Why I Got Up At 4:30 a.m. for 21 Damn Early Days


If you’re in my day-to-day life or follow my Insta-stories then you know I spent my weekdays in January getting up at 4:30 a.m. The main question I’ve fielded was why? Why am I getting up so early? The easy answer is because it’s a challenge: 21 damn early days. And we all know how much I love a good challenge.

But of course it’s deeper than that. I’m looking for a kick-start. A re-boot. A re-energy for going after the things I want in life. For the past however long I’ve struggled to hold on and I started losing focus.

Here’s how my days were going.

  • Roll out of bed
  • Make coffee
  • Get ready for work
  • Go to work
  • Go home or to the gym
  • Eat something
  • Watch TV or do freelance work
  • Go to sleep

Do this long enough and you become pretty jaded. My routine was crap, I tried to jam all the important things into the evening, after a full day of work. And I’m the kind of person who pours herself into her work so after 8.5 (usually 9) hours of putting all of me into my day job I was losing steam for anything extra. I wasn’t putting my best work into my best work, you know?

And then I felt bad about it. And I felt bad about myself. And I felt bad in general.

So, why did I sign up for 21 damn early days?

The challenge popped into my Facebook feed on December evening at a time when I was desperate for a change. A friend had suggested meeting for 6 a.m. gym sessions in the new year but I couldn’t imagine it (she told me later I looked like a deer in headlights when she suggested it). I struggled getting going in time for work, how could I do anything more? But as I read about the challenge I realized this might be the reset I was so desperate for.

Here’s the blurb from the 21 Damn Early Days website.

21 Damn Early Days helps you create the time to focus on what matters in your life. Monday to Friday, for 21 days, you (along with 100s of others) get up at 4:30AM and get after the things you want. We’ll help you create a system that gets you up, keeps you focused and motivated, and gives you the space and tools to understand and focus on what you want to do with your time. Finally, we’ll help you stay accountable, day after day, to the commitments you make for the program. The program runs Monday to Friday from January 3rd to 31st, 2017. Life is too short not to spend time focused on the things you care about. But in a world that’s getting busier and busier, finding that time seems to be like an impossible task. 21 Damn Early Days is designed to break you out of that rut and give you time, every single day, to focus on what matters to you.

The part where I was in: 21 Damn Early Days is designed to break you out of that rut and give you time, every single day, to focus on what matters to you.

I thought, if I can’t do this…then do I want the things I think I want?

It was a hard truth, but I was ready to find out if I was legit.

So now we’re at the end of the 21 days. And I did it. I got up at 4:30 a.m. for 21 weekdays. I got up, I went after what I wanted, and I’m here to tell you, it was 100 per cent worth it.

What did I sacrifice? I thought I would sacrifice sleep. I thought I would sacrifice social time. I thought I would sacrifice relaxing. Truth? I got more sleep than I have had in months (I have a sleep tracker so I know this for a fact, much to my surprise), I’ve seen more of my friends than I have in months (getting together for gym-time three times a week is the most regular friend-time I’ve had in ages), and although my routine/lifestyle adjusted I didn’t lose out on relaxing. In fact, it is now guilt-free because I accomplished the things I wanted to FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.

Giving myself two extra hours in the morning has changed everything. It was staring me in the face, so obvious, but I wouldn’t see it because the adjustment was going to be uncomfortable. Or because I didn’t think I could do it. Or because I was afraid maybe I didn’t want the things I thought I wanted.

So here are a few things I’m taking away from the challenge.

  • I can get up at 4:30 a.m.
  • I can get up at 4:30 a.m. for 21 days
  • I can get after my dreams
  • My dreams are still my dreams and I’m even more clear on them
  • I can confront my fears and move past them
  • I am willing to do the work to make what matters to me happen
  • I am brave

I have a lot more thoughts about it but the truth is, it’s so early right now and I haven’t processed them yet. Because 4:30 is EARLY. So, so early.

And now the challenge is ended and I’m wondering, what will I do next? Go back to normal? Fall back into my “comfortable” rut? I can’t bear the thought. Now that I know I can do this, I must. Because what’s the point of all this if I’m not making the most of my days?

Ephesians 5: 11-16

David Rocco Saved My Marriage

If you know anything about me it’s I love a challenge. So when the pitch to “take the Cascade and Dawn Challenge” came across my desk how could I refuse?

Also…why wouldn’t I take up the challenge? It’s so simple.

The challenge: Visit the Cascade and Dawn Facebook page and cook one of the recipes demonstrated by TV chef David Rocco, clean up with Dawn Power Lift and Cascade All-in-1 ActionPacs…and write about it.

This is all to celebrate the release of Rocco’s cookbook Made in Italy, which comes out in October.

