non-recipe posts

29 things before 29

Today is my 28th birthday!

Does anyone else get really nostalgic about birthdays? For me it’s probably partially because my birthday happens right before school starts, another super nostalgic time for me. I kind of treat fall as my new year, so I basically do my version of new years resolutions in the fall.

This will actually be my second age-based goal list. I started my first one after I went through a breakup right before my 25th birthday. It wasn’t a particularly bad breakup, but it kind of forced me to figure out who I was and what I wanted. Getting dumped meant I suddenly had a lot of time on the weekend that I hadn’t had before. And rather than sit around feeling sorry for myself, I wrote a massive list of everything I wanted to do in the next year, and then I went out and did them.
26 things recap  26 things recap  26 things recap
26 things recap  26 things recap  26 things recap
I went bowling. I wore lipstick to work. I got new glasses, a new phone and a vacuum. I went out for brunch with someone I only knew from tumblr. I went swimming. I walked 15km in one day. I tried hot yoga. And I finally bought pamplemoussi.com which inspired me to start this blog!

And now I’m starting a new list!

pamplemoussi’s 29 things before 29

  1. write 100 posts here
  2. volunteer somewhere
  3. get my wisdom teeth out
  4. make cheese (ricotta counts!)
  5. go rock climbing (indoor, obviously)
  6. have an article published somewhere online
  7. sew a blouse
  8. make spicy black bean hummus (inspired by a yummy spread at Nu Bügel)
  9. go swimming in a large body of water
  10. get three massages (I gotta use all that insurance money!)
  11. buy a filing cabinet for office
  12. do one proper push up (currently I can do zero, sooooo)
  13. get my eyes tested
  14. clean out linen dresser (use vintage pillowcases for quilt?)
  15. drag some friends to a weekend getaway at my parents farm
  16. make a gallery wall (maybe I’ll do the $20 version from Back to Her Roots!)
  17. clean out iPhoto (so many duplicates!)
  18. take a full week off with Will
  19. get a new phone
  20. save $1000 in an emergency fund
  21. print and save all my blog recipes to hard copy
  22. leave the country (even if it’s just to the states)
  23. get married (admittedly, this one’s a bit cheaty)
  24. make another quilt (this baby one was so cute, I want to make a little lap quilt for myself)
  25. buy a new sewing machine
  26. buy a new hairdryer
  27. clean out iTunes (maybe my computer is slow because I have music from high school on it)
  28. make delicious bread (I’ve made bread it was just… less than delicious)
  29. sand and stain my front hall bench

So there we go. 365 days to get all of these done!

(When I originally started writing these, I put it as “28 goals before 28”, not realizing that I was actually turning 28 in two days. Age really sneaks up on you, eh?)

non-recipe posts

Cheers and Cheese Sunday School at CHEESEWERKS

When I told my sister I was going to a cheese class as my birthday present from Will, I think she thought it was going to be a very snooty afternoon, but it was totally relaxed and fun. We learned all about cheese – production, cheese types, and most importantly, beverage pairings.  I’ve been to CHEESEWERKS for dinner before (I had the Picton as a mac and cheese  – so good!), so I knew that they knew their cheese, and this class definitely confirmed that.

cheese and cheers class
We started out with a little snack – a grilled cheese sandwich made with a smoked cheddar and a roasted tomato soup. The soup definitely reminded me that I need to make tomato soup while tomatoes are still in season, because it was so simple and so delicious!

cheese and cheers class cheese and cheers class
Then we moved into the cheese. We got to try 12 cheeses in all, covering all the major types: fresh, soft, semi-soft, firm, hard and blue. The pairings were very clever and definitely enhanced the cheeses. The ricotta at first seemed quite boring, but when you paired it with homemade blueberry soda it was almost like cheesecake, as one woman in the class observed. It was also interesting to get to compare two different kinds from the same category. The double-cream brie was delicious. But then the triple-cream brie was basically like butter, and reminded me that I need to have brie and baguette dinners more often.

cheese and cheers class
I also got to try my first Caesar ever! OK, technically as a vegetarian I shouldn’t drink Caesars since they have clam juice in them, so I would never order one. But they made one and had it in front of me, and I didn’t want it to go to waste just because it had a tiiiny bit of clam in it. It was amazing. So spicy and salty. Apparently I need to start drinking Bloody Marys.

