December 30, 2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's December 30th. 

Now to you, that may just seem like another day. Or the day before New Year's Ever. Or one of the last days of your holidays. But to me, it's a pretty special day. 

On December 30th, 2013 I quit a job that was making me miserable. After an awful 4 hours at that job (where I cried for another hour in the car afterward) I decided to make a HUGE shift in my life and quit. 

I didn't have another job lined up. 
I didn't have heaps of money saved. 
I wasn't really sure what I was going to do. 
I just quit and knew that I would make it work. 

And on the evening of December 30, 2013 I danced my tail off with Corbin in celebration of leaving my job and the endless possibility that awaited me in 2014. 

I wrote down goals for myself and I'm proud to say that I accomplished many of them including performing, booking a commercial (2 in fact!), signing with an agent, creating balance, actively working on important relationships in my life, traveling and feeling great while nourishing my body. 

Ashley Gibson progress photos - photos by Ian Brown and Corbin Smith
I had no idea that 2014 would be the year that I would finally finish Insanity, become a Beachbody Coach and go back to helping others create healthier and more fulfilling lives. 

As a result of the changes in my life, 2015 looks like a pretty exciting year ahead and I've been enjoying the act of setting intentions and goals for the year to come. I know that there will be more performing, more balance, more travel (including a trip to Florida next week!) and helping more people.Each day I work towards nourishing my body and for the first time, working out has really become a part of my daily routine. 

I feel happy and excited; long gone are the days of crying in a bathroom stall because my job is making me so unhappy. 

This year I'll be celebrating December 30th with a trip to the Nutcracker and some fun planning for New Year's Eve. Tomorrow I'll be enjoying brunch with friends, catching a World Juniors hockey game and ringing in the New Year with my love at a very fun show. 

Via Society6

I know that I had a whole show entitled "The Difference a Year Makes" but that sentiment continues to ring true in my life. I still revel in how much has changed in 365 days and I look forward to continuing on this path in the days, weeks and months to come. The quote 'fortune favors the bold' has become an affirmation of mine and I aspire to make 2015 my boldest year yet. 

Happy New Year, friends. May you live boldly and dare greatly xo

Insanity Max:30 - Week One

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I made it through week one of Insanity Max:30!! It. Is. Amazing.

Ashley Gibson Insanity Max:30 day 5

In this week's vlog I talk about what attracted me to the program, my max out times for my first week (they got better from the 3:16 on day one!) and my plans for the upcoming week.

This week I also took my before pictures and measurements and I'm looking forward to seeing how those change over the 60 days. I saw great results with the original Insanity and after seeing a full week of the new workouts, I'm confident that this new program is just going to pick up where the last one left off. I love that these workouts are 30 minutes long and I can't say enough how much I adore that there is a modifier for every exercise! It takes the guesswork out and really makes this program accessible. 

As I mention in the video, it was really awesome to see Shaun T on the cover of Men's Health for the January 2015 issue! 

Shaun T Men's Health January 2015

The article is awesome and made me have even MORE love and respect for the man. I was also very lucky to pick up my FitBit Flex that I won from a contest Toronto Public Health ran this summer in the subway. I just set it up over the weekend, but so far it's a neat to measure my progress over the course of the day and a super reminder to be active, drink my water and generally take good care of myself! 

It's Christmas this week and I'm going to be taking my workouts with me to Corbin's parents house and doing them on Christmas Eve and Christmas; the holidays are not going to stand in my way!! This is definitely one of the things I love about working out at home - my workouts are portable and can really be done anywhere. I'm going to be following some of the tips I shared for Thanksgiving this week and I'm making a big effort to eat extra well on the non-holiday days this week. This includes lots of veggies, lots of water and being extra mindful of my portions. 

raw kale salad at Live Food Bar, Toronto
I'm not going to deprive myself of some treats and indulgences on Wednesday and Thursday, but I'm also not going to go crazy. It's awesome to celebrate with family and loved ones, but that doesn't mean every single food item on earth needs to go into my mouth to do so. 

I hope you and your loved ones have an amazing Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever you choose to celebrate. It's a wonderful time of year!! 

How do you plan to stay on track this week? Do you have any tips for holiday meals or fitting in workouts? 

Insanity Max:30 - Beginnings

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Last week it felt like Christmas when my Insanity Max:30 package arrived in the mail!!

Insanity Max:30 with Shaun T

I've been really excited about this program since it was announced and knew that it would be my program of choice as soon as I was done with PiYo.

PiYo with Beachbody Coach Ashley Gibson in Toronto

Doing PiYo was awesome. Chalene is great and I really enjoyed the focus on functional flexibility and the lack of jumping. I needed a break!! I saw some changes in my body, losing another 4 and a half inches in total and I enjoyed the change of pace.

I've decided that I'm going to vlog my way through Insanity Max:30 for some extra accountability. The first one is all about my journey with weight loss and fitness and my feelings about starting this new program. I'm really looking forward to sharing my thoughts each week, and am excited to engage with others who are doing this program!

Since it's Tuesday, I've gotten through my first 2 workouts and let me say that it's totally intense, but I love it!! On day one I maxed out at 3:16 - lots of room for progress there!!

Insanity Max:30 Day One with Beachbody Coach Ashley Gibson

But that's part of the joy of this program, that each week you can constantly see your improvements just by aiming to get a high max out time. In next week's vlog I'm going to talk more about the different workouts, but I will say now that I'm super thankful for the modifier for each and every exercise!! Shaun T has not held back with this workout and there are some DOOZIES in there!

I'm looking forward to the next 58 days with this program (you can remind me that I said this!) and continuing to challenge myself physically and mentally. My goals with this program are to be improving on my Max out times each week, focus on my nutrition by working on my macronutrient consumption (I'm LOVING the nutrition guide that was included) and be consistent with my workouts and get through the full 60 days!

Anyone else out there doing Insanity Max:30? Anyone looking for a challenge in January? Comment below!!

Uncommon Goods Gift Guide + Giveaway

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How's your Christmas shopping going? I don't have a tonne of people to buy for and I'm thankful that I got a bit of a head start on a couple items when we were in NYC. It's hard to believe that Christmas is actually two weeks away. Yup, you read that right. 2 weeks left!

I probably do about 50% of my Christmas shopping online, and I'm always looking for fun and unique gifts for the people on my list. I was stoked when the folks at Uncommon Goods connected with me about creating a Holiday Gift Guide because I fell in love with the company's mandate and so many awesome gifts on their site!

Uncommon Goods is a Brooklyn based company that works to feature unique and handcrafted gifts that are created in harmony with the environment, without harm to animals or people. They take great care of their workers, place emphasis on products that incorporate recycled or upcycled materials and half of what they sell is made by hand. They support causes close to their heart and donate $1 from every purchase made to non-profits like RAINN, American Forests, Women for Women and Reach Out and Read with their Better to Give program.

