Flat tyres, Liz Hurley, bacon sandwiches – Scafell Pike

Flying high on bagging our very first Munro – the one and only Ben Nevis – and sleeping like rocks in the bunkhouse, we packed up and hit the road for Scafell Pike in England’s Lake District.  Making a short stop in Fort William to check out directions to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, we came back to find the camper van had a flat tyre.

And that the roadside assistance had expired.

And that the spare tyre was rusted out and flat as a pancake.

While the repairs were getting sorted, we ate meat pies, bought tea towels and postcards, toured a castle ruins, had a beer, noshed on Haggis-flavoured crisps, checked out the Ben Nevis distillery, bought some whiskey, said hello to local livestock….and all was good.

Fort William killing time

By the time our camper van was roadworthy again, our leisurely driving day south to England turned into ~255 miles to get under our belt before it got tooooo late (aka dark).  We left Fort William late afternoon….yikes.

Getting out of Scotland was a lot of twisting turning lanes. Miz W. was the best driver ever, and thank the gods for her driving skills and Miz J’s navigation system, along with Liz Hurley’s input.  Our sat nav was totally Liz Hurley, embodied.  And most of the time Liz Hurley was sending us in the right direction.

But she started to fade after many, many hours of driving.  We also lost the radio.  The cigarette charger died all together. The interior van lighting extinguished. It was pitch black outside.  All started going straight to hell in a hand-basket.

The camper van became entirely persnickety (hot wires?) so we pulled over at a bus stop, possibly in Egremont, to let it cool off. I think it was about midnight at that point.  It wasn’t until we hopped out to find a bush to pee behind when we realized we were right next to a very old, scary-looking cemetery.  Only a rock wall separated us from … the undead.

Well, that was my only motivation required to move it. (The others were much more brave.)  Once the van had a decent rest, we were back on the road.  We ended up sleeping around 0230 hrs-ish in the Gosforth commuter parking lot where we popped the top and squeezed in amidst all the luggage for a snooze.

Later that morning, we woke to a busy little car park all around us.

Gosforth parking lot

We nipped across the street to the corner store and to the bakery for breakfast pastries, yogurt and a few hiking snacks, and were quickly on our way to Wasdale Head, where we’d eventually find both the trail head and Miz J.’s friend from York, Miz S. and her sister waiting for us to conquer Scafell Pike.

(978 m or 3,209 ft)

About Scafell Pike: Wasdale Head is home not only to England’s highest peak, but also to the deepest lake, smallest church and biggest liar.  How could one NOT visit such a charming locale?  On the western edge of the Lake District, it also (as many places in the UK) seems to have it’s own weather systems, so be prepared on Scafell Pike! Fun fact: The peaks of the Lake District are known as ‘fells’ from the viking word ‘fjell’ for mountain.

Savvy choice: Camp (or stay) right at the Wasdale Head Inn (birthplace of British mountaineering) for easy access to the trail heads of many great hill walks. Fee for camping is just 5 GBP a night, and that gets you a lovely green, access to the toilets/showers, and a welcome to pop in the next morning for bacon sandwiches. Heck ya, bacon sandwiches!!

Closest pub: Wasdale Head Inn’s Ritson’s Bar is cozy and welcoming, with every drink under the sun available, packed with walkers and local colour as well.  Menu’s good, served to 9:00 pm, and dessert is available late. Customer service is spot on.

Our hike:
We met up with Miz S. and set off midday for our trek just down the road from the Wasdale Head Inn at the National Trust car park.

Scafell Pike Sarah

Across the footbridge, past the sheep, through the meadow and up the hill, we starting on a lovely path of stone steps – both manicured and natural – where National Trust workers were upgrading the path. Wonderful work! What a way to spend the day!  Looking back from the slopes of Lingmell, there are delightful views of Wast Water.

Scafell Pike first steps

After crossing Lingmel Gill on stepping stones our little group slowly separated, each finding her own pace, with Miz S. and her sister springing onwards like goats, while Miz. W. and Miz. M. chilled out on the slopes for a few photos and a snack.

The sunny, warm day was such a contrast to the rain and sleet of Ben Nevis. Stopping frequently to take a breath and repeat to myself – hills?  I have such respect for these “mountains”!

