Wow I don’t think I am very good at this … gotta work on my duck-lip face.
Liam has returned from his fancy smancy business trip and I once again must get off of the crumbs-at-the-back-of-the-fridge diet. Monday was Remembrance Day and I had it off, so this week starts today.
Pesto Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Roasted Asparagus
Home-made (by me!) Portuguese Sausage on a bun
Cobb Salad ( nom nom blue cheese goodness)
Roast Beef with garlic green beans
Having a destination wedding means having only a small number of guests attend your wedding. You will be married surrounded by the people who mean the most to you, many of them shoe-ins for being an attendant at the ceremony. But if you made all your close friends bridesmaids and groomsmen, who would be left to sit and watch you get married?
Liam and I have decide on almost no wedding attendants. My only brother will be his Best Man, and his only sister will be my Maid of Honour. Simple and clean-cut, we have our witnesses, both families are represented, no one can get offended. And although there are many girls in my life who I would be proud to have led my way down the aisle, I’m happy keeping the wedding party proportional to the size of the event.
Still. There are certain invaluable services the bridesmaids provide. Help with the planning and crafty touches, disseminating information to other guests, dress shopping and trousseau selection, getting the party started at the reception, and if they really like me, maybe even organizing a bridal shower? And what group of friends lets a bride in their midst get away without a bachelorette party! So although I have no official maids in uniform marching with me on The Big Day, I know I am lucky enough to have a circle of wonderful supportive women who I can count on for all that and more.
Recently I wanted to throw them a party, for no other reason than that they are awesome and deserve it. With the temperature forever dropping (winter is coming) I decided to warm everyone up with a Hot Pot Party. Here is the invitation I sent my girlfriends:
I first had Hot Pot with Liam at local restaurant. We had no idea what we were getting into, it was complete culture shock. We walked into a cloud of steam, condensation was dripping from the windows, the menu translations were baffling, every other table had a 4 generational family sitting at it, and a lot of the ingredients we would have never identified as food. We preserved, managed to order and pick familiar ingredients, and when we ate we enjoyed it. It was yummy! So we kept eating, and ate more after that. Then we managed to decipher a part of the menu that said if we didn’t finish all the food at our table we’d be charged a lot extra. Naturally, we started stuffing our face, and kept stuffing, and stuffed more after that. By the end of the night we were both ready to be sick. It was so hot and steamy, Liam was slumped on his chair and my head was on the table. It was date-night but we didn’t make the movie. We went home (pants got unbuckled in the car) and had the least attractive evening of our lives.
I related the story to by Chinese friend the next day and she good naturally laughed her ass of at me. She explained that Hot Pot is not just a meal, but an activity. You do it slowly, preferably after a long cold day, take breaks and chat with the group. It is not a quick bite to eat before catching the show! Fine, hot pot, you win, whatever.
She invited Liam and I over one night for a second try. We went in trepidation, afraid of the pressure to eat dangerous amounts of food that we literally couldn’t stomach a second time in our lifetimes. But of course it was delightful. Sure, her selection of meats, veggies, sauces, and noodles were nowhere near as vast as at the restaurant, but there was more than enough variety. Only one pot of boiling broth meant that the room was cozy instead of blisteringly balmy. And we took our time.
How to Have Hot Pot Party
I’m no expert, and got a lot of help from my friend, but I think I have the basics. To get going you need a few things; namely a hot pot, a gas stove, gas, and some slotted or basket spoons. You should be able to find them at an Asian grocery store, I got everything for the night at T&T.
The sky is really the limit for ingredients, have fun picking what you like, here’s what I bought:
- Lamb carpaccio
- Beef carpaccio
- Napa cabbage
- King oyster mushrooms
- Enoki mushrooms
Carbs, Sauces, and Broth
- Vermicelli noodles
- Hoisin sauce
- Hot sauce
- Satay sauce
- Schezwan sauce
- Soy sauce
- Hot-pot broth mild
- Hot-pot broth spicy
What to Do
- Slice up all the veggies. Plate everything on platters, put the sauce in bowls.
- Make the broth ahead of time on the stove. Follow the instructions on the package.
- Pour the hot broth into the hot-pot and turn on the flame (read instructions on the stove). Keep it at a slight boil.
- If you have a “lovers pot” (pot with divider) repeat with second broth.
- Give everyone bowl, a saucer, and chopsticks (and a back-up fork!)
- Everyone adds ingredients to the pot to cook.
- Fish the ingredients out with the slotted spoons as they become cooked.
- Add any combo of sauces to your ingredients and chow down!
- Make sure you have lots of ice water on-hand, this can get spicy.
There it is! Everyone remarked on how good it smelt when they stepped in the door, that broth is just so flavorful. There might have been a slight hesitation when we first sat down, but once all was explained, these girls dove right in. We had a great time together and I think everyone liked the food. We ate a lot. No one felt sick. Successes!
