a bit puffy this morning but it’s worth it. As soon as it gets warm out, I get all nostalgicy inside because summertime does that to me. (But who am I kidding really I’m just nostalgic most times – like for example in the Fall, also at Christmas and whenever I make any sort of snow creation in the winter.)

Mike and I bailed on the Spartan race this past weekend. By Friday night at 10 pm we just looked at each other and were like “Can we just have a Saturday where we do not have a committment?” And the magic thing was, we could. When we signed up for the race in April, I don’t think we anticipated how full of a summer we were about to have. I mean, I say summer but really it’s only the last day of June; if that gives you any indication to the amount of things we jammed into our schedule since probably Easter. Just to clarify, I’m not complaining, I’m actually enjoying the heck out of all the different things that have been going on. BUT that doesn’t mean that at times, it’s just been easy to take on more then is humanly possible for two people’s schedules. And so, because we signed ourselves up, we just as easily were able to take our names off the sign-up list. That’s the beauty of a fun-run. If it’s not fun, there’s no point. And I say this with confidence now, which is something because only a short while ago I’d be all self-tormenty when skipping out on a race. Remember this post from that time I skipped out on a half-marathon? It ate away at me a bit.

Tomorrow is Canada Day! If you’re anywhere but Canada please take a minute to stop and thank the country that brings you red and white all year ’round (NOT just on Valentine’s Day), pure Maple Syrup and 1/3 of the world’s supply of fresh-water. Canada, what!

June 27, 2014

This is weird. Two running posts in two days!

Last night I got home from work and walked around the house; first I looked at the dishes that needed to be unloaded from the dishwasher, then I looked at the grass that needed to be cut. Once I had decided to procrastinate, I toyed with looking through Pinterest at wedding related projects, but immediately felt overwhelmed. I wasn’t tired, but I didn’t have a lot of energy. I ended up on the couch watching two re-runs in a row of The Cosby Show (the one where Vanessa and Debness break-up, what!) before I finally found myself staring at my running clothes which I’d left on the edge of the bathtub that morning.
Somehow I ended up putting them on and I coaxed myself outside. I just started with a slow jog at first; I didn’t get much faster. About half-way through I realized; the days I’m most unlikely to want to run, are the days I get the most from it.

Tomorrow! I’m in my first ever Spartan Race. It’s supposed to be about 30 degrees here so I’m actually hoping for some sort of water or mud related obstacle. Full disclosure; I have never really understood the people who force themselves through obstacles when they’re already running. So many times in high school they asked me to run the steeplechase (because they just have people beating down the door volunteering). I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of having to jump over something when I was already doing all I could to move in a forward direction. Enter April when Mike signed me up for this race without much consultation.

Here goes nothing! Have an amazing weekend.

Have you run a Spartan or a Tough Mudder before? Are you a fun-run person or do you like it action packed?

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June 26, 2014

I’ve been taking Cliff on “jogs” because he has too much energy for walks most of the time. He hasn’t quite got the pacing thing down and it was one of my goals this summer to try to train him to run beside me.

This is where we’re at currently if it’s any indication of the progress:

A little bit of work to do.

It’s been busy around here though so running fast isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

Have you ever trained a dog to jog? Tips and tricks appreciated :)

June 20, 2014

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Last night I went with Mike’s family to a charity event called Wine and Pints at Restaurant International. The best part of the evening was that Mike was one of the chefs-in-training who made the meal! I’m not at all bias, but the bruschetta that Mike was in charge of was the best part of the three courses.  Ok, maybe I’m a bit biased but it objectively it really was the most delicious. And I know delicious when I taste it.

True to fashion, when anyone in my life starts on their own fun journey I’m like. “You should blog it!” (And then I have to remind myself that not everyone wants to put their life into words. Really weird, right?) Anyway, Mike has some amazing stories to tell about the first time he walked into a kitchen at a Holiday Inn (He was lambasted the whole day for cutting the bread wrong, chopping the herbs wrong, not kneading the pizza dough enough…. He did get one compliment from the chef though and that was for being extra good at cleaning up his work station, which consequently is only marginally related to being a good chef) and helping to cater a charity auction. Anyway they’re only partially my stories. But my story is this: you look good in a chef coat, everything I’ve tasted that you’ve made has been just amazing (perhaps minus the one roasted red pepper soup that made me cry a bit because it was a tad on the spicy side) but most of all I love watching you light up when you tell me stories from the kitchen or recite from memory, the recipe for mayonnaise.

20140620-072425-26665351.jpg (An item for sale in the Silent Auction. Recognize the photo they used? My blog is basically famous in Ottawa ;) ^^)

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 ^ blurry but yummy  ^

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 Isn’t this the best? Mike’s dad got to shake his hand. ^^

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 (The little remote-thingys are to vote on whether you preferred the wine or the beer with the meal. Hence; Wine and Pints.)

Fin!

Have an awesome weekend everyone!

 

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