And even though they're an American retailer, they've made shopping really easy for Canadian customers. All prices on the site are shown in Canadian dollars, duties and taxes are automatically calculated at the checkout and they guarantee the landed cost, meaning there won't be additional charges once your items are delivered, which is always a bonus! Do note that not all items are available to ship to Canada, but the site makes it really clear which do and which don't. It's a bit of a bummer, but at least you know right away that the item isn't available to you before you get too excited about it.

There is an amazing assortment of stellar gifts for the gals or the guys in your life (here and here!) and some really sweet stocking stuffer ideas as well (here!). I fell in love with a bunch of things, and needed to continuously remind myself that I'm working on Christmas shopping right now, not self rewarding.

For the ladies, I really loved the selection of curated jewelry that they carry. While I love checking out sites like Etsy, I can find them overwhelming to navigate when I don't know exactly what I'm looking for. I especially loved this "She believed she could, so she did" bangle (one of my favourite quotes) and the B.U. collection by Mary Steratore, including this Quiet Courage necklace. I'm also a little bit obsessed with these owl bowls - so cute!! Everything tastes better in an owl bowl, it's just a fact.

I find it more difficult to shop for the men in my life and really enjoyed the ideas that Uncommon Goods offered because they were unique and a little outside the box. I don't play guitar, but this pick punch makes me want to start just so I can make cool picks out of old cards and badges. I definitely wish this beard pack was available to ship to Canada because I know a handsome, bearded man whose gifts I'm still working on!! I also really enjoyed some of the stocking stuffer ideas to fill stockings or use as smaller gifts. I know a bunch of people who would get use from this flavor infuser water bottle (to make fancy spa water on the go) and think that the Awkward Moments card game sounds like way too much fun to play . Maybe after Christmas dinner?

I'm excited to be familiar with a "new to me" great site with some incredible gift ideas for Christmas or year round that will easily ship to Canada.

This giveaway is now closed! Thank you to all who participated 

Now for the giveaway!!

In the spirit of giving, the cool peeps at Uncommon Goods have offered to give at $25 gift certificate to one of my readers! You can use it for some last minute gifts or indulge in a little self rewarding (GO FOR THE OWL BOWLS!!!)

How to Enter:

Check out the Uncommon Goods site and leave a comment below with one gift you'd love to give or receive this holiday season, along with your email address. You can earn an extra entry by sharing this post on Twitter - just be sure to tag me @ashleydtl. This contest is open to Canada and US residents and will close on Wednesday December 17, 2014 at 11:59pm EST. I will be emailing the winner directly so they can claim their prize - so be sure that I can get in touch with you. Happy shopping!!

This is a sponsored post brought to you by Uncommon Goods. All opinions are my own, especially my fondness for the owl bowls. 

12 Days of Accountability - December 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We are well into the holi-month and I can't believe how quickly December is flying by! I'm off to 3 events this week (including HoHoTO on Thursday), a family event the following weekend, squeezing in some great visits with friends, finishing my shopping and then BOOM, it's going to be Christmas!!

With parties, family events, work gatherings and increased social activity, it's not easy to stick to a normal eating routine and workout plan. There are treats EVERYWHERE, alcohol freely flowing and so many priorities to manage. One of the reasons I've come to love working out at home is because it makes it a lot easier for me to fit in my workout during those insanely busy weeks. But it's still not a walk in the park!

Because it can absolutely be a difficult time and I want you to be getting a head start on your 2015 goals (and/or continuing with your 2014 ones!) I'm going to be running a free accountability group to keep you on track and motivated right up to Christmas Eve!

The 12 Days of Accountability will open up this weekend and officially start on Monday. There will be all sorts of tips to keep you on track over the 12 days, a daily assignment, a meal and workout planner, bonus workout and meal ideas and a stellar group of gals alongside you pushing through the same challenges as we gear up for the holidays together! And of course I'll be there every step of the way for support, encouragement and motivation!

Does this sound like something you could use this holiday season?
Don't let the holi-month sabotage your efforts!

Comment below with your email address or connect with me on Facebook to secure your spot in the group!

3 Ingredient Pancakes

Monday, December 8, 2014

Gluten free.
Dairy free.
3 ingredients.

Who says pancakes need to be a big production?

I was introduced to these pancakes when we were visiting friends in Ottawa this fall. Genevieve was so sweet in planning Ashley-friendly meals while we were staying with them. For breakfast one morning she made us a version of these pancakes and EVERYONE at the table fell in love with them!!

I've made them on my own a couple times since our visit and love that they're becoming a regular part of my breakfast rotation.

gluten free pancake recipe

3 Ingredient Pancakes
Serves 1: Adapted from various sources

2 eggs
1 very ripe banana
1/2 tsp baking powder

  • Add all ingredients to a large bowl. 
  • Using an immersion blender, food processor or blender, mix ingredients until very well combined. 
  • Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with oil of your choice (coconut oil works well here)
  • Using a ladle, scoop pancake batter into the pan and cook in small batches until they start to bubble and hold their shape. Carefully flip the pancakes and cook for 30-40 seconds more. 
  • Serve with toppings of your choice! I opted for coconut cream and cinnamon last week, but also really enjoyed them with maple syrup & fruit previously
Tip: You'll need to play with the temperature of the pan to ensure that it's hot enough to cook the pancakes, but not too hot to burn them. My first batch were a little burn-y, but once I found the optimal temperature, they turned out perfectly! You'll just need to play a bit and gauge the heat on your stove. 

gluten free pancake recipe

So easy! So delicious! And I love that you can make them with ingredients you've likely got on hand. They're a great use for any super ripe bananas. 

What are your favourite pancake toppings? Are you a classic maple syrup kinda person or do you like to branch out?

NYC 2014: The Fun

Friday, December 5, 2014

We've been back from New York for almost a week and I am still filled to the brim with the city's infectious energy.

Our trip was wonderful. I mean, I always look forward to visiting and have a lot of fun planning our time there. Corbin managed to get around okay on his crutches and we were able to pack in SO MUCH in just five days. Rather than give a play by play of our days there, I've decided to break down the trip into two posts "the fun" and "the food".

A big part of why I love New York includes the incredible theatre scene. Between Broadway, off Broadway, off off Broadway, amazing concerts & cabarets and classes galore, I always leave feeling inspired and enthusiastic about my job as a performer. There are so many wonderful and intriguing things playing on Broadway right now, it was really tough to choose what we would see! We managed to squeeze in 4 shows in 5 days, which was awesome.

