This Just In: SQUAMISH HAS A FRESHII!

Words cannot describe how gleeful I was when I heard an ad on Mountain FM informing me that Squamish has ITS VERY OWN FRESHII!

AND IT’S WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE FROM MY HOUSE!

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The most beautiful thing on earth :’)

Freshii is my favourite fast food choice on the planet. I first discovered it many moons ago when I was working downtown Vancouver. A Freshii opened up just a few blocks from my office, so I would go sometimes on my lunch break. It took a few visits, but eventually I figured out my dream order and I haven’t changed my go-to dish ever since (more on that later).

Here is why I instantly loved Freshii:

  • So many fresh vegetable options! While my office lunches often left me feeling like curling up under my desk and falling into a food coma, my Freshii meals never sat heavy.
  • I love that you can customize your order to a tee. There are zillions of possible combinations – if you haven’t found one you like yet, you probably just need to visit a few more times to tweak your order to personal perfection.
  • The price point fit nicely into my budget, which was around $10 per lunch. (PS – I can’t believe I used to spend $200 on lunches per month! But I did.) Note: if you customize your order, you can modify toppings to make your meal cost as little or as much as your budget allows. Flexibility – that’s why I love Freshii.
  • The whole vibe is very yoga studio/cool friend’s apartment. They have grass (fake, I think) growing out of walls and a very fresh (er… freshii… hehehe) green and white colour scheme that makes me feel calm and like I’m making responsible nutritional decisions.
  • Their soft serve ice cream is the bomb!

I loved Freshii so much that my colleague and I decided to look into starting a Freshii franchise. No joke – we contacted them, thinking that Yaletown would be a primo Freshii location. We never heard back from them, unfortunately – or else maybe I would be a Freshii franchise owner.

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The Squamish Freshii – note the Fresh Slice pizza also opening next door. Garibaldi Village is HAPPENING!

Moving away from Vancouver sadly meant moving away from Freshii. I still made a point to visit when I could – the Freshii in the Park Royal food court has satisfied my craving more than once. When Cedric and I traveled across the country in 2015, I always made a point of checking to see if the town or city we were in had a Freshii. And if it did, you better believe I re-routed our GPS to trick Cedric into taking me there.

Yes, I had to trick Cedric to take me to Freshiis across the nation because he’s (GASP) not a huge fan. Here’s the weird thing: neither is my sister. Aside from the coworker who considered opening a Yaletown Freshii with me, I’ve never met anyone who is quite as passionate about Freshii as I am. I honestly cannot figure out why. Freshii haters (or even likers-but-not-lovers), what is it that Freshii lacks for you?

Okay, enough about my personal Freshii anecdotes – let’s talk about strategically planning a Freshii visit.

Freshii: The Strategy

When you visit Freshii, you are immediately faced with a key decision: order off the menu or create your own custom dish.

Do NOT be afraid of customizing your dish. Some people are intimidated by the process, but let me assure you: it is easy peasy. First, look for the white clipboards with checklists clipped on. There will be mini pencils nearby – grab one of those, too.

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I am not Debra – I forgot to take a photo of the checklist but this lady named Debra took this one and she has also written a blog post about her own Freshii love, which you can check out here. Debra, I think we’d get along just fine.

(Note – the Squamish Freshii checklist is slightly different than the one pictured above)

Step one: write your name in the top right corner.

Step two: pick your meal type. Your options are salad, bowl, wrap, or soup. Within each of these categories, you must refine your selection as follows:

  • Salad: spinach OR romaine OR Freshii mix
  • Bowl: warm brown rice OR rice noodles
  • Wrap: brown rice OR romaine OR spinach OR Freshii mix; and then you pick grilled or non-grilled
  • Soup: brown rice OR rice noodles; and for broth type, 100% vegetable OR classic chicken OR spicy lemongrass

This is where people become overwhelmed by options. Relax – you can always come back another time to try something else. I personally always go with the rice noodle bowl.

Step three: pick your premium toppings.

Warning: premium toppings are pricey. If you pick these, you may not meet the $10 lunch budget threshold. I personally skip the cheeses, nuts, and fancy fruits and veggies. However, I do believe the proteins are worth it (grilled chicken is my protein of choice).

Step four: pick your regular toppings. At most of the Freshiis I have visited, you get six free regular toppings included in your order. Six toppings + chicken is plenty, which is why I never bother with the premium toppings. The regular toppings are plain old delicious veggies and other accoutrements. My go tos: black beans, roasted red pepper, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, and broccoli.

