February 27, 2011

Simple Things - Paid In Full

This week, I received a letter confirming that I've paid my student loan in full.
After 10+ years, this formal business letter made me smile.

February 25, 2011

Paid in Full {Finally}

One of the items on my life list was to pay off my student loans early. Early being the operative word. Quite frankly I was tired of siphoning that chunk of money month after month after month to give to the bank, with interest of course. I preferred to see it go into savings, RRSPs or other personal investment. Not to say incurring the loan wasn't a worthwhile investment - it was. It allowed me to get a degree and a job in the profession of my choice. It was an investment in me, in my future. And yes it is paying off. I just think that post-secondary education should be more affordable for all, particularly given it generally leads to active, contributing members of our economy and communities. But I digress - a diatribe for another time.

Back to my life list. Once I had drafted my list, I picked a few priority items to accomplish first. Paying of my student loans early was one of those items. So I made a plan to make it happen. I increased my monthly payments right away - essentially raising them from the equivalent of compact car payment to a mid-size sedan payment. Seriously, four years of school plus interest costs that much. After that, any big chunks of change I had went right onto the largest of the two loans, diligently, until it was paid in full last spring. I then took the monthly payment amount from that loan and added to the monthly payment for the remaining loan - I was already used to seeing it going out of the bank account. I continued to pay down that loan, happily watching it decrease payment by payment.

Earlier this month, when there was just a little more than one payment left, I called the bank's student loan centre and told them to just take the last of it from my bank account. Take it now, I said. Ok, maybe that's not verbatim, but you get my point. Then yesterday I received this letter, the best piece of mail I received all month:

Proof that, after more than 10 years of payments, my student loan is {finally} paid in full. About two years ahead of schedule. I did it - I paid off my student loans early. Yay me!

I've read many articles and posts that say if you write down your life goals they will happen. I think we have to do a little more than just write it down - like prioritize, plan and act - but do agree that writing it down makes it real and spurs us more likely to take those next steps.

Today, I happily strike through that list item and prepare to move onto accomplishing the next one - becoming a mother. I'm sure you'll hear more about that life to-do very soon :)

February 23, 2011

Be Great

Image from Fifi du Vie on Etsy
Yesterday I attended a leadership development seminar at work about tapping into the greatness already within. The premise was that people already have the capacity to be great at what they do, but allow barriers – be it self-imposed or externally driven – to interfere with reaching full potential. While certainly geared towards executive leaders and managers, it occurred to me how most of the principles just as easily apply to our personal lives as well.

One comment that hit home was the importance of focus. The presenter used the example of golf, noting that if you were to ask a golfer how much physical ability is a factor in success versus mental preparation, or focus, and the ratio you’d get is about 20/80. Yet, most golfers spend 80% of their time perfecting their physical ability and technique to just the 20% spent on preparing mentally. It was the same for me when I ran the marathon. Absolutely, without question, I spent the bulk of my energy and time on physical training. Now mind you I needed it, given I was going from inactive couch potato to marathon runner in about 5 months, but still. My 5 months were filled with short runs, long runs, hill and interval training, learning how to breathe and do 10 & 1’s. Yet, aside from a few Running Room clinics, very little time was spent on preparing mentally for the race itself. Of course, come race day my body was more than ready, it was my mind that wasn’t. I hadn’t visualized myself crossing that finish line. I didn’t have that mantra to help me push through a knee injury and fatigue. Anyone who runs knows it as much a mental sport as a physical one. Fortunately, I did have an awesome running partner who filled the void and kept me motivated.

Or to take it from another perspective, how often do we allow something else to take priority rather than do what we say is our priority. I do it all the time. I enjoy scrapbooking and often say I don’t have the time to do it as much as I’d like. So untrue. It’s just that I often choose to do something else with my time – whether it’s check email, surf facebook, watch bad TV, or whatever. I choose not to scrapbook by putting my focus somewhere else. Whether we skip exercise for some reason even though becoming healthier is on the priority list or give into that impulse buy knowing that bolstering the bank account is a top to-do, we’re simply allowing our focus to wander. The result is that we create barriers to living life the way we’d really like to.