Honeymoon in Vegas | broadway

Of the 4 shows that we saw it would be difficult to pick a favourite because they were so vastly different. BUT Honeymoon in Vegas may have taken that spot for me. It was already special to see even before it started because Corbin and I got to hear some of the songs from the show last year when we attended Jason Robert Brown's concert at 54 Below. It was very cool to hear how these songs had evolved and see them in the context of the show. It was really, really funny with a stellar cast and great music. It's only in previews right now, but I would really love to see it do well. So good!!

Pippin Broadway

Since we were there over Thanksgiving, Broadway's schedule was a little different than usual and on Thursday night (Thanksgiving) there were only a few shows playing. Pippin was one of them and I managed to score us some rush tickets in the morning (as we navigated around the parade in a car!) Pippin was visually stunning with a cast who had an amazing set of tricks. Carly Hughes was divine as the Leading Player. Josh Kaufman, less so. He was the winner of The Voice - season 6 so he could sing well... but that was about it. I'm glad that we saw it, but overall I was underwhelmed.

Disenchanted NYC

Disenchanted was the reason we chose to go to New York in the last week of November, because my friend Bobby was playing in the band and the show was beginning previews after a run in Orlando. Bobby had been telling me for months how funny the show was and how great the cast was onstage, so I was really stoked to see this one (and him!). It did not disappoint!! Disenchanted tells the untold story of 10 Disney princesses. It's smart, funny and the music is catchy. The 6 gals in the cast were ridiculously talented and each of them had so many great moments in the show. I especially loved Lulu Picart as Hua Mulan Pocahontas and Princess Badroulbador, Alison Burns as Belle, The Little Mermaid and Rapunzel and Becky Gulsvig as Cinderella. The costumes were perfect and the show had a good message. I couldn't help but sit for the duration of the show thinking "Can someone PLEASE do this show in Toronto?!?" They officially opened last night and I really help they have a good long run in New York.

I was having trouble choosing our final show for our visit. There are so many incredible shows and finally I decided on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. I loved the book when I read it a couple of years ago and I was intrigued by how they would adapt it for the stage.

It was phenomenal.

They did an amazing job with the adaptation, capturing the feeling of the book and giving the audience an inside view into what it could be like to live with autism. The creative team accomplished this with an awesome cast (especially Alex Sharp as Christopher, making his Broadway debut) and an impeccable set, sound and lighting design and incredible choreography. I was seated in the very back row of the balcony (rush tickets again) and I loved that I had a perspective of the entirety of the stage. It's playing both on Broadway and in London's West End and highly recommend that you see it if you have the chance.

NYC tip for tickets: Check out to see if the shows you want to see have a rush ticket policy. You can potentially score great tickets for $35-$40 on the morning of the show at the box office. We did this for both Pippin and Curious Incident. Also check out the TodayTix app for iPhone or Android. Lots of great deals on tickets (same day and a week in advance). Feel free to use the referral code LRLJJ to get $20 off your first order. It's awesome to save money on tickets and both options save you having to wait in line at TKTS!

In addition to all of the time we spent on Broadway, we also navigated to the Nassau Coliseum for a New York Islanders game!

New York Islanders vs Washington Capitals

New York Islanders fans
We had so much fun when we went to the game last year and it's crazy how affordable it is to go to a game in Uniondale vs. going to one in Toronto. For the price we paid for 2 GREAT tickets on Stubhub, a car rental, gas and tolls, we would barely be able to get ONE ticket to see the Leafs play in Toronto. And the Islanders fans are awesome! People can afford to bring their families, they sing songs about their players and when the game was tied with 4 minutes to go, people were on their feet cheering the boys on. The energy in the stadium was ELECTRIC and the Islanders ended up winning with 23 seconds left in overtime with a sweet goal by their captain, John Tavares.

When we weren't navigating New York State freeways or hanging out near Times Square, we spent our time checking out some of our favourite places including some great restaurants (details in my next NYC post), heading to some of my favourite stores (such as Harney and Sons), getting to know the Lower East Side, driving through Central Park and partaking in a little bit of Black Friday shopping. I scored some jeans for $7.80 at Forever 21 on Black Friday eve, some great new bras at Victoria's Secret and we paid a visit to the 24 hour Apple store for Corbin to get a new iPhone. Nothing crazy (like the people who were camped out in tents at Best Buy!!) but fun to splurge a little bit.

NYC remains my very favourite place and this trip certainly satisfied my craving to visit once again. I left feeling inspired, giddy, even more in love and happy about life!!

Ashley Gibson and Corbin Smith in NYC

PiYo Review

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

After finishing 63 days of Insanity I knew that I:

a) wanted to keep up with working out each day
b) needed a break from all of the jumping

Enter: PiYo!

PiYo is a program by Chalene Johnson (who you might be familiar with from Turbo Jam, Turbo Fire, Chalean Extreme or her New York Times Best Selling book, PUSH) which incorporates moves from Pilates and Yoga to achieve 'functional flexibility that delivers cardiovascular results'. The program is low impact while still being high intensity to help you burn calories and build muscle. There's no jumping, no weights and no strain on your joints. Everything is done with your own body weight, with a modifier being presented for each exercise by a lovely gal named Michelle. 

In my first week I was happy to get to take some time to learn the fundamentals. The first couple of days really walk you through the movements of PiYo and allow you to work on your form. There is a lot of focus on great alignment, which is really helpful when you're doing the moves on your own at home. I don't know that I've ever done so many triceps pushups or planks and that's probably a good thing!! It's also been easy to fit into my day, with each workout only being 25-45 minutes long. 

As you move through the program, the intensity of the workouts increase. Some days are focused on a specific zone (like Buns or Core) while others cover the whole body (like Sweat or Drench). Unlike a traditional Pilates or Yoga class, PiYo keeps you moving and never feels slow or repetitive. I've definitely noticed improvements in my flexibility and strength in the six weeks I've been following the program. I feel leaner and stronger and have continued to lose inches all over by body, bringing me to 19 inches lost since I started Insanity!!

I'm really looking forward to completing the last 2 weeks of PiYo, even doing this week's workouts while in New York! I've committed to getting my workouts done in the morning before we head out for each day's adventures and I know that's going to help me feel great. I'm also pretty certain that my new program is going to be Insanity MAX:30, so I'm clinging on to Chalene and our lack of jumping for as long as I can. 

PiYo would be an amazing workout for anyone looking for flexibility training, someone who is recovering from a previous injury and is looking for something low impact that won't strain joints, people looking to increase lean muscle without lifting heavy weights or those who enjoy Pilates and Yoga but also want the calorie burn of a cardio workout. It's an awesome workout and has truly been a great break from the intensity of Insanity. 

The PiYo Challenge Pack is on promo this month for a great price and I currently have 4 spots left in my December Challenge group. I would love for you to join us and this program would be an amazing way for you to get a head start on your 2015 goals!! 

