WHOA lansi

francophile, oenophile, logophile, turophile

Author: whoalansi Page 2 of 35

Poutine with Purpose

Poutine Week 2018

Oh My Curd – my favourite food week is upon us! Lucky for me, I’ve already had my stretchy pants on for weeks. Talk about perfect timing to be pregnant! If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed a lot of posts about poutine; I’m an official Poutine Pusher for #PoutineWeekYYC again this year!

Calgary’s Poutine Week is the seven days of the year you can eat poutine guilt-free! Why?  Every poutine sold at participating restaurants provides a meal to a youth in need thanks to Mealshare YYC! Last year, 8,000 poutines were sold over the course of the week, providing 8,000 meals to those in need. We’re looking to break that record for 2018, & with 85 amazing restaurants participating in the cause, we have high hopes!

It’s easy to get involved:

  1. Find a restaurant or poutine you want to try at poutinewithpurpose.com
  2. Eat poutine.
  3. Provide a meal to youth in need
  4. Tell everyone!

This week, I tested 5 of those 85 poutines. If you need some help narrowing down the list, here are my thoughts on the five poutines I tried.

Calcutta Cricket Club

I’d been meaning to get to Calcutta Cricket Club since they opened, so when I saw them on the list, they were my first pick. I’d been hearing rave reviews about this 17th ave spot since they opened this summer.

CCC has two options on the menu this week. Both include curry in place of the usual gravy, either butter masala or fenugreek-cream. As I think you’d expect from a Indian-inspired poutines, they’re spicy & full of flavour. The fries are seasoned with Kashmiri spices & would stand up on their own as a fantastic snack over cocktails. I’ve been obsessed with fenugreek lately, so I immediately feel in love with the fenugreek-cream curry. It’s to die for! & the Butter Masala has a hint of that Butter Chicken flavour that’s so popular, but stands on it’s own. To top it all off, they brought in some seriously legitimate cheese curds. (Honestly, these were the most authentic curds I tasted all week – the squeak!) They didn’t cut any corners with these dishes & it showed in each beautifully executed component.

Calcutta Cricket Club

Calcutta Cricket Club

If you like spicy Indian flavours, I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a better poutine option this week. I couldn’t get enough of either option & definitely struggled to put down my fork. My only regret is not asking to take the leftovers home with me.

On top of the delicious food, both the ambience & service are spot on. I’m already planning my next visit – I think I need to try the rest of the sharing-friendly menu, & hopefully enjoy one of their fantastic-sounding cocktails post-baby.

Calcutta Cricket Club

Butter Masala Poutine

Calcutta Cricket Club

Fenugreek – Cream Poutine

Calcutta Cricket Club

Wine Bar Kensington

My next stop was Wine Bar Kensington, a hidden gem & sister restaurant to Brasserie & Container Bar. I think Brasserie is one of the best kept secrets in the city, & my personal go-to spot for fantastic brunch without a wait. Now that I’ve given away my personal brunch secrets, let’s talk about the Not-So-Traditional Poutine from @winebarkensi .

Featuring duck gravy, pickle-brined shoestring fries, Alberta cheese curds, chives, radishes, & a lovely side of house-made pickles, it’s delicious. I thought this one was the perfect combination of rich, comforting, & flavourful, all while not putting me into a total food coma.

Winebar Kensington

Poutine Prep

Winebar Kensington

Their intimate downstairs space is perfect for a date night, or catching up with some girlfriends over wine & cheese (or poutine!)

Winebar Kensington

the Not-So-Traditional Poutine

I’m honestly not usually a fan of shoestring fries, but they worked so well here. The dish comes with the gravy on the bottom, so the chef suggested I mix the shoestring fries into it. I think this is the key to the success of the shoestring fries as they don’t get soggy from having the gravy on them from the start. The chives & radishes serve to balance the richness of the duck gravy, which is exactly what the dish needs. I’m always a sucker for a side of pickles, especially when they’re as delicious as Wine Bar’s, so they were the perfect accompaniment to a well-executed poutine.

Cleaver

Third on my personal poutine week tour was Cleaver. My friend, Heather, joined me for dinner Friday evening & we started the evening with their AMASIAN duck & pickle poutine.

This one has a lot going on, in all the right ways: double dipped duck fat fries with confit duck leg, topped with teriyaki gravy, pickled zucchini, pickled onion, Gochujang aioli, & Montreal cheese curds.

Cleaver

AMASIAN duck & pickle poutine

Cleaver

The promise of pickles, duck, & Gochujang were what immediately drew me to this one when I saw it on the roster. Despite these heavy hitting flavours, it’s somehow both balanced & complex. We both really enjoyed each varied bite. & I even learned something new, pickled zucchini is delicious! Before tasting this one, I was a bit worried it might have too many competing elements, but they all really worked together.

During our meal, our server shared a fun fact about how they landed on this particular poutine as their entry for the competition. They held an in-house competition amongst their staff a few weeks ago & it came out on top! How’s that for an ingenious way to come up with a creative new dish?

Royale

After a weekend of bachelorette activities, my best friend & I decided to grab a late lunch at Royale on Sunday. If you haven’t been since this space was Melrose, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how bright, open, & beautiful it is inside. It’s the perfect spot for a boozy brunch with girlfriends or a romantic date night. The service was friendly & welcoming & we never once felt rushed. It was a beautiful spot for a lazy afternoon catch up.

Royale YYC

The gorgeous bar at Royale

Royale YYC

I love this beautiful mirror & the giant skylight . Such a pretty spot.

