Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Adventures and musings of a Pan Am Volunteer

Pan Am - Toronto 2015 - what does that say to you?
Are you like the millions of other people who up until 18 days ago had no interest or even any idea what these games entail?
Were you one of the naysayers?  Poo Pooers?? Complaining about something you had a vague notion about or repeating what the media had to say right up until that first moment at the opening ceremonies?
And then... shazam.  What a ride.

I initially volunteered way back in June 2014.  And did my online interview in August.  And then waited...and waited...and waited...and wondered...and had just about given up when at Easter this year, while I was visiting my parents in NS and I got the email.  Role offered - Flag Co-Ordinator, Medals ceremony.  A quick look at the PDF link confused me as it stated Flag Bearer.  Me.  Somehow I thought it was probably meaning that I was actually going to be like ironing the flags, or repairing them. After all I am a seamstress.

Well I wasn't far off.  I actually was behind the scenes along with 2 or 3 other co-ordinators prepping the flags for the medal ceremony.  That entails steaming!!  Lol.

I'm not going to expand on what I actually did on prepping the flags.  I am going to share with you my overall experience and feelings about the 16 days I spent as a Pan Am Volunteer.  I do not think I can easily sum it all up.  But I will try.

I met so many wonderful people.  Everywhere I went if I was wearing my orange shirt or toting my backpack someone would strike up a conversation or high five me or ask me what I was going to be doing or what my role was.  Not once did I encounter any negativity from the general public.  I did my best to encourage them to check out a venue or watch on tv.  After all we were 23000 ambassadors for the games.

From my first encounter at the accredition site to walking into my venue for the first time all I felt was excitement. 

And love.  I loved every single minute of this.  I loved my venue - even with the humidity, sweating, shooting.  I loved my team.  The young ones, the silly ones, the supervisor, my other flag people.  We worked so well together.  We gelled.  I made (I hope) life long friends.  I didn't want to say goodbye.  We've made plans to get together before the end of August and I can't wait.  

From the first minute I arrived at the venue and was greeted with a smile and a welcome and sometimes a gift.  From the venue manager down to the people watching the gates everyone was happy, friendly and outgoing.  

I met volunteers from other countries who traveled here on their own dime, so they could take part in this amazing experience.  I also met many people who have done this very thing a few times - Vancouver Olympics, London Olympics, European Games, Canada Games.  How awesome must that be to travel and work at a games.  What experience they brought to our games.  And what awesome people they are to share their knowledge and expertise with the rest of us.  With smiles on their faces and love in their hearts.  Fred from Scotland, Colin from England.  Manwar from the middle east.  So many many more than that but those were some that I personally met and learned from.

Every where I went someone would say hello, someone would smile and say thank you.  Thank you for being a volunteer. What a great feeling.

I chatted with busdrivers from Quebec, athletes from Colombia, Peru, USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Argentina to name a few.  OPP officers from all over the area.  Even the police on duty had a smile and a quick word.

And the pins! First day at the venue our medals team were asking me about my pins on my lanyard.  They had never heard of trading.  I gave them their first pins and then they were off.  It gave them something to do during the hurry up and wait times.  Pin trading is a great icebreaker.  Complete strangers will stop you and ask to trade.  Athletes will offer you a pin.  I enjoyed watching the kids collections grow and the little rivalry that grew out of trading.  The meet and greet that Leah had organized before the opening ceremonies had a large amount of   trading.  So much fun.  Walking down the street people would admire the pins and ask about them.

The team.  I cannot believe that we had a unique team and experience but apparently that is what happened.  People heard about the Dream Team and came to visit to see for themselves.  I have never bonded so fast with such a large diversity of people as I did in those first 8 days.  Yes we were in a small venue and a small tent but I like to think that we just gelled.  We worked together cohesively.  No egos, no arguing, no prima donnas.  All for one.  One team, one dream.  I love these people. They are my family now.

The other volunteers.  Every single one brought something to these games and together we made these games a success.  People gave up work, family, vacation time to stand by a gate, to collect meal tickets, to wipe sweat off of a volleyball court, to check in other volunteers, to handle athletes, to drive here there and everywhere, to steam flags in 35C weather or stand out in pouring rain while handing out medals, to accredition, training, tech crew, media crew, setting up and taking down.  I personally didn't hear any complaining.  Just smiley faces.  And pleasant greetings.  Awesome.

I never wanted it to end.  I can say that this was the best experience of my life.  The ultimate highlight for me was seeing the flags and hearing the anthems of the gold medal athlete's country.  And hearing teammates sing out loud and proud.  My first ceremony I cried and my last ceremony I cried.  I had the privilege of carrying the bronze winner's flag in the last ceremony and to my great thrill it was the Canadian Flag. It didn't matter to me that it wasn't gold I was so thrilled to carry that flag out on my last shift.

