Category Archives: People

When Impatience Meets Resourcefulness

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Basically, Mike made a gluten-free chocolate cake. The cake smelled great, looked great in the pan but he did not let it cool before knocking it out of the pan. Long story short, he improvised and salvaged our dessert. This dessert was made for the same friend who’s power went out and we invited over. Check out my post called ‘Bro, Do You Even Cook’ to see what our main course was!

What you see in the photo here is our dessert lined up and ready to serve. In each glass is (starting from bottom to top) a layer of ‘chocolate cake/brownie mistake’ – 2nd layer is vanilla bean ice cream and to top it off I whipped up a quick salted caramel sauce and drizzled it over top.

Thanks to Mike’s quick thinking dessert was saved!

Stay classy,

~E

Bro, Do You Even Cook?

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DSC_1067In the words of the Croods movie: Dah dah daaaaahhhh! To understand my reference check out the video here.

I invited a new friend and her man over for supper after their power went out. I am still amazed by how quickly Mike can pull together a quality dish in the span of a few hours. Yes, I am truly lucky to be dating a chef!

This is the beginning of our summer farmer’s market dishes and I am so happy to have fresh produce available every weekend.

Here’s the down low on what we ate:

– Lemongrass marinated grilled sword fish

– Bacon infused, three cheese baked scalloped potatoes

– Ranier cherry and blackberry ginger vinegar chutney

– Blanched & grilled asparagusand rainbow carrots with fresh herb paste picked right from our patio herb garden

The entire dish was served on our custom made cutting board and finished off with fresh picked microgreens

This meal took approximately 2 hours to create.

Stay classy,

~E

 

Good Wine, Great Friends

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Mike and I decided it was high time we had ourselves a dinner party! So, we rounded up a few friends and cooked up a storm. There was wine, champagne, delicious food and a lot of laughs, oohs and ahhs as the food was prepared and presented. One of the wines brought by a friend was a red called Balthazar which was sublime!

Mike decided on a 5-course variable menu throughout the night.

First course: Appetizers

*Lightly seared tuna tacos with grated carrots, beet relish, basil and a mexican lime olive oil vinaigrette

*Caramelized onions on a homemade fresh baked baguette

*Panko breaded then deep-fried goat cheese and fig balls

 

Second course: Soup

*Roasted corn and bacon chowder

 

Third course: Salad

*House salad (mixed greens, grated carrot, sliced cherry tomatoes, candied almonds, applewood smoked cheddar)

*Butterleaf salad (avocado, cherry tomato)

Accompanying dressings were:

*Raspberry lime vinaigrette

*Honey-lemon basil vinaigrette

 

Fourth course: Mains & Sides

Mains:

*Chili and herb marinated pork tenderloin

*Five-spice roasted whole chicken

Sides:

*Green & Yellow beans, peas and carrots steamed with butter and brown sugar

*Potatoes au gratin (3-cheese Scalloped potatoes)

*Roasted garlic lemon and herb risotto

 

Fifth course: Dessert

*Warm chocolate chunk brownie with roasted pecans, drizzled with vanilla bean caramel sauce and finished off with a sprinkling of Himalayan pink sea salt

Triple Destination Vacation!

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As you can see, Mike and I had quite an adventure this January. New year and a new vacation!

We started off in Phoenix, Arizona, with Mike’s family who have a house there. We went swimming, toured the Olive Mill and went to a college football game called the Fiesta Bowl. Go Baylor Bears! The weather was nice but it cooled off at night to a point that we were wearing jeans and hoodies. We were warned about the temperature at least and packed accordingly. I even got to learn a new game with dominoes! I absolutely love a good board game. One that doesn’t end in a family war is best. We also tried fresh orange and grapefruit juice which was delicious!

The difficult part was we had to also pack for Mexico. Our suitcase was split down with middle: desert winter weather clothes on one side and sunny beach clothes on the other. Somehow, we were able to fit everything into one checked suitcase and two carry-on bags each. I’d like to think we are pretty talented since our trip went from Jan.1-17 and we shared a suitcase!

