Archive | November, 2010

Slipping, bailing and swallowing pride on Calgary’s icy sidewalks and slick lobbies

30 Nov

One day a couple of weeks ago, I wore my favourite pair of heels to work. They’re high and grey. That same day, Mother Nature decided to wear white; she dumped loads of snow. Heading to work, I navigated the slick sidewalks just fine. Trouble struck, however, later that morning in the lobby of the Suncor building.

On my way to meet someone for coffee, my right heel hit a wet patch on the floor. I bailed hard. The best part? All 20 people in line at Starbucks witnessed the fall.

Sitting in a pile on the floor, the only thing I could think of was Dane Cook‘s skit about watching a guy get hit by a car. The guy is too embarrassed to accept help or even admit anything happened. As Dane says, “He’s trying to play it off like he didn’t just get hit by a car!”

Back to me sitting there. I didn’t want to be trying to play it off like I didn’t just bail. So, I looked at the lineup of people behind me and said something along the lines of, “Wow, that was smooth.”

No one asked if I was alright, aside from the security guard who was sitting at a nearby booth. But, that’s his job, right? Our convo went like this:

Him: Miss, are you okay?

Me: Yes, I’m fine, thanks.

My pride: OUCH!

Since then, I’ve been witness to a handful of wipeouts. There was the girl who fell while crossing the street in front of Classic Jack’s on 17th Ave. There was the guy who spilled his Tim Horton’s coffee…as soon as he walked out the door. And then there was Sam, who fell while running from the hot tub to our hotel room in Banff. (Hers was the most spectacular, as it was minus 30, she was wearing a bikini and winter boots, and she went skidding down a hill.)

I have to say, I reacted differently to every fall. I said “oooohhhhh,” “that sucks!” and “hahahahahahahahaha,” respectively.

My question is: how do you react when you see someone wipeout on our city streets? Let’s have a poll and see what the masses say:

~Michelle

p.s. Any tips on how to recover if you’re the one who bailed?

Dear Santa, from Christina

29 Nov

Dear Santa,

I saw you Friday night at the Movember gala. You were dancing in a creepy way that made me feel uncomfortable. If you’d like to redeem yourself by giving me any of the following presents, I’d be cool with that. As always, I’ve been a very good girl. That high moral standard is exactly why I wouldn’t dance with you.

First and foremost, I’d like to have two fat, healthy, happy nieces and/or nephews born later this winter/spring. That’d be awesome, thanks. I know they aren’t really Christmas presents but that’s what I want. Ideally, I’d like one each from the niece and nephew category but you can divvy it up  however you see fit.

Now, my mom always likes to give presents that are really functional. If you — like her — are looking for functional presents with major wow potential, you could always wrap up these:

  • Wide plank flooring for my flat to make the kitchen look like this one pictured in House Beautiful in April 2008. I’d prefer it in charcoal colour, however. And, Mr. C, if you could arrange to have the flooring installed, I’d be over the moon. You see, we often work weekends and I’d hate to give up my rare spare weekend for renovations.
  • Santa, have you tried on a pair of the Citizens of Humanity Avedon jeggings? I’ll admit, I wasn’t easily sold on the idea of jeggings. But, these look just like regular denim and feel like leggings. Pyjamas that look like jeans? Sold. Nab yourself a pair, too, Santa. They’re available at Aritzia.

*Photo courtesy of luckymag.com

  • I’m always pretty tickled to receive a Massage & Organic Facial combo from Inner Balance Spa. It’s quite a foolproof way to go. And at $135, it’s a bargain for you, too.

  • Last but not least, I love the work of Fernie-based photographer Henri Gorgi. Whenever I visit my much-loved, second-home of Fernie, I stop in at the Arts Co-op and gawk at Gorgi’s work. A large framed print one of these beauties hanging in my bedroom guarantees that I’ll maintain my moral standards throughout 2011.


*Photos by Henri Gorgi

Love,

Chris

PS – I’d also like karate lessons, triathlon training at the Talisman Centre or Tri-It and the Gourmet Nutrition cookbook. xo

PPS – A last minute addition this morning, I need a new iPod shuffle. I put mine through the washing machine last night.

Happiness

26 Nov

I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately. I’ve been working on a story about happiness and part of my research involved asking people “what makes you happy?”

In this week of record low temperatures, little sleep and many bills, I decided it’s a wise time to focus on what makes me happy. When I gave it some thought, I realized that the things that make me happiest are things that I can control, things I decide to do. I’ll remember that next time I’m grouchy about a gray day of -39 and poor night’s sleep.