For the past two weeks I’ve read through the cookbook and can’t believe how much I have learned. And how confident I feel!

A few of my favourite parts…

  • Learning about “quanto basta,” which means “use as much as you need/want.” How liberating!
  • The section intros are well-written and also interesting. They help you understand now only what to do, but why certain foods/ways of cooking are special. You feel a part of the club.
  • The recipes themselves are so easy to follow—and even if you don’t know how to cook Rocco says you can do it! The goal is not to perfect the recipe but to make it your own. To draw upon his recipes as inspiration for your own life.

Mostly based on what I already had on hand I opted to try a recipe called pasta con pomodorini (pasta with cherry tomatoes).

In the intro Rocco explains this is a mid-summer dish but my deck tomatoes are only just ripening so I figured I was safe.

Also I’m sorry for the photo of my ingredients. No matter how hard I try I can’t make my poor basil happy. Sad.

Anyway, this is literally all you need to make a really delicious dish and it takes as long as the pasta needs to cook (also Rocco explains how he likes to cook pasta—a revelation!).

The clean-up was pretty much no big deal. My husband pointed out there is so much olive oil in the recipes everything pretty much falls off the plates anyway.


But it also clears up an ongoing argument we’ve been having. I keep saying you don’t need to rinse (pre-wash in my opinion, silly!) dishes before they go into the dishwasher but he says you do. This was an excellent test of Cascade to prove once and for all, I am right about everything in life.

So, thank you David Rocco!

Let the Closet Games Begin

Around 15 months ago I posted a similar photo of my squishy closet, claiming my desire to play the “wear everything in my closet” game and get rid of:

  • What I refuse to wear, even though the challenge is to wear everything
  • What is actually ripped, faded, worn out, 10 years out of style, etc.
  • What is clearly not my size

Let the closet games begin!

I have such high hopes for my ability to drain my closet of said clothing. Every year. Even though my closet from this year looks dangerously similar to last year’s.

Seriously!? Have I got rid of nothing!?

Actually I have, but I’ve also attended a lot of clothing swaps and come home with more than I left behind.

And wouldn’t you know, clothing swap season is upon us again!

The real tragedy here is I quite clearly need to show more discipline in getting rid of clothing.

Especially since I’m already three weeks into my challenge and my closet is still full. (Oh yeah I’m also on a laundry strike.)

First-Timer’s Steak Marinade Recipe

Back in the day when I braved an entire year of 30-day challenges (2011 for those who are new) I shared about my meat ignorance. Here’s an excerpt from one of my posts—from the 30-days of slow cookery.

My first problem was I have never bought pot roast before, so when I was at the grocery store I found myself simply staring at the different meats unsure of what the differences were between them all.

For some reason, meat intimidates me.

But my husband and I are at the point where we don’t enjoy meat so much we’re discussing trying to go vegetarian, at least for the most part. In a healthy way.

But that’s not a decision we can make lightly if we want to be healthy about it.

So before taking the leap, we’re doing some research. And part of that research needs to include learning more about meat.

Because, I suspect, if we learn to recognize a good cut of meat versus a bad/cheap cut of meat, and how to prepare it properly, we will enjoy it much, much more.

Last year my brother hosted a fondue party for New Year’s. And my job was to bring marinaded meat.

So, I looked up a recipe online and hoped for the best. And you know, it worked out pretty well! But I had no idea what I was doing, at all.

The ingredients from that marinade are still kicking around my kitchen (taking up space) and since the whole “meat” thing has been on my mind I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more about marinade, and, as a side-effect, meat.

Here we go. The purpose of marinade is to tenderize the meat. Totally didn’t know that. Therefore, tough cuts of meat benefit the most from marinades as it loosens them up and gives them flavour.

But really, marinade can be used anytime to liven up a piece of meat.

So really what I figured out, is you have to know what you want your meat to taste like and then you can mix up your marinade.

My grocery trip had me looking at some different beef cuts and I saw some nice sirloin steaks on special. I knew it was a pretty good price for sirloin and I knew my husband would be encouraged to barbeque once he saw them so I picked up a couple and started researching marinade recipes.

I didn’t want to purchase any new ingredients, since my fridge is kind of packed with random bottles of this or that thanks to my many unfortunate cooking experiments.

Due to this decision I had to combine recipes to come up with one marinade and boy oh boy was that an excellent side-effect.

Turned out pretty well!

I passed this image around Twitter and Facebook and a couple people asked for the marinade recipe. So here it is as best I can recall.

First-Timer’s Steak Marinade


  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cub barbeque sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (cloves if they’re handy)
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoons hot sauce


In medium bowl whisk ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Submerge meat completely in marinade and refrigerate for at least six hours, turning occasionally.