Fitness Friday: Strengthen Your Core for a Cause

Shortly after I started blogging, I posted about my friend Julie’s daughter Kate. Since then, and after four years of unanswered questions, Kate has been diagnosed with a very rare form of mitochondrial disease.

One of Julie’s friends is organizing a really fun event which will not only kickstart your core work for 2012, but will get your giving self off to a good start to the new year too.

Here’s Brenda’s description and information on how to participate:

If you wish to participate in this event, you are agreeing to complete a side plank and a front plank everyday for a minimum of 30 secs each. You will agree to donate .25 per plank completed. If you miss a day you will agree to donate .50 per plank not completed. All proceeds will go to Mitocanada.As you may or may not know, a friend whom I met throught the Ottawa Triathlon Club (Julie Drury) has a daughter Kate, who has an extremely rare form of mitochondrial disease that has caused many medical conditions, including:
– Global developmental delay
– Profound deafness
– Cyclical vomiting + and hemodynamic instability with episodes of unexplained illness and pain
– Sideroblastic anemia
– Nephrocalcinosis and hypercalciurea
– Chronic constipation
– Immunodeficiency (Hypogammaglobulinemia)
– Post-anesthesia complications
– Spinal syringomyelia (syrinx)
– Pili Torti
What is amazing is that Kate has gone 4 years without a diagnosis. Her diagnosis of mitochondrial disease is recent – though it was always suspected. She is 1 of 9 in the world with this new form of mitochondrial disease. The type she has has yet to be defined and described in the medical literature.

Mitochondrial disease affects 1 in 6000 people. It is not a rare disease, but it is very difficult to recognize and diagnose – and has no known treatment or cure. MitoCanada raises money to provide support to families living with mito, raise funds for research and to raise awareness and knowledge about the disease among physicians and the public.

More information about the organization can be found here:

If you wish to sign up, click on this llink:

Put your name down and each week put the total under the specific week. The document will add each week to the next and give you a total to donate. Julie Drury will be asking Mitocanada to put a link up for us to donate to.

Thank you in advance for agreeing to participate. I know that Julie, her family and Mitocanada will value any contribution we give and our core will thank us for making it stronger.

So, are you in? If you complete all the required planks, you are committing to donate $22.50 (3 planks/day x 30 days beginning Jan 2nd). If you complete no planks, you will be on the hook for $45.

I am upping the ante and suggesting that you go for a minute for each plank (even if you have to break it into a two parts).

This Week’s Running Rundown

Travel and a lack of running clothes cramped my running style this week, but I still managed to get in a little more than half my usual kilometers.

Everything is posted in km. For those of you who only do miles, 1 km = .625 mile OR 1 mile = 1.6 km

Saturday – 10 km Christmas Eve run with Elation Run Club

Wednesday –8 km mid-pace run on the treadmill in a very hot workout room in our condo community’s gym. I think I would rather sweat like that outdoors. Uugh!

Friday – 10 km easy run on the beach. I have discovered that the length of the beach and back is 5 km. I cannot verify this, because my Garmin was stolen – boo.

Cross Training

Wednesday: Quick strength training circuit in the gym. One set only… I’m gonna do better than this in the coming weeks.

Have a great week in fitness. I hope you’ll join me in 2012 as I participate in Plank to Plunk Down for MitoCanada.

Oh, and to keep up with my running log, I am posting and logging my runs on (since I no longer have my Garmin to keep my stats). You can ‘friend’ me and we can share our workouts. My name is simply Liisa.


December 30, 2011 at 12:55 pm 7 comments


Yesterday morning, with our belongings still in the Continental Airlines vortex, I set out in my new dress (purchased on my way into town from the airport) and my sneakers to get us some groceries, toiletries and a few more clothing items at the supermercado. Here’s the lovely look I had going with my sneaks:

With a slightly nervous hand, I hopped into our car – a Daihatsu Sirion – and booted my way through the busy downtown to the supermarket in a plaza on the other side of town. This drive took about five minutes in my maneuverable little car. We have taken over the lease from our  local property manager.

This is what the roads look like in the busiest little area – so one MUST be paying attention:

Photo credit: Lil D

It’s also important to note that the police do not need probable cause to stop a vehicle here so they often have checkpoints to check your “papers” i.e. passport, driver’s license and to make sure children are in booster seats. I gathered those items in my bag before I headed out.

I arrived at the grocery store exhilarated to be driving myself around town. I parked and headed into the AutoMercado. The selection was similar to what we have at home. Prices are similar if not slightly less expensive on produce, but significantly more expensive on American packaged goods (makes sense).

I selected fruits and veggies, five types of sunscreen and three types of bug spray along with many other items to fill my eventually overflowing cart. As I proceeded through the store, reading labels for allergy information (listed in bold like in Canada- phew!) and ingredients, I could feel my heart rate steadily increasing. I really had no reason to be stressed at that point, but I was (maybe partly because I couldn’t find sunflower seeds).

After the efficient and friendly cashier scanned and his colleague bagged my very large order (Loblaws could learn a little something here), neither of my credit cards worked.

I went to Scotiabank next door. My daily cash limit is small. I have just never needed to change it and it’s been the same since I was sixteen. I got as much cash as I could but realized it wouldn’t be enough. I drove back to the beach, grabbed some cash, and Skyped Visa.

“Yes, you did inform us that you would be traveling to Costa Rica, but we would just like to verify the last couple of purchases with you”.

That sorted, I headed back to the grocery store where the manager had kept my order aside. The Visa card worked. I left the store feeling relieved and broke 12 of 15 eggs in the parking lot (I boiled them right away at home).

Lost Luggage Update

  • All five pieces of luggage recovered and delivered late last evening
  • Missing from one duffel bag: two pairs of kids’ Umbro soccer cleats, Garmin GPS watch, iPod, and men’s flip-flops

Kid Update

When we left Ottawa, Lil C had a cold. Last night around 4 am he woke up with a mid-grade fever. Medicated, he fell back to sleep in my bed. I was up for a few hours imagining various scenarios if he woke up feverish.

My worrying worked. He woke up cool and refreshed, barely chewing his toast as he urgently ushered us out toward the pool.

Exploring low tide

One of the resident howler monkeys at the neighbouring Hotel Capitan Suizo:

Linda the howler monkey playing in the hammock while Lil C looks on

I imagine I will have a lot to write about over the next few weeks, but while I’m going to incorporate many things about life here, I still want to stay true to the theme of my blog – keeping my family fit, healthy and happy.

Friday this week, I will have the usual Fitness Friday post.

Thanks for all of your Facebook and blog comments. I love that I can stay in touch this way!

December 29, 2011 at 2:54 am 5 comments

Tico Tuesday: We’re Here in Costa Rica… Just Barely

We set out for Tamarindo, Costa Rica at 4:30 am yesterday morning. We had packed the car the evening before and the morning preparations went smoothly. The boys and I arrived at the Continental check-in counter at 4:50 am while Derek went to return our rental van – we had exchanged our rental car for a van for the trip to the airport (we had an opportunity to break our lease in October and we rented a car for the last three months).

We had done a web check-in so the document verification and bag check was quick. Derek arrived 5 minutes later and had his passport verified.

We proceeded to the very long security line with 65 minutes to spare. If you have ever been to the Ottawa airport, you know the lines are rarely long and the small airport means an easy flow to the gate.

I have never seen the line that long. Thirty minutes later, we arrived at the very long customs and immigration line. There was no way we would make our flight if we had to wait through the line. Fifteen minutes into our wait, I started getting nervous and wondering if the gate personnel might come looking for people. The young twenty-something in front of us was on the same flight and so were another half-dozen people in line. Twenty minutes into our wait, I decided I needed to act. I turned to Derek and said,”I can’t handle this. I’m gonna just barge through.”

I told the girl in front of us, “just follow us”.

In my best “Francoise voice” (my mom , Francoise, was never afraid to speak her mind when I was a kid and then it embarrassed me to no end. Now, I’m glad I learned from her – she’s mellowed some now and I would say that we are pretty much on par these days), I said loudly, “we have a 6:15 am flight and we need to go through – and we just started weaving our way through the line.

Someone stopped and us eventually, a guy who said he was on our flight. So I let him go ahead but I cut in front of everyone else. Another young woman made herself known too… and some others who had 6 am flights (which I’m assuming had long since departed).

We were probably the third or fourth group to get to the customs agent after my little performance. We would otherwise have been about thirtieth. We made it through and onto the plane along with the second young woman I mentioned. But the first girl who had been in front of us, who in deference to my helping her get through the line and to having small children, allowed us to go first. She must have had a slow customs officer because she did not make it onto the plane.

Of course, then we sat waiting for de-icing for 45 minutes.

So, 45 minutes on the runway and a 53 minute connection in the huge Newark airport made me less than optimistic.

The plane gods were on our side yesterday. We arrived, caught the bus to the other terminal and boarded the plane with just minutes to spare.

The bright side

  • No waiting in the gate area
  • DirectTV from Newark to Liberia, CR
  • Sweet, well-behaved children who understood that we were adding excitement to our adventure

The down side

  •  No food except granola bars which the boys kept refusing, the breakfast snacks for purchase on board which almost all contained nuts or looked unappetizing; we survived from 3:50 am to 3 pm on candy, Pringles, Two-Bite Cinnamon Rolls, and juice.
  • Slightly higher parental stress though Derek and I both had a “what shall be, shall be” attitude throughout
  • Quick connection = no luggage; still waiting. We understand it should be delivered to us this evening.
The bright side of no luggage
  • New clothes for all (I did have one change of clothes for the kids, but inadvertently packed pants instead of shorts for Lil C)

No shorts? No problem. Cut-off shorts for Lil C

And this morning I went to the grocery store for the first time… that’s a whole other story for tomorrow.

December 28, 2011 at 3:20 am 8 comments

Tico Tuesday: Vegetarian Dream

Costa Rica is a veggie paradise. Fresh (local) fruits and salads and the nutritious and flavorful staples described below are all this woman needs to be happy. Well, along with strong Costa Rican coffee and a daily hit of chocolate.

The “casado” is the ubiquitous Costa Rican plate. It consists of rice, black beans, plantain, cabbage salad, a soft corn tortilla and usually some meat. The marriage of the flavours and textures are what make this plate of food delicious, and their name “casado” means just that, “marriage”.

As a vegetarian, I ate this almost daily on my visits to Costa Rica, simply asking the chef to omit the meat.

And then, in the morning, the rice and the black beans are once again presented in the form of Gallo Pinto, a mixture of the black beans, rice, onion, herbs and spices, sometimes served with eggs.

I have made the Gallo Pinto at home, though there is a Costa Rican sauce called Lizano which the North American version is missing:

Gallo Pinto


  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • garlic
  • 1 tablespoon green or red pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons coriander
  • oil
  • 3 tablespoons Lizano “Salsa Ingles” (only available in Central America)
  • alternative: 1 tablespoon worcester sauce
  • Bunch of fresh cilantro (to taste – I like a lot)


Sear garlic with the onions on medium heat. Add beans and cook for 3 more minutes. Add coriander and salsa lizano (or worcestershire sauce) and stir well. Sprinkle liberally with fresh cilantro bits.

Try this easy little burst of Central America right  in your kitchen and think of me missing all my northern family and friends in the coming months.

December 20, 2011 at 8:47 pm 1 comment

Fitness Friday: Plant-based Whole Foods Diet

I’ve gradually changed my eating habits over the last 6 months. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a long-time vegetarian who occasionally eats fish. As long as I can remember, I have had no taste for meat. In 2000 I stopped eating it outright.

Too much ice cream or cheesy pizza never agreed with me (except my taste buds).

This past year, I noticed how much better I’ve felt when I don’t eat milk products at all.

I’ve also started incorporating tons more vegetables and leafy greens into my diet.

With much education and reading, I would say that I’m now a mostly-plant-based whole foods eater (the mostly being home-made cookies and other delicious baked treats).

Here are some things I’ve learned over the last few months:

  1. I can maintain my energy level on much less food. I do have to monitor calories on long run days because otherwise the next day I will be ravenous!!!!
  2. Milk products are out for me for the long haul. I have eliminated even hidden dairy and it made a huge difference. It’s not life-altering in the short-term, so if someone offers me something and can’t guarantee there are no whey ingredients, I won’t immediately turn it down, but I am so aware now.
  3. I love coffee and it does not make that much of a difference to me so it is worth it.
  4. I love wilted kale salad with sesame seeds and a sesame oil, cider vinegar dressing.
  5. All plant foods in their whole form are made up of 10% protein.
  6. Sunwarrior protein is my favourite protein boost.

Here is a great resource for plant-based whole food recipes or education programs on this type of eating. Here is a great resource for fueling your training on a plant-based diet.

Though I do like animals and I personally do not like the idea of eating them, I am not a veg for ethical reasons. I don’t identify with the dogmatic vegan (read PETA) movement that often eats just as many processed foods as any other typical eater.

This is really about my personal decision to improve my well-being.

My family still eats meat and dairy, but hopefully more fruits and vegetables as a result of my influence. We don’t eat the same food but we eat together. I have read that kids eat what they know. Hopefully having seen, smelled and (sometimes) tasted almost every vegetable variety in the produce aisle will mean that at some point, they will know them too.

This Week’s Running Rundown

Everything is posted in km. For those of you who only do miles, 1 km = .625 mile OR 1 mile = 1.6 km

Saturday – 17 km run – part with group and part on my own

Monday –8 km fun run on the treadmill

Tuesday – 10 km tempo run on the treadmill in the evening; might not have run if I didn’t have the gym membership

Thursday – 12 km run

Cross Training 

Wednesday: Hips focused vinyasa yoga

I’ve got 5 classes left in my yoga class package and 9 days till I leave the country for 6 months. That’s a lot of yoga to fit in.

I hear my family coming in from soccer practice. It is loud and there is whining.

Enjoy the last weekend before Christmas/Hannukah!

December 17, 2011 at 12:21 am 10 comments

Fundraising for School Yards

I spend a significant amount of time in coffee shops. If you worked at home with your husband, you might too.

On each local coffee shop bulletin board I see flyers for local public elementary school fundraising initiatives for school yards (right now I see three in my area including Lil D’s school and just saw a tweet for another Otown public school).

So far the fundraising goals I have seen are all 100K plus. Lil D’s school needs $250K for the current phase of the project. The school yard needs renewal. In fact, the whole school badly needs renewal, but let’s just talk school yard.

There are just under 800 students at his school. That is a fundraising goal of $312.50 for each student, FOR THIS PHASE. The government is going to kick in $7,500 or 3% of the total. We know that not each family has the means or the willingness to participate so the burden falls to the few and the community.

This is a public school.

We wrote a cheque. Not for $312.50, but we wrote a cheque. The yard needs renewal.

Local businesses are being solicited but there is some controversy over how they prominent the logos will be displayed in the yard – you know, public/private partnership controversy. And are businesses to bear the burden of all the school yards in the local community?

I find this whole thing so wrong.

Am I the only one who considers the yard part of the school and thus the responsibility of the school board and Ministry?

I apologize for the brain dump, but I wanted to put this out there. Here is a link to an article about the initiative at Lil D’s school.


December 15, 2011 at 4:28 pm 2 comments

Tico Thursday: What I Want to Know about Living in Costa Rica

I’ll be blogging from Costa Rica in two weeks. There are so many things that I want to know about life there that I haven’t been able to find any articles about online. I look forward to answering some questions or at least giving my perspective on them here in my little corner of the online world.

Here are some of the topics I’m thinking about:

  • Education for my children
  • Medical care and prescription medication
  • Community and friends for both the kids and ourselves
  • Extracurricular activities for the kids
  • Speed at which each of of us learns Spanish
  • Local environmental and development concerns
  • Wildlife
  • Lifestyle (i.e. daily schedule, meals, etc)
  • Healthy living – is it easier, harder?
  • Life with a child with a nut allergy in Central America
  • What life is like for the locals in a tourist-driven community in CR
Is there anything that you are interested in knowing about? I would love to add to this list and am curious what might be of interest.

Here’s our to-do list progress for this week:

For Ottawa

  • Organize home insurance as rental property
  • Purge our household contents
  • Pack up house for renters; rubbermaid bins and wardrobe boxes on my shopping list this week
  • Make contact list, instruction list for renters
  • Pack for our trip
  • Get worksheets for Lil D from teacher
  • Redirect mail to my parents’ house
  • Inform security company of renter
  • Modify cable, internet, phone services for renter
  • Modify mobile phone plans

For Tamarindo (our Costa Rican town)

  • Stock up on Cdn pharmaceuticals including DEET-containing products
  • Second visit to travel clinic for last two shots for boys
  • Doctor – Lil D annual physical
  • Buy new linens for CR
  • Rebook renters of our condo in March for another unit in our building; we don’t want to back up and leave for that week.
  • Plan trip in March to Nicaragua to renew tourist visas
  • Plan trips for March/April Semana Santa holiday

December 15, 2011 at 2:14 pm Leave a comment

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