Friday, July 30, 2010
Picked some more fresh veggies from our potted vegetable garden! We have a great selection of peppers this year as you can see pictured above - yellow bell peppers, hot banana peppers, and chili peppers. These peppers are HOT! We put a couple into a pasta sauce tonight and I can still feel my lips burning over an hour later! We also used some fresh basil from the garden as well, and some (store-bought) onions.
There are lots of cherry tomatoes - those yellow ones that you see are the heirloom "Snow White" variety of cherry tomato. I didn't find that it tasted terribly different from a regular cherry tomato, but it adds a great variety of color if you mix them together when making something with tomatoes! We took the tomatoes and made a fresh salsa, also using some of the hot peppers. This salsa is spicy hot! We essentially followed this recipe, posted on my blog last summer, but also added a splash of white wine vinegar.
Gotta love the summer and fresh veggies, especially the kind that you grow yourself!
Thursday, July 29, 2010
It may not look like much right now, but it will eventually be a fairly large cross stitch project that I would love to frame and hang up on the wall! My goal is to finish it by the time that we move into our new house (we are starting to look at homes tomorrow! So exciting!). Here is what it will eventually look like (the picture on the project bag):
Beautiful, isn't it? I just love beautiful Japanese/Asian inspired designs and the cherry blossoms remind me of the time that we visited the Sakura Matsuri in New York City. My only question - do any of my readers speak Chinese? What do the characters say on the pattern? I'd love to stitch them on the design but I'd love to know what they actually mean!
I also purchased these two cross stitch kits from Pinn-stitch.com yesterday! I find these to be quite beautiful as well - the kits are appropriately named Tranquil Valley and Gentle Scenery. I've never ordered from this website before so hopefully it is a positive experience. I got an email this morning saying that they have already been shipped, so that is a great sign!
Now for something completely unrelated....I've noticed since moving to Brantford a few years ago that people here LOVE to ride their bicycles on the sidewalk! Back in Dundas and Hamilton, this wasn't such an issue - people typically would ride their bikes on the side of the road, with exceptions made for extremely busy streets or little kids. I can understand if it is a really busy road or a small child, but people here tend to ride their bikes on the sidewalk even in the quietest of neighborhoods with ample room on the road. As a pedestrian who loves to go on walks, I've almost been hit by bicyclists on several occasions. People love to creep up behind you on a bike without warning you with a bell and almost run you down. I once had a father with two teenage daughters almost run right into me while going quickly around a corner.
So...to end my little rant, please be careful and mindful of pedestrians if you are riding a bike! Technically, a bicycle is a vehicle and should be used only on the road. If you must ride on the sidewalk, please use a bell as a warning and share the sidewalk with people who like to use it for walking!
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Wow...try saying that three times fast! Swap-Bot Blog Swap...Swap-Bot Blog Swap....okay, you get the point. I have mentioned this super awesome website in the past called Swap-Bot where you get to exchange all sorts of fun things via regular snail mail or electronically, whether it be postcards, chocolate, information, crafts, and the list goes on!
I joined this super fun swap there where you basically swap blog addresses and get to read and follow some new blogs written by members! Super fun - I'm always looking for new blogs to read, especially those from fellow swappers and crafters! I'll list all of the blogs below just in case you're looking for something new to read!
Redchuckstress - http://www.redchuckstress.blogspot.com/ - A great crafting blog! Shows some really neat Etsy finds as well as the blogger's own crafty experiences!
Craftland - http://www.pookalakachicka.blogspot.com/ - From the blogger's page: "The misadventures of a crafty girl in the world of indie craftiality"
Missanne.org - http://www.missanne.org - Adventures in craft, photography, and geek chic!
Sex, Drugs and Crafts - http://zilliahbailey.blogspot.com/ - The name says it all! This blogger happens to live only about an hour away from me...the world can be such a small place sometimes!
Delicate Eccentric - http://delicate-eccentric.blogspot.com/ - From the blog: "The beautiful little gems that you didn't realise you couldn't live without until you saw them!"
Lucky XIII Creations - http://luckyxiiicreations.wordpress.com/ - "where imagination runs free"
A Life Designed, by RJ - http://www.designedbyrj.blogspot.com/ - Recipes, crafts, life! All sorts of neat stuff to read here!
Too Cute - http://overlycute.blogspot.com/ - This blog is filled with all sorts of cute crafts!
The funny thing is you're just as useless as me - http://tovesuomi.blogspot.com/ - A blog all about life, swaps, stationary, and all sorts of things that I'm interested in, too!
