Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011!

Friday, December 31, 2010

nye

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. " ~ T. S. Eliot.

I want to adopt this as part of my mantra for the new year. Wishing you lots of love on this New Year’s Eve. This week got away from me, so video and proper post to come on Monday!

Happy Holidays–Part One

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas Eve! Here’s my second annual holiday video (here is last year’s video!)

Part two will be next week where I will discuss the year that has passed, goals and looking ahead to 2011!! Next week I’ll also be blogging about my delicious dinner with Nicole and Meghan – along with an awesome recipe for Nicole’s butternut squash soup.

For my WW members, here’s where I will be/won’t be next week:

Saturday Dec 25 – Carrot Common is closed

Wednesday Dec 29 – Church of the Holy Trinity is closed
Thursday Dec 30
– Forest Hill Loblaws, meeting at 9:30
Friday Dec 31 – Church of the Redeemer, meeting at 9:00
Saturday Jan 1 – Carrot Common is closed

If you can’t make it to one of my meetings, check out the Weight Watchers site for other meetings that are open over the holidays.

I’m so excited to get away from the city and my busy busy schedule for a bit of a break. I’m also excited for all that is to come in 2011. Happy Christmas to those of you who are celebrating!! I hope you have a wonderful holiday and look forward to seeing you soon!

Remember That Time I used to Blog? Well, Here’s an Update…

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Long time, no see.

Last week I started to repost some of my posts from Crohn’s Week last year. In the 2 years since my diagnosis, so much has changed and it was great to recount the story of my diagnosis. I started to prepare the latter half of the Crohn’s weeks posts for you, but realized that many of them were less accurate and relevant than they were this time last year so I decided against it.

I’ve been supremely busy this month and a lot of it has had to do with being in transition and making lots of changes in my life. I really thought that when I quit my job last year, I had figured out what I wanted to be doing in my life and had developed a formula for my perfect pie of life. I’ve come to realize over the course of the last year that this year was much more of a transition year than a destination than I had previously thought.

This year, I’ve had some amazing opportunities in the performing world. Through REX, my first Fringe show, the Ashley cabaret, other performances and auditions I’ve really realized that performing is what I wish I could do all the time. I feel alive onstage and nothing else fills me with the same energy, passion and love. Don’t get me wrong… Weight Watchers is still amazing and I’m having a blast leading 9 meetings a week, but it’s just not what I want to be doing forever.

This realization meant that some things in my life needed to change, so I decided to take some time off school. In my last class, I really wasn’t giving it my all and that really isn’t like me. I knew that I was going to have November off based on class availability, but after some soul searching and a lot of tears I decided that my heart really wasn’t there and the best decision would be to take some time off.

Leaving school was incredibly hard and I felt like a really big failure. I felt like I had made all of these life changes in order for me to go to school and then was going to cop out by leaving my program. I went back and forth for awhile, but knew what I needed to do after I started bawling when my grandmother asked me the question “Are you happy?” in a conversation over the phone.

Leaving school has allowed me to place greater emphasis on my performing career which has been really great. I’ve been doing lots of singing (including a performance at a celebration of Danielle’s life), enjoyed a great run of RENT155301_461098997329_510602329_6102264_5907459_nand after a few auditions and callbacks, I scored the lead in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (so excited!!). I have some other auditions coming up in the next couple of weeks and am looking to sign with an agent as well. Things are really coming into place and I couldn’t be happier.

With all that has been going on, I’ve really been struggling with my eating and my weight. I’m still happily gluten free and vegan (with my Crohn’s still lying low!!), but just haven’t had the time to eat at home, prepare meals, exercise or go grocery shopping. Since getting to goal in 2007, I have comfortably maintained my weight with some ups and downs along the way. I’ve talked about maintenance as well my own struggles, feelings and emotions more than ever this year and I’ve really felt it in the last couple of months. After 2 huge breakdowns with my Weight Watchers manager and personal trainer, I finally feel like I’m in control of the situation again. The reality is that I’ve gained a few pounds and do not feel good about it. I’m eating well and exercising and feel confident that I can regain that good feeling I once had. I know that my hard work is going to pay off and I’m really excited.

