April shower’s bring…August wedding’s! We had a wonderful day celebrating the lovely bride to be, Nicole. It was great having so many friends and family members there to join in the fun, festivities and food. All on the backdrop of a gorgeous sunny, spring day.
This past week, Michael and I took a trip to Calgary to visit with his family over New Year’s. We had a wonderful time catching up with his parents and brother, celebrating a belated Christmas, eating some delicious meals, and perusing through old albums of Michael as a little munchkin. Of course, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit beautiful Banff, just a short drive from Calgary.
The Banff Springs Hotel truly emulates its title as “A Castle in the Mountains”. The architecture is stunning, authentic, and being in an old castle surrounded by the Canadian snow-topped Rockies is nothing short of magical. Which is probably why Michael decided this would be the perfect location for a proposal.
The morning of the proposal, we had an amazing buffet breakfast in the Fairmont dining room. Michael didn’t give anything away as he was super calm and ‘going with the flow’. We even watched some Ellen DeGeneres in our hotel room and had a casual lunch. We were scheduled to meet a photographer for a mini photo session after lunch. It was then, while we were waiting for our lunch to arrive, that Michael went back up to the room to get his cell-phone (read: ring) so he could contact the photographer if we got lost in the huge castle.
We met up with the photographer and took some shots around the beautiful hotel, where we eventually came upon a mostly-quiet room with large windows and a fireplace. There, mid photo shoot, Michael got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! I was so stunned for a few moments, but of course, I said “yes!” without hesitation.
Banff is a place I visited twice with my family as a teenager, so, along with its obvious beauty, it holds a special place in my heart for the fond memories I have of being there. And now, I am lucky enough to add another incredibly special memory by experiencing one of the biggest milestones of my life there, with the person I cannot wait to begin forever with.
(Days 2, 3, 4)
It’s reunion time! Or, reunitation time, as I like to call it. This is the true reason that brought us to this trip—Anita studying Medicine in Newcastle Upon-Tyne. Today is the day that we took the train to finally meet up with her in her “hometown” where she’s lived the past year. Nik, Lin, and I, met her at the train station, and, after we got settled in, Anita took us for a walk to the Quay Side where we saw the bridge “tilt” and the famous New Castle building. I actually have no idea what the building is, but a local did laugh at me for asking if she could “take a photo of us in front of the Peanut”.
Later that evening, we went to “The Botanist” for cocktails. It was gorgeous; a tree with Mason Jar lanterns right in the middle of the bar, and a beautiful domed window ceiling lined with tiny white lights.
The next day, our first full day in NC, we went to Tynnemouth to see a castle and go to the beach. The castle was right on the cost of the North Sea, on a cliff. We all took a few minutes to sit and just drink in the sea air and beauty. You just can’t put words to the sea.
You also can’t put words to ice cream, especially when it’s farm-fresh, which we ate at the castle before embarking on our long trek down the coast for some of the worlds best fish ‘n chips. The walk was absolutely worth every step, right along the sea. And if the view wasn’t already enough, those fish ‘n chips made two hours of walking so quickly forgotten. It really was better than anything I could have imagined for fish ‘n chips, and we ate it as a seaside picnic, while contemplating how the fish we were devouring were swimming around those waters just that morning (that part was a little bit strange).
On our second, and final, full day in NC, I woke the girls up by stretching and exclaiming “Spreeeeeeeeeee”, because we were heading to the store Primark to shop. It didn’t end up being a huge spree, but I did get a nice dress, and a couple goodies for some special people back home (shout-out to Mom, Dad, Nix and Ryan!). We shopped a little while, met up with Anita after her morning class, and headed to the storybook town of Durham. I would describe Durham as a cross between Quebec City, and an old, authentic version of Mt. Tremblant; lots of winding, “hilly”, cobble-stone roads, line with beautiful architecture and cute little shops. We went into “Whittard’s”, the English tea shop, and a nice man with a great accent helped me select some tea to bring home to my parents, whom I described as “kind of boring” (Sorry, Mom and Dad;).
At the top of our winding road, storybook adventure, we came to beautiful Durham Cathedral. We couldn’t take photos inside the cathedral, but the grand architecture was stunning.
After our day in Durham, we took the train back to NC, where we prepared a surprise belated birthday dinner for Anita, since we were finally all together to celebrate! Lin did a next-level job of stalling Anita in her room while Nik and I James-Bond-style snuck into her apartment and used the kitchen on her floor to cook up gnocchi with spinach and mushroom in a rose sauce, and garlic bread. Sidenote, Neets, now that we’re out of the city, it’s probably a good time to mention that, not only did we steal a spoonful of your peanut butter to snack on while cooking, but I also got some peanut butter contaminate in your Nutella, cause, ya know, you can’t have one without the other. I noticed there was already some PB in the Nutella though, so I know you do it too. 😉 I digress. We had a delicious dinner and then had Tiramisu for dessert. It was a great way to spend our last evening all together as four, before the three of us move on to Liverpool tomorrow. Happy Birthday, Anita! We are so blessed to have been able to celebrate over ten years of birthdays with you. Thank you for hosting us!
