The month that changed my life

30 Aug

August 2012 is going down in the history books for one, Jessica Starkey.  From 0-60, in the blink of an eye, my life has been completely, irrevocably changed. Wow, dramatic much?

Not gonna lie, I’m also kind of loving the word “irrevocably” right now.  Me= nerd.

Anyway, so why has my life changed? That is a very good question, let’s tick off the items:

1)      I completed my longest race to date: leg 4 of The North Face Canadian Death Race.  Five hours and twenty-three loooong minutes later WHERE I WANTED TO DIE THE ENTIRE TIME I crossed the transition station and promptly collapsed whilst swearing that I will never do that again. Ever.

Until next year, probably.

Photo Credit: Images by Jo

Apparently, I take my iPhone with me everywhere…

10km and a 6550 foot climb later, 26km to go

2)      We got a puppy!!! Dustin and I are the proud new parents of this beautiful little, but soon-to-be not-so-little, husky named Ashe.  Yes, I know she’s so friggin’ cute and gorgeous. We haven’t been bragging at all or anything. At least, when we don’t have to steal her back from each of our parents.

3)      Kind of another big deal… WE GOT ENGAGED! Upon my return from the Death Race, Dustin picked me up from the airport with our brand new fur-baby, watching as I limped towards the car. I’m not lying, that race very nearly killed me.  When our new little family got home, he very sweetly asked if I would be willing to spend the rest of my life with him.

He just bought me a puppy, CLEARLY I was going to say yes ;)

Boys, key take away here: buy her a puppy and you are practically guaranteed a yes. She may not even notice if you got the bling bling or not.

(Who am I kidding, of course I she would)

4)      Yes, after all that craziness there is still a #4.  Depending on who you speak to, this might just be the biggest little tidbit of gossip information on my personal life.  As many of you may know, Dustin and I have been living in separate provinces since the beginning of our relationship. He in Toronto, me in Montreal.  Since we’re now engaged, we have decided to rectify the geographical situation and finally live in the same city/province/ house…  In Vancouver, B.C.

Yes, Dustin and I are packing/sorting/trashing/consolidating the his and the hers, loading up the truck and moving cross-country to the “Best place on Earth”, and soon.  Dustin received an amazing job opportunity that we couldn’t pass down and so over the next month we’ll be relocating to the West Coast! To say we’re excited is kind of an understatement.

Over the next few weeks, stay tuned to see how many times I pull my hair out in frustration trying to consolidate this mess.

- Jess

An Apology with Tostadas

30 Jul

Hi there,

Well, this is awkward.  Apparently I haven’t posted anything in well over 2 weeks. #BloggerFail.

I hope you’ll forgive me? I mean, to make it up to you I did make these delicious vegan tostadas piled high with veggies and topped with everyone’s favorite: guacamole.

So, why don’t we bury the hatchet and kiss and make up over these olé-inducing Tostadas.  You grab the salt and the lime, I’ll bring the tequila.

In all seriousness, this was a pretty awesome dish that capitalizes on all the fresh produce tumbling into the grocery stores this time of year.  If you’re not making the most of those tomatoes, you’re not enjoying summer.   You’ll notice, however that I did miss out on one key ingredient for the salsa that would have taken it to the next level: cilantro.  Don’t follow suit.

I also realize that yes, you could just go and buy salsa, but then you’d be selling yourself and your Tostadas short.  Make the salsa. Do it.

I also made excellent use of the fresh peaches n’ cream corn featured at the grocery store, tossed together with bell pepper and zucchini.  I don’t think this dish could scream “summer” any louder than if I served it with some sunscreen.

Bottom line, I hope we can be friends again.  Once you taste these Tostadas, you’ll realize just how sorry I really am.

Roasted Veggie Tostadas with Fresh Salsa and Guac

Serves 2-4

Fresh Salsa

3 medium ripe tomatoes, diced

¼ c. diced sweet onion

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, minced

Juice from 1 lime

1 clove of garlic, minced

¼ c. cilantro, roughly chopped

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients into a bowl, mix well and let sit for at least 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Guacamole

1 ripe avocado

1 clove of garlic, minced

Juice of 1 lime

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Slice avocado in half, toss the pit and remove the flesh into a bowl.  Add in the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.

