Pushing the envelope; the first few in the books.

When i turned 30, i realized that all of my decisions, both personal and professional were based on the notion that there was a certain place i should be in my life at this point. i decided to challenge myself and to make a change. Reflecting on my experiences, i am going to pursue opportunities that i want instead of ones others think i should have. Opportunities that would create happiness, push me out of my comfort zone and in turn, create a better version of myself as i experience a #yearof30adventures.

With that being said, its been roughly 5 months and i have found myself exploring, learning, and pushing the envelope thanks to my new #giving30fucks mentality.

April’s challenge was to hone in on one of my New Years resolutions and to be more cognizant of what i was putting into my body by making more meals from scratch and spending more time in the kitchen. i challenged myself to cook at least 1 new recipe a week.

The kitchen can be a pretty intimidating space. There is so much to learn about the science behind food, how to pair things and the “proper” way of doing it all. The more time i spent in the kitchen, i realized it wasn’t as intimidating as i made it out to be, rather it is a space that fosters creativity and allows me to express myself in a completely new and unique light. It’s a space i now spend large chunks of time in with minimal distraction or interruptions, experimenting with trial and error and learning that failure is a catalyst of innovation, creativity and success.

Weekly meals quickly turned into daily concoctions which then lead to baking … Where i cooked up a pretty cool business idea that i hope to one day bake to life.


May was spent focusing on being present when with family. Those that know me, know that us Kuzemko’s are quite unique and our gatherings are far from traditional. In this day and age it is easy to get distracted by our phones, and lose the richness of those conversations that matter most.

May was a big month for family festivities, imageUkrainian Easter, Mother’s Day, Birthdays  and Anniversaries which led to spending most weekends with my wild, crazy, amazing family. Although it continues to be a work in progress, i used this time to start the ball rolling with allowing on “No cellphones at the table.” i learned some really interesting facts, exchanged stories, rekindled connections and even took a vacation to wine country.

Aside from documenting the classic Kuzemko moments and playing around with hilarious filters – i found that all of us became more aware, more present and more appreciative for the moments we spent together. However, who could have predicted all my non-millennial relatives would get such a kick out of snapchat!

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June was all about re-connecting with the people that truly nourish my life. It’s easy to get caught up in life and before you know it, it’s been 8 months since you’ve seen your longest friends. With work consuming most weekends and summers the past 3 years, i wanted to make up for lost time and used this summer to re-connect with friends.

We all know running makes up a large chuck of my life. 6 months ago, it encompassed my personal, professional and social circle all in one. Although, the first few months of 2016, i realized it had become mostly just professional. Not having time to enjoy the running scene from a personal level i found i had lost touch with some of my closest friends as well as a bit of my love for the sport in general.

So, June was the month i made a promise to myself that Tuesday’s were spent running track, drinking beer, laughing and catching up with my crew; which by the way are speedy little humans who continue to inspire and push me to be a faster athlete and a truer friend. There’s no better feeling than coming around the last turn of that 400 full speed with 6 pals cheering you on. (Well actually there is… It’s drinking a beer after the work out but that’s beside the point).

A few of my besties became new mama’s and i am so so fortunate to be an auntie to Myla, Shane and Oliva. Scheduling get togethers gets a bit more complicated with friends with kids. Trying to find the right time and place and making sure you’re keeping a close enough eye on the kiddies that they don’t end up smearing sweet potatoes all over the walls means quality time with these friends are a rare gem. June happened to be the month where the schedules aligned and i had lunch dates, meet and greets and even spent a weekend cottaging – Babies welcome.

4 cottage weekends, 2 island beach days, an out of town wedding, and a bikes and beer tour , June was a packed month filled with laughter, love and lessons with friends. i am grateful for all of my relationships and realized life doesn’t stop for you so every once in a while you have to pump the breaks and re-kindle those meaningful connections.

