How to Get Fit, Inside and Out…

Lately, my friend Amy and I have somewhat merged our fitness journeys, which includes doing workouts together while video chatting, and sharing our healthy choices in meal planning, as well as keeping each other motivated and (more or less!) on track.  It’s all been so inspiring, because fitness isn’t something to achieve, necessarily.  It’s something to maintain and better every day –a daily habit, and one which we’ve been working on for a few months now and still going strong!  So today, I wanted to share a few ways on how to get fit and stay fit, inside and out.

Work Out Outfit

Find and incorporate a fitness program that you like and that suits your lifestyle.  For me, a combination of Ballet Beautiful and Sleek Technique works best, although I do not do their live classes very often as I find their programs a bit expensive with the exchange rate.  Also, BB has –perhaps temporarily– taken out the option of streaming classes online.  Why do I do ballet inspired workouts?  For me, boot-camp style workouts are not motivating, and are often overwhelming.  The sense of calm and peace during a workout is very important to me, and the goal of most ballet fitness programs are to achieve long, lean lines while working out muscles that people who do not dance would not necessarily use.  I like that, and that is why these programs work for me!

Look at your beauty products.  I sincerely believe that the less you use, the better for you.  “Easy for you!” some people say.  “You don’t deal with pimples or skin problems on a regular basis,”  This is true to an extent: I do get pimples occasionally, dry skin quite often, and even more frequently, there are days when I just feel dull and blah.  I find that simply making sure that my skin is clean and fresh, and pampering my hair or styling it is enough to blow away my discontent with my appearance.  If you can, figure out whether you are using cosmetics to enhance your features, or as a crutch.  Don’t let it be the latter!!  And if you do use makeup, look into natural, organic beauty lines.  These companies have come a long way and limited palettes are no longer a mark against going organic.

A few of my favourites are Josie Maran (I love her sunscreens!), Tata Harper, Belmondo, Weleda (try their deodorants!), Burts BeesRocky Mountain Soap Company, Wild Prairie Soap Company.  You can also check how ‘green’ your favourite products are with EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database!  Another tip that I’ve learned is that even though you’ve done research on a company and trust them, you should always do a follow-up research after a few years.  New products are added, and sometimes this means new ingredients that may not be up to the level of quality you’ve come to expect from the brand.

Beauty isn’t the only area where you can go clean and live green!  Items from household cleaning liquids to hand soaps have greener cousins –look for those products, and enjoy a well-rounded eco-conscious life!

Natural Favourites

Get into the habit of drinking water regularly throughout the day.  It seems mundane and obvious, but drinking water increases energy and speeds up weight loss.  Squeeze fresh lemon juice into your glass to add some flavour –plus lemon water does wonders for your skin!  Just be sure you don’t brush your teeth immediately afterwards!

Eat antioxidant-rich foods such as tomatoes, cantaloupes, berries, oranges (Vitamin C helps prevent wrinkles) and plums.  This is especially fantastic for the warmer weather months, as they are so refreshing.

Change your snacking habits!  Snack on almonds, walnuts (which contain alpha-linoleic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that helps condition your hair –think supermodel shiny!), raisins, and ‘dipping vegetables’.

Eat broccoli.  It’s a great source of vitamin A which helps improve cell turn-over, which means that skin renewal is much quicker, too!

Eat whole wheat.  Selenium found in whole wheat products helps improve skin cells.

Eat lean red meat and eggs for their iron-rich qualities –iron will help if you’re feeling pale or have dark circles under your eyes.

Eat lots of fish.  So yummy, and so good for you!  I recently became a part-time pescatarian, and it’s made me feel a great deal better.  I do still enjoy the occasional steak, though.  😉

Take time to sleep, relax, catch up with and be good to yourself.  Reading, taking walks, reflection, and making time for even a movie and a cup of tea will help re-center and energise you.

Bridal Shower Tea Party [Maison Birks Café Montréal]…

I had the pleasure and honour of attending my sister-in-law’s bridal shower this past Saturday!