The menu at Royale is French-inspired, so they went with some pretty classic flavours: duck leg con fit, cheese curds, & pan gravy. This is not a poutine for the faint of heart; it’s huge! If you’re not the biggest duck lover, I would probably advise trying a different poutine this week. This is a true homage to the bird. There is so much rich, duck flavour in every bite. Even with two of us, we couldn’t get halfway through this one. Bring friends. Order some fun drinks. Sample a couple other things from their delicious menu. That’s how I would do it. 😉

Royale YYC

I’m not sure if the photos truly do the size of this thing justice.

Royale YYC

It’s massive!

Royale YYC

4th Spot

My last stop is a neighbourhood favourite. I made a reservation for lunch at 4th Spot this week, hoping the weather would cooperate & I could walk over with Odin & enjoy their patio. I couldn’t have planned it any better. We had the perfect day. I found a quiet spot at the edge of the patio in the sun, where I could pay attention to the doggo while enjoying my lunch. I think he might have stolen the show for everyone else on that patio though, with that adorable mug. He has a real knack for winning people over.

4th Spot YYC

My patio poutine partner in crime.

On to the poutine, though! This was another monster serving. 4th Spot is doing a BBQ Burnt Ends Poutine this week. Their hand cut kennebec fries are topped with Quebec cheese curds, brisket burnt ends, crispy jalapeños, crispy onion strings, & covered in homemade gravy & BBQ sauce drizzle.

4th Spot YYC

BBQ Burnt Ends Poutine

4th Spot YYC 4th Spot YYC

My favourite part of this poutine was the crispy jalapeños. I could not finish this one, but I made sure to eat every last jalapeño. They were battered & fried, & so addictive. All of the flavours are fantastic, but it is very heavy. I was glad to have a walk home afterwards! If I didn’t love the crispiness of the jalapeños so much, I might suggest they be fresh, just to offer a counterbalance to the heaviness. Then again, poutine is supposed to be heavy, so I can’t hold that against it.

After a week of sampling poutines, I’d like to be able to say that my cheese cravings are satisfied, but pregnancy doesn’t seem to care that I’ve consumed enough to last me a few weeks. I am looking forward to some lighter meals over the next week, but with so many delicious options out there still, I’m having a hard time not finding an excuse to grab another Mealshare poutine. It’s for a good cause, right?

As always, thanks to Karen for organizing this amazing event & thinking of me again this year. I always love being part of Poutine Week, & the fact that it’s turned into such a great opportunity to give back to our community, with the help of Mealshare, may just be the best part. Thank you also to all the restaurants who hosted me & were so open to chatting about their creations this week – you guys have been so awesome & accommodating! I can’t wait to find out who are overall winner is!

Happy Poutine Week, friends!

(I unfortunately had to miss my favourite event of poutine week – the Gravy Bowl – which was a huge success! Anju took home first place in the competition this year. Congrats to Roy & his awesome team! Find my previous year’s posts here, including my first Poutine Crawl experience way back in 2014! I can’t believe this is my 5th year of poutine-ing!)

Pregnancy \\ Place your baby bets!

Are we having a boy or a girl?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been adamant that I wouldn’t find out the sex of my first baby. I’ve personally never felt like I wanted to know beforehand. I understand why so many people do choose to find out, it just never seemed like the choice for me. I want the moment I find out whether it’s a girl or a boy to take place when I meet this little one. I’ve also never really felt like I need to prepare any differently for a boy or a girl. The more anyone contests my decision or defends their own, the more stubbornly resolved I feel.

As with anything pregnancy-related, there are all sorts of opinions here. I love how differently everyone feels about this & think it makes our pregnancies so unique. Many have expressed that they never could have waited, or they wouldn’t have felt prepared, or they wanted more of a connection to their baby. Those are all fair feelings, albeit incredibly personal to each peron. & I just don’t feel that way myself. With technology making it so easy to find out now, it seems like most do, another factor in my not wanting to. I’m a stubborn Leo & like to be different.

N probably would have found out if it were totally up to him. Once we decided to make a game of it and take bets, he came around to my side though. Nothing like a little game or competition to make things more exciting!

So, I’ve set up an online pool on Baby Bookie. It’s free to place a bet, but we’re open to setting up some more serious gambling too if there’s enough interest. In order to help you make your decision, I’ve combed through all the Old Wives Tales & compiled my answers. Let’s break it down!

Chinese Gender Prediction Chart

There are two different charts you can use. Lucky for me, both the Chinese Lunar Calendar & the Ancient Chinese Gender Chart say girl. This chart is supposed to be the more accurate of the two though, if you’re looking for results yourself.

RAMZI Method

I read somewhere that this one is said to be 95% accurate. It’s based on an early ultrasound. The idea is that you can tell the gender based on what side the placenta is forming on. I used my 9 week abdominal ultrasound. Story goes that if baby is on the left, it’s a boy and if it’s on the right it’s a girl. (It will be reversed for a transvaginal ultrasound, from what I’ve read.) From what I could tell, baby is a boy. I’m not sure I read my ultrasound correctly or that 9 weeks is early enough for this one.

9 week ultrasound photo

9 week ultrasound photo

Skin Changes

There are a few different predictions here. Firstly, boys are said to give you dry skin, whereas girls bring out the oil in your skin. My skin has been drier than dry all winter (like everyone’s in Calgary, I suspect) so we’ve got another vote for boy. They also say that if you’re getting a lot of compliments that you’re glowing, you’re having a boy. No comments? Girl. I can’t think of any comments of this nature, so another girl vote. Lastly, girls are said to “steal your beauty”, leading to more breakouts. I’ve definitely had a lot more breakouts than normal (I generally have pretty clear skin, aside from psoriasis). So there’s a girl vote again.