My happy list consists of things like:

  • laughing with my family over crosswords and crazy notes to Santa;
  • a fantastic run;
  • days spent doing yoga and reading in Cyprus;
  • meeting my mom for lunch;
  • getaway weekends in Fernie;
  • catching up with my girlfriends, especially my annual Tulalip escape;
  • staying in on a Friday with the boy and eating homemade pizzas while we sit cross-legged in front of the TV;
  • and this little blog project, which started out as a series of funny emails Michelle and I sent back and forth. It’s now grown to hundreds of daily readers. A big thank you to all who check in here daily!

Someone asked me once to describe my perfect day. It’s so simple, really. It involves waking to good coffee and going on an all-day outdoor athletic adventure — hiking, skiing, snowshoeing — ideally, in sunny conditions.

There’s an picnic lunch involving sandwiches. I LOVE picnic sandwiches (I got engaged over a snowy picnic lunch.).

Okay, this isn’t a picture of a snowy lunch. But it was a very good sandwich.

The day ends with celebratory beer on a patio or wine in a lodge, followed by a delicious but not-fussy meal, surrounded by lots of friends, laughing and talking.

On that note, I’m looking for a cross-country ski date tomorrow. Any takers? I’ll bring sandwiches.

Dear Santa, from Michelle

25 Nov

Santa, Christmas is one month away, as I’m sure you’re well aware. I’m also pretty certain I’ve landed a spot on your “Nice” list, because I have not been naughty this year. (Aside from that time in Rio de Janeiro, but I read your code of conduct, which states, “Naughtiness does not count if you’re on vacation in another continent. Especially if you’re single.”)

You’ve been very good to me in years past. For that, I send you much love. (Please pass that on to the Mrs. and the rest of the crew, as well.)

But, right now I’m also sending you something else: my 2010 Christmas wish list.

I won’t bother listing the regular items you so thoughtfully include every year, things like Toffifee candy and socks. No, this year I’m cutting right to the chase. Without further ado, here are the five things I’m dreaming of most: (Of course, these are aside from my standard dreams, which include a white Christmas, world peace and a date with Ryan Gosling.)

A KitchenAid stand mixer from the Custom Metallic Series. Should you deliver this to my Christmas tree, I promise to use the mixer next Christmas to whip up a batch of those milk chocolate chip cookies you adore.

This first-layer thermal underwear from Burton, called the Luxury Midweight Crew and Pant, will keep me warm when I’m downhill or cross-country skiing.

Long underwear seems like a practical request, doesn’t it, Santa? Good. Because next up on my ultimate wish list is something that falls more on the “want” than the “need” side of things. This David Yurman beauty, called the Moonlight Ice Ring with a prasiolite stone, blows my mind. If you shimmy down the chimney with this ring in your pocket, I promise to be a good girl for the rest of my life. Even when I’m single and visiting another continent.

I know you don’t like buying clothes for people, Santa. I get it — sizing is tricky. But I’m going to make this easy for you. Rich and Skinny Jeans, my favourite denim brand, has a cargo legging pant that I need, I can’t live without. So, here’s what you need to know about the pants: They’re called the Cargo Legging by Rich and Skinny. Holt Renfrew carries them. I like them in Dark Olive or Dark Moss. I’m size 26. And every time I wear them, I’ll think fondly of the Clauses.

Last but not least, I’m moving into a new apartment in December and could really use some help stocking my shelves with essentials. Like wine. If you were to wrap up a bottle or two — or *fingers crossed* a whole case — of my favourite white, Evolution, I’d be thrilled. And I’d certainly open a bottle up stat and make a toast in your honour.

That about covers my ultimate Christmas wish list, Santa, so thanks for your time and attention. I’m sure you’ll make some stellar choices this year.

But really, as long as I don’t wake up to this stocking on Christmas morning, I’ll be one happy girl:

Love,

Michelle xo

A Kitchen Scraps pasta recipe to combat the Calgary cold

24 Nov

Pierre Lamielle is a man of many talents, and he’s using them to make us hungry. Pierre’s the Calgary chef, illustrator and writer behind the funky (and funny) cookbook, Kitchen Scraps.

We used to work together at the Calgary Herald; he’d come up with fantastic illustrations to bring my stories to life. Until running into him at Shelley Boettcher’s book launch for Uncorked! The Definitive Guide to Alberta’s Best Wines under $25, I hadn’t picked up his amazing cookbook. (Sorry, Pierre, but I was just waiting for the opportunity to have you sign one for me.)

When the temperature dipped to “This cold makes me want to die” last night, I decided to make some comfort food. And I could think of nothing better than pasta.