Scafell Pike upwards

We each continued up the steep ascent towards the Hollow Stones, a tumble of glacial debris that requires a sharp eye for cairns, as not to lose the path.  My path ebbed and flowed with those of Miz J. and Miz S.  It was steady hard work, step after step.  Lots of time to think and muse.  What I enjoyed about this trail was – due to the clear skies – that I could look up and pick out the trail above and beyond.  It was a different set of cards dealt on this hiking day.

On the traditional National Three Peaks Challenge, this leg is done completely in the dark, in the dead of night.  That is surely a challenge in itself as the approach to the summit is very rocky, where you mount a boulder field of shattered rock and the vistas of Lakeland which unfold from every direction wouldn’t be seen at all!

Catching up to Miz J., we hiked the final bit together to the summit.

Scafell Pike view

Glorious views of the Lake District!

Scafell Pike Melis

The whole gang met up together on top of Scafell Pike, then headed down slowly – sore knees today!! – to reconvene in Ritson’s Bar for drinks and supper. In total, I think it took about 5.5 hours.

Next stop: Snowdon!




(Long) weekend update: cookies & running. And more cookies. And maybe rum.

The beauty of a long weekend…perfect excuse to eat every delicious BBQ food in the WORLD.

It started quite innocently (let’s invite cousin Matthew & Martina for dinner) and ended in a new BBQ purchased, eighteen thousand full-fat side dishes to accompany chubby cheddar smokies, and pina coladas made with our fancy-dancy new blender thingy from Air Miles… (Bacardi makes pineapple and coconut infused rum. Just for the record.) Oh – AND – the baking of some crazy good (read: addictive) cookies. To eat with ice cream, of course. A few raspberries thrown in to avoid scurvy.

I mean, who doesn’t want Dulce de Leche Stuffed Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies?  Hello? Besides, it was an excuse to go buy a jar of dulce de leche… and try something new. I came across the Wright Family Table blog via foodie pic posts on Instagram and HAD to try these cookies. Yum.

Hot chocolate cookies

So, as you’ve guessed, the weekend tear through BBQ food world was delicious but not exactly on track.  My hands were even swelling two days later. (Sodium?  Lack of rum?) Training, however, was actually decent, and am quite proud of sticking to my little workout schedule leading up to my 10K run this Saturday.

Last week’s training plan and results:

MON: Easy run (30 min) = DONE. Ran outside for the first time in a year, and it was an all-singing, all-dancing panic attack. Every muscle in my body seized up and it was the hardest run in the world hitting the pavement in my neighbourhood.  I did get a high-five from a toothless guy having a smoke outside a local bar. That kept me going for two blocks, and then I had no choice but to keep motoring because the ladies on the next corner, like, OWN that corner and I am not permitted to stop.  In the end, my legs were rock and I could barely lift my feet. I counted the seconds until the 30 minutes were up.

TUE: Yoga – P90X2 “X2 yoga” (67 min) = mostly DONE. Beachbody on Demand streaming died two-thirds of the way through, and I could only hear Tony Horton, not see him. And then the stream kerplunked all together, so I surfed around in BOD looking for alternative stretchy clips. Found some “classic” (aka cheesy) old ones to do.

WED: Tempo run w/ speed intervals (30 min) = DONE and AWESOME. Went inside on the treadmill and calmed down (compared to Monday’s run) and got ‘er done. This was after a 0500 hrs workout and a night of stair walking in the River Valley. #crushedit

THU: Cross training – 21 Day Fix “dirty 30″ (30 min) + T25 “lower focus” (25 min) = DONE, mostly. Did the Dirty 30 but not the Lower Focus. I was beat after yesterday’s workout extravaganza.

FRI: Rest day – walking YEG river valley stairs at lunch time = RESTED. Needed it. Got in a short walk outside but that was it.

SAT: Long(er) run (4.5 miles/~7KM) = DONE, mostly. I had aimed for 4.5 miles, but managed 4 miles at my mellow, “easy run” pace on the treadmill. It took an hour…I am not winning any prizes with my pace, but I know if I keep up the training, my easy run pace will slowly increase over the next few months.