It’s always more fun of course, when it is in the theme of an afternoon tea party, and the dress code practically insists that you dress up and have fun doing so!  The invitation called for a hat and summer dress, and I was more than happy to oblige.  You see, not many know that in a deep, dark corner of my wardrobe, I harbour several frothy creations –hats and fascinators.  Once in a while, on a rare occasion, I will take them out and wear them for the world to see.  More often though, I am to be found covertly trying them on in front of the full-length mirror in our bedroom when no one is around.  I suppose it’s my secret, guilty pleasure.  But it is certainly nice not having to act about my collection as if it were illicit.  My mum-in-law even joined in on the fun when I brought my fascinators over and wore a particularly stunning one to the party!
Cathie - Pink Penny Flower FascinatorI am notoriously picky when it comes to clothes, and I currently have only one summer dress in my possession which sadly didn’t feel quite right for the occasion.  So I bent the dress code rules a bit, and went for a ruffly silk georgette blouse and a flirty skirt in pinkish hues.  In the below picture, I’m posing with the two shoes I was trying to decide between.  I finally went with the pink ones (which were also my wedding shoes) as they seemed more fun, but I promise I didn’t go to the shower in Pippi Longstocking mode, although that probably would have been hilarious, too!
Cathie Maud - Tea Party Outfit 2015

Top:  Aritzia ‘Ainsley’ blouse in Mauve Chalk (2015)

Skirt:  Club Monaco ‘Talley’ lace skirt in Eclipse/Lotus (2014)

Shoes:  Salvatore Ferragamo platform pump in metallic calfskin, Dusty Gold (2013)

Jewellery:  Tiffany heart key charm with enamel finish (2014)

Fascinator:  Fashion Addict ‘Penny’ pink flower fascinator (2015)

***

The affair was held at Birks Café in Montréal, inside the jewellery store.  It was like feasting among glittering chandeliers, sparkling treasures, and beautiful presentation boxes.

At $26.50 per person, the menu included:

Selection of teas from Mariage Frères

Milk and lemon

Mini sandwich with cucumber and shrimps

Finger appetizer with Duck foie gras and chutney

Finger appetizer with smoked salmon and Abitibi Temiscamingue caviar

Mini club sandwich with crispy prosciutto

2 scones

Devonshire cream

Homemade jam

A dessert in a verrine

A macaroon

A chocolate from our selection

A bag of sweets to take homeBirks Afternoon Tea PartyI chose the menthe tea, which was one of their herbal choices.  I recall ‘healing’ being used in the description, and since I had a headache, thought it perfect for me.  It was light, and refreshingly cooling.  While the food was exquisitely delicious, they were incredibly petite, even by afternoon tea standards.  For about $6 extra, you get a more substantial serving at the Fairmont Laurier and Fairmont Queen Elizabeth.  However, I suppose the upside is that you go away feeling not overly full, and as a once in a while treat, say if you were shopping for a beautiful ring at Birks and wanted some refreshments, the Café is a sophisticated and convenient choice.

A photo posted by Cathie Maud (@cathiemaud) on

 xoxo,

— Cathie

Wandering in Ottawa…

A few months ago, my best-est friend came down for a glorious 11 days, and we explored the nation’s capital like tourists fresh from another part of the world.

Our gastronomical adventures (not all in one day!) included nibbling on cupcakes, sampling divine Stubbe chocolates, feasting on the most amazing pizza at The Grand, and paying a visit to Smoke’s Poutinerie for some of Ottawa’s finest cheese curds and gravy on fries.

Ottawa - Smoke's Poutinerie
Smoke’s Poutinerie Poutine. Delicious!

Smoke’s, by the way, is a very tiny establishment and is almost always full.  It was a beautiful day outside though, and em and I were more than happy to take our poutines to the street and people-watch while we indulged.