cheese and cheers class
The one I was most excited to try was the Devil’s Rock which is a really creamy blue cheese. I’ve seen it at St. Lawrence Market before and been very tempted to buy it, but I was put off by the pricetag. It was the creamiest blue I’ve ever tasted!

cheese and cheers class
And now I’ve got the listing of cheeses next time I was to do a little cheese-based dinner (likely: lately this week). I would definitely recommend the class if you like cheese and want to expand your horizons a little. We both left full and excited to recreate some of the pairings (cider and brie, so good!)

goal lists, non-recipe posts

A Baby Quilt for Bowen!

baby quilt
Exciting news! I have reached the age where my friends are having babies. I am so pumped about this stage. As evidenced by many recipes on this blog, I quite like tiny things. And new babies are the perfect excuse to pick up a new skill. When my friend Melissa told me she was pregnant, I thought about trying to knit some little booties or a hat. But eugh, my knitting skills really wax and wane sometimes. I’ve given people far too many scarves with holes in them and that just wouldn’t do for a sweet new baby!

baby quilt

And then I remembered my goals list from a few years ago, when I decided I wanted to make a quilt. OK, an adult sized quilt seems a bit ambitious for a first quilt. But a teensy tiny baby one! I could totally handle that.

I bought the patterns from Poise Gets Cosy and I would highly recommend it for a first time quilter. Her instructions were simple and easy to understand. The few times I was confused by something (namely the binding and how to make the corners turn out neat!), it just required some squinting at the photos until it started to make sense.

baby quilt
I also liked how her instructions included the best way to mix up your patterns, because I was getting totally neurotic about that. As if the baby is going to care that there’s an elephant next to an elephant, right?

baby quilt

There are lots of tiny animals on it, including octopuses, foxes, squids, crabs and elephants.

baby quilt
Lastly, I love how when the light shines through it, it looks almost like stained glass!

I’m excited to be able to cross something off my life list and celebrate a new baby while I’m at it. Welcome to the world Bowen! I hope you enjoy your quilt.

non-recipe posts, pamplemoussi's pips

pamplemoussi’s pips, volume iv

Just a short one today! It’s been a really stressful week. And next week is going to be even MORE stressful as I’m travelling to Regina for work! That’s right, I get to go somewhere even colder than Toronto.  I’m probably 20% excited and 80% anxious. This will be my first work trip and it’s a very grown up feeling!

One thing I made this week that turned out amazingly was this one-pot pasta! I’ve been hearing about it endlessly but figured it wasn’t impressive as everyone was saying it was. But my friend Matt sent me a pin and raved about this recipe (don’t you love how pinterest lets you do that?). So I made it that very night and it was delicious!

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Before… and after!

I left out the pine nuts and used 1 tsp dried basil instead of the fresh. Oh, and I used 1 tsp on red pepper flakes… but that may have been a bit too much? Will and I liked it, but I think we always want slightly spicy food in the middle of a deep freeze. It was such an easy and quick meal, it’s definitely going to enter our weeknight meal rotation.

 

I really enjoyed this Toast story about scented markers. Why did the black ones always smell so disgusting? It’s a frequently used colour!

 

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You might ask, what have I been doing to try and relieve some of my stress this week? Well, mainly just shipping Tessa and Scott. I watched their entire show on the iPad during my lunch breaks this week and it’s amazing. They are just the cutest and so good at skating. I keep telling Will that we need to learn how to ice dance so people can find us that adorable. Probably not going to happen as the last time we went skating together,  he tried to skate really fast and drag me around and I found that terrifying enough!

Alright, I’m out! Tonight I’m headed to the grilled cheese fest, so I’m pretty excited about that. Grilled cheese is probably in my top five favourite foods so I’m excited to try some of the Toronto restaurants and food trucks that I haven’t made it out to yet.

non-recipe posts, pamplemoussi's pips

pamplemoussi’s pips, volume i

A surprising number of my posts never get posted because they don’t work out as I wanted them too or I deem them too short to be a proper recipe. And that’s sad! Some of these things are little tidbits that I think might make your cooking lives easier, as they have made mine. So I’m starting a weekly feature here, I’m going to call it “pamplemoussi pips” because I have an unhealthy love of alliteration, and it sort of works together (pamplemousse = grapefruit, pips = seeds). But if you can think of a better name, I’m open to suggestions.

