January 2017 » ANNE JONES

January 26, 2017
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I bet you’re expecting me to say, “You can have it all!”

The bad news is, you can’t.

The good news is, you get to choose what you do have.

When I met Anna, I was inspired (and shocked) by her habit of waking up suuuper early to get her workouts in before her two children were awake.

As she will tell you, it’s not easy, but it is worth it.

Anna Amoranto

Age: 37

Number of Children: Two

Occupation: Certified Orthodontic Dental Assistant and part-time pierogi maker for The Little Pierogi Company

Anna Amoranto and her two children

Greatest Health-Related accomplishment:

Watching what I eat on the regular and exercising daily. I now read labels when I grocery shop, so I am more aware of what goes into our bodies, buying more organic and natural produce and foods.

Greatest Fitness-Related accomplishment:

Practicing yoga. I was always curious about the concept of yoga and heard about so many great health benefits – not only physical – but mental benefits. I knew that I needed to try it out and finally committed to a one-month pass to Bikram Yoga. It has now been just over a year and I still practice yoga 2-3 times a week. I have come to realize the importance of meditating and listening to your body and breath. Within that one hour class, my body sure thanks me for it.

What are some healthy habits of which you are proud?

I am proud to make fitness a part of my daily routine. Being a full-time working mom, I try to make sure I throw in no less then a 30-minute workout every day, whether it’s a run on the treadmill, a full-body workout, or yoga. I am also proud of living with a healthy diet, not only for myself, but for my family. We have a ‘one day a week takeout rule’, so the majority of the time there is always a fresh, home-cooked meal full of protein, healthy carbs and veggies every day. Meal prep is key. Don’t get me wrong, we do have little treats here and there, but I find balance is key.

What do your kids think of your healthy habits?

My kids think it’s just a part of our normal routine. They always see me and my husband making time for a workout. To them it’s nothing new.  My kids also live an active lifestyle. We have them in soccer and swimming, and when we are at home and the sun’s out, we always make sure they take some time outside to jump on the trampoline or bike or scooter around the neighbourhood. As for diet, they rarely complain about our meals. I am not a restaurant, and will never cater each child to their meal of choice. Whatever is prepared for the day is what we eat.

What does your workout schedule look like?

In a typical work week, (depending on what my schedule is, as it varies daily) I would either fit a workout early in the morning or later in the evening. I am fortunate to have created a small, but decent gym in my basement. This is my primary workout space, and the only time I am not using this space is when I am out doing a yoga class.

On my early workout days,  I set my alarm for 5:15 a.m. After hitting the snooze button multiple times and hearing the basement call my name, (Trust me, it’s just as difficult working out at home as it is to drive to a gym.) I do a  quick 20-25-minute elliptical or run on the treadmill. I then do a 20-minute full-body HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout that I usually find on YouTube (haha) and then I am set for the day! I prefer getting my workouts done first thing in the morning, especially on the days where my kids have after-school activities – sometimes an evening workout is impossible.  Of course, if I am unable to do a morning workout, then I try to squeeze every last ounce of energy in me to do a yoga class or a run on the treadmill at night. I also do a weighted workout as well, so every day my workouts are different. I have to say, I don’t always workout five or six days a week. Between yoga, cardio and weights/HIIT workouts, I get at least four times a week. That’s my minimum. If I can’t do it all during the week, then I workout on the weekends to make up for my lost days during the work week. I don’t have set rest days; I just go with the flow and make sure that I have met my four day/week minimum.

How do you make it happen?

I prep myself the night before. I look at my kids’ after school schedule and my husband’s work schedule and then I plan it out. Some nights, if I can’t squeeze in the morning workout, I make sure that the kids go to bed 20 minutes early so that I can get in a workout. Otherwise 9:00 pm. rolls around, and I’m ready to get into bed.  It doesn’t always work out, but sometimes it falls into place!

How do you find the time?

I force myself to make time. As mothers, we find ourselves so busy with the tasks of motherhood, managing household chores, and after-school activities that we often forget about ourselves. That’s why I think balance is important. Taking time away from family to focus on yourself and your wellbeing is key to be the best we can be to our children and partners. I never feel guilty for sacrificing time for myself. It’s important. I want to look good and to feel good. If that means I have to wake up a bit earlier on the weekends (there really is no such thing as “sleeping in”) before the kids wake up to get in that workout and peaceful shower, then that’s what I will do.

Do you have a support system?