Tostadas

2 ears of corn

1 zucchini

1 bell pepper

Juice of 1 lime

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

4 tostada shells

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 F

Using a sharp knife, remove the kernels from the ears of corn.  Slice the zucchini in half length-wise then thinly slice cross-wise.  Cut the bell pepper in half, remove the seeds and pith and slice into quarters.  Toss pepper, corn and zucchini in a large boil with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread the mixture evenly onto a parchment lined baking sheet bake for 20 minutes or until browned.

To assemble Tostadas, place tostada shells onto a plate and divide vegetable mixture among the shells.  Top each with fresh salsa and guacamole.  Serve with some jalapeno peppers and salsa verde if you’d like.

Enjoy!

-Jess

Exploring Nature’s Playground

10 Jul

This past weekend Dustin and I decided to shake things up a bit.  Rather than me go there or him come here, we met halfway for a weekend of camping.

We did a last minute booking for a campsite at Charleston Lake Provincial Park near Ganonoque, ON and I’m so glad we did.  This park is absolutely gorgeous and very family friendly (read: no drunken college students drinking until 5am).

We spent the Friday evening chilling by the camp fire whilst enjoying some spicy chili with guac and chips, care of me.  With the obligatory beer of course ;)

Unfortunately, Saturday morning was slightly damp with a bit of rain.  Our breakfast of bagels and tea were not nearly as enjoyable, but luckily for us that didn’t last long and the sun once again came out to join us.

We then had the good intentions of hiking along one of the many trails that Charleston Lake has to offer.  Deciding we were up for the challenge, we embarked on their 10km Tallow Rock Bay trail which is their most difficult.

Though the views were absolutely stunning, the deer flies attacked us 3km in and we had no choice but to turn back.  We then opted for the beach instead.

We finished off our second night with a delicious Channa Masala care of Dustin, corn on the cob and another round of ice cold beers.

Life is good.

Nanna Splitz Ice Cream Shop

When Sunday rolled around we ventured into Ganonoque for a whirlwind tour of the city of the 1000 isalnds.

Socialist Pig Cafe

Ice Cream, Nachos and Lattes were to be had, along with more beer.  As you can see, I’m clearly not the pregnant one of this blog duo.

Beer and Nachos at Anthony’s

After reading this, I’ve realized I need to go for a run stat. And eat a vegetable.

-Jess

Pregnancy Update: 17 weeks

4 Jul

Well we had another doctor’s appointment this Friday past and were told that all of our baby’s genetic tests came back clean (they do blood tests and an ultrasound to test for spina bifida and downs syndrome).  In addition, the doc told me the baby was probably a big one, judging by the size of my uterus.  Yikes!  John was 23″ when he was born, so the news was not all that surprising.  We’ve also been told a couple times that the baby is very active – lots of movement going on in there.  Again, considering his parentage, it’s not all that surprising lol.  Mamma is growing at an acceptable pace and feeling great  still :)  Oh, and the chip craving is official over.  It lasted all of two weeks, and I’m now back to my old “don’t want more than 2″ attitude.  Though still no real sweet cravings.  Huh.

17 weeks

We find out the sex on July 20th!!  Neither John nor I really care if it’s a boy or a girl, but we’re still very excited to find out :)

-Tess

No Time? No Matter.

27 Jun

One of the most common excuses I hear from people is that they can’t exercise because they have no time; they work, they have kids, they have social engagements, etc.  Personally, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’m going to manage to keep it all together when the baby arrives – balancing a baby, a husband, work (?), and competition (what, you thought having a baby would mean no more figure competitions?) so I asked a fellow competitor, blogger and mom-of-4 for a bit of guidance in the time management department.  This was her response:

NOTE: If you’re someone who struggles with finding the motivation to exercise and use a lack of time as an excuse, I urge you to read this post.

