Running for Recovery, Not Racing to Recovery: Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

As fun as I thought it would be to dress up as a sloth and a princess for the Disneyland Paris Magic Run Weekend, special reasons motivated me to run as Zootopia‘s Flash and Cinderella the maid.

There is no denying that I take advantage of any opportunity to Disneybound or dress up like a Disney character, but if anyone has noticed, I have lately been trying to choose outfits for particular purposes with special meanings behind them. So when the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon was coming up, there was no doubt that I had to be rocking out an epic running costume, but the thing was that I wanted to do it with thoughtful intent.

Ever since I had watched Zootopia, I had come up with the idea to dress up as Flash the Sloth for a future runDisney race because it seemed like such a funny and ironic thing to do. So when I had registered for the Disneyland Paris Magic Run Weekend, I was ecstatic to finally use my idea, but when I really thought about it, I realized that it would be the perfect running costume for me.

Flash the Sloth

Anyone struggling to recover from an eating disorder can tell you that recovery is a slow and excruciating process. It is the furthest thing from simple and even though you can make the decision to recover, it is not a linear process that you can just race to. It involves a lot of stumbling, stopping, back-pedalling and often times relapse. When it comes to recovering from an eating disorder/exercise addiction, one has to be really cautious about fitness because often times working out can be used to compensate for disordered eating habits and exercising can be like treading through dangerous water at the risk of directing the obsessive mindset away from food but funnelling it towards physical activity instead. A lot of people mistake fitness as recovery and knowing I had been guilty of relapsing that way in the past, I was especially wary of my own decision to take on the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Challenge. However, I knew in my heart that I wanted to undertake the running challenge not for the sake of completing 31.1km, but to be able to reconcile running for me and to be able to rekindle my desire to run just for the simple pleasure of it. I wanted to rid myself of the ideas that my race times and speeds mattered, and I wanted to remember that it was the actual time spent running that really mattered. For years I always pushed myself to become faster, but now I finally wanted to force myself to slow down. So it turned out that running as the slowest mammal on Earth was more than appropriate for me.

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

So, as funny as I thought it would be to be a sloth running in a race, I chose to dress up as Flash to spread the message that it is perfectly OKAY to take your time with anything–whether it is a race, a project or any sort of journey you may be on. For me, I am learning that there is nothing wrong with slowing down to take care of my mental, physical and emotional health.

I find it all too serendipitous that right before this race, I got a fortune cookie that told me “it’s okay to slow down and smell the roses” because that it EXACTLY what I did. Literally. I stopped to take a picture with the roses from Alice in Wonderland.

Great things take time and I definitely took my sweet time running this race. This was the very first runDisney race that I allowed myself to stop more than once. In fact, I stopped at almost every single PhotoPass opportunity I came across.

Not just that, but I stopped to make friends along the way! Waiting in line to meet characters, I met some wonderful strangers whom I never would have met if I had not stopped during the races.

For the 10K, a very kind girl named Emma offered to take my picture in front of the castle after she saw me struggling to take a selfie and after bonding in queue for PhotoPass, we actually ended up running the rest of the race together!

For the half marathon, I met a lovely lady named Amber from New York who was completing her 40th half marathon, running most of her races on behalf of St. Jude’s Hospital. Talking together as we waited in line for Mickey & Minnie, I told her how I was spending my 25th birthday there and it turned out that she was not only celebrating hers as well, but that we shared the exact same birth date! It was no wonder why we got along so well and it felt like such a serendipitous meeting that out of the 7,000 runners there from across the world we would “run” into each other like that.

If I hadn’t stopped all those times, none of those magical meetings would have taken place. Not just that, but I wouldn’t have been able to capture once in a lifetime photo opportunities with characters unique to the 25th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris!

Definitely worth waiting five minutes to get this once in a lifetime photo opportunity!

When I was deep into my disorder, I never would have ever allowed myself to stop during a race, obsessed with maintaining the best time and fastest pace possible. I have realized though that life is so much more than numbers. These races have reminded me of what is really important and I would rather make memories than make records. Even though it added so many minutes to my finish time, I do not regret for one minute stopping as many times I did during my races. I can’t tell you how refreshing and liberating it was to be able to not care about my time, but to take care instead of what was happening around me and to soak all of the magic in.

It’s funny to think that I almost did not stop to take this picture but I am so glad that I did!

There are some things in life you cannot rush so please know that no matter what path you find yourself on, there is no shame in taking your time. After all, don’t they say that slow and steady wins the race?

Flash Flash 10km Dash

Flash Flash 10km Dash

Mulan in her warrior outfit for the WDW Princess Half Marathon weekend

Just as there was a special reason for my 10K running costume, I purposefully dressed up as Cinderella in the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon for more than just the fact that I was running a Cinderella-themed Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Challenge.

For the WDW Princess Half Marathon Weekend, I ran as Mulan in her warrior outfit because I wanted to represent the fighter that she was, and for the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon, I wanted to do the same. We tend to glorify the princesses with their “Happily Ever After” endings, but I believe that their true beauty is shown in their struggles. And Cinderella is certainly one princess who knows her fair share of hardship.

Before any prince or fairy godmother comes along, Cinderella is a hardworking girl who busts her butt off to try and get what she wants, and I think that’s something we should all strive for. Not only is she always willing to help others, but she is also able to accept help from her little friends which I believe is an important thing to remember. Asking for help sometimes requires just as much strength as giving help.

For these reasons, I wanted to dress up as Cinderella–not in her beautiful ballgown that she’s often portrayed in–but just as she is before she becomes a princess. I want us to be able to celebrate ourselves for who we truly are in our most modest and honest forms–whatever that may be.


Besides that, I also wanted to embody Cinderella for the famous words she lives by: Have courage and be kind. 

I’ve said it before in other posts, but I think this saying should not only directed towards others, but most especially ourselves and I think more often than not, we forget to show courage and kindness to ourselves. I strive to live by these words myself and I can only hope that I can encourage others to do the same.

Along with everything else I’ve said, there’s also a song called “Princess” by Fletcher that inspired me to dress as Cinderella.

So princess, hold your head high
Even if you have to cry
Don’t let your crown fall
Don’t let your crown fall
Your script is in the making
You can hold the aching but
Don’t let your crown fall
Don’t let your crown fall down

Little girls always grow older
Your story is a long way from over
We’re lost before we’re found
We’re lost before we’re found
Gotta be weak to get stronger
Learn how to breathe under water
This is our battleground
This is our battleground

These lyrics encourage me so much when I am struggling and I definitely would say that this is my Disney Warrior Princess theme song, empowering me when I am feeling my lowest. You can rest assured that I listened to this all the time as I was training and even running my races.

Why’s there always gotta be a hero?
What if Cinderella had to save herself?

These final words from the song are what made me settle for my decision to run as Cinderella. Just like so many others, I have no “Fairy Godmother” or “Prince” to come and save me. I have to save myself. So, in an effort to embrace the fighting princess in Fletcher’s song, I wanted to become a Cinderella who saves herself. A girl fighting for her happiness. So it only felt right to dress up as Cinderella when she is fighting as hard as ever for her happiness.

I may have been running for myself, but I also wanted to run for others. There’s always people running races on behalf of sicknesses–anything from cancer, degenerative diseases, autism, etc.–but what about those suffering from mental illnesses? I feel as though society often dismisses eating disorders and mental sickness since the injuries and damage cannot be seen on the outside, but I believe that these invisible diseases deserve our attention more than ever. Although I can’t say that I was raising money for the cause, I felt as though in my heart I was running the races on behalf of all of my mental warriors out there.

While I did not raise any funds (although I would love to possibly do so in the future!) I wanted to raise awareness about mental health, spread a positive message to the world and maybe put a smile on some people’s faces with my adorable outfits. 😘

To anyone struggling with mental illness, there is no need to race to your health and don’t be discouraged by how slow you go. The goal is to get to the finish line and sometimes the only way to get there is by taking your time. 🏁

 

Disneybound Farmer Judy Hopps

Just Like Judy

If I was a Disney character, there is no doubt that I would be Judy Hopps. I already wrote a whole post about which Disney characters I identify with and talked about how this Zootopia character is my spirit animal, but ever since that post, I’m realizing more and more how similar I am to Judy.