 

July was a unique month. One that was humbling, emotional, tested my patience, fears and my strengths. It taught me a lot about reality, fairness and how to make the most out of this wild game of LIFE. This July i spent 14 days up in Muskoka volunteering at Camp Ooch; a camp for children affected by cancer.

July’s #giving30fucks was such an impactful one that truly changed my perspective on life.  Many lessons and adventures were had, that checked off a a few things from my list.

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For two weeks straight, i am responsible for 8 sick little girls who are constantly looking up to me as their role model, seeking advice, encouragement, and pretty much view me as the coolest cat in town with no fears so i had to be “ON” all the time. There is no OFF button … Even at 1am, and then 4am, and 5:15, and 5:45…ON ALL THE TIME.

The incredible thing about this camp is the word NO pretty much is non existent when it comes to trying new things: Campers in wheelchairs can rock climb, or those with visual impairments can waterski; it’s a place where anything is made possible. We use the motto “challenge by choice” which means each experience is relative to each individual. At camp we encourage all campers (and councillors) to push their comfort zones a little bit further. For example, one camper may have a fear of water, so swimming in the lake might be something they though they would never do, so wadding knee deep in the lake would challenge their comfort zone. While another camper may feel more comfortable with only putting on a life When having a life threatening disease, many decisions are made for you whether you like it or not. The “challenge by choice” motto encourages campers to be in control and try new things without feeling forced, and empowers them to leave camp apply their learnings into their everyday life.

This summer i took part in activities that pushed me to overcome a few fears and break feelings of anxiety: Heights, caring too much about what others think, and speaking/ performing infront of large audiences. With #theyearof30adventures top of mind, i put myself in situations that i may not have a year ago.

Strapping myself into a harness and jumping tire to tire, 150 feet off the ground, clipping on and off the safety wires while also being responsible for one of my campers: Fear off Heights ✔️

Waking up at 4:45am before the day started so i could attempt an early morning wakeboard with new friends: Fear of failure/ anxiety from caring about what others think ✔️

Leading an evening program and speaking infront of 250 campers and councilors while wearing a silly costume: Fear of being infront of large audiences ✔️

These were just 3 of many instances where i was challeged to not only step outside my comfort zone, but was challenged to be the best version of myself by being a mentor, motivator and a kid again.

August – well August’s adventure really is one that will be continuous and i’m sure i’ll post about regularly. i pretty much pushed the envelope off the table …. In fact i pushed it 3 time zones and a whole country over. i put on my big girl pants and my NFG hat and hit pause on my Toronto life. i’ve never lived more than 90 minutes from where i grew up, i have an amazing group of friends that i’ve had anywhere from 30 years to 2 months, i saw my family weekly, i ran the same running routes and i’ve lived in the same apartment in the city for 5 years. It was time for a change.

It wasn’t an easy one; i left family, friends, i even turned down jobs. However it is one that i will learn and grow immensely from. My 29th year wasn’t one of the better ones, so as a commitment to myself, i am focusing on looking forward, chasing down MY dreams, and spreading my wings. i am lucky to have such a strong supportive circle back home.

My new found freedom has already proven to be successful, by building the framework for many new adventures that continue to ✔️ things off my list.

Excited to learn, excited to adventure and excited for change. ✌🏼️

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Giving 30 Fucks

30, an age that sounds daunting to most, is the age where society expects you to have it all figured out. 30, is the age when most of our parent’s generation was settled in their career, married, owned a home and having kids. 30, is the age where success is measured on your ability to accomplish all of the above… at least, that was true 15 years ago, but not to this generation, and not to me.

Now, most people on the verge of 30 choose to celebrate this milestone and embrace all that is to come over the next decade. Apparently, the years to come are the best years and #30isthenew20 is a trending hashtag.

Despite what was trending on social, i was dreading turning the big 3-0. As of 29 years and 364 days, I hadn’t checked off any of those boxes my parents had at my age. i questioned if to the general public i was considered to be unsuccessful because i’m not married, don’t own a home or have kids?