SUN: Easy run (20 min) + Sunday morning Yoga (Meadows Rec Centre) = DONE! The yoga instructor at the Meadows on Sunday is AH-MAZE-ING. She teaches so many lovely lessons about body and life throughout her yoga flow hour.

Easy peasy chicken breast recipe

Looking for a versatile chicken breast recipe?

[Is it juicy? Is it sweet?]

Chicken is high upchicken for the week on the list for family favourites and I absolutely love this recipe for it’s reliability and versatility.  Add it to salads, pastas or just eat it on it’s own.  Chicken totally nails the protein needs for any nutrition plan, too.  (Oh Lord, just ask me about the chicken + yams, yams + chicken….)

It literally fits into a meal EVERY day.  So worth baking up a batch at the beginning of the week.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Lazy tip: place foil over your baking sheet. God knows I don’t want to actually clean a pan.

Season the chicken breast on both sides with salt &pepper to taste, and about a teaspoon each of paprika, garlic powder and onion powder.  Drizzle a little bit of extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil over each breast to keep them moist. Cook 20-25 minutes.

Don’t overcook!  ‘Cause dry chicken is so not fun. Yes, cooked chicken that’s still pink can be safe to eat — but only if the chicken’s internal temperature has reached 165° F throughout. With so much soy pumped into chicken nowadays, sadly, a bit of pink is always going to be there, unless you’re totally organic. So, don’t feel the need to bake it until it’s extra dead…yuk.

Economical tip: buy the big packs of chicken breast from Costco and do your meal planning and prep on Sunday nights for the rest of the week.

Fast food for the backcountry

Planning continues for the backcountry hikes this summer.

No surprise, I’ve been working more on the “hmmm, what can I eat” rather than the “how many stairs can I climb” questions.

Stockpiling trail food

I seriously have an arsenal of dehydrated shepherd’s pie, spaghetti and meatballs and bananas foster, among others.  I could very well be a doomsday prepper at this rate.

Here are my top five greatly-anticipated pre-packaged trail meals for this summer:

1. Shepherd’s Pie – like mom used to make, Backpacker’s Pantry
2. AlpineAire‘s Forever Young Mac & Cheese
3. Tsampa Soup – channelling the power of the Sherpas
4. Peanut & Raisin Oatmeal, Backpacker’s Pantry
5. Fire Roasted Veg Blend, Mountain House – eat yer veggies!

[And stay tuned for reviews later in the summer as to whether these lived up to their reputations!]

The pre-packaged dehydrated meals often have a reputation of being hit and miss, not to mention chock-full of sodium… I actually don’t mind the fact that that sodium levels are a bit high on these meals.  I’m huge on losing salt when I sweat, and without a serious replenishment, I am apt to become generally useless, drool or pass out.

As for taste, well, it comes down to a wee bit of desperation because you’ve been on the trail for 4 days already and there’s not a cheeseburger in sight.  Mostly, the flavours are slightly off the mark compared to the real thing, but you just tell yourself the faulty Star Trek-esque replicators were malfunctioning. Sometimes, though, going through the homemaker motions of preparing and eating a meal is actually quite comforting when, hey, you’re sleeping in a tent for yet another night with mere microfibers between you and big giant bears.

Yummers! Bananas Foster in the wild

Yummers! Bananas Foster in the wild

The majority of the pre-packaged meals I’m bringing I’ve already tested on the trail, and am happy with, or I’ve watched my companions chow down and thought I should get some (as a result of a little camp-food envy).  I’ve bought a few new ones to try, like guacamole; although I’m not sure how to avoid crushing the chips that come with it.

I’ve dabbled in the idea of dehydrating food on my own, and even ordered a book on it. Alas, I actually don’t anticipate ever investing in a dehydrator, so … I may attempt it all on a very low-set oven temperature.  But I am kind of too lazy to do this… we’ll see.

Trust me, my entire oh-so-gourmet backpacking menu won’t be “fast food” per se… but it’s good to have a few pre-made foil packets each trip for the nights you are too zonked to play house, or if the rain is belting down and you just need to eat and hit the sack…

What are your favourite backcountry foods?