If you would like to learn more about PiYo or get more information about joining my December Challenge Group, please send me an email or connect with me on Facebook

Off to NYC

Monday, November 24, 2014

I've got my passport, my sparkly ticket and too many dresses packed, and I'm ready to head to NYC tomorrow morning!! 

This trip has been in the works since my birthday in April and I couldn't be more excited to head to my favourite city with my very favourite person! Corbin and I had such a wonderful time last year, I'm really looking forward to a repeat.

I will be tweeting, instagramming and Facebooking our adventures which will include 3 shows, (Honeymoon In Vegas, Disenchanted and 1 TBD with Side Show and Curious Incident of the Dog at Night Time being high on my list!), an Islanders game, visits with friends, incredible food, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and some Black Friday shopping! I've been plotting our days for a little while and am stoked for our adventures. It's always a tough balance when you travel, between visiting previously discovered favourite places and making time to explore new ones. I'm hoping this trip has a good balance of both.

There will most certainly be a blog post about the trip when we are back, but in the meantime feel free to follow along on social media. I think there will be a lot of squeals and smiley faces!

Are you planning any Black Friday shopping? How do you balance between old and new places when traveling?

Make Just a Ripple

Monday, November 10, 2014

A couple weeks ago I took the stage for my latest solo show, The Difference a Year Makes at the Flying Beaver Pubaret

The Difference a Year Makes
It was wonderful and therapeutic and empowering to be onstage, doing what I love and talking about the changes I've made over the last year.

The Difference a Year Makes

One of the songs that resonated most deeply in the show was 'She Used to Be Mine' which Sara Bareilles has been writing for the musical adaptation of the movie 'Waitress'. From the first time I heard the song, I knew it would be a perfect fit for the show. "It's not simple to say, most days I don't recognize me..." is all too familiar a feeling. At the end of last year when I was incredibly unhappy in my job and realizing that I wasn't doing the things in my life that I was actually passionate about, I became a fraction of myself. 

The Difference a Year Makes

Leaving that job, realigning my priorities, creating balance, nourishing my body and working actively on the relationships in my life have been a huge part of my transformation this year. It hasn't been sunshine, rainbows and unicorns 24/7, but it has been empowering and all kinds of awesome most of the time. I am living the life I want to live and that's the very best feeling. 

The Difference a Year Makes

"Make just a ripple, come on be brave. This time a ripple, next time a wave! Sometimes you have to start small, climbing the tiniest wall. Maybe you're going to fall, but it's better than not starting at all"

-Everybody Says Don't, Stephen Sondheim

The Difference a Year Makes
I hear that the show spurned some conversations about following one's dreams and focusing on the things that make people the happiest, which is really awesome. For a long time I believed that those things had a place in my life, but fit into a smaller part of my personal 'pie of life'. Pursuing your passions can be scary, but even taking just a small step in that direction can have a HUGE impact on your life. Fear of failure, fear of success, guilt, anxiety and all sorts of other things can stand in our way, but unless you try, you'll never know. 

The Difference a Year Makes

Thanks to everyone who came to the show, sent well wishes, flowers and tweets - I couldn't be more grateful and appreciative. Thanks to the Pubaret for being wonderful hosts once again. Thanks to Giustin for being an incredible musical director and confidante throughout the process of creating the show. And thanks to Corbin for the beautiful photos and ongoing support, encouragement and love. 

Meal Planning Magic

Friday, November 7, 2014

Meal planning is something that I used to be really good at and made a BIG priority for myself. But since I've been living on my own, it's been a task that has dwindled on my list of priorities. Because my schedule can be all over the place, I find it more challenging to set a day to do my grocery shopping and meal prep and then stick to a meal plan when I'm running from worky to Corbin's house to rehearsal and everywhere else! I end up spending more money on take away food than I would like and I come home to a house that doesn't have a tonne of choices in the fridge and pantry.

This week I set out to be more diligent with my meal planning. I set a goal to bring a packed meal to all work shifts and rehearsals and made myself a little meal planner, complete with my schedule for each day. I'm happy to say that I was pretty successful!! I made some delicious meals, saved lots of money and had a great time cooking with Corbin on Monday and Tuesday.

Here are a couple of my favourites from the week!!

gluten free vegan raw taco salad

This taco salad from Choosing Raw was unbelievable!! We loved it so much!! I made the filling with walnuts, lentils and sundried tomatoes and changed up the spices a bit. The guac was incredible and cashew sour cream is one of my very favourite things. We enjoyed this for dinner one night and by lunch the next day I was CRAVING it! I love leftovers!!! We will be making this again. And again. And again.

gluten free vegan veggie bowl
I made these veggie bowls back in March for Corbin's birthday and we were obsessed with the ranch hummus that was on top of them! When I was looking through Pinterest trying to decide what to make for dinner on Tuesday, they popped up and I knew we had to have them again. I think they were even better the second time! We used fresh herbs in the hummus which made it extra green (and extra yummy) and had a handle on how to make the polenta this time around. They were so good! And also provided great leftovers for the next day. There are a lot of components, but with two of us pulling everything together in the kitchen it was actually pretty easy and came together in about 40 minutes.

one bowl gluten free banana bread

For a treat, I decided to try out this One Bowl Gluten Free Banana Bread recipe and it turned out so well! It was really easy, I had most of the ingredients on hand and everyone who tried it really enjoyed it. They were also surprised that it was gluten and dairy free, which is always a good sign! It was just delicious banana bread. I will definitely be making this again! (Actually today, as I want to bring some to my cast for our last rehearsal tomorrow)

I'm really proud that I stuck to my plan this week and had a blast in the kitchen. While my meal planning may not be as structured as it used to be, I can still make it happen if I make it a priority! If you're super and on the go like I am, take the time to get some groceries and make a couple of yummy meals that you can enjoy throughout the week. Your tummy and your wallet will thank you!

What are your best meal planning tips? What was on your meal plan this week??

Why is This Time Going to Be Any Different?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

There's been a question that's been brewing in the back of my brain and coming up in my thoughts of late:

Why is this time going to be any different?

This has been specifically related to my recent transformation and lifestyle change as a result of completing Insanity and (now) PiYo.

I've lost weight before. In 2006, I joined Weight Watchers and lost 30 lbs. Around the time of my break up, I lost another 10 unintentionally and not in a healthy way. Over the course of the next 2 years I would put some of that weight back on. There was a point where I almost took a leave of absence from Weight Watchers because I wasn't feeling good on the inside or the outside and was having a hard time reconciling those feelings while being outwardly positive in my meetings.

After I left WW in 2012, I focused on feeling good in my own skin, rather than basing my feelings on the scale. I stopped weighing myself for a long time and focused on nourishing my body. At the beginning of 2014, I set a goal to continue do exactly that and right before I started Insanity, was feeling really awesome.