As the big day loomed, i dreaded it more and more and started to take stock in how i stacked up to others my age. The actual day came and went without hoopla or holler. Of course, it felt like any other year; texts, phone calls, social posts from family and friends showering me with love, sharing memories and reminding me i was no longer in my 20’s. 

The next weekend, i scrolled through my feeds and read everyone’s personal message, where i was quickly reminded that those years were not filled with an empty life checklist, rather, at some point along my 30 year journey, that checklist changed. Instead of a house and kids or a settled career, my list was filled with incredible people, life defining experiences, journeys near and far that have shaped my world in ways that have made me more successful than i could have ever dreamed. As i spent the next few days reflecting i decided it was time to rethink the way i saw my 29 years and 364 days and the way i want to take on the next 30 years.

Here was my new life checklist:

Married. Work for one of the most innovative company’s in the world. Grow, learn, travel and meet talented and driven people, be apart of major sport moments and contribute to the product engine that drives the company ethos. CHECK

Have Kids. Become an ambassador for childhood cancer and an active member in the community that contributes over 2000 volunteer hours at hospitals, camp, and events, raising over $80,000 for 300+ communities and cancer organizations. CHECK

Own a Home. Become a better version of myself. Start running and complete 26 races across NA. Start cycling and ride across the entire country of Canada, twice. Be on the cover of a magazine. Adventure, explore and experience new cities and culture. CHECK

With my new list in hand, i realized i had accomplished quite a bit during the latter part of my 20’s and despite not having the same experiences my parents did when they were my age, i was no less successful than they were. This new list left with me a hunger and desire to continue to grow and experience life in new and unique ways that not only aligned with my values but made me happy. 

i spent a large chunk of my 29th year being unhappy, i knew looking at this list that i couldn’t afford another month of unhappiness as i kick off year 30. i found that although i had experienced a lot and have grown to appreciate new things, there were still things that i haven’t done either because of fear or discomfort, lack of time, or just pure laziness.

So here i am, 30 years and 14 days and i’ve decided instead of giving zero fucks, I’m actually going to give 30 very specific ones this year. i am going to challenge myself to 30 new adventures that force me to step outside of my comfort zone, knock down walls, adventure, explore, and ultimately feel good about myself as i chase down what i want personally and professionally. i am going to give less fucks about what other people think and more about what i want and what makes me happy. This will be anything from going to the movies alone, to public speaking, to summiting a mountain in another continent and taking pottery classes…..

i’m looking forward to the next 351 days of experiment, exploring and challenging myself, exploring new things and learning who i truly am and who i can become come day 352 as i celebrate turning 31.

This year, i’m #giving30fucks

It’s Finally Here

Its 11:30 the night before we leave and i am sitting in the lobby of the hotel reflecting on the past few days.

Its been a pretty jam packed 3 days of training, eating, riding and packing.  i cannot believe that as of tomorrow at 5:45am i will be embarking on one of the most life changing adventures; FOR THE SECOND TIME.


This time around is pretty unique in the sense that 2/3 of the riders and volunteers are returning, and for some this is their 5th, 6th, 7th and even 8th time around.

We started Monday off by introducing ourselves and sharing why we are all volunteering our time for this cause.  Many of the volunteers and riders are parents to children who have either been diagnosed with or have passed away because of this horrible disease.  There are childhood cancer survivors and those who just want to volunteer their time because they can.  Whatever the reason may be, we are all here because we want to make a difference in the lives of children living with cancer. No one person’s reason is more important then the other, we are all working towards one common goal – To make sure no parent has to hear the words “your child has cancer”.
  