The other comment that struck me in the session is that people often allow fear to interfere with reaching maximum potential (as the presenter put it, interFEARence). Fear of failure, fear of losing control, insecurities, fear of reprimand or ridicule. And it's so true. I wrote blog posts for about a month before sending the link to a limited number of family and friends. In a nutshell, fear. A month ago I would have defined it as doubt that’d I keep it up or concern that people wouldn’t find it interesting or care. All other ways for describing fear. Long story short, these were the personal barriers I set up to doing something I want to do. I still haven’t fully removed the barriers – I’ve not really shared the link beyond a safe circle of people who care about me, but I will at some point.

Sitting in the seminar, I recalled this quote I read somewhere recently:

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure ~ Sven Goran Eriksson

Imagine what we could all achieve if we really focus, let go of those fears and just do or be whatever it is we want. How great would that be?

February 22, 2011

One Little Word Album

Back in January I mentioned my one little word for 2011 - Open - and how I am creating an album as part of a year-long online class to keep that top of mind. A couple of weeks ago I finished putting the January portion of that album together and thought you might like to have a peek.

Cover Page

Inside Cover - Self-portrait taken in January 2011, the start of the OLW journey.

Journaling cards that capture why I chose 'open' as my word, what I hope to bring into my life with this word, and how it's defined. There's also a quote that includes my word, which I really quite like. It reflects the 'why I chose open' as my word. The rest of the cards are just scrapbooked, embellished papers to fill in the page protectors. February's class prompt will fill in the back of this page with photos (which I probably should get around to taking - might be March for me!).

I do hope I find that "joy blooms where minds and hearts are open" this year.

February 21, 2011

Scones - New Recipe # 2

As I mentioned in this post, my list of things 'to do' in this lifetime includes trying at least one new recipe every month for a year.  This month I decided to tackle scones - something I've always wanted to try making, but just never had. I also received the Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook for Christmas and have been itching to make something from it for a single recipe. Fortunately, she had included a scone recipe in her breakfast chapter so I could combine both at once.

If you like to cook and you've never read the Pioneer Woman's blog - go now!
Well, go after you finish reading my post :)

And now for the scones. I started with these lovely ingredients, which already included variations on the Pioneer Woman's recipe. I can't help myself when it comes to altering a recipe.

I switched up the 3 cups of white flour with half whole wheat, partly to make it healthier and partly because I ran out of all white. I also didn't have heavy cream, but used a combo of blend cream and skim milk, again partly to make it healthier and partly to make sure I reserved enough cream for coffee. I do have my priorities. Finally, the recipe was for maple pecan scones and I decided to use blueberries instead of pecans - gotta get those antioxidants! I also didn't have pecans - I'm all about flexibility.
All the dry ingredients get combined.

Cold, cubed butter gets cut in to flour mixture. Note to self: need pastry cutter to make these often.

Cream, egg, milk get introduced to dry mix and everything gets worked together. Tis crumbly.

Gently folded in those blueberries.

Rolled dough into a large circle and scored into 8 wedges.
I may or may not have measured it with my mini-measuring tape to get the disc to 10".

Onto to baking sheet they go, for 25 mins at 350 degrees.

Out they come, just slightly more golden than when they went it. But, fortunately a whole lot less crumbly. I was getting worried that I was about to experience a scone FAIL.

And what's a scone without icing. Icing sugar, milk, maple syrup butter.

Drizzled on top. Mmmmmm.

They turned out wonderfully and went perfectly with the Starbucks that my husband brought home after digging our car out yet more snow. Given I have a free pass on shovelling this year, I figure scones were the least I could do.  And given he devoured more than one, I'd guess he agrees :)


Cheers to a new recipe, a tasty success.

RECIPE (my adaptation)

Scones1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
1 egg
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup skim milk
3/4 cups blueberries, tossed with 1 tbsp flour to coat.

Half a bag of icing sugar, about 250 grams
2 tbsps unsalted butter, melted
2 -3 tbsps skim milk
1-2 tbsps maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut butter into small pieces and cut into flour mixture (preferably using a pastry cutter, but forks work too) until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Combine egg, cream, milk together and then add to dry mix. Work together just until combined - don't overdo it as it will make the scone tougher in the end. Gently fold in blueberries. Turn dough out onto large cutting board and roll into a 10" circle. Score into 8 wedges. Transfer to cooking sheet sprayed or lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 25 minutes until edges just start to turn golden. Let cool before icing. (I didn't wait for the first couple to cool and it was all good!)

Combine icing ingredients together in small bowl and stir until combined. Add more milk or syrup to thin out as needed or to taste. Pour over cooled scones and let set.