For the last two and a half months, we have been a foster family to a teenage mum and her babies. As volunteers for the Ottawa Humane Society, we took into our home a very thin young cat and her litter of two-week old tiny mouths to feed.
It was a tough road. They all got sick several times, there were many trips back and forth to the OHS vet, and there was a mess to clean up every. single.day. But we made it. The kittens learned to open their eyes, walk, run, play, fight, ant eat solid food right before our eyes. They got used to getting their bums bathed and taking medicine but we also taught them about pets and purrs and cuddles and kiss attacks. They grew and grew and even mum put on weight. Pretty soon we had a very healthy brewed of 6 cats on our hands (wait 8, with our 2 boys, yikes!) and it was time for them to go back to the OHS to find their forever-homes.
Without further ado , I would like to introduce you to our latest batch of foster cats:
Having babies at 11 months old means Tiffany entered motherhood while still a kitten herself. She rose to the challenge and took very good care of her little ones, even through all their bouts of cat-colds and parasites. Once the babies were a little older and she no longer had to be a 24/7 milk machine, we saw Tiffany’s personality come out. She is the most affectionate female cat we have ever met! She loves to snuggle and be held, nothing gives her greater pleasure than to stretch out on the couch with you and take a good long sunshine cat-nap. She loves to run and play with toys, she is still very young after all, but she has a calm and gentle nature. Tiffany was very respectful of the dominance our two male cats hold in the house and got along with Dexter and Marcel perfectly. She isn’t big on scratching our climbing, but as someone who at one time must have been very hungry, she will try to nab scraps from the kitchen sink. I’m sure she can be cured of this bad habit with a few more months of having a access to a food bowl. Otherwise she is a wonderfully neat and tidy cat who deserves a life-time of comfort and love in her forever home.
Cassi is the littlest one. The one we would worry most about when they were sick. The last one to get access to mom’s milk or the food dish. The one who watches the play-fights instead of joining in. But this quiet patient little girl is an absolute sweetheart. She loves to play with toys and hanging out with you. She may be a little left-behind by her bigger brothers and sisters, but she always manages to catch up. Cassi was a favourite of our two adult cats, and enjoyed many a happy grooming from them. Plus, look at that beautiful face!
Daniel is the cuddler. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are doing, if Daniel feels like a cuddle, he will find a nook in your elbow or knee and make himself comfortable. You will get lots of purrs and kitten-kisses out of this little man. When he isn’t cuddling away, he is full or running, climbing, jumping kitten-energy. He is very social and always wants to be in the room you are in’ regardless if he is playing or sleeping.
Jack is the leader of the litter. He was first to open his eyes, walk, play with toys, climb on a bed, and be happy being picked up. As he grew, Jack continued to lead the group. He is always first to explore a new room, person, toy, or thing, and is happy doing so on his own. He’s an independent little guy who gets along with everyone (is still a huge cuddly baby) but wouldn’t mind being on his own either. He is confident and self assured and will grow up to be a very intelligent well-adjusted cat.
Teal’c is hilarious. He is a good nurtured guy who is always doing something funny or showing up somewhere ridiculous. He has a very expressive face absolutely loves getting picked up and held. He is a little joker and loves to sneak-attack his siblings. Another favourite game is ‘chase me tail”. He is really a joy to watch and be around. Teal’c's liveliness will be missed.
Sam is a great little kitten. She is fun and full of crazy kitten-energy. She can keep up with her bigger brothers and give them a run for their money in play-fights. She is a neat little girl at her dish and at the litter box … toys though, she leaves everywhere! Sam has a knack for finding the best bit of sunbeam to take a nap in and loves to sleep close to her siblings. She loves always having someone around to play with, and doesn’t seem to be happy being by herself. She doesn’t want to miss the action!
So there they are , all 6 of them. It was hard letting them go, it always is, but these guys were with us for a long time. Even with all the vet trips, medicine, scratches, and litter-training that goes into fostering, really the hardest part of this type of volunteering is giving them back; trusting they will find good homes.
Everyone has recovered well from surgery and most of them have already been adopted! There are many more cats and kittens in need of forever-homes at the Ottawa Humane Society. If you think it is time to bring an animal into your home, please don’t support puppy/kitten-mills, visit the OHS
Being engaged is awesome! Everyone is happy for us and handing out champagne all the time. We wanted to give some of that good-will and excitement back to our friends and family, and also bring everyone together to meet and mingle. After all, we may all be traveling together next summer! So we threw little engagement party, taking advantage of lingering September sunlight and setting up in our backyard.
We strung Christmas lights from the trees, dressed up borrowed folding tables with $3 Dollar Store table cloths that were bright warm colours. I tied some twine around mason jars and filled them with Costco flowers and tea-lights.