Not only am I as determined as her to change the world, but I’m also as wholehearted and sensitive as her and when it comes to getting knocked down, I take the fall as hard as she does. I’m only realizing it now but when I came to grips with my mental illness, I took the fall just as hard as she had. Literally.

Disneybound Farmer Judy Hopps

Not only do I dress like her, but just like her, I went back home to my family (coincidentally in the country as well) and I just wanted to hide from the world.

I felt like a failure. I felt as though I had so many people looking up to me to be happy and healthy, and there I was, a failed example of just that. If you read this blog post, you’ll know all the feelings of shame, guilt and disappointment I harboured towards myself. It killed me to think that I thought I was being a good role model to others when in fact, I was helping promote deadly ideals, wrong-minded thinking and a negative lifestyle.

Just like Judy

“Why did I think I could make a difference?”

“Because you’re a trier.

Just like Judy, I am a trier, and I will never stop trying. I am choosing to try again and rise above my shortcomings. I want to try and be the positive influence in the world that I’ve always wanted to be.

Although I was scared to show myself to others and even more terrified to share the truth with the world, I’m no longer afraid and I don’t want anyone else to be afraid. I’ve realized now that there are so many people out there who also suffer from mental illness and it’s made me realize that there is no reason to be ashamed about it. Not just that, but it’s made me realize the true meaning of courage. It takes guts to admit you were wrong and to be able to share your struggle with the world. And it is through my struggle that I now want to help others through their own struggles.

Lately though I’ve been feeling like my impact in the world is insignificant, but just like Judy, I’m more determined than ever to make the world a better place.

“Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes. Which means, hey, glass half full, we all have a lot in common. And the more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each of us will be. But we have to try. So no matter what kind of person you are, I implore you: Try. Try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you.”

Putting the Z in ZPD 🚔

 

 

Recovery from Eating Disorder

Recovery from an Eating Disorder

Most people assume that recovery from an eating disorder just means eating more and gaining weight, but there is SO much more to it than that.

I am eating more, I have gained weight, and I am better than what I was before, but it doesn’t mean that the disorder has disappeared.

I rarely work out anymore and I eat food that I never allowed myself before, but my thoughts still haunt me and I question every single thing I do. It really is true when they say that recovery is not a linear process and it is an excruciatingly slow battle.

For me, recovery has been a huge guessing game of trying to decide what’s right for my body. But it’s a huge struggle when you have all of these clashing voices telling you different things about what you should do.

Recovery from an Eating Disorder

“You should have some greens today.”

“That’s your disorder talking. You’re just ordering a salad because you’re getting a big, fat donair and you think you need all the nutrients in that spinach.”

“But maybe my body is actually craving some greens right now?”

Everyone says to just listen to your body.  But, after you’ve spent years ignoring your body’s desires and treating it like a machine, it’s the hardest thing in the world trying to decipher and re-learn the signals that it’s trying to tell you.

Some days are easy, but to be completely honest with you, there are times that I will stand in the kitchen for five minutes–or even longer–trying to listen to my body, but the voices in my head making it impossible for me to take any sort of action. My family will always tell me, “Why can’t you just choose something to eat? Why can’t you just eat this? Why is it so hard?”

Well, it’s hard when you have a million voices arguing in your head and you have spent years abiding by the “science” and “rules” of nutrition and fitness.

Recovery from an Eating Disorder

“You should only eat that much sugar after a workout. That’s too much fat. This food should only be consumed as a pre-workout. I need to consume this ratio of carbohydrates to protein.”

“Stop it. That’s disordered thinking. Just obey your craving.”

“What am I craving then? Am I really craving this? Or am I just eating this because I’m concerned I haven’t had enough protein today?”

It sounds crazy for someone to assign so much thought to the seemingly simple task of eating, but that is the struggle someone with an eating disorder faces every single day. I know I sound crazy, but I also know that there are hundreds of other people out there who think the exact same thoughts as I am, and it’s important to know that we are not alone.

And we are not crazy.

I am not crazy for fighting off the demons of my disorder.. I am crazy, however, because I take my Mickey and Minnie Mouse Tsum Tsums with me whenever I go out and I shamelessly take pictures with them in public.

Recovery from an Eating Disorder

Jokes aside, if you suffer from an eating disorder–or any sort of mental illness that involves waging this kind of war with yourself–I hope you find comfort in knowing that you are not crazy and that you are not alone, and if you do find comfort in these words, please let me know because I could use the reassurance as well! If you do not suffer from any sort of mental illness, I hope this post opens your eyes to what it is like to be in our shoes and gives you a little more understanding and patience for us warriors out there.

With any mental illness, recovery is not as simple as you might think. It’s not a matter of just taking actions like eating more, gaining weight or suddenly making ourselves happy.  We are fighting to fix the way our brains are wired and unlearning unhealthy habits.

You’ve probably tied your shoes the same way you have for years since you first learned how to tie them as a kid. Now, imagine that  someone told you that you’ve been tying your shoes wrong for decades and you have to relearn how to do it all over again. When you go to tie your shoes, you’ll catch yourself automatically trying to perform the act as you’ve always done, so then you have to stop, and slowly, consciously fumble to tie them in this strange, new way that takes twice as long. Imagine how frustrating that is? There are times you will be so fed up that you will just resort to tying your shoes the old way. And then you might feel guilty or weak for having resorted to what was easy, for not trying harder and for not having done the job properly.

This is what fighting a mental illness feels like for me. We are not fighting against a visible force or wound that can just simply be fixed or removed. It’s not a physical ailment that you can simply stick a band-aid over and voila, expect things to miraculously heal.

Recovery from Eating Disorder

I wish that this Minnie Mouse Band-Aid could magically fix my problems… but at least it adds a little magic to my life!

It’s a frustrating process of fumbling, stumbling and wondering what the heck we are doing. I believe though that–like relearning how to tie your shoes–we can do it.

Recovery from an Eating Disorder

It takes a tremendous amount of time and patience, but how else did we learn how to do things and engrain habits into our lives? In a world where we have become accustomed to quick fixes and simple solutions to remedy our problems, it’s a hard thing to accept, but we need to accept ourselves and not be so hard on ourselves.

 

Vegan in Disneyland: Napa Rose

Hearing about the Disneyland Half Marathon happening this weekend, I was reminded of my time running the race last year and I suddenly remembered that I had never gotten around to writing a blog post about my best evening there: Dining at the Grand Californian Hotel’s Napa Rose Restaurant! I know it is exactly one year too late, but I figured I might as well post it now and share my amazing experience there as a vegan.

If you read this blog post, you’ll know that I stuffed my face at the breakfast buffet of Storyteller’s Cafe after having ran the Disneyland Half Marathon, and even though I ate an army’s worth of food there, I was starved well before our reservation time for Napa Rose. After having run 31.1km AND running around a Disney park, my friend Ryan were exhausted and famished so we lugged our aching bodies over to Napa Rose to see if we could sneak into the restaurant before the time we had initially booked for dinner. After having heard such wonderful reviews of this restaurant, I was beyond excited to dine at one of the best Signature Dining restaurants in all of Disneyland California. Being vegan however, and after a disappointing experience at Disneyland Hotel’s Steakhouse 55, I was hesitant to get my hopes up for the food, so if anything, I simply looked forward to the overall dining experience of such a beautiful, elegant restaurant.

Coming over an hour early, we were fortunate enough to be squeezed into the Lounge while we waited for a table to open up.

Bullseye and I could not complain since we were able to quench our thirst after a long weekend of running.

After running 31.1km, Bullseye and I had built up quite the thirst!

(Yes, I showed up to this super classy restaurant dressed up in my sweaty Bullseye running costume, looking like a ridiculous hot mess and my medals clanging all over the place. Because earning this many medals earns you the right to do whatever you want, right?)