Listening to all 64 riders and volunteers i realized i was among some pretty inspiring, incredible, passionate, selfless, strong human beings.  i have nothing but the utmost respect for each and every one of them, because what we are all about to do it pretty wild and somewhat hard to believe.  The next 17 days i’m sure is going to be quite the adventure that will for sure test all of us at times, however the amount of love, support and positivity that radiates from this group of people is magical.  Everyone puts your interests before their own, they challenge you physically as well as mentally, there are about 128 shoulders to lay, cry or lean on, always a wheel to latch on to or a hand on your back incase those 30km climbs are slowing you down.  There is never a shortage of encouraging words and i really am fortunate to be apart of such an wonderful group of like minded people.

i will be traveling with this SNCKR family across the country but i cannot forget to thank all of those people who helped get me here.   First off, i want to thank my Parents and sister for putting up with my shenanigans, laundry piles and or helping me fundraise.  i am lucky to have them in my corner supporting me as i travel 7000km across the country.

Secondly, my colleagues. The EKIN/PACER family has listened to me complain, supported my training and have sent words of encouragement to help me through those tough days on the road.  i feel truly loved and thank you all for your continued support.

Thirdly, i want to thank all of those friends and family who have donated.  Without you and your support i would not be here.  There are a few people who have really gone above an beyond – and without you I may not have even followed through with this wild idea of riding across Canada. You’ve helped me train, fundraise, encouraged, loved and supported me almost every day throughout this process and I am so so grateful for that. Although i have yet to reach my fundraising goal i am so thankful for those to have contributed.

Please continue to spread the word and share my link.

See you on the road…

https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=2976995&langPref=en-CA#&panel1-1

i will be posting to my blog daily, so please check back to see photos and live video blogs.  http://kristensride.tumblr.com/

Francis Macapagal
Courtney Grafton
Mark Dewan
Kayla Huffman
Fred Goris
Jenna Wasserman
Jahan Behbahany
David Shaw
Monica Rok
Brenda wasserman
Inge Boerma
Bill & Thalia Havaris
Lino Almeida
Sylvia Stafford
Sandra Venalainen
Kortnee Borden
Quentin Vitko
Chris Hammell
Anne and Kris Sabolic
Andrew Holmes
Debbie Palmer DeCunha
Kevin Dore
Drew Haberkorn
Karen Libonati
Kate Libonati
Donald and Cathi Page
Marty & Debbie Falke
Gail Cole
Michael Tom-Kun
Sangeeta Chopra-Charron
Kristen Kuzemko
Mark Livingston
Cory Upton
Brian Power
Tere McDonald
Dave Kelly
From Ashley & Brian 🙂 Campbell
J.P. ACCOUNTING & TAX SERVICES INC.
Mariella Lanzarotta
Robert Svirga
Viola Dowdall
Bill Stephens
George Andruszczenko
Terry Hodgson
Jenny Thuss
Krista Brkich
Molex Canada
Aimee Arana
Jim and Cheryl Kuzemko
Ashley and Eric Shaw
Diane Klich
TIMOTHY BLAKE
Karen Stafford
Corrin Kuzemko
Julia Victor
Mike Krupica
Michelle Reaume
Natalie Meyer

July Jumble

It’s been quite the month, from running to cycling to camping to volunteering…and more; July was pretty packed.

AfteIMG_5625r not being active for 13 weeks due to a stress fracture in my femur, i was finally given the go ahead to get back at it. What better way to start the month and get back into endurance sport then a century ride with some pretty rad biker chicks.  Canada Day was celebrated riding Toronto to Dundas and back.  Once we got out into the country and away from stop lights, the ride was quite enjoyable.  We stopped at Detour Cafe in Dundas to smash some breakfast and refuel on espresso and hopped back into our 3 person peloton.  This was Courts first 100k ride and she absolutely KILLED IT. We weren’t easy on her either. It was a great way to spend some QT on the bike but also with good friends pushing each other.  Celebratory beers were much deserved that night.  TOTAL FLATS = 1