The Canadian athletes who came back and thanked us for  being there. The USA gold medal winner who felt that our tent was a fun and relaxing place to hangout. On and off for days.  And meeting Pinball Clemons.  What an amazing role model/ambassador he is for the games and for our city.  He made me feel so special and he thanked me for doing this.

Every single 22999 volunteer who made this game a success with their sweat and hearts.  I thank you for being my friends, for accepting me as I am and for making this a once in a lifetime experience.  I hope that we can get to do this again sometime.  Maybe 2024???


Lifes like that...How I started my summer

I see that it has been a few months since I last posted. I know I know, I promised pictures, maybe a recipe.  But life is busy.  And commitments get in the way.  And family.  And mindset.

So what has happened since May?  A lot of things.  This is a year of firsts for me.  Back in November I joined a ladies adult jazz class.  I had taken tap last year but had a dickens of a time with it.  So I was apprehensive about doing jazz.  However to my surprise (and the other ladies too I'm sure) I not only liked it I actually learned to dance!  We learned a dance to the popular "All about the Bass" and to say it was fun would be an understatement.  This particular studio is a client (and dear friend) of mine so I also had the pleasure of sewing the costumes for this group.  And that means I also did another first - I danced on the stage in their year end recital. Oh My God was that fun but scary!!  I was nervous leading up to the moment we stepped out on stage but once we started dancing I was fine!  So I messed up a little (maybe a lot) but it didn't matter I was having a great time and I have found a new group of friends who I can't wait to meet up with in September.
Thats me in the back on the left...

Another first?  I finally ran a real 5K.  I say finally cause I have been putting off committing to a race ever since way back when I discovered that maybe I could be a runner.  I had told Keith at the gym that I might actually do a race before the end of the year but I chickened out and didn't follow through. However, in early spring I saw a friend had joined the Bread Honey Race so I just did it.  Right then and there.  Paid, done.  And then I started training for it.  Right up to about 3 weeks before - which coincidentally was the night of the recital - I started to come down with a nasty cold.  It settled right in.  Sinus infection, coughing the whole nine yards.  I went ALL winter without a sniffle.  I couldn't run, I could barely walk across the room. BUT I had committed so morning of the race I got up and got my buns over to the course and I did it.  Not only did I do it - not a pretty sight mind you I walked quite a bit - but I beat my best time for me a 37:22.  I couldn't believe that I did that well.  And my hubby was there to record the moment I ran across the finish line.  Would I say I enjoyed it?  No.  However, I just may do it again.

A third first.  I conquered the stairs at the cottage where we run to and from.  Last year I managed the top half but refused to go any further down as there are spots that are quite scary for me (heights are not my friend).  This year I determined I would do those last flights.  And I did it. Freaked myself right out but...it is now easier for me.  I would not say I have gotten over my fear of heights but at least now I can say I did those 175 stairs down and 175 stairs up.

A fourth firtht oops first.  And this for me is the best one.  I volunteered at the Pan Am games (Toronto 2015).  I had the time of my life.  My role was flag co-ordinator for Medals and Flags ceremony.  Simply that means I, along with 2 or 3 other co-ordinators, prepped the flags for the medals ceremonies.  That involved more than you may think.  It also involved steaming.  In a small tent.  With at least 10 people inside.  In 30C plus humidity.  In rain.  In cold.  We had it all over the 8 days we were there.  Our venue was known as TTS - or Toronto Trap and Skeet.  That's right shooting.  Of which I know nothing.  But I didn't need to know a thing anyway.  Just the countries represented and who was qualifying for the finals and then who were the top 3.  After picking the flags, verifying them, steaming the folds and creases out we would then place them on the poles and hand the over to the ceremonial OPP team of the day.  I am simplifying the process but it was stressful at times, extremely humid and hot most days.  But not once did tempers flare.  We worked together as if we had been a team for years.  We became known as the Dream Team.  From the flag co-ordinators to the medal ceremony tray bearers and escorts, to the overall supervisor we became a cohesive team.  Otherwise also known as the Amoeba.

I'd like to share a bit of that experience with you.  I think I will start a new blog post - like right now..go look.