Since joining Weight Watchers, I've dabbled in fitness off and on. I've had gym memberships, personal trainers, gone to boot camps and had great results. I remember looking back at photos from my boot camp days and thinking about how much I would LOVE to go back to having that body. But after boot camp, I didn't really keep up with my workouts as much as I could have and my body didn't stay that way.

With my weight and level of fitness fluctuating up and down since I took that initial step back in 2006, you can see why this question of "why is this time going to be different" has come into focus. And I know that I'm not alone in this. Instead of get down on myself and worry about what 'could' or 'might' happen, I've chosen to come up with a list of reasons as to why this time is going to be different.

I feel awesome, inside and out. 

It's interesting, but this is new for me. For the first time, I truly feel that how I feel on the inside, matches what's happening on the outside. I don't know that I've ever had that.

With my initial weight loss, I was so focused on the scale and getting down past a certain number. Even when I tried to focus on how I was FEELING, it was really difficult to shove the scale out of my brain. When I was at my fittest (during boot camp) I wrote in my journal about how I wanted to lose 5 more pounds (wtf?!), despite the fact that my body was toned, I had lost a significant amount of body fat and had increased my level of fitness significantly. When I stepped away from the scale, I was able to get back to feeling good about myself in a way that was totally separate from what I weighed. Going into Insanity with that mentality made my progress feel even better and gave me extra confidence.

I have an incredible support network. 

Having accountability and support has been an integral part throughout weight loss and fitness journey. Meetings, mentors and classes have always helped me. Having an inspiring and motivating Coach, along with an online support & accountability group has kept me focused and on track. It's something that I'm committed to continuing with going forward, as I know that it will help keep me motivated and on track.

And just because I'm a Coach now, doesn't mean that I'm going to stop focusing on my own progress and journey. I realize that feeling my best and actively working towards my own goals, is going to help me help others do the same. I am right down there in the trenches and that isn't about to end anytime soon. Helping others is INCREDIBLE and continues to inspire me every day. It's an amazing feeling that is just going to continue to grow over time.

My expectations feel manageable and realistic. 

Looking back at how my mentality about health, weight loss and fitness has changed over the years is really interesting to me.

As much as I tried not to be, there were times when I was a slave to the scale. 0.8 lbs would upset me. During that boot camp, I was fixated on losing 5 more pounds. I had a lot of expectations for myself that were all based around a number. I've weighed myself out of curiosity since finishing Insanity, but I've left the obsession with the number on the scale in the past.

Previously, I would feel guilty for eating certain foods or overindulging. In time, I've been able to get out of the 'good' and 'bad' food mentality, and just make choices about what I eat. Yesterday, I had a gluten free, vegan brownie and it was delicious. No guilt, no shame. Just enjoyment. I now write down what I eat to keep myself accountable, but also to see patterns and work towards fueling my body in the best way possible.

I missed a workout on the weekend because life was crazy and I was exhausted. I didn't beat myself up or stress out about it and just got back on track on Monday.  My attitude is firmly planted in positivity and moderation and it feels awesome. I'm committed to feeling good and nourishing my body, and that's exactly what I'm doing.

I'm done with the negative self talk. 

Allowing myself to hear the thought "why is this time going to be any different?" and answering the question honestly and realistically has been huge for me. Negative self talk could have previously convinced me that I wouldn't be able to maintain this healthy, positive lifestyle or that I would just quit or stop working out or gain weight or feel terrible. And to be honest, this post seemed a bit scary to write because I was publicly putting that question and these answers out into the world. I can see that all of the ups and downs and things that have brought me to this place have been experiences, and not failure.I refuse to beat myself up for things that have happened in the past or ways that life has changed. I recognize that things could change in an instant once again, but in this moment, I'm committing to feeling great, nourishing my body and continuing with the healthy habits that I've formed to help me do that successfully. Positive self talk is HUGE and I'm working on it every day.

Ashley Gibson progress PiYo Beachbody

Negative self talk, you can take a hike.

I'm so happy to be in this place and recognize that it's been a long journey to get here. This time is going to be different because of the way I feel, the attitude I've embraced and the expectations I've set for myself.

It already IS different this time around and I'm excited and inspired to keep moving forward.

What's different for YOU this time? What steps have you taken to stay motivated, focused and feeling great once you've made changes in your lifestyle?

And if you're ready to make a change in your lifestyle and make it different for YOU this time around, I wanna talk! I've got a new support & accountability group starting on Monday to run through the end of 2014 to help make that happen. Comment below with your email, message me on Facebook or send me a message in the 'contact' section. I would love to connect with you and hear more xo

The Difference a Year Makes

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Last summer I did a show called "I Know it's Today" which was all about boys, dating, relationships and everything that's happened since that time I was engaged. At the time of the show, I had no idea that my life was about to change substantially in all sorts of ways, both personally and professionally.

Now, I've had my share of massive changes over the last five years from leaving jobs (to go to other jobs, attend nutrition school or due to changes in the job itself), starting new jobs, finding a balance of where performing fit into my life, dating people and figuring out what I was looking for in a partner, trying out new things and figuring out what I wanted to be doing with my life. But last year was different.

A year ago I was working in a job that I was quickly beginning to realize wasn't a good fit for me while commuting to Mississauga (1.5 hours each way) 5 days a week. It started to take a toll on my mental health and I was not a happy person. While this was all happening, I was building a new relationship with someone,who (thankfully) was patient, helpful and loving while I was trying to manage a whole lot of stress and some big decisions. I was just about to audition for a show that would go up in January, but had to turn down some other auditions because they didn't fit into my life.

On December 30, 2013, I made some huge changes and almost a year later, my life couldn't be more different.

Right now I'm busy rehearsing for two shows, auditioning more regularly, working at a part time job 10 minutes from my house and doing other work that has flexible timing and location. I have time for the things that are important in my life and have cultivated a great deal of balance. I continue to build an incredible relationship with a partner who remains patient, helpful and loving. Thankfully, I'm now in a place where I feel that I can contribute equally to our growth and love. I have time to work out and nourish my body and spend time with the amazing people in my life.

It's truly amazing the difference a year can make, and next Friday at 9pm I'm going to be sharing more about the things I've experienced and the changes I've made in my show, The Difference a Year Makes (or How to Quit Your Job, Fall in Love and Live the Life of Your Dreams) at the Flying Beaver Pubaret.

Ashley Gibson cabaret Toronto

Withe the help of mega talented Music Director, Giustin MacLean, I'll be singing songs and telling stories about the crazy year that I've had, how I decided to make those big changes and everything that has happened as a result!

Tickets are available for $15 in advance or $20 at the door either online or at the Pubaret. I would love to see you there so you can help me celebrate the difference a year can really make!