I discussed this idea with my lovely friend Sam, who was also into the idea of curling up with a bowl of pasta goodness. She offered to pick up the groceries; I offered to cook. We were on our way. The only thing left was to choose from Pierre’s hearty recipe collection.

Flipping through Kitchen Scraps, which is divided into sections based on how the food should be consumed (with a spoon, fork, “forkenknife” or “a hand”), I came across a recipe for angel hair pasta. He had me at, “Making dinner is fast and easy with this recipe, which turns light delicate pasta into something rich and luxurious with just a few simple ingredients.” Um, yes please.

Here’s how you make it, taken straight from the “Food you eat with a fork” section.

Angel Hair Conditioner Pasta

  • salt for the pasta water
  • 1/2 lb dried vermicelli pasta
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Asiago
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt
  • loads of fresh-cracked pepper

Make sure you have all your ingredients in place before you cook the pasta, because you will need to work quickly once the pasta is drained.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, using lots of water so the pasta doesn’t get tangled up — you want to avoid a bad hair day. Salt it heavily. Cook the pasta, and taste for doneness after 4 minutes. If it isn’t al dente, check frequently until it is.

Drain the pasta in a colander, setting aside some fo the cooking water. Get the pasta right back into the same pot.

Return the pot to the same element, but turn it off. (The remaining heat will cook everything through.) Now quickly add the yogurt, garlic and olive oil, tossing gently until the hair is evenly coated and luxurious. Add some of the cooking water if you think the sauce needs it. Finally, toss in the Asiago and lemon juice (*plus any other ingredients he suggests, such as lemon zest, thin strips of prosciutto or arugula) and stir until just the cheese is incorporated and starting to melt. Salt if needed.

Get a big tong full of hair into a big bowl, then top with loads of fresh-cracked pepper.

***

I followed Pierre’s recipe and added some thin strips of prosciutto because I have a mild obsession with the stuff. The result? Very, very tasty. The pasta was creamy without being unhealthy and the lemon, cheese and prosciutto gave it yummy flavours.

There was, however, one problem with this recipe. It smelled so damn good that we devoured our two heaping bowls of pasta in a hurry — long before I remembered that I was supposed to be taking pictures of the cooking process. Oops.

I wish I could show you pictures of the finely grated Asiago cheese, the meaty strips of prosciutto and the pot full of pasta when it all came together. Instead, I offer you this — one measly shot of the paltry leftovers. I’ll do better next time.

~Michelle

 

A Hot Ski Outfit for a Cold Winter

23 Nov

Hooray, hooray! Ski season is finally here, horrible temperatures notwithstanding.  I’ve been writing up ski previews for the Calgary Herald and now I dream snow — snow and temperatures around -3.

Let’s talk ski gear, shall we? Wouldn’t this be a great outfit for the 2010-11 ski season?

This Canada Goose parka in bright green (Holt Renfrew carries this line). It’s got an adjustable hood and removable fur trim. Admittedly, I did a new jacket last year but I really, really, really like this one. I’d be a much faster skier in it. That’s a fact.

These fantastic Riderarchy Pants from the North Face. These snowboard-inspired pants are doubly-insulated at the knees and butts — ergo, no more W.B.S. (Wet Bum Syndrome). And I have a thing for snow pants with belts.

Tie-dyed long underwear to keep you warm. These are from Tiedyedshop.com. True, they’d be very annoying when nature calls. But, they’re so fun! You could always do a pair of tie-dyed leggings. I’ve got an awesome set that my little sister made for me.

Then, I’d throw on this sweater over my base layer. I’ve always loved the look of old vintage sweaters and this thick sweater from Dale of Norway could double as a jacket on warmer days.

I never ski without these warm, comfy socks from Smartwool. They’re the absolute best for keeping my feet toasty. I know because I once spent five hours hanging 30-feet up in a broken-down gondola (more on that another time). These puppies saved my toes:

For the hands, I’m a Loki girl. Their mitts have an access port so you don’t have to take your mitts off to free your fingers. That’s a key feature for a girl who likes to arrange apres-ski via chairlift text message.

And this Giro Revolver Helmet to protect my noggin:

Jeez-louise, I’d look so good that I wouldn’t even need long lunch breaks.

~Chris

PS – Have you heard about the new Louise plus card this year? It’s awesome. For $99, you get your first two days free at Louise or Kicking Horse with no blackout days! Then, it’s only $50 per day to ski at Louise, Kicking Horse and Castle Mountain.