After fun with Mike’s family we hitched a ride to Las Vegas via my Aunt Ro, Uncle Bernie and cousin Janissa. They were in Phoenix, so we met up with them and began a four-hour road trip through cactus country. On the way we stopped to grab photos next to cacti three times our height and grab gross fast food. I will admit I ate the chicken nuggets from McDonald’s but it was out of pure need to eat and not a positive culinary choice. At least the honey mustard sauce was good. And yet, I think road trips require at least one greasy food stop along the way. It just has to happen.

After catching a glimpse of the Hoover Dam and snapping some photos of the countryside we found ourselves in Las Vegas. Sin city. ba ba baaaahhhh! My Aunt had booked us for 4 nights at the Plaza Hotel which is located on the Old Strip. We met up with my grandparents who were staying on the Old Strip as well. This leg of the vacation was part of my birthday present as well because my grandparents had said they wanted to take me to Vegas when I turned 21. We gambled a little, ate a lot and took in as much as we could during our stay. Mike and I took one day to go check out the New Strip. We bought bus passes and headed on over. Those bus passes were priceless after we discovered how far apart each hotel was from one another. The walking could have easily tired us out in a matter of hours if we didn’t have the buses to ferry us to each hotel. Mike wanted to check out the Bellagio water fountain show and Caesar’s Palace. I wanted to see Mandalay Bay and the M&M Store. We did it all and then some since there were other hotels close by. We bought tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show called KA’ (martial arts and sword fighting) and bought an awesome batman painting all done by a spray-paint artist on the street. I freaked out when we went into the M&M store which has 4 levels of crazy. I only bought coconut M&M’s and took lots of pictures with the life-size versions of the peanut and regular chocolate M&M characters. SO COOL! On the Old Strip we also bought another painting of a Japanese cherry blossom tree and watched the light show that goes on every night. After talking to locals we found a great movie theatre to go watch 47 Ronin. The cab ride was $25 but the movie was worth it! The entire theatre was tricked out with reclining lazy-boy style chairs with cup holders. No one kicked the backs of our seats and we didn’t have to share an armrest with anyone else. It was pretty darn awesome.

After four days of Vegas we were ready to go to Mexico. We boarded our super early flight after grabbing a shuttle from the hotel and jetted off to warmer places. I forgot to mention Vegas was a bit colder than Phoenix so jeans and hoodies were the wardrobe of choice.

Cue arriving in Cancun, Mexico. We get through customs and hop in a shuttle van to drive to our hotel the Grant Sunset Princess Resort. Little did we know our driver used to drive in the movie Fast & Furious…or so I thought at least. We had a few other people from different hotels to drop off in the shuttle as well. This guy from New York starts chatting with the driver and we zoom a good 6 meters past the entrance to our hotel. Mike is about to say something when our driver slams on the brakes and proceeds to back up in a lane full of moving traffic. Needless to say I was hoping we didn’t have the same driver for our return drive to the airport.

Following our bumpy and life-threatening ride we arrive at the hotel and realize the place is huge! Our room is a quick jaunt down the path and the beach is another adventure to get to as well. We got there at night so we walked around and thought we had the place figured out. We did not realize the hotel was so large it mirrored itself. There were actually two lobby’s which looked identical as well as a lobby bar with identical furniture, orientation, etc. Confusing beyond belief! Eventually everything was figured out and we set out to meet up with the Sunwing representatives, with whom our trip was booked through. We ended up booking two excursions with them as well. One to the Mayan ruins called Coba and a snorkelling trip on the Mayan Reef in Puerto Morelos. We also booked a shuttle to Playa del Carmen, to meet up with some friends who were staying close by. Now I have a warning for every person who travels to this area of Mexico. Part of our free shuttle deal was that we had to stop by a jewellery factory/store first and take a tour. We did and we bought something each. Little did we know the company was a big fraud scandal used to trick tourists. Our lesson was a cheap one but another group who went on the shuttle with us bought $1000 worth of merchandise and there was a no-refund policy. The factory was called Matis Jewellers. Also, do not buy anything from a store called Lapis. They are both fraudulent companies making money off fake jewellery. That was honestly the only low of our entire trip. Now onto better times.

The great thing about our resort was it was all-inclusive. We never had to worry about food or drinks. There were bars all over the resort and 4 buffets plus 6 reservation style restaurants we could go to eat at. Plus, the was a span, gym, and daily activities. We tried out the archery the one day and almost checked out tequila volleyball but decided to just go chill out at one of the swim-up pool bars instead.