We also wandered around the ByWard Market –which extends extensively around the main building itself.  I’m not sure that I’m describing it as accurately as I would like, but it is a sprawling conglomeration of boutiques, salons, restaurants, bakeries, produce, meat, and cheese stands, etc.  that spans across several streets.  This is my impression based on the numerous ByWard Market signs that we encountered far from where we thought the market would have already ended!  You cannot compare this to the Granville Island Market.  There are similarities and differences, and each has its own distinctive flavour, but neither is ‘better’ than the other as I have heard some people hotly contest.  They are both interesting experiences to be appreciated in their own right.
Ottawa - Byward MarketWe had supper at The Aulde Dubliner, which was opened in 1992 by two Irish immigrants with a big dream.  I forget what em had, but I had the most comforting French onion soup imaginable.
Ottawa - Supper at The Aulde DublinerIt was a cloudy, slightly damp day with a brisk breeze.  I insisted on sitting outside on the balcony for the view but we finally went indoors.  In a sterling case of poetic justice, em who wanted to sit indoors in the warmth, remained hail and hearty.  I took sick after a few days.  In my defense, there was that one evening where the skies absolutely poured and we were caught in it for hours –I with nary an umbrella.

Ottawa - The Aulde Dubliner French Onion Soup
The comforting French Onion soup…

We also stopped by Thimblecakes, and I tried one of their Ugly Ducklings, which is to say, less than perfect cupcakes that they would not sell at full price, but are still too delicious to toss.  The one I had was incredibly dry and lacking in taste… and I’m not certain whether it was because it had been an Ugly Duckling for quite a while, but I was not very impressed.  The decor of the place was elegantly decorated however, and I could be easily persuaded to give them another chance and try a perfect cupcake if I were to pass that way again.
Ottawa - ThimblecakesOttawa -Thimblecakes InteriorNow before you begin to wonder at our endless appetites, we did have other sights and interests that we pursued in our fair nation’s capital! There were paper shops… Ottawa - Papery Store…which begged you to reconsider the notion that paper could ever be ‘plain’ or ‘boring’.  In fact, I’m quite positive they made me feel as if one could gather together a tasteful collection of paper, wrap it in yet more, and present it as a very suitable and exclusive gift. And there were statues!  There was one of Galahad, erected in front of Parliament to commemorate the heroic but unsuccessful attempt at saving a Miss Bessie Blount.  Then there was this scandalous sculpture of young love, sitting on a bench and engaging in a subtle –yet public!–display of affection!  I own I did not know where to avert mine eyes to…Ottawa -Shocking Young Love StatueWe stumbled upon exquisite beauty in Nature… Ottawa - Appreciating Nature…and revelled in it. Ottawa - By the Bridge and O'er the River We took a tour of the Supreme Court, and sat in on discussions in the House of Commons and the Senate, which I arbitrarily insisted on calling the House of Lords, simply to rile em‘s anti-monarchist sensibilities.  I suspect I only managed to irk her merely due to my inaccuracy.  I am, without a doubt, the best friend a girl could have. 😛 Ottawa - Supreme Court of CanadaAfterwards, we went to Parliament, which is a beautiful, stunning building.  If this edifice is capable of inspiring awe in me, I can only imagine what the ancient castles and buildings in Europe will do. Ottawa LibraryMy favourite part of Parliament was the library, of course!  It was built in the Victorian era, and survived a heavy fire in 1916.  This disaster was caused by a cigarette that hadn’t been put out properly, and the library was only saved due to the quick thinking and actions of the librarians, who closed the heavy iron door leading to it.  This is why you will notice a difference in architectural styles between the library and the part of the building outside of it.  I can’t remember anymore whether the entirety of Parliament burned down, so I’m not sure whether the rest of Parliament is also part of the newer rebuilding completed in 1920. It is a very warm, bright atmosphere, and reminds one immediately of the library in Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’.  I could have stayed in there for a very long time, except we were unceremoniously shooed out of the place after not even five minutes!  This of course, went into a comment card with the polite suggestion that if the library only had one actual patron in it, surely a group of very quiet and well-behaved tourists could tiptoe ’round for a little while longer! 🙂 We then visited the Memorial Chamber, which is at the heart of the Peace Tower…Ottawa Memorial Chamber ExteriorIt was originally built to honour the fallen from the Great War (WWI), but has since evolved into a memorial for all Canadians who have died serving their country in war and peace, since Confederation. Ottawa Memorial ChamberThere are several Books of Remembrance, with the list of all known Canadians who have died in service.  The pages are turned every morning at 11:00, and there is a special calendar that ensures that each page of every book is displayed at least once during the year. The Peace Tower itself is a bell and clock tower, and you reach it via a golden elevator.  I believe our guide mentioned that the golden ‘leaves’ on the ceiling was the number of Canadians who had died in service.  I can’t seem to find this information on the internet to verify, so please take this ‘fact’ with a grain of salt. 🙂Ottawa Peace TowerThere is a picturesque view of the Ottawa River and the surrounding area from the Tower; it is not to be missed!