I saw the sasquatch and then I saw the light

22 Nov

Big news. On my first ski weekend of the year in Banff, I found the sasquatch. Whatever you’ve heard about him, know this: he dances. And he likes girls. Check him out, busting a move with Jane, Sam and me at the Dancing Sasquatch Party Palace in Banff:

Apparently the club has been open for just a couple of months. Next time you’re in Banff, check it out. The deejay was amazing, the club was packed and there were more than a few friendly dance-offs on the floor.

We danced until the last song ended. Then, we made our freezing way to a private party with some new friends. We won’t divulge many details; we will say the party involved a deejay, two fog machines, swinging from the ceiling beams (them, not us) and beef on a bun at 3 a.m.

For all of the reasons above, we rolled into Calgary yesterday as three zombie girls. Tired, happy and ready for some major sleep. I crashed early last night.

The good news is that I had less of a reason to dread the alarm clock wake-up today. For that, I credit my cool little clock, The Wake-up Light by Philips, which is a dawn simulator. Here’s how it works: You set your alarm for 6:30 a.m. At 6 a.m., the light starts to glow, and it gets brighter for the next 30 minutes. Essentially, the light says, “Good morning!” to your brain, which is enough to wake you from sleep. In case you need an extra boost, the radio (or whatever nature sound you choose) will also kick in at 6:30 a.m. Here’s mine:

I swear, this thing works. I started using it after interviewing a sleep expert who said that, because of our many dark mornings in Canada, every Canadian should own one. He said it’s a much more natural and easy way to wake up, as your brain is tricked into thinking the sun is coming up.

With all the cold, dark mornings we’re about to face, I’m grateful for the light. I find it helps. If you dread the alarm clock as much as I used to, you may want to give it a try.

That way, you can dance all night with a sasquatch, party until 5 a.m. with new friends, and know that, when it comes time to face reality and your alarm goes off, it won’t hurt quite as much.

~Michelle

Treadmill Workouts

19 Nov

There’s a predicted high of -15 and the sun will set at 4:56 this afternoon. That means I either run in the freezing dark or on the treadmill.

I choose treadmill.

As I shift into more treadmill running over the winter, my motivation isn’t quite the same as it is over the summer months. So, over the years, I’ve invented a few treadmill training programs that help keep winter running boredom at bay. As a result, I actually train myself better and harder over the coldest months of the year.

How it works: I switch through the following programs with no set rotation. I’m kind of random like that. My only guideline is to keep one long run and one high-intensity training run in the weekly program.

A note: I’m not a personal trainer or a physician, just a long-time runner. You know the drill about starting an exercise program — check with a physician and use your head. For heaven’s sakes, be careful with your speeds on the sprints.

1. The I-Have-No Motivation-Today Run

A friend in NYC, who runs a sub-2:45 marathon, recommended this one to me years ago for those sluggish days. Start at a pace slower than your usual starting rate and crank the speed up one level every minute or every 30 seconds. Go up ten levels, then down five, then up ten, down five. You get the picture. Keep driving it up until you can’t go any further. Then bring it down and start again. I usually do this run for 30-45 minutes. It’s a good way to fool yourself into running at speeds that don’t seem possible at the beginning.

2. The I-Have-No-Focus-Today Workout, 45 mins – 1 hour

This is a riff on a Tracy Anderson workout. The goal is to keep switching up the movements to work different muscles. Switch movements every three minutes or every time a new song comes on your ipod.

Rotate through the following movements: sprint drills (alternating between 6.0-6.5 mph and 8.0-9.5 at 30-seconds intervals); a steady slow-pace run at steep incline; speed walk at super-steep incline; skipping (the way a school girl skips to school, NOT jumping rope) at a medium pace and mid-level incline. For each rotation, I’ll ramp up the difficulty every 30 seconds so that by the end of the song, I’m going full-blast. I take 30-second walks at 4.5 mph in between each rotation.

3. Sprint or Interval Training

You know what I’m talking about. How long you go for, how fast you go depends on your fitness level. I’d suggest sprints in 30-second, 45-second or one-minute bursts, with 30-second to one-minute walks or jogs in between. This kind of training hurts (and draws unwanted gym attention because your shoes might bang loudly against the treadmill belt). But sprints significantly improved my 10-km and half-marathon times. My motivation for these runs is that I know it’s going to be over a lot quicker than any other workout.

4. The Long Run

Everyone’s long run is different. If you’re training for a race, check out training programs and work towards your target. I usually aim for at least one one-hour run per week when I’m not training for anything in particular.

5. The 30-minute Personal Best

Easy. How far can you go in half an hour? Aim to beat your last time every time. The key: really, truly push it on the last minute. Hello post-run endorphin rush.