Our Coba tour was amazing and we both climbed right to the top of the ruins. It was a long day but worth it. Our guide also took us to an underwater lake where we swam around and cooled off. We also went to a Mayan village where we met the locals and watched a shaman perform a ritual asking their Gods for rain. The snorkelling tour was a little less exciting but still fun. Mike had too much tequila the day before so he stayed on the boat and I went to check out the reef. We blame the college girls from Wisconsin haha. There weren’t a lot of fish like I had seen in Maui or like Mike had seen in Cuba but there was still a good number of marine life to be seen. We only did the half day trip and it was more than enough time spent out on the ocean.

Other than the two trips and our visit with friends in Playa del Carmen, we stuck to the resort. We walked up and down the beach looking for shells and enjoyed all the sun. Apparently, the week before we arrived the rain had been pouring like crazy! Maybe too many shaman’s had performed the rain ceremony. Either way, everyone we met who had been there for the week before were happy the sun was back. Most of the people we met were from Canada. Mostly Alberta and some from Toronto area.

I know I mentioned the great thing about all-inclusive was partly the drinks, but really it was great. If someone ordered a round of shots they were free. If we wanted two more slushy drinks and another rum and orange juice there was no extra cost. If we wanted to meander our way over to grab a snack at the buffet we could eat whatever we wanted and not price it all out. It’s a lot easier to hang out and have a good time with people when you’re not running a mental tab of all the money so many drinks and food consumed would cost. I would say our time in Mexico was probably the least stressed out I have ever been. A person learns to relax. One day we spent all day in one of the pools. I think we sat down at 10AM and didn’t leave until 4PM. Albeit, we got a bit too much sun that day but we weren’t worried! Cold shower and  nap was all it took for us to be ready to go.

A week in Mexico was great. We had fun and by the time we left it felt like it was time to go home. Four days in Vegas was definitely enough. I bet we could have spent more time in Phoenix and had some more fun with Mike’s family. They said there was so much more to do. I hope we can go back there! All in all our first vacation together as a couple was a success. We took pictures, bought a cheesy souvenir from every place we went and met up with great people along the way, and we didn’t kill each other! Big bonus! I can’t wait for our next adventure abroad.

P.S. I only put up a few photos for the blog. If you want to see all my photos you can check out my Facebook page.

Stay classy,

~E

Busy Baking!

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Busy Baking!

Yes, I realize I’ve fallen off the track and haven’t posted anything about food in a very long time. So, here we are!

My friend Mercedes came over one night and we baked up a storm!

We also wrapped Mike in garland and wore ugly Christmas sweaters. Needless to say we know how to make a long night of baking into quite the event.

In the bottom left photo we have: Milk chocolate and white chocolate swirl almond candy-cane bark.

In the bottom right photo: ginger snap cookies and festively-shaped red velvet cakes with cream cheese icing.

We also baked candy cane shortbread cookies and a few pie crusts to fill with deliciousness later on. A few days later I made an apple pie as well.

I hope everyone is enjoying the season and getting excited for Christmas day! T-minus 8 days ’til we can open presents!

Stay classy,

~E

Home for the Holidays?

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During this festive season I am reminded of a unique experience I had two years ago, right before CBC Radio Edmonton had their annual Turkey Drive. I was in my second year of the Journalism program at Grant MacEwan University and we had started our radio class off with a bang. Our professor asked us if we would be interested in participating in a hands-on experience. The class was all for it until we were told we would be experiencing being homeless for three days in the innner city. Now you can imagine some would have reservations about this. I myself thought our prof had gone a bit off the deep end on this one until she explained things further.

This excerpt was taken from an article published on the Grant MacEwan website: “The plan? Students would live on the streets of Edmonton for three days in order to familiarize themselves with poverty in their community. No money, no cell phones – students would sleep in shelters, wait in food lines and perform tasks for the Mustard Seed, an inner-city not-for-profit that assists people living in poverty.”