Step five: pick your dressing.

I have NO IDEA why I initially picked the spicy lemongrass dressing, but I’m so glad I did because now, I order nothing else. I have never found another dressing – store bought or homemade – that I love as much as I love this dressing. It makes my nose run and I always gulp down an entire bottle of water to regulate the spiciness – but it is soooo good.

Because Freshii cares about you, you get to decide how much dressing you want: a regular serving, half a regular serving, or 1.5x a regular serving. Prefer it on the side? There’s a box for that, too. I usually stick with the regular serving – it’s the perfect amount for me.

Step six: bring your completed checklist to the cashier and they’ll input everything for you. Wait a bit (usually 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how busy it is), then they’ll call your name and your perfect little order will be ready for devouring.

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Here she is!

I haven’t given much information about ordering directly from the Freshii menu. These are wraps, salads, bowls, and soups made with their tried, tested, and true recipes. The truth is that I never, ever pick a menu item. I always make my own. Why wouldn’t you?!?!?!?


In addition to the main meals, you can also get juices, breakfasts, and as I mentioned earlier, soft serve yogurt with pick-your-own-toppings (blueberry and strawberry for me).

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This is from the Freshii website


The Squamish Freshii

I hit up the Squamish Freshii for the first time a few days ago. Any time a new business opens, you naturally expect a few growing pains – but nope, not on my visit. The Freshii at Garibaldi Village was smooth sailing. My experience and meal was exactly like all the other Freshiis I’ve enjoyed across the country – which is exactly the point of a fast food place with multiple locations.

Lest you be concerned that this review is tainted by things like monetary compensation or free food, don’t be – Freshii doesn’t know I’m writing this love story about them. Freshii Squamish, I love you. Get to know my face, because you and I are going to become very, very good friends.

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Review: The Common, Squamish’s Coworking Space

The vast majority of the time, I work from my home office.

But every so often, I need to find a mobile work space to get my work done. On a few recent occasions that involved some outrageously expensive car repairs (ouch, ouch, ouch), I found myself stuck downtown Squamish in desperate need of a desk.

In the past, I’d have headed to the library. Now, I love the Squamish Public Library – but it is not the best place to get work done. The internet is a little spotty, the work spaces are functional but not necessarily comfortable, and things can get a bit noisy – particularly during the day when it becomes a toddler hot spot. It works, but it’s not ideal.

I’m also not one for setting up shop at Starbucks. I’ve done it in the past, but I don’t love it. I can swing it if it’s only for an hour or two, but if I’m parking there all day, I feel like I have to keep buying stuff every hour and the hustle and bustle is just too distracting for me.

Thankfully, Squamish has developed a perfect alternative: The Common.

The Common is a recently opened shared coworking space. I didn’t know much about it when I sent in an email to find out about the rates and availability, but I was hoping for a quiet, clean space where I could get my work done while I waited on my car/money pit to be ready.

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My expectations were exceeded in a big way. I walked into the space – on the main downtown drag (Cleveland Ave) – on a drizzly, grey day. It was super cozy and inviting. I kind of expected it to be on par with the offices I’ve worked at in the past (functional but somewhat institutional), but it was way better. The decor was super modern – I’ve never worked at a cool start up or tech firm, but I imagine it would look something like this.

I had my pick of desk types (they even have standing desks – cool!), so I set up shop and got to work. The Common has everything you need, and more – think fancy coffee machine (and even a fancy kettle that heats up your water depending on the kind of tea you’re having – whoa), a few printers, private rooms for phone calls and Skype sessions, and a boardroom upstairs that you can rent out.

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On one of my days there, there was just me and another person in the space. On another, it was fairly busy, with half a dozen or so people and more trickling in and out throughout the day. Both times, I found it easy to get into the zone and work my way through my to do list. The central location offers plenty of lunch options (I opted for Zephyr) and is super convenient if you’ve got other appointments or errands to run.

The price is most definitely right: the $30 a day drop in rate is very reasonable. Plus, if you’re a contractor or run your own business, you can most likely write off the expense. There are plans if you intend to become a regular – the more days you work there, the cheaper it gets on a per-day basis.

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Yup – that’s an air hockey table

I can’t think of many cons, except that it might get a little lively or distracting if all of the work spaces were filled – although I imagine that most contractor types are pretty respectful of other people at work. To be honest, the social aspect might be kind of nice for those of us who typically spend our days holed up alone at home.

This wasn’t a paid advertisement (or even a non-paid advertisement) – this a bona fide awesome resource for the mobile workers of Squamish. If you’re curious, I recommend checking it out.