The girl at the traffic light junction - http://timelessbeauty.wordpress.com/ - I love this blog! All about the blogger's life, filled with inspiration!
There you have it - I hope that you enjoy these blogs just as much as I do!
Sunday, July 25, 2010
We woke up on Thursday morning and went downstairs for our 9:00a.m. breakfast. Maddie at Copper Lane made us our delicious breakfast and she tries her best to cater to all of the guests' tastes. She specializes in various diets - vegetarian, lactose-free, gluten-free or peanut-free - whatever your allergy or preference may be. For instance, we are both vegetarians, I cannot consume yogurt, one of the guests did not like fruit, and two of the guests did not like onion. Maddie prepared our first course - a delicious baked biscuit and delicious baked pears with cinnamon. For the guest who did not like fruit, she made a yummy looking slaw type salad with zucchini, carrot, and other fresh veggies. She also prepared a main course frittata, with onion for most of us, and without onion for the other two guests. There were three couples in total (one in each room). For dessert, she made these yummy gooey brownies and cranberry oatmeal cookies. What a great cook Maddie is! We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and were so pleased with the trouble that she goes to prepare meals to please all tastes and preferences!
After our breakfast, we went for a walk to the main shops in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake. We saw these wonderful little Japanese-inspired shop called From Japan. There were so many amazing Japanese gifts, art, tea, dishes and glasses, stationary, paper goods, and more! We absolutely adored everything in this shop! Paul purchased some stationary sets for me, as I love cute stationary sets!
Then, we just had to stop at Victoria Teas and Coffees, since I heard that their coffee is amazing. Now that I'm back home, I've brewed coffee from the coffee beans that I bought, and it is so good! I purchased a Maple Cream coffee and an After Eight coffee. They sell so many varieties of coffee beans and tea, including some unique varieties to the Niagara area, such as Icewine coffee and tea. I haven't tried either of those flavors, but I'm sure they are fantastic!
We decided (the day that we left for our trip) that we would take a little zip across the Canada-USA border for an afternoon in the States! Maddie was nice enough to keep the wines that we purchased, as well as our luggage, at the bed & breakfast so we could travel without taking anything with us, since the border guards may hassle us if they discovered alcohol or a suitcase. We wanted to go to the Wegmans to do a bit of grocery shopping (we LOVE shopping in the USA to find different foods, mostly snacks really!), so we went to one in Buffalo that was near the Cheesecake Factory at the Walden Galleria in Buffalo, NY.
After grocery shopping, we went to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch! I went to the Cheesecake Factory for the first time last month while in Ohio with some girlfriends, and I really wanted Paul to experience the Cheesecake Factory first hand!
For lunch, we had the White Pizza and some Fried Mozzarella as an appetizer. The White Pizza, as shown above in the picture, has already been enjoyed a bit by us! It was so good! Paul said it was probably the best pizza he's ever had. It definitely rivals the pizza that we had in New Jersey on our NYC trip - in a totally different way, of course, but it ranks right up there for best pizza ever!
Mmmm...and when we thought lunch was totally amazing....here comes the cheesecake!
Yum yum yum! We decided to split a piece of Red Velvet Cheesecake...good decision, since we could barely finish the one slice of cake! Best cheesecake EVER. It was delicious bits of red velvet cake in between cheesecake and icing, and had white chocolate along the back of it! It was well worth the trip across the border!
We had a fantastic mini-vacation to Niagara-on-the-Lake and a quick trip to the USA! Since we're saving up to buy a house very soon, we haven't been able to travel as much as we would like to - hopefully the next trip we'll be making will be traveling for our wedding (or wherever our travels may end up taking us...!)
Saturday, July 24, 2010
After touring the wineries, we went to Deluca's Wine Country Restaurant as a part of our wine tour & dinner with Niagara Vintage Wine Tours. Since Paul and I are both vegetarian, we inquired ahead of time about a vegetarian meal. On the menu, there were vegetarian options for us, and we were able to fully enjoy everything as there were meatless options for every course! Also, each course was paired with a wine from a local Niagara winery that fully complimented the food.
We were brought an Amuse-Bouche to begin, which was some sort of apricot-rice mouthful with many other ingredients which I can't remember. It was absolutely delicious - incredibly flavorful and all of the ingredients came together so well! I always see the Amuse-Bouches being prepared on the Food Network and various cooking shows at fine dining restaurants, so it was really fun to be able to try one!