Melissa Cunningham: The Great Balancing Act

Thanks Melissa!

Oh, and speaking of great women, a friend/client of mine recently completed a 90 day challenge through Body By Vi and made an amazing body transformation.  She’s currently in the top 10 to becoming the next Body By Vi models and could really use some more votes to help get her to the top!  If you have a second, check out the link below and VOTE for Katrina O’Neill:

http://apps.facebook.com/nextvimodel/profile/502915701#.T-nBBKn_LLI.facebook

-Tess

Southwestern Corn Chowder

26 Jun

So the other day, Tess and I gave you some hints on how to beat the heat with some cold soups.  Well all of a sudden we’re back to cool, damp spring and I took this opportunity to check and make sure my oven was still working.

Over the long weekend, Dustin suggested (quite out of the blue) that I make a corn chowder recipe for the blog.  Don’t ask me where that came from, I just went with it.

Here’s a fun, vegan, and slightly spicy take on this soup- perfect for those rainy days.  The secret to its delicious creaminess is the cashew cream, it totally makes the dish.  If you suffer a nut allergy, you can substitute soy milk and cornstarch to help thicken the mixture.

Bonus points if you serve it with corn bread.

Southwestern Corn Chowder

1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium carrots, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

3 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 c. cashews

4 cups of vegetable stock, divided

¼ tsp smoked chipotle spice

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Soak cashews in a bowl of water for a minimum of 30 minutes.  Drain and combine cashews and 1 cup of vegetable stock in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Set aside.

Heat oil over medium-high in a large, deep skillet and add garlic, carrots, and jalapenos, season with salt and pepper.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and slightly softened, add in the remaining vegetable stock and chipotle spice.  Bring to a simmer then add in corn and cashew cream.  Reduce heat and cover, simmer for 10-15 minutes until thickened.  Serve and enjoy.

-Jess

Pregnancy Update: (Almost) 16 Weeks

25 Jun

Not a whole lot new to report.  I’m feeling GREAT lately – lots of energy, good mood, no bad symptoms at all.  In short, the second trimester is definitely living up to its reputation for being the best trimester!

The only thing that’s been bugging me is my back.  It seems like I’m always stiff and tense, especially in my neck and mid-back.  I’m trying not to lay flat on my back too much (did you know that “Lying on your back for an extended period of time could interfere with the flow of blood and nutrients to the placenta and your developing baby”?), but it’s hard to be limited to just side sleeping.

Still not wearing maternity clothes yet – my weight’s been hovering around the same numbers for the past few weeks, and that weight is still less than I weighed around this time last year!  So I’ll put off spending our precious money until I absolutely have to ;)

15 weeks

That’s about it.  There’ll be another doctor’s appointment soon to check up on the baby, at which point I’m sure he’ll tell us everything is lovely :)

-Tess

1 Dish 2 Spoons: Cold Soups

23 Jun

It’s hot. Like, really hot.  What better way to beat the heat than with some soup?

No, not THAT kind of soup- cold soup!

On this week’s edition of 1 Dish, 2 Spoons, Tess and Jess share two cold soup recipes to help you keep cool this summer.

*************************************************************

Jess’ Take

I’ve been on quite the cold soup kick lately.  The reason being is they are just so easy to make.  Simply pop some veggies (or fruit) into a blender, give er a whirl and you, my friends, have dinner.  No cooking and sweating required.

Zucchini is to summer, what rabbits are to gardens.  No matter what you do, you will always have a ton of them.   If you’ve got a few of these delightful courgettes kicking around, but unsure how to use them, look no further than this recipe.

This soup was light and refreshing and the avocado added a nice creamy texture without the need for dairy.  What’s even better, with a few quick whirls in my trusty food processor and I had dinner ready to go in under 15 minutes.  Pretty freakin’ awesome if you ask me.  But don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself and see how delicious cold soups can be.