After all that I had been through that day, it should come as no surprise that it only took a few sips of wine to get Bullseye and I in a fabulous mood to celebrate our accomplishments. Before I knew it, we were being taken to our table, and of course, I was fangirling the whole time about how magical the place was.

I definitely felt out of place, looking the way I was, but I was so giddy over everything that I could care less.


Not only was I so impressed by the atmosphere, but I will tell you that I was beyond impressed by the food. The chef specially prepared me this AMAZING vegan dish, and I am so sad that I can’t remember what I ate a year ago and that inebriated Czarina was too excited to take note of the exact ingredients. Despite not being able to remember though, I can tell you that I definitely remember swooning over this magical medley of roasted vegetables, rice and whatever incredible ingredients were put into this dish.

Just as I was swooning over this plate, I actually found another reason to swoon as well… While I was ever so gracefully shoving food into my face, my friend pointed out that none other than the President of Disneyland was sitting at the table beside us!

I had to look up his picture to confirm, but sure enough, he was dining right behind me!

Inconspicuous shot to capture the magical moment

So, in the end, not only was I enjoying the best food, but I was also enjoying it in the presence of the best. Besides sitting a few feet away from the man in charge of the Happiest Place on Earth (which automatically made him my hero) I had the wonderful company of my friends, Ryan and Phil, along with our gracious server who made it an evening of good laughs and cheer. Sipping on some of the finest wine I’ve ever had and eating phenomenal food, I truly felt spoiled and I could not have had asked for a better way to celebrate completing the Dumbo Double Dare and the Coast to Coast Challenge!

Well-deserved dinner and drinks! Emphasis on the plural.

Whether you are a vegan or not, I HIGHLY recommend dining at Napa Rose. You will have to forgive me for failing to remember the details of the actual meal itself, but you will have to trust me in saying that both myself and my non-vegan friends raved over the food. I don’t think it really matters anyway that I can’t remember what we ate since their menu is always changing seasonally and I’m sure that it is completely different from what it was last year, but what I am sure about is that the restaurant itself is incredible. Maybe it’s the three glasses of wine or the fact I had the honour of sitting with the best while dressed as our favourite deputy’s horse, but I felt like true royalty dining at Napa Rose!

Although I forgot what I ate or drank that night, my dinner at Napa Rose will forever be an unforgettable experience!

Disney Up Mailbox

Disney Pixar’s Up Mailbox

Disneybounding as Ellie from Disney Pixar’s Up, I recreated the iconic mailbox from the movie to make our home even more obnoxiously Disney-themed and to honour my parents Cam & Cristy AKA the living, breathing versions of Carl & Ellie!

If you’ve seen my bedroom in this post

…or have had a tea party with me as in this post

…then you probably weren’t surprised that I would extend my Disney decorating skills to spill out onto the exterior of my house.
Disney Up Mailbox

However, just when we all thought that Czarina could not have a more Disney home, I had to go at it again. In my defence, I did explicitly warn everyone that another Disney DIY was on the way in this post.

Disney Up Mailbox

Come on, just look at this mailbox. It had my name written all over it to give it a make over…

Or better yet, it had my parents‘ names written all over it.

Disney Up Mailbox
I know that lots of people have recreated the mailbox from Disney Pixar’s Up before and I know that my parents’ names aren’t Carl & Ellie, but you have to admit that this is exceptionally magical that their names are Cam & Cristy which is close enough, right?

Disney Up Mailbox

Disney Up Mailbox

I had planned on just painting their handprints onto the mailbox myself, but I thought it would add so much more sentimental value by imprinting their own hands onto the mailbox just as Carl and Ellie had!

Disney Up Mailbox

Aren’t my parents the cutest? #RELATIONSHIPGOALS

Disney Up Mailbox

Besides, I really do feel as though they really are the living, breathing Filipino version of this adorable Disney couple.

Although they didn’t dress up, you can sure bet that I did! Would we be surprised that I would Disneybound as Ellie myself? Because anyone who knows me knows that I cannot NOT be wearing a Disney-themed outfit appropriate for whatever I am doing.

Disney Up Mailbox

Disneybounding as Ellie from Disney Pixar’s Up, I recreated the iconic mailbox from the movie to make our home even more obnoxiously Disney-themed and to honour my parents Cam & Cristy AKA the living, breathing versions of Carl & Ellie!

FUN FACT: Did you know that not only was this mailbox an old, recycled find, but so were the clothes that I am wearing in both this project and my Tangled Window project? I have spent waaaay too much time thrift shopping in Value Village this past year, but clearly it has paid off… even though it cost me so little! All I have to say is BLESS VALUE VILLAGE.

Disney Up Mailbox

As if there weren’t enough people stopping to look at our house before, they have even more reason now and I think it’s safe to say now that our house is officially the most Disney home in all of the Canadian Prairies 🇨🇦

If you’re ever in Saskatchewan, feel free to stop by or… just leave us a little note since we do have a fabulous mailbox now! 💌

Doing runDisney with a Disorder? Why I’m Doing The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Challenge

Recovering from my eating disorder, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Challenge will be more than a test to run the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon and the 10K, but I want to do it as a challenge to love and take care of myself.

When I found out that Disneyland Paris was turning 25 years old just as I would be turning 25 years old, I thought it was a magical coincidence. Then I realized that the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon was happening the week of my birthday and I really felt as though the universe was URGING me to go to France. If that wasn’t enough to convince me me, when they revealed that they were going to commence the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Challenge for the very first time this year with a special inaugural medal, I knew that I had to go.

However, as much as I felt like every fiber of my heart was being called, a shadow of doubt made me hesitate, afraid that this might hinder my recovery. With all of my past runDisney races, I knew I was guilty of overtraining and overexercising, forcing myself to run miles and miles on empty because I was obsessed with following my training plan perfectly. Not having done any races since admitting to my disorder, the thought of falling back into that lifestyle scared me and I feared that this might be wrong for me to do…

But you know what felt even more wrong to me?

Not doing what I love and never running another runDisney race because of my disorder.

Although I regret putting myself through hell to train, not for one minute do I regret taking part in those races and I will never forget how MAGICAL it felt to run through the Happiest Places on Earth and how much my cheeks hurt from smiling the widest I ever had out of pure joy.

I refuse to let my mental illness prevent me from enjoying my life any longer and I realized that I don’t need to be the fittest or the fastest to take part in this event. In my last runDisney half marathon, I placed in the top 5% of females so I know that I can run fast but you know what I realized? My time doesn’t matter as much as my own health and happiness matters.

The only reason I let myself stop to take this picture with Genie was because the time for this race didn’t matter since a storm caused the half marathon to be modified into only a 7km run. I’m so grateful I did stop and I hope I don’t miss any more photo opportunities like this!

I want to run for so much more than a record.. I want to run for fun! And I truly mean it this time. That means if I see a character I want a picture with, I will allow myself to stop and take a picture with them!

Not only do I want to run for me, but I want to run for every warrior out there fighting their own war. 

I’m not running to raise money or anything, but at the very least I want to run to raise awareness about mental illness and health. To fight a mental illness is to not only fight against yourself but it also means fighting the stigma that too often gets attached to the topic as well. It is EXHAUSTING enough as it is to battle with yourself each and every day, but to have to add the negative perception and treatment from society only amplifies the struggle. Mental illness is a struggle that we need to stop looking down upon or turning our eyes away from– it’s a struggle that we need to acknowledge and one that not only deserves our attention, but also our support. Because no matter what mental illness you are fighting–whether it’s an eating disorder or depression–I commend you for finding the strength to wage the war inside of you. I wish I could give a medal of honour to all those warriors out there! Which is why I want to earn these medals in your honour…

Because how BEAUTIFUL are these medals?

I know that this is a huge physical and mental challenge for someone like me, but I am aware and prepared to be extremely careful in this endeavour. Besides getting medical clearance from my doctor, I know that I have to super cautious with myself, but this is exactly why I am doing this challenge. A challenge to take care of myself and put my well-being first. It might not sound like much to some, but to me, this is going to be a true test. Running 31.1km is a test of willpower for most, but for me, it’s going to take all of my willpower to not beat myself up, to not obsess or over train and to allow myself to be kind, gentle and loving to myself.

