Thursday, 31 July 2014

Annecy and Adventures in Cheese

So a few people have been asking how we picked some of the smaller towns we visited on our trip. And the truth is - Tour de France. That marketing just works! And Annecy is no exception. I fell in love with the mountains and bright blue lake on last year's tour, and they did not disappoint.

This part of the trip was less about museums and historical sites, and more about the great outdoors. We spent most of our time running, hiking, biking, and enjoying the view. All while refueling with cheese. I ate a lot of cheese on this leg of trip, but it was pretty hard to refuse.

I am slightly late to the What I Ate Wednesday Party, but these are My top 3 Favourite Cheese experiences. Cheese-lover, pull up a chair this is a good one!
1. An Epic Fondue Dinner. Yes I literally had a bowl of melty cheese, bread, and half liter of wine for dinner, and it was glorious!

2. While we were hiking along one of the mountain trails, hunger struck, but we failed to pack enough snacks to sustain us. Luckily we stumbled by this goat farm, and the farmers sold us a mini wheel of cheese from their kitchen. This is actually the BEST cheese I have ever eaten!! If you have not tried Goat Brie - I highly recommend. It's life changing! Especially when you are staring at the goat that made it for you. (maybe not this goat, but his Mom)

3. One of the regional specialties of Annecy is "Tartiflette", so when we eventually made it to the one restaurant on the mountain, we had to order it. It is literally Roasted Potatoes, Bacon, Cream, and Cheese! It is comfort food at its absolute best. If you have the chance to try it, you simply MUST.

Admittedly, the tummy required quite a bit of acid medicine on this leg of trip. But it was so worth it!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Finding my Training Mojo

I must confess, I liked being on vacation. I liked taking a break from training seriously. I liked spending extra time with hubby. I liked starting my mornings with a leisurely coffee and a baguette covered in strawberry jam. I liked the balance that vacation brought to my life. And I found it difficult to come back to the "real world".

One of the promises I made to myself while I was away, was to start Living My Priorities and focus on finding my balance.

It in truth, finding my balance, is something I have been struggling with for months. And it is the reason I pulled the plug on my half ironman. I have been searching for a peaceful place to heal, and peace can be easier said than done for this "type-A-try-to-do-it-all-crazy-pants".

So over the past few weeks I have been searching for an answer to that elusive question..
How do I prioritize myself, while still keeping up with everything else?

And despite being a very BIG work in progress, I think I am getting there.

I got a little lost in the shuffle over the past few months. I got swept up in the idea of always hitting faster times and tackling new distances. And I forgot why I really do all of this. Running is meant to be a way to honour my body. And Training is an outlet to push myself both mentally and physically. But ultimately I do it because I like it. I had to let go of the unnecessary stress and pressure I had created for myself and find joy in my training again.

And after a restorative coffee date with the one and only Morgan (aka Wildly Fit), I was reminded that your training doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can train hard, but still strive for balance and mindfulness. So going forward...

"I just want fast legs and a peaceful heart" my new Fit Motto. And just like that, I found my running mojo again.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

#WIAW - Paris

It is WIAW, so I am talking Paris, Food, and Books...Anyone who knows me, knows I am a bit of a bookworm. My first degree is in English Language and Literature. And I can't fall asleep without reading. In fact I actually sleep with a little spy light next to my bed so I can read when I wake up throughout the night, without disturbing my husband. I typically read between 30-40 books a year. And am a long time Hemingway fan.

Knowing all that, it should come as no surprise that I was anxious to visit some of the famous cafes described in Hemingway's A Movable Feast. The man has been romanticizing this city for me for years, so I was excited for our Hemingway inspired night on the town.

We started at Cafe de Flore for Happy Hour. We both had a couple of cocktails and we share the Terrine while we people watched on the patio.

We then hopped across the street to our second Hemingway haunt - Brasserie Lipp. I am not sure I can do this dining experience justice, but it was probably the most fun I have ever had at dinner, and I mean ever. The service is still done the way it has always been done - very formal, with 3-4 waiters attending to your table, all dressed in black waistcoats and bow ties. But despite all the pomp and circumstance it is not at all the stuffy. The waiters are characters, and may well double as stand up comedians. I spent the whole night in absolute stitches, enjoying everything from the food, to the ambiance, to the jokes.