Friday, May 1, 2015

3C Soup

I've been asked to share recipes I have found along this journey and I have obliged and added a few to my blog in the past year.  Most recipes are for dinner and many are carb free.  They are also good for company meals.  We eat fish (mostly salmon), pork, beef and a lot of chicken.  I employ a slow cooker, a pressure cooker, a gas stove and a gas bbq.  Many meals are quick and all are made with fresh ingredients.  Very rarely do I utilize anything canned and only low sodium products are used.  I use honey or maple syrup for sweetener as well as organic coconut palm sugar.  I have a variety of different vinegar's (balsamic, white balsamic, white wine, red wine, cider, rice and good ol white) as well as a few oils (olive, walnut, coconut). I still use butter but sparingly - most recipes you can substitute coconut oil it doesn't impart any flavour at all that we have noticed.  I have also substituted whole grain flour in recipes and while it does give a bit nuttier flavour or firmer complexion to the dish it is not much different in taste.  My advice is to experiment.  If you have the better ingredients on hand substitute.  I make all my own dressings fresh.  I use a very small mini food processor for that purpose and it works amazing.  Rule of thumb is if you make it then you know exactly what is in it!  The mantra is - no processed, no white, no artificial, no chemicals.  All fresh!

Here is the 3C Soup - Curried Peanut Chicken Coconut Soup with Roasted Tomatoes!

I like to google recipes and save them to pinterest.  I had part of a rotisserie chicken and thought hmmm what could I use that for - bingo.  I found one good size bowl very filling and I had enough left over for 2 lunches.  Makes 4 good servings.


1 small can organic unsweetened coconut milk (found in the ethnic aisle)
3 or 4 plum tomatoes or 1/2  large can low sodium tomatoes or 1 small can fire roasted tomatoes
fresh rotisserie chicken - 2 cups shredded (I used only the white meat)
2 tbsp curry paste - apparently it comes in red, yellow and green - I bought the red
2 Cups chicken broth - low sodium or home made
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
kosher/sea salt
roasted peanuts for garnish and a lime wedge if desired.

1) Roast tomatoes under the broiler for 5 minutes or until they start to blacken - you can buy canned roasted tomatoes but I am unsure if there is a low sodium variety
2) while they are roasting, in a large saucepan heat the chicken broth and whisk in the curry paste, bring to a boil
3) add the peanut butter and coconut milk while stirring constantly simmer for 2 or 3 minutes on medium high
4) add chopped or diced tomatoes and the shredded chicken add some kosher salt to taste (I use a pinch or two)
5) heat thoroughly - maybe 5 mins - but do not boil, stirring occasionally
6) serve in a bowl with chopped roasted peanuts and a lime wedge as garnish!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

YES I am STILL here 365 Days Later - Happy 1 yr Anniversary!

I suppose you've been wondering where I am?
What am I doing?
Am I OK?
Did I fall off the path?

Well no, I haven't fallen off the path.  There were moments of straying pass the line.  Periods of time where life, the real deal, rears its ugly head and says it's still there.  

Real life...

Death of a dear father-in-law
Passing of a devoted pet
Christmas & New Years celebrations
Work overload 
Weather (ugh) 
Family visit home to NS

So how did I deal with all that?

First I continued to eat clean and healthy as much as I possibly could.  Which means at least 80% of the time I had my smoothies, ate good salads with protein for lunch and lean dinners with little to no carbs.  80% of the time... the other 20% was those times when I ate what I wanted to.  Sandwiches at a funeral, comfort food.  Munchies and dinners at friends at New Years, sharing food.  Work I stocked my fridge and ate cleanly but occasionally as opposed to daily I had a take out lunch - Burger King or local deli or pizza or Swiss Chalet.  Weather also played into that. Family visit home?  Home food, Easter dinner, special request comfort food (cod cakes :) ), fried clams.  And through all those some wine...and maybe a martini or two.  

Secondly I went to the gym as often as I felt I could - I know it still should have been a priority but first if you are away - its difficult to find a gym or time to go.  Also I can't ask my staff to forego their outside activities and not give up mine - so working 8 or 9 am to 10 pm or later is on all of us.  Then there were other activities at least over New Years we skated pretty much every day and hiked through the snow just to visit friends.  I also joined an adult jazz class the end of November but also missed 4 weeks in a row as my dear friend gave up her time to come down and sew crazily with me on her day off - same day as my jazz class - so I didn't attend.  Basically 4 straight weeks of no exercise at all.

Did it matter?  Yes it friggen did!  Not only did I really miss it, and the people at the gym, but the scale was not friendly to me.  I went up and down.  Overall more down then up.  I still lost weight and PBF but there were times when the scale went up as much as 5 or 6 lbs. Did I freak out?  Yes I did a little, but then for the next 7 or so days I went wholeheartedly back to clean eating and it came back off. Took some time but it did.  