It might sound counterintuitive to run 31.1km for my recovery, but I can tell you that it is already having such a positive impact on me and it has given me SO MUCH motivation to gain weight. This challenge is not only teaching me to how to listen to my body and to take care of it, but it is also rekindling my love for something that became toxic to me: running and exercise. It’s a slow and difficult journey at times, but I know that my pace (both literal and metaphorical) don’t matter as much as the journey and the destination that matter.

And who cares about all of that other stuff when your destination is Disneyland Paris?

 

Happy Mac and Cheese Daiya!

In honour of National Mac and Cheese Day, I want to show how easy and delicious it is for vegans to celebrate the occasion with Daiya’s Cheezy Mac line!

One of the most common excuses I hear from people about not being able to go vegan is that they love cheese too much and they just don’t want to give it up.

Well, guess what? You do NOT have to give up cheese to be vegan!

It’s a universally known fact that macaroni and cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods of all time, and the universe should be comforted that vegan macaroni and cheese exists. Bless Daiya Cheese.

As much as I wish that I was sponsored by the Daiya company, I am not being paid or anything to write this post and I am simply putting it out there to show the world that:

✅ There is a vegan option out there for everything.

✅ I am not giving up anything nor am I settling for less!

✅ It is super easy and you do NOT need to be a chef to be vegan.

There is a common misconception out there that being vegan involves a lot of complicated cooking and preparation, when in fact, something like this is ridiculously easy. In fact, believe it or not, it’s actually easier to prepare this than your traditional boxed mac and cheese or Kraft Dinner! Seriously. Let me show you.

I’m only realizing now that I took a picture of the french side of the box.. But you know what? Doesn’t it just make you feel so much more fancy and classy, oui? 

With your typical Kraft Dinner or boxed mac and cheese, you usually have to add milk and butter to the mix, but the fabulous thing with Daiya is that they provide you with everything you need and you literally just throw it all together. This makes things ridiculously convenient.

Not only was I surprised by how simple the preparation was, but I was surprised by the sauce! I was expecting it to come in a powder like most boxed mac and cheese, but it is actually pre-made as a cream… Talk about less work!

Seriously, whether you are feeling lazy or you are in a huge rush, this stuff is perfect and all the more reason to convert.

So after boiling and draining the pasta, all you have to do is dump the sauce in the pot.

Then mix it altogether so that you get this dreamy creamy concoction…

As Wall-E would say, Ta daaaaaa! That is all there is to it.

Okay so maybe I lied. There is an additional optional step and that is to incorporate a Hidden Mickey into there. (Because it obviously enhances the flavour)

If you want to go even farther, you could go ahead and make the two other flavours of Cheezy Mac that Daiya offers and then you can arrange those as a Hidden Mickey as well.

Deluxe Alfredo Style (Top Left) Deluxe Cheddar Style (Bottom) Deluxe White Cheddar Style Veggie (Top Right)

To whip this stuff up is SO QUICK AND SIMPLE so it really wouldn’t be a hassle at all to cook all three flavours like I did. However, if you don’t have the ravenous appetite like I do and want to pick just one, then let me give you the low-down of each flavour.

DELUXE CHEDDAR STYLE

This is like your classic cheddar style macaroni and cheese. If you’re looking for something reminiscent of your childhood, then this is the bowl for you. It’s super ironic because even though this is not real cheese, I think this cheese tastes “more real” than your super processed Kraft Dinner sauces. If we’re being honest though, that stuff isn’t even real and I don’t even want to think about the crazy ingredients in there. On the other hand though, you don’t have to worry about the ingredients in this! In fact, this is not just great for vegans, but for anyone who has gluten, dairy , nut or even soy allergies! #winsallaround

DELUXE ALFREDO STYLE

Even before going vegan, I was never a huge Alfredo fan, but this stuff is pretty excellent. I didn’t take a picture of it here (as I just wanted to show you what comes out of the box) but I actually added Coconut Bacon and “Chicken” to mine to make a veganized Alfredo Chicken Carbonara and let me tell you that it was scrumptious! Like I say over and over again, #whatyoucaneaticaneatvegan

DELUXE WHITE CHEDDAR STYLE VEGGIE

Out of all three, this one was probably my favourite. Maybe it’s the fact that I can create Hidden Mickeys in my food with this one, but I’ve always been fond of the taste of white cheddar and anyone who knows me knows how much of a fiend I am for my veggies!

If you’ve tried these before, which flavour is your favourite? If not, I hope you’ll give them a try and let me know which one you like most… whether you are a vegan or not!

For the longest time, I wasn’t sure how to pronounce Daiya, but according to the company’s website, it is pronounced like “day-ah” so knowing this now I can wish you all a Happy National Mac and Cheese Daiya! 

Tangled Tuesday Disney DIY: “I See The Light” Lantern Window

Turning my darkness into light by creating a window painting of “I See The Light” Lantern Scene from Tangled

In my last post, I talked about finally seeing the truth and the light in my darkness, and with this time that I’ve been taking to recover, I’ve been mentally trying to turn this darkness into light, but it turns out that I have literally made light out of this darkness in my life– with an actual painting of lights.

I had been hinting to people that I was working on a #TangledTuesday Disney DIY project last month, and it is with great pleasure that I can finally reveal it to the world!

To be quite honest, I initially took on this project not for myself, but actually–believe it or notfor the birds. Yes, I am referring to the Pixar Short, because I literally feel like I live in that feature animation. 😂

Not only do I feel like a princess, but I also feel like I live in the Pixar Short: For the Birds 🐦

I joke around about being a Disney Princess, but I seriously feel as though I am one because there are so many birds around my home and when I stand outside on my deck, I kid you not that they come swooping in and chirping so close that I feel like Snow White, Cinderella or Gisele summoning her little feathered friends.

As you can see, I really am a Disney Princess with my fellow feathered friends swooping around me!

Although it truly does feel magical, it is not so magical when the birds come so close that they actually crash into our window… and the thing is that our window is so huge and reflecting the big, beautiful blue sky, it comes as no surprise that the birds unknowingly fly into the glass. When we first moved in, you could occasionally hear a thud and more often than not, we found poor little feathered friends on our deck… One time though my mother was lucky enough to find an injured bird and nurse him back to health!

Wanting to prevent any further bird accidents from happening, my family wanted to simply place stickers up on the window, but I saw this as an opportunity to do something much more beautiful and a chance to be reunited with an art that I had long forgotten. I’d always been known as the artist of the family–that was the reason why I switched from a Bachelor of Science to a Bachelor of Fine Arts after all–however, getting caught up in university and fitness, art became an abandoned hobby for me. Until now.

In all honesty, I came up with the idea to do the Floating Lights from Tangled simply because it is one of my all-time favourite scenes from one of my favourite Disney movies. But it must have been fate or some subconscious foretelling that this endeavour would mean so much more to me as I was in the process of this project just as I was coming to terms with my eating disorder.

It’s definitely not as romantic or idyllic as Rapunzel, but like her, I truly did see the light in recreating that iconic, beautifully lit scene from the movie.

All those days watching from the windows
All those years outside looking in
All that time never even knowing
Just how blind I’ve been.

Not only was I painting a window, but I truly felt like I had been blind–blind to my disordered behaviour–and it was only now that my eyes were opened.

Now I’m here blinking in the starlight
Now I’m here suddenly I see
Standing here it’s all so clear
I’m where I’m meant to be

As I said before, it’s not as happy-go-lucky as Rapunzel’s revelation, but these lyrics truthfully apply to my own situation as well. Having my eyes opened to my reality, I was not looking at life with the same awestruck look as Princess Rapunzel, but all the same, it was crystal clear to me, and for awhile, it was something I felt embarrassed, ashamed and disgraced about. However, as ugly as the truth was for me to see, in recognizing it, I was able to slowly see that good could come of it–that there could be lightness in the darkness. And standing there, listening to the lyrics of the scene I was painting, I realized that I really was where I was meant to be.