Magee’s Favourite Things 2017

It’s that time, folks!

Oprah has announced her wonderful, ridiculous favourite things – and just as I did last year, I’m here to discuss my most fabulous finds of the past 365 days.

[PS – Apparently she announced her favourite things nearly a month ago. I only noticed when I saw the O magazine at the library – whoops.]

For what it’s worth, the items I mentioned last year are still very much beloved and frequently enjoyed (except the Rootables chips, which I sadly cannot find anywhere).

2018, here we go.

Oiselle Roga Shorts ($48 USD)

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This is a bold claim, but I’ve never loved a pair of running shorts as much as I love my Oiselle Roga Shorts. I stumbled upon these shorts when I was browsing the sale rack at Capra. I bought a pair for just under $50 Canadian – what a steal! I’ve never owned anything by Oiselle before, but judging by these shorts, I’m a fan.

If you’ve got powerful gams like I do (some call them Thunder Thighs), these shorts are super roomy. The best part? NO CHAFING. None. I have had zero issues on with chafing, whether on trail runs or road runs. I want to own a thousand pairs of these shorts.

The Bread Illustrated Cookbook ($31.28)

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If you’ve followed by blog at all this year, you already know that this book was my bible in 2017. I discovered it at the Squamish Public Library on one random late winter day when I decided I needed to learn how to bake bread. I have baked a TON of recipes from this book (see them all here) and I have learned so much. I have had many successes and just a few failures (always my fault, not theirs) and this book has inspired a new delicious, practical hobby.

The recipes cover a wide variety of breads (from sandwich breads to rustic loaves to desserts to pizzas and way, way beyond) and offer a good mix of difficulty levels. The instructions are clear and the techniques are explained very well – there are plenty of photos for those who are visual learners. I trust the whole America’s Test Kitchen world, and this book definitely lives up to the ATK standard.

David’s Tea Nordic Mug ($23)

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I drink a lot of tea – usually two cups a day, though sometimes more. My Nordic mug from David’s Tea gets a lot of use, and I’ve come to love it very, very much. (Note – mine is not the same colour/pattern as the one pictured, but they all work the same way).

The mug itself is nice and roomy, and it comes with its own little infusing cup. The lid is perfect for keeping the tea hot while it steeps, and then it makes a nice little holder for the infuser thing. Everyone needs a good, solid mug (or two) – this one is, in my opinion, as good as it gets.

Sidney Smokehouse Island Jerky (2 for $15)

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Oprah likes to include obscure specialty edible items on her list, and guess what – so do I. I am obsessed with Sidney Smokehouse’s Island Jerky. I discovered them at the Squamish Farmer’s Market and regularly picked up a couple of packs when their booth is set up. A hunk of jerky makes the perfect mid-morning stack.

In early fall, I panicked when I noticed they hadn’t been at the market a few weeks in a row. I actually emailed them to find out when they would be back. It just so happened that they were scheduled to return the following weekend, but they also told me that I could email them an order and they’d send it to me. GOOD TO KNOW.

Here’s the thing: I’ve eaten a lot of beef jerky, and NOTHING comes remotely close to this one. Not the usual store bought ones. Not the other specialty ones that you buy at fancy natural food stores. Not even the hot-n-spicy ones at the deli in Nesters (though those are pretty good, too). This is The Best Jerky on Earth. And it’s made right on Vancouver Island.

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment ($29)

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Not quite lip balm, not quite lipstick, the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment tubes are the ultimate hybrid product. The colour is subtle but definitely present – it’s a good pick for those who are a little shy about going all-out with lip tints (like I happen to be). It’s super hydrating and the application is pretty foolproof, plus all the colours have a nice scent that I can only describe as lemon cookie.

I’ve tried a few colours, and my favourite has to be Rose (a pretty blush), followed by Nude (which is, duh, nude) and Tulip (like pink popsicle). If you’d like to give them a go, I recommend getting a pack of minis so that you can try a bunch:

  • This one has 3 (Rose, Petal, and Tulip – I haven’t tried Petal but it looks gorgeous, and this kit is good if you love pinks) for $30
  • This one has 4 (Nude, Rose, Fig, Poppy, and a nourishing minty lip balm) for $53
  • This one has 6 (Original [untinted], Tulip, Rose, Poppy, Honey, and Berry) for $54 <– best deal
  • This one has 7 (Rose, Petal, Tulip, Poppy, Ruby, Berry, Fig) for $70

The Gap Modern Cami ($18 – $20)

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I don’t buy very many clothes, but I bought FOUR – yes, four – of these camisoles this year. They’re perfect for wearing over leggings under another shirt and I’ve even worn them as pajama tops a couple of times – they’re that comfy. I own this tank top in white, black, navy, and grey. The grey one is my favourite – it feels a little softer and thicker than the others. The Gap always has 30% to 50% of sales, so if you can time your purchase right, you can this at a great price. This is a great wardrobe staple.