If you were doing a show about how YOUR life has changed over the last year, what song(s) would be required on the set list?

8 Tips for Enjoying a Healthier Thanksgiving

Friday, October 10, 2014

I can hardly believe that it's already October. The air is getting crisper and the sun is going down a whole lot earlier. The leaves are beginning to turn and I'm craving everything pumpkin! I busted out my legwarmers yesterday and have embraced the fact that I can no longer get away with just a jean jacket outside.

It is Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and I'm looking forward to spending some time with family on Monday. It can also be overwhelming to navigate a big meal with family when you're trying to embrace a healthier lifestyle. I've been doing some brainstorming and enlisted the help of some friends on Facebook and Twitter, and came up with the following list of tips to enjoy a healthier Thanksgiving meal.

How to enjoy a healthier Thanksgiving

  1. Make great food choices leading up to the meal. Have a stellar breakfast and lunch or snack so you're not ravenous when you sit down for dinner. It will help you make better choices during the meal and ensure that you're eating to nourish yourself and enjoy the food, and not eating because you are starving!
  2. Take the time to do a workout during the day on your own or take advantage of the gorgeous fall weather and take a nice walk or run. Getting some activity in will feel awesome and give your day some balance and 'you' time (which is especially helpful if you're having a lot of family time!)
  3. If you're the one making the meal or can influence the chef, ensure that there are some awesome, healthy options included. Ditch the butter and cream. Have a selection of beautiful veggies, make a delicious fall-inspired soup or try some healthier alternatives to classic dishes like cauliflower mashmushroom miso gravy, lentil loaf, a great shepherd's pie or vegan pumpkin pie. There are endless possibilities to what your meal could look like and it's a wonderful time to try something new, perhaps creating a new tradition.
  4. When you're filling up your plate, make half of it veggies! You'll get a lovely assortment of goodness, while being able to feel great about your meal and still leaving room for more indulgent choices.
  5. Be sure to enjoy your favourite parts of the meal. If you love stuffing, have stuffing! If you're a pie person, enjoy some pie! Practice moderation and work on enjoying your food rather than feeling guilty.
  6. Skip the things that don't excite you and since you're an independent person, you don't have to eat certain foods just to be polite. Aunt Ida will forgive you. I promise.
  7. Remember that it's not the last supper. For real. It's seriously just another meal and you don't need to eat everything in sight, just because it's there! If you celebrate Christmas, you're going to be seeing all of those foods in a month and a half anyway. There's also nothing stopping you from making/having pumpkin pie or stuffing on a non-holiday. Just sayin'.
  8. Make it less about the food and more about giving thanks. Focus on the things in your life that you are grateful for and the time you get to spend with your family and friends. 
I feel thankful for so many things in my life right now: my incredible relationship, my wonderful friends & familia, my health and the opportunity to do so many things that I love! Life is pretty sweet and I'm looking forward to having some time to reflect on all of that this weekend. 

I hope these tips are helpful for you this weekend (and give my American friends a head start on their plans in November!) Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone xo

What are you thankful for?
What is your favourite tip for enjoying a healthier Thanksgiving? 

Insanity - My Final Results

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A little over two months ago I started on a mission: I was determined to finish the Insanity workout program for the first time.

Ashley Gibson - photo by Corbin Smith

I had received the program more than a year and a half ago and started it at least 3 times, never getting past week 3 (of 9 weeks). Even when I said that this time I was going to complete it, I still had my doubts based on my past results and the fact that I was committing to a HUGE change for 63 days. I wanted to stick to my word, but in the back of my brain was that nasty voice telling me that I was going to fail, again.

As with any change, in the beginning I was super keen and motivated. I was committed to the program and engaged in my online accountability group. The momentum started to build as soon as I started seeing changes in my body, both in photos and in real life. I grabbed a hold of that momentum and kept going!!!

Working out 6 days a week took INTENSE determination. Prior to starting I had been doing yoga once or twice a week, walking and riding my bicycle - this is NOT the same as ANY workout with Shaun T!! I needed to be intentional with planning my workouts in order to be consistent and focused. I brought my DVDs back and forth to Corbin's house whenever I stayed with him and even took them up to his parents' house when we up there for a few days.

In case you were wondering, the workouts never became EASY (especially after I started month 2 - can I remind you all of the crying incident where I almost quit?? There was another big workout cry last week and it wasn't pretty). But I started to feel stronger and more capable as I kept moving forward. I was able to get through half of the warm up without stopping and then three quarters of it. As time went on, I saw great progress in my Fit Tests and found myself struggling less with form and focused on 'digging deeper'.

In sticking with the program I was reminded that I can accomplish great things when I am laser-focused and wholeheartedly committed, which was really motivating! It wasn't easy, but I had some great help and encouragement along the way from Corbin, my friends, my incredible Coach, Marissa, my accountability groups and all sorts of wonderfully supportive people online. I am so grateful for everyone's support!

I rediscovered how awesome it feels to be working out on a regular basis and seeing changes in my body. Doing my workouts became a great source of 'me' time and the progress I made motivated me in other aspects of my life. I feel stronger, fitter and really happy. I did have an old ankle injury flare up a bit, but modified when I needed to and took care of myself by wrapping it, getting acupuncture/massage and keeping the jumping to a minimum (and squatting instead!)

After completing 63 days of Insanity I saw the following progress:
  • Improved my Fit Test results across the board, in some cases even doubling the number of reps I could do
  • Increased my endurance and could do MORE for longer periods of time
  • I lost inches all over my body including 2 from my chest, 3.5 from my waist, 2.5 from my hips, 1 from each arm and 2.5 from each leg
  • I lost 10 pounds
  • Gained muscle in all sorts of places (I'm sorry to all of my friends who had to deal with me shouting "Look, I have a shoulder!!!" randomly over the last few weeks)
Insanity results Ashley Gibson

Insanity results Ashley Gibson

Insanity results Ashley Gibson

I grew to ADORE Shaun T and I'm certainly going to miss him now that we're done (this round). I'm going to be spending some quality time with Chalene Johnson doing PiYo for the next 2 months and maybe when Insanity: MAX:30 comes out, Shaun T and I may have a reunion. In the meantime, I'll be thankful that the jumping will be kept to a minimum for now. I knew that the program was going to change my body, but I couldn't have imagined all of this, nor how it would impact the rest of my life! 

Completing the program and connecting with Marissa brought the chance to become a Coach myself and help others to reach their goals. In September I took the plunge and became a Coach and this month I have 3 Challengers doing an online support group alongside me. I've missed helping people since leaving Weight Watchers and I feel blessed to be putting myself into the service of others and helping them to reach their goals!!