I feel like blogging and blog-reading has really taken a back seat in my life and am working on making it come back! I would love to post some meals, some reviews and my thoughts on the new Weight Watchers plan (which launches in Canada next week!!) The holidays are just around the corner and I would love to do some blogging on preparing for the holidays as well. Despite not being in school, I feel like time to myself is less than ever, but am working on achieving a balance of everything.

I look back at where I was this time last year and am so amazed at all the changes that my life has undergone. I’m not exactly where I thought I would be, but I’m a much happier person, which is all that I can ask for. I’m so excited for 2011 and all of its potential!!

A Star Brighter Than The Rest

Thursday, October 21, 2010

On Sunday night I ended up having an intense discussion with a friend about our shared experiences with the loss of a parent. We talked about grief and how it affected everyone differently and about how we had coped with loss following our parents' death. It was refreshing to speak with someone who could relate so closely to my own experience and felt more deeply connected to him as a result.

On Monday morning I was flooded with a wave of grief as I learned of the passing of a friend who had attended theatre school with me. I met Danielle in 2003 when I started at theatre school. SANY4672I liked her instantly; she was bubbly, honest and grounded. Danielle was a talented & energetic performer who loved music and dance and wasn't afraid to take risks and give everything she had on the stage. Danielle ended up leaving our term for personal reasons at the end of first year, but re-enrolled a semester later.

It was prior to her fifth term show that Danielle was first diagnosed with leukemia. It came as a shock to everyone and her classmates surrounded her with love and light to help her persevere. Filled with positivity, hope, and being the spunky fighter she was, she kicked the leukemia in the ass, regained much of her health and re-enrolled in school as soon as she could to finish her studies. She graduated alongside her new class and was truly an inspiration to everyone.

Then Danielle got sick again.

Never a quitter, Danielle maintained an optimistic attitude and continued to amaze and inspire all of us with her courageous spirit. A bone marrow transplant was going to save Danielle's life and a wave of relief spread across our community when a match was found. We were confident that this was the end of the unnecessary fighting and that beautiful Danielle was going to be able to move forward with her life and career as a dynamic performer.

The last time I saw Danielle was in August at a dear friend's surprise birthday party. She looked so happy and beautiful and was bursting at the seams with love for life. We talked about the classes she was getting back into, the new headshots she was going to take. She was incredibly enthusiastic about the Ashleyx2 cabaret and said she couldn't wait to be there and that she felt inspired by us and all that we were doing. I gave her a big hug when she was leaving and told her how much I was looking forward to seeing her new headshots and having her at the show.

It was soon after I saw her, that Danielle got sick again. She was always updating her facebook with her progress and I noticed over the last couple weeks that those updates had ceased. More messages were showing up on her wall to keep fighting and on Friday I was chatting with a friend about the situation who told me that while she was in a coma she was doing better every day.

On my way to school on Monday morning I received a text message from my best friend to tell me that Danielle had passed away. I was shocked and incredibly sad. It didn’t even make sense to me. Monday was a very sad day, but also really beautiful in the way that our whole school community came together to share love, hugs, and beautiful memories of our gorgeous friend who had touched our lives so deeply.

In my WW meetings this week I’m talking about the importance of celebrating and positivity in one’s weight loss journey and have shared the following quote to end off each meeting: danielleDanielle embodied positivity, light, energy and love with every ounce of her being. She touched so many lives in her short time on earth and I know that it was as a result of her uplifting, courageous and determined spirit. She was one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and we will all carry her positivity and enthusiasm for life with me forever, and I encourage you to do the same. Her approach to life really helps to put things into perspective. I am thankful for the friendship that we had and feel blessed to have known such an incredible woman. Danielle 2“Everywhere I go, every smile I see, I know you are there smiling back at me, dancing in the moonlight, I know you are free cuz I can see your star shining down on me”

~Janet Jackson, Together Again

Expressing My Gratitude

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians! I hope you had a great SANY4639weekend with your family and friends and were able to find time to enjoy the gorgeous weather and beautiful colours of the leaves that have been changing rapidly over the last few weeks. I had a wonderful weekend and was reminded of all the fantastic things in my life that I have to be thankful for. While different than last year’s list in some ways, many of the elements remain constant.