Vanity Fair ($38/1 Year Subscription)

cover_vanityfair_190My mom treated me to a Vanity Fair subscription this year, and it is really the gift that keeps on giving. I read my Vanity Fairs cover to cover. I love the variety of articles – good new Hollywood interviews, old school Hollywood stories, political pieces, tech and innovation coverage, witty reviews. It’s the perfect magazine to read on a long, boring plane ride. My only beef with VF is that the editor is OBSESSED with his hatred of Donald Trump. I’m certainly no fan of Trump (at all, at all, at all), but it’s a bit much to read two to three LONG Trump-related articles per issue. Still, I love my Vanity Fair.

LaCroix (Lemon) – $6.99 or something for a pack

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Basic, basic, basic – I don’t care how unoriginal it is, I just love LaCroix sparkling water. Sadly, in my great home and native land, I only have access to four flavours at London Drugs: lemon, lime, grapefruit, and peach-pear. Lemon is by far my favourite, but occasionally I switch it up to keep things exciting. I generally guzzle one of these a day. If you aren’t already a LaCroix fanatic, I recommend giving it a try. Here’s willing they bring the more exciting flavours to Canada in 2018.

St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse ($54) and Tan Applicator Mitt ($9)

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Believe you me – I never thought I’d have a fake tanner on this list. I dabbled in the world of sunless tanners back in my early university years, but the result was usually quite orange and streaky. At one sorority formal, the mad dash through the rain from limo to hotel ballroom caused me to get reverse freckles of sorts, where the raindrops melted away my tan. Not a good look.

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My “natural” glow circa 2005

But recently, I had a change of heart. I’d heard so much about the St. Tropez self tanner over the years and in an attempt to beat the winter blahs, I ordered a bottle along with the applicator mitt. By the way, I’m sure you could find or create an applicator mitt for like, $0.25 – the St. Tropez one works well, but seems like it could be replicated pretty inexpensively.

It took a couple of tries, but I think I’ve finally nailed a sunless tanner. Now that I’ve figured out some of the tricks, I’m able to mousse on a fake tan about once per week. No one can see it since I’m basically covered head to toe at all times, but I feel like a million bucks. Here are my tips:

  • The two basic rules of fake tanner hold true: exfoliate first and apply lotion to ankles/knees/elbows
  • The tanner goes on kind of green so you can see where you’ve missed a spot or where you haven’t put enough on. Pay attention – if you see a lighter green zone, fill it in or else you will get patches.
  • Put it on in the morning after a shower and let it air out for a good 15 to 20 minutes. Then, put on some old leggings and a shirt. It doesn’t smell awful, but it does smell like fake tan a little bit. Go about your day and try not to get sweaty. Before bed, take a quick shower – it rinses off the outer layer of stuff (you can see the water turn dirty) and keeps your sheets clean.

It still kind of weirds me out that I dye my skin – but if you’re into it, the St. Tropez one lives up to the hype.

Boody Eco Wear Shaper Bra ($16.95)

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And now, my final favourite.

I discovered Boody Eco Wear bamboo sports bras last year when I was training for my first (and only, so far) marathon. I was looking for something completely seamless, and I found it in one incredibly priced product. I’ve since bought another one and will probably buy one in white when they have it in my size at Nester’s. YUP, you can buy this at regular old Nesters (it is $18 there, if I recall correctly).

I wear it as my comfy around the house bra and I still use it sometimes on long runs. Warning: you probably won’t like this if you have a larger chest because there is not much support.


That’s it – a list of wonderful, fairly unnecessary products that have made my 2017 a little brighter, beefier, and tanner.


I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Battle of the Bottles: Contigo Thermalock Matterhorn

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There is an ongoing battle in my household. It relates to hydration.

The story goes like this: Cedric loses water bottles like it’s nobody’s business. Cedric cannot hang on to a water bottle for more than a month without misplacing it or leaving it somewhere where it cannot be retrieved.