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A few days later i changed gears, packed up my suitcase and headed for the hills. Next stop, Asheville North Carolina for Nike Running Camp.  Again, not having laced up in 13 weeks, i really threw myself back at it.  This was truly one of the most authentic running experiences i have had the opportunity to be apart of.  It really was a Run.Eat.Run.Sleep.Repeat schedule.  From the time the campers wake up at 6:30 until the time they go to bed at 9:00 they would have listened to a guest speaker ran trails AND completed a track workout for a total of 13+ mi, creek soaked, IMG_5712a core workout, sat through two breakout sessions, ate 3 buffet meals and taken part in a nightly camp activity. Multiply that by seven and you have just spent a week a Smoky Mountain Running Camp.  You could see the fire behind their eyes during workouts,  the competitive twitch on the track and the motivation that drives them with each stride.  These kids worked just as hard individually as they did as a group supporting and pushing each others limits.  It was quite inspiring seeing these young athletes so passionate about the sport of running.  The week ended by exploring the town of Asheville with fellow my Pacer Fam, enjoying amazing food, beautiful views, and authentic conversation.
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Five days in my own bed and then back on the road. This time traveling North of the City to Muskoka where i spent a week at the most magical place on earth, Camp Oochigeas.  It is a place that allows kids to be themselves alongside friends who have been through relatable experiences. i realized first hand that it somewhat difficult to put into words exactly what about being a Volunteer at Camp Ooch really means until you have experienced it.  Being a first time volunteer i didn’t know what to expect other than lots of singing, dancing and moments that will change you.  i had some time to reflect on the week and it was all of those things an more.

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Along with 4 other phenomenal co-councillors i had the pleasure of being apart of the Bobolinks 1 cabin with 7 amazing young ladies who taught me more then i thought was possible over the course of 8 days.  Their courage, spontaneity, spunk, sassiness, ability to inspire and challenge every one around them was contagious.

Magical mornings. #campOOCH #muskoka

A post shared by Kristen Kuzemko (@kriskuzemko) on

The days were packed full with activities, games, sports, shrink art, songs and, little sleep but it was a week that changed me for the better. i was challenged daily, i became apart of a special lifelong family, had a fresh perspective on life, felt clarity, fulfillment and inspiration, all thanks to a group of like minded people…most of which are under the age of 13.  Thank you Camp Ooch for accepting me into your family.  I look forward to spending many more summers, WAC’s and night outs with you.

High Ropes

i had some time to ride and run while up at Camp prior to the morning polar bear dip at 7:30am so getting back into an athletic routine wouldn’t be as challenging.  A few days back in the city IMG_6096and then right back up to Muskoka to 3 mile lake to attend a running retreat on a 365 acre farm called Off The Grid.  This weekend was really maximizing all of the resources around you to enable to you reach your full potential as a runner.  Yes, it is about the training program and the miles logged however it is also about what you put into your body – nutrition, how you stretch pre and IMG_6154post work out – yoga, how in tune you are with your body – meditation, are you activating the right muscles during your recovery – mobility,  do you have a solid post workout routine – recovery.  Over the 3 day retreat we covered all of those things, along with eating the freshest meals with vegetables and herbs picked from the local garden, hayrides, interactions with farm animals, glamping (glamour camping) lots of laughs, ice cream and new friendships.  It was an incredible weekend that really spotlighted running and encompassed true authenticity.  OTG 2016… i’m coming for ya.

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As we enter August, i continue to spend time in the saddle as i am 5 weeks out from the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride.  i encourage you to donate to this incredible cause.  Please share within your social circles and colleagues, i need all of the support i can get.  Click here to Donate. Remember you receive a tax receipt for any donation over $20. Spread the LOVE!!!!

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Back in the Saddle

Well, it looks as if its been almost a full year since my last post, (insert oops emoji here), It’s probably about time i get back in the saddle, figuratively and literally.

Ready? … i’ve accepted the challenge to ride my bike across Canada, for the second time.   Back in 2012 as a National Rider i rode my bike across Canada and raised $37,000 for the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation. The Sears National Kids Cancer Ride is one of the biggest and most ambitious charity cycling events on behalf of childhood cancer in the world. i toyed with the idea of doing it again at some point, however it wasn’t until i had the opportunity to listen to a very powerful speaker while at a work summit that my mind was 100% made up.  So as of June 26th 2015 i am officially registered as a National Rider.

