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

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??

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? 

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!

Toronto's Vegetarian Food Fair 2014 - My Top Picks

Friday, September 5, 2014

Since my first glimpse into veganism back in 2009, Toronto's Vegetarian Food Fair has been the standard way I spend the first weekend in September after Labour Day. I am sad to be missing the Food Fair this year as I will be heading to Ottawa for the weekend, but if you're in the city here are the things you should definitely see, do and EAT this weekend to celebrate the Fair's 30th anniversary!!

Learn a thing

There are some amazing speakers joining the lineup this year including Bryant Terry, Ricki Heller, Terry Hope Romero and my sweet friend, Meghan Telpner. There will be lots to learn from the politics of veganism, how to ferment things and previews of all sorts of yummy recipes. Be sure to pop inside or check out one of the stages to see what's happening.

See one of my favourite local bakers in action

It's no secret that I love Bunners, so I think it's awesome that Ashley Wittig will be sharing some baking secrets in her demo. (Also maybe, samples?!) And if you miss that, check out their cookbook - I'm slowly working my way through it and LOVING it!! Can't wait to post my review very soon!

Eat tasty treats

While I've noted the lack of vegetables in previous years at the Food Fair, I enjoyed a great dinner from Green Zebra last year (with kale!!) and there is certain to be no shortage of delicious treats for you to enjoy! Be sure to check out Sweets from the Earth, Bloomers and APiecalypseNow.

Cross something off your bucket list

While you're in Toronto, you might as well check out the rest of the city and some of the incredible vegan offerings our city has. My lovely friend Lisa has put together a sweet list of Toronto's Best Vegan Restaurant Dishes to help get you started! I've only tried 28 out of the 100 so far, but was stoked to cross Boreal Gelato's Vegan Salted Caramel gelato off the list last week. Holy yum!!

Boreal Gelato Toronto

The Food Fair begins tonight and runs until Sunday evening at the Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queen's Quay West. Happy Food Fair-ing!!!

Vegan Mofo 2014 - Vegan Eats for Fueling Your Body

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Linz and I are super pumped to be participating in Vegan Mofo once again! After last year's hummazing extravaganza of hummus, we've decided to blog a month of Vegan Eats for Fueling Your Body.

Dancing Through Life, The Kitchen Operas

We bounced around ideas for themes for a little while, but came back to the fact that both of us are super focused on fitness right now, with my Insanity going strong and Linz training for a 10k on September 20. It also means a bit less hummus in the fridge and a little more variety, and that's really okay with me. (I think Corbin is the only one who is a bit upset as he LOVED being a hummus taste tester. Have no fear lovie! Delicious things are coming!)

We've broken down our theme into weeks, with this week's focus being breakfast. We've already blogged super tasty breakfast tacos and pumpkin cornbread waffles (in honour of #wafflewednesday) with more yumminess to come tomorrow and Friday. Week two will be lunches, week three will be dinners and the last week will be desserts and snacks. So much gluten free, vegan deliciousness!

gluten free vegan breakfast tacos, Vegan MoFo
It's also a great way to focus on my own eating and how I am truly fueling my body! I'm in 'Recovery Week' for Insanity and next week I start month 2. All the titles in month 2 involve the word 'MAX', so I'm a little scared. MoFo is also an amazing time to discover new blogs, awesome peeps and yummy recipes - which is all awesome!! I'm having fun using randomofo.com to browse through all sorts of different posts and following #veganmofo2014 on Twitter & Instagram. This all fits in nicely with my goals for September, which I posted to Instagram yesterday.

Vegan MoFo also gives Linz and I an 'excuse' to schedule cooking dates into our weeks, where we collaborate on yummy things. I'll be heading to her house after I finish this post so we can make a sweet fall-inspired breakfast for Friday's post and something tasty to kick off lunch week. Food + Friends = Fun

You can find all of our Vegan MoFo posts over on Lindsay's blog, The Kitchen Operas.

Do you participate in Vegan MoFo? Who are some of your favourite bloggers to follow during this yummy month?

Love List - August

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The CNE has started in Toronto and the temperatures are getting chillier - where is August going?!? Does anyone else get those feelings that inspire you to buy new school supplies around this time of year (even if you're not going back to school?) Maybe I just love new pens and post-it notes a little too much. Other than school supplies (including a shiny new owl whiteboard) here are the things I'm loving right now:

It's wonderful to see great people doing awesome things!! My friends Alex and Kelly have opened a storefront for Bloomer's bakery at Ossington and Bloor.