I really do believe that everything happens for a reason, and as much as I didn’t want this to happen to me–as much as I didn’t want to see the truth–it happened because it is for the better. After all, if this didn’t occur, I never would have become a Disney Warrior Princess. I might never have finished this painting either.

Not just that, but I would have stayed trapped in a vicious cycle that could have done even more harm to me than it already has. Not only would it have done more physical damage, but it would have taken away even more of my life and taken me even further away from my own dreams.

All those days chasing down a daydream
All those years living in a blur
All that time never truly seeing
Things, the way they were

As you can see, even Flynn’s words ring true for me too. I really was living in a blur, wasting so much time with my everyday thoughts being consumed by what I was eating and how much I was exercising–all for the sake of being “healthy” and “fit”.

But, now ironically, I saw the light just as I was painting these lights.

And at last I see the light
And it’s like the fog has lifted
And at last I see the light
And it’s like the sky is new
As you can see, this was such a HUGE window and I am such a small girl, so there was quite a process that went into completing this project.
To start, I only needed a ladder, but the thing was we had to paint the top windows as that was where the birds kept flying into the most.
To get me to the top, my dad and my brother had to find a way to elevate me…
They set up some scaffolding for me, but it still wasn’t high enough for me to paint the window so we had to take things to new heights.
If you’re not a fan of heights, then I HIGHLY recommend not engaging in such an endeavour. Having a ladder on top of scaffolding is very shaky business, but I am lucky enough to have a father and a brother who are both engineers so they managed to securely stabilize everything. Despite these precautions though, it was still pretty scary business… but it’s a good thing this warrior princess is not scared of heights!
I joked around about being Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel, but I really felt like him as I was completing this masterpiece!
Not only did I have fun producing this painting, but I also had a lot of fun dressing up for it too.

Disneybounding as Princess Rapunzel

Because anyone who knows Czarina knows that I must be donning the appropriate attire for the occasion.
 Not just that, but like any Disney Princess, I had to have good old sidekicks at my side!
 FUN FACT: After I had finished painting Pascal on Rapunzel’s shoulder, I overheard my parents and my brother discussing my painting that afternoon.
Parents: “What’s that green thing on her shoulder?”
Brother: “I think it’s a frog?”

COME ON EUGENE, HE’S A CHAMELEON!

It made me giggle so much and I feel as though all of my fellow Disnerds out there would have appreciated the moment as much as I did.

So, in the end, not only was this painting of lights an enlightening project for me to take on, but it  also brought a lot of lightheartedness to what started out to be a dark time in my life.
And I could not have been happier with how the painting ended up.

Before

After

Looking at the drastic change in the outdoor scenery from these two pictures, you can tell that this took quite some time for me to finish and I find the timing of this project to be so serendipitous. Not only was this a much needed creative outlet for me in an emotional chapter of my life, but the picture came to fruition just as I, myself, was picking up and putting the pieces together.

Just as the painting was flourishing, so was the outside world… and in a way, I had found my own way to flourish as well.

I am so pleased with how it makes our little Disney castle look! What makes me even happier is seeing people pass by our house to stop and look at it. In a tiny little resort village, I joke around about our home now being the attraction of Aquadeo. (No park entry or FastPass required, folks!)

Sometimes I can hear voices outside trying to figure out what the painting is, and my little heart rejoices whenever I hear people (most often children) recognizing Rapunzel and her lanterns from Tangled!

It’s funny how this all started out as a means to stop the birds from hurting themselves, but it ended up being something that helped me stop from hurting.

In the end, this project holds so much sentimental significance to me. As cliched as it sounds, creating these lights was a way for me to see the light and to create light in my own life, and hopefully a light for others.– not just as a Warrior Princess, but in the simple way that this painting can put a smile on a stranger’s face when they see it. It certainly puts a smile on my face whenever I come home. 💛

…Can anybody guess what my next Disney DIY home project is going to be?

How to be a Disney Warrior Princess

Coming Out Of The Pantry & Becoming a Warrior Princess

This is the story of how and why I am choosing to become a Warrior Princess.

Please read this with caution as it may be triggering to others, and I would like to disclose this post with a warning to those that may be negatively affected by the information. However, it is my hope that it might influence someone out there for the better. Not only do I ask you to take it in with caution, but I appreciate it if you read to the end with an open heart and mind. 

In my bedroom, there’s a poster of quotes that I keep by my door to remind myself of the personal mantras I want to hold myself to every single day. I have always strived to live by these words, and though it has been a struggle to stay true to some of them, I want to uphold the promises I made to myself now.

Tell the truth about yourself no matter what the cost

Tell the truth about yourself no matter what the cost

 

It can be hard to tell the truth to others—which is exactly why I have been terrified to write this out—but sometimes it can be even harder to tell the truth to yourself. The thing is though, before you can do this, you have to be able to see the truth for yourself—and it is only recently that I was finally able to see the truth.

I have been struggling with an eating disorder.

Years ago, I had been approached with concerns of having an eating disorder, and while I did fight those accusations, I can honestly say that I was not wrong in refuting them at the time. I had lost a significant amount of weight from my whirlwind adventure of being a Character Performer in Walt Disney World, and it had happened as a result of not having any knowledge whatsoever about nutrition or properly fuelling myself. I can safely say that I did not have an eating disorder then because I know at that time that I was not troubled with the thoughts I’ve had now. It was the truth that I had innocently lost the weight, but the thing was I did not gain it back. Upon returning from Florida, I was sure that I would gain back all the pounds I had lost since I was no longer overwhelmed by the hectic lifestyle of both working and playing in the parks every waking moment. In fact, I even went to the effort of educating myself on proper nutrition and starting a fitness regime, determined to gain the weight back in muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat so why not put on pounds of muscle?

Feeling up Gaston’s guns because clearly I didn’t have any in 2013 😅

Having always been very athletic—playing on every single sport team back in high school—endorphins had always been a friend of mine, so after being inactive in my first few years of university, nothing felt better than to be reunited with that same familiar rush. Not only were my workouts making me feel great, but I was also looking great too. And everyone seemed to notice. So, not only was I hooked on the high of feel-good endorphins, but I was getting high off of all the compliments. I felt on top of the world—and I wanted to keep it that way.

I still wanted to gain weight—if anything, I was determined more than ever to pack on pounds and build even more muscle mass—so when I kept getting approached about having an eating disorder, the very thought of it seemed impossible to me. I thought people with eating disorders hated their bodies and purposely starved themselves to lose weight. Me, on the other hand, I felt as though I contradicted all of that: I wanted to gain weight, I was eating more than ever and I was in love with how I looked.. so how on earth could I have an eating disorder?! It offended me so much that it pushed me even further to get even more fit and muscular—which ironically pushed me to my disordered behaviour.

Knowing that eating disorders were associated with self-hate, I was deadset into thinking that I could not have one since I very much felt like Gaston from Beauty & the Beast. Just as vain as he had been, I slowly became obsessed with improving my physique. Which led to my obsessive ways.

After learning about sports nutrition, I held the world of fitness as gospel, and I devoted myself to hitting all of my required macronutrients. It was ironic that I started counting calories to ensure that I was getting enough, but somewhere along the road, I started counting calories just so that I could be enough. As a highly competitive perfectionist, I was convinced that I could only be the best if I stuck to my fitness and nutrition perfectly. That meant I had to follow my work out schedule perfectly. I had to hit my carbohydrate, protein and fat intake perfectly. I had to weigh my food to the gram perfectly.

At this point, I had increased my weight—slowly and not by much. It took me almost a year to gain five pounds, and looking back now, I realize why: I was scared of gaining more weight than I should. Sure, I increased my calorie intake, but I made sure that it religiously followed my macros and if I was eating more, well then I had to work out more and harder too. I wasn’t scared to eat—if anything, my friends knew my intense love of food for the sheer amount I ate—and even though I ate monstrous amounts, I never once thought of purging or throwing up. While those ideas appalled me, I made sure to work it off instead. It seemed innocent enough, and being raised in a society that worships “working off” the calories I thought that I should be praised for my level of commitment. However, there is nothing praiseworthy when commitment comes to control your life. At this point, I had become a slave to my food scale and myFitnessPal. I wasn’t afraid to eat—unless I could know exactly what I was eating and I could track it into my macros.