February 20, 2011

Simple Things - Breakfast in a Basket

Breakfast in a Basket
D and I celebrated Valentine's Day with a night out at Atlantica/The Beach House B&B. We enjoyed a fantastic dinner and headed back to our jacuzzi suite just a few steps away. The next morning, breakfast was delivered right to our door. Breakfast in a basket, now that's a simple thing that makes me smile.

The spread spread out on the bed. Now that's breakfast in bed.

February 18, 2011

What Goes Around

I’ve always believed the philosophy that ‘what goes around comes around’. Normally, I think of it in work contexts, trying always to treat those I work with respect and courtesy even during challenging times. You just never know when the person you’re working with will be making decisions that will impact on you and you’ll want the same courtesy and respect in return. However, the ‘what goes around comes around’ philosophy also applies in social and personal contexts as well, as was the case for me last night.

You see, my darling husband has been known to drive the car around town with the gas light on for quite some time before stopping to fill it up. He has also been known to run out of gas (ahem, on more than one occasion). To the point that it had become a point of fun contention. The banter goes something like this:

• We drive around with the bright orange warning gaslight glaring on the dashboard.
• I suggest we stop for gas.
• He says we have 70kms before we’ll run out. Or something to that effect.
• I say “it’s on you mister if we run out” or something like that.

And the process repeats itself the next time the little orange gas tank appears on the dashboard. Somewhere in there, I forgot that ‘what goes around comes around’. What’s that saying about karma again? Well, karma found me yesterday.

I took the car to work, not realizing the gas light was on until after dropping D off. As D was initially driving, I didn’t know exactly when the light came on, but figured it wasn’t more than 15kms or so before that point. I quickly crunched the numbers calculating those supposed 70kms the car can go before running out of gas, figured I was good and continued on to work. I went out at lunch to grab a sandwich and then to my hair appointment after work. After that I headed downtown to pick up D, only he decided to continue working for a bit so I headed home by myself. At no point did I think about gas. Somehow, I was oblivious to the orange gas tank on the dashboard.

It wasn’t until I was on the highway en route to my humble abode that I realized I was getting close to that 70km cutoff and immediately planned to stop at the North Atlantic to fill ‘er up. Only I didn’t make it. Clearly I underestimated the mileage capacity of the Jetta when on E. I never claimed to be a mathematician.

The car gave up running on fumes on the Outer Ring Highway just before my exit. It’s 8pm. I’m 8 months preggo. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s snowy. I’m hungry. I’m tired. Thank you Mr. Karma. Thank you very much. I call my husband so he can figure out how to get the car home from the side of the highway. Then I call a cab to come take me home. Then I realize my phone battery is essentially dead. At least Mr. Karma cut me some slack and allowed me to make two phone calls before cutting off access to the outside world. He’s not all bad I suppose.

Morals of the story:

Always fill up the gas tank when that orange tank lights up your dash.
Always charge your phone. You never know when you’ll need it for something important.
Always remember, ‘what goes around comes around’. Especially when mocking your husband’s penchant for not filling up the tank and then running out of gas.

I hope Mr. Karma treats you better than that this weekend. TGIF.

February 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday

I didn't have a chance to participate in the Simple Things challenge this week, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thankful of many simple, everyday moments over the week or so. Today, I'm

thankful for ... getting ready to welcome baby Ryan. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with mom last weekend, shopping and registering for the few things we'll need. It's a good thing we don't know whether it's a boy or a girl, as the closet would already be overflowing!

thankful for ... having a wonderful sister who is graciously lending me most of the 'big items' for Baby Ryan, including the crib, change table, rocker, swings and bouncy chairs and other such goodies. Life is much easier (and less expensive) that way.

thankful for ... Red House Soups delivering soup to my work today, so supper will be as easy as warming up a tasty and healthy dish. Perhaps not quite as good as mom/Gerry's soup delivery, but close. Either way, I don't have to cook.

thankful for ... having a hair appointment scheduled for this evening. Love, love, love relaxing in the chair, having my hair washed and styled, and chatting with my stylist of 10+ years. Such a great way to head into the weekend (no pun intended!).

thankful for ... the 34 week ultrasound that shows a healthy, wiggly, thumb-sucking baby with a strong heart, a round head and cute baby lips. Looking forward to seeing him/her in person.

thankful for ... enjoying breakfast out with my hubby, mama and Gerry this weekend, even if the breakfast was just mediocre. The company was great and it's not something we get to do all the time.

