Guest Post: Mama Hipster’s Guide to Canoe “Tripping” in the Near North

The following is a guest post from one of the healthiest, hippest chicks I know….Oh, and she also happens to be my mother! A few years back Mama Hipster moved from urban/suburban Ontario to middle-of-nowhere Northern Ontario to be with her love (a happy-go-lucky backcountry ranger) and pursue her dreams of becoming an educator. These are her reflections on some recent experiences camping and canoeing in the Canadian wilderness. 

A dry bag, a compression bag, a Gerber tool, quick dry clothing, water purification; these were just a few of the things I needed to learn about when I decided to canoe and camp out to the middle of God’s country nowhere.

Glorious does not express what it was like on the River. The weather from the moment I left home until I returned was blue skies, hot summer sun in the day and fresh autumn air at night. The sounds were of paddles moving through water, wind rustling trees, loons, and Canadian geese flying 20 feet overhead in V’s, whippoorwills and chickadees waking me in the morning with their chirping. The smells were of earth, fire, food, coffee and fresh air. I only learned enough this summer about ‘tripping’ to go out for short periods at a time and it took a lot for this urban princess to get that far; but it was something I have dreamed about doing my whole life. The sensation of being alone in the wilderness, prepared to handle the elements is, I believe, not meant to be described. It is meant to be lived, cherished and let go of.

 

Some tips from my experiences:

1) PLAN, PLAN, PLAN

I became aware that planning the route to your destination is crucial. One or two short portages are manageable, but if your packs are too heavy or not packed properly they can make a trip miserable and potentially unsafe for those not physically able to manage. Paddling in places where there are no portages is called a ‘floater’ trip; I highly recommend this when challenging yourself against the elements is not one of your goals.

TIP: ‘floater’ means no need to carry your packs and canoe over land because in this 50km section of the Spanish River there is no water that can’t be traversed (assuming you have at least one experienced paddler). Bottom line, easier and more fresh food can be taken along for your dining pleasure.

2) FOOD

For meals:

I pre-cooked chicken and beef, packed the first day’s lunch in its own ‘clear dry sack’ separate from the other food, I placed food into plastic ‘lock-n-locks’ to take up as little space as possible and it all went into a barrel that seals and floats if your canoe dumps. Our dinner menus included Chicken stir fry for day one, Beef Fajitas for day two, veggie enhanced KD for day three with lots of salad fixings on the side.

For snacks:

We took eggs, ham, yogurt, cheese, crackers, pepperoni sticks, smoked almonds, ‘GORP’ – Good Old Raisins and Peanuts (and don’t forget to throw in some M&M’s) tuna, pickles and cracker thins to.

And to drink:

I (like my daughter) can’t survive anywhere without a good cup of coffee. So I took along pre-ground beans to brew in the camp percolator. I also brought along some tea which was a delight when we pulled off the river for the day and some exquisite Red and White cartons of Ontario wine that made our dinner time meals very civilized.


When I said to my partner Mike, “I wish I didn’t have to leave,” he says “the wilderness is not a place to go to escape from civilization.” The back country gave me a chance this summer to find solace in the simplicity of just existing; each day was unique and long like those I remember from childhood. I think we all live in two interconnected ‘wild worlds’ – a bustling urban landscape and an untouched wilderness.

Surviving the crash of these two worlds is not always comfy but it is thrilling.

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Weekday Brunch: The Breakfast Tortilla

Think this looks way too elaborate for a Tuesday morning? Not so much. This breakfast only took me 6 minutes from fridge to plate (just a few more minutes than your standard eggs on toast breakfast) and the result was a mid-week-brunch of epic proportions.

The Breakfast Tortilla

Directions:

  1. Heat a large, ungreased skillet to medium high heat.
  2. Chop up a few handfuls of your favourite veggies: onions, peppers, carrots, zucchini, peppers (note: the smaller you chop, the quicker they cook!)
  3. Toast a whole wheat or brown rice tortilla on the dry skillet for about 30 seconds/side or until lightly browned. Set aside.
  4. Add 1 tsp of oil and all of your veggies to the skillet. Salt, pepper, garlic and chili powder are some other tasty additions. Stir fry until just cooked and still crunchy. If you’re adding greens do so right at the end.
  5. Eggs**: EITHER microwave 1/2-3/4 cup egg whites for 2-3 minutes at 80% power OR add 2 whole eggs to the pan after the veggies have cooked and scramble.
  6. Spread your tortilla with base of choice: I used hummus, dijon and a piece of laughing cow cheese. Layer on veggies and eggs. Top with anything you like: salsa, greek yogurt, olives, jalepenos, nooch, crunched up mary’s crackers or tortillas, etc.
**You could easily swap eggs for tofu in this recipe to veganize/tofu scramble-ize it. 
Use the crunchy toasted tortilla base to scoop up your eggs and enjoy this cheaters version of huevos rancheros any day of the week!