Just as I was about to reach 100lbs, I was going back to Walt Disney World for another International Program—but this time I would be going to live in Florida for a whole year instead of just a couple months, and instead of being a Character Performer, I was going to be a Cultural Representative in the restaurant of Epcot’s Canadian Pavilion. Armed with my new knowledge of fitness and nutrition—and assuming that my job would not be as physically exhausting as my former role—I was certain that I would not make the same mistake. I didn’t make that same mistake, but I think I made one much worse.

Travelling across the continent, I was forced to not be able to exercise or track my food, and while I did do this for some time, it stressed me out immensely, and as soon as I could, I fell back into my old ways. As pixie-dusted as a year at the Happiest Place on Earth might seem, it ended up being so much more chaotic and overwhelming than I ever imagined. If you read this post, you’ll know that this new role stressed me out a million times more than the one I had in Entertainment, and it wrecked even more havoc on my physical, mental and emotional health. I had lost all of the weight I had spent the last couple of years working so hard to gain, and my whole life felt out of control. Except for eating and exercise. Those felt like the only things I could control. Which was why I clung onto my compulsive ways more than ever.

I got to be so obsessed with having perfect control that I would not only weigh the amount of maple syrup I used, but then I would go to the trouble of calculating how many milliliters of maple syrup converted into grams just so that I could perfectly log my food entries into myFitnessPal. There was one time that the batteries on my food scale died, and even though I was starving, it brought on so much panic and anxiety that—without thinking—I raced to the grocery store just so that I could buy batteries because I refused to eat my breakfast unless I could perfectly measure it out. I realize how absolutely ludicrous I was, and you have no idea how much shame it brings me to admit these things now but, I say it now because I know that there are other people out there who do this, and it was finding out that I was not the only one who engaged in this kind of crazy behaviour that helped me realize that I had a problem. However, at this point, I thought that I was the only crazy soul who would go to such extremes, so I kept quiet and fought the war inside of me on my own, terrified of what others might think of me.

When I got back to Canada, I knew things had to change and I knew I had to gain weight so I stayed at home with my family to recuperate from one of the most stressful years ever. It took a long time, but I eventually waned myself away from tracking my calories, put away my food scale and deleted myFitnessPal from my phone. Just when I thought I had finally put an end to my obsessive ways, the obsession just took on a new form as orthorexia. If I couldn’t track my calories, then at least I could make sure that I was only eating the “healthiest” foods. I knew I needed to eat more—but again, still obsessed with maintaining my physique and athleticism—I only wanted to fuel my body on the cleanest calories. After being surrounded by so much crappy junk food in the United States, I refused to eat processed foods as much as possible, but if I did, it was absolutely essential that I exercised—otherwise I would feel super guilty. And then if I didn’t work out or if I ever missed a work out, it would bring on more anxiety and discomfort.

I sincerely wanted to gain weight so I ate massive amounts of the most nutritious foods I had researched—but I still wasn’t gaining weight, and if anything, I was starting to feel worse than ever. Not only were my energy levels down, but there were times in which I honestly could not think straight and I would feel faint, numb and lightheaded. It made absolutely no sense to me since I was eating large quantities of food that were supposed to make me feel good. This might be too much information for some, but I also had not gotten my period for a year—however, I only assumed that this was because I had stopped using hormonal drugs that had been prescribed to me to regulate my cycle. With all of these concerns, I decided to go to the doctor. I knew that I was underweight, but I wanted to see if I had other issues or perhaps I was deficient in some sort of nutrient from my diet.

The doctor’s conclusion was that my overall diet was deficient in calories. Sure, I was eating HUGE amounts of healthy food, but it wasn’t enough. At first, this baffled me, but now thinking about it, I can see why it was not enough. I had spent over three years being malnourished and I needed a massive amount of calories to make up for that deficit. I was stuffing myself with fruits, veggies and beans now, but my body needed much more calorically dense food. Not just that, but I was exercising excessively. Despite having an extremely low heart rate and blood pressure, I made my body run miles and miles and lift heavy weights as often as possible. It was at this doctor’s appointment that she pointed out that my weight was anorexic. This immediately distressed me—since I was so sure I wasn’t anorexic—but she calmly assured me that she was not accusing me of having an eating disorder and she simply explained that my weight fell under that category. Being so underweight meant that my body had fallen into preservation mode which explained my fatigue, my amenorrhea, and my low blood pressure and heart rate. My body had learned to adapt on running off the bare minimum—but after three years of this, it was finally taking its toll.

All of my body’s symptoms pointed toward anorexia, but I could not come to grips with having an eating disorder because I did not think I fit the criteria. I recognized people with eating disorders to be individuals who suffered from a lack of self-love and intentionally hurt themselves in order to lose weight. The very thought of self-harm appalled me, so once again, I was even more convinced that could not be me.

What I’ve learned though is that you can hurt yourself without even realizing it.

I wasn’t bingeing and purging, but I was overexerting myself. I wasn’t intentionally starving myself or trying to lose weight, but I refused to give myself more than I needed. I didn’t loathe my body image, but I realize now that I was putting too much self-worth into maintaining a physique that should and could not be sustained. After being able to function and perform off of this way of living for years, I was convinced that I was just committed to a healthy lifestyle. After all, we are raised in a culture that glorifies the thin and muscular, and encourages us to be dedicated to “working hard” and “eating clean” so how could ideals promoted by society be so wrong? That’s the thing though, our society is obsessed with unsafe ideals and it is this kind of pressure that pulled me and so many others into transforming dedication into something dangerous. In fact, it was only until I watched Jen Brett’s videos on YouTube, and identifying with all of her problems, that made me finally come to terms that I had an eating disorder.

It took me so long to accept the truth though because, knowing that eating disorders were associated with self-hate, I was deadset into thinking that I could not fall under that category. Like I said, I felt like Gaston from Beauty & the Beast, and I was in love with my body. But, it’s only now that I could see that that was the problem. I put too much self-worth into my body, my physique, my fitness. Looking back now, it makes sense to me considering all of my past insecurities. Being the youngest in a family of overachieving athletes and academics, it was in high school that I felt so much pressure (from no fault but my own) to match up to the rest of my family and I stressed out so much about making sure that I became valedictorian just like my father, my sister and my brother. Even after earning that title, I continued to strive to be just like them, following my family into the field of science, not knowing what else to do with my life.

It was after my first year of university that I decided to break free from expectation, making the radical change of switching my Biological Sciences degree into a Bachelor of Fine Arts. It was the scariest thing I ever did, but it was also the best decision I ever made. I really truly believe that I learned to live outside of anybody’s shadow, but I don’t think I freed myself from living up to people’s expectations. In fact, I honestly don’t think anyone can—as hard as anyone might try, I believe that it is inherently impossible for any human to live their whole life without comparing themselves to others. I had no reason to compare myself to anyone anymore, but since I became known for my fitness, I felt as though that was what made me special. After being told over and over again what a huge role model I was, motivating others to lead healthy lifestyles, I took on the title of “Disney Fitness Princess”. The fact that all of my peers—including people I didn’t even know—looked up to me made me feel like I had to live up to this standard that I had created for myself. I felt the need to live up to this name and the only way I could do that was by eating as healthy as possible and being vigilant as ever with my exercises. It pushed me to pursue my certification in Personal Training, and that is why I put that endeavour on hold. I want to genuinely help others, but before I do that, I need to be honest with myself and the world.

Be wrong every once in awhile and don't be afraid to admit it!

Be wrong every once in awhile and don’t be afraid to admit it!

There is nothing wrong with being healthy. But it is unhealthy to let health take over your life. Too much of a good thing can be bad when you let your pursuit of healthiness affect your happiness and prevent you from enjoying your life. It is not right to have your everyday thoughts be consumed by what you consume and how much you work out. You can have the perfect diet, the perfect workouts and the perfect body, but your life will NOT be perfect.