On to the next leg of our journey…
After an eventful day of travel, that, between the 3 of us, included: delayed flights, missed flights, a deactivated credit card due to fraud, pink eye, a search of three foreign pharmacies for meds, no sleep, lost baggage, and a very sad excuse of airplane banana bread, we arrived!
BUT, “My journey overseas went super smoothly”, said no person ever.
On our first full day in Glasgow, we started off the morning with a big breakfast consisting of your standard breakfast foods and a side of black pudding. Sensing our hesitation toward trying black pudding, the waitress refrained from enlightening us as to what ‘black pudding’ was, exactly. After all trying a bite, we were informed that it was indeed a blend of blood from assorted animals boiled into a pudding (that actually had a solid consistency). Yum?
We then began our exploration of Glasgow by heading to Bothwell Castle. The journey to the castle involved a short train ride followed by a beautiful walk through a countryside village. The castle was built in 1242, was torn apart by the Wars of Independence, survived siege after siege, and was rebuilt in the 1600s. There were very few visitors at Bothwell Castle, which made it feel very authentic, rather than like a tourist attraction. We lingered there for a couple hours, relaxing on the green space within the castle walls and drinking up its beauty.
On the way back from the castle, we stopped in the city center of Glasgow for dinner, before returning to our hotel. An unwelcomed visitor—a huge Scottish spider—made his appearance in our room around midnight. Luckily, the selfie stick that Lin so excitedly purchased before the trip, doubled as a makeshift weapon. The good news is that the spider is no longer with us. The bad news is that neither is our dear friend Selfie Stick, and that I may have swallowed the spider’s brother in my sleep. At least I am now closer to the 8 spiders that I will, statistically speaking, swallow over my lifetime. Silver linings. 😀
(That tastes more like a chocolate-berry dessert.)
After a week of vacation during which Cow’s Ice Cream made up a fifth food group in my daily diet (hey, it is voted Canada’s best ice cream!), I was happy to get back on track with a run this morning followed by this Power Smoothie fuel. And honestly, even though it wasn’t wrapped in a freshly baked waffle cone, or named something staring with ‘Moo’, it didn’t taste that far off from Cow’s Ice Cream.
The best part is that it’s loaded with super foods, but you wouldn’t even know.
Ingredients for 1 Smoothie:
– A handful of baby spinach
– 1 small frozen banana, broken into chunks
– 1/2 cup frozen berry blend (I used blueberries, blackberries and cherries)
– 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
– 1 tbsp chia seeds, pre-soaked in water*
– 2 tsp cocoa powder (when combined with the natural sweetness of the fruit, will give a rich, chocolatey flavour!)
– Coconut water, to cover all ingredients
1) Combine all ingredients in a blender/Magic Bullet/Nutribullet and blend until smooth.
2) Drink up!
*Soaking chia seeds in water causes them to become softer and gelatinous due to their rich supply of insoluble fibre. You can store soaked chia seeds in a Mason jar in the fridge, adding 4tbsp of water for every 1tbsp of chia seeds. Then, simply add 1tbsp of this seed mixture to your smoothies.
The spiralizer goes far beyond making just pasta-type dishes, but who would have thought it could make such things as pizza!
I love the idea of making homemade pizza, right down to the crust. But all that measuring and mixing and kneading and rising is a little too cumbersome for me. This spiralized potato pizza crust, on the other hand, can literally be as simple as two ingredients. The added bonus: it’s completely flourless!
Ingredients for two personal pizzas:
– 2 potatoes
– 2 eggs
– olive oil
– 2 tbsp ground flax seed (optional)
– desired spices (I used cumin and marjoram – also optional)
– desired pizza toppings
1) Spiralize both potatoes
2) Cook spiralized potatoes in a saucepan with 1 tbsp of olive oil, over medium heat, until slightly softened
3) In a bowl, mix together potato noodles with two eggs, flax seed, and desired spices
4) Press half of the potato mixture firmly into a pie tin, then quickly inverse the tin to dump the crust onto a greased cookie sheet (Note: don’t worry if the crust doesn’t hold together perfectly upon flipping, it can be remoulded into a circle using a fork); repeat for second pizza crust
5) Bake crusts at 350F until golden brown and crispy; approximately 10 minutes. In the meantime, slice and prepare pizza toppings
6) Remove crusts from oven, top with desired pizza toppings, and return to oven to bake for an additional 10 minutes
7) Slice with a pizza cutter and enjoy your breadless, flourless, veggie-crust pizza!
A sweet little boy requested a “dig dig” cake for his second birthday, so we couldn’t disappoint.
But first, I’ll confess. Although we carefully constructed (pun intended) the exterior presentation of the cake, the innards were derived from a box mix. Let me explain: it was getting late. We were anxious to just decorate. And frankly, it’s acceptable to put all your efforts into either the taste quality or the presentation quality, and we chose the latter. The added bonus: you don’t have to actually see how much sugar went into the cake you’re about to devour. So it kind of, even, possibly, makes it healthier. Ta-da.