I, on the other hand, am extraordinarily responsible with my water bottles. On a daily basis, I use two – we’ll call them my Tier One bottles:

  • A periwinkle S’well bottle, which I received as a Christmas gift two or three years ago (remember, it made my Magee’s Favourite Things 2016 list); and
  • A blue Nalgene bottle that I’ve had FOREVER. I had a previous blue Nalgene that I left on a plane maybe four or five years ago, and have owned this replacement ever since.

(My system is a little convoluted, but if you’re curious: I leave my Nalgene full and in the fridge at all times. I love my water to be a level of cold beyond straight-from-the-tap. I use my Nalgene to fill my S’well with cold water – the S’well keeps water cold forever, but because it is so insulated, it won’t make water cold if you put it in the fridge. So the Nalgene is always in the fridge, full and ready to refill the S’well.)

The problem is that when Cedric loses a water bottle, he tends to “borrow” mine “until he can find a replacement”. He has “borrowed” – and then lost – probably a dozen of my Tier Two water bottles over the years (Tier Two meaning any other bottle I’ve owned other than the Nalgene and the S’well).

It gets worse. He won’t borrow and lose just any old water bottle – he is very picky and only takes my best Tier Two bottles. He hates bottles that don’t seal properly, spilling in his backpack, so he’ll only pick from my finest Tier Twos. Presently, he has borrowed and lost ALL of my sealable Tier Two water bottles, which means he now “borrows” my blue Nalgene all the time – to go to the gym, to go biking, backcountry skiing, etc.

So I’ll often go to re-fill my S’well bottle – only to find my Nalgene is not in the fridge, where it should be. Instead, it is at the bottom of Cedric’s backpack – EMPTY.

(Battle ensues.)


That was an extraordinarily long introduction to a product review. I was recently sent a new water bottle and I was curious to see if it could crack into Tier One – or whether it would become a Tier Two so desirable that Cedric would surely lose it within a month.

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Meet the Contigo Thermalock Matterhorn. In many ways, it is the ultimate hybrid between my current Tier One bottles. But can it hold its own between my tried and trues?


Name Recognition

  • Nalgene: A classic for the outdoorsy type; often pictured with a carabiner clipped onto it or with a ring of duct tape for survival situations. Good Squamish street cred.
  • S’well: So trendy, it hurts – especially if you have a wood grain one. Very nouveau Squamish.
  • Contigo: More under the radar, though we do own a portable Contigo coffee mug that Cedric uses on the regular. The name “Matterhorn” adds a level of adventurous intrigue that would gain you acceptance in most Squamish circles.

Capacity

  • Nalgene: The classic model has a 32 ounce capacity.
  • S’well: I own the 17 ounce, but they go up to 25 ounces.
  • Contigo: 32 ounce – Nalgene, you’ve met your match. (Also available in 20 ounces.)

Cost

  • Nalgene: $16.69 at Canadian Tire
  • S’well: $45 at Chapters Indigo (and that’s only for the 17 ounce)
  • Contigo: $19.99 on the Contigo website

Weight (Unfilled)

  • Nalgene: 178 grams
  • S’well: 313 grams (for the 17 ounce size)
  • Contigo: 468 grams

Material

  • Nalgene: Plastic. It’s BPA-free, but it’s still plastic, which puts some people off.
  • S’well: Stainless steel
  • Contigo: Stainless steel

Mouth Hole

  • Nalgene: Big hole – Cedric loves this, and it makes it easy to fill up and pour out. It’s also available in little hole. (I think there’s a more technical term for this).
  • S’well: Little hole
  • Contigo: Get this – the Contigo Matterhorn has TWO hole options. If you just unscrew the very top part of the cap, there’s a plastic mouth hole the same size as the S’well hole. If you unscrew the entire cap as one unit, you get a larger mouth hole directly into the metal bottle. Everybody wins!

Seal Factor

  • Nalgene: No leaks
  • S’well: No leaks
  • Contigo: No leaks

(If you’re a bottle and you leak, you don’t stand a chance of cracking my Tier One list.)

Insulation

  • Nalgene: Non existent. Takes on the surrounding temperature – which is great for making water cold in the fridge, but not ideal when adventuring on a hot day (eww, warm water) or a very cold one (ice block, anyone?)
  • S’well: Triple walled; the Fort Knox of water bottles
  • Contigo: Vacuum insulated – not exactly sure what this means, but it is comparable to the S’well. The other day, I filled my Contigo with tea at 9 AM. Around 8:30, it was still warm.

SCIENCE ZONE

I wanted to test the Contigo Matterhorn’s ability to keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold, so I conducted my own little experiment.