As a perfectionist, it kills me to admit that I was wrong—not just about letting a lifestyle take over my life, but about my perception of eating disorders.

I apologize for the lengthiness of this post (if you’ve read this far, I want to give you the biggest, most sincere Disney hug in the world) but I felt the need to show the unconventional history of my disorder so that people can see that these mental illnesses are not all the same. I feel as though my struggle is nowhere near as difficult as others and I feel like my case is pretty unorthodox, but in the end, it is still an eating disorder and a mental battle. Nobody wakes up one day deciding that they’re going to have an eating disorder or mental illness. To have a disorder does not mean you intentionally choose to hurt yourself. I understand that I am extremely privileged in being naturally thin and athletic, and I am very lucky that my disorder did not reap any more damage than it already has done. To some, this might be shocking news since I come off as this perfect buoyant princess, but it just goes to show that anyone can suffer from a mental illness. I may have been wrong in so many ways, but we as humans, are wrong at one point or another. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with being wrong as long as you acknowledge it and do something about it. It is one of the hardest things to do, but I think that being able to admit that you were wrong and doing something about it is one of the rarest and bravest things a person can do.

Embrace your darkness with your light

Embrace your darkness with your light

For years, I have kept this darkness all to myself, utterly ashamed and afraid to tell anyone. But, now I want to take something away from an experience that has taken so much away from me and I am letting it out. Not only do I want to let it out, but I want to take this terrible, debilitating, deep dark secret and turn it into a light of hope that can empower others. I want to prevent this from happening to anyone else and I want to make people aware of what health and happiness truly means. Not just that, but I want to raise awareness about mental illness—not just about eating disorders, but all sorts of inner battles—and I want to remove the stigma behind them. A stigma that has kept me suffering in silence for so long. Some of the most amazing souls I have ever met hurt from mental illness, and now that I have seen a sliver of what an inner battle can be like, my heart goes out to them even more and I commend them for their strength. Also, after having fought the war in my head on my own for so long, I do not want anyone else to feel that they are alone. And we are not alone. Did you know that, in the United States alone, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life? On a global level, 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lives. Mental illness does not discriminate and we should not discriminate against them—nor should we let them fight on their own. In my effort to fight—in my effort to embrace my darkness with my light—I want to become Czarina the WARRIOR Disney Princess. (I mean it only makes sense since my name sounds like Xena)

If you read this post to the end, I want to squeeze the life out of you and douse you in pixie dust, and I can only hope that you will let me know if you read this—whether in a message or a comment. I know that not many people will take the time to read this so you have no idea how much I appreciate those who did and it would mean the world to me to be able to personally thank you from the bottom of my heart. As much as this post was about me, I can only hope that maybe I can connect with and help at least one person out there the way others like Jen Brett have for me. Even if I don’t connect with anyone, I hope that this stands as a cautionary tale to prevent anyone from falling down the hole I dug myself or I hope that it opens your mind to the idea that mental illness can exist even amongst princesses.

I’m sorry for how long this post was and I’m sorry if I have disappointed anyone, but I had to tell the truth—no matter what the cost—and although I’m sorry for a lot of things, I am NOT sorry for living up to this quote:

Own your reality without apology

Own your reality without apology

I am owning my reality, coming out of the darkness and putting myself out there.

(I can’t say that I’m coming out of a closet, but can I say that I came out of a pantry? ….Sorry, just trying to end things on a LIGHTER note. 😅)

Here’s to becoming a Disney Warrior Princess and to all the other warrior princes and princesses out there!

 

Vegan Caramelized Cinnamon Apple Cream Cheese Crepes

The Perfect Parisian Brunch for Mother’s Day: Vegan Caramelized Cinnamon Apple Cream Cheese Crepes

 Vegan + gluten-free caramelized cinnamon apple crepes with sweet, dreamy cream cheese to surprise my mother with the perfect Parisian brunch for Mother’s Day! The perfect way to sweeten the news of going to France!

Over 7 years ago, I had the opportunity to experience Europe for the first time on a high school, but only being able to spend less than a week in England and just a couple days in Paris, I knew that I had to go back. Not only was it such a short amount of time, but being high school students on a predetermined tour in which we were not allowed to stray away from the group or the planned activities without the constant supervision of chaperones, it killed me to not be able to experience all that I wanted. Despite this, I was thankful to tour a little bit of Europe so that I could get a taste of its charms and plan for a future trip! However, being much too preoccupied with university and all of my Disney adventures these past few years, a trip to Europe was just not feasible ..until now! 


I wasn’t the only one dreaming about Europe as my own mother, having never been to that part of the world at all, always talked about wanting to go as well. Much like me though, there was no way she could go on such a vacation, having to take care of our aging dog and being constantly overwhelmed by running the local coffee shop business we owned and operated. However, once we had sold our business, moved away and, unfortunately, lost our little canine friend, there was nothing to tie us down anymore and since it could finally happen for both of us now, I knew that I wanted to take my mom to Europe this year. So, when I saw plane tickets to Paris several months ago, I bought the tickets, but wanting to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day, I conspired with my family to keep it a secret for FOUR MONTHS. It has been so hard to contain my excitement for such a long amount of time, but it also gave me lots of time to plot out the big reveal. If you read my blog posts, you know that I am all about surprising and spoiling my loved ones, and if anybody deserves the best, it is my mother. In my last blog post, I gave my mom the ULTIMATE royal treatment last year, and after having pulled off such a perfect Cinderella-themed day at the Happiest Place on Earth, I thought that there was no way I could top that off.. But, I guess when pixie dust pukes out of your pores, you can never run out of magic. 😉✨

 

 

Since we were going to France, I thought that I would prepare a french-themed brunch for Mother’s Day! 🇫🇷

If I was going to stay true to this French theme, then there was no doubt I had to dress accordingly. For Mother’s Day last year, it broke my heart to not spend the day with my mom, but living in Walt Disney World, I made sure to make the most of it by celebrating in her honour by going to high tea dressed up as Chip and my best friend accompanying me as Mrs. Potts. Since I had Disneybounded as Chip last year, it only felt right to take a turn as Mrs. Potts… because not only is she such a beloved Disney mother, but it was the perfect outfit to go along with my French theme.. and the perfect excuse to put my Beauty & the Beast collection to good use!

 

 

Not only was I able to use my Mrs. Potts and Chip tea set, but I was finally able to try out my new Beauty & the Beast Cookie Presses! Because just as Mrs. Potts says, 🎶 With dessert, she’ll want tea!” 🎶 So, I made Mrs. Potts & Chip Lavender Lemon Shortbread Cookies. (If anybody is interested in me sharing this recipe, please let me know in the comments below!)

To make it a truly French experience though, I had to include some authentic cuisine from France! If you’ve ever looked up French recipes, you’ve probably heard of how difficult it is to make crepes and macarons, and while that was intimidating in itself, there was also the challenge of veganizing them… When I had gone to Europe, all I remember was stuffing my face with cheese, cream and pastries… not very vegan-friendly cuisine at all. 😅 However, anyone who knows me knows how I am always up for a challenge--especially when it comes to veganizing recipes–so I was determined to do it! Even before going vegan, I had never attempted to make either macarons or crepes so it was scary putting my skills to the test, but given the choice between the two, I thought crepes might be more manageable. (I hope to one day muster the courage to make macarons so if anybody has mastered vegan macarons, PLEASE let me know!)

After writing about my belated Mother’s Day brunch last year in my most recent blog post, the disappointing vegan experience I had at Cinderella’s Royal Table was fresh in my memory again. You can read all about it here, but after claiming that I had tasted vegan dishes that could match (or in my personal opinion, put to shame) the Caramel Apple-Stuffed French Toast with Sweet Cream Cheese, I decided that I would actually PROVE IT to all those non-vegan doubters out there by making a lighter, healthier and equally yummy (or in my personal opinion, yummier) dish inspired by this well-known breakfast favorite at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

I might be biased in thinking that my recipe tastes better, but I do believe that taste aside, this dish wins for so many other reasons.