Detox cocktails for the holiday-ravaged bod

“Sometimes I drink water just to surprise my liver.”

Why wait for January 1st?  Flush out the cells with a healthy shock to the system after all that holiday yumminess.  Can’t hurt to go through the motions, right??  Here’s something I tried this morning:

1 large glass of water (12-16 oz.)
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. raw honey

Blend all ingredients together (I used a shaker cup)

Details of why this is good for you below* BUT all you need to know is that this concoction is NOT DELICIOUS** and therefore must be fabulous for the bod.

For other green/happy/detox recipes check out these winners:

Party on the Top, Party on the Bottom Tie-Dye Smoothie

Super Detox Green Cleansing Smoothie

Kid-friendly Green Smoothie with Banana

*Apple Cider Vinegar is full of acetic acid which has been shown to lower blood pressure up to 6%. It can also help eat up the starches if you do eat grains in your diet. Lemon juice helps balance blood sugar and has an alkaline effect on your body helping to regulate ph. Cinnamon is one of the best anti-oxidants on the planet. It is the number one herb/spice for balancing blood sugar. Honey contains enzymes that stimulate the digestive process and boosts metabolism, which contributes to weight reduction. YUM.

** I used warm water and pretended it was some sort of exotic après ski nog in a European destination of the rich and famous. Very oddly, I thought this was relatively good for the most part, and then it became a chore.  At the end I just plugged my nose and chugged it.


Kicking my holiday food hangover

Seize the moment…remember all those women on the Titanic who passed up dessert.
~ Erma Bombeck

You don’t need a New Year to start a resolution, you just need a Monday.

I decided to eat whatever I wanted over the Christmas holidays.

It’s a HOLIDAY after all, and haven’t I worked hard all year and deserve a treat?

So, I did. And I had fun.  Oddly, the meals were not a challenge for me – all my choices were well-balanced and filled me up.  It was the snacking. Boxes of Himalayan pink sea salt & caramel chocolates, homemade cookies, bowls of cashews, cheese/crackers/sweet pickles, eggnog and Kentucky bourbon, Shocktop, Kronenbourg, Oyster Bay… SO GOOD going down.

I’d go to bed with a food hangover, wake up in the middle of the night with a food hangover, come to in the morning with a food hangover…what’s a food hangover?  To me, it was an overall feeling of blergh. Partly it was a full stomach, but mostly it was like every cell in my body being in distress.  I felt thick. Tingly. Sore. Swollen. My heart would race occasionally.  In other words, nothing really good.

And as I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, I would claim “NEVER AGAIN!!”  By midday I’d be feeling better, and would happily overdose while playing board games, watching movies, or just because it was there.

I let myself enjoy these past two weeks, only to cause blergh-ness. The overindulgence of sugar, fat, caffeine and alcohol culminated in one giant yuck-fest. Yet…oddly I don’t regret it*. Or the 9.5 pounds that came with it. NINE POINT FIVE.  Yep. In, like, two weeks. I swear it’s all that food still in my colon. I’d like to think I’ve learned a lesson??? Hm.

Fun is up. Time to get back to it. Plan of attack:

  • Water. Lots of it. Drinking half my body weight in ounces. Add lemon to that water to aid digestion and cleanse the system.
  • Sweat. My knee is still sore, but I’ve also been using this as an excuse. I need to work around the knee and modify my exercises. Do-over of P90 – Day ONE starts today. Thank goodness for accountability partners. You know who you are.
  • Whole foods, baby!  Weaning off the sugar pops over the next few days and then going sugar-less by the first week in January. Easier said than done, because I know I can eat great meals, but the afternoon cravings for junk will kick in.

The most obvious is to remove the treats from the house. Will send it out into the world with the teenagers for their late-night card games or simply toss it in the garbage.  When I’m on a good roll, it CAN be in the house and I don’t touch it, but currently addicted, I need it gone.

Haha – the funniest part about my plan of attack is that I KNOW all of this. So many of us ‘know’ what to do, how to be healthy, what good choices are…yet we CHOOSE NOT TO.  That’s the kicker.  The true test is acting on making the purported change.  That’s a whole other session on the couch that really hasn’t been examined over this past year for me, and could very well be what’s getting in the way of success… deep thoughts. Stay tuned.