I am thankful for my beautiful friends and family with whom I had the pleasure of spending a lot of quality time with this weekend. I neglected to take a ton of pictures of my beautiful walk through our neighbourhood with Nicole (my new roommate!), but managed to snap a photo of our delicious almond chai lattes from Broadview Espresso.SANY4641 On Friday I enjoyed a delicious lunch at Fresh SANY4644with a delightful friend and then spent the afternoon basking in the sunshine on the U of T campus. [insert giddy Ashley here]ButterfliesFriday night also marked the first of two shows I saw this weekend, fuelling another one of the things that I’m thankful for this year: performing and being inspired. I’ve been so lucky this year to be a part of some amazing shows and it’s absolutely wonderful to go see other talented folks onstage and feel inspired. Ashley and I had the pleasure of seeing [title of show] at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. SANY4648I’m so sad that it has since closed, because I would tell all of you to go see it. It was smart, hilarious and brilliantly performed and both Ashley and I left the theatre feeling inspired. I laughed my face off, left humming the songs and plan to adopt the song Die Vampire, Die! as my new theme song when I’m feeling insecure. I loved the show and was so thrilled that I had the chance to see it.

The Ashleyx2 adventures continued with a matinee of Banana Shpeel on Saturday. SANY4655SANY4653

We had a lot of fun at the show. The sets, costumes and lighting were breathtaking, the featured performers were ridiculously talented and the ensemble were awesome too. We had fabulous seats and truly enjoyed ourselves. Cirque du Soleil is pretty amazing…

Both shows left me wanting more and feeling inspired to come home and work on my own art. I want to be performing more and more these days and I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many talented people to influence my art.

It goes without saying that I’m thankful for my health, and one of the reasons for the way that I feel is how I eat! Gluten-free vegan living is so normal to me now and I was thankful to enjoy some delightful fall/Thanksgiving inspired treats this weekend including Fitnessista pumpkin chocolate chip muffins SANY4649Snobby joe lentils stuffed into acorn squashSANY4662and my weekend pride and joy – a gluten free vegan apple pie!SANY4658SANY4659SANY4661I’ve never made a pie crust before, so it was pretty exciting that my first one was actually gluten free and vegan! As usual, Meghan’s recipe rocked and the crust was super easy to make. I made the apple filling from 2 lbs of peeled & diced apples (Granny smith/Pink lady combo), cinnamon and agave. It was delicious!! I had so much fun baking, eating and sharing it – I felt so domestic and the house smelled amazing.

It was such a great weekend and demonstrated that I have a lot to be thankful for on top of a pretty amazing year… what are you thankful for?

I Can’t Remain Quiet (Video of the Cabaret Included)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It started with a text message…

Ashley and I had been talking about putting on a cabaret for a few months and an innocent text message that I sent to her that read “I guess there’s just something about Ashley” became the catalyst for our show. It was that text that catapulted us into action and the planning began. 16763_356682125603_559840603_10269384_2402642_nAshley and I have been friends since our musical theatre school days, but became really close after running into one another on the subway a few years ago. We have since worked on two shows together and have become one another’s confidantes in life, but especially in our performing careers. ashleyfunnygirl (2)We started planning our show extensively while on vacation together this summer. SANY4278We came back with two very long to-do lists, song ideas and some great story-telling material for the cabaret itself and got moving. We started working with our pianist extensively in September and worked our butts off to get the show together.

There’s a lot of amazing contemporary musical theatre out there that Ash and I were dying to sing. Composers like Kerrigan & Lowdermilk, Scott Alan, Jonathan Reid Gealt, and Kooman & Dimond are making beautiful music and telling amazing stories that need to be told and we were thrilled to have the platform to do just that. It was so fun to put together our set list with songs that showcased our voices and personalities, but also told the story of what it’s like to be an Ashley. 4924122502_84a815c24d_zThis year has provided me with some pretty exciting performance opportunities. I didn’t think I could top the high that I had reached after meeting Sheldon Harnick whilst doing REX in Feburary or the experience of my first Fringe this summer, but putting together our cabaret was absolutely phenomenal. I felt so inspired, every single day, and it absolutely solidified my love for performing and being onstage.