Claim: “Matterhorn will keep your drinks cold for up to 36 hours.”

Reality: I poured cold water (46.9 degrees Fahrenheit) into the Contigo – an hour later, it had barely lost any coldness (47.1 degrees Fahrenheit). It seemed to warm up about .5 to 1 degrees every hour I tested it. Nearly 24 hours later, it was 53.9 degrees Fahrenheit – quite cold by my discerning standards. Disclaimer: my house is pretty cold, so it’s not like it was in the desert or anything.

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The x axis is time, the y axis is temperature

Claim: “This bottle is also engineered to keep your drinks piping hot for up to 14 hours.”

Reality: I poured boiling hot 205.5 degree Fahrenheit water into the bottle and an hour later, it had dropped nearly 20 degrees. (FYI – Starbucks serves their coffee between 145 – 165 degrees; extra hot is 180 degrees). After that, it lost about 10 degrees every hour, but was still quite hot (127 degrees) after 12 hours – this is just a few degrees lower than the temperature of a Starbucks kids drink (130 degrees). The bottle was in my very cold house so it was probably more of a challenge to keep it hot than it was in the previous test to keep it cold.

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Cap

  • Nalgene: The plastic cap swivels on and off with ease and is permanently connected to the bottle, so you won’t lose it. It is kind of big and awkward and tends to dangle in your face when you take a swig.
  • S’well: Stainless steel and SO EASY TO LOSE. It is not attached in any way, so I loseĀ  mine somewhere around the house a few times per week.
  • Contigo: A sturdy plastic that screws on and off easily and is permanently connected to the bottle – hallelujah. Smaller size than the Nalgene, so it doesn’t smack my face when I drink from it.

Stealability

  • Nalgene: High. Cedric steals with great frequency; I may need to install an alarm.
  • S’well: Low. For some reason, Cedric hates my S’well and never steals it. For that, I am grateful.
  • Contigo: Moderate. I asked Cedric if he would steal this bottle, and he said no – he said it is too large, bulky, and heavy for his backcountry ski trips and his mountain biking trips. However, when I asked if he’d steal it to go to the gym, he said he absolutely would.

Bottom Line

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As I said earlier, the Contigo Thermalock Matterhorn is really the best of both worlds. Like the Nalgene, it can hold a lot of water and has the fabulous, unloseable top. Like the S’well, it will hold your drink’s temperature for eons. Unlike the Nalgene, it is made with stainless steel, which seems sturdier and cleaner. Unlike the S’well, it won’t break your bank – it is only half the cost of a 17 ounce S’well, and nearly double the capacity.

My only beef with the Matterhorn is that, as Cedric pointed out, it’s on the heavy side. While I wouldn’t take it with me on a backpacking expedition where my goal is to travel ultra light, I do recommend it for around the house, in the car, at work, in the yoga studio, etc.

Has it earned a position in my Tier One? Absolutely.

The Dude Diet: Weird Name, Solid Cookbook

I developed the habit this year of borrowing cookbooks from the library. It’s a win-win: it’s economical, provides for plenty of culinary inspiration, and allows the opportunity for boosting kitchen skills.

Most of the cookbooks I’ve borrowed have been a success (and if they’re not, no big deal – I just return them and choose another), but I want to highlight my latest find because it checks off all of my boxes:

  • Ingredients are available in Squamish;
  • Ingredients are relatively inexpensive;
  • Meals are healthy;
  • There are a wide variety of recipes; and
  • Recipes are straightforward.

I like cooking, and I’m willing to devote a fair bit of time (an hour, maybe) towards making dinners – but I don’t like overly rich foods or meals that require the use of every pot, pan, and utensil in the kitchen. This cookbook accommodates these needs.

I happen to think The Dude Diet is not the best name. I get it – the girl who wrote it (she attended Harvard and Le Cordon Bleu Paris) wrote it to show guys (like her boyfriend) who generally ate horribly that healthy food can be delicious and easy to put together – but the aggressive dude-isms peppered throughout the recipes are a little cheesy.