We started with a bottle of red wine and escargot. (I pretty much ate escargot whenever I had the chance - so yummy!). I had beef tartare and frites as my main. An odd choice for me, because I don't often eat red meat. But I figured while in Paris, you just have to try it. And Jamie had the Pied de Porc. They were both delicious!

We finished with coffee, Mille-Feuille, and Baba au Rhum for dessert. I order the Baba because it was flagged as one of the house specialties, but they were not joking about the Rum. It was soaked in it, and a little too strong for my taste. Especially after happy hour and a bottle of wine. (*I may have also gotten a little Hemingway-inspired drunk this evening too*).

All in all it was a pretty amazing foodie experience.
And if you are a literary geek like me, you have to give this place a try. The is a reason Hemingway raved about it!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 21 July 2014

French Vacation Part 2: Paris

Ah Paris! This is definitely a city I love, and it was my second time visiting. I love the aesthetic, and more than anything the pace of life. Parisians' know how to live!

I always find it so interesting experiencing a place for a second time. The first time I visited I was 19. I had done an exchange during my first year of University and we were traveling as a school over our midterm break. I definitely took it all in, and loved every second of it. But I think because I was young and living in Europe at the time - I took it a bit for granted. Coming back reminded me how magical Paris can be. And how much there is to see and do. I probably could have spent another week in Paris (*but I guess that just means I will have to plan to go back*).

Hotel: Hotel Esmeralda 
Cost: 120 Euros/Night 

We actually ended up staying at this hotel twice. The first visit was during our initial Paris stay for 5 nights, and then again for just one night before we flew back to Canada.

The location was perfect. You could literally see Notre Dame from your window. And for the location, you would be hard pressed to find a better rate, especially with this view.

The view from our room

The rooms themselves could either be described as having European Charm or "charming" (used extremely ironically) depending on which one you got.

During our main stay, we were in the attic and this room was "charming". It was extremely narrow, hot, and musty. The room also had a noticeable slant - as in you felt like you walking up or downhill depending where you were standing and where you were going.  

Our return visit was completely different. And we stayed one floor below. The room was a good size, clean, comfortable, and offered European Charm. The kind of charm you expect when you stay in little places like this - slightly mismatched furniture, exposed wood beams, unique colours, and the like.
I would definitely go back, but I would request room 14 or below. We stayed in room 12 on our return visit and found it quite comfortable. Rooms 15-18 are in the ones in the attic, and I expect they all leave a little something to be desired.

The Must-Sees You Know:
There are certain sights in Paris that everyone knows, and everyone goes to see. There is a reason everyone goes to see them - they are spectacular! And I definitely agree, You Must-See...
- The Eiffel Tower
- Notre Dame
- The Arc de Triomphe
- The Louvre (we went twice - there is so much to see)
- The Musee D'orsay

The Must-Sees You Might Not See:
And then there are a few sights that a you might not think to see. I saw and did quite a few things I missed the first time I was in Paris. And there were a few locations on the hubby's action packed vacation agenda that surprised me. (Confession: I can take almost no credit for the things we see and do on vacation. This is all Jamie and his meticulous research skills)

Hotel Invalides:
So when he put the veterans hospital on the agenda, I was not really expecting much. I actually thought it was kind of a strange choice, but the man does his research, because the veterans hospital looks like this....

Who would have expected that? It is also home to Napoleon's tomb.


When you think of the art in Paris you probably immediately think about the Louvre and the Musee D'orsay. But this little gem is worth the visit! Monet's Waterlilies were breath-taking. They have them displayed the way Monet originally intended - in a figure eight, so you are completely immersed in them. I was definitely moved by it.  

Dare I say I liked it better than then the D'orsay? I think I may have. Or at the very least I just preferred the way they had it curated. They had all of art exhibited by artist, so you were able to see how their work evolved and easily compare their style. I really enjoyed their collection of Picassos. And just thought whole thing was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

The Ballet
Okay so admittedly, I love the ballet. I grew up dancing as a kid and this is generally my cup of tea. But the theater is stunning and I thought the performance was exceptional. 

