Sunday, July 31, 2011

This time I'm the lucky one!

Anyone who knows us, knows that Graham is FULL of luck and I am...well...NOT.SO.LUCKY.  Seriously.  He wins things all of the time- Ipod Classic, Ipod Nano x2, IPAD!  Wait, this makes me think maybe he has a deal with Apple or something, but he doesn't.  Apple products are usually a part of his BIG work conferences, and with every pharma company he has worked for, he was won an Apple product here and there.  I might be lucky in getting deals on things, but he is lucky at winning BIG.  I have yet to convince him to go to Vegas with me, but my 30th birthday might help me finally convince him!  Not long to go on that now...

Back to my lucky win! 

My amazingly crafty sister-in-law, Stephanie, who has an amazing blog herself, Making Beauty From Ashes, hosted a giveaway last week and I was selected as the winner!!!!!!!!!!!!  She was featuring GORGEOUS earrings from The Bird's Papaya, who is also a blogger and etsy shop owner (you can find her etsy shop here!  Oh.My.Goodness!  Her stuff is so cute!  And now, I am the owner of her adorable cornflower blue rosette earrings!

If you follow Stephanie's blog, you can make an order from The Bird's Papaya etsy shop, with a special deal.  If you don't follow, you should, or you could just check out The Bird's Papaya anyway!  Serious talent in both blogging and CRAFTING!

Thanks ladies for the win and the prize!  What a great way to start my day!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ex-Torontonians have a lazy day in the city!

I LOVE my husband.  I LOVE it even more when he has a long weekend that we can fill with relaxing, going to the movies, going out to eat and cooking together.  It's extra nice when we can fit in a walk or two, along the beach, some Perfect Dark on N64 and a few glasses of wine or a cocktail or two.

Today, we took off in the morning to Toronto.  The "plan" was to get coffee in Kensington Market, followed by lunch, at our favourite place on Augusta... the Burger Bar and Tequila Tavern.  We then wanted to walk along the beach and just sit under some shade and watch the families play in the water and build sand castles (it's relaxing!).

First stop, was coffee (we're decaf people, but Graham loves his coffee anyway).  We went to Wanda's Pie in the Sky .  While we did not have the pie, Graham has a delicious cappucino, and I was hoping to have their affagatto (ice cream with decaf (for me) espresso), but they forgot to turn on their machine.  They were very kind in offering me something else (I had a mochaccio, which was too sweet, but ok) and a cookie of my choice for the mistake.  I chose a french style pistachio macaroon, and it was DELICIOUS!

 After a nice walk around Kensington, we made a stop at the Blue Banana Market, a store that has so many quirky and cool gifts.  They always have fun kitchen item displays, and really fun snacks, jewellery, paintings and kitchen gadgets.  I was giddy when I saw some REALLY cute/pretty cupcake liners (but sadly, did not want to pay the ridiculous prices that stores like this charge for "specialty" items) and CHICAGO MIX POPCORN!!!!!!!!!!!  Now that was something that I was NOT going to walk away from!  Yummy!  If you haven't ever had it, it's the perfect mix of salty and sweet popcorn, with half the bag a caramel corn and half a cheddar cheese.  Again, sounds gross, but DELICIOUS!

Aren't these just SO GIRLIE and cute!?!?!?!

Billi P.  It is your fault that I am now IN.LOVE with this flavour combo!  Thank goodness, I lived in Chicago and didn't know that it existed until I left!

 It was then off to the patio at The Burger Bar (which we found due to groupon!), they do these amazing sesame chicken sandwiches and bourbon sours. We were sure that they did lots of other yummy things too, but we had always stuck to the same order.  Mostly because the sandwich came with the most AMAZING sweet potato fries and chipotle ketchup that you'll ever eat, and the most simple and incredible rocket/arugula salad with deep fried garlic chips and a lemon vinagrette.  Mmm... Today, we opted to venture out of our normal food order and go for something different.

Graham had the "Dragon Bowl", with a chicken and green coconut curry broth, noodles, kimchi and sesame seeds etc.  He really liked it, but missed the salad and fries (don't worry, he always eats more than half of mine!).  It was a HUGE portion, and if we weren't spending the rest of the day in Toronto, he could have taken enough home for, at least another meal!

I had the Azul brunch.  It was 2 poached eggs on a thin slice of toast, with wilted spinach, house smoked salmon and dijonnaise, the salad and the fries.  I would like to say it was a "home run", but there were 2 measly pieces of salmon on top of each egg, the size of a loonie.  A bit pathetic really, but still delicious.  If Graham was at all interested in trying the egg part of my dish, he would have made me send it back, but I wasn't in the mood to have him eat alone, while I wait.  That, and I am not at particular as he is anyway. 

 We each enjoyed our favourite bourbon sours, with a meringue foam (sounds weird, but OH.MY!), and sat under the umbrella, just people watching and enjoying lunch together.  What is it about one extra day on a weekend that makes you feel TOTALLY relaxed?

We ended the day with a nice walk along the beach in the beaches, and an ice cream to share (we LOVE to share for portion control! :).

A perfect day in Toronto!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The final chapter!

Last night, we saw Harry Potter 7 Part 2.  We have not read any of the books, so it should not have been predictable, was.  We were hoping for action from beginning to end, but we both found the beginning a bit slow.  To us, it was mostly a fight between HP and Valdamort, with Hermione and Ron tagging along, on occasion.  The end was predictable, to say the least.  It was a great night/day out, but we both still agree that HP # 1 & 2 were the best films.  Sorry if this disappoints anyone who hasn't seen it.  If there was more action, it would have been gripping.

That, and 2 ANNOYING kids talked 2 rows behind us, through the whole movie.  Multiple people "sushed" them, but they didn't care, and I got so fed up, I stood up and told them to "shut up, please".  I was less than impressed when I saw their mother sitting right beside them.  REALLY?  Come on people!

Anyway, if you haven't seen it, it's still worth going for sure, I mean, it's the end of a era.  I've heard it's one of the closest films to the book, so people who have read them, might LOVE that.  All in all, you should still see it, just for the experience, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  Maybe you'll love it!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Playdate with Cole!

I got to have a very special playdate with Cole today, which really made my day!  It was a last minute request to his parents, and they were happy to oblige!  I could only take him for the morning, but it was such a GREAT time, although TOO short!  He has changed SO much and it breaks my heart not to be apart of that everyday anymore.  I miss both him and Cayenne immensely, but getting frequent updates, really warms my heart!

Cole has started speaking in sentences, and has HUGE words in his vocabulary!  It makes me so happy to hear and see this!  We spent a lot of time "talking" and singing, which was so cute!  He is AMAZING at the alphabet, and wanted me to keep singing, whenever we were in the car together!  He kept asking where Graham was, and when I told him that he was at work, he looked sad.  We tried to give a call to him, but "he was not there", as Cole said, although he got VERY excited at first, when his voice came on the answering machine!  He'd have the phone to his ear and say, "Hello!  NOT THERE.  Venture (adventure) with Lee-Anne.  Bye".  SO CUTE!

We had a fun filled morning, and it was impossible not to break my heart many times this morning!  The hardest part was dropping him off at daycare!  I don't know how you all do it!  The second I parked up, he was already crying.  He kept repeating, "No school.  Venture with Lee-Anne.  Plllleeease.  Don't go.  Please."  All while crying.  I got his bag out of the car, took him in my arms, and he clung onto my neck, the whole 30 second walk to the door.  I tried to pass him onto the daycare worker, and he clung on, throwing his arms around me again.  I handed him over, and I had to leave with tears in my eyes, as all I kept hearing was crying and, "Come back Lee-Anne.  Miss you.  Venture.  Come baaaaack.  Don't go.  Lee-Annnnnnnnnnneeeeeee!  Come baaaaaack!" 

Broke. My. Heart.  Man, I miss him!  I happened to see Cayenne on my way out, and she didn't recognize me (I had a sad feeling that would happen).  I gave her a hug and a kiss and when she pulled away, she gave me a little half smile and quizzical look, so maybe there was a little bit of knowing who I was...

Onto the fun stuff!  We played outside, at the park along the lake, until it rained.  We then took off to the indoor play centre!  It was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to do it again!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chocolate Whoopie Pies!!!

I often get requests from Graham's co-workers for their "treat of the week".  They know that on Fridays of the weeks that I am not too busy, I tend to bake a new item and they become my "taste testers".  Once and awhile, Graham gets people popping into his office, telling him to thank me, and that it was a GREAT combo, or their favourite thing that they've eaten in ages, or my favourite compliment so far...

"That was almost orgasmic".

That would be the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes with a Peanut Butter Cream Cheese frosting.  YOU.ARE.WELCOME.  This lovely lady, is also that lady who ordered the Harry Potter cupcakes for the party at Chapters.

I tend to think that Graham LOVES the bonus points that it gets him with his boss and co-workers, but I am happy to do something for my hard-working husband and his co-workers!  I need someone to test them for me, and most of our friends and family don't live close enough.  He said that one lady at work sighs when he walks in with a box of goodies, asking him to stop doing it, while sneaking one out of the box everytime.  "I can't resist", she says.

This week, banana peanut butter cupcakes have graced the office, mostly because Graham's boss has been having a few hard weeks with his Dad being unwell and he mentioned that his favourite thing growing up was a peanut butter and banana sandwich.  He's a big fan of treats with his coffee, so why not do something to brighten his day?!

Today though, it's Chocolate Whoopie pies!  I know it's not a Friday, but I like to throw them off on occasion!  I had to bake a small order of them, and didn't feel like halving the recipe, so lucky them!

Please, please come visit soon, as I have to do some new samples for Timothy's and I think Graham's co-workers might KILL ME SOON, if I keep dropping off baked goods at the office!  That and Graham REALLY doesn't need anymore samples (he feels it's his right to try EVERYTHING that comes out of the kitchen!).

Here they are, so pretty and yummy!  And if you haven't ever had one before, think Joe Louis (but homemade and WAY better), or a ding dong like cake with a twinkle like filling.  Fluffy cake, fluffy filling and not sweet like icing!  YUM!

All baked and beautiful, with creme filling ready to go!

Filled, decorated and ready to eat!  YUMMY!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I have an addiction.

The first step of an addiction is admitting it, right?
I have been collecting cookbooks for years now.  It's been somewhat of a hobby, trying to get one cookbook from each country that we visit (it's hard to find a Middle Eastern cookbook in ENGLISH!), or finding new ones to inspire.  We now have a big enough kitchen, that an entire section of cupboards is dedicated to them.  I have always wanted to be able to do this...have them at arm's reach, so that I can make a new recipe, tweak a new creation, or see a photo of something I'd love to make.  I tend to irritate Graham once I am done, as he always says:
"You can make this again right?  I mean, you didn't just look in a cookbook for inspiration and make up your own recipe again, did you?  I'd really like it if you would be able to make this AGAIN!"
Unfortunately for my dear husband, the latter is usually true.  I love to READ (yes, like a book) new cookbooks and see an item that I'd love to make, usually studying the recipe and not completely following it.  I mean, there's always the basics that you can swap out to make a recipe your own.

Does it call for peanuts and you want to add pecans instead?  Does it call for All Purpose flour and you want to use rice flour to make it lighter (yes, there's a secret I'll share with you!)?  Does it call for water and you want to use sparkling water, or cola, or anything fizzy to make it rise better or be more fluffy?  Does it call for eggs and you want to swap in mayonnaise, oil or applesauce instead? 

There are always fun ways to make things your own.  Things that someone will say to you, "this tastes like something I've had before, but slightly different."  Maybe you added nutmeg to your mashed potatoes (seriously giving away my little secrets here...), or grate frozen butter into your biscuits or pie crust to ensure it's SUPER buttery and flaky (didn't everyone learn this from their Grandmother?).

We have a collection of over 100 cookbooks.  Some are left behind in England, as there wasn't any room left in either of our shipping containers.  Sad, seeing as they were some of our most used cookbooks, holding notes in the margins, on what we did to make them ours, or make them "better".  There are some that we couldn't live without, so we have repurchased them, and some that we have to call Tom for on occasion, to get us the recipe (poor guy!).  But mostly, our collection is something that we love...cookbooks with cuisines, baked goods, chocolates, and tips from all over the world.  It's so funny sometimes when we cook a full meal out of them, as Graham could pick a side dish, where we have to measure by a scale, we might have a main that needs to be measured in ounces and we might have a dessert, that needs to be measured in cups and mls.

I LOVE to go out shopping for new cookbooks, especially if I can get them on sale, or at Winner's/Homesense for cheaper.  I often use my Michael's coupons for 40-50% off something, on a weekend and buy a baking book with it.  You will NEVER see a Christmas go by (and we get made fun of for having a "crappy" list sometimes), without at least 2-5 cookbooks on EACH of our lists.  It's something that we BOTH LOVE and we BOTH LOVE TO DO TOGETHER.
Here were my little finds today, nothing was over $10!

I have already picked out a DELICIOUS looking breakfast bar recipe out of this one!

This one has a KILLER waffle recipe that I would love to try for the next time that Mom and Dad are over!

This one has some GREAT basic tips and starter recipes to go by, that you can EASILY tweak by changing the flours, oils, nuts, fruit, dairy or flavourings!

I am determined to make a Whoopie Pie recipe out of here that is entirely gluten, dairy, egg and nut free!