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The journey begins in White Rock, BC and finishes in Halifax, Nova Scotia 17 days later.  In addition to riding 150-220km per day, we will participate in community events and will visit many of Canada’s pediatric oncology centers and hospitals where the cancer community will share inspiring stories of strength and hope . A side from committing my self to the 17 day trek across the county, i am devoting myself to making a meaningful difference in childhood cancer and inspiring my Nation. Oh yeah, also to raising $30,000.

Click the photos below to see what life on the road is like…

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i know what you’re thinking,  “WOW this is such an amazing cause and those video’s are incredibly inspiring, I WANT TO HELP.”  Well it’s your lucky day i have a few solutions with number 3 being the most favourable option.

1) You can register as a National Rider and too participate in the ride.
If that is completely out of the question…

2) You can volunteer your time on the road as a National Voluneteer and travel with the riders across the country.
If you don’t have that much vacation time…

3) DONATE TO ME! Any donation of $25.00 or more receives a tax receipt with 100% of all donations going directly to the cause.  Please share the link https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=2976995&langPref=en-CA#&panel1-6 with family, friends, co-workers and social media platforms.  With only 3 months to go, i have quite the challenge on my hands and welcome all the support i can get.

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So back in the saddle i go…riding, blogging and fundraising all in hopes to help the next family that hears “your child has cancer”.

Thirst for Activity

Monday’s.  A dreaded day by most as it is back to the workweek grind. For those that don’t have traditional hours like myself, Monday blends in and is just another day of the week. This past Monday however was different. It not only marked the 6 week count down until Hood To Coast, it also was the start of my 16 week training program for the TCS NYC Marathon. This Monday was one that i have looked forward to for months. Because i’d had been battling various injuries the past 10 months, these two races were the only two i planned on running this year and i planned to run them well. i am in shape, have a strong base and have been working on healing all injuries so by the time this Monday came, i’d be ready to train hard.

That all changed 15 days ago when my worst nightmare became reality. Those that know me understand my need to quench my thirst for activity. Listening to my body is something that i have always struggled with.  Previously, if the injury was tolerable i would run through pain until it just eventually went away.  If it reached the point of being unbearable, i’d take a few days off, see a sports therapist and be back it. A few months later a new injury would materialize and the vicious cycle continued – ironically enough i have yet to have a reoccurring injury. My routine wasn’t ideal but it seemed to be a temporary fix so that i could continue running.  i knew at some point my plan would backfire and i’d be sitting in the position i am right now, i just hoped it would be after November 3rd; wishful thinking.

i haven’t run since July 2, i’m 6 sessions into treatment, scheduled for a bone scan to rule out a stress fracture and i am going absolutely bat shit crazy.  No running, no cycling, no high impact activity for a minimum of 4-6 weeks.  Best case scenario in this situation would be to be back at it by Aug 15 which will give me exactly one week to get some miles in before HTC, and will set me up for an 11 week training program for New York.  It’s doable right?  No?  Perfect!

This was supposed to be the breakthrough summer.  This is a lesson well learned that my body is pretty good at indicating when to slow down or when it is capable of pushing back; i should really learn to trust it more.  But sometimes your heart and your brain don’t align, which is a whole other battle.  The hardest part of all of this is running has become so tightly woven though my daily routine that i am feeling this giant void.  Because i travel so much running has become the one thing that grounds me. It creates some sort of routine in my gypsy lifestyle.  It is my passion, my outlet and not to mention, now my career.  It has taught me to set goals, follow through and i have pushed myself is ways i never thought were possible.  It has become my Tuesday night and Saturday morning social circle.  It is more than just running is it my life and without it i feel lost.

As tough as the next few weeks are going to be, i’m not the first athlete to be injured and i’m not the last.  The situation could be worse.  i am going to take it for what it is and use it as a learning experience.  My free time will be now be spent in the local pool where i will learn to water run and maintain some sort of fitness… because i will also be eating lots of cookies.

