Putting off the Inevitable and Falling in Love with Fall

Get it? Pumpkin pi! haha I know, I'm a nerd.

Ahhhhh. It is good to be back in the city. I love the Village, but I also missed good coffee, the hum of the city, and the joy of classes (even if I ride on a bus for approximately twice the time as the actual class to go to said class).

True to who I am put off the long drive home (Ottawa home) as long as possible. I didn’t mean to though. My mom and I were supposed to drive back together Friday but then my dad had to come back early meaning my mom had no ride home. So I changed plans to “ok I’ll leave Saturday afternoon.” Then Saturday morning came and my mom wanted to “quickly” go to the mall, because such things can actually be done quickly. Then I thought, well I can still take the highway and leave after an early dinner. As a headache and exhaustion crept up on me I realized I didn’t want to drive back after all. Next thing you know it Saturday night, my wifey is over and we’re making cookies instead of driving. Only problem with this is that I now would miss Run Club for a third week.

Not happening.

I had to make photographic proof this time that I didn't skip run club.

I had to make photographic proof this time that I didn’t skip run club.

So I dragged my family down with me to the local Running Room. Apparently a lot of the members were at one of the approximately too many events, so there was a much smaller group than I am used to running with/in. Main issue with this was that there was only one group running the 12K route, their pace? “Slow.”I tried to go “slow” at first, but my muscles were begging to be pushed after taking most of the week off, so off I went. It was a beautiful run. Just like in Ottawa, I was able to see so much of the city/village, from the waterfront of Kempenfelt Bay to the century old homes, and the newly expanded hospital. I also had a lot of time to think, which is where this post was born. There and on the excessively long solo drive with noisy cat. The cool but not cold temperature, warm sun, and bright leaves made me fall in love with the season (is that too cheesy a pun?).

Really I have always loved fall. Don’t get me wrong, I love the heat of summer, the beauty of growth in the spring, and I love Christmas and the first snowfall, but fall is by far my favourite.

Why?

  1. After a long hot summer, running in cooler temperatures is wonderful. Yes I have to wear my longer bottoms and usually a long-sleeved top, but at least I’m not internally boiling and I can run in the middle of the afternoon without dying.
  2. It’s not so cold that I have to wear every layer of dry-fit I own to stay warm running. I enjoy my runs because it is cool enough to not boil, and warm enough to not freeze – because thank God it’s not winter yet.

    Get it? Pumpkin pi! haha I know, I'm a nerd.

    Get it? Pumpkin pi! haha I know, I’m a nerd.

  3. It is pumpkin season. Oh my God guys! #PSL! Not. Personally I don’t actually like eating or drinking anything pumpkin, but I love pumpkin carving. Even if I’m not particularly good at it, and I hate the feeling of the guts.
  4. It’s apple season – this means trips to the apple orchard, apple cider, apple baked goods, need I say more?
  5. Trips to the farm. With a bounty of seasonal produce and activities there is always an excuse to find a local farm and make an afternoon of it.
  6. The colours! My favourite drive home is always the Thanksgiving, the colour of the leaves makes for a beautiful drive, even if it is still a painfully long drive.
  7. It’s almost Halloween. I love Halloween for two reasons: I love the kids in their costumes, especially the little kids who are just old enough to have figured out the drill but not so old they look annoyed at me because they’re too cool to say trick or treat enthusiastically; and I love the one-for-me-one-for-the-kids candy rule.

    See munchkins like this! These are the cute kids that I like coming to my door!

    See munchkins like this! These are the cute kids that I like coming to my door!

  8. November 1=College Student Candy Day. Candy tastes better when it’s cheaper. It’s a fact.
  9. It’s premiere season. I am sick of re-runs at this point and the return of my favourite shows is like Christmas come early.
  10. Back to school. I am a nerd. I enjoy being back in the classroom, learning new things, thinking about old things in a new way, and being back on campus in the heart of the city.
  11. Back to school shopping. My closet becomes like a mall for a few short weeks.
  12. It’s squash season. Which means I can go back to enjoying Apple Bacon Butternut Squash Soup and Spaghetti Squash Chicken Parmesan.
  13. It’s soup and stew season. Blackbean soup, loaded baked potato soup, hearty beef stews, chili, all with fresh bread – need I say more?
  14. It is cool enough to be socially acceptable to drink hot chocolate. And caramel apple spice.
  15. Black Friday is coming. Due to the high proportion of US owned companies and the competition with US for holiday sales, Canadian retailers have started following suit and putting up some pretty great sales.
  16. Cozy sweaters are mandatory but mittens still optional.
  17. Weeds stop growing.
  18. It’s cool enough to bake comfortably again. The oven and I can be friends again.
  19. Unlike in spring, when you are equally grateful it is not winter, you don’t have to look at the ugly snow.
  20. You can see your breath walking. Sounds funny but I love it.