✔️ Egg-free

✔️Gluten-free

✔️ Dairy-free

✔️ Soy-free (if you choose to not use soy milk!)

✔️ Cruelty-free

✔️ Lighter and healthier

✔️ Easy!

Being able to make this without egg, gluten, dairy or soy, this recipe is great for those with intolerances! Alongside of that, it means that you can rest easy knowing that no animal friends were hurt in the process 🚫 (I don’t want to preach, but the dairy and meat industry are not only harmful to animals, but they actually have a huge negative impact on our environment..Just saying.) Not only is this dish so much better for the planet, but it is better for your body! I’m not going to say that this is a super healthy dish, but I can tell you that it is probably a million times more nutritious than the French Toast at CRT. Don’t be fooled into thinking these light, thin crepes won’t fill you up though– my dad actually couldn’t even finish his portion!

But, the winning factor for me is that this recipe can have be ALL of those listed things, yet still…

✔️ TASTE MAGICAL

Who says that being vegan means that you have to sacrifice taste? If you are one of those people, then please try these crepes.. or if you just love delicious food, then please BE MY GUEST. 😘

Vegan Gluten-Free Caramelized Cinnamon Apple Cream Cheese Crepes

Serving Size: 6 crepes

Vegan Gluten-Free Caramelized Cinnamon Apple Cream Cheese Crepes

A healthier but equally delicious (if not, yummier) spin on the classic caramel cream cheese breakfast at Walt Disney World's Cinderella's Royal Table... Vegan gluten-free caramelized cinnamon apple crepes stuffed and drizzled with cream cheese frosting!

Ingredients

    CREPES:
  • 1 cup oats
  • 4 tbsp tapioca starch
  • 4 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups plant milk of choice
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
    CARAMELIZED APPLES:
  • 3-4 apples
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup coconut or brown sugar
  • Optional: Dash of nutmeg, cloves, cardamom to taste
    CREAM CHEESE:
  • 1/4 cup Daiya cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp dairy-free butter, softened
  • Optional: 1-2 tbsp plant milk of choice (depends on desired thickness)

Instructions

    For the Caramelized Apples:
  1. I prepared these the night before so they were ready to use the next morning.
  2. Peel, core and slice your apples.
  3. Spray the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray.
  4. In the slow cooker, mix all of the ingredients together until apples are evenly coated.
  5. Cook the apples on low for 3-4 hours until tender. The settings on your slow cooker might vary so just check up on them and stir them occasionally to make sure they're tender.
    For the Crepes:
  1. Place oats in a food processor or blender to grind them into flour
  2. Add all other crepe ingredients into the food processor or whisk them together in a large bowl
  3. Heat a non-stick pan/skillet over medium heat (I have a really good pan so I was able to get away without oil, but if you're afraid that yours might stick then lightly grease it)
  4. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into pan, swirling it around to coat the pan evenly. Cook for 2-4 minutes until you can lift one side of the crepe. Make sure that you don't flip the crepe too early! After flipping, cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  5. The batter will thicken because of the flax seeds so just add more plant milk or water until you get the same consistency you started out with.
    For the Cream Cheese:
  1. Cream together softened butter and cream cheese with a hand mixer.
  2. Mix in icing sugar with mixer on low until frosting is light and fluffy
  3. Optional: If it's too thick, add milk until desired thickness is reached!
    Putting it all together:
  1. Take a crepe and with the smoothest side on the bottom, spread cream cheese frosting all over.
  2. Place slices of caramelized apples along one half of the crepe.
  3. Fold crepe in half to cover the side with apples. Gently fold crepe in half again so that you get a cone.
  4. Drizzle cream cheese frosting on crepe and sprinkle with cinnamon!
  5. Once all crepes have been assembled, serve the leftover caramelized apples on the side and enjoy!
http://www.disneywarriorprincess.com/mothersday-crepes/

Vegan Caramelized Cinnamon Apple Cream Cheese Crepes

Even though they’re not French, I had also baked vegan cheesecakes and since I was making cream cheese crepes, why not add a little more dreamy cream cheese goodness? Because you can never have too much cheesecake… and I have to say that it made for a bow-tiful addition! 🎀  Mickey-shaped food is magical and all, but this was Mother’s Day, so it only felt right to give this dish some feminine flair!

In the end, my momma (and the rest of my non-vegan family) ended up enjoying my crepes, so if you do end up making this recipe, please let me know what you think!

Since it was Mother’s Day and we were eating cinnamon apple goodness, it could not have been a more perfect occasion to serve the crepes with Mom’s Apple Pie tea from David’s Tea. However, to keep up the French flair, I accompanied the cookies with a Marshmallow Macaron tea.

As you can see, not only did the French influence the food, drink and fashion of the day, but I wanted to truly bring France to the table by… well.. literally bringing France to the table! Plotting this day for so long, I actually stumbled upon this adorable children’s illustrated Disney book in a thrift store a couple of weeks ago. I thought that a story about Mickey Mouse having an adventure in France would be the perfect addition since my mom and I were about to have our very own adventure there too… not that my mom knew that yet!

That morning, I innocently told my mom that I knew how much she loved Paris, so I wanted to be able to bring Paris to her… Little did she know that I would actually be bringing her to Paris! As with all things though, I wanted to save the best for last, so I didn’t tell her until after I had showered her with the spoils of France.

I handed my mom the book, telling her to look at how cute it was, and within the pages, I had wrapped up a little magical package..

Included with our itinerary, I had gotten my very good friend Mickey Mouse to write her a very special personalized note 💌 It only felt right since we would actually be going to see him on our European travels… because how can a Disney fanatic like myself go to France without going to Disneyland Paris?!

After working at Walt Disney World and falling in love with the magic of Disney, it’s been a dream of mine to visit all of the Disney Parks in the world. As Cast Members, we are given complimentary tickets to the parks and I was hoping to save mine to fulfill this dream.. but I wanted to share them with one of the people who even made it possible for me to have these dreams!

Trying to decide which park to go to, it was as though God was sending me a sign from the heavens when I found out that Disneyland Paris was celebrating 25 years of magic this year… Guess who else is turning 25 this year?!

I thought that it would be so MAGICAL to celebrate my 25th birthday alongside of Disneyland Paris, but when I also discovered that the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon was scheduled to happen the week before my birthday, it truly felt like God was screaming at me to go then. Registration hasn’t opened up for the race yet (I am DYING to register already) but my hope is to not only go to DLP for the first time–in time for the 25th anniversary celebration–but to also be able to run the Half Marathon! Does that not sound like the perfect way for a Disney Fitness Princess to celebrate a quarter century of existence?

I will admit that I did schedule our trip so that this could happen, but it’s not entirely selfish as my mother and I both share the same birth month so this will be a celebration of her as well! (Clearly the best things happen in October 😉)

Not just that, but my roommate and friends in Disney World this past year live in Europe–along with the German exchange student that my family hosted in high school–so I am even more excited to travel to that side of the world!


Anyways, when my mom found the note and all of the tickets, she was completely overwhelmed and she could not believe it. In fact, it was a little too much for her to handle and considering the whole spectacle I put up, I don’t blame her at all. 😂 I’ve been looking forward to this day for FOUR MONTHS and I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally be able to share this excitement with her… and the rest of the world! Having said that, if anybody has been to Disneyland Paris before, I would greatly appreciate any tips and advice for a first-timer like me! 🗼

My mom hates it when I make a big fuss over her like this and insists that she doesn’t need all this glitz and glamour (Sorry mom, but it’s ACTUALLY pixie dust ✨) but I am a person of big gestures and since she has been such a BIG influence on my life, it’s hard for me to control myself. In the end, I was thankful to have been able to make magic for her on Mother’s Day, but what I’m even more grateful for is the fact that I got to spend the day with her. After having been away from her for a whole year, it’s made me appreciate her even more, and it had made me want to cherish as much time as possible with her… and what better way to cherish time with my momma than in the City of Love? 💜 Hope you’ve all had a magical Mother’s Day and if you end up making my crepes (or want to know the other recipes) please let me know!