This vacation to Canada was inspired by one of my Smootents, Skylar who went to Niagra Falls for Memorial Day Weekend with her Girl Scouts Troop.
An important decision for my trip to Toronto was deciding where to stay. I had a wonderful experience with my first time using Airbnb.
I was hosted in a million dollar condo in the Entertainment District. The fully stocked, 2-bedroom split floor plan was a nice place to call home for two nights.
Toronto City Pass Attractions
The Toronto City pass was an opportunity to see the top six attractions in the city. With less than 48 hours, I did not waste any time getting to the CN Tower and Aquarium which were only two blocks away from the condo.
Neither attractions were crowded. Canada Day had just passed, so I missed all of those crowds. For the sake of time, I had to skip the Toronto Zoo and Ontario Science Centre.
The CN Tower
“Nothing Can Stop Me, I’m All The Way Up!”
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
By this time, I had worked up an appetite. The open air lounge of e11even was very inviting with the Scotiabank Arena over my shoulder. This freshly ground burger did not disappoint.
Nathan Phillips Square
Royal Ontario Museum
The ROM was included with the City Pass. My favorite world culture exhibits were the Asian and Africa collections.
There was a 1.5 mile walk from the Royal Ontario Museum to Casa Loma.
I passed through the posh area of Yorkville that had this unique, jewelry store front. It was right across the street from a Ferrari dealership.
The decor of the Casa Loma reminded me a lot of the Biltmore Estate.
With directions from a local, I was able to ride a street car to Chinatown. I was not impressed with this area compared to Chinatown’s in the U.S.A. There was mostly Dollar Store like merchandise for sale.
This was a fun area. There were a lot of specialty stores and cafes. After all the walking it was time for a cold beverage.
Toronto Island reminded me a lot of Detroit’s Belle Isle. A local told me that Toronto went from winter to summer during the end of June. It rained for a week straight, which caused a lot of flooding on the island. A 10 minute ride on the fery gave me this view:
Recreational marijuana is legal throughout Canada. I was smelling herbal essences on every corner I turned. Either people were smoking or had just finished smoking.
Toronto has done a great job with having a cycling infrastructure in the core of the city. During rush hour, it looked like a race was taking place.
The CN Tower view from the condo at night.
Toronto was absolutely breathtaking. It is a shame that I never taken the four hour drive from Michigan when I lived there. I don’t think I could deal with the wintertime regardless of the underground city and heated parking garages.
Overall, I am blessed to have experienced this city, and I encourage others to do the same.
My next post will include all photos from Graffiti Alley. This post is long enough 🙂
I just returned from a two-week visit with my parents in the Sunshine State.
It was a chilled-out vacation with a visit from our family who lives in Morgantown, WV. We were game ready for the NBA Finals.
I skipped the few running races that were in the area. It feels good not to be in training mode and to exercise simply for the health benefits. Besides the usual shopping, dining out, concerts, etc., I wanted to explore some of the Florida beaches that I have never visited.
Honeymoon Island State Park
My Mom and I drove to Honeymoon Island State Park which is off the coast of Dunedin, Florida. This park was packed with boats, jet skis, kayaks, cyclists and walkers.
Honeymoon Island has a few beach areas to choose from. One beach allows pets if they are on a leash. The Oasis Beach was the most crowded. It was interesting to see how narrow the shoreline was compared to other Florida beaches.
Another area of Honeymoon Beach is covered in rocks that are sure to ruin a pedicure or cause injury. Despite the rougher terrain, people made their way to the north side of this area for safer swimming.
The Caladesi Island beaches were much nicer than Honeymoon Island. We watched the boats come and go in the Gulf of Mexico.
I wanted to get my steps in for a Go365 challenge. I walked south until the sand disappeared. My Mom enjoyed the 86 degree gentle waves.
Caladesi Island has a nature trail that started off all cute when I saw a gopher tortoise minding its business. Things turned ugly when I was attacked by mosquitoes. There was also signage to warn of rattlesnakes. I only made it about 15 yards into the trail before I ran out.
I can cross these two Florida beaches off of my list.
My History with the Kentucky Derby Festival Full & Mini Marathons
The 2019 Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon was my fifth time on this course. Since 2013, I have completed four half marathons, and Boston Qualified on the full. During Black Friday I snagged a great entry fee deal. A couple of weeks later I was sidelined from a running fall resulting in a fractured little finger and other sprains.
Training for the KDF Mini
I started training for the KDF Mini in February, only to have the annoying pain of shin splints cause me to take off three weeks. I was frustrated, because I could not train to my potential. My original goal was to run a personal best which is common for runners who want to prove to ourselves that, “We still got it.” Reality was another thing. There was no way I could run a sub 1:42 half with the extra weight gain and lack of mileage.
Determined to race, I used the Florida heat during Spring Break to get in a couple of longer runs. I even rode my Mom’s beach cruiser to stay active. Training in 80 degrees would make it easier to run in Kentucky Spring temps. Fortunately, my school has a brand new track. I squeezed in some lunch miles to make after work life easier as a therapeutic foster parent. My foster daughter and I would get in 6-9 miles after school on our bikes.