Ingredients:

3 small/medium zucchini

1 avocado, pitted and chopped

1 c. unsweetened almond milk

1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped

Juice from 1 lemon

1 clove of garlic

1/4 tsp sea salt

In a food processor or blender combine all ingredients, cover and blend or process until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.  Serve with a crusty loaf of bread for a light summery meal.

Jess

Tess’ Take

Sometimes Jess and I exchange notes on what we will be producing for our 1D2S segments, and sometimes we don’t.  This week though, we probably should have since I ALSO made a zucchini soup.  The way I see it, you now have two awesome options to choose from the next time you want some cold zucchini soup :)

Curried Zucchini Soup

Ingredients

-3 zucchinis, sliced

-1 baking potato, peeled and sliced

-1 medium onion, chopped

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-4 cups water

-1 tbs EVOO

-2 tsp curry powder (mild-hot, depending on how spicy you like it)

-salt

Directions

1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until soft.

2. Add garlic and curry powder, and cook until fragrant.

3. Add zucchini, potato, and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until veggies are tender (about 15 mins).

4. Use an electric blender to puree the soup in small batches.  Tip: when dealing with hot liquids, do not fill the blender all the way.  Also, leave a small crack in the lid so heat can escape.  Take my word that otherwise you’ll have a big mess on your hands.  Literally, all over your hands.

5. As you finish with each batch, transfer to a large serving bowl.  Salt to taste.  Cover, and refrigerate until cold.  Note: you can also serve this soup hot.

6. Garnish with toasted slivered almonds, if you’d like.

-Tess

Lat Pulldowns: How To

20 Jun

Possibly the most incorrectly used machine in the gym is the Lat Pulldown machine.  On any given day, I could pick out at least 5 people ranging from beginner level women, to big buff men, to seniors, who are doing it wrong.

A few basics:

-“Lat” is short for latissimus dorsi, the widest muscle in your back which, in short, moves the upper arm down and back.  “Pulldowns” refer to the motion of pulling in a downward motion.

The latissiums dorsi muscle

-The lat pulldown machine is meant to exercise the back, specifically the lats, back of the shoulders (rear deltoids), and the small muscles underneath the shoulders (rhomboids).  Because most pulling movements also involve the use of your biceps, you will also be working them a little bit too.

-By exercising the lats you will increase your overall power in many activities; your rear deltoids help you help to stabilize your shoulder blade, and rhomboid development is important for good posture.

-Aesthetically, having well developed lats will give you a broader back.  Now before you say “I’m a girl, I don’t want a bigger back!” think of how TEENY TINY your waist will look in comparison to a big(ger) back; you create the illusion of being slimmer than you already are!  Also, when you create a V-taper (going from wide at the back to narrow at the waist) you are giving yourself another dimension of curves in your body.  And what woman doesn’t want more curves? ;)

Latissimus dorsi. Isn’t that SEXY?!  Grrr, baby!

What to do:

(Setup)

-To set up, find the lat pulldown machine at your gym and make sure it has a long bar attached to the cable.  Adjust the leg pad so that when you sit down, your legs are sitting snugly in place.  This prevents you from “cheating” by using your legs and butt to move the weight.

-Select your weight.  If you’ve never tried these before, start with 30-40lbs, or maybe half of your body weight.  After doing a few repetitions, you’ll have a better idea of whether you should increase or decrease the weight.

-Grab the bar with an overhand grip.  Your thumb can be wrapped around the bar, or kept with your fingers – whichever you find more comfortable.  Your grip should be wide, meaning it’s a wider than shoulder width.  The wider you go, the harder it will be, but the more it will isolate your lats.  For men, try holding where the bar curves down, or slightly further than that.  For women, try grabbing just inside the curve.

Star with a wide grip

-Holding the bar, sit down and get your legs in place.  Lean back about 30 degrees.  Arch your lower back slightly and puff out your chest so it’s aimed towards the bar.  Keep your chin up.

-Roll your shoulders down and back, away from your ears.  Keep them there!  This will isolate your back muscles and prevent you from “cheating” by using other muscles such as your shoulders to do the work.  Your arms should be extended above and slightly ahead of you.  You can keep a very slight bend in your elbows.