If the ballet is on when you are visiting, I definitely recommend you see it. And if not, than just try to visit the theater (it is the one Phantom of the Opera is set in), and is pretty amazing in its own right.

Sainte Chapelle:
So there are obviously a lot of really beautiful churches dotting the entire city, but this one really stood out for me. When you walk into the chapel you are surrounded by all of this beautiful stain glass. The effect is breathtaking. Not to mention the craftsmanship involved in the stain glass itself.

Pastries! You simply must try the pastries! Parisians' take this stuff seriously, and it shows. We stopped at a few of the city's most talked about Patisseries. Pierre Herme had the best macarons and the most unique flavours. My favourite was Isaphan - Rose, Litchi, and Raspberry. And La Patisserie des Reves offers a magical experience and some amazing pastries. Their Paris-Brest is supposed to be the best in the city, and it did not disappoint.

Stay tuned tomorrow for What I Ate Wednesday and more yumminess. You know I ate well while I was in Paris.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Thursday, 17 July 2014

6 Lessons for 6 years

Saturday is our 6th Wedding Anniversary. And despite it all, I still can't figure out where all that time has gone. It feels like it was just yesterday that I put on a white dress, walked through a rainy vineyard, and said "I Do". And today, as everyday, I find myself wondering how I got this lucky.
In that moment I instantly found myself among the lucky ones. I had found it. I found that genuine, unwavering, amazing kind of love. I had found my safe place to fall. I created a place where I could love and be loved whole-heartedly and unconditionally. But the last few years have certainly pushed us to our limit and put our marriage to the test. We struggled, we cried, we grew, and we learned some lessons along the way.

6 lessons for 6 years

1. Loving someone through their worst is hard
It is easy to be in love with love, especially when everything is going well. But it is extremely hard to love someone through their worst.

I will the first person to admit, that it takes a strong man to love me. Because when he said "in sickness and in health", he had to mean it. And and we said "in good times and bad", I don't think we really understood the depth of the bad we were agreeing to. The battle we endured over past few years wasn't something either of us saw coming. And I know how hard it must have been to stand by and support someone you love so deeply, but never let them see the way you are hurting too. His strength has carried me through the darkest days of my life, and that was no small task.

It takes work. It requires love, and that love has to be unconditional.

2. It is okay to not be your BEST, as long as you TRY to be.
There have been many moments over the past few years where I can confidently say I have not been at my best. Life has been dark, and it has been hard to not be completely consumed by that. The pressure, the stress, and the grief that we both experienced can make it difficult to face even the most mundane of daily tasks. And it certainly makes it difficult to face each day with patience, understanding, and compassion.

That doesn't mean you are bad person. That doesn't even mean you are a bad spouse. That just means you are human. You won't always be your best, but you can always TRY to be. All that you can ask of each other is do the best you can each day. Some days you have more to give, and others are just going to be hard. But if you know that you are both giving all that you can, than you can't expect anything else.

3. Be on the Same Team
It is easy to get wrapped up in your own life, your own plans, and your own feelings. But marriage is a team sport. So even if you are right, the team loses. The truth about marriage, is that it is no longer all about you. You have to work together, compromise, and communicate.

4. Respect Your Limits
That old adage "don't sweat the small stuff" is never more true than in your marriage You are going to face challenges together, and in those moments it is okay if everything is not executed perfectly. It is okay to take a step back, take some time, and give yourself a break. You do not have to do all and be all things all the time. Respect your limits and take care of yourself.

5. Romance is still important
Not everyday is glamorous. And life isn't always romantic. But you can chose to create romance where and when you can. A kiss stolen in the kitchen while you make dinner. A text message in the middle of of day to say you are thinking of them. A quiet meal over a bottle wine. Little things can be big things, because they mean you are thinking of each other and making your marriage a priority.

