"My mind sees that I am nothing, my heart sees that I am everything, between these two poles my life unfolds."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I'm Back!!

Homemade ornaments are the best!
I spotted this adorable gingerbread man on our friends' tree yesterday;
turns out it's the handiwork of their granddaughter (with a little help from grandpa :) 

Seeing as this is the second time I've 'popped by' when I'm supposed to be taking some time off, I'm guessing my bloggy-break is now officially over, lol! I trust your Christmas was a merry one; ours was lovely. I was actually quite excited this year in anticipation of the Kindle Reader Santa was bringing me - don't ask me how I found out - I never reveal my sources... :) So far I'm really enjoying it. I'm a hoarder collector of books and will likely end up picking up many of the books I read on the Kindle at Goodwill for my collection anyways. I finished Harry Potter a few days before Christmas and have started a new book series which I downloaded to my reader (see my Good Reads page)

Food is such a big part of any Christmas, that I thought I'd share a few recipes with you. I made an apple crisp for our dessert on Christmas Eve and a Sour Cherry Trifle for Christmas Day. I put it together early on Christmas Eve, except for the whipping cream and almonds which I added just before serving. If you haven't yet decided on a dessert for your New Year's celebrations - this would be a perfect one. Very showy and delicious!

The above photo is from the Canadian Living website where I found the recipe (link). I had full plans of posting a pic of my trifle but in all the excitement, I only realized I'd forgotten to take one after having dished out numerous servings...! You'll just have to take my word that it was essentially identical to the one above :)

Something I did manage to get a shot of was one of the numerous pans of Graham Breakaways I've made over the past week (my sister calls them 'Crack' because you can't have just one, lol!) This was just before I'd broke them into pieces. Below is the recipe (which I've adapted) from the Kraft website. (link)

Take 1 sleeve (30) Honey Maid Graham Wafers and 2/3 cup butter and 1 cup packed brown sugar and mix & match your recipe from these options...

chopped nut optionstopping choices
pecansflaked coconut
walnutsdried cranberries
peanutsBaker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate, chopped
almondsBaker's White Chocolate, chopped
Pre-heat oven to 350ºF. On parchment paper spread wafers onto large baking sheet.
In a saucepan melt butter on low heat with brown sugar until incorporated, then raise heat to med-high and boil for 1.5 minutes. Quickly pour over your prepared wafers, spreading mixture evenly.

Bake 5 min. or until topping is bubbly and lightly browned. 

Remove from oven, sprinkle generously with chocolate (I use semi-sweet chocolate chips) and put back in oven for 2-3 minutes, remove from oven and spread melted chips over caramel layer.

Add your toppings (nuts, cranberries, coconut) Press down gently and bake another 2 min. max.

Cool completely in fridge. Break into pieces. Enjoy!

Note: Other yummy toppings would be Skor pieces &/or substituting 1/2 butterscotch chips for regular chocolate.

Also: Do not use carob chips - they won't melt properly!

Here's another one of Jinnaya's creations :)


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Taking a Break from my Bloggy-Break!

I just had to pop in with this recipe, which I stumbled upon a few weeks ago and finally made a few batches of yesterday and again today. Very quick, easy and DELICIOUS!! My family has been begging to taste-test them, but I've told them they'll just have to wait a few days. (I did my own taste-test, hehe!!)

Salty and sweet. Crunchy and melt-in-your-mouth. Peanut butter and chocolate... don't just sit there drooling - get yourself to the kitchen, lol!!

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

Yield 60 – 80 pretzel bites


1 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tbsp softened butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar (maybe more)

3/4 cup brown sugar (maybe more)

Pretzels (the smaller ones)

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips


Combine peanut butter and softened butter in a large bowl with a fork or whisk, or in a stand mixer. Add the sugars and mix to combine. At this point if the filling will roll easily into balls without sticking to your hands you’re ready to go. If not, add a little more of each sugar until you reach a consistency that is easy to roll (I used about 3/4 cup of each sugar).

Use a teaspoon measure to scoop the filling. Roll each portion into a small ball, then sandwich them between two whole pretzels. When all the balls are rolled and successfully sandwiched, stick the whole tray in the freezer for about half an hour.

Put the chocolate chips in a double-boiler until completely melted. Remove the pretzel sandwiches from the freezer and quickly dip each half-way into the melted chocolate. (A narrow spatula actually works best here.) Return to the tray and repeat with remaining sandwiches. When all are dipped, return the tray to the freezer to set up completely. Store the sandwiches in the refrigerator until serving time.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Holidays

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world and behold,
everything is softer and more beautiful.

A Very Merry Christmas Everyone!
I wish you and yours a beautiful holiday time; be it somewhere tropical, skiing in the French Alps,
or simply at home curled up under a blanket by the fire (that's where you'll find me :)

I'm taking a little bloggy-break till the New Year, but will still be visiting my favorite blogs...
I look forward to whatever you'll be serving up - hopefully something rich and decadent!
In the meantime, I leave you with some seasonal smooth jazz.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This Day In History - Race to Reach the South Pole

One hundred years ago the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen 
beat Robert F. Scott in a race to the South Pole.

"The North Pole is reached!" was the news that flashed all over the world...it was September 1909 when the news reached Amundsen. The original plan of the FRAM'S third voyage--the exploration of the North Polar basin--was quickly called off. In order to save the expedition, Amundsen immediately turned his attention to the South...

... And so, "at 3:00 pm, on Friday, December 14, 1911, there was a simultaneous cry of "Halt!" as the sledge meters registered their arrival at the South Pole. They had achieved their goal. Symbolic of their struggle in unity, each of the men, with their weathered and frostbitten hands, grasped the Norwegian flag and planted it firmly at the geographical South Pole. Amundsen named the plain King Haakon VII's Plateau. There were festivities in the tent that evening with each man sharing a little seal meat." Full story here.

I can't begin to envision the hardships explorers faced on these expeditions. 
Most people find travelling in this day and age exhausting; and that's in an air-conditioned/heated 
environment, with all the amenities of home at our fingertips or a quick pit-stop away.
These next two short videos give us a brief look at the conditions they endured.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Eating Tips

We've all seen this one before; 
 but 'tis the season!

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare. You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do all that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying the 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WHOO HOO what a ride!"
Today's Jewel:

"The fuel in the lamp consumes itself,
but lights others."

~ Dec. 13/11 Old Farmer's Almanac ~

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mondays With Mireille

Seasons Greetings everyone & I hope you had a great weekend :)
Hard to believe, but we're now less than two weeks away from Christmas day...
Three quick things to mention before we get to Monday's With Mireille:

1. I finished "The Half-Blood Prince" over the weekend and started into the final book
in the Harry Potter series, "The Deathly Hallows"
As with any good book (& especially book series) I've become so invested in these
characters - they're so real to me now - that I really hate the thought of finishing the series.
As I've mentioned before, I managed to collect the whole series secondhand over the
summer & fall and spent approximately $15 in total.
When I was in Chapters the other day, I priced out the complete box set at $220!!!

2. I wrapped all gifts and put together stockings over the weekend... 
a world record for me - I'm so glad there won't be an exhausting late-night
Christmas Eve wrapping spree this year, lol!

3. Merry Christmas to ME! 
I found this handmade pottery owl pitcher at Goodwill on Friday :)
Thrilled doesn't begin to describe my feelings when I spotted it -
I was positively giddy!
$4 (crazy!) I'm certain I could easily sell it online for $80 or more (but I won't).

And now, without further adieu...
After last week's disappointmentI was hoping Mireille would redeem herself 
and I'm pleased to say she did!

Chocolate Moelleux With Walnuts

5 ounces dark chocolate (above 70 percent cocoa)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the molds (I used salted)
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup flour
About 2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons fresh walnut pieces, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt it with the butter in a bowl set atop simmering water. Let cool, then add the egg yolks and flour. Mix well.

3. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks and incorporate in small batches into the melted chocolate. Do the same with the sugar.

4. Butter 4 small individual molds and fill them halfway with the batter. I used 4 ramekins. Add 1 tablespoon of walnuts to each mold and cover with more batter. Bake in the preheated oven 12 to 14 minutes, until a crust has begun to form but the middle is still soft. Unmold and serve warm.

Overall impressions: Very rich, moist and yummy, with a lovely sparkling outer crust; my house smelled as delicious as they tasted! Much like a brownie in many respects, but less cakey and more chocolaty than a brownie. Best served with vanilla ice cream - unfortunately, I found out last minute that I only had orange sherbet on hand.... so I used it in place - strictly for the photo op. The only modifications I'll try next time are less flour and sugar, 1/3 cup flour (+ 1 tablespoon) rather than the 1/2 called for and a few less tablespoons of sugar - I found the batter too stiff and as a consequence the egg whites did not fold in as lightly I'd have expected them to. An fyi: although I'd generously buttered the ramekins prior to adding the batter, I still needed to run a butter knife around the edge a few times in order to unmold them. Give these a try sometime, and make sure you have vanilla ice cream on hand :)

"Portion control is more an art than a discipline, one grounded in a useful bit of self-deception...
One trick I use to control my intake is to ask myself if I can live with half the amount being
offered; indeed, will I be just as happy eating half as much?"
~ Mireille Guiliano ~

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Arts of Beauty & Hints to Gentlemen

How to Acquire a Bright and Smooth Skin

"I have to tell you, ladies -- and the same must be said to the gentlemen, too --
that the great secret of acquiring a bright and beautiful skin lies in three simple things,
as I have said in my lecture on Beautiful Women -- temperance, exercise and cleanliness.

"No; if dssipation, late hours, and immoderation have once wrecked
the fair vessel of female charms, it is not in the power of
Esculapius himself to right the shattered bark, 
and make it ride the sea in gallant trim again."

Hints to Gentlemen on the Art of Fascinating

"You cannot be too attentive to your dress. You should never approach a lady except 
when dressed so as to look precisely as though a tailor had made you not more than
fifteen minutes ago. 

If you are wise, you will not fail to impress upon a lady's mind the idea that you are a 
great deal more particular about your clothes than your mind, for your mind
being always out of sight, can never offend her taste, whereas your clothes are
constantly before her eyes."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Let the Festivities Begin!

Seasons Greetings everyone! How are your Christmas preparations coming along? Things are looking up here - yesterday I mailed out cards and it's not even December 15th yet! (that's usually when I really get moving, lol) Above is my Christmas card for this year - a cosy image that looks like a scene straight out of most of our childhoods. Is your tree up? I managed to get mine decorated over the weekend and it's definitely helped me feel a bit more festive

You may have noticed I recently cleaned up my side-bar and added horizontal links to pages under my header pic. One links to a new monthly caption contest. Take a peek and get those 'ol creative juices flowing - submissions will be accepted until the end of the month, at which time I'll post the winning caption and a new pic for the following month. I hope everyone participates - surprise me with your warped humor! I've already received one great submission.

I'm planning a giveaway at some point over the Christmas season... still deciding what the lucky winner will be receiving. Stay tuned :)

Lastly, I hope you enjoy this hilarious clip (this episode re-aired last night in fact) 
from one of my favourite shows, The Big Bang Theory
For those who are not familiar with Sheldon,
he is a geeky, socially inept theoretical physicist.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

10 Canine Commandments

This one got to me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Everything Ages Fast

These brilliant posters were created for Maximedia Seminars ad campaign, 
'Everything Ages Fast' by Moma, an advertising agency out of Sao Paula, Brazil. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mondays With Mireille

 Monday greetings, I trust your weekend was a productive one and that hopefully you were able to knock off one or two things on your never-ending To-Do list towards Christmas! 
It's Monday, so that means another recipe from Mireille Guiliano, this week from her book French Women For All SeasonsI approached this week's selection, Cauliflower Gratin, in the hopes that it just might turn out to be that perfect little side-dish for the holiday season. Did it? We shall see...

Cauliflower Gratin

2 pounds cauliflower
4 eggs
3/4 regular milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 shallots, minced
Generous 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
4 ounces white wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

2. Remove the leaves from the cauliflower, cut out the central stem, and break into florets. Wash in cold water, then steam for about 6 minutes. Put the florets in a baking dish.

3. In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cumin, garlic, and shallots. Pour the mixture over the cauliflower, and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Add the wine to the baking dish, and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. 

Overall impressions: An easy enough recipe, I made no substitutions or modifications, but unfortunately my review of this recipe is a disappointing one. If nothing else, I try to be an honest blogger, and sometimes S*@t happens - so why not admit it. As stated in my introduction, I had high hopes of serving this again at some point over the holidays, but alas, it is a complete dud! Dry, bland, except for the wine (which overpowered the dish), colourless (I respond best to colourful food) and strangely textured due to the odd, largish piece of egg here and there - that, and the fact that all the bread crumbs did not absorb into the mix (not enough liquid). Considering this is my first negative review, Mireille still has a very good track record and I look forward to next Monday, where I will tackle something sweet: Chocolate Moelleux With Walnuts :) I figure anything with chocolate in it has to be good!

"Even on the gloomiest days, a lunchtime promenade will do you good, for the other compensation for the lack of light is to move. Apart from it's metabolic and cardiovascular benefit, physical exertion is known to have a stimulative effect on the neurotransmitters that keep our spirits up." ~ Mireille Guiliano ~

Interestingly, I purchased the French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook today.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thou Mewling Idle-Headed Measle!

I stumbled across this Shakespeare Insult Kit the other day in my travels. 
I think it goes quite nicely with The Arts of Beauty & Hints to Gentlemen (Friday's post).
Have fun and leave me your best insult before you go!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Arts of Beauty & Hints to Gentlemen

'Artificial Means'

"The following wash is a great favorite with the ladies on the continent of Europe, 
and cannot be used without the happiest effects, while it is a delightful and refreshing perfume:

Distill two handfuls of jessamine flowers in a quart of rose-water and a quart of orange-water. 
Strain through porous paper, and add a scruple of musk and a scruple of ambergris.

There cannot be a more agreeable wash for the skin."

Hints to Gentlemen on the Art of Fascinating

"By all means wear jewelry; if you have it not of your own, borrow it,
or get it some other way, for you must be sure that you go not into the presence
of any woman, whose opinion is worth having, without being loaded with jewelry.
An immense breast-pin, either of diamonds or paste, with two rings on each hand
and a heavy fob chain, twelve inches long, will be sufficient to prove that you are
a man of substantial good sense..."

For further info on this book and new Friday feature "walk this way"...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Recent Discoveries

Well, believe it or not, I tried my very first pomegranate the other day!
I still remember being in grade school and watching kids eat these at recess and wondering 
what they tasted like... flash forward forty + years and I finally made it happen, yes siree, Bob :)

Thank goodness for the internet - I was so intimidated that I needed to watch a YouTube video 
on the proper way to cut into this most mysterious fruit. (ps: very messy, no matter how you slice it.)

Upon further research, I've since found out there are tons of pomegranate recipes out there,
and that they can be enjoyed in salads, desserts, appetizers, sauces, relishes,
drinks (as a garnish) and can be frozen.
Whooo Knew!

If you're a regular reader, you already know I'm a huge fan of all things second-hand;
be it VV (Value Village), Goodwill, antique malls, flea-markets, out-and-out junk stores... 
It's been a while since I've posted any finds; here are a few recent acquisitions :)

Over the course of this past summer & fall, I was able to pick up all the Harry Potter books 
for next to nothing at Goodwill. I'm very close to finishing 'The Order of the Phoenix' 
(fifth in the series of seven). All are in amazing condition.

These sit on a wooden 'lazy-susan', very retro and they go in my house perfectly.
I anticipate using this a lot throughout the Christmas season. 
I have Christmas oranges in them right now, but they'll soon be great for candies and nuts.

I see I need to dust!

Beautiful pottery & my new butter dish :)

I rescued this purse from a 'junk' store in Creston, BC on our trip to Nelson this fall.
It has an extra long strap; the leather is very thick, buttery soft and smells sweet.
One of my very best finds in a long time.

I love showcasing the great stuff you can get at these places and really encourage everyone 
to go once in a while (if you don't already) - who knows what you'll find?