Archive | June, 2012

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:



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


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.


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 🙂


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.


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.


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


-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)



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.


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:


-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.


-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 🙂


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. 😉


What did you do this weekend?

10 Reasons Why my Dad is Awesome:

17 Jun

Dad with friends and family at the head of the table for Thanksgiving

  1. He taught me how to throw a baseball, kick a soccer ball, and understand what the terms “2 x 4” and “phillips’ head” mean.
  2. He coached my soccer team for almost 10 years.  That’s right, 10 years of being surrounded by giggling adolescent girls every summer. Bless him.
  3. Driving me to movies, birthday parties, and the mall with my friends on the days my Mom couldn’t.
  4. He taught me how to drive standard, in only the patient way that Dads know how.
  5. If it weren’t for my Dad, I never would have gone to Bishop’s University.  I think he partially regrets that.
  6. Even after I became a vegetarian, he nonetheless still loved and accepted me as his daughter.
  7. He learned how to BBQ tofu skewers.
  8. Questions about business, career advancement, sports, or how to fix my bathroom sink, he’s always there.
  9. Questions or concerns about boys and relationships, he happily passes the phone to my Mom 😉
  10. Daddy-Daughter Ski days.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  Thanks for everything you’ve taught me.

I know he’s so proud.



Congratulations, Lindsay Blue!

16 Jun

It’s summer time, which means there are a slew of weddings and fitness competitions under way.  One such event was today’s SAF Summer Spectacular in Ottawa, ON.

Congratulations to all the beautiful fitness ladies (SAF is a women-only event), but a special mention must be given to my client, Lindsay Blue, who participated in her first ever fitness show.

Lindsay dropped 25lbs of fat and put on a couple pounds of lean muscle mass all in less than 16 weeks to get ready for this show.  This included sticking to a strict diet 24/7, drinking 3+ litres of water per day, working out TWICE a day, endless hours of posing practice/seminars/hair/makeup/suit design/grocery shopping, foregoing social events opting instead to sleep, suffering as she watched  friends and family eat all the things she was craving but couldn’t have, and having a confidence in herself that unfortunately many women may never get to experience.

Before picture, taken at the beginning of March

Nope, fitness competitions are not for the faint of heart.  But then again, anything worth having is never easy to attain.  And I’m pretty sure if you asked her, she’d say it was all completely worth it.  Before even having a chance to eat a cookie after the show, Lindsay was already setting her sights on the next competition – planning to come back fitter, leaner, and better!  THAT is a winner’s attitude 😀

Congrats Lindsay, you looked amazing and you did me proud.


Pregnancy Progress: 14 weeks

13 Jun

Fourteen weeks in and everything is going well so far!

We had another ultrasound 1.5 weeks ago and were so excited to see the baby jumping, rolling, and practically doing summersaults in there!  It was so cool.  This was the first time John had seen the baby as he was away for the first ultrasound; he told me afterward that he had on the biggest, widest, goofiest smile the entire time.

Baby Franklin at 12.5 weeks

This was our little jelly bean at the first ultrasound. Only 3 weeks between the two, but now already doubled in size!

Baby Franklin at 9 weeks

As for mommy, it’s been pretty smooth sailing for the past few weeks.  Pros are that I rarely get nauseous anymore, my energy is back up, and I still fit into many of my clothes.  Cons are that I can’t lay on my belly for too long which has been affecting sleep and some exercises/stretches, and some of the clothes that are just fitting in the morning feel very uncomfortable by the end of the day.  John’s been wonderful about taking care of me in any way that he can, even though I don’t have too many special needs at this point.  Sometimes I just feel too tired to do things.

Week 10

Week 12

Week 13

Week 14

The baby is about the size of a naval orange at this point, weighing in at about 3oz.  Meaning any weight I’ve gained at this point is mostly just me 😛  I don’t see a huge bump at this point…. just generally thicker and wider around the middle.

Do I have any cravings yet?  Yes.  For chips!  I never used to like chips all that much – if there was a bowl out at a party I’d have a few, but more than 5 or 6 turned my stomach.  Now, they’re all I can think about.  And no particular brand or flavor… they all look and smell amazing lol.

That’s it for this week – stay tuned!


When we were young: 5 years ago…

12 Jun

Around this time 5 years ago, I received a call that effectively started me on the path to where I am today.   Having packed up my beloved (and decrepit) student apartment and making the 7.5 hour haul back to Oakville, I had graduated from university.

Student Living

I was commuting every day to Mississauga, working my mundane summer job that had, in reality, eliminated all need for student debt to earn that elusive piece of Latin-scrawled paper.  On my lunch break, the phone rang and I received a call that recent-grads usually only ever dream of.

“Hi Jessica, this is Melanie from Reebok calling.  I’d like to formally offer you a full-time position as Marketing Coordinator, starting immediately in Montreal.”

I may or may not have dropped the phone.

Growing up, I had always planned on taking on a marketing or advertising gig with a big corporation in a major city.  Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, I wasn’t particularly picky, so long as it got me out of suburgatory.

Now, my 21 year old self was presented with this very opportunity that I had been working towards.  Obviously, I said yes (when I was able to properly formulate the words) and as soon as I returned from my break, I informed my manager that this was my “two weeks’ notice”.  #BestFeelingEver

The next few weeks were a blur as my Mom and I once again packed up all my crap stuff and began hunting for an apartment.  One weekend trip to Montreal later and I was the lessee of a pretty apartment in NDG, and the owner of items such as a couch, bed, and kitchen table.   To be honest, I don’t remember much of those last few weeks. I remember tearful goodbye’s to my boyfriend at the time (that didn’t last much longer) and some work and high school friends I was still in touch with.  My final weekend before entering the workforce however, was one I wouldn’t soon forget: Convocation.

Yes, my last weekend as a lowly “recent-grad” before transforming to “young-professional” was marked by my official University graduation ceremony.   Joined in celebration with my friends and family, we had one last hurrah in my old apartment, one last party at the Lion, and a slightly blurry breakfast at Pizzaville. Yes, at Bishop’s we eat greasy breakfast at a pizza joint.  Don’t ask me what their pizza is like because I couldn’t tell you.  For the record, we also ate poutine at a Greek restaurant owned by a Vietnamese man.   #multicultural


I will never forget that last weekend at Bishop’s, just like I am likely never to forget my first week as a Montrealer.  Dazed and confused, little suburban girl takes on the big city and the sports industry in high heels and business attire.

…or the ice ridge in snow pants and ski boots

Yeah, that didn’t last long as I quickly learned that “sports marketing coordinator” can at times mean dirty, dirty grunt-work and thus jeans and running shoes were soon swapped in.  Well, the high heels have stuck around.

Over my 5 years in Montreal, I have learned so much about myself- personally and professionally.  There have been new jobs and opportunities, losses and upsets; new friendships, old friendships, heartache and happiness.  The formative years of my 20s have encompassed so much and so many people it’s crazy to think that 5 years has gone by so quickly.   I love Montreal, almost as much as I love Toronto.  It’s been an amazing playground to grow-up in.  It will be interesting to see what the next 5 years will hold for me.