I hope you have plenty to be thankful this Thursday too!

February 15, 2011

Annabel - Book Review

My book club meets tonight, so I thought I'd give you a quick review of this month's selection: Annabel by Kathleen Winters. Before I do, however, allow me to preface my review with some context.

My Book Club
First, I love my book club. We're a wonderful bunch of 10 women who like to get together as much, or perhaps more, for the night out, the conversation and laughter, and the good food and wine as for the literary conversation. We're a little atypical in the realm of book clubs in that we spend more time socializing than we spend talking about the plot, characters and intricacies of our most recent selection. In fact, more often than not one or two of us may not have read the book and another couple haven't finished it. I am totally ok with that. Not everyone would be, but I am.

For me, the book club gets me reading. Something I adored as a child - I used to devour books the way I now devour dark chocolate - but struggle to make time for as an adult. I get to read a selection I may not have otherwise chosen or found the time to read. Whether I talk about it ad naseum is just not as important to me. The book club also allows me to hang out with a group of women from different professional, family and personal backgrounds. I love the perspective that brings - both in discussing the book and in discussing life. And I have fun. We head out to dinner or cafes or someone's house where there is invariably great food, great wine and lots of laughter. For me, our book club works perfectly, if atypically. And given we started as a small group of about 5 and quickly grew to about 10 as others asked to join us, I'm guessing it works for the others too!

Second, I like write, but am far from an author. I like to read, but am far from a literary expert. I know what I enjoy and what I don't in a book and usually know why that is the case. Capturing that in reviewer-ese, not so much my thing. So please keep that in mind as you read my review below, or at any point in the future.

My Review
Now, onto Annabel by Kathleen Winters. Short-listed for the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, here's what the book jacket had to say about what fell between the covers:

In 1968, into the beautiful, spare environment of remote coastal Labrador, a mysterious child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor girl, but both at once. Only three people are privy to the secret -- the baby's parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbour, Thomasina. Together the adults make a difficult decision: to raise the child as a boy named Wayne. But as Wayne grows to adulthood within the hyper-masculine hunting culture of his father, his shadow-self -- a girl he thinks of as Annabel -- is never entirely extinguished, and indeed is secretly nurtured by the women in his life. Haunting, sweeping in scope, and stylistically reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, Annabel is a compelling debut novel about one person's struggle to discover the truth in a culture that shuns contradiction.

In essence, Annabel is about a baby born a hermaphrodite in rural Newfoundland and Labrador in the late sixties, growing up as a child through the 70's and into a young adult in the 80's. Even in today's world, the circumstances of his child's birth would be, unfortunately, challenging, stigmatized and misunderstood, let alone forty years ago in coastal Labrador.

Kathleen Winters does a wonderful job of capturing the nuances in her writing. While a little too prose-ish for my liking and perhaps drawn out in places (I prefer my reading to be straightforward ... have I mentioned I'm a Type A personality?) there's no discounting the detail and thought she placed into the every word on every page. Through her narrative you come to feel what the main characters must be feeling and can empathize with each, despite their varied actions.

For example, the decision is made to raise the child as a boy, Wayne and to not tell Wayne the truth, yet each of the main characters approach that choice differently. His father, Treadway, is a hunter and man of the Big Land who tries to pull out Wayne's masculinity at every turn. His mother, Jacinta, is a city girl at heart who mourns the loss of her daughter wanting to both encourage Wayne's feminine side and to keep it hidden for his own protection. The family friend, Thomasina, is the only other person to know the truth and openly calls Wayne 'Annabel' after her dead daughter, really wanting him to know about who he is. Through it all Wayne battles with both sides of himself. Still, despite wanting to hate Treadway for some of his actions, wanting badly for Jacinta to follow the truth and wanting Thomasina to cross the line even more, Winters' narrative allows you to understand them all and appreciate the basis of their individual choices.

While the heart of the book centres around sexuality in the unfolding story of Wayne, I found myself thinking less about that than I did about how the book reflects on us all as individuals, families and society. So often we all try to be something more or less, or something we're not, in the name of fitting in. From the time we're small children, we learn there are social norms to be followed, personalities that are accepted and ones that are not. Our parents encourage the norms in our behaviours, with only the best intentions at heart, to help us encounter less adversity as we grow. Wayne and his family were no different. A choice was made that his family believed would make life easier for him. As a child, even knowing something was different, Wayne conformed. Society has expectations and, sadly, it is easier to fit them than fight them.   

Through Wayne's character development, I found myself reflecting on how important it is to be ourselves. To allow, and encourage, our loved ones to do the same. To play our role in society by not judging and forcing our views on others. Eventually, many of us find that true self but, as was the case with Wayne, it is often not until much later and after much heartache. For Wayne, it came gradually and hit home when he was on a Boston college campus realizing he finally 'fit in', but that was only when 'fitting in' meant being as different as everyone around him. It doesn't have to be that way. We don't have to wait to 'find ourselves'.

I think this was why my favourite character throughout the book was Wally, Wayne's childhood friend. Wally knew who she was as a young girl. She didn't care what others thought of her and that confidence made her popular until 'mean girl' syndrome of her classmates kicked it. Even then, Wally didn't care. She loved to sing, sang incessantly and had a dream of singing opera. Despite a childhood accident that ruined her voice, she held onto that dream in her heart. She followed it to Boston where she lived with her Aunt, who encouraged and supported her. In the face of adversity, doubt, and challenge, Wally lived her life true to herself and was better off for it. Perhaps that's why Wayne was so drawn to her in friendship.

Yes, there is much more to this book in terms of conflict and juxtapositioning, gender and sexuality issues, character development, and so on, but again I do not profess to be an expert reviewer. I just know what I took from it in my read and that's the two cents I'll throw in over mexican food and a virgin margarita later this evening. Overall, I enjoyed the book and the perspective and certainly recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting, well-written and thoughtful read.

February 14, 2011


Today is the internationally-recognized day of love. Around the world couples will celebrate with heart shaped boxes of chocolates, large bouquets of flowers, fancy dinners, stuffed animals, jewellery and other trinkets that have come to symbolize love.

While D & I usually refrain from the commercialized side of the holiday by not exchanging gifts, we do celebrate the day in some way. More often than not, we just hang out at home, cooking a lovely meal together and enjoying some tasty vino. We prefer to spend our time than our money in honouring the day, knowing that love is something we have to show and indulge in every day, not just on February 14. 

This year, we decided switched it up and indulged in a wonderful dinner and a night out at Atlantica/The Beach House B&B. It was nice to sit and enjoy each other's company and conversation over a fantastic meal with stellar service and then retire to our jacuzzi suite just a few steps away. We enjoyed taking the night out to ourselves, knowing that once the wee one arrives those nights and opportunities will be fewer and farther between.

Of course, I also make a Valentine's Day card for D, which I tucked in with his lunch today just so he'd know I was thinking of him.

Whatever way you celebrate, whether it's with your loved one and all the standard trimmings, with your family and heart shaped pancakes, or treating your wonderful single-self to something nice, I just hope you have a wonderfully happy and loved-filled day.

Happy Valentine's Day!

February 10, 2011

Better Me Than He

We had our first prenatal class last night. Heading into it neither of us really knew exactly what to expect. I mean we had a general idea of what will be covered over the next five weeks, but not the specifics. Of course that didn't stop D from asking me what to expect and probing for details when I gave generalities. I finally admitted to not having had a child previously and we moved on from the discussion ;)

We showed up a little early for registration. I whipped out the MCP card, provided due date and other personal details and collected the package of books, brochures and handouts we're to take home and read. Then we settled in for a long winter's nap. Or at least that's what I wanted to do in the dimly lit room after a day's work!

Fortunately, there was a lovely, funny nurse delivering the class, so that made me perk up a bit. As she got underway the realities of what's about to happen began to sink in. She shows us all a few Grey's Anatomy like posters and not those of the TV-show variety. I see why I pee so much. There's a five pound melon hanging out on my bladder. I also anticipate breathing to become difficult over the  next few weeks as my wee melon reaches watermelon-like proportions and squats my lungs. Nice. Then she shows us a plastic dilation chart. Think small rubber bouncy ball to softball size expansion. Nice. Then out comes the amnihook, which essentially looks like a crochet hook, used to break my water should it become necessary. I'd rather crochet with it thanks. And I don't know how to crochet.

We then get the grand tour of how to make our way to the case room should we arrive after hours, how we go about admissions and how to arrange for a private room. This is when I (not-so) gently nudge D in the ribs. Perk up mister. Pay attention. I'll take care of labour, you take care of getting me that private room. Whip out the credit card and get us on the list. K-thx-bye. Fortunately, he's good and supportive and patient like that and he nods and smiles reassuring me he's already on top of it.

The class wraps up with a video taking you through the multi-staged multi-phased labour experience complete through to the birth. Nice. No, seriously. Even with all the details that I personally would be just as fine not knowing, I trust my health care professionals after all, it is pretty amazing. The biology of it all, how everything that has happened over the last number of months has been purposeful and logical. All preparing my body and baby for birth. And, if you'll excuse me from sounding cliche, it truly is a miracle.

Feeling a little zen about it all, making our way back to the car after class, I ask D what he thought of it the class. His response: "I'm just glad its happening to you and not me". Exit zen, enter laughter. Fair enough sir. I guess I'm just glad God made babies cute. I'm sure was intentional.

February 8, 2011

Caribbean Winter

No, I'm not heading off on a cruise or a trip to the sunny south, unfortunately. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the flavours of the Caribbean mid-winter!

Des and I are part of a potluck-style supper club that hosts an 'International Night' once a month. There are five couples, each of us taking our turn as 'hosts' about twice a year. The hosts choose a country and a date, then each couple then brings a dish of their choosing from that country. This month, our hosts decided to go with a Caribbean Winter theme, which was a lovely pick-me-up of flavours on a bleak February day.

The menu. 
Don't you just love the chalkboard. Our hosts usually use this to keep their weekly family meal plans noted, so everyone knows what's on the go. They wiped the slate clean for our get-together.

Our menus usually come together pretty well with an appetizer, a main and some sides and a dessert. Sometimes the menu includes our own 'twists' on the regional dishes, usually depending on our access to ingredients (we do live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic after all, so exotic and ample options are not easy to come by!). We've also had a few 'misses' on dishes, but overall each night is a new experience and we regularly say 'this is probably the best night yet!'.

This time we started with Des & my appetizer - beer battered coconut shrimp with an orange rum sauce (recipe below). The shrimp recipe is delish, one I picked up in a cooking class I took last winter. The sauce was a bit too sweet for my taste, though I only had the tip of a spoonful for quality control purposes given it contained rum and I'm preggo! (We also used non-alcoholic beer for the batter, in case you were concerned for my baby's well-being!). Next time, I'd decrease the orange marmalade and up the rum for sure. Despite my review, the shrimp and sauce were a huge hit!

The island-style cod, which was absolutely fantastic. I believe it was marinated in cream and hot peppers, giving it the perfect amount of heat. Then lightly battered and pan-fried. So very tasty!

The Caribbean salad was chock full of beans, corn, peppers, onions and flavourful herbs and spices. Served on a lettuce leaf it was one of my favourite parts of the meal.

I didn't get a good pic of the rice and beans, but you can see them on the plate. We usually go with a self-serve approach and, as you can tell, my focus was getting a tasty helping of each dish and not on plate presentation!

The meal was then topped off with the most delicious dessert I've had in a while: Chocolate Natillas with Coffee Bean Granita.

Dessert chef putting the final touches on the treats.

The dessert was like a very rich chocolate mousse topped with a light and flavourful coffee granita. You could tell it was a HUGE HIT as conversation stopped for about 10 minutes while everyone enjoyed every single spoonful. There may have even been some bowl-licking going on. Just saying. It was that good!


And of course, what's dinner without a nice bottle of wine. Depending on the country, we sometimes try to pair regional wine and other times (like when you know the region isn't known for great wine) we just go with a usual favourite. Or in my case, I went with one of the non-alcoholic beer left from the shrimp batter.

All in all another awesome evening of great food, great conversation and even better company.


Recipe for Beer Battered Coconut Shrimp
60 large shrimp

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 to 1 cup of beer
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1 large egg
2 cups shredded coconut

1. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tail piece intact. (or buy already peeled/deveined like I did!)
2. Combine 1 cup of the flour with the beer, baking soda, salt, cayenne pepper and egg in large bowl, Whisk until smooth.
3. Put other cup of flour in another large bowl. Dredge shrimp in this flour.
4. Put coconut in a bowl.
5. Holding shrimp by tail, dip in batter (allowing excess to drip off) and then dip in coconut. Press coconut into shrimp to help it stick. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet until all shrimp are battered.
6. Fry shrimp in vegetable oil in batches of about 8, turning once, until both sides are golden. About a minute total. Serve with dipping sauce.

Orange Rum Dipping sauce:
1 cup orange marmalade
2 tbsps (or more, according to your/my tastes!) of rum.

Combine marmalade and rum in a small pot. Simmer over low heat on stove for about 5 minutes. Serve warm or cool.


February 7, 2011

Month in Photos

A lot of scrapbookers have started doing a version of Project 365, which is basically taking a photo a day for a year and putting those pics in an album with short notes or stories. Becky Higgins has a fantastic kit to make the whole process easy-peasy. Part of me wishes I had the stamina to do it, but taking pics, printing pics, recording notes every day for a year is just more than I know I can realistically commit too. In fact, it was just this weekend that I started to finish up my Week in the Life album from April 2010!

Still, I know having that album of images and stories all together at the end of the year would be amazing. So when I saw these templates on Simple As That I immediately thought it was the perfect solution for me. I could use as many or as few pictures as I happen to have in a month and make a few quick notes about the month's highlights. And the templates are free to boot!

In just a few hours this weekend, I captured our January in photos.

I plan to do one or two pages like this each month for the year and then print them and put them in an album. No fancy papers, no embellishments. Just photos and short snippets all in one place. So easy. Love it.

February 6, 2011

Simple Things - Snow Day

We ended up with a snow day, well a snow morning, this week - meaning we didn't have the normal morning get-to-the-office routine (aka rush). Instead, we started the day in PJs, relaxing with cup of a coffee and a stack of blueberry pancakes. Normally a weekend-only experience, it was a small, simple pleasure during the usually hectic workweek. Pancake recipe and more pics here.

For more simple things, visit:

February 4, 2011

Flower Power

How about that pretty pink on a chilly February Friday?

Old man winter may have just begun here in NL, but I'm already longing for spring. The warm rays of sunshine, blossoming buds on trees, songbirds in the branches and signs of fresh life at every turn. Makes me envision my one little word. Alas, spring is still weeks and weeks away here in our corner of the world. Until then, this little bit of flower power will have to do.

Have a bright and beautiful weekend whatever the weather whereever you are!

February 3, 2011

Snow Day

Well, a snow morning at least. Making it a perfect morning for warm blueberry pancakes and coffee. The same one's I talked about in this post on weekend breakfast routines. mmmm. It's not often my hubby and are home together and awake early enough on a weekday to enjoy breakfast together. I also figure whipping up a batch of hearty, delicious, hot pancakes is the least I can do for my hubby who will have to go out in the cold to shovel 20+cms of snow from the driveway.  And so you don't feel left out, I think a snow morning is also a perfect morning for sharing the recipe love.

To whet your taste buds, you'll end up with this:

The recipe is actually from Janet and Greta Podleski's show Eat, Shrink and Be Merry on Food Network Canada. The pancakes received such glowing reviews on the TV show, I decided to give them a go one weekend. Janet and Greta's recipes and cookbooks hadn't failed us yet, and these were no exception. You start with these ingredients, most of which are pantry basics. I've substituted applesauce for the banana and I've also used some yogurt when I was low on milk, both with equally tasty results.

You mix your dry ingredients together (bran, flour, baking soda and powder), set aside.

Then combine your wet ingredients (banana, egg, melted butter, milk, vanilla, maple syrup) and whisk to combine:

Add wet to dry, mix just until they've become friends. Don't overwork it or your pancakes will be more tough than fluffy. Trust me :) 

Batter will be thick. That's the way it's supposed to be. Add your blueberries to the mixed batter. Fresh or frozen work equally well. And if you didn't have blueberries, I'm sure diced bananas, chocolate chips or nuts would be delish - though you won't get those antioxidants!

Put about a half cup of batter per pancake on a hot 325 degree griddle. Let cook for about 3 minutes.

Flip those babies over and cook for 3 more minutes on the other side. I know three minutes per side seems like a long time for pancakes, but the batter is thick and needs that time to cook through.

And trust me, these are worth the wait. Add your favourite toppings. The recipe suggests yogurt, but my choice is a little pat of butter, some maple syrup and a sprinkling of extra berries. (And no, we didn't have Starbucks on this snowy morning, this pic is from a previous shoot ;)

This pic, this is from this morning. Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Delish.

Full recipe for Batter Be Good to Me pancakes here. Enjoy!