We assembled our patio furniture and used an old wooden crate to create a ‘lounge’ area.
Along the fence, I created a ‘dating time-line”; pictures of us over our 7 years together, strung up with clothes pins and string.
We served up a simple “Southern Comfort” Style menu:
Hot Boiled Peanuts
(Provided by Union Local 613, thanks guys!)
Marinated BBQ Sirloin Steak
We didn’t get many shots of the food, but it was certainly enjoyed!
The drink table featured a cooler full of beer, Home-Made Iced Tea, and ice water. We paired Pelee Island Winery wines with our down-south food, selecting the 2011 Cabernet Franc and Merlot, the 2012 Riesling, and the 2011 Chardonnay. These were great wines, it’s hard to go wrong with an Ontario VQA, but we mostly picked them for the Lighthouse on the label .. a nod to Liam’s Cape Cod proposal.
For dessert we served fruit and cheese alongside a beautiful cake provided by my Aunt and Uncle. It was inspired by our destination wedding location: Lisbon, Portugal!
For entertainment at the party, we set up a photo booth by the garden shed. For a backdrop I used an old crochet tablecloth and more Christmas lights. We had our iPad mounted and on a tripod, and downloaded Wedding Booth app. An old ladder held Dollar Store masks. I think our guests had fun with it and the pictures turned out great. I printed out extra copies and included a strip in each thank-you card.
Speeches don’t really count as a ‘game’ but they were certainly entertaining. Both our fathers spoke, I cried, and Liam and I thanked everyone for coming.
Liam and I got to play The Shoe Game, organised by our Best Man and Maid of Honour. If you’re not familiar with this wedding classic, I’ll give you a quick run down: The couple sits back-to-back holding one of their own shoes and one shoe of the other. They are asked questions like “Who said I love you first?” or “Who’s the better driver”, and to answer they raise the appropriate shoe. Its hilarious for the guests; where do they disagree, how fast did he answer, aw they both think the other one is cuter, etc. Afterwards it was fun for us to recap with each other with what we answered.
Our guests got to take home a little something to thank them for being there; a birdseed heart. There are tons of tutorials on-line for these so I wont take you through the steps. I found Intimate Weddings and Polka Dot Bride most helpful, and my main advice would be to work in small batches. The sign on the table read “From these lovebirds to yours”.
The end of the night got really cold, so we moved inside for dessert, but all in all it was a it was a fantastic evening. People were fed and watered, we passed around pictures of Lisbon and where we were staying, and got different facets of our loved-ones enjoying each-others company. It was a fun little party to get our feet wet in the planning process, and felt like the launch for what is sure to be an exciting year.
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope all you Canadians are enjoying your day off with your family, and that all you Americans are starting to look forward to your Turkey-day next month. We had our big dinner last night and are still in Turkey-coma mode today. We were up at the lake and my mom prepared an excellent meal, the only thing I had to take care of was cranberry sauce. This is not what I did:
There is no excuse for this canned gelatin monstrosity. Home-made from-scratch cranberry sauce is stupid easy to make. You can whip this up in the morning so it’s not in the way when the real heavy cooking begins. It consists of 3 ingredients in a simple 1:1:2 ratio. 1 part orange juice, 1 part sugar, and 2 parts cranberries. There aren’t many cranberry sauce eaters in my family, so I made only a small amount.
Get the OJ heating up to a simmer on the stove and dissolve in the sugar, then add the cranberries.
Let the cranberries crackle and pop until they are soft and cracked and the liquid has thickened.
Pour the sauce into the serving bowl and let cool. You can add a cinnamon stick and/or orange peel swirl for garnish.
And that’s it! Only slightly more work then using a can-opener, much more delicious,and way less awkwardly canned shaped. I hope you go for the home-made version, and that you have a wonderfully happy Thanksgiving!
I’m sick. But it’s the long weekend! But I’m sick. To get me though this Friday night dilemma, I made myself a Hot Toddy (and then the fiancé made me a few more). A Hot Toddy is an alcoholic beverage designed to make sick people feel ok about drinking. It actually was once recommended to fight colds (vitamin C packed lemon, soothing honey, and numbing cognac) but has fallen out of favour since alcohol can dehydrate you. I’ll be sure to follow the now recommended regime of plenty of (other) fluids, lots of bed rest, and a marathon Disney movies tomorrow.
There are many many MANY different recipes out there for Hot Toddy, this is just how I like it. Feel free to substitute any ingredients with what you have on hand.
Here’s what you need:
- Cognac (Brandy or Whiskey works too)
- Tea (I used pumpkin spice here, black and chi are other favourites)
- 1/4 lemon
- Cinnamon stick
Here’s what you do:
- Get your tea brewing.
- Coat the bottom of your mug with a heaping teaspoon of honey.
- Squeeze in a quarter lemon. Add a shot of your spirit.
- Pour in you steaming hot tea and add the cinnamon. I had some fresh cranberries on hand so I threw a couple in. Gotta be a few extra vitamins in there.
I had the opportunity to finally check out The Flying Banzini at lunch today. There has been a lot of buzz about this place and a few co-workers and I went to see what all the hype was about.
We arrived right at noon and the restaurant, at the corner of Holland and Wellington, was certainly buzzing. Our fellow “Tunney’s Pasture zombies” (as owner Dave Scharf jokingly called us) were swarming and there was a bottle neck t the door. A large bold sign greets you as you step in, it reads “Order. Sit. Eat”, and instruction’s don’t get much simpler than that. We had all checked out the menu on-line before hand, so we got our order in pretty quickly. Seats were scarce but we were helped into a comfortable collection of two bar tables. Waiting for our meal gave us time to take in our surroundings.
The atmosphere is comfortable and pleasant. There is enough exposed brick and displayed artwork to satisfy any hipster, but the decor is not so dramatic as to be classified as ‘weird’ by anybody. Really its all cozy, well-selected basics. Nothing wrong with that, get to the food!
The food arrived promptly, hot, looking and smelling delicious. Our table ordered a Porchetta sandwich with Major Craig’s Mango Chutney for $8.95. The Porchetta is a brined pork shoulder stuffed with Luciano’s sweet Italian sausage, fennel seeds, sweet chilies, sage, and sea salt, all wrapped in bacon and slow roasted. Apparently it was delicious, but would have been better on a firmer bun. It also went down well with tall cool glass of Beau’s … apparently.
The Wasting Away Again vegetarian pizza was also ordered for $11.95. It’s a flatbread topped with fresh basil, bocconcini cheese, San Marzano tomato sauce, mozaerella, and parmigiano cheese. It was half eaten by the time I could grab a shot, and that expression is all the review you need.
The Swing Swing Swing Panini, for $7.95, got great reviews. How could smoked salmon, spinach, red onions, capers, and dill cream cheese get anything but? I ordered the Flames of Love Panini ($7.95) with a side of the daily soup ($2.95).
The soup was some sort of squash, served with apple and cinnamon. It was creamy and delicious, perhaps a bit on the sweet side, but well-balanced. The sandwich bread hit that sweet spot between crunchy and soft. Filled with prosciutto, arugula, oven dried tomato, red onion, fresh basil, balsamic reduction, fig tapenade, and boccocini, the flavours are salty, bold, and succulent. It was mouth-watering. My only critique was that the whole tomatoes kept falling out, slices would have been better, but there’s nothing wrong with getting a little messy once in a while!
We couldn’t leave without sampling some of the “cheesecakes with attitude”. We picked a few and brought them back to the office to munch on over coffee.
At $10.95 for a half-dozen, these little treats were a steal. We sampled Classic Black Cherry New York, Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate, and Chocolate Espresso. They were all delicious, but I think the espresso one was my favorite!
There was a bit confusion concerning an allergy. Twice the server brought one of our party something he couldn’t eat (any dairy or egg), but it was resolved in the end. This lunch had all that was necessary for a great time: lively atmosphere, prompt service, and good eats. We will be back! Soon.
The above are my wedding colours; gold, indigo, and ivory. These colours will direct everything from the invitations to the the wedding favours, with all the gowns, flowers, jewelry, and cake tastings that come between.
The color choice was inspired by our destination. Liam and I are getting married in Lisbon Portugal!
I am Portuguese. My mother’s family is from the Lisbon surrounds, and my dad was born on the island of São Miguel in the Azores.
But choosing to travel so far for our wedding goes far beyond that. When Liam and I took our first trip to Europe together in 2010, Lisbon blew us both away. The moment we stepped off the plane we knew we were somewhere special. Simultaneously relaxed and exciting; soaked in history and dripping with ebullience. The people, the sun, the beach, the night life, the old buildings with fresh decor, the cobble stone streets smoothed to a shiny lustre by countless footsteps, the football, the music, the sea air, the red roofs, the red wine, the beer, and oh my god the food!
More than any other place we have visited, Lisbon is one to come back to. It is where we have been happiest, and therefore the best place in the world for us to get married.
Not sure if I’ll have time to make all of this this week I guess we’ll see, It’s the week leading up to Thanksgiving (in Canada) and I may be spending my evenings making food in preparation for a weekend up at the lake with the family. This will be the second last visit of the year, next time we go up it will to be to close; turning off all the water and electricity. I’m looking forward to one last fun-filled food fest.
Beef Skewers with steamed broccoli
Sage-Crusted Trout Take-out