Easy Transitions: Summer >> Fall

I once had a therapist tell me I have “trouble with transitions.”

My first reaction to this professional insight was to feel terribly offended. I mean I revel in change and I hate for my life to feel dreary and predictable. But as I thought about it further, I realized that while I appreciate change I despise the process of getting there.

I just want things to be different, already.

This weekend Toronto experienced near perfect weather and the whole city seemed to respond with the same combination of excitement and discomfort. Excitement because sunshine = lazy saturday afternoons in the park. Discomfort because our autumn jackets and sweaters (while terribly fashionable) were also boiling us alive under the unseasonably hot sun. Not quite summer, not quite fall weather apparently makes for a city of sweaty grumps.

Nevertheless, I’m on a mission to appreciate transitional periods for exactly what they are. Awkward and elusive, but also exuberant and unexpected.

I snapped a shot of this building as I wandering somewhere along Dundonald near Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighborhood. The perfect blend of neon green ivy, early autumn leaves and bright end-of-summer blooms. 

Summer >> Fall

First cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. A strong Americano at Ideal Coffee on Ossington.

 Sleep >> Wake.

And of course…a Summer >> Fall Recipe! This snack mix combines fresh shelled edamame with a comforting autumn staple – toasted pumpkin seeds. The result is a high protein, satisfying snack that is as unexpected as this unseasonably warm September afternoon. Enjoy!

Roasted Edamame & Pumpkin Seed Snack Mix

  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame (thawed but not boiled)
  • 1 cup raw, unshelled pumpkin or squash seeds (I used the seeds of a buttercup squash)
  • 2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • around 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger**
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
**I always store my ginger in the freezer and use it as needed. Not only does this extend the shelf life of your ginger, but it makes grating far easier. 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine tamari and oil in the bottom of a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add in soybeans and pumpkin seeds and toss to combine.
  4. Grate in ginger and add a sprinkle of garlic powder, toss once more.
  5. Spread out soynuts and seeds on a piece of parchment paper and roast at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or until they are fragrant and crispy. (The edamame will not become as crunchy the seeds but they should dry out significantly)
Try not to eat them all straight off the pan. 

Getting Grouchy at the Gym + Quick n’ Dirty Cardio

Woke up this morning and dug into a purple smoothie parfait. I blended up the usual suspects of frozen banana, blueberries, ice cubes and protein powder but added some new twists like a a bit of maple syrup, some instant coffee and a big ol’ handful of SPINACH. Then I layered it with my favourite cereals and sliced banana. Stupid tasty!

As I am currently on an all important rest day from the gym, I got to thinking….No matter how much I try to have a positive attitude about it, sometimes going to the gym makes me grouchy. And not for the reasons you’d think. I’m all for getting my sweat on, its gym culture I can’t handle.

Top 5 aspects of gym culture that totally grind my gears:

  1. Too Costly
  2. Too Time Consuming
  3. Appearance and Weight > Health and Fun
  4. The Skeevy Guys (GTL, Bro!)
  5. The Type-A Girls (Tracy Flick on a Treadmill)

How I have been avoiding the grouch as of late:

  1. Go to the Y. Its affordable plus they use a sliding scale for those who need it. I’ll sweat for equity anyday. Check.
  2. Work up a Quick n’ Dirty Sweat: See Below
  3. Workout with a body-positive friend. Don’t spend a lot of time chillin in the change room or mirrored areas. If you hear people engaging in negative self-talk, don’t sweat it. Just roll your eyes, let out a sigh and don’t be afraid to relocate!
  4. Head straight to the weight room and don’t get intimidated. Push yourself as much or as little as you want to, and if they say anything douchey to you, tell them their bronzer is running.
  5. DO NOT ENGAGE. If they look you over with judgement in their eyes, just imagine how hard it must be to live in their self-critical brains for a day. Then picture how much happier they’d be eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Quick n’ Dirty Cardio Workout

One of the best ways to avoid spending too much time at the gym is by using your time efficiently. I use this pyramid interval workout all the time because its super fast, flexible and works great on any cardio machine.