And we did make the chocolate buttercream icing from scratch, so that further justifies the box cake mix.
For the buttercream icing:
– 1 cup butter
– 2 cups icing sugar
– 2 tablespoons milk
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– cocoa – slowly add until desired colour and taste is achieved; about 1/2 cup (optional)
1) Blend all ingredients together with an electric mixer until smooth.
For the cake:
1) Bake according to package directions in desired pan.
2) Allow cake to cool completely, and then scoop out a small hole on the top of the cake to resemble a digger hole, and place digger truck accordingly. Conserve the crums to make a dirt pile after icing. The great part of this is that nothing has to be perfect – it is a construction site after all!
3) Generously ice entire cake, avoiding the digger hole.
4) Place cake crumbs in a pile and place dump truck accordingly.
5) Using a wide ribbon piping tip, pipe a line of icing curving around the perimeter of the cake, and place steam roller accordingly.
6) We added “construction colours” of M&M’s to make a big ‘2’ on the front of the cake for a final touch!
The best part: the birthday boy got to use the trucks to scoop and pile the mess of crumbs on the table; what more could a 2-year-old ask for?
I always shied away from making pancakes. Not only am I not crazy about them to begin with, but when it comes time to flip those little bubbling circles of goo, disaster usually ensues.
Until I found out that you could make a pancake with only TWO ingredients. Now that, I had to try.
But first, I’ll confess that my version of the two ingredient pancake quickly became the several ingredient pancake, as I creatively fancified and healthified my little breakfast cakes. The good news: this part is totally optional and you can get as creative (or not) as you like!
For about 3 pancakes:
– 1 banana
– 2 eggs (I used one whole egg and one egg white)
– ground flax seed
– chia seeds
– wheat germ
– coconut milk
– coconut flakes
1) Whisk the banana and eggs together until a batter-like consistency is achieved.
2) Spray a saucepan on medium-low heat with cooking spray. You’ll want to cook these pancakes at a lower temperature than you would usually cook a pancake, because they are subject to burn very easily .
3) Ladle batter into the pan, achieving a small pancake size as this will be easier to flip.
4) Cook covered until bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake, and the bottom is firm enough to flip with a spatula.
5) Flip pancake and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.
Serve with toppings of your choice;I went with blueberries, wheat germ, coconut flakes, and a side of almonds and dates.
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”-A.A. Milne
Alternate title: I invented a recipe…and it worked!
I had lunch and had just settled in for a productive day of Sunday studying, when I was hit with an intense chocolate craving. So, naturally, the self-discipline portion of my brain kicked in to encourage me to power through, reading about health program implementation instead of dreaming up decadent creations that I could be baking. And it worked. For a little while.
Eventually, (and by eventually, I mean about 3 minutes into my readings), I decided to succumb to the temptation, reminding myself that it’s healthy to take a study break periodically and do something creative. Even if, well, the studying hadn’t actually occurred yet.
I knew that I wanted to make something involving chocolate that was still healthy. Something that my brain would think of as dessert, but that my body would see as a hearty afternoon pick-me-up. That way, I could eat the leftovers all week long for well-balanced, nutritious school snacking (if of course, any leftovers remained, which they didn’t).
So I got to searching the web for the ideal recipe. But I couldn’t pin down any that spoke to me. Many claimed to be healthy by including pureed beans, but went on to add cups on cups of sugar. That’s when the tiny seed of a super-crazy-idea was planted in my brain: I could invent my own recipe. I’m the person who changes a recipe by a quarter teaspoon and renders it inedible to a hungry bear, but maybe it was all the health program planning I’ve been doing lately, because some part of me was actually ambitious enough to consider taking on this feat. I had made brownies of a similar sort in the past, so I had a general idea of what needed to be included: something to hold it together, something to sweeten etc….and this is what I did:
(And it actually worked! And it’s actually healthy! And it actually DOES taste good, trust me.)
– 1 cup canned mixed beans (or chickpeas or black beans)
– 1 very ripe banana
– 1 individual serving container of applesauce
– 1/2 cup coffee (NOTE: the coffee gives the brownies a rich flavour but will reduce the sweetness, so if you’re interested in a sweeter brownie and don’t want to add more sweeteners, I would suggest omitting the coffee and replacing with milk)
– 1/3 cup cocoa powder
– 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
– 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/4 cup honey
– 1 egg
– 1/3 cup chopped pecans, plus extra for sprinkling on top (or walnuts, or chocolate chips if you want something richer!)
1) Blend the beans, banana, applesauce, coffee (or milk) together in a food processor/blender/magic bullet until smooth
2) Mix in the remaining ingredients
3) Pour into a brownie dish lined with parchment paper, sprinkle with chopped pecans
3) Bake at 350C for approximately 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out relatively dry