 

Why fall may not be the best:

  1. The leaves. I love them when they’re on the trees, but once they’re on the ground I am responsible for raking them.
  2. The chill in the air reminds me that winter IS coming. I am only going to get colder.

What do you think? Is fall the best? Have I convinced you entirely? If not, tell me what season is better and why in the comments down below!

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Thankful Returns to the Village

First off I just have to say – raking leaves was a lot more fun when I was a kid and didn’t have to bag them. I love fall, don’t get me wrong, it’s actually one of my favourite seasons. I love the leaves. But ugh. The leaves.fall leaves

I love going home, but the village has so many more trees. Ugh.

I love going home, but the village has so many more trees. Ugh.

Thanksgiving weekend is upon us! The start of reading week! Could it be a better weekend? Well maybe but let’s just be thankful for the fact that I have the weekend off and no school for a week, no midterms for a week and a half, and finally a chance to breathe for five minutes. Only five minutes though.

Going home is always an interesting experience for me. It feels like a step back in time.

Yesterday this was a very, very, slow trip back in time. After six and a half hours in the car, one very long detour through a real village, and a painfully long 42km spurt stuck behind an oil tanker that at one point was going 5km/h, I am finally back in the village. Now with at least two more traffic lights!

It is so strange for me how I can come home and it’s like I never left. And also like I’ve been gone for years.

Already the lack of accordion and double-decker buses kind of disappoints me. The lack of good, authentic ethnic cuisine is mildly disheartening, and the fact that there are only 4 Starbucks (annoyingly in two groups of two, each pair within 1km of each other) is almost tragic. One the plus side, they now have both a Beavertails and The Works; we’ve got a fair size mall with a lot of big/high end brands  and an H&M, and the waterfront is pretty nice when it’s not under construction. Can’t have it all I guess.

I really do love this city, it makes me feel warm and safe, protected from the demands of adult me. You know as opposed to the baby of the family me. There’s the me that enjoys relaxing and meals on the back deck, bonfires in the summer, and comfy nights on the couch watching TV. The me that still has time to figure things out – that doesn’t have grad school looming, that doesn’t stress over GPA, textbooks, and essays.

Then there’s the me that lives in the big city, rides buses on a daily basis, worries mildly about walking around after dark, and enjoys eating all sorts of ethnic and foodie type foods. The me that spends the majority of my time reading textbooks and studying. The me that obsesses over grad school. Big Girl Panties Niki.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Big Girl Panties Niki – she kicks ass and takes names on a daily… ok monthly basis. She’s growing up and going places. I still relish the chance to come home for the week even if it means a 5-6 hour car ride with a noisy cat. It is even more awesome and worth the drive when I get fed copious amounts of turkey, pie, and cheesy hashbrowns in exchange.

The noisy cat. She was not impressed with her digs in the crate, so we let her out at a rest station.

The noisy cat. She was not impressed with her digs in the crate, so we let her out at a rest station.

On that note, I realized that in approximately 30 hours I will be required to state what I am thankful for. And I sat back and thought about it – what am I thankful for? I have a lot to be thankful for but can I actually come up with a complete list? Hell no. So below I present to you the top five list of things I am thankful for, in no particular order:

1.      My loving family. I come from a very tight knit family that is always there for each other, yeah we’re not perfect, like in any family there’s always the behind your back chatter, but when push comes to shove we stand by and support each other. My grandparents and great aunt came all the way from Barrie to see me finish in my first running half-marathon. My mom came up and painted my room and chalkboard walls in the kitchen, in return I sometimes make her oatmeal chocolate cheesecake cookies. When I’m down I always make cookies with my grandma and I have fond memories as a kid making them with her on the November P.A. days – she would always let me put so much candy on the gingerbread men that you could barely tell they were cookies versus just candy that had been left in the sun and melted together. I am thankful I have such an amazing family I can always go home to.

2.      A warm and safe place to live. I am thankful that I know at the end of the day I have a home to go to. Even if it is over an hour on the sometimes unpredictable buses. I have somewhere I can go, I can lock the doors, sit on my couch and watch some TV before bed. I’ve got an oven/stove and a fridge, I have cupboards full of food and I trust that I will never go hungry. At night I snuggle down under my warm duvet, and my cat aside, know I will sleep safely. That’s not something everyone gets. There are people who live on the streets, who sleep under the Mackenzie King overpass, because at least it’s dry and semi protected. There are people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from or if one is even coming. And yeah, some people will blame them, or refuse to give the homeless money because they think they’ll just use it for drugs/alcohol, which may well be the case, but they are people and I am sure they don’t enjoy the lifestyle. So I am thankful that I have a place to stay that is warm, and in a good neighbourhood.