Last Thursday I practically jumped out of bed, ready for our big day. SANY4594After one final rehearsal we prepared to hit the stage. SANY4595I was giddy.

We hit the stage and it was magical. We had a great audience of people from many different parts of our lives who were incredibly appreciative of all that we did. Ash and I had planned some little bits of banter which flowed smoothly (much to the audience’s delight) and our songs and harmonies were totally there. SANY4600SANY460163071_10150288164165125_865410124_15107146_3162775_nI left the stage at the end of the show on a total high. I was so proud of the work I had put out which was reciprocated by the audience’s reaction. The show was followed by a pretty amazing after party and I had a wonderful night mingling with our friends and supporters while dancing and indulging in the Ashleyx2 drink special. SANY4609SANY4607SANY4605I left the party feeling excited, proud, giddy and most of all INSPIRED. The show reiterated for me that I need to be performing and often. So I’m working to make that happen.

In the meantime here’s a video of me singing “Quiet” by Jonathan Reid Gealt at the show.

It’s funny because I originally chose this song just because I loved it; It sat nicely in my voice, the lyrics were great and it fit right into the show. But once we got into rehearsals, the sentiment of the song started to resonate in various areas of my life and by the time I sang it on Thursday it had taken on a whole new meaning. Amazing.

I’m so thankful to have had such an incredible opportunity to perform so beautiful material with one of my favourite people. The show has left me feeling so inspired to perform and put myself out there and for the first time since musical theatre school, I truly feel ready to do so. Thank you to everyone who came and watched… and if you missed it, I’m sure it won’t be the last! I’m excited to see what opportunities the future brings…

There’s Just Something About Ashley

Monday, September 27, 2010

This week is epic and I’m absolutely thrilled.

Today I’ll be in school, then in rehearsal then heading to Curtains Down for a little open mic fun and promotion of our cabaret.

On Tuesday I will spend the day working, preparing and rehearsing for RENT in the evening.

On Wednesday I have a VERY BIG audition that I’m super excited for.

Thursday is the day I’ve been waiting oh-so-patiently for…

Exciting days ahead!!

And proper blog entries to come… I promise!!

Veggies, Leaders And No Sleep In Sight

Monday, September 13, 2010

This weekend was epic!

It was my second year of attending the Vegetarian Food Fair in Toronto and this year I was even busier. On Friday I hung out with Meghan Telpner at her booth chatting up her classes, tutorials and retreats in St. Lucia. SANY4545SANY454247324_430611150661_157037275661_5218559_959502_nWe had a lot of fun in our pink aprons and I felt right at home amongst all the flowers in her booth! It was nice to meet so many new people and share my experiences in Meghan’s classes. Our beautiful friend Nicole was there as well SANY4547and together we ran off to score some goodies from the über cute guy at Vega (whose Shake & Go chocolate smoothie I’ve been really enjoying) and Living Libations, as well as find some dinner. 

Similar to last year, I was truly disappointed by the lack of yummy options for dinner. There were lots of yummy treats and samples, but many of the vendors in the food tent were serving more fried and complicated tofu dishes that really didn’t appeal to me. Cruda Cafe was originally supposed to be a part of the show, but sadly they cancelled. With all of the amazing vegetarian, vegan and raw restaurants that we have in the city, I think it would be awesome for more of them to have a presence at the Food Fair (especially since it’s touted as being North America’s largest!). All of that being said, we decided to get some Mexican foodSANY4549 It was okay. There was rice, cactus salad and a tofu/corn/something mix. It was kind of pricey, but filling and I learned my lesson for the following day.

I sadly missed Meghan’s demo on Saturday afternoon (but you can check out all the recipes on her blog!) but showed up just in time to catch the flurry of people around 12:30.  SANY4554I ended up bringing lots of food with me and definitely did not go hungry. SANY4553 Lots of fruit, almonds plus a great salad of romaine, peppers, onions, avocado, black beans, hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds with a little bit of salsa. It was awesome!!