If you're sitting there reading this and thinking "I could never do Insanity", trust me when I say that you absolutely could. With the right attitude, determination, willingness to try and great support system, you could totally do it and see awesome results, leaving a whole lot of sweat (and maybe some tears) behind you. Or if Insanity wasn't up your alley to begin with, you could start with something else and work your way there. But I know you could get there and make incredible changes in your life. It's about deciding that you want to make a change and acting on it. 

I say this as someone who didn't believe I could do it either. It's you vs. yourself and I'm a big believer in dreaming big. It feels incredible when the hard work pays off and you do more than you even realized you could. 

"She turned her can'ts into cans and her dreams into plans"

Photo by Corbin Smith
 If you'd like to tackle Insanity or are just ready to make some sort of change in your life, I'd love to help you do that as your Coach and with the support of an amazing online accountability group. Send me an email or connect with me on Facebook and tell me a bit about yourself and your goals and let's make it happen!!

Big thanks to Corbin Smith for all the images, sweet .GIF and neverending encouragement & support

Cauliflower Pizza

Friday, October 3, 2014

The internet has gone nutty over the cauliflower pizza phenomenon. I'll admit that I was skeptical thinking, "How can cauliflower mush even pretend to taste like pizza crust?" anytime I saw another cauliflower pizza crust pop up on Pinterest.

Oh friends, I have crossed over to the dark side and it's DELICIOUS over here.

Not only is this cauliflower pizza crust super tasty, it's also really easy to make. We've already made it a second time and I think it will be a staple for dinners with us.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust 
(Gluten free)

Half a small head of cauliflower
1/2 cup shredded goat cheddar (or cheese of your choice)
1 egg
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Add roughly chopped cauliflower to food processor and blitz until all cauliflower is in rice-like bits. Cook / steam for 5-8 minutes.

In a medium bowl, add 1 1/4 cup cauliflower bits, egg, cheese, nutritional yeast, spices and garlic. Mix until well combined.

Prep a cookie sheet with parchment paper and a bit of oil. Place your "dough" on the sheet and pat to form an equally distributed oval, that isn't super thin.

Bake crust for about 15-20 mins until golden and edges are starting to crisp up.

Once the crust has cooked, top your pizza with your favourite things! We used tomato sauce, sautéed bell peppers and mushrooms, red onion, sundried tomatoes and a bit more of the goat cheddar.

 Place topped pizza under broiler until cheese has melted. Remove from broiler and serve.

After you've made the recipe once or twice, feel free to play around with the cooking time and toppings. The second time around, Corbin left the crust in the oven for a bit longer (closer to 18-20 minutes) and it was awesome.

Are you interested in more yummy, healthy recipes like this one? From October 20-24 I'm going to be running a clean eating group through Facebook with lots of recipes, tips and tricks for healthy, delicious, clean eats. If you'd like to be included in the group, send me an email or connect with me on Facebook

Do's and Don'ts for Working Out at Home

Friday, September 26, 2014

Before doing Insanity, I had never really consistently worked out at home.

I've dabbled with other DVDs, but for the most part I've done them on a fairly casual schedule or stuck with them for a couple of weeks and then put them on the shelf to collect dust. I think that was one of the scariest things about committing to Insanity this time around, was giving my word that I was going to continue the program for 9 consecutive weeks. I'm nearing the completion of Insanity and getting ready to dive into PiYo when I'm done. I'm committed to creating a healthier lifestyle with my workouts and love how I feel as a result.
Beachbody PiYo workout

Now that I'm in the home stretch, I've learned a thing or two about doing consistent workouts at home, and I thought I would share some Do's and Don'ts

Do choose a workout that's right for you

Choosing a workout that is right for you based on your goals, likes, preferences and tastes is going to be key to your consistency and progress. Think about your goals - are you doing this to lose weight, build muscle, tone or just get healthier? Is following a fitness regime new for you or are you a seasoned veteran? Are you a cardio junkie or do you prefer to take things at a bit of a slower pace? All of these factors can you help determine the right workout for you, which will help you to be consistent and get great results

Don't be a hero

Don't choose a program just because it seems like everyone else is doing it. If something is too extreme or not your kinda pace, it's unlikely that you'll want to stick to it. I'm all for pushing boundaries, but be honest with yourself. You could also start with one thing and build up to another more intense program down the road! The idea is that you're working towards creating a healthy lifestyle change, so there will be time to build things up as you go!

Do set a time to workout

Treat your workout like an item on your agenda or a class that you're heading to. Choose a time in your day that works for you and remember that it doesn't need to be exactly the same time every day. You just need to make sure it's at a time that works, feels good for you and that you show up! My schedule changes from day to day, so my workout time changes. Sometimes I do it in the morning before days I start work or rehearsal early, other times I do it later in the day after getting things done. It all depends on you and your schedule.

Don't fly by the seat of your pants

If you don't make your workout a priority in your day, it's not going to happen. If you wait until the very end of your day and realize you still have a workout to do, you're NOT going to want to do it. TRUST ME. And then that's an extra thing to fight in order to get it done. If the end of your day is the only time you can complete it I totally get it, but make sure you're being intentional with your workouts.

Do listen to your body

Sometimes you're going to need to modify a workout to accommodate your fitness level, body or any injuries you may have and that's totally cool! Always monitor yourself to ensure you're following the correct form and listen to what the instructor is saying about how to accomplish that. Your muscles are going to be sore and that's totally normal. If it's joint or bone pain, adjust your form and be sure to see a doctor or physio if you do injure yourself.

Don't listen to your brain

Your brain is going to be the first to tell you that you can't do it, that you should give up and just quit. Put that voice on ignore, my friends. You are capable of SO MUCH. And that nasty, negative self talk has got to go. Push yourself (while still listening to your body, of course) and be amazed at all that you will be able to accomplish if you put your mind to it. This is coming from the gal who started Insanity at least 3 times before and never got past week 3. I told myself I didn't have time, couldn't do it, it was too hard, blah, blah, blah. This time around I've proved those nasty demons wrong and have some incredible results to show for it. You CAN do this. I know you can.

Do take care of your body

Creating a healthy lifestyle change isn't just about exercising or eating right. It's about looking at the full picture. Once you bring regular exercise into the mix, it's time to assess everything else. Are you eating well and fueling your body? Are you drinking enough water? Are you getting enough sleep? All of these factors will contribute to your success and ensure that you're taking the best care of your body.

Don't take extreme measures

While you may be keen to make fantastic progress, undereating isn't going to help you reach your goals. Neither is working out way above and beyond what your program calls for. Same goes for not getting enough sleep or drinking enough water. Not only could any of these scenarios be detrimental to your success, but they could also be the thing that gets you off the wagon when you feel deprived or frustrated. Balance is key to consistency. Trust in the program and your eating plan. The progress will come.