6. The Long Interval Run

I hate, hate, hate long-interval training. Mid-run, I find myself wondering if I’d be more comfortable lying face-down on the treadmill with it going full-tilt than trying to get through the last intervals. Yet, I know this workout works.  I don’t do it enough but I’m aiming to do it at least once a week until Christmas. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Alternate between four-minute bouts of working at 80-85% of your max and two minutes of recovery at about 65%. I try to do it five rounds but usually the fifth winds up being one long recovery round.

Then, I go home, eat an ice cream sandwich and go to bed.

~ Chris

A new Roots pom pom toque to love, and other enviable options

18 Nov

It’s amazing what you can find when you sort through your wallet. Or, at least, what you can find when you sort through a wallet that’s as crammed and messy like mine.

The other day, I found a business card for someone I do not know. A frequent customer card for Missing Link Extraordinary Sausage at the Calgary Farmers’ Market. (Random, yes. What can I say? I love their Mahatma Bombay sausages all grilled up, sliced and atop a pile of fresh greens.) A stash of rolled-up dental floss; I never leave home without it. And — the most exciting bit — a $20 gift card for Roots. Wherever did you come from, gift card? No matter, for I was happy to see you.

At the store, I hmm’d and haaa’d. Finally, I settled on the Aurora Pom Pom Toque ($24).

Here it is, when professional photographers shoot it.

And here it is when I try to shoot it myself. Note how the pom pom — a key component, for sure — is absent. My bad.

And should you want to venture beyond Roots — we encourage you to, because one toque is not enough to survive in this winter wonderland — let’s examine some other enviable options for winter.

I love the look of this Michael Kors Rugby Hooded Neck Warmer. It’s so chic. But let’s face it: like fingerless gloves and empire waist dresses, boys just might not get it. Who cares? Should you wear this, any stylish girl who sees you on the street will drool all over it and then you can go on your merry, warm way.

How about this Canada Goose Aviator? It’s sexy. And it’s versatile. I can picture wearing this to a Flames game — walking miles and miles from wherever we’ve managed to find a parking spot. You know how it is. — or hill-side at Lake Louise.

On the Canada Goose note, did you hear about how the company teamed up with Holt Renfrew to create a limited edition toque? The goal is to raise $100,000 for Polar Bears International, a non-profit that’s trying to conserve the world’s polar bears and their environments. When you buy one of these $50 toques, either online or in the stores, a portion of the proceeds will be given to the organization. We like the cause. We really like the toque. And because it comes in two colours — red and black — we just might wear this Canada Goose toque to the Flames game and save the Aviator for another day.

Now, one more great, local option for you. The women behind Knittles hand-knit their adorable toques, scarves and more. You can find them here on Etsy. And then you can cozy up in something as cute as their Slouchy Lumberjack Hat.

Is your head spinning with all the wonderful possibilities? Don’t worry — a toque will hold it straight.

Stay warm, friends!

~Michelle

Calgary Anthropologie

17 Nov

Don’t you love this cute look from Anthropologie?

I heart big-time. One of the things I love most about it is the versatility of the dress. You could wear this to work or to weekend brunch with your most fashionable girlfriends. Unlike most dresses, you could get away with this piece throughout most of the winter — except those days when it snows like nuts. Like today. And tomorrow. And probably the day after.

I love it, too, as a plane outfit to get away from the snow. You’d be the pretty girl in the airport that everyone checks out.

Calgary’s first Anthropologie store opens at Chinook Centre exactly one month from today. Be still my heart, I can’t wait.

To anyone who will be buying me presents this Christmas, you can invest in any of the following (as well as the above, just in case I wasn’t clear) and be guaranteed of a whopping good response on Christmas morning:

I love this whole look, even the bike.

And this for parties:

And this for underneath because I adore the comfy lingerie line Eberjey, carried at select Anthropologie stores (and Holt Renfrew):

And these for work. I do, after all, work from home and believe wholeheartedly that drawstring-pant Mondays should be enforced everywhere:

Kundalini Loungers

You could wrap everything up in this hammered gold paper, also from Anthropologie:

Hammered Gold Paper

Tie it with this:

Baker's Twine

And I promise to act really surprised Christmas morning.

~Chris

*All photos courtesy of Anthropologie

A PS — As many of you know, I got married this fall. The groom looked pretty dapper that day, don’t you think?

But he’s definitely let himself go.

Seriously, we were married two months and look what happened:

Holy smokes.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, then it disintegrated further, into this:

I know what you’re thinking. I’m a saint for sticking with this guy. In fact, this probably counts as justifiable grounds for an annulment.

Please don’t let my suffering go in vain. I’d appreciate it if you could help a guy out with his fundraising for Movember. Please donate here.

* Wedding photo courtesy of Open Image

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