6. Accept that you don't know it all
We have been married for 6 years, so if you have done the math, than you know we were young when we tied the knot. Despite being young, I remember thinking that I knew what it meant to truly love someone. I can admit now, that I had absolutely no idea. We have had to navigate challenges. We muddled our way through the past couple of years. But working together, we eventually figured things out.

Marriage has been humbling. The devotion, the strength, the compassion, and the patience that are required to make a marriage work is staggering. And it is okay to admit that you don't know what you are doing.

Our marriage started 6 years ago with “I do’s”, kisses, hugs, laughter, and an amazing evening together. Each day since then has brought us to this point in our lives and marriage. It has taken sacrifice, determination, and love each step of the way. But the love I feel for my husband and the respect I have for our vows has deepened exponentially. Each challenge will test you. New experiences will change you. Your relationship will grow. You will transform and evolve. But the most important thing, is that you do it all together.

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

#WIAW - Dinan

It is WIAW over at Peas and Crayons and I am taking advantage by posting a whole bunch of yumminess from my French Vacation. If you are here looking for tips about how to eat clean on your vacation, then unfortunately you came to wrong place. That is not what this vacation was about.

I said before I left that my goal was to put on 5 Happiness lbs.

What are happiness lbs?
Happiness lbs are pounds that are gained during a state of complete happiness and generally result from eating generous quantities of bread, cheese, and French pastries. They may also be gained by drinking many glasses of wine, and perhaps even some champagne for good measure.

I gave my 5 lbs goal a good shot, but alas did not quite succeed. I blame all the walking we did while we were sightseeing. I did eat some amazing, epic, delicious meals. So I am going to chronicle a few of my favourites over the next few weeks.

We had a couple delicious meals while we were in Dinan. And we also utilized the farmer's market for some lighter lunches as well. This was our last meal in Dinan

We ate at Chez la Mere Pourcel. It was located right in one of Dinan's main squares. The views were perfect and service was fantastic. I started with Escargot and Kir Royale. I opted for Moule Frites as my main paired with a local chardonnay. And had these delicious hybrid creme puff/ice cream balls for dessert.

Restaurant Recommendations...
L'Atelier Gourmand - Great food, Great Service, and a really nice screened in patio right on the water.
Creperie du Roy - Best Crepes
Creperie Le Connetable - Best Cider

Are you drooling yet?! I am!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 14 July 2014

French Vaca - Dinan

While I was prepping for this trip and while we were away, I had a lot of people asking for vacation info. Where did we stay? What did we do? Restaurant recommendations? And everything between. So I figured the easiest thing to do is put together a little trip recap from each of the 3 locations we visited - Dinan, Paris, and Annecy. Plus I get to share a whole bunch of my "real" pictures (aka from my camera, not my iphone) with you this way too.

Our first stop was Dinan, which is near the Atlantic Coast in Brittany. It is a sleepy picturesque little town full of cobblestone streets, timbered houses, and charm. We visited a number of the surrounding sights while we were there, so this location was ideal for easy train travel and day-trips. (*commence photo bomb*)

Hotel: Hotel de la Tour de l'Horloge 
Cost: 84 Euros/night including breakfast 

I would definitely recommend this place. It was quaint and charming in all the right way. The rooms were really spacious (especially by European standards). And we pleasantly surprised by the extra amenities - a mini fridge (which was perfect for stocking up on snacks at the local market) and a small TV (which was ideal for the World Cup).

Our hotelier - Catharine - was amazing and definitely added to our positive experience. She runs a very tight ship - the whole place is spotless. She also has fresh bread and croissants brought in every morning for breakfast. And she went above and beyond for us a couple of times during our stay. She rushed out to fix the cable to ensure we could watch the world cup, even after we insisted it wasn't necessary. And prepped a thermos of coffee and croissants for us on our travel day, so we didn't have to travel on an empty stomach. She was extremely thoughtful and helpful throughout our entire stay.

Dinan was the ideal location for day trips. It was really easy to hop on either a bus or train and visit some of the nearby sights. And it was equally as easy to just spend the day around town checking out the Farmer's Market (it's on Thursday), visiting the Castle, or just walking by the water.