Do find ways to be accountable

Working out at home means it's all on you to schedule in the workout and actually do it. There's no class attendance to check in with or personal trainer to see for an appointment. It's all you! So it's important to find ways to hold yourself accountable, whether that be through a friend who is also working out, connecting with a Coach, being a part of an online community or even talking to your bestie or partner about your goals and action steps. Having someone to hold you to your commitment will definitely help you to stick with it.

Don't go at it alone

While you may be doing your workouts by yourself, you don't need to do this on your own. And through personal experience and the journeys of others around me, I've seen what a difference having support around you can make. You don't need to go broadcasting to the world that you're starting something new or that you're working on creating a healthier lifestyle, but by letting even one person into your journey you're not only gaining a cheerleader to help you stay accountable, you may inspire someone else to make some healthy changes in their life. And that's HUGE.

Do track your progress

The first thing I'm going to say about tracking your progress is to ditch the scale. Or at least put it away for awhile. Weight loss can be a great measure of success (especially when you have a lot of weight to lose), but it's certainly not the only one and in my opinion, it's often not the best one. It can be so easy to become obsessed with a NUMBER.  You're a human and so much more than what the scale says! So weigh yourself at the beginning and maybe a couple times on your journey, but leave it in the closet the rest of the time. Start by taking a before picture and measurements when you start and take new ones every 2 weeks so you can see your body changing. Then measure your progress based on those measurements, clothing sizes, your energy level, how long you're able to go in your workout before taking a break, your mood, how you FEEL or whatever metrics are most motivating for you. Set mini goals for yourself and track them as you go. This is YOUR journey and you get to choose how to watch it unfold.

Don't give up when things get tough

It's so easy to get caught up with instant gratification and want to give up on reaching our goals when we're not seeing IMMEDIATE results. Or when we listen to our brains and allow that negative self talk to creep in and convince us that we're not capable. When the scale isn't moving. When something feels too difficult. When we don't feel like we're making progress. When you cry because something is so overwhelming. Is it going to be easy? No. Is it going to be worth it? Yes. There are going to be times on this journey when you want to give up, but if you stick with it, you're going to feel incredible. And the magic happens when we step out of our comfort zone. Having some mini goals and ways to measure your progress will help. So find a way to push through, persevere and keep going. It WILL be worth it.

I am so proud to be nearing the end of my Insanity journey (9 more days!!) and feel confident that this list helped me to stick with it, persevere and reach my goals. I'm so excited for what comes next: PiYo, helping to lead my own Support & Accountability group as a Coach and continuing to feel amazing, healthy and strong!! If joining an online Support & Accountability group sounds like something you'd be interested in, please connect with me and we can talk about your goals!

For those of you who do work out at home / independently, did I miss anything? What helps you to be successful and accountable?

Brene Brown - The Power of Vulnerability

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"When we were children, we used to think that when we were all grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable."

- Madeleine L'Engle

I started reading Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly last week and I've become completed engrossed in her research, teachings and philosophy. So many people view vulnerability as a weakness, and in her book she dispels this myth and argues that it is actually our most accurate measure of courage. Her ideas resonate deeply with me and I can't wait to keep reading. 

In this TEDTalk she discusses her research of wholeheartedness and the power of vulnerability. Pretty incredible stuff. 

"Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness"

-Brene Brown

Vegan Eats in Ottawa

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Two weeks ago, Corbin and I took a little road trip to Ottawa! I really wanted to visit because my best friend Mel is moving across the world this week, and I wanted to give her a hug before she left. Some sweet friends of Corbin's also just moved to Ottawa, so the whole thing seemed like a great excuse for an adventure!

We spent a lot of time visiting and catching up with our friends, and planned a couple fun meals out to enjoy some highly recommended vegan restaurants. On the Saturday night we headed to Zen Kitchen with my friend Laura for dinner.

Zen Kitchen is a gourmet vegan restaurant that recently reopened after undergoing a change in owners. I started drooling over their vegan and gluten free friendly menu for about 24 hours before we actually arrived - everything sounded so good!

We decided on the black bean cakes and crispy mushroom appetizer to start.

The black bean cakes had good flavor, but were a bit dry. They came with a really tasty side of corn chips, salsa, guacamole and cashew sour cream which we really enjoyed. The crispy mushrooms were a hit! The dipping sauces made them even better. I wish I could eat these all the time.

For our mains, Laura had the Caesar salad (complete with polenta croutons and tofu), Corbin had the Royal Zen Burger and I got the lemon scented gnocchi. While everyone's meals looked, smelled and tasted delicious, I won the dinner round. The gnocchi was sublime. From the well cooked veggies, to the mushroom-leek cream sauce, I was in heaven. I loved every bite, especially since gnocchi isn't something I get to eat very often!

The dessert menu looked awesome, but the peanut butter and chocolate pie had caught my eye when I was perusing the menu on the drive up to Ottawa. All 3 of us decided to get it and we were not disappointed. It was absolutely delicious!! Unlike many peanut butter and chocolate desserts, this one was more peanut butter than chocolate, which I really liked. It had a great gluten free crust and was topped with coconut cream. I want to go back just so I can eat this pie again!

Overall it was a really lovely meal. The service was great and they were very diligent about my gluten intolerance, which I really appreciated! Definitely a fancier dinner out that we would normally do, but certainly nice as a treat with amazing company.

We had plans for brunch with Mel and her partner on Sunday morning and she suggested we go to Cafe My House.

I understand that they recently moved to a new location on Wellington Street West and I loved everything about the decor. It was so cute inside! Since it was a nice weekend, we scored a sweet table on the back patio for our brunch.

This was another menu I had been checking out in advance, though I still found it difficult to choose because everything sounded amazing! I started with the Cacao Latte, which was really good, though a little sweet for me.

I decided on the Chipotle BLT mostly because it had a waffle bun. Holy wow.

It was AWESOME. Also, gigantic. But so good. I loved every bite.

Everyone else enjoyed their meals and I would certainly love to go back there to try the dinner menu sometime.

Over dinner the night before, Laura had mentioned a vegan bakery where she had enjoyed the most amazing cupcake and we decided to check it out! Auntie Loo's Treats is Ottawa's first 100% vegan bakery. They have an amazing selection of cupcakes, donuts, squares and buns with a small selection of gluten free items. We had a great visit to the shop and scored some treats for the ride home.

We spent the afternoon in the sunshine at a Provincial Park and I got to give Mel all sorts of hugs. It's been awhile since we've lived in the same city, but this move is going to be a HUGE change and because she's my best friend I want the best for her. I'm so glad we were able to sneak in a visit and have some lovely time together before she left. Love that girl!

The vegan scene in Ottawa is up and coming and it's neat to try out some new places each time I visit. It was an incredible weekend with some wonderful people and some really delicious food!
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