If you can get over the dude factor (and I did), you’ll be rewarded with a wide variety of recipes split into ten sections:

  1. Badass Breakfasts: Self explanatory.
  2. The Classics: With a twist, like the Dude Diet Shepherd’s pie with ground turkey and cauliflower (instead of beef and potatoes).
  3. Game Day Eats: Quintessential dude snacks and appetizers made healthier.
  4. On the Grill: Kicking the basics up a notch – Grilled Mahi Mahi with citrus-jalapeno salsa; grilled chicken paillard with avocado, corn, and cherry tomato relish, and the like.
  5. Serious Salads: My favourite chapter – salads that are entree-worthy.
  6. Take-Out Favourites: DIY versions made a little lighter (Pork un-fried rice; smarter sausage pizza)
  7. Sexy Sides: What it sounds like.
  8. Back-Pocket Recipes: Easy and delicious quick meals.
  9. Chronic Cocktails: With disclaimers in the preamble such as, “Moderation, moderation, moderation” and “Slowwww down”.
  10. Sweetness: Desserts made simple.

I didn’t cook recipes from all of these chapters, but I spent a bit of time on the salad, take-out, and back-pocket sections. A few of my favourites:

  • Arugula Salad with Crispy Prosciutto, Parmesan, and Fried Eggs: Okay, maybe not the healthiest, but this was a delicious combination. We ate it with some avocado toast (of course we did).
  • Sesame-Orange Chicken: Lots of flavour and super filling, and surprisingly easily to put together – with broccoli, a few bell peppers, and rice.
  • Coconut Green Curry Chicken: Soooo delicious. I don’t make curries very often, but when I do, they’re usually pretty boring compared to the stuff you get at restaurants. This recipe delivered.
  • Smoky Black Bean Chicken Stew: Smoky indeed – a few recipes in this cookbook call for chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, which I found at Nesters (they don’t have it at Craig’s). I did the smoky spiciness it added to this stew.
  • Dude Diet Shepherd’s Pie: I mentioned this one above – it uses cauliflower puree instead of mashed potatoes and it completely blew my mind. I feel like this crafty swap changes everything.

I recommend this book for quick(ish) weeknight dinners, people looking for some healthy inspiration, or those that are a little new to the kitchen and seek some inspiration (i.e., people living on their own for the first time).

The Dude Diet = it’s a winner.


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The Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival: Feel the Lumberjack Within

Wow. Just when you think life in Squamish can’t get any better – the Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival happens. I am officially in love with this place.

Squamish Days is not exactly a new tradition – this year, it celebrated its 60th anniversary. But it is new to me, and now that I know how awesome it is, I’m kicking myself for having skipped out on it last year. NEVER AGAIN WILL I MISS IT!

The Loggers Sports Festival is a multi-day affair, and the video above highlights a little bit of all of it (including the 8k community ran – which I ran!). But the event to beat them all takes place the Sunday afternoon. It’s a collection of lumberjack-style contests – think chainsaws, regular saws, a pit of water, and lots of giant logs. Of course, the actual events have technical names, but you don’t need to know them to enjoy the fun of it all.

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At $10 an adult (or $5 for seniors and kids), it’s a heck of a deal – we enjoyed 4.5 hours of epic entertainment, so the value is definitely there. Some (ahem – Cedric) might find that it’s a little on the long side, but I enjoyed every minute of it. If you happen to get bored, you can always walk around and check out the food stands, or even take off and come back (they stamp your hand, so you can come back in later).

The energy of the festival is awesome. The people watching is as much fun as the entertainment itself, and the event is really well paced – there are back to back competitions, so there’s always something to watch.

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Other things that are awesome: prizes. They had a few giveaways throughout the event that required you to interact with their social media accounts. I was STOKED to win a sweet prize consisting of a night stay at the Executive Suites hotel, two tickets up the Sea to Sky gondola, and $50 at Norman Rudy’s (located at the hotel) – who has two thumbs and is excited for an off season staycation? This girl!

I will leave you now with some tips on how to make the most of the festival:

  • The seats are bleachers – and as we all know, bleachers tend to get uncomfortable after a little while. Bring a sweatshirt or something to mitigate the effects of numb bum.
  • There is food for sale on-site, but it’s definitely festival fare. If you prefer to eat something a little more healthy, BYO – I didn’t see anything preventing you from bringing a sandwich from home. Bringing some water is a good idea, too.
  • There isn’t much in the way of shelter from the elements. In a way, the smokey air we’ve been having as of late was nice because it diffused the sun. I imagine it would get real hot, real quick with the sun beating down on you. Bring sun protection (and other gear to deal with whatever weather is thrown your way).
  • Everything is cash only. There are ATMs, but save on the fees and take our your money beforehand.

A Ranking of the Ice Cream Sandwich Flavours from Tall Tree Bakery

When I heard that Tall Tree Bakery was making ice cream sandwiches using their own cookies, I nearly cried.

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This is what dreams look like.

I also nearly cried when I paid them a visit and discovered they were sold out. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought this could very well be the best thing ever.