Bloomer's Toronto, gluten free, veganI've been a fan of Kelly's cookies for a long time, so it's very cool to now have a place to stop and enjoy them regularly. So far the menu consists of some amazing treats which are all vegan and some gluten free. The cafe has a great vibe and it's slowly becoming one of my favourite places to sit with a tea (& treat) and get work done. A full menu is soon to follow and I couldn't be more excited to have another stellar option for gluten free vegan food in the city. Try the zucchini chocolate chip muffin. TRUST ME.

Bloomer's Toronto, vegan, gluten free

Lovebot Kickstarter
Speaking of friends doing awesome things... Almost a year ago Corbin and I went on our Lovebot adventure which led to us going to Lovebot HQ and getting to spend more time with Matthew Del Degan, the creator of the Lovebot Invasion himself! The Lovebot team has an awesome Kickstarter happening right now for the DIY Lovebot toy. The campaign has just 11 days left to reach it's goal of $30k and was chosen as a Kickstarter staff pick. Donate and get yourself a sweet DIY Lovebot!

Love invasion Toronto, Lovebot

Getting mail that isn't a bill
I received a beautiful bracelet and sweet card in the mail last week and it made my day! I had been waiting on it for awhile (getting things from the US can be a nightmare sometimes) but there's something really charming about getting things in the mail from sweet friends in a world that relies on email and texting. I'm waiting on a sweet tank that I ordered, which will probably make it into September's love list. Stay tuned!

quote, inspiration

Recipe Testing
Lindsay and I are getting ready for another year of Vegan Mofo coming up in September after last year's hummazing extravaganza. This year we're focusing on 'Foods to Fuel Your Body' and we've got some yummy things planned! I love any excuse to try some new foods out and spend more time with one of my very favourite people. It's going to be delicious and I can't wait to see what so many other amazing bloggers will be doing for the annual Vegan Month of Food!

The Confidential Music Theatre Project

Monday, July 28, 2014

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to be a part of something magical.

It started 6 weeks ago, when I walked into my voice lesson feeling kinda bummed out. It was mostly due to 'a change in direction by the producers'  resulting in me losing a singing gig that I was really excited about. I was also feeling run down in my ongoing hunt for an agent and disappointed that I hadn't gotten times for a couple of auditions that I was stoked about. These are totally normal occurrences and feelings in this industry, but everything had just piled up and I was feeling a bit disheartened. I told my voice teacher about how I was feeling at the start of our lesson. We had a great session together and she mentioned that there was a project she was working on that may need someone like me. SO nice. The offer + the lesson was a definite pick me up, and just what I needed.

The next day I was contacted by Robert, one of the organizers of The Confidential Music Theatre Project. He told me that they were assembling a cast who would learn well-known (but not done often enough) show on their own and then put it on for an audience, who wouldn't know what show they were seeing until they arrived at the theatre. The cast would gather an hour before the show and then perform. It was the very first time they were going to be doing this and were really excited about the show choice. I was intrigued and excited so of course I said yes!

Then I learned what the show was.

I found out that I had agreed to play the Nurse / Harriet in Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. Not only was I excited, but now I was mildly terrified. I am confident in my singing and acting abilities, but I had just signed on to learn a show by STEPHEN FUCKING SONDHEIM on my own to be performed with a group of unknown people for the very first time in front of an audience. (For those who aren't musical theatre aficionados, Stephen Sondheim is an amazing composer who has written shows like Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd and Follies and writes incredibly difficult (and brilliant!) music and harmonies). I equated it to having sex for the first time - you have an idea of what you're doing before it happens, you've practiced on your own and then you jump in head first with another person not really knowing how it will really go. Except my first time was going to be with a cast of others AND an audience. How's that for pressure?

I slowly started to put the pieces of the puzzle together and had fun keeping the secret of the show's identity. I realized I knew some people in the cast and poured over my script and score as much as I could. In the days leading up to the show, I could hardly believe what we were about to do. Tickets were selling well and it became apparent that this crazy, secret, theatrical experiment was going to be a real thing!

The day of the show arrived and I needed to trust that I knew everything as well as I was going to know everything. My role wasn't huge, but I still had some solo bits and was certainly challenged learning harmonies on my own. The cast met 90 minutes before the show, quickly went through the Act Two finale and that was it! I posted a video that joked that I was distracting myself from puking, when really the whole thing just felt surreal. The Berkeley Street Theatre was pretty much sold out and we learned that the audience wasn't actually going to be told what the show was - we were just going to start after an introduction from Robert. With scripts in hand, we took our seats on stage and James Woods (our George) began.