Linea Negra

Some moms get a dark line that runs down the center of their baby bellies. At first, I didn’t think I was going to get this, but then one day it suddenly appeared. My line continues above my belly button, which is supposed to mean we can expect a boy.

Hair

If your hair is thick and glossy, they say you’re having a boy. If it’s dull and limp, it’s a girl. I have seen no real change in my hair, aside from it growing slightly faster than normal since I started taking prenatal vitamins. I’m not sure I can attribute any change to pregnancy though, so I guess we’re having a puppy according to this one. 😉 Neither.

Baking Soda Test

This is another one touted as having a pretty high level of accuracy. 80% this time. I almost didn’t do it since it just seemed a little too weird & intimate, but then I cut a weird (wasteful) cabbage water one from the list so I figured I could do this one. You take 2 tablespoons of baking soda and mix it with your urine. If it fizzes, you’re having a boy. If it remains flat, you’re having a girl. Mine fizzed: BOY.

Body Hair

Yeah, I know, a few of these are maybe a little TMI. I’m sure the Internet doesn’t really need to know about this. Too late now! Lucky for me, my body hair is growing normal, which is supposed to mean girl.

Weight Gain

If you are carrying all your weight out front (like you’re smuggling a basketball), baby is likely a boy. If the weight piles on all over, it might be a daughter. I decided not to use my own judgment on this one, since my own weight gain seems significantly more noticeable to me than it does to anyone else. Everyone I asked said I seemed to be all bump so far. Maybe they were just being nice, but we’re going with it. Boy.

Baby’s Heart Rate

Many people swear by this one. It’s said that girls have a faster heart rates than boys. The normal range is between 120 bpm and 180 bpm, but over 140 bpm is supposed to signal a baby girl. Baby dB’s heart rate has averaged 144 bpm, & has never been below 140 bpm so far. Girl.

Cravings

The good ol’ salty vs sweet. Sweet foods are linked to girls and salty to boys. I’ve always had a major preference for salty foods. Even the sweet treats I enjoy best err on the side of salty (salted caramel all day every day!). That is until I got pregnant. Now I’m always craving candy, ice cream, chocolate…basically all things sweet. It’s been a bizarre change for me. I guess we’re predicting girl thanks to this one. (Or it’s just one of many signs that this is truly N’s child. He loves his sweets!)

Headaches

Extreme headaches are said to signal a baby boy, while no headaches are said to mean girl. I’m happy to have been relatively headache free throughout my pregnancy so here’s another girl vote.

Sickness

Baby girls supposedly trigger nausea with vomiting whereas a boy will only cause nausea. Again, I was really luckily to have very minimal nausea. I was mostly able to control it by eating regularly, which I don’t generally have a problem with. 😉 BOY.

Clumsy vs Graceful

I would never describe myself as graceful; however, I saw no real change in my level of clumsiness since getting pregnant. Supposedly that means we’re having a girl.

Wedding Ring Test

I think everyone is pretty familiar with this one. You’re supposed to dangle your wedding band over your belly on a string and wait for it to start moving. Back and forth means boy & in a circle means it’s a girl.

I think this one has more to do with what mom thinks babe might be than anything else, but maybe that’s good for accuracy. When we did this it started out moving back & forth, & then went to circles. N said that we should go with boy, since that what it did first. I think this is a clear indication that I have absolutely no idea what we’re having. 😉

TL; DR

We’ve got 7 votes for boy, 8 for girl, & 1 for neither (or puppy, are we getting another puppy?!). As far as the two supposed “most accurate” tests, they both predict we’re having a boy. You can decide if you believe they have more merit.

Our pool will also allow you to predict baby’s birthdate. My due date is July 23, 2018 (my birthday!). Some say you can look to dad for whether babe will be early or late – N & I both came early. They say you’re usually late with your first, but we’re both first born. Will babe follow his parent’s lead & come early, or will be add a third Leo to the family?

That’s all I got! Check the site, place your bets, & let us know if you bought into any old wives tales!

You can follow along with the rest of my pregnancy bumpdates here.

Travel \\ Prague

Prague

In 2009, at the end of my second séjour in France, I booked a little trip that included Prague. The city had been on my wishlist for a long time & it seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit. I was looking forward to catching up with a Czech friend from school in Rennes, exploring the beautiful sights, & eating my weight in fried cheese. It did not disappoint. When we went to book our 2017 trip, I knew it had to include this beautiful gem. & the Czech people love their beer, so of course, they’re my kind of people. Here’s what I loved most on this most recent visit.

Traditional Czech Food

I’m not sure that food is the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Prague, but I think it certainly should be. The food scene here is really diversifying, but I truly love the traditional dishes of the Czech Republic. They’re rich, comforting, & truly delicious. There’s a reason this grandmotherly style of cooking is making a comeback: it’s amazing!

The first (& last, let’s be honest) thing I want to eat here is fried cheese: a slice of Eidam cheese, breaded & fried. In fact, I booked my first trip partly because I had to try it. & I will happily eat fried cheese in any of its many forms throughout the Czech Republic, but my favourites are Lokal’s simple version, pan-fried in butter, & the sandwich you’ll find at food carts around Wenceslas Square. I ate fried cheese every chance I got & I have no regrets.

Prague 2017

The best fried cheese of the whole trip (& I ate it A LOT), at Lokal.