1. Mont St. Michel
This was definitely a highlight. Mont St. Michael is a perfectly preserved old medieval town, with a gorgeous 11th century abbey, situated in the middle of the Bay. The tides surrounding the town are a spectacle all on their own, and I had a great time trekking around the island trying to get this shot. 
The only down-side is that the town itself has gotten a little gimmicky and tourist heavy, so you are better to get off the main streets and just enjoy the views. If I were to do it again, I would have packed a picnic lunch and found myself a spot to sit along our hike, rather than trying to find a good meal at one of the restaurants. They were overpriced and lack luster. But Mont St. Michel is definitely worth the visit!

The Beaches in St. Malo and Dinard:
I did not realize how beautiful the beaches surrounding these medieval towns are. And the tides mean the landscape is constantly changing throughout the day. We spent a couple of days wandering around and exploring these beaches. We even did a little seaside relaxing.
My only regret was not bringing my bathing suit to St. Malo. We lucked out with someamazing weather, so I would have happily squeezed in 2 days at the beach, rather than just the one.

Brittany is know for it's Cider, it's Crepes, and it's seafood and I recommend all of the above! Everything was delicious. I personally preferred the Galettes - which are crepes made with buckwheat and filled with savory ingredients, like cheese! But the hubby was partial to the sweet crepes. So there is something for everyone.

Stay tuned on Wednesday for more of the deliciousness. I have a couple Creperie and restaurant recommendation, plus lots of yummy EATS.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Lessons Learned at the Welland Triathlon

Just before I left for France, I did the Welland Triathlon (750m swim, 30km bike, and 7.5km run).

In truth, it was a weekend I was dreading. I was feeling worn-out after a busy week of work. It was Father's Day weekend, so I was feeling emotionally fragile. And my Nana, who had been battling cancer for the last year, was not doing well. I knew that leaving the country for 3 weeks likely meant that this weekend would be my last with her. So needless to say, racing wasn't much of a priority.

I drove to the race that morning with a heavy-heart. A huge part of me just wanted to turn around and head back to bed. But I came up with this crazy scheme (*typical*) to do a Half Ironman this year, so I felt all this pressure to try out my wetsuit, practice my transitions, and get a better feel for the whole "Race-Day Triathlon" process. I begrudgingly unpacked my car, got numbered, and set-up my transition area.

The day was cold, overcast, and extremely windy, making the prospect of racing even less enticing as we all stood around shivering in our wetsuits.

The race was nothing special in terms of time. I struggled in the water and finished my swim in 19:01. After battling headwinds on the bike I entered the transition after 1:15:35. And I crossed the finish line after 46:14 on the run. Finishing the course 6 minutes slower than last year with a time of 2:28:28.

I did learn a lot of things out the course that day though.
The most important thing being, that I am just not up for a Half Ironman this year.

I had set this lofty goal shortly after losing my Dad because I needed something to strive for. I needed a positive outlet for my pain and my grief. And I needed something in that moment to hope for and to dream about.

But the truth is, I have spent the last 6 months stressing about that same goal. And burning myself out trying to balance my training load, while also putting my life back together.

The pressure has been ratcheted up so high over the last few years, and much of it beyond my control. It has been hard to keep it all together. And I am definitely still trying to heal. Between the stress, and the grief - it has been hard to catch my breath. But these moments, as always, have also taught me some very important lessons.

Last year's surgery was a reminder to cherish my health while I have it. I will spend the rest of life battling Long QT and the complications that go along with that treatment plan, so I know I need to take advantage of these moments of health. But I have also learned that while I chose to honour my body with training, I can also reward it with rest and balance. And a little more balance is what I need right now. 

And losing my Dad has been a very harsh reminder about what is truly important. And right now, at this moment, I would rather spend more time with my family and friends than I would training.

At this point I am not physically ready to tackle the 70.3 distance. And I am not mentally in a place where I can push to prioritize it.

So in a very un-Krysten-like fashion I am choosing to step back and slow down. This year not going to be the year of the Half Ironman. I am still going to continue to train. The hubby and I are going train for the Toronto Marathon together. And I am going to do a few more shorter distance triathlons. But more importantly I am going breathe and find my balance again.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail