Cocktail of the Moment: Lemon Lover's Spritzer

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I've got a bad case of Italiamania. Blame it on The Sopranos.  I only started watching the series this year, almost (not quite) 10 years since the final episode aired. I am happy that I waited until I was no longer a teen/young twenty-something to take in the complexity that is 'T' and his family.  I can honestly say that other than Six Feet Under and The West Wing (both of which I also starting watching years after they wrapped), The Sopranos is the best series that television has ever produced.

So you can understand how I'm in serious withdrawal since I said goodbye to the hilarious, tragic, hedonistic, masochistic, and sometimes even slightly heroic characters that make up the The Sopranos.   My heart aches with the knowledge that there can be no come-back movie because of the passing of James Gandolfini.  It just wouldn't be the same.

So I ween myself off of The Sopranos slowly by watching Lilyhammer (with Steve Van Zandt aka Silvio Dante from The Sopranos) and making myself a stiff Lemon Lover's Spritzer.

Limoncello is one of those liqueurs that is, in my opinion, very hard to stomach on its own due to its sweetness.  I remember buying a bottle of it when I was 17-years old and in Sorrento for the first time in my life,  totally enamoured with the lemon groves and the sea cliffs.  That first trip left such an impression on me that I even considered getting a lemon tattoo for a while.

I still dream of going back to the south of Italy with my soon-to-be husband, Jeremy, even though I visited as recently as 2006.   Perhaps our honeymoon will bring me back there for a third time.   At least now I'll have enough money to buy myself a real leather purse, maybe even a Vespa (not quite).

Until then, here's my recipe for Lemon Lover's Spritzer, a diluted version of the digestive that can be served after a hearty meal,  or even for dessert!

Lemon Lover's Spritzer

Ingredients:

1 oz. Limoncello

1/2 cup of Perrier

1 Lemon Slice

Instructions:

Measure out 1 oz. of Limoncello liqueur and pour into a flute or slim glass.  Fill the rest of your glass with Perrier. Take a slice of lemon and squeeze for extra tartness.  Throw the slice in and let sit in your glass.  Prepare to pucker your lips as you enjoy this drink.  I imagine that you could also switch out the Perrier for Prosecco for an extra boozy version of this Spritzer.

Salut!

On Perfectionism & Taking a Blog Breather

You've seen it happen before.

Blogs fall off the face of the earth, are left unattended and become a time capsule for their last post. I noticed my posts slowing down recently, before they came to an abrupt halt in November. I told myself it's because I was using a new program to blog that wasn't as easy to work with, or that I was too busy with other freelance projects. I told myself that it was because it was winter and it's hard to feel inspired in January.  I told myself a lot of things.

The truth is that it's a mix of fear and laziness that caused me to take a pause from blogging.

There are so many blogs