Without a doubt, the best thing I ate in Prague, & possibly anywhere, was beef tartar. I cannot recommend this enough, even if raw beef makes you a little bit wary. This regional classic is definitely something I wouldn’t leave the Czech Republic without tasting. Embrace your adventurous side! Usually served with toast & condiments, each bite has an addictive textural contrast that had me wishing we’d ordered two. The tartar at Nase Maso doesn’t look like much: two slices of toast, Czech raw garlic, & what looks like a hamburger patty. Rub the garlic over the toast & top with the meat for what I believe is the most perfect bite of food.

If you really can’t wrap your mind around raw beef, the burger here is a good compromise. I wouldn’t want to you to come to Prague without getting a glimpse into the hussle of this wildly popular butcher shop. Butchers cut the steak & grind the beef in full view, which I found to be a fun part of the experience.

Nase Maso, Prague

The busy lunch rush at Nase Maso, the coolest butcher shop I’ve ever been inside.

Nase Maso Beef Tartar

This beef tartare is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Honestly, it blew my mind.

Nase Maso

Butcher Counter

Nase Maso Burger

We also shared a burger that I’d happily eat one hundred times over.

Overall, we ate a lot of good food in Prague, most of it regional specialties. Other noteworthy meals included chlebicek (Czech open-faced sandwiches) for breakfast at the adorable Sisters (actually next door to Nase Maso on Dlouha) & Goulash, a Czech take on this specialty shared by many in that region, at Mincovna in the Old Town Square.

Mincovna Goulash

Czech Goulash at Mincovna

Sisters Chlebicky

Sister’s chlebicky for Breakfast

Sisters Chlebicky

Chlebicky on display

Beer

It wouldn’t be right to go on a European Beer Tour & leave out the Czech Republic. Beer drinking is practically a national sport here. I remember discussing the beer culture with my Czech girlfriend over lunch before I was anywhere near as into beer as I am now. She told me it was normal to have a beer at lunch, & common to see women enjoying a pint alongside their male colleagues, which was somewhat of a revelation to me at the time. I’d only just graduated from drinking bacardi breezers after all. (Don’t judge! I was so young!)

There is no shortage of great spots to enjoy a pint in Prague, with more microbreweries popping up all the time. Our AirBnB happened to be across the street from Craft Beer House, which we wound up at a several times over our short stay. If you’re looking for knowledgeable staff & multiple taps – this is your bar. The service is friendly & welcoming & they really go the extra mile to find a beer you like. We ended both our nights in Prague with a drink on their front stoop.

Craft Beer House

Hanging out on the sidewalk at Craft Beer House

Touted as THE pub in Prague, U zlatého tygra is a must visit for me. They serve one type of beer: Pilsner Urquell, & although I enjoy this local brew, it’s really the atmosphere that makes this the spot to visit. I’d read it was a cultural institution, & it was clear the Czechs agree from the minute we walked in the door. The place was packed. I’ve never seen people pound back beer as quickly as these guys while maintaining an air of sobriety. They were certainly loud, but hanot the least bit belligerent. Everyone was there to have a good time with their friends. Photos of sports icons, celebrities, & politicians line the walls, the bar staff is gruff, but efficient, & you’re unlikely to get a table unless you show up early, but it’s worth stopping in for a glimpse into Czech pub culture.

 U zlatého tygra

The only photo I managed to snap inside the boisterous
U zlatého tygra.

If we’d had better weather & more time, I’d have loved to check out some of the beer gardens around the city too. The Letna Beer Garden figured high on my list! As I mentioned above, the fried cheese at Lokal was a definite highlight, but so was the excellent beer & cave-like interior of the Mala Strana location. We also enjoyed U Rudolfina for a pint, but you really don’t have to look very hard to find good beer in this city.

Lokal beers

Enjoying a pint in the cave-like basement of Lokal.

Wander

I love having time to wander a new city, & even enjoy getting a little lost. If you’ve followed my blog since the very beginning, you know it used to be called Au fil de mes balades, which roughly translates to “as I wander”. A balade has no finite destination & that is how I prefer to explore a city for the first time. Prague might just be one of the best cities to do exactly that. Not only does it ooze old world charm, but it constantly rewards explorers with hidden courtyards, quiet cobblestoned lanes, & unexpected glimpses into daily Czech life, like no other city I’ve visited.

I highly recommend the New Europe Walking Tour here. They can be hit or miss, but both time I’ve come to Prague, I’ve hit the tour guide jackpot. Despite the most comically relentless downpour, our guide kept us engaged & entertained over the course of our three hour tour. He was full of wonderful stories & insights into his hometown & although, we were soaked & pretty cold, I truly enjoyed his tour.

Prague 2017

Old Town Square

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Prague 2017

Old Town Square in the rain

Prague 2017

Our hardy tour guide braving the rain.

Prague 2017

Prague 2017

Wenceslas Square

Once you’ve got your bearings, & a good understanding of the center, I highly recommend wandering some of the other neighbourhoods. Head over the Charles Bridge & up to the Prague castle for stunning views over the city. Explore the cobblestoned lanes across the Vltava River in Malá Strana. This is where you’ll find the John Lennon Wall (pretty meh, especially after the East Side Gallery in Berlin). Keep an eye out for markings on different buildings in this area – they show how high the flood waters measured in different years! The views of the Charles Bridge & Prague Castle from the Mánes Bridge are also some of the best in the city, if you ask me!