Next, we were brought some freshly baked bread with an olive oil balsamic vinegar dip. Mmmmm... I wish that I could eat this all the time! I could have easily just filled up on bread for the rest of the evening!
We each chose to try the salad (even though the soup was vegetarian, too, and sounded delicious) - this was easily the best salad that I've ever eaten! There was a wine salad dressing that tasted delicious and topped a very complex and yummy salad! It had salad greens, radish, beets, pickled asparagus, and a sweet pepper relish underneath, as well as feta cheese. Oh my goodness....it was so good! I could have eaten this salad for the rest of my life!
Yummy....wine! We had a white wine with our salad, a red wine with our dinner, and an ice wine with dessert! For dinner, we had a handmade pasta with a tomato sauce, topped with fresh ricotta and grated parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. This was so incredibly delicious, too! It has been since our cruise that we last ate at a fine dining restaurant of this caliber and it reminded us of the delicious cruise food...perhaps on par or even better!
For dessert, we had a fresh peach cobbler, as peaches just came into season here in the Niagara region. It was warm and delicious! Paul was even impressed with the fact that I don't normally eat raisins, but I gobbled them all up in this tasty dessert! Yum!
After dinner, I enjoyed a great cup of coffee and then we were back in the shuttle van with the tour company and taken back to our bed and breakfast. We were greeted by a friendly neighborhood kitty on the front lawn - apparently, there are lots of friendly neighborhood animals that live in the area, as there are plenty of trees and areas for wildlife to enjoy. Although we never "met" him, Maddie (who owns Copper Lane) told us about a red fox that is fearless and only walks around on the sidewalks of the neighborhood!
When we arrived back at Copper Lane, we were ready to go to sleep as we had another adventure ready for us the next day!
Friday, July 23, 2010
On Wednesday, July 21st, Paul and I took a mini-vacation to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario for an overnight stay at a bed & breakfast and a wine tour. Even though the Niagara region is just a 45 minute drive from home, we had always been meaning to take a wine tour and visit Niagara-on-the-Lake. Paul and I had a couple of days off together in a row and just a week ago decided to book this trip last-minute, if we could. As it turns out, we were able to book a room for just one night at a bed & breakfast, and the wine tour happened to have some spaces available, so we were in luck!
We stayed at Copper Lane Bed & Breakfast, right in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake. This beautiful home is literally just steps from the main downtown shopping area! It was incredibly convenient for us, as we just parked our car at the home (parking spaces are available for all guests) and were able to walk down the street and be in the center of town.
We stayed in the Cocoa Bean room, a very warm and charming room that made you feel right at home. Each room is equipped with an LCD TV with all of the movie channels, if you feel like staying in and watching a movie at night. Each room also has air conditioning, so it was very comfortable to sleep at night during these hot summer days.
Our bathroom was just a quick step across the hall, which wasn't a problem at all. It was just our bathroom and it was incredibly close to the room. It was decorated in similar shades of chocolate and caramel, and the bathroom was beautiful, just like the room! The shower was quite large, and there was lots of room to get ready in the morning after having a shower.
After we arrived mid-afternoon and walked around town for a little while, we went back to Copper Lane to wait for our wine tour to pick us up. We sat out on the porch of Copper Lane and watched some of the horse drawn carriages pass by. Copper Lane is surrounded by many trees and has a beautiful front porch with plenty of places to sit. The home itself was built originally in 1871 and has been fully restored, retaining many original elements of the house. It is quite charming!
The wine tour company that we went with was Niagara Vintage Wine Tours. We were picked up and dropped off from our bed & breakfast and embarked on a tour of three different wineries, as well as dinner at a fancy restaurant! This tour was described on the website as the Evening Wine Tour: Tony de Luca's Wine and Country Restaurant - a Californian inspired 5 course dinner tour and wine pairing experience!
The first two wineries that we visited were Reif Estate Winery and Pondview Winery, respectively. At Reif, we tried their Vidal, Merlot, and Riesling Icewine. They were all fantastic! We ended up purchasing a bottle of Late Harvest Riesling, Late Harvest Vidal, and a small bottle of Vidal Icewine from them. Next, we visited Pondview Winery, which just opened up on June 1st, 2010! The family had been producing wine for decades and finally decided to open their own winery. At Pondview, we tried their Riesling, Gewürztraminer Riesling, and Cabernet Franc Rose. This was the very first Rose wine that Paul and I both really enjoyed, so we had to pick up a bottle of that one!