My family. My husband finds health and fitness equally as important. Because of his job, it is important to stay in the best shape he can. He is what keeps me motivated. There will be days, especially on a work week, where it just seems like the day will never end. My husband, knowing full-well that I am too exhausted, will casually say, “Hey, you going to yoga tonight?” That simple question is his way of saying, “Go take some time for yourself. You need it and your body will thank you for it.”

Top 7 Healthy Habits In Order of Priority:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Fitness
  3. Me Time
  4. Yoga
  5. Relationship
  6. Sleep
  7. Hair Appointments
Anna Amoranto and her family

In what area of your life do you struggle?

I struggle with sweating over the small stuff. I make a huge deal over spilled milk, and I just need to relax. I am a schedule-type of girl, and sometimes it doesn’t always work out that way. So I just need to go with the flow. And I need to get massages – that’s the area where I am lacking!

Do you ever feel judged for making those habits a priority?

Not at all. This is my life and this is how I do. We are on this earth one time. It is important to make the best of it for yourself and your family. Balance, and everything else will fall in to place.


January 23, 2017

I discovered podcasts when we lived in Fort Nelson, B.C., where the nearest city was a four-hour drive south, and the drive from Vancouver took 20 hours. When I was in Massage Therapy school, they made my 40-minute commute bearable. Now I listen to podcasts on the treadmill, and even on just a 10-minute commute to and from work.
Here are my very favourites:

All-Time Forever #1: The Jillian Michaels Show
If you only know Jillian Michaels from The Biggest Loser, you don’t know Jillian Michaels. Jillian’s podcast is entertaining, funny and informative. And, of course, her Vancouver producer, Janice Ungaro, is the best part. Jillian is an amazing coach and her knowledge based in fitness and nutrition is strong. She often has experts on the show, including endocrinologist Dr. Van Herle and Jillian’s own mother, a psychotherapist. The listener call-ins are my favourite part, and often make me shed a tear.

#2: Earn Your Happy:
I knew Lori Harder as a fitness competitor, which is how I stumbled upon her podcast. Her podcasts are short, which is nice (I sometimes listen to them when getting ready in the morning). They are heartfelt, and motivational.

#3: How Did This Get Made?
How Did This Get Made is hilarious, especially if you are a movie buff. The cast; Jason Mantzoukas (Brooklyn 99, Dirty Grandpa, Neighbors, How to Be Single), June Diane Raphael (Bride Wars, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Zodiac), and her husband, Paul Scheer (Fresh Off the Boat, The League), watch terrible movies and then spend the podcast discussing the movies intricately. The podcast often has live episodes and celebrity special guests, which add additional hilarity.

#4: Punk Assed (a pun cast)
I love Dad jokes and puns, so Punk Assed works for me, but, if you don’t enjoy wordplay, it may not work for you. Two award-winning pun brothers (yes, that’s a thing), prepare to compete in the Pun-Off World Championships. Prepare for lots of groaning and laughing out loud.

#5: Stuff You Should Know
Stuff You Should Know is pretty much what it sounds like; a podcast about general stuff you should know. However, the podcast makes it very entertaining and interesting and covers everything from action figures and artificial sweeteners to ham radio and historical axe murderers.


January 22, 2017
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My husband is a picky eater.
As an ex-chef, his standards for quality are high; and as a fit guy, his standards for clean eating are high. I will be honest; he cooks at least 5/7 nights a week (we usually eat out once a week), and I am not a chef. And I like a carb every once in a while (like at every meal). This makes feeding him challenging.
Note: I am in no way advocating a low-carb or Paleo diet (healthy carbohydrates are part of a balanced diet), just providing some low-carb(ish) options.

Here are My Top 6 Easy Dinners that the low-carb / picky eater in your life, will eat.

#1: Matt’s Beef Burritos/Taco Salad: We eat this meal at least once a week. Usually for dinner, we will have it as burritos in Flatout wraps and then have the leftovers in a salad over lettuce.

Ingredients:

  • ground beef or turkey (We buy from Costco & then break up into meal-sized portions for the week.)
  • Old El Paso taco seasoning or a mix of: cayenne pepper, paprika, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, chili powder and a bit of white sugar
  • 1 of each: red, yellow and orange pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 Tbsp. full-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 avocado
  • salsa (We prefer Western Family – lots of veggies and not too watery for tortillas.)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Julienne onion and peppers and place on baking sheet. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes.
  3. Heat a large frying pan or skillet (preferably non-stick). Once the pan is heated, add lean ground beef or turkey and begin browning and draining the fat periodically into a disposable container.
  4. Once the meat is mostly browned, add spices or spice mix and mix in the pan.
  5. Place wraps on plates in the oven for about one minute. Remove from oven.
  6. Smear 1/4 avocado and spread 1 Tbsp. of plain Greek yogurt on each wrap.
  7. Once fully mixed, pour the meat and vegetables onto a wrap.
  8. Top with salsa, wrap, and eat!