3.      The opportunity to go to school well into my adult life. I remember in first year a couple friends and I were talking about the tradition of going around the table and saying what we’re thankful for. Aaraf couldn’t really think of anything to say, so I shrugged and said, “We’re in a lecture hall right now, just say you’re thankful for the opportunity to go to school.” He scoffed at that, and I said “What the Africans can’t do that!” Which ended in “Why are people only thankful because the African’s have it worse? Why do people always mention the Africans?” Which he had a point. I remember as a kid, when I didn’t want to eat everything on my plate being told that there were “starving children in Africa who would be thankful for your _____.” To which I spouted the typical kid response “Well ship it to Africa then!”

In all seriousness though, maybe we do reference the Africans a lot, and I’m sure it’s not all the doom and gloom portrayed in the World Vision commercials, but we certainly have a lot more security than they do and life certainly is a lot easier on a daily basis here in North America. Yes, my education is costing me a small fortune, and yes, fact is with the job market, there are a lot of grads who aren’t getting jobs right away. But in many areas of the world staying a dependent of sorts, or a non-contributing (student jobs aside) member of society wouldn’t be possible. Even coming up with that necessary small fortune, or being able to borrow it on legally agreed upon terms, would be next to impossible. Even here, back 100 years ago, children barely even went to school, they were used as a source of labour. Then completing high school became a big thing, now post-secondary is almost the norm. And I am planning on taking that a step further, studying for another 6-7 years after my undergraduate degree. I will have been educated for about a quarter of my life (which that 21 years of schooling is only a quarter of my country’s life expectancy is something to be thankful for too. Really I come from a line of centurions, so this is actually only 20% of my life)

4.      My Technology. Without my Garmin Sports Watch, superphone, and Keurig, I would be lost. I am thankful for coffee at the push of a button. Is it bad to say I’m thankful that I have my cell phone to keep me company? No, it’s not that. I am thankful I am able to so easily connect to others and in the event that I get lost, easily find my way home. Or find the nearest sushi restaurant or Starbucks. And I am thankful my parents bought me my Garmin, it is one of the most useful tools I own. But why? Why not just run? Seems like a pretty basic thing to need technology to be able to do. My Garmin tracks my heart rate (some days very inaccurately), distance, and pace while I’m running and then I can go home and analyze the activities in terms of where I slowed down/sped up based on elevation etc. Really I just suck at keeping a steady pace. And fact of the matter is that if you want to be able to run for longer distances, keeping a steady pace, or at least not going faster than you can actually maintain, is key. I know. This is a tragic thing to complain about. And yes, I am thankful for the fact that I can run in the first place.

5.      Food. And not just because I am getting a marvelous feast of two kinds of meat, two kinds of potatoes, three kinds of veggies, cheese sauce, stuffing, and likely 4 kinds of pie (my grandma always goes overboard). I love food. I am a self-professed foodie. I love Ottawa and all its authentic ethnic cuisines, its quirky restaurants, and its farmers’ markets. I have tried so many new foods in the last year, and I love trying out new recipes, new twists on old classics, and wonderful taste experiments where I just start throwing things into a pot and hope it works out. I am thankful that I can do this. Thankful that if my experiment-du-jour doesn’t work out, I can always just call for take-out. Thankful that I can go out to eat from time to time. Thankful that I can go to the store for food if I ever need it and never fear not having something to eat. I am thankful that I have such amazing people in my life to share the food with.

That’s a lot of thankfuls, and a lot to be thankful for. Can I just be thankful for having so much to be thankful for? Tell me – what are you thankful for? Did you always do the go-around-the-table tradition? Are you confused as to why I am writing about Thanksgiving if it’s only October?

For When You Can’t Decide Between Apple Pie and Apple Crisp: Apple Crumble Pie

My trip to the apple orchard and its consequences really weren’t thought through ahead of time, which left me with a bounty of apples. Very tiny apples. I have seen plums bigger than these apples. But I love apples, so it was all good, I just ate three at a time. Perfectly acceptable solution. After a week of this I still had 2/3 of a bag of apples to go, so I used a couple of them in the slow-cooker with a pork tenderloin and was still left with a plethora of apples. We had company coming, and I had a pie crust in the freezer begging to be used. The result – this delicious pie.

Don't drool on your keyboard.

Don’t drool on your keyboard.

Ingredients:

1 deep-dish pie shell (if you’re feeling ambitious you can make your own too)

Filling:

  • 5 cups apples, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cubed cold butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Mix all your filling ingredients in a bowl. If you like dishes, you may mix the sugars, oats, and cinnamon separately, but I am lazy and all about one dish things. If you have a bowl with a lid that’s even better – dump it all in there and shake it around.
  3. Add apple mixture to your pie crust.
  4. Mix everything for the topping together EXCEPT the butter. Once it’s mixed, add the butter, and then using either forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until you’ve got a crumbly mixture.
  5. Add the crumb mixture on top of the apples.
  6. Cover the pie with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then take the foil off and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until crust appears golden brown and delicious.