Prague 2017

Mánes Bridge & Prague Castle

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Prague 2017

Exploring Malá Strana

Prague 2017

Flood Markings

Prague 2017

John Lennon Wall

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Prague 2017

Dancing ladies

Prague 2017

Hidden coffee spot, Super Tramp

Prague 2017

Pastries & Coffee

Prague 2017

Streets around the castle

Prague 2017

View from the Castle

Prague 2017

Streets of Malá Strana

Prague 2017

Charles Bridge

It’s funny the things that stick with you when you travel. For me, it was this Jewish Cemetery in Prague. Due to a lack of space in the tiny ghetto, people were buried on top of one another so that now the whole cemetery sits 2m above street level. The gravestones have tilted a little further in the 8 years since I last visited, but you can still steal a peak at them through a small window in the door.

The Jewish Quarter is a top destination for tourists for many reasons – its rich history, medieval synagogues, & various exhibitions – but this little cemetery is my favourite.

Prague 2017

Peaking through the door

Prague 2017

Prague 2017

The official entrance

No matter what brings you to Prague, I think you’ll find something to love. I could have easily spent a few more days exploring, eating, & drinking, but it was on to our next stop for us: Munich!

Pregnancy \\ First Trimester Recap

I’ve been meaning to do a first trimester recap since we announced we were pregnant. I love reading pregnancy recaps, especially now, & hearing about how things went for different women. Every pregnancy is so different & it’s so fascinating!

I’ve been keeping track of my thoughts & feelings in both my bullet journal & on the Nurture App, although I’ve fallen away from the app more recently. I’d still much prefer to write things down than log them on my phone.

In order to keep some sort of order to my thoughts, I’m going to answer the same questions for all three recaps. If you’re curious about something, leave me a comment or send me a message. If I’m getting a lot of the same questions, I’ll think about adding an FAQ or something. Let’s get into it though!

First Trimester

Weeks 1 to 13
Important Milestones
  • Week 3.6 – Nov 11, 2017: Positive test result on a home pregnancy test! As I mentioned in our announcement post, N was down in California so I told him over skype. This would have been the first day of my cycle & I’d held off taking a test as long as I could. I felt like I’d been on an emotional rollercoaster all week (think crying on the bus listening to TAL) so I had a strong suspicions that the test would come back positive, but I still had butterflies as I waiting for the result.
  • Week 9 – Dec 18, 2017: Dating Ultrasound. We weren’t originally going to have this ultrasound, but when I booked our 14 week one, they suggested I do it. It was so cool (& such a relief) to see the little heartbeat on the monitor.
  • Weeks 9 – 12 – Dec 2017: We started telling people just before my dating ultrasound. We told our parents the weekend before & let friends figure it out as they noticed me not drinking at various Christmas parties.
  • Week 12 – Jan 8, 2018: First appointment with the Low Risk Maternity Group my doctor referred me to. I didn’t really know what to expect from this appointment, but it was great. We went through medical history with the nurse and then she found baby’s heartbeat (152, if you’re curious). I wasn’t expecting it to work since my GP hadn’t been successful the week before so it was the best surprise!
  • Week 12 – Jan 8, 2018: The day got even better when I got an email from a Midwife group about setting up an initial appointment for mid-January. I had applied as soon as we’d found out we were pregnant, but hadn’t heard back yet. They’re in high demand here. We still plan to deliver in a hospital.

A very high quality photo of our dating ultrasound photo

Changes

Unsurprisingly, I took a lot of photos of myself throughout the first trimester. I felt  silly taking them at first, but they’re really nice to have now. I wouldn’t have thought there was much change otherwise, especially in those first couple months. I wasn’t showing, by any stretch of the imagination, but when you compare photos, it’s easier to notice slight changes. I also thought it might be nice for N to have these photos, since he isn’t here most of the time.

Of course, I feel like I progressively filled out everywhere, but the most remarkable changes were in my midsection & boobs. The only word I can think of to describe my torso is “thicker”. Although that seems like a negative description, I don’t mean it that way at all.

As things progress, I’m more & more fascinated by all the changes my body is going through. Towards the end of the first trimester, I found it became increasingly frustrating to find things to wear. & since I hadn’t told my boss yet, I was trying to keep anyone from guessing I was pregnant. It really amplified my perception of how different I looked.

Subtle changes from 4 weeks, 6 weeks, & 12 weeks

Symptoms

I feel pretty lucky to have experienced very mild nausea in those first months. Mostly, I’d just feel off. It seems funny that everyone refers to it as morning sickness – I felt nauseous maybe twice in the morning. If I did feel slightly nauseous, it was most likely in the afternoon or before bed.

The biggest change for me was how much sleep I felt I needed. I was exhausted! I’m used to feeling great after 6 or 7 hours of sleep, but found myself needing at least 8 hours to even function. I also unintentionally napped all the time. I’d literally fall asleep sitting up. I found it frustrating – I just wanted to go to my usual early morning workouts or make it through the day without falling asleep. I’ve finally gotten some energy back now, but it was a tough adjustment for this night owl.

As for food aversions & cravings, my likes & dislikes have shifted significantly. I usually reach for salty snacks over sweets, but I’ve been loving the sweets since day one. I also crave melted cheese in all forms: pizza, nachos, grilled cheese, all the really healthy stuff. Surprisingly, the hardest thing for me has been vegetables. I have a bit of an aversion to them, which is so bizarre since I love veggies! I’ve been tricking myself into eating them by hiding them in smoothies & making delicious veggie bowls (with lots of sauce). In general, I’m reaching for bland carbs (bread, potatoes), cheese, & protein. It has certainly not been my most nutritious few months, but I’m trying not to overthink it too much.