*Okay, the ONLY regret about gaining weight over the holidays comes down to saving face… Doing my January 1st weigh-in – comparing to LAST January – I will now have not ‘lost’ as much weight…  Ahhhh vanity.

Dauphine Bakery & Bistro: Urban high tea win

dauphine teaFor an intimate atmosphere with urban flair, hit up Dauphine Bakery and Bistro for a swanky high tea in the heart of the city. Enter off 104th Street and descend into a delightful European bakery with all the goods, minus the line-ups at the Duchess and the prices of the Hotel Macdonald.

After wandering the City Market Downtown for organic wines, pea shoots, zucchini and other treasures of the earth, we – a trio of middle-aged ladies – appreciated getting our reserved table right away, starting off with iced teas and water to cool off. Think Little Britain: we were doing what laayyydies doooo.

Our first course was a little cheesy poof and a tiny pitcher of gazpacho. Icy cold with a deep, rich tomato and red pepper flavour, the gazpacho had us swiveling in our seats to check if the bakery sold this as a take-home item in their refrigerators. (They did)

The next course – sarnies! – arrived on a tiered tray, and oh! Absolutely delightful! Every single mini sandwich was perfectly fresh, moist and above all, creative in the pairings of flavour and appearance. A delightful apple, chutney and cheese; mounded egg salad; whipped goat cheese and fig; and chicken salad with tiny concord grapes. Each one featured a delicious base of different breads made in-house. Dauphine’s breads may be considered second fiddle to all the pretty desserts on display, but shouldn’t be discounted as they are hearty and delicious, and worth picking up a loaf (or three) to take home.

We experienced a rather lengthy pause between the removal of the empty sandwich tray, the bringing of fresh plates and the arrival of the dessert course. Seriously – it must have been at the very least half an hour. When it did arrive, it didn’t necessarily look as though it had to be prepped (ie. Some items were simply from the bakery display cases and sliced neatly into three portions) so I’m not sure as to the massive delay. Of course, we were there to visit as well, so it was no great loss.

Two of the sweets were somewhat traditional – a dense chocolate brownie to balance the lemon tart with blueberries. There was also a coconut snowball and a nutty brittle triangle, along with the scone of the day, which was ginger and dark chocolate.   The scone practically melted in the mouth, and could stand alone – no need for the silliness of jams, creams and the like. All were nibbly sizes so that there was no regret or sugar overdose when each and every morsel was consumed.

Last but not least, I should, perhaps, address the tea. I suppose that’s what it’s all about. The tea sets were all lovely silver sets, with different silver sugar pots and spoons on each table. There was a large selection of teas from which to choose. I’m not a tea aficionado, so I can’t really speak to this subject much. As well, being such a warm day, our focus was more on the iced tea and water. Still, I happily downed two cups.

Love the atmosphere at Dauphine with the white walls, chrome and black accents – an ideal backdrop to make the stars of the show (Lemon tarts! Carrot cake tulips! Luscious chocolate bombs!) all pop. Our server, Sophia, was polite, engaged and knowledgeable, and kindly offered to take group photos of us enjoying our tea. (I think she’s done this before…)

Perhaps it had been a rough week, or the staff was exhausted by the heat but there were some little touches – like burnt out overhead lamps and extinguished twinkle lights – that could not go unnoticed. And speaking of heat, the bakery was truly as hot as Hades despite the charmingly useless fans they had in place. If you didn’t make any sudden movements you were fine. Otherwise, it was all about keeping the sweat at bay as you tried to simply glow while sipping and snacking. Spiff up those details, and the atmosphere would be perfect.

Conclusion: hands down prefer the $25 pp high tea at Dauphine to the $39 pp royal tea & tour at the Hotel Macdonald, which, to this point, had been “the” place to go for high tea in my books. And it’s not just about the price. The food quality, freshness and creativity wins at Dauphine, along with this intimate urban atmosphere which lends to exclusivity all on its own.

Side note I: I hear the bistro sandwiches are to die for here – that will have to be the next visit.

Daupine Bakery & Bistro
10129 104 Street, Edmonton
(780) 421-4410

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