#2: Broccoli & Chicken Breast
Steamed Broccoli and Baked Chicken Breasts are a clean-eating staple and can honestly be seasoned a million different ways. This recipe is awesome fresh and great re-heated for lunches.

Ingredients:

  • Broccoli
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (We always buy fresh, boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Costco. Many other boxed and frozen chicken breasts have injected saline (salt).

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Wash broccoli. Place wet broccoli in a small amount of water in a microwave-safe container. Partially cover and microwave for 4-7 minutes, depending on the amount of broccoli.
  3. Cut any additional white fat from the chicken breasts with a sharp knife.
  4. Season with a spice of your choosing. (Our favourites are Clubhouse LaGrille BBQ Chicken or Chipotle Mango)
  5. In a pre-heated frying pan, add a Tbsp. of olive oil. Sear both sides of breasts until brown.
  6. Place chicken breasts on parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  8. Remove and let cool for five minutes before eating.
  9. Serve broccoli and chicken breasts. I like to grind some sea salt (and sometimes a tsp. of butter 🙂 on my broccoli.

#3: Slow-Cooker Turkey Chili: Use this recipe from Primavera Kitchen.
Prep time: 10 mins, Cook time: 6 hours, Total time: 6 hours 10 minsServes: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 450g extra-lean ground turkey
  • ⅓ cup celery stalks, chopped
  • ⅔ cup carrot, chopped
  • 2 cups (540ml) Dark Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups (750ml) Diced tomato, canned
  • 3 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • Green onions, chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes, then add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds longer.
  3. Add extra-lean ground turkey and cook, breaking up the turkey with a wooden spoon, until the turkey is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour browned, ground turkey, garlic, and onions into slow cooker.
  5. Add celery, carrots, red kidney beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, coriander seed, crushed red pepper, smoked paprika, salt and black pepper.
  6. Stir mixture, cover with lid and cook on low heat for 5 – 6 hours.
  7. Top with green onions.

#4: Flatout Bread Personal Pizzas
Servings: 2
Serving size: 1 Flatout Artistan Thin Flatbread Pizza Crust

Ingredients:
2 Flatout Artistan Thin Flatbread Pizza Crusts
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil OR Pizza Sauce
FOR HIM: (in this order)

  • jarred pizza sauce
  • pepperoni slices
  • banana peppers
  • part-skim mozzarella cheese

FOR ME: (in this order)

  • jarred pizza sauce or olive oil
  • fresh spinach
  • 1 large juicy Roma tomato, sliced
  • jarred sun-dried tomatoes
  • black Kalamata olives
  • 2 ounces of feta or goat cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place the crusts on a baking sheet.
  3. Brush the olive oil or spread pizza sauce on the crust.
  4. Distribute evenly over the crust all/any ingredients you like.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the tomato and cheese are softened and the bread looks lightly browned.

#5: Greek Chicken Kababs & Greek Salad

Greek Salad is my all-time favourite food. Actually. And I am not afraid to say that mine is the best. Well, maybe second only to that of Galini Greek Kouzina & Grill. My Greek salad recipe is from a book of recipes used on a rafting trip of the Nahanni River when I was a kid, but I substitute Ina Garten’s dressing recipe.

Greek Chicken Kebabs: I modify this recipe from Cooking Classy:
Yield: About 9 kebabs

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 – 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided, plus more for grill
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • skewers!

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, coriander and season with salt and pepper to taste. I used 3/4 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper.
  2. Place chicken in a gallon size resealable bag, pour olive oil mixture over chicken and press chicken into marinade. Seal bag and refrigerate 45 minutes to 2 hours (no longer than 2 hours or the chicken will start to get mealy because of the acidic ingredients). If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat a grill over medium-high heat. Thread chicken pieces on to skewers. Brush grill lightly with olive oil, place skewers on grill and grill until chicken registers 165 degrees in centre, about 7 – 9 minutes, rotating once halfway through cooking.
  4. Garnish with parsley, serve warm with Tzatziki sauce and Greek salad.