Decisions

We haven’t had to make a lot of decisions yet, however, we did decide to do a First Trimester Scan. I’ll talk more about it in my Second Trimester Recap though since I did mine pretty late in order to accomodate N’s schedule.

As I mentioned above, we also decided to go with a midwife practice. I think the decision to go this route, or not, is extremely personal. For me, I like the more personal feel of my appointments & that I will meet both of the two potential midwives who will be there at my delivery. With the maternity group, there were 17 possible doctors, so the likelihood of meeting the one who would be on call was pretty slim. This midwife practice also does three at-home visits after delivery, in addition to the usual check-ups in their clinic. There are many factors that go into this decision, & I don’t think there is a right answer. This is what I decided was best for us.

Although we’re going the midwife route, I am still planning to deliver in a hospital. Again, this is an extremely personal decision, & everyone should do what they feel most comfortable with. I wanted the reassurance that we were in a facility designed to handle a scary complication (heaven forbid). I know there are great birthing centers, & have many friends who have gone that route, but I think this is the best decision for us.

Favourite Part of the Trimester

Telling friends & family! It was so honestly so fun. My two best friends knew as soon as I did, but otherwise, we kept it a secret until 9 weeks in. We had two Christmas events with friends where we let them figure it out & I won’t forget their reactions any time soon. There was so much excitement from everyone we told – it was so heartwarming to see how loved this baby will be.

Christmas gifts

First little onesie gift, & my fav Montreal bagels & a new book. <3

Least Favourite Part of the Trimester

The exhaustion! I’d heard it could be bad, but I still wasn’t expecting it to hit me quite as hard as it did. It was so frustrating.

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a little insight into my first few months of pregnancy. Thanks to Cassy Joy from Fed + Fit for the great idea – I so loved following along with her recaps. You can expect another recap for my 2nd & 3rd trimesters, but I promise there will be non-pregnancy posts in the mix as well if that’s just not your thing.

xo,

A

Travel \\ Berlin to Prague Road Trip

For our travel between Berlin, Prague, & Munich this summer, my dad had rented a vehicle. While I love train travel, one of the perks of a road trip is the ability to stop wherever you’d like. We decided to make the most of this, & scheduled a few extra sights along the way. The first of these was Weesenstein Castle, just south of Dresden.

Halfway between Berlin & Prague, it was the perfect spot to stop for lunch & stretch our legs. This impressive castle features beautiful gardens, medieval rooms, & a microbrewery. Due to construction delays on the trip down, food was our top priority, so we headed straight to a cute little restaurant at the base of the castle. They had a lovely patio out back, which we took advantage of. They didn’t have English menus, but our server did a great job of translating for us, despite feeling her English wasn’t very good. (She spoke very well, in reality. & none of us speak German very well, so we couldn’t have been more grateful for the help!)

weesenstein

adorable town across the river

weesenstein

the castle

weesenstein

patio beers

weesenstein

lunch!

weesenstein

I love these homes

weesenstein

After lunch, we wandered up the hill to the castle. Since we’d arrived in the early afternoon, we essentially had the whole place to ourselves. The only downside to driving was that we’d already had beer with lunch, so we didn’t try any from the microbrewery. If you make a stop, save yourself some time to sample them! It’s a very cool spot.

weesenstein weesenstein

weesenstein

Built right into the rock

weesenstein

weesenstein

Beautiful gardens & surrounding forest

weesenstein

weesenstein

Copper tanks & bottles

weesenstein

Microbrewery

The grounds are small enough to tour in under an hour, making it the perfect spot to stop mid roadtrip. Feeling refreshed, we were ready to get back in the car & hit the road for Prague!

Secret’s out! We’re having a baby!

I'm pregnant!

Surprise! I’m pregnant! My birthday is going to be a little bit different this year. 😉

N was down in California on the morning I took a pregnancy test. I only had the one test & remember wishing I had a few more on hand so I could take another one. Once I realized the little line wasn’t going anywhere, I skyped N to share the good news. Of course, he immediately knew why I was calling since we don’t usually skype each other unexpectedly. I had toyed with the idea of surprising him with the news when he was home next, but there was no way I could keep it a secret for that long. It was the best phone call I’ve ever made.

Pregnant

You’re going to be a big brother, O.

The first few months have been filled with more emotions than I ever thought possible (heyyyyy hormones), but I’m overwhelmingly grateful & excited for everything to come this year. We can’t week to meet you, baby!

New Year, Same Me

2018 New Year's Resolutions

New year, New me? I’ve been seeing a lot of this sentiment around the internet so far this year, & I have some serious issues with it. Resolutions go hand in hand with ringing in the new year, but I’ve personally never been a huge fan. I’m even less fond of this idea that there’s something wrong with last year’s version of myself. In fact, it makes me a little bit angry that it seems to be trending this year.

Let’s be clear: Goals are great, striving to be a better version of yourself is great, putting a plan to reach your dreams in place is great. If you think you need a whole new you this year though, I’m concerned. I don’t believe for a second there aren’t lessons to be learned & things to cherish about 2017 you.

I spent the first week of January really thinking about what I wanted to do this year, where I wanted to be at this time next year, & from there, set some intentions. I’m over the whole resolution thing right now. We’re going with 2018 intentions. Deal with it.

I bought a new Bullet Journal & put them on the very first page, front & center.

1. Move Daily

Movement is such an integral piece of the puzzle for me, even if it just means getting out for a walk with Odin. It gives me a chance to clear my head, look at things from a different perspective, & get away from life’s many distractions. I always feel better when I’m making this a priority. I’ve kicked off this year with a 4080 running challenge, & I’m on track to complete my 40 km in 2 weeks. It’s been a great way to make running a habit right out of the gate, & a fantastic reminder that going for a run is as simple as lacing up my shoes & heading out the door.