We also saw the procession for an opening session of Parliament… mace, tricorn hats, and all!
Ottawa - Opening Session of ParliamentOne must retire for refreshments, and we went to the incredibly elegant Moscow Tea Room.  They serve “award winning teas, small plates, pastries, charcuterie & cheeses, vodka, craft cocktails, champagne & caviar all within a sumptuous décor filled with art.  Whether you are looking for a tea, coffee, a business lunch, martinis with the girls, make a great impression during a date or just have a great evening in a lounge, Moscow Tea Room has it all.”
Ottawa - Moscow Tea RoomWe tried the Vladimir Poutine, which is a dish comprised of potato and three cheese perogies, pan seared with caramelized onions and topped with beets, goat cheese crumble and spicy vodka sauce.  The combination of textures and flavours was comforting, yet new and delightful.  For anyone who doesn’t like perogies, do not let your experience with those frozen ones you buy at the store deter you!
Ottawa - Moscow Tea Room - Vladimir Poutine

Of course, no expedition of ours is ever complete if it is not rounded off by a handful of gem-coloured macarons.  We paid a visit to Macarons Et Madeleines, and while I wasn’t particularly taken with most of their odd/avant-garde flavour combinations, one of them –an herbal and spice combination– was particularly soothing for my sore throat.  Despite the name, it seems that macarons make up only a very small part of their offerings, sadly.
Macarons & MadeleinesIt was a pleasant time, and I cherished my friend’s visit very much.  If I haven’t scared her away with my predilection for scenic routes, spontaneous capers, and bus stop mishaps, I hope we shall meet for more expeditions very soon!

Sugar House in Quebec…

As a little girl, I read of Laura Ingalls’ trip to Grandpa’s for a sugaring off, where they collected the sap and turned it into maple syrup. It was a big event, and there was also work to do, but they did it with style –they dressed up, had a fine meal, played music and danced merrily.
Reading is wonderful, but getting to experience it for oneself in person is truly living.

The last week of March, we went to a sugar house in Quebec… Canada is famous for its maples, of course, and so the sugaring off tradition is a strong one in Eastern Canada.
We went to one close to where Alex’s parents live. It’s a modest family establishment, Meunier & Fils.  While not one of the fancier shacks, the people there are very nice and warmhearted.  I’m not sure if there is the option to help out with collecting sap, but since we went quite late in the season for it, we most likely missed the charming bustle.
Sugaring OffThe food was simple, hearty fare but absolutely delicious.  Their pea soup was capital, and I was starting to help myself to a second bowl when Alex reminded me that there was still plenty to come!

Here’s what their menu looked like…

Soupe aux pois – pea soup
Cretons maison – pork spread
Betteraves – beets
Fèves au lard – beans
Petits pains frais – fresh rolls of bread
Omelette
Jambon d’habitant – ham
Grillades de lard – curly bits of fried … pork/bacon
Salade de chou – coleslaw
Patates rôties – breakfast potatoes
Crêpes
Sirop d’érable – maple syrup
Grands-péres – a pudding-y dessert…
Tartes au sucre – sugar tarts
Tire sur la neige – maple syrup on snow!!
The, café, jus et lait – tea, coffee, juice, milk
Meunier Sugar ShackAfter the meal, we walked to an old barn, where there was a pot of maple syrup boiling merrily away on an old wood-stove.  A man poured the boiled syrup onto basins packed with snow, and I finally tasted my first maple taffy on snow.
Maple Syrup CandyIt was a realisation of one of my childhood fancies, and I waxed poetic about edible liquid gold clinging onto a bit of bark splintered off a magical birch.