High Intensity = About 80-90% of your full tilt exertion (aka. biking/running/climbing as fast as you can)

Low Intensity = About 40%-50% exertion, slow enough to let your heart rate really come back down (aka. brisk walking).

  • 5 minute warmup
  • 30 seconds high intensity
  • 1 minute low intensity
  • 45 seconds high intensity
  • 1 minute low intensity
  • 1 minute high intensity
  • 1 minute low intensity
  • 90 seconds high intensity
  • 1 minute low intensity
  • 1 minute high intensity
  • 1 minute low intensity
  • 45 seconds high intensity
  • 1 minute low intensity
  • 30 seconds high intensity
  • 5 minute cool down
What are your biggest pet peeves about gym/workout culture? How do you make it work for you? 

Domestic Meditation: Soup and Knitting!

As the weather begins to cool and we spend more and more time indoors it can be difficult to avoid what I have deemed the crazies. You may have a different word for them. But basically they are the negative thoughts and feelings that creep into your brain despite your best efforts. While I’m sure everyone’s are different, for me the crazies can manifest in any of the following ways:

  • over-analyzing relationships
  • questioning life decisions
  • self-doubt in general
  • micromanaging
  • lack of inspiration or enthusiasm for activities and projects I enjoy

In the summer a brisk walk, a short run or a few minutes in the sunshine always help to clear the head but these options are notably less appealing in pouring rain or (dare I say it?) subzero temperatures.

So…how does one shake the crazies after Labour Day? Simple. I follow this one meditative mantra and all becomes right in the world:
Make Soup & Knit.

Nothing gets me out of my head quite like these two domestic tasks. Both require focus and dexterity but no intense thought, so they quiet my inner monologue like nothing else. And in the end you’re left with something that is either cozy or delicious so you just can’t go wrong!

Step 1: Purchase Yarn. A LOT of yarn.

Check!

Step 2: Get thee to a stockpot!
And with this I have come to my recipe for the day…a delicious seasonal soup that’s simple, hearty and easy on the wallet.

Cajun Sweet Potato Corn Soup

  • 1 tbsp of coconut or olive oil
  • 1 very large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups frozen corn (roasted if desired)
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped very finely
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh chili pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of your favourite cajun seasoning blend (or make your own by mixing 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
  • salt to taste
Directions:
  1. Sautee onions, garlic, carrots and celery in oil until fragrant and just softened.
  2. Add potatoes and stir to combine.
  3. Add bay leaf, cajun seasoning, a small palmful of salt and enough water to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. During the last 5 minutes of cooking add in 1/2 cup of frozen corn.
  5. Remove bay leaf and blend soup mix using an immersion blender (or in small batches if you are using a regular blender).
  6. Return blended soup to pot if necessary and stir in 1 cup of non-dairy milk, 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey, minced peppers and the remainder of corn. Simmer for about 10 more minutes to allow flavours to develop. Taste and ajust seasonings as needed.
Yields 4-6 servings.
What are your favourite forms of domestic meditation?

EAT/ART/REPEAT

Today was one of those Saturdays when I left the house with no plan at all, but by the end of the day I realized I spent it doing just what I wanted.

Grabbed lunch at one of my favourite West end haunts, Cafe Bernate.

My standard order...Bernate Salad with chicken and a side of crusty bread

Dark roast coffee + steamed almond milk + REFILLS. Bad news.

Then I made my way further west to Trinity Bellwoods Park to check out the events of the day which just happened to be the…

Lucky me!

The park served as the perfect canvas for all the lovely art pieces on display, with a bright blue sky and autumn leaves as far as the eye could see.

Everyone was lying around being stupidly adorable…And there were babies and puppies galore!

I didn’t want to be that guy taking photos of all the art, but I couldn’t help snapping a shot of these adorable little terrariums by local artist Jessie Trott.

Stopped in for some more caffeine and sustenance at a little organic food stand school bus.

munched on one of these baseball-sized banana apricot oat cookies. Wholesome sugar free nommm...

Sometimes nothing beats an adventure in your very own neighborhood to start the weekend off right!