With that, the inaugural pamplemoussi’s pips!

food tips
Someone at work gave me some of this MIYU beauty tea, and although I’m obviously not going to believe that a tea will make me pretty, it is really delicious. Plus the tea itself is pretty, full of rose petals and candied pearls. And it’s a nice alternative to my millionth cup of coffee in the afternoon.

 

We eat a lot of nachos around these parts, and earlier this week I discovered the secret to making them even tastier: homemade taco seasoning. Because like, regular taco seasoning is full of salt and if there is anything nachos do not need, it is more salt (also after watching a bunch of Heart and Stroke ads this week, I have learned that I do not need more salt). So! The recipe is:

  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Mix that together and add it to nachos, along with mozzarella and cheddar cheese (after they come out of the oven, some diced avocado and a squeeze of lime would be nice too).

food tips
Two minutes after I took this picture, the fire alarm went off in my hallway, and I was forced to evacuate, leaving the precious nachos behind (I must hasten to assure you that it wasn’t my nacho cooking that set of the alarm, although it wouldn’t be the first time). Eventually we were cleared to go back inside as it had been just a faulty detector, but nonetheless, we had four fire trucks and at least eight fire fighters show up within minutes! Toronto Fire, you are highly impressive.

One of the reasons that I finally stated a food blog was that I was really inspired after I read orangette’s book (so good, so buy it immediately and buy a copy for your mom too, it seems like the kind of book that moms would like). Reading Molly Wizenberg’s speech about food blogging made me feel all the things. It’s true, I started this because I need to write! And being forced to write is amazing.

Lastly, I made this Cookie and Kate kale salad for dinner the other night and it was AMAZING. The dressing was really spicy and delicious. Plus I always try to eat citrus fruits with kale because the viatmin c makes it easier for your body to absorb the iron in green leafy vegetables.

food tips

non-recipe posts

How #darkTO cost me my holiday baking

I have a sad story for today. Originally today’s post was going to be very timely: Christmas cookies! My favourite Christmas cookies which I made for Will way back when we were in high school. I had planned the whole thing: I bought all the ingredients on Friday on my way home from work, I mixed up the dough on Saturday afternoon and it was going to chill in the fridge until Sunday so I could take photos when it was a little sunnier. Saturday was dreary, and it had rained all day, but nothing terrible. We’d heard ice storm warnings but I assured Will that we had flashlights and plenty of canned stuff to eat if the power went out.

And then Sunday morning the bathroom light wouldn’t turn on, which was strange because the humidifier in our bedroom was still working. For a few hours we had power in the bedroom and living room, but not the bathroom or the kitchen. We moved the coffee maker into the living room and played Fallout 3 with our Sunday morning coffee. And then all the power went out.

ice storm 2013 ice storm 2013

Without lights in the hallway, our apartment was very spooky, After spending the past week playing a post-apocalyptic game, it felt like a giant mutant or a ghoul was going to jump out from behind the corner at any minute. The walk to the store to stock up on bottled water and batteries was very icy and quite scary, with all the downed power lines (don’t worry, we gave them a very wide berth!). 

ice storm 2013    ice storm 2013

(it’s hard to tell from an iPhone photo, but in the second photo, the tree branches are draped right over the power lines!)

Sunday was a day of playing scrabble and crazy eights by candlelight. It was one of those things that seems very romantic in theory but was actually pretty boring in practice. And thank goodness for my candle obsession, because we had enough to light our whole apartment! And we were lucky enough to be a block from stores and restaurants and coffeeshops that still had power, so we just ate all our meals out. If our neighbourhood was less walkable, it would have been even more frustrating.

ice storm 2013     ice storm 2013

Monday morning there was still no sign of Toronto Hydro in our neighbourhood. And since the food in the fridge was  warm and had been without refrigeration since Saturday night, I ended up tossing everything. It was really sad throwing out hundreds of dollars worth of groceries, particularly all the butter and eggs I’d bought just for holday baking. And the nice cheese I’d just bought on sale on Friday. And the dough! The beautiful cookie dough.

I know we’re actually quite lucky, and it could have been much worse. We had water, albeit cold water, right up until we were about to leave on Monday night. And we can afford to fill our fridge again. It was just very sad to have put all that time and money into our food, only to just throw it all away. And sad to start our holidays cold and unshowered.

Luckily Will had Christmas Eve off, so we headed back home last night. It was scary getting out of the city when there were still massive tree branches blocking lots of the roads and all the traffic lights were out! Now we are safely back in the country, which is ironically a lot more glamorous than our Toronto life, what with the hot showers and fresh coffee! Here’s hoping Toronto gets all its power back soon! It’s terrible to think of people spending their Christmas in the cold and the dark.

decorating, non-recipe posts

And now I’m 27!