Roast Notes

For those of you who know me well you are familiar with my love addiction for GOOD chocolate. i’m not talking about your traditional Mars bar or Hershey’s kiss, (however in a state of panic let’s be honest i’ll take whatever i can get my desperate little hands on) i’m talking about unique, rich, chocolate that you can’t buy just anywhere and one that always pairs well with a glass of red wine. Now by no means would i consider myself a chocolate snob nor would I go as far considering myself a connoisseur – i like a bag of M&M’s just as much as the next person – this is post is solely based on my observations over the past few years as a chocolate consumer and what i’ve come to like and dislike.

– Dark over milk 95% of the time.
– Coconut = immediate satisfaction.
– Thin over thick. It somehow makes me feel more dainty and less guilty when i consume the full bar.
– Nuts are ok, dried fruit is strange in bar form.
– Always have an emergency stash.
– Have a hidden back up emergency stash incase your original stash is dry
– Depending on your mood your chocolate selection can very, you want to keep your options open. Be sure to have at least two flavours to choose from.
– With that being said it is wise keep a bar in the freezer. There is something differently satisfying about biting into a frozen square and having it melt in your mouth. Just be sure not to put it too close to any frozen banana’s or else…
– Desperate times call for desperate measures; only resort to corner store chocolate in a desperate time of need.
– There is such thing as a chocolate coma. Know your limit, stay within it. You don’t want to be turned off for life, because let’s be serious, that would be punishment.
– Within Range. Flavour playing is getting all wild lately. Things that you wouldn’t eat alone, don’t eat it just because it has been paired with chocolate.
– Lastly chocolate is better when shared!

Whats on my radar currently?

SOMA Chocolate Maker – Toronto, Ontario
The chocolate maker opened their first location in the Distillery back in 2007 and three years ago opened the one i’m most familiar with in King West.  The space itself is beautiful, high ceilings, exposed brick walls and lots of natural light.  The 26 handcrafted chocolate truffles are displayed delicately behind refrigerated glass, while bars and treats are strategically organized on reclaimed wooden tables and shelving units.  The chocolate lab and bakery are spilt with a large glass pane so while you’re enjoying your homemade gelato you can see where all the magic happens.

*Favourties:
– Any of the six Single Origin Truffles
Spicy Mayan Dome: The truffle version of the spicy hot chocolate infused with chili, ginger, orange peel, allspice cinnamon
Stratus Bar: 70% chocolate with a subtle flavor of a Stratus wine
Dark Side of the Mug Hot chocolate: Thick hot chocolate of Barcelona gently spiced with cinnamon, vanilla and allspice

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Rheo Thompson Candies Ltd Stratford, Ontario
The Mint Smoothie is the chocolate that essentially built the brand.  i was 13 when i was first introduced to the iconic square and to this day still crave the delicacy of that mint flavour. The variety in their assorted still amazes me, everything from hard candies to fruit jelly’s to fudge and brittle.  If you are in the Waterloo, London or Stratford area, be sure to stop in and treat your taste buds.

*Favourites:
– Dark Mint Smoothie: Mouth-filling center that is soft, over baring or dense and just smooth.  The mind is soft, subtle and just…heaven.
Coconut Crunchies: Toasted Coconut covered in Milk Chocolate.

Cacao Drink Chocolate – Portland, OR
Only have visited this boutique once (which i stumbled on by accident) i was elated to find hand-picked chocolate from around the world as well house made elixirs. Upon walking in you are welcomed with a table of samples ranging from 60%-85%.  The space is simple allowing the product to be showcased, a with a few circular tables and a window nook.  I picked up a 80% single origin chocolate bar from the Mekong Delta and enjoyed a shot of the Spicy Dark Chocolate: 72% arriba dark chocolate infused with cayenne pepper, smoked paprika and ginger blended with milk and coconut milk.  Euphoric.

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