I had to cut portion sizes, and ease up on meat and junk foods. This was about the time I started a 10-week Express Invisalign. I have to wear my aligners for 23 hours a day. I cannot sip tea all day like I normally do. Increased water intake helped with the shin splints. No candy and no snacking. Basically, I take the aligners out to eat lunch and dinner. I can only drink water. This helped me shed a few pounds.
I made sure to get plenty of rest all week before the race. My new goal was to finish under 2:00. The night before, I took a look at my https://kelsielou.com/race-summaries/ page to make some updates and remind myself of previous performances.
The positive thinking and sacrifices resulted in me having an extremely pleasant race. The weather was PERFECT!! I did not run with music. The real reason is because I have not taken the time to link music to my new Forerunner 645 Music. The crowd support and DJs along the course kept me entertained.
Race Highlights of the KDF Mini Marathon
As soon as I entered Corral B a stranger asked me to tie his shoe. I thought it was a little odd, but I humbled myself to kneel down and tie this man’s shoe. Then, he asked me to tie the other one. I made sure I double knotted and tucked the ends under his laces like I do mine. When I stood up, I saw that he was wearing a Special Olympics shirt. I introduced myself, and he told me his name was Nick. His corral was F, but he was all the way in the Bs. He told me he had run the Mini before. I let him lean on me to stretch. We crossed the starting mats and ran together for a block. I did not see him after that. I’m glad I was able to be Nick’s friend in that brief moment.
The first few miles has a lot of turns. The pattern is: 2 lefts, 2 rights, 2 lefts. It makes it easy peasy to run those tangents.
There was a water station between miles 6-7. I thanked the volunteer. As I passed I heard her yell, “Kelsie!” I turned back and saw her face. It was the former Finance Manager at Job Corps. She and I settled up a lot of checks back when I was the Recreation Supervisor. It was so good to see Dawn after all these years.
So normally, I’m the photo queen. Without my phone, I did not get ANY photos. I walked past the finisher photographers and straight to where I parked. When I got ready to pull off I got a text. My co-worker, Karen, was at the finish line awaiting her boyfriend to finish the Full Marathon. She heard the announcer say, “Kelsie Smoot” and found me getting ready to finish. This made my day.
Results of the 2019 KDF Mini
Finish Time: 1:52:28
Age Division: 40/643
Women’s Division: 313/4557
The non-measureable is feeling like myself again, having that surge going into summer with fun 5 and 10Ks, and a unique half marathon picked out for the fall. The full marathon calls my name sometimes, but I suppress those thoughts. I’m not insane anymore.
While I was finishing my race another co-worker, Ms. Glass, was participating in the preliminary rounds of the National Physique Committee Derby Championship. She has been training since January, and I saw her already toned body become even more defined. She emailed me her eating plan, and I was blown away with the attention to detail and the daily water intake. In addition to her lifting, she had to do 70 minutes of cardio a day and increase her water consumption even more.
I went back downtown to support her Kentucky Derby fitness efforts. Unfortunately, I did not get to see her Master’s Figure 35+ pose on stage because the NPC program is so long. The bikini category was the largest and took a couple of hours to go through each category, class, etc.
There is more to the Kentucky Derby than horses. Next year, I may do the Tour de Lou bike ride.
Imane is one of my former Smootents (Ms. Smoot + Students) from Whitney M. Young Job Corps Center. Her family moved from Chad to Louisville, KY in 2007. We met shortly after when Imane was scheduled to my Reading class.
Imane’s determination earned her a CNA certification and proficiency in literacy and numeracy. Upon her graduation in 2011 from Job Corps, Imane worked in the medical field before moving to a management position in the service industry.
Imane has been a student and a teacher. She would bring in DVD movies produced in Ghana and Nigeria. Our class learned to break the stereotypes of Africa to see how well our brothers and sisters are living. I still enjoy watching Gollywood and Nollywood movies to this day.
Imane and I always stayed in contact with each other outside of school. She exposed me to a lot of African culture. I was never treated like a stranger when she invited me to her family’s weddings.
This photo was in 2013 at the Frostbite 5K.
In 2015, I witnessed Imane celebrating her marriage. In her culture couples are married first, then they have a wedding to celebrate. She was already married a few months before the actual wedding.
This past September, Imane stopped by my house to chit chat. I knew she looked different. Before I could say anything, she told me that she was expecting. It was very early in her pregnancy, but she wanted me to know.
Fast forward to Imane’s baby shower. For this first time Mommy, I had to hook her up with a little bit of everything. Because I was her teacher, it was important for me to include some books in the gift basket I designed.
Birds of a Feather…If you see Imane, her best friend from Job Corps, Gloria is close by. Gloria and I have history too. She was the president of the Student Government Association, and we traveled to Washington D.C. for a conference. This Haitian native is a RN and will be completing her Master’s in June.