What inspires you?  What do you go out looking for that's part of your hobby?  Do you tend to follow recipes "by the book", or do you like to go rogue like us?

What's the ONE thing you have ALWAYS wanted to cook/bake or eat, that you have always been afraid to tackle and why?

Monday, July 25, 2011


We woke up this morning to thunder, lightning and the house shaking!  It was an early 5am wake up call, but a blessed one, as it has been BONE DRY here for over 6 weeks now! 

I remember in May, asking for the rain to just go away, many people feeling the same way.  Maybe we all wished it away so well, it left for weeks on end :( 

The grass is like straw, the garden is like dried clay, and the fruit and veggies Graham is growing in the backyard, look so deprived of NATURAL water.  I can only imagine what our water bill is going to be this coming month!!!!  YIKES!

But thank you God for giving us rain this morning!  It poured so hard for 5 hours!  We are supposed to get even more rain overnight tonight, which is really great!  I do feel bad for those who still haven't gotten any rain, the farmers who are desperate for it and the countries that are in drought.  We  are praying for you all!

Today, we were thankful!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Do you always see eye 2 eye?

Oh, furniture.  It's something that I am NOT A FAN OF SHOPPING FOR!  I love to see houses all done up and pretty, but getting there can be SO MUCH WORK! 

Our house is mostly all settled in regards to furniture, but since we moved in, we have been looking for 2 key pieces...with ZERO success.  We thought that we were getting CLOSE, but nope. 

I am DYING to have a BIG, oversized reading chair for the corner on the main floor, and Graham would like more of a Chaise lounge type of chair.  We don't normally see eye to eye when it comes to decorating, style or colours, so it has been an interesting experience so far.  He has so far found a GRANDMA style chaise lounge, that doesn't  match the house, our other furniture, and was the ugliest chair I have seen in ages!  HA!  I found one that I LOVED, which has some brown in it, matching our house and couch!  However, since Graham has found a chaise chair, he feels that he can find a good one somewhere, that will beat my favourite chair!

Here's my favourite chair.  Now to convince Graham that nothing will beat it! HA!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Homemade Granola!

We are HUGE granola fans in this house!  Graham especially, sometimes sending me out on a wild goose chase for his favourite granola from $8 a box!  He doesn't have many things that he misses from England, so when he asks for this, I have no problem going out to get it for him! 

I have been making homemade granola since we have been together, and once and a while he remembers this, and asks me to make as much granola as I can fit in the oven at a time!  He eats it daily: with yogurt, milk, as dessert, you name it!  We even put chocolate chips in it sometimes and then sprinkle it on ice cream!  YUM!  He loves it when I make granola for him, as the stuff you buy in the store, usually has more sugar in one cup, than in your CHOCOLATE BAR of choice!  YIKES!

So, as Graham is a hard working man and I love him SO much, I have been making granola this week, in masses!  He is on the 2nd request for more, and batch #2 was made today, so I guess it was a hit!

Here are the photos, and if you'd like a recipe, let me know!

Raisins, Cranberries, Cherries, Pecans, Almonds, Coconut, Oats, Maple Syrup, Cinnamon etc!  OH MY!

As asked, here's the recipe!!!

4 cups of LARGE flake oats
1 cup All Bran cereal (this one- the original)
1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
1 cup Pecans
1 cup sliced almonds (untoasted)
1/2 cup Dried Cranberries
1/2 cup Dried Cherries
1 cup JUMBO flame raisins (they don't dry out then)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Canola/Vegetable oil (not olive, it will burn)
1/2 cup CANADIAN maple syrup
1 TBSP Cinnamon
1 Tsp Nutmeg

Mix all dry ingredients together in a VERY large bowl. 
Add oil and maple syrup and mix very well with hands, until all ingredients are wet and there are some "chunky/crunchy" bits.
Pour onto 2 lightly oiled, large baking sheets.
Bake in the oven for 45 mins at 325F, stirring and alternating shelves in the oven every 15 mins.

If you want something super yummy:  Add 1 cup of DARK chocolate chips when cool to one of the trays and eat with Ice Cream!

OPTIONS/SUBSTITUTIONS:  You can substitute honey for the maple syrup if needed.
You can substitute whole almonds for the pecans, but the pecans really make this!
You can substitute sultanas or regular raisins for the Jumbo raisins, but they will shrink slightly and will not be as chewy.

DO NOT substitute OLIVE OIL, as the granola will BURN easily.

ENJOY!  I don't think Graham will ever let me buy store bought granola again!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry Potter Catch up!