Our class would partner with the Mustard Seed Edmonton, Grant MacEwan University and CBC Radio Edmonton to shine a light on poverty within Edmonton. No easy task. Our project was to learn first hand what it meant to be a person living in poverty for 3 days in the inner city. This included staying in a house next to the Mustard Seed which was used to simulate staying in a shelter. Afterwards, we would go back to the Mustard Seed and cook a meal to repay the organization and provide a meal to their patrons. The last task we had to accomplish was to interview someone about the poverty situation in Edmonton. This could be a homeless person willing to go on record with their full name, a volunteer, a food bank worker or anyone else who had first hand knowledge/experience with homelessness and poverty in Edmonton.

Here We Go

Day One (Friday afternoon/evening): consisted of us learning about what we should and should not do while interacting with the community. We bounced ideas off one another about what we thought the whole experience would be like. Fears, excitement, every and any emotion or thought.

That night we slept in bunks with thin mattresses, except there were more bodies than beds so some people slept on couches or the floor.

Day Two (All Day Saturday): We were kicked out of the house in the wee hours of the morning. Our guide/supervisor gave us a list of tasks to complete, items to find and locations to visit while we waited for the Mustard Seed to open for dinner. We were on our own for 9 hours. Our class split into teams or 4 or 5 people and left to explore. My group walked all over downtown. This project was going on the same time as Occupy Edmonton and we came upon people handing out donuts, coffee and water bottles. There was breakfast. It wasn’t pretty but we didn’t complain because it was better than nothing. We checked off some of the items on our list, but mostly we just tried to stay warm. This was a chilly November day after all. Some of the other groups went to Hope Mission and ate lunch with many of Edmonton’s poverty-stricken population. One group tried to go warm up in the library and started falling asleep in the comfy chairs, only to be asked to leave by one of the librarians. Apparently they have that happen a lot. After 9 cold hours walking around outside we stood in line outside of the Mustard Seed waiting to be let in to eat dinner. We chatted with some of the other people in the line and made a few friends before going inside. Most people were very friendly and liked to chat. One man pulled up his truck with a handmade camper-looking wooden living space (I know its a mouthful but it is difficult to explain), and proceeded to hand out hot chocolate and coffee. He told us he lives in the camper and comes to eat meals here.

Upon entering the Mustard Seed church we were welcomed and asked to sit until everyone else was seated. Grace was said and then tables were called up to be served. Everything was very organized. Dinner at the Mustard Seed is a balanced meal accompanied by a dessert and portion of multivitamins recommended for people who do not receive balanced meals everyday in order to stay healthy. The vitamins are an option and are sometimes refused.

After dinner, if you are done your meal you are asked to exit your seat so that more people can be let in to eat. The Mustard Seed does not operate over capacity and also does not let anyone in who looks/acts like they are under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances.

Once everything is cleaned up, the Mustard Seed will sometimes put on a movie or if a sports team is playing that night the game will be put on the tv/projector.

There are board games for the kids to play and coffee and treats for the adults. Sometimes cupcakes or donuts are donated. I was so exhausted after the day. I stayed for a bit after supper but went to bed as soon as we were allowed back into the house, which wasn’t until a few hours after dinner.

Day Three (Sunday Morning): we reflected on what happened and parted ways. Everyone went back to their lives of warm beds, showers and school.

What I Learned

Three things I learned while in the first part of our project were:

1. Not every person who uses food banks, the Mustard Seed, Hope Mission, etc. is necessarily homeless. The slum population in Edmonton is enormous and many families utilize the services.

2. The sense of community is very strong. Even stronger at times than my own university community.

3. Most people living in poverty do not want sympathy or charity. Some people choose to live off the grid as a lifestyle and the most they want from you is for you to listen to their story.

I’d like to tell the short version of stories from some of the people I met.

Gail – She told me she was a mother of three. Her children are all in foster care because she has a crack addiction and supports her habit by selling her body on the streets. She wore yoga pants and a thin hoodie. She had glasses that sat low on her nose and she had quite the sweet tooth. If someone didn’t want their dessert they would give it to her.

The Roofer – I came in part way this story which was already being told to some of my fellow classmates. He worked all day as a roofer and usually didn’t eat lunch. He was treated different by his co-workers and not very nicely from what he told us. He would go all day without eating and then end up at the Mustard Seed if he made it in time after work. He could never seem to get ahead between working all day and trying to pay for rent. I’m not sure if he was even living anywhere at the time. (Slum landlords will go as far as to rent out the hallway of their building or supply closets at outrageous prices. People trying to stay warm for even one night will take the bait and spend all of their cheque on a place to sleep) This man had a choice of whether to eat for the day or sleep some place warm. Most often only one need is met.