I loved every bit of the experience, and hope to go sugaring off with Alex again next year.  I found a lovely establishment in Rigaud, QC that is a bit fancier… Sucrerie de la Montagne.  It is definitely on our list of places to go now!

As some people would say, you’re not really Canadian until you’ve gone to a sugar house.  😉  If you haven’t tried it out yet, you must put it in your calendars for next year!

Hope you are all enjoying the appearance (finally!) of Spring weather!!

xoxo,

— Cathie

Survive THAT Week, Naturally…

Well ladies,

It is a fact of life.  There are certain days in the month when a girl just sees red, feels weepy, and wants —needs— to stay under downy covers and watch a good movie (romantic comedies for me!) while nursing certain aches and pains.

Here are a few tips that I’ve found help me through this not-quite-awesome time:

  • Pamper yourself, and take it easy as much as you can.
  • Drink lots of hot water and tea.  Above all, avoid the salt cravings.  They never help.
  • Do simple stretching exercises.  The last thing you might want to do is exercise, but something light actually helps you channel your energy and focus on something besides your pains.  You will feel better after; I promise!  I recommend Mary Helen Bower’s Ballet Beautiful program.
  • Make a point of dressing up.  You will feel far more confident and beautiful than your condition would have you believe possible.  Flowing tops, a-line skirts and a trench coat are amazing for hiding and flattering your figure at the same time!

***

On a related note, I wanted to share that I have made the switch over to reusable pads!  I felt so awful for just tossing so many un-recyclable pads in the rubbish. The guilt and the numbers certainly add up during a woman’s lifetime; that’s a really huge pile sitting in a landfill!

Cathie Maud - Lunapads in Cocoa Kaleidoscope

There are plenty of amazing companies to choose from, but the one I bought my intro kit is from Vancouver based Lunapads.  Not only is it great for the environment, and better for your skin with natural, non-scratchy fabrics, but it’s a fantastic way to save money as well.  Plus they have a One4Her incentive: For every eligible Lunapad purchased, a girl in need will receive a Ugandan-made AFRIpad pad to support her school attendance.  And ladies, they work.  Seriously, not to be TMI, but I have a heavy flow and this kit has not failed me for the three months I’ve used it.  Last  but not least, they have some fun colours and patterns to choose from.  My favourites are Cosmic Dancer and Cocoa Kaleidoscope.

How wicked is that?  Colour me impressed!!  I highly recommend them.

In case you’re interested, here’s what the intro kit includes:

Cathie Maud - Lunapads - Cocoa Kaleidoscope

Cleaning them is also quite easy, so don’t be daunted by the prospect!  If you’re like me, you may be used to shutting your eyes, ripping pads off, rolling them up and tossing them into the trash, end of story.  There are a few extra steps involved with reusable pads, but nothing incredibly complicated.  Lunapads recommends pre-soaking –change water daily if you go that route– or rinsing in cold water, but that isn’t always necessary.  For example, I worked through my last period.  When it was time to change, I folded the pad up and secured it with the snap buttons, and threw it into a Ziploc bag in my purse.  Double the bags up if you buy the flimsy no-name brands!  (Lunapads does sell bags to store and soak used/new pads in, but it’s not in my budget at the moment.)  When I got home, I simply un-fastened the snaps, threw it in with dark laundry on the cold water setting, and ran a load.  The pad came out unstained, too!  If you can’t wash it right away, you’ll definitely want to pre-soak or rinse it, just so nothing gets too ‘set’ in.  I usually try to air dry them so that the fibers last longer, but since I only have a starter kit, that’s usually not possible if frequent changes are needed.  Dry on low if you must.  🙂  (Thanks Katie for the wonderful question!!)

How do you beat feeling blue and seeing red during THAT week?

xoxo,

– Cathie