2. Get More Sleep

I’m such a night owl, & notorious for staying up well past 11. I’m especially bad for doing this when N is away. I’ve changed my phone settings to dim the light. I’ve got a bunch of books I want to get through. I’m going to stop pushing that bedtime back.

3. Write Often

This is usually a theme for me. I love writing & journaling, & I so appreciate when I give myself the time to do both. I want to blog more – I have a lot of great ideas to share on here. & I’ve got a better BuJo layout this year for more sporadic journaling. I started using in in SF, & it worked really well, so I’m hoping to carry this forward.

4. Practice Patience

I am not an overly patient person. I’m passionate & opinionated, & generally quick to speak my mind. Impatience is not my favourite quality, so I’d like to work on that this year. Be kinder to people, take a breath before I speak my mind, let it go.

Bullet Journal

& that’s it. I’m keeping it simple this year with just four goals. Same old me, focused on a few new things. What do you think of New Year’s Resolutions? Do you have any goals, big or small, for this year?

Happy Holidays!

We wish you a merry christmas!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Wishing you & yours the happiest of holidays – filled with family, friends, and all your wonderful traditions.

We stuck around Calgary this year to spend Christmas with N’s family, & are celebrating with mine tomorrow evening. It gave us the opportunity to catch up with many friends who are in town this year, which has been just lovely. We’re in the midst of quite the cold snap, so I’ve been trying to take a page from the Danes & their lovely concept of hygge. We’ve been lighting candles more often, playing lots of games, & cozying up under blankets, our attempt at making the most of the frigid temperatures.

Thank you to all those of you who read this little blog from time to time. I am very grateful to everyone who stops by, letting me share a little bit of my life with you. It’s been a great year for me & I’m looking forward to even more adventure in 2018.

All the best for the new year!
Bisous,

A & N
xx

Travel \\ Berlin

Berlin was the second major European city I ever visited. In 2005, while I was living in Rennes, I took an overnight train to the German capital to meet some friends for the weekend. It was one of the best weekend trips I’ve ever been on, & left me longing for another visit. Twelve years later, the city is still an eclectic mix of elegant modernity & a certain level of grittiness. Two days definitely wasn’t enough time to experience everything I’d hoped to, but here’s a sampling of what I loved about this lively metropolis. Do yourself a favour & dedicate a few extra days to really explore.

The Street Food

I think this may be my favourite thing about the city. The street food culture in Berlin is like none other; it’s a little glimpse into the vibrant multiculturalism that is such a part of any visit. The best part? You can eat really well on a tiny budget. Seriously well.

Our first stop was thanks to Anthony Bourdain (of course). Konnopke’s Imbiss is a sausage stall beneath the elevated subway lines in Prenzlauer Berg. You can find currywurst pretty much everywhere in Berlin – it’s a cheap & filling lunch, if nothing else – but if you’re going to check out this adorable area, you might as well go here. Afterwards, you can wander the beautiful Oderberger Strasse or grab a beer at Berlin’s oldest beer garden: Prater Garten (or do both, as we did).

Konnopke’s Imbiss

Oderberger Strasse

Prater Garten

If you go to Berlin & don’t experience any Turkish food, I think you’re seriously missing out. Most of my memories of Berlin revolve around doner kebabs. Cheap, delicious, & perfect whether you’re heading out for the night or on your way home. This time around, N & I had two amazing Turkish food experiences. First, we shared an amazing kofte sandwich at Konak Grill in Kreuzberg. Later that same evening, we had the most magnificent doner kebab of my life at a stand on a bridge at Warschauer Strasse S-Bahn. It may have been the beers, but I think I’d honestly go back to this spot if I’m ever in Berlin again (& we almost did on our way home). It was that good.

Tell me that doesn’t look amazing

Neighbourhoods

Part of Berlin’s popularity stems from its global feel. There’s a little corner of Berlin to suit any taste – you just have to find yours.

Mitte is the city’s center, literally meaning “middle” in German. It’s where you’ll find most monuments, memorials, & museums. If it’s your first visit, it’s a good place to start. Check out the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, & Alexanderplatz. Maybe wander the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or the Topography of Terror.

Brandenberg Gate

Hotel Adlon

 

The hauntingly moving Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Hotel Adlon

We did a free walking tour, which I will almost always recommend. Unfortunately, this one was my least favourite & we left disappointed. We just didn’t like our guide, which is the hazard of any tour, free or paid. It really was such a shame as I think it tainted the others’ first impressions of Berlin. (Berlin was actually the first city I ever did a walking tour in & Per set the bar high – it’s still the best tour I’ve ever done.) Museum Island is also undergoing massive upgrades until 2019 & is a little difficult to get around, so budget extra time to see it.

Museum Island

St Mary’s near Alexanderplatz

Checkpoint Charlie at the end of our tour

The Berlin wall cut through major roadways & is memorialized with bricks.

Topography of Terror

Mitte is an interesting mix of modern buildings & old cobblestone streets. There’s fantastic restaurants & more sights than you’ll likely have time to take in. Don’t underestimate Berlin – it’s huge.

We stayed in Kreuzberg, which feels like a different world from both central Mitte & the pristine Prenzlauer Berg. It’s got a bit of reputation. With a huge Turkish population, this is where we found the best street food. It’s a little bit grimy & a lot edgy; it’s got tons of personality. I’m glad we stayed here so we got to experience it a little bit more than we likely would have otherwise.

Görlitzer Park at dusk

Across the Spree River, you’ll find Friedrichshain, known mostly for its wicked party scene & the East Side Gallery: a slice of the Berlin Wall turned open air international mural exhibit. Grab some beers at craft beer shop, Drink Drunk, on your way across the Spree (drinking in public is perfectly acceptable in Germany, & is the perfect way to enjoy the gallery, if you ask me.).

Beers at the East Side Gallery

Go out on the town

Berlin is a city for all tastes, whether it’s a simple evening meal with family & friends or a wild night of bar hopping, you can do it all.

While the street food is second to none, there’s also an incredible restaurant scene happening. I had a hopelessly impossible list. We came nowhere near to making a dent in it. In fact, we really only had one sit down meal, our first night in Berlin. We settled on somewhere near our AirBnB, Café Restaurant Jolesch. We sat on their patio, enjoyed fantastic service, & delicious, extra crispy schnitzel the size of our faces (literally). It was a great meal. If you’re looking for great German comfort food, you can’t go wrong with this spot.

Dinner on the patio

giant schnitzel

Afterwards, we made the trek to Klunkerkranich, in Neukölln. Hidden away on the top floor of the parking garage at the somewhat abandoned-looking Neukölln Arkaden Mall. You’ll walk up the ramp to the very top to find…I don’t really know how to describe it. A trendy hipster bar, with a garden, outdoor tables, & a fantastic view over Berlin? It’s a great spot to watch a sunset, or simply grab drinks at the end of an evening. It’s definitely worth checking out, for its eclectic mix of people & decor & the views. Bring cash, there’s sometimes cover & you’ll need a deposit for glassware (they don’t have anyone to clear their tables).

View from the top!

Outdoor biergarten

funky lights

Berlin skyline

Our second night, we grabbed a few craft beers for the road at Drink Drunk, crossed the bridge over the Spree, & wandered the couple kilometers of leftover Berlin wall that make up the East Side Gallery. Afterward, we grabbed a drink on one of the Riverboats & watched the sun set.

Strolling the East Side Gallery

River Spree

Sunset on a boat

It was a Tuesday night, but we wanted to experience some of Berlin’s famous nightlife, so we headed into Friedrichshain next. Everything I’d read told me this was the place to party in Berlin, but still, neither of us could get over how incredibly lively it was for a weeknight. We marveled at restaurant patios packed with locals enjoying a meal together, & bar after bar with no shortage of thirsty patrons. There were so many charming options (& no shortage of night clubs either, if that’s your jam). Friedrichshain is fantastic!

Wandering Urban Spree after close

We settled on Hops & Barley, one of the oldest craft breweries in the city. It’s a pretty unassuming spot, brewing natural unfiltered beers. They aren’t afraid to experiment a little, so there are some intriguing options. The patio was full, but we managed to find ourselves a little table in the back, amid a funny mix of locals & foreign exchange students. We stayed until they wouldn’t serve us any longer before making the trek back to Kreuzberg for the night.

Our time is Berlin was a little more limited that I’d expected. Picking up our rental car was more time consuming that I’d hoped, & we hadn’t budgeted a lot of time to begin with. The construction on Museum Island also threw a wrench in our plans as it was much harder to navigate than when I’d first visited. If we’d had more time in Berlin, I’d probably have suggested we spend some time in the Tiergarten (a 500 acre park in Mitte) or exploring the Reichstag. There is truly no shortage of things to do in Berlin.

The next morning, we grabbed coffees & hit the road for our next stop: Prague!

October in Instagram

It’s winter. A week into November & winter has hit us full force. Last week, it snowed for a few days & with temperatures sticking in the -15C range, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It almost seems like I was playing fetch on the beach with Odin & N in a different life. Was I really living in California a month ago? Anyway, here’s what we got up to in October according to Instagram.

Oct 2017 IG

  1. I still can’t get over this perfect little town. Carmel, & the Happy Landing Inn, might have been a dream. The view out the front door of our suite made me so happy.
  2. A final visit to my favourite Bay Area brewery: Fieldwork. Odin, N, & I spent many happy afternoons on their patio. Their beers are fantastic & it’s the most dog friendly spot in the Bay. I can’t recommend it enough (& their shirts & hoodies are SO soft. I may have a little collection…).
  3. A lot of my time in the Bay Area was spent seeking out a view. There are no shortage of amazing ones in the area. This one, from Ina Coolbrith Park, on Russian Hill is definitely worth the steep trek up Vallejo Street.
  4. Back in Canada! My mom & I drove from California to BC in two days so we could spent the weekend at the lake. Fall walks with this view are good for my soul, I think (& Odin loves running free up here too).
  5. The boys playing on Stinson Beach. Odin loved running free at the beaches in California. This was the most time Nathan’s ever spent with our pup, uninterrupted. I love watching them together & am so grateful we got the chance to spend a couple months together in Richmond.
  6. Castle Mountain guiding me home. I always know we’re almost there when I see this view.
  7. My Finnish wool socks are already coming in handy, & I can never get enough puppy cuddles.
  8. Our friends decided to do a house crawl this year for Halloween, which was a really fun idea. There were three stops, each with a signature cocktail & some snacks. We got hit with some nasty weather on our way to the final house, but it was still such a fun evening.
  9. Odin’s day care, Pawsitively Pooched, had an open house to show off the renovations to the facility & he got the chance to go for a little swim. He was a little skittish getting in, but once he was wet he had a blast. I think he’d fetch all day if he could!

Follow along with more of our adventures on instagram @whoalansi.

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