So, let me start off with a little disclaimer:

I thought I saw all of the Harry Potter movies... but I didn't.  Kind of not even close.  Oops!  Kathryn, DON'T kill me now!

Graham and I wanted to see all the HP movies again, before we go and see the last one.  Mostly just to refresh our memories, but also because I thought that I hadn't seen the first one and IT'S THE END OF AN ERA! (FRIENDS anyone???)

So, off I went to Blockbuster this week to rent as many of them as I could.  They only had the first 4, so I picked up those, hoping we'd have some date nights this week.  I mean, why not, IT WAS HOT HOT HOT OUT!

After watching the first 4, I came to realize that I had only seen 1 of them!  AHH!  Don't stop being my friend, please!  I don't know why I hadn't, other than growing up in a family where magic wasn't really something we watched, believed in or payed attention to.  Maybe, because I was also in COLLEGE when these came out, or travelling the world.  I know that I have seen 5, 6 and 7 Part I, as Graham and I saw those yearly on a date, wherever we were in the world together.

So there, i admitted it!  I hadn't seen all of the HP movies, but now, apart from the last one, I have!  I enjoyed them all, expect for the 3rd one (that was weird!!!), and now they all make so much more sense to me!

Now to see the next 3 this week, followed by HP 7 Part II next weekend!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Warning, laughter that will cause lots of tears and gut ache!!!

I had a blog ready all about making, homemade granola... a star in it's own right.  Did you know that most store bought granola has more sugar in it than a CANDY BAR?  Disgusting!  Put it down, throw it out and eat a Mars bar instead, it has less sugar AND calories!!!

I was about to post all about it, with a recipe included, but I came across a blog post tonight, that had Graham and I laughing so hard, we were CRYING!  I was sent this post by a friend and just about died!  Please enjoy, but I will warn you, that there are a 2 captions that have a swear word.  Sorry.  It's not my thing either, but this blog post is just too hilarious!

Let me know what you think!

And's your lesson now: PICK YOUR BATTLES!!!

The Blogess

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Delicious Brittle recipe!!!

While it's slightly too hot to be baking (the a/c is frigid downstairs, but not so much upstairs), I was in withdrawal, so I decided to make something to keep the fun up around here!

I am a BIG fan of barks, brittles, fudge...mmm fudge...maybe that will be next week's task!  I decided that I just NEEDED to make some brittle!  As it's half the price to make as ONE package usually bought at the store, with 4 times as much made in the end, I was excited to make myself a little afternoon snack.

So, off I went to make homemade almond brittle (I REALLY love cashew, but it's what I had in the house!).  I will post the recipe, as it's SO delicious and just needs to be shared!  It is REALLY addictive and easy to make, and it's something you can usually make without having to run to the store for any ingredients!  DANGEROUS!

Let me know if you try it and how you like it!

After you put the first 3 ingredients in the pan, you NEED to have the last ones ready!  Once the sugar/water mixture turns amber, you have to move QUICKLY!

Sugar, water and corn syrup mixing away!

The finished product cooling!  It doesn't look like much, but it makes over a POUND!  This is on a HUGE cookie sheet!

Here's the recipe:

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/2 cups ANY nuts

Heat on medium boil and stir until amber in colour.  Add butter and stir.  Add baking soda and stir. VERY quickly add in nuts and stir. Pour onto a buttered/oiled aluminum foiled cookie sheet. Spread and let cool. Brake when cool. Makes about 1lb!
Enjoy and let me know how you like it!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oh technology!!!!!!

Today's post will be short and sweet!

I love my husband for many reasons, but today especially! I mean, the man came home with a free IPAD for me!

I love you hunny!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A day out in Haldimand County!!!

I'd love to say that this was a WHOLE day out, but with it being a 2 hour drive there (plus HORRIBLE traffic), and the same back, it was really just a few hours in the County.  I was dying for some Hewitt's on the way home from my visit, but unfortunately... I ate too much bean dip.

It was so nice to have a visit with Shannon, A, N & S.  I was so excited to be there, HOLD THAT PRECIOUS BABY, catch up with Shannon and dance and play with A.  It was really nice to spoil someone else by: delivering gifts, cupcakes, cake pops and bean dip and chips.  I love seeing old co-workers and GREAT friends and enjoying love and joy with them.

I was SO distracted by N & A, and their adorable selves...along with catching up with Shannon and S, that I forgot to take pictures!  SHOOT!  In light of that, I will add a fun one for little N!  You are all so loved ladies by so many people!  Congrats Shannon and Kevin!