I traded in my fuchsia apron for a beige one with a SFTE logo as I was at the Sweets From the Earth tent selling delightful vegan baked goods. I love their gluten free line and had the pleasure of testing a brand new gluten free vegan chocolate cake!! I forgot to take a picture of that or anything on Saturday really. I talked to so many people and sold so many cakes, cookies and squares that it was all really a blur. It was non-stop from 1 to 9 and I was just wiped by the end of the day. SANY4550 On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending a giant Weight Watchers meeting with many of my colleagues including my two lovely Lindsays. SANY4558 SANY4563SANY4570 It was great to connect with others who are passionate about their jobs and helping others lose weight!! Lindsay won an award for her meeting and our row was definitely the loudest, cheering her on and ensuring that she was commended for her team’s success. So so proud of her.

I felt like a zombie by the end of the day and after a wee nap I made myself a simple but delicious bowl for dinner. SANY4573 Mmmmm quinoa with swiss chard, baby portabellas and tempeh sautéed in garlic & ginger with tamari, pickled ginger and sesame seeds. It was a delightful end to the weekend!

This month is going to be insane, but I am so excited about everything that is to come! I’m back to school today and looking forward to getting back into some sort of routine whilst rehearsing for 2 shows, a big audition and doing all my usual stuff as well.  Where did the summer go?

How was your weekend? Did you get to the Vegetarian Food Fair? What were your thoughts?

Living the Width

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it.  I want to have lived the width of it as well”. 

~Diane Ackerman

"You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth."

~Evan Esar

A few weeks ago one of my Saturday morning members shared the sentiment of these quotes with my meeting and everyone in the room just nodded and clapped in agreement. I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of late, and I’ve been unknowingly working to apply it all summer.

To me, living the width means savouring the present moment. I have been so blessed this year to be living the most amazing life I know how. While I have had some challenges, I couldn’t be happier with everything that surrounds me each day. When I originally decided to go to school, I didn’t think I would be starting until this September. I think back to my frame of mind last fall, and cannot imagine having had to wait an entire year to begin school!! I think I would have lost my marbles and been incredibly unhappy. Starting school in January was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I don’t know how I ever could have done things differently. It feels so great to be living the life that I want to live and doing so many things that I love. SANY4198SANY4212SANY4166SANY4350SANY4273SANY4481 (2)Ashleyx2 truckBetween Fringe-ing, cottage-ing, picnicking in the park, singing, frolicking in the sunshine, meeting new people or just reading a good book sprawled out at the top of the Riverdale hill, I’ve had a pretty brilliant summer. I feel as though I’ve been living the width of each spontaneous moment and for the first time in a very long time, I’ve been able to actually enjoy summer, rather than be stuck at a desk 9-5. It has truly been a gift.

Living the width of your life also involves listening to your heart. I’m a go-with-my-gut kinda gal. Sometimes this gets me into trouble, but it’s always the right thing to do. It’s so easy to over think/over analyze any situation. This year has taught me that in my heart I know what I need to do, and it’s just about being brave enough to take a leap of faith and actually do it.

While we can positively impact the length of our lives through the choices we are making, it is absolutely up to us to live for the moment and expand the width as well. Every day is a new opportunity to do something great and enjoy the wonderful gifts that life has to offer. I am thankful for this amazing summer that I have had, and look forward to continuing to live the width of my life well beyond 2010.

What does living the width of your life mean to you?

When Life Sends You Lemons, Kiss Goats

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yesterday was not one of my best days. It started off well:
Woke up around 9:00.
Made a smoothie (banana, blueberries, spinach, soy, spirulina)
Biked to the gym.
Went for a 30 minute run & BodyFlow class.
Biked home and prepped lunch for my picnic in the park with
Lindsay.

So far so good, right?

SANY4428 SANY4429 Lunch was brilliant. I made rice paper veggie wraps and carrot slaw with mango chutney dressing. Lindsay brought an amazing quinoa tabbouleh. I wasn’t having a great day emotionally and Lindsay and I had a pretty intense conversation about life, habits, body image and all kinds of good stuff. I love her to death and am so happy to have such a beautiful friend to share my innermost thoughts with.