Celebrating the life of Baby Ali! I love you, Imane!
I took my Mom to get a beach cruiser bike. This will give her another fitness option in addition to walking and swimming. My Mom has a few more weeks before she can ride due to another back surgery. Regardless of her circumstances my Mom always knows how to stay on balance.
I got the ultimate “Pull Up” from a special someone. It was so thoughtful for him to route his job to visit me. We took a ride in his huge cabin to Plant City to get cargo that was going to Syracuse, NY.
Chain of Lakes
Winter Haven, Florida has 24 lakes that are connected by canals. My parents and I took a pontoon cruise around lakes Lulu, Shipp, and Eloise.
Lake Eloise is the water ski capital of the world. There are water ski shows that are performed at the site of Legoland, formally known as Cypress Gardens.
These are a few of the beautiful lakeside homes around Lake Eloise:
Sand Key Park
Being centrally located, I have the choice between Daytona Beach or Clearwater Beach. My Mom’s dentist told her about a low-key area called Sand Key Park just south of Clearwater. I am so glad we took her advice to avoid the Spring Break crowds.
Sand Key Park has all day parking for $5 with plenty of spaces. This area is for people who want a laid back beach experience without water sport rentals and pirate ship cruises. Sand Key has umbrella and cabana rentals for $25 and there are two food trucks.
The weather was a perfect 78°, with no humidity. I took a 4.5 mile walk on the nature trail to Gulf Blvd. I re-entered the beach through an access by some condos and kept walking South. I was amazed to see how empty Sand Key was during the peak Spring Break season. I was a mile from Belleaire Beach when I walked back with Pier 60 in my view.
Lakeland Sun’n Fun 5K
Lakeland has a strong running community with great races. The Sun ‘n Fun 5K course was very unique. I’ve run on the Indy 500 track, Churchill Downs infields, and football stadiums, but never on an airport runway.
For my 5K results, I placed 4th place in my age group with five seconds away from getting a medal. I’ve been eating too many crepes and calzones, I guess. I placed 19/280 in the women’s division, and 59/476 overall .
It was a foggy morning that turned into blue skies just in time for the hot air balloon race.
The tragic death of Nipsey Hussle occured during this trip. I’ve had Victory Lap on repeat ever since. His life and legacy sparked my spirit to be a better person.
Recently, a calzone that was undercooked with a struggling portion size was served to me from national pizza chain. The food was so bad that the manager gave me $30 worth of gift certificates that I gave away.
I can’t give up on one of my favorite meals, so I’ve learned how to make calzones on my own.
The basic ingredients
The dough can be homemade, but while on vacation a shortcut was made with store bought dough.
Roll out the dough and add your favorite fillings. Don’t be afraid to break out one of those refillable water bottles if there is no rolling pin on hand. 😊
Add what ever you like. Do not precook the veggies.
You can go all veggie, or load up like I did with pepperoni, ham and turkey kielbasa. The turkey kielbasa was browned before adding to the calzones. All of the other ingredients will cook in the oven.
Spicy sausage can be used too🌶️
Layer mozzarella and parmesan cheeses between layers of meats and veggies.
Hook it up!
Add beaten egg around the dough to seal the calzone in a half moon shape.
Don’t act stingy with the cheese, especially when using the store brand😄
Twist the leftover dough to make a rope design. Brush some beaten egg over the calzone to give it that golden color.
All of the hard work is done
Bake in the oven on 400° for 15-17 minutes.
You can use a cookie sheet.
Note: I prefer to have tomato sauce on the side. Some people prefer the tomato sauce to be inside. If you prefer the latter, you will have a stromboli.
Either way, you will have control over what you eat, fresh ingredients and no worries about inconsistent restaurant food.
This delicious meal was prepared for me. It was so good that I had to share the recipe.
Serves 4-6 people
1 and ½ lbs Chicken Thighs (or one whole chicken)
3 Sweet Potatoes
1 large yellow Onion
½ clove crushed Garlic
1 small can Tomato Paste
3 Bay Leaves
8-9 ounces Creamy Peanut Butter (half of a small jar)
4 Cups of Water
3 teaspoons of chicken bouillon
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup Peanut oil
3 cups Jasmine rice
6 Habanero Peppers
Fresh Parsley (garnish)
Add ½ cup peanut oil to a Dutch Oven. Sauté finely chopped garlic and onions. Add tomato paste and stir. Add water, bouillon and Bay leaves to the pot. Bring to a boil. Add all of the vegetables. Reduce to a simmer, and cover.
Prepare Jasmine Rice.
Remove skin from chicken and sauté in a pan with ½ cup of peanut oil until brown on both sides.
Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Remove all the vegetables from the Dutch Oven, so only the sauce remains. The vegetables can go on baking sheet in the oven to keep warm until serving.
Stir in peanut butter and juice from two lemons with a wooden spoon on high heat until well mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat and add sautéed chicken to the sauce. Cover Dutch Oven, and simmer for 30 minutes.
This dish is nicely paired with a glass of Chardonnay.