One of my very favourite moments of the whole night happened as soon as James uttered his first few words, and it was then that I realized the magic of this project. He started, and I watched a gal in the audience visibly LIGHT UP and gasp. I later learned that it was her very favourite show and she was over the moon thrilled to be seeing it onstage.

The cast was incredible. It was beautiful to watch James and Blair Irwin as George and Dot/Marie. There were awesome demonstrations of spontaneity that you often see at first reads for shows, but everyone did an amazing job at building relationships and familiarity without really having met one another previously. As the Nurse in act one, I had a blast playing with Qasim Khan in our few moments together (and hilariously asking backstage, "what's your name again?!") I can identify one noticeable moment where the whole thing went off the rails (somewhere around part 396 of 'Putting it Together). The whole thing went by in a blur, with our audience generously giving us a standing ovation after both act one and act two. When it was all over, we were all exhausted, exhilarated and generally in awe that we had done it.

After a very late night (considering we previewed, opened, closed & cast partied all in one night), I woke up the next day feeling very inspired. The fact that I was a part of something entirely unique and incredibly special was not lost on me and I was so grateful to have had the chance to be onstage with a such a generous, brave and talented group of performers. I was thankful for the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and do something mildly terrifying and mostly thrilling in front of an audience.

And while Sondheim's melodies are complex and his lyrics can be wordy, I can't stop humming the songs and revisiting moments in the show. The music and lyrics resonate pretty deeply and the entire experience has been a reminder that I'm on the right path with so many possibilities to follow.

"White. A blank page of canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities..."

- George, Sunday in the Park with George

Love List - July

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hello sunshine!! I am loving the summer weather and adventures that naturally follow. Here's what's making me extra happy this month.

Toronto Fringe
Over the last week my world has been flipped over by Fringe and I feel like it's actor Christmas once again. While I'm not in a show this year, it's been a ton of fun to see all sorts of shows, run into everyone I know and hang out at the Fringe tent. So far I've seen 7 shows with my favorites being Toronto I Love You (hilarious improv all about Toronto and such a stellar line up from Bad Dog Theatre. We saw it on opening and our show focused on Wychwood Barns, Sushi on Roncy and the Downsview airport hangar / concert venue), Punch Up (brilliant comedy from Writer, Director and Fringe regular, Kat Sandler with a stellar cast), Potosi (winner of the new play contest with a fantastic script & cast), Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl (by my ridiculously talented friend Rebecca Perry) and Roller Derby Saved my Soul (which kinda made me want to pick up roller derby...) The Fringe runs until Sunday night and I plan to see even more shows and spend way too much time socializing in the Fringe tent. Like I said, it's basically Christmas. Check out this great list from Torontoist with even more recommendations. 

Roadtrip Adventures
Corbin and I took a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake over the long weekend to visit the Shaw Festival to see Cabaret. Not only did we get to see Cabaret, but we got to see my dear friend Tara CONDUCT Cabaret. She is the Musical Directing intern at Shaw this year and I was so proud to see her in the pit conducting the orchestra and cast! The show was great. I loved the set (which included a giant, rotating staircase in the centre of the stage), the costumes and the performances from the cast were mesmerizing. Corbin and I really enjoyed our day in the city including a lovely little picnic and some gelato following the show. The drive was gorgeous and it was a really incredible day all around. Bravo, Tara!

Feeling Inspired
I had a moment during the opening of Cabaret (Willkommen, bienvenue...) where I got really teary as I thought to myself "Yes, THAT is what I want to be doing". To make matters worse, Corbin leaned over and said "You need to be up on that stage" (cue even more tears).

This year has been quite the ride, but there have been a few moments where I've doubted myself and wondered if I was on the right path. Performing is all that I've wanted to do for my entire life and for a long time I made it a side project and not the thing I gave all of my attention to. Those days are over, and I'm working to do everything in my power to make my dream a reality and seeing Cabaret at Shaw really solidified that for me. Seeing some great Fringe and networking has reinforced that as well. I've got a couple neat projects coming up this summer including The Confidential Musical Theatre Project and shooting a very fun pilot for a sitcom called Mythfits. There's some other stuff in the works, but I just need to keep this feeling of inspiration going. I'm excited.

What's making you happy this month? What's on your Fringe must-see list?!
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