Savoury Autumn Tempeh Scramble

As the chilly autumn weather rolls into Southern Ontario I am shaking in my Jeffrey Campbells with anticipation for pumpkin pie, apple crumble and oatmeal cookies – all the familiar sweet treats that harvest season has to offer. But today’s recipe was inspired by the savoury side of fall flavours (not to mention my fridge full of colourful vegetables).

This dish is very filling as its high in protein and loaded with nutrients like Vitamin C and Magnesium to get you through your day.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp oil (coconut, olive oil, etc.)
  • 2 shallots, diced (or a handful of diced onion)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 block tempeh, grated into the pan (keeps the tempeh pieces the same size)
  • soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tsp cane sugar
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 2 handfuls purple kale, chopped coursely
  • 1/2 small zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 carrot, grated
  • pinch of chili powder
  • pinch of cumin
  • salt-free herb seasoning (mrs. dash, spike, etc.)
  • sriracha (sweet garlic hot sauce)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1/4 pre-roasted butternut squash OR 1 large tortilla OR 2 pieces of whole grain toast
  • optional toppings: raisins/dried fruit, soynuts, toasted almonds, crumbled mary’s crackers

Instructions

  1. Sautee shallots and garlic in oil until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add in grated tempeh, a few dashes of tamari, 1/4 cup water and a pinch of cane sugar. Simmer until liquid reduces by half.
  3. Add in all seasonings and all vegetables and stir to combine. Continue satueeing until veggies have softened.
  4. Add nutritional yeast, a few extra dashes of tamari and around 1 tsp of sriracha (less for a not-so-spice-friendly palette). Adjust seasonings as desired.
  5. Serve over roasted squash, in a tortilla as a wrap or over toast with a little earth balance!
Do you prefer a sweet breakfast or a savoury one? Which foods are you incorporating to celebrate the start of the fall season? 

Whimsical Woodland Wedding

 

On September 10th, 2011 Christel and Gregory got married and they did so in a fashion only two such odd and interesting creatures could have dreamt up.

The ceremony took place in a chapel at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

I got all gussied up.

The bride arrived with a backpack in tow (pictured below as she shared a sweet moment with mum before events got underway).

When I boldly inquired what on earth her satchel could be for, she simply responded: what else would I carry my Kierkegaard in? What a mystery my Christel is!

I soon understood, however, when the reverend cited Kierkegaard at the end of the ceremony…

Marriage is and remains the most important voyage of discovery a human being undertakes.

Weeping ensued. On to the reception.

As previously mentioned the theme of the wedding was cryptozoology (otherwise known as  the study of “hidden animals” or mythological creatures). Thus upon entering the garden reception, we were greeted with a table full of mythical creature bait. Apparently the Kraken likes salt beef and the Loch Ness Monster is partial to shortbread.

We were also greeted with tables full of fresh salads, grilled chicken and salmon.

 

 

My plate was full to the brim with greens, cous cous, mango chutney and salmon. Local Nova Scotia white wine a dreamy addition.  

The dessert tables were carefully guarded by creatures of all sorts. 

Guests ate their meals in the garden and made visitations to the princess on her thrown of choice…

My offering to the happy couple…in keeping with all things mythological creature based.

Early morning flight was SO worth it. I left this glorious day one happy (very choked up) lady.
Congratulations to Christel and her blushing groom. 😉

Natural Beauties

Halifax in the fall was as breathtaking as I’d remembered it. Brilliant blue skies, ivy covered stone walls and just a hint of vibrant red on the tips of tall maple trees. Idyllic for the woodland wedding my friends Christel and Gregory had planned.

I can’t wait to share more with you tomorrow, but hopefully these beauties will tide you over.

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Coffee of the…too darn early

Okay I may have stretched the truth just a wee bit the other day when I said I was done all my summer traveling. In fact I have one last mini trip to go…

Halifax again! This time for the wedding of one of my favorite ladies in the whole wide world. Oh and did I mention the theme of the wedding is CRYPTOZOOLOGY!? (think bigfoot and unicorns) My friends are the best/nerdiest. More on that later…

In the meantime im just hanging out at Pearson airport, trying to scope out celebrities flying into town for the Toronto international film festival. So far only Cousin It of Adams Family fame has made an appearance.

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Ahem…or perhaps that was just me sucking back a triple shot americano from the ‘bucks in a vain attempt to make 5am feel more like 7am.

Can’t wait to post pics from my very mini return to the coast! And you know you can’t wait to see a real live hipster wedding… 😉