And the outcome is that even with all that real life going on, eating clean 80% of the time still helps.  That is MY real life now.  My living life this way.  Lifestyle CHANGE.  And never ever slipping back into that cycle that spirals out of control and you end up looking like I did one year ago today.  The day I took control of that cycle and changed MY LIFE. 

April 29, 2014 an innocuous day.  No special meaning to that day before but now it is a special day.  An anniversary day of sorts.  The first day of the rest - yes the REST of my life. Not going backwards again - just forwards.

I have attained so much - did so many firsts - set goals and met them. Some took a bit longer than others but ultimately who cares - I met them.  

What have I accomplished?  Don't laugh these are big to me....
a) joined a gym - first obstacle overcome
b) learned about nutrition and eating clean - for life
c) joined the Weight Loss Team - awesome people, awesome motivation do not think I could have done it without them I mean that!
d) learned how to run and learned I kinda like it
e) lifted weights - yah me - and I kinda like that too
f) overcome some of my fears regarding those stairs at the Cunliffes
g) lost weight, inches, percent body fat 
h) became vocal and tried to inspire others to eat clean and get healthier
i) joined a jazz class
j) took a fitness/wellness/MMA class
k) conquered some yoga moves that a year ago I just looked at others and thought you are too bendy for me!!
l) volunteered for the upcoming PanAm Games here in Toronto
m) signed up for my first outside 5k race!  A goal I joked about with Keith back after my first actual run on a treadmill back in May 2014.
n) Hit my goal of weight loss of 40 - 45 lbs and actually hit 52 lbs!
o) Cut my PBF in half!  From 47.8% to 24.6% as of yesterday morning.  Half HALF!!!

Here they are folks - numbers from April 29 2014 - April 29 2015

Start               Jul 29  Sept 18     Oct 17           Nov 18        April 29/15  
Wht -190         162     155           152.2           146.5             138.2
BF% -47.8      33.4      ?              30.23%     29.4                  24.6
W -40.5"         32         32             31               30                    30
B -44"             39         38             38               37                    37
H -46"             39         38             38               37                    37
Arm -15"         11         11             12               12                    11
C -18"            15.5       15.5          15               15                    15
Th -26"          20.75      20.5          20.25         19                     19.5
Size - XL/18                                                                            S/XS/8

Overall losses - weight - 51.8 lbs
BF - 23.2%
W - 9.5"
B - 7"
H - 9"
Arm - 4"
C - 3"
Th - 6.5"
Total inches - 34" loss overall
Down 5 sizes 5 whole sizes

I find it interesting that my measurements haven't changed all that much since November but I am wearing a smaller size and have lost more weight. For example:

I have even lost weight in my feet!!  Shoes that were snug are now a bit loose even though I still wear a size 7 I think I had started to buy some of my shoes in a 7.5.  
I can wear normal calf size boots - something I haven't been able to do since high school. 
My wrists are smaller, the tale of the wristwatch that needs to be tightened.  My gear fit when I purchased it I wore it on the 6th hole now its on the 4th but could be on the 3rd if I want it to be snug.
My belts are too big and the size 10 pants I was wearing in the fall are too big in the waist and butt, so now I'm wearing an 8 but even that is loose.  

What have I learned over this past year?
a) losing weight and heading towards fitness is hard work but not as hard as I thought it would be
b) any age, any time is a good time to start
c) you don't know what you can do until you try - the key is to try
d) support is everywhere - at the gym, at home, family, friends, even people you pass in the gym or have done business with they are all supportive and in your corner and the ones who aren't?  Not true friends that is for sure.
e) getting over mindset is the biggest obstacle
f) no one can fix you or give you an easy out, only you can fix you and push yourself
g) laziness and tiredness is a state of mind - our bodies can still do stuff and by pushing through the tiredness you are stronger for it
h) we are never too old to learn a new dance step or overcome a fear or learn new things about ourselves
i) the scale is not the definitive answer to health - inches and bodyfat percentage tell the tale.
j) eating healthy isn't difficult once your learn how and you won't (or shouldn't) be hungry - snacking is important!  Experimenting with recipes is fun and eye opening.
k) and I never ever want to go back to 190 lbs of unfitness!

This journey has indeed been such a journey. Like any other there have been bumps, hills and valleys. But always in the same direction.  I have also learned that this journey is ongoing and neverending.  That there will always be something else to focus on or set as a goal. 

Life is for living and enjoying and I intend to do just that.  

I promised a recipe but this blog is long enough.  Tomorrow - picture update and the recipe for a 4C soup.

Talk tomorrow,