Oh my, I certainly didn’t intend to disappear from this little corner of the internet. In fact, I had all these grandiose plans about blogging about the move and organizing and all that jazz. But then instead I was my sister’s maid of honour, moved in with Will and changed my work hours all within the course of three weeks. So I was a bit stressed. And when I’m stressed, I go into what my mom calls hibernation mode, which is what happens when you’re so stressed about everything going on that the minute you have any down time, your brain is like, “Nope, shut it down” and you start going to bed at 9 pm. Which was probably especially fun for Will, who’d pictured moving in with a fun girlfriend, and instead moved in with a cranky, perpetually exhausted bear.

Speaking of bears, and my birthday, I always feel like birthdays are a time of reflection. And what I’ve been reflecting on lately is that I need to stop being so darn hard on myself. In fact, that might be my number one resolution for the next year.

This is inspired by one of my favourite Stephen Fry quotes: “A bear doesn’t go to sleep thinking ‘I wasn’t really a very good bear today.’ They are just 100% bear, whereas human beings feel we’re not 100% human, that we’re always letting ourselves down. We’re constantly striving towards something, to some fulfilment”

I would like to go to bed each night and not think, “I haven’t been a very good human lately.” I am the kind of person who will beat themselves up for any and all of the following: leaving my dishes in the sink too long. Not calling my mom enough. Dressing like a slob for too many days in a row. Bickering with my boyfriend. Not cooking enough. Not eating enough vegetables. Not blogging enough. Forgetting to take pictures of events. Accidentally ignoring a text or email from someone for a day or two.
mac and cheese
So along with this new promise to be kinder to myself, is a promise to be better at self care. Last Wednesday night was a perfect example. I’d gone over to my old apartment after work to help clean before the final inspection, and hadn’t gotten home until 8 pm. Will was out with a friend, and I was going to make myself some kind of sad person meal like Kraft dinner or frozen pizza, but I was like, “I can do better than that!” So I made mac and cheese and garlic fried green beans. And they were delicious.

I know I’ve already posted here about my love of planning, and I think the real issue is that lately I’ve been swinging a wee bit too much into the over planning aspect of my personality. I always mentally mocked people who scheduled down time, but it looks like I might have to be one of them, at least for a little while.

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After all, it only took me fifteen minutes to go from boxes to books, so maybe I should aim for more time snoozing in our comfy navy bed (I even scored an HBC blanket on sale to complete the look!).

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goal lists, non-recipe posts

Strawberry picking

starberries

I’m so pleased that we go to pick strawberries this weekend! It was on my to-do list last summer, but by the time we had a free weekend, it thunder-stormed the whole time and we missed our chance. But this year it was clear and sunny – maybe a bit too sunny for my easily-sunburned boyfriend!

starberries

starberries

(you can’t even imagine how good this field smelled)

We went to Big’r Apple Farm near Brampton and it was just lovely. To get to the strawberry fields, we drove through a little apple orchard which just made me crave fall. The fields were full of families picking (and little kids demanding their parents inspect every berry they picked!). It took us less than an hour to pick one giant basket of strawberries and a smaller basket of sweet peas. And at $15 for a giant basket of strawberries and $8 for half a basket of peas, it was way cheaper than what I’d been paying at the farmers market.

starberries

(look at those curly little pea vines!)

starberries

Will and I are both from the country, and although we love living in Toronto, I think we do miss it a lot. It’s crazy that only 45 minutes away, you can get such a full-immersed country experience.

We basically ate raw strawberries and peas all weekend long, and then yesterday I used some of the berries to do a batch of freezer jam. Since this was my first attempt at jam, I’m going to wait a bit before I post the recipe, because I’m worried it hasn’t gelled as much as it should (oh my, I just had a flashback to reading Little Women where newly-wed Meg can’t get her jams to jell). Even if it ends up too runny, I think I’m enjoy it on toast and scones anyway, since there’s such a sense of accomplishment to making something with fruit you’ve picked yourself!

jam jam jam
All in all, a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday. I was so glad we fit it in considering what a short season strawberries have!

starberries   starberries

(the cheese we paired with the strawberries was this balsamic infused one, and it was the perfect pairing for strawberries and red wine – so rich and wine-y itself!)