Luckily, they upped their production to keep up with the demand of the ravenous dessert lovers of Squamish, and I’ve had the chance to work my way through their ice cream sandwich menu throughout the summer thus far.

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Cedric took this picture because he was making fun of my dirty face

The sandwiches are delicious. The flavours are inventive. The price is insane(ly low): $5 for two big cookies and a thick slab of high quality ice cream. The cookies alone would set you back $3 if you bought them individually. I say with utmost confidence that this is the Official Squamish Treat of Summer 2017 – and beyond, I hope.

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Bring a friend = try two kinds at once! Brilliant.

What follows is my official ranking of the Tall Tree Bakery Ice Cream Sandwich flavours.*

*Sadly, I seem to have missed the boat on the coconut cookie with coconut ice cream flavour. I think I would have loved this one, but it appears to be off their menu. I’ll edit this post if it resurrects.

#1: Cranberry White Chocolate Cookie with Black Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

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I won’t lie – at first, I was intimidated by this combination. I thought it might be too much of a good thing. I forgive my earlier, naive self, for I was used to simple pairings, like vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.

A friend raved over this flavour and said it was the only one she ever got – it was too good to risk trying anything else. Well, with a testament like that, I made the leap and ordered one for myself. I got it after a hike on a hot, sunny day, and three words describe my experience: Oh. My. God.

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The combination is not too much – it is utterly perfect. The tartness from the cranberries, the sweetness from the white chocolate, the cold creamy ice cream, and the fruitiness of the black raspberries are the TOTAL, MAGICAL PACKAGE. It’s a brave combination, but it works better than basically anything I’ve ever had before.

(I’m still dreaming about this one.)

#2: Ginger Molasses Cookie with Salted Caramel Ice Cream

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Wait… you don’t bring a knife to the bakery so that you can split ice cream sandwiches?

If you’re a little intimidated by some of the bold flavour combinations of the Tall Tree Bakery ice cream sandwiches – in other words, if you’re like my brother-in-law and choose to order vanilla when you’re at an ice cream store with 50 flavours – I recommend the ginger molasses/salted caramel sandwich. The flavours complement each other rather harmoniously, because the ice cream flavour is pretty mild. It tastes good, but relatively neutral – like vanilla with pops of caramel swirl.

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The aforementioned pop of caramel swirl

The ginger molasses cookie should be familiar territory for most cookie fans, and this one is good. I recommend letting the sandwich thaw juuuuust a little to let the cookie get that classic ginger cookie chewiness. Overall, this is a delightful combination and is sure to be a crowd pleaser – a safe bet, for instance, if you’re buying a sandwich for someone else and aren’t sure what to get.

#3: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie with Grasshopper Ice Cream

This was the first sandwich that I tried. It seemed like a relatively safe bet. The grasshopper ice cream is a mint concoction, and I already know I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.

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Obviously, the flavour combo works, and though it is delicious, it isn’t my favourite. The cookies shine bright in this sandwich (it is also mighty good in a standalone state), but the ice cream falls just a little flat for me. It’s just mint – I think it could use some chocolate chunks or a fudgey swirl to add a little texture. Plus, the chocolate on mint is very sweet – and that’s coming from a lover of all things sweet.

But the fact of the matter remains that chocolate and mint is a killer combination – so there are absolutely no complaints from me.

#4: Peanut Butter Cookie with Heavenly Hash Ice Cream

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If I’m not mistaken, this combination was a later addition to the ice cream sandwich offerings (i.e., not one of the original menu items). On paper, I loved it: the nuts from the heavenly hash ice cream were the perfect tie in for the nuts in the peanut butter cookie. Nuts on nuts – what’s not to like?

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Individually, the peanut butter cookie and the heavenly hash ice cream are both stars. Together, it’s a lot – not in a bad way, but almost like both are competing for your attention. It’s like the peanut butter cookie is so good that it needs to be enjoyed on its own to be fully appreciated. It’s got the classic peanut butter cookie crumbly texture and it has full, non-crushed peanuts mixed in for a bonus crunch. The ice cream layered between these two, thick peanut cookies has it battle it out to get noticed.

(Am I weird for talking about treats in this much detail?)

Here’s how I recommend making the most of this sandwich without going overboard on the flavour train: take the top cookie off for an open-faced ice cream sandwich. Sure, your hands might get a little messy, but you’ll strike the perfect nutty balance. As a bonus, you’ll have an extra peanut butter cookie to enjoy later on. It’s a win-win.