-Inhale here.

Legs are snug, leaning slightly back, chest puffed out, chin up, and shoulders rolled away from the ears.

(Action)

-Now, holding this very strict position, pull the bar down towards the top part of your chest.  Stop when the bar is either touching your chest, or hovering just centimeters over it. Your shoulders should still be rolled down and back; your elbows should be pointing downward (rather than pointing behind you to the back wall!).

-Exhale as you pull down.

Bar comes down to chest. Chin and chest are still lifted, shoulders are rolled down and out, and elbows are pointing down.

-SQUEEZE your back, especially your lats!  Now, mentally “relax” any other muscles that might be doing too much work, such as your biceps, forearms, and shoulders.  Remember, this is a BACK exercise after all ;)  Hold this position for a count of 2 seconds.

-Having said that, do keep your core engaged throughout the movement.

Squeezing the entire back, while trying to mentally “relax” any other upper body muscles.

-Slowly, still keeping your shoulders locked in place, return the bar to the starting position with arms extended overhead.  Inhale on the way back up.  Repeat.

-NOTE: If after a couple repetitions you find that you aren’t able to bring the bar all the way down to your chest, or if you have to swing yourself backwards and use momentum to bring it down, then decrease your weight.  If you find that you could probably bring the bar all the way down to your legs with no problem, then increase the weight.

What NOT to do:

-DO NOT lean so far backward that your torso is nearly horizontal.  This is dangerous to your back.

-DO NOT bring the bar all the way down to the seat.  All the work that needs to be done will occur by the time the bar reaches your chest.  Any more than that is wasting your energy, and is potentially dangerous.

-DO NOT yank the bar .  This is specifically aimed at all you tough guys who want to look impressive by “lifting” 250lbs.  It’s not impressive, it’s cheating by using momentum to move the weight.  Not to mention you could easily pull something doing that!

-DO NOT use any and all muscles except your back to do the lifting.  Although it is a compound exercise (meaning it’s a multi-joint movement), you should be trying to isolate your back as much as possible.  Don’t rely on your forearms, biceps, or shoulders to do the work.

*Special thanks to my model, Lindsay Blue.  Months of me being strict and nagging at her form have CLEARLY paid off!

Hope this helped :)

-Tess

Picnic in the Park

19 Jun

Is anyone else excited to be outside in the sunshine? Like most people out east, I got to enjoy the splendors of mid-June weather this past weekend.

What’s even better is I managed to squeeze in two sweaty runs on Saturday and Sunday. Gotta love that feeling of accomplishment.  I’m going to lie, in all the craziness that has ensued over the past few weeks, from races, to work trips, to visiting Dustin, it’s all been a bit of whirlwind and a blur.

So I was so excited to be able to spend a pleasant and relaxing Sunday afternoon in the park with Liz.

Attempt 5 to successfully toss a tomato into her mouth

We decided that I’d bring the snacks and Liz would provide the booze drinks.

She actually whipped up delightful punch featuring orange flavoured rum, Malibu, cranberry and grape juice. Don’t worry; we didn’t imbibe too much ;)

Frozen container of spaghetti sauce (instead of ice) is not necessary

On the snack front, as my kitchen was looking a little sparse, I only managed to dredge up some grape tomatoes and salsa verde occupying my fridge.  I then made a beeline to the supermarket for some hummus and Tostitos, and then I obviously headed over to the Juicy Lotus so Liz and I could indulge on some prime vegan delicacies.

(left) stuffed vine leaves; (right) avocado salad

Since Liz had never had them before, I got their delightfully spicy stuffed vine leaves, as well as an avocado and spinach salad.   Truth be told, the salad makes for a fantastic dip and for an even better dressing that I dumped onto a kale salad and topped with mangoes later on.

Needless to say, it was a fun afternoon spent in the park and we both left feeling relaxed and totally well fed. ;)

-Jess

What did you do this weekend?

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