Next, we visited our third stop, Pillitteri Estates Winery. We went on an extensive tour of their property, including outside where they grow the grapes, and inside the production rooms and down to the barrel cellar. First, we were given a brief history of Pillitteri, their family and their wines. Their wines have won many awards, many of which are prominently displayed in the front foyer of the building. Their Sparkling Icewine Cabernet 2008 won the top gold medal prize for best Icewine! There was also a beautifully decorated wagon displayed in the front foyer, painted and decorated with family history and kept in the family for generations.
It was a beautiful day outside when we saw the grapes growing that go into Pillitteri wines.
There are separate barrels that produce icewine and regular white/red wine. These containers separate the skins from the grapes and press them down into wine. The room with the giant metal containers was freezing cold and store the wine at the perfect temperature until they are ready to be transferred to the barrels.
We went down into the barrel cellar, which was enormous! There were so many barrels stacked all around inside a huge concrete cellar. There was the longest concrete table in the world in the center of the room...well, apparently it is now the second largest concrete table. There were 23 chairs all bolted up high around the room that get brought down on rare occasions for the family and friends to sit at the table in the cellar. The number 23 is special to the family and the owner, so many instances of this number are represented around the room as it brings good luck to them.
After the tour, we tasted many wines at Pillitteri: a Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, a Gewürztraminer Icewine, and a rare Red Icewine! All of their wines were delicious and we ended up purchasing the Cabernet Franc and the Gewürztraminer Icewine. I would have purchased the Red Icewine, but it was a bit on the expensive side, understandably so!
After the wine tour, we went for our delicious dinner, which will be continued in the next blog post!
Monday, July 19, 2010
Mmmm...look at those delicious blueberries! These juicy little blueberries are one of the first things that I saw this morning, placed on the kitchen counter for us to enjoy! Paul's Dad went blueberry picking yesterday and left a huge bowl of them out for us! Yay, gotta love blueberry season! Since we didn't really have much breakfast-type-food around, I decided to whip up a quick batch of blueberry muffins! These were the quickest muffins that I've ever made - I was done in less than five minutes! Once I had brewed a pot of coffee, the muffins were nearly done baking and everything worked out just peachy....blueberry-y...eehhh you get the point!
Here is the recipe for Vegan Blueberry Muffins - easy enough to make with ingredients that I already had on hand. I found this recipe somewhere on the Internet, and it worked out great!
3/4 cup soymilk
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup water
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (FRESH! mmmm)
Mix the wet ingredients together. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the blueberries to the dry ingredients. Then, mix the wet into the dry, and bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
And....for good measure....
Cherry Tomatoes! I just picked these a couple of minutes ago from the garden! What to do with them....just eat them as is....or make some delicious bruschetta bread again....decisions, decisions!
Saturday, July 17, 2010
As promised, here are the recipes that we made using the fresh vegetables from the garden! All of the veggies that we picked a few days ago were mostly all used up in these salads. All of these recipes are vegetarian and vegan, so enjoy! I have collected and altered these recipes from various sources, including magazines, web blogs and websites, and I never seem to record where I found them....so I apologize if I haven't been able to give credit where credit is due!
The first picture, posted above, is the Bruschetta Bread that we made - we made two of them, one for each of us to go with our dinner. The recipe isn't anything too crazy as we just wanted to use the cherry tomatoes that we picked from the garden. The bread is a loaf that I picked up at the Metro grocery store that was called something like "Organic Whole Wheat with Sprouted Grain". It was very delicious bread! I cut the bread really thick, which Paul thought was a bad idea at first, but then decided after tasting the bread that it was a very good idea after all.
The topping consists of chopped up cherry tomatoes, orange pepper, onion, and fresh basil. I brushed both sides of the bread with olive oil. Then, I put the veggies in a bowl, mixed in 1 tbsp of olive oil and splashes of balsamic vinegar. Then, you put the vegetable mix on top of the bread, and sprinkle it with cheese. I used "Daiya Cheese" which is a vegan non-dairy cheese, but you can feel free to use any vegan cheese or regular cheese. Put it in the oven at 350 degrees for a few minutes, and then switch it over to broil and let that go until the bread looks slightly browned. Yum!
This next one was a huge success - Mexican Pasta Salad!
1 package of penne pasta
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 peppers (red, orange or yellow), chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup of Veganaise (or mayonnaise, if you aren't vegan)
4 tbsp salsa
2 tsp minced chipotle in adobo sauce
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Cook the pasta. Chop the tomato, pepper, and onion and place into a large bowl. In a small bowl, stir the Veganaise with the salsa, chipotle, and spices. Add drained pasta to the vegetables and drizzle with the sauce. Toss to coat. Refrigerate until cold. Add the cilantro before serving.
This one lasted us a few days - we both had it for dinner that night and brought it to work with us for lunch for the next few days. Definitely will be one that we will make again!
Another salad - Chickpea Salad! This one is always great for packing up into work lunches or works as a great side dish at dinner time. I found that I needed to add more white wine vinegar and oil to the mixture after everything was made to avoid it from being too starchy-tasting from the chickpeas. You may have to add more vinegar or oil, to taste.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp white wine vinegar (more to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
4 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 red peppers, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
**this recipe did call for parsley, but we omitted it because Paul isn't a fan. You can add parsley or cilantro to this recipe if you'd like, as well as carrots (which we didn't have on hand)
In a bowl, crush together garlic and salt. Mix in olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, cumin, cayenne. In a separate bowl, stir chickpeas, pepper, onion. Mix in dressing. Cover and chill for several hours.
And lastly, here is a Bean and Rice Salad! I found that this one had too strong of a lime taste to it, so maybe instead of adding 1/3 cup of lime juice, you might want to add less than that. Next time, I think I will cut it back to 1/4 or less of lime juice, and add white wine vinegar to offset the lime flavor.
3 cups cooked rice
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 pepper, diced
1/3 cup lime juice
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp cilantro, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
** we also added chopped hot peppers, fresh from the garden to spice it up a bit!
Combine rice, beans, and peppers. In a separate bowl, combine all of the other ingredients. Pour over the rice mixture and refrigerate.
There you have it - three simple salads that you can make for dinner, and depending on the quantities that you prepare, they could last you for days worth of lunches throughout the week!
Friday, July 16, 2010
I know that I said in my last blog post that I was going to post three recipes that we made out of the fresh vegetables...don't worry, those recipes are coming! Something a little bit more exciting happened to me today that I wanted to write about...I got my new car!
It is a brand new 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid car in "winter gray metallic". I love it so much, it is the car of my dreams. I have been saving up for this car ever since I started my job three-and-a-half years ago.
This is my old car, a 1999 Mazda Protege with 322,000km of driving on it. This car has driven to Toronto and back hundreds of times, to New York City and back, and to Ohio and back recently (just barely!). I have been driving it since the end of high school in 2001 and I will miss this car! It just got to be way too old and needed too many repairs. I needed a reliable car for my daily commute.
Here is my new car, with just about 100km on it! It is a gas-electric hybrid, so I won't have to be at the gas pumps nearly as often, which is fantastic as a commuter. I'm so excited to drive it around!
It has a sunroof and solar panels on top of the car. There is a button on my remote that says A/C - when I press that button, it activates the air conditioner that is run just by the solar energy through the solar panels. Air conditioning run purely by the power of the sun....genius!
It has a premium sound system with a 6-CD changer. As you can see, there is actually a button to park the car instead of it being on the shifter! To move into reverse or drive, you just move the joystick and it moves back into center. Pretty darn cool. Once you stop the car and you want to put it into park, you just press that "P" button. It also has an "EV" drive mode which means that if you are driving a short distance, it will run strictly from the battery using no gas, an "Eco" drive mode (the default mode, alternating between gas and electric battery) and a "Power" drive mode that gives you a little bit more power on the highway. I'm very impressed with how the car drives and how fast it accelerates! It definitely doesn't drive any slower than a regular car.
It's hard to see here, but it also has a back-up camera that shows up in your rear view mirror. The car actually beeps when it backs up! The car is so quiet that this is a safety feature for pedestrians. Beeeeep beeeep! My car kind of sounds like a truck or bus backing up, which is pretty hilarious.
It is a hatchback with plenty of trunk space! The back seats completely fold down as well. I've got lots of room back here in case I make a trip out to Ikea or need to do any sort of moving. Or I go to Whole Foods and buy tons of groceries!
I am so completely and utterly happy with this car, I cannot even tell you! If you are looking for a new car and are a bit curious about the hybrids, you should definitely look into getting a Prius. Better yet, if you're in the Brantford area, go to Hogewoning Toyota and ask for Doug. Doug is the best salesperson I've ever had the pleasure of doing business with at a car dealership! He is friendly, helpful, and not pushy at all like your typical car salesperson.
Tonight calls for celebrations - I can't wait until Paul gets home so I can show him the new wheels and take him for a ride! We're going to enjoy a sushi dinner at Sapporo Sushi in Hamilton - can't wait!