When I got home, I noticed that there was a piece of mail waiting for me on the dining room table. Something told me it was the letter that I had been waiting for over the last couple of weeks. In June I applied for the UCBeyond Scholarship.

UCB Canada, a division of UCB Inc., is dedicated to creating unique programs and tools to aid Crohn’s disease (CD) patients in reaching above and beyond the boundaries of their disease and fulfilling their educational ambitions. This award is a one-time scholarship of up to $5,000.00 CAN. In 2010, eight (8) scholarships will be awarded to individuals diagnosed with CD.

When I had learned about the scholarship, I was jumping for joy. $5,000 would cover the remainder of my tuition and books for school and would relieve me of a great deal of financial stress. It seemed like an amazing gift from the universe and I was determined to win. It was a fairly extensive application but I gathered all of the necessary components, including 2 fantastic references from 2 trusted, influential people who I have worked with very closely.

Ashley has turned the challenges she faces with Crohn’s into opportunities. She takes a passionate and enthusiastic approach to all that she does, while ensuring that she stays true to a message of ‘Crohn’s won’t get the best of me, I will get the best of me.’ Rather than letting her symptoms slow her down, they have actually helped fuel her interest in nutrition – a subject she is now pursuing with formal education.”

Ashley carries with her a dynamic energy and charisma that is absolutely infectious. Her personal story is one of the most inspiring I have come to know. After overcoming a challenge with her weight, to then be diagnosed with Crohnʼs disease, might be enough to discourage anyone that the path to health could be found through healthy eating. Ashley however, believed that the changes she had already made, only prepared her to go a step further and through her efforts and attitude is living symptoms free.

Simply helping herself, would not fit with Ashleyʼs inherent generosity and giving nature. It took much strength, confidence and bravery to leave her place of full-time employment to embark on her formal nutrition education. She made the transition with, what I have come to know, in her normal fashion- with spark, enthusiasm, dynamism and unwavering commitment.”

I got the information required from my school, gastroenterologist and worked really hard on my one page essay, telling my story of diagnosis, treatment, and new life. I felt confident sending in the application and was anxiously waiting to hear back from the committee sometime in mid August.

Well yesterday was that day. And I didn’t win one of the 8 scholarships. I was speechless.

I had been thinking nothing but positive thoughts about the scholarship; I was so proud of my application; I had so many amazing people supporting me, but alas it was not enough.

After a lot of crying and hugs from Lindsay and my roommates, I just wanted to curl up in a ball and hide from the world for awhile. Sometimes I just need to do that, but instead I remembered that wallowing really isn’t my style and that Lindsay wouldn’t care if I cried for the entire duration of our walk. So we walked and ended up in Riverdale Farm.

SANY4430SANY4434SANY4447SANY4449 As much as I had wanted to hide from the world for a little bit, the walk, sunshine, adorable animals and amazing friendship was exactly what I needed. We continued our walk all the way to the Annex where I met up with other friends and ended up having a great evening, despite how I was feeling on the inside.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset about the scholarship. It would have taken away some definite financial stress and enabled me to continue moving forward without having to worry about tuition or books, making my life a little bit easier. That being said, I know that it’s not the end of the world and that I will continue to “keep on keepin’ on”. I was going to go to school without the scholarship so I’m confident that I’ll figure it out. I’m constantly thankful for this amazing life that I’m living, and you really can’t put a monetary value on that.

This morning I reread my scholarship application, and I’m still really proud of all the work that I put into getting to where I am today:

While there have been moments in my life where my disease has been an issue, it has been more of a blessing than any sort of misfortune. I feel that I have struck a beautiful balance of things in my life that I love (nutrition, helping others and performing), and I now feel healthier than ever. By writing about my experience on my blog and through my role as Honorary Chair, I have been able to share this inspirational and uplifting story of health, balance and happiness with others. My education in holistic nutrition is going to empower me to inspire and help even more people, and this scholarship would allow me to do that without financial concern. My life has changed instrumentally since being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have worked incredibly hard to get to where I am today, and look forward to what the future holds for me.

Scholarship or not, I’m truly excited for the future.

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