Greek Salad:
Yield: will serve four comfortably, but I often double the recipe to have leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large Roma tomatoes
  • 1.5 seedless English cucumbers
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 200 gm. full-fat feta cheese
  • 1 can pitted black olives (I prefer fresh Kalamata from the deli or canned Lindsay brand from Costco. You can get a $1 off coupon on Lindsay’s website.)
  • fresh dill (optional)

Directions:

  1. Chop cucumbers, red onion, and tomatoes into 1-inch chunks and add to large bowl.
  2. Add salad dressing and gently toss.
  3. Sprinkle dill, feta cheese and olives on top.

Ina Garten’s Greek Salad Dressing:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil

Whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Still whisking, slowly add the olive oil to make an emulsion. Pour over salad right before serving.

#6: Steak with Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 6 ounces sweet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced into thin half-moons
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 (1-lb.) flat iron steak, trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat broiler, with oven rack 6 inches from heat.
  2. Place Brussels sprouts and potato on a rimmed baking sheet; toss with 1 tablespoon oil, and spread in an even layer. Place a wire rack in pan over vegetables. Rub steak with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, and place on rack in pan over vegetables. Sprinkle steak with 1 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and half of pepper.
  3. Broil 10 minutes. Turn steak over; drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, and sprinkle with remaining thyme, salt, and pepper. Broil about 5 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.
  4. Remove steak from pan, and let stand 5 minutes. Cut across the grain into thin slices. Place vegetables in a bowl; pour in pan juices, and toss to coat.

January 21, 2017
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Writing was my first love.

When I was seven years old, I started my own newspaper. It was originally called The Baby Goat Express, and I guess when I realized that that didn’t make any sense, I renamed it The Nahanni Explosion. (We lived in the bush near Nahanni National Park in the Northwest Territories.) I took a Creative Writing course by correspondence in high school (and I wasn’t even that nerdy so that was a big deal). When Rory Gilmore decided she was going to journalism school, I decided I would, too. I got a summer job at the local newspaper, The Fort Nelson News. As I type this, this is actually on the front page.:

I moved across the country, by myself, at the age of 17, to downtown Toronto, to attend the Ryerson University School of Journalism, where I was accepted and embraced as the grammar Nazi I have always been. (The irony of that run-on sentence is not lost on me.)

In the summers between my third and fourth years of school, working at the good ol’ Fort Nelson News, I fell in love with a handsome Mountie (my first actual love, of course), who is now my husband. We stayed together through my last year of university and, after graduating from Journalism school, I moved back to Fort Nelson, and back to him.

Done with reporting, I got a job at the local literacy society. Here comes my second love… (not literacy that would make this story really boring).

Fitness is my second love.

I began working out in Grade 12 and continued when I went to university and was no longer dancing competitively. I gained the Freshman 20 and fought back hard, becoming fascinated with fitness, doing yoga, reading every fitness magazine, and falling in love with group fitness.

Eventually, after university, I began teaching fitness classes, and then yoga classes, which became so lucrative and popular, I quit my job at the Literacy Society and taught full-time. It was a dream. I was writing casually, and for free.

I guess you could say the body is Love #3.

A few years later, I wanted more. I wanted to know more about the body. I applied to go to Registered Massage Therapy School, which is a very intensive program in British Columbia. It was an incredibly busy and stressful two years, but then, voila! I was an RMT. (Not exactly that easily, but let’s say so.)

There I was: working full-time as an RMT, teaching 5-10 fitness or yoga classes a week, teaching weekend yoga workshops, and being that friend who has to book engagements two months in advance. I was very busy and very happy, but I missed writing.

Since journalism school, I will be honest; I have not often been paid for my writing. I specialized in online journalism where I learned about blogging and twitter (both of which were new at the time), and did little about either of them. At national fitness conferences, I took fitness writing lectures for seven years. I read two books about freelance writing and took an online course.

I never tried because I never wanted to fail. I never asked to be paid because I didn’t think I was worth it.

What if I wrote and nobody wanted to publish it? What if nobody wanted to read it? What if it didn’t make me any money? What if it took time?

So here I am, coming full-circle after learning to blog more than 11 years ago, finally publishing my first blog post.

I feel like my personal training client who has been walking her entire life, but is too scared to jump up on that little step. But more than that, I am telling you that it’s never too late, we have to make time, and it’s OK to take the long way.

xo,

Anne