Sharing the Stories

Everyone had the same assignment but we could pick anyone as long as they would go on record with their full name. I chose a volunteer who had come with a group a few weeks after our class. Check out all the great interviews my classmates did as well in partnership with CBC Radio’s Turkey Drive.This was our final assignment of the year and I’m very proud of what learned and accomplished.

Now, we weren’t the only ones to try out this great assignment. Community engagement on a base level is encouraged within other faculties with MacEwan University as well as in highschools throughout Edmonton. There are summer and fall programs available.

Final Words

The last action was to publish our stories online, with some of the top stories to be aired live on CBC Radio during their annual Turkey Drive. After that we were congratulated on our projects and some of us were asked to speak to a group of MacEwan faculty members on our overall experience and the effectiveness of the project.

I’m writing about this story during this time of year because Edmonton is a cold city to live in, poverty within our city is ever-present and is not something to be ignored or pitied. If you have the time to listen to someone’s story of living on the streets or in the slums do it. Buy them a coffee instead of throwing change their way. I don’t understand people who refuse to give out money, because they don’t know what the person is going to spend it on. If you have reservations about giving out money, go and buy that person a coffee or sandwich. Chances are they’ll appreciate it and you’ll know where your money went.

Above all, appreciate your life because every person who has a warm place to sleep and food on the table is richer than so many people living in poverty and yet some are still dissatisfied with their lives. This is the season to be merry and look at all the great things you already have. Happy and healthy families, a steady job, good grades in school or maybe a bonus this year because working hard paid off. Whatever it may be, just realize how great it all is. And if you’ve got a day off, maybe head on down to the food bank, Mustard Seed or Hope Mission and spread the holiday cheer.

Happy Holidays and stay classy!

~E

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Happy Halloween and Sunday Funday!

Mike and I had a pumpkin carving shindig this past weekend with friends and boy was it a great time!

We had pumpkin aranchinis, pumpkin fries, pumpkin bruschetta with homemade bread, pumpkin oreo cheesecake and of course baked pumpkin seeds. Here is what was in each dish (all appropriately seasoned):

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Pumpkin Arranccinis

*risotto

*chicken stock

*onions and garlic

*parmesan

*roasted sugar pumpkin

Pumpkin Arranccinis

Pumpkin Fries

*sliced sugar pumpkin

*beer batter

*fried in duck fat

Pumpkin Cheesecake

*cream cheese

*nutmeg

*cinnamon

*sugar

*eggs

*pureed sugar pumpkin

*ginger

*oreo cookie crumb base

*chocolate chips on top

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Pumpkin Bruschetta

*cinderella pumpkin

*grape tomatoes

*garlic

*red onion

*basil

*rosemary

*feta cheese

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Check out all the photos of our carvings! I admit that I am not a great carver. I hope everyone had a great time partying, trick or treating and lighting up the night on this spooktacular night!

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Stay classy,

~E

Pumpkin Carving Shindig

To all the Supporters

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You know what is so cool about social media? Anyone around the world can look and see what someone else is sharing. I think being able to communicate with someone you have never met before through the power of photos, blogs, news, etc. is an exciting experience. Yes, yes of course there are downfalls to social media, the internet and communication in general, but today is a day of good vibes and being excited about the world we live in.

This post is dedicated to all of the people who read my blog. Thank-you for following me! My friends, you willingly clicked on my blog and decided to jump on the bandwagon. Where we go, no one knows! Not even me! But truly, thank-you to the 35 wonderful WordPress followers, a choice few Facebook friends and countless Tweeters who take the time to check out what I’m up to from time to time. You are all awesome!!!!!! I’m making a commitment to try and personally thank every person who follows, likes or comments on my blog. Also, comment more people! I would love to hear feedback on my posts. Constructive criticism along with light banter and/or praise are always welcome 🙂

To keep the good times rolling, check out a blog run by Jordan Ferney called “Oh Happy Day”! She has some really rad costume ideas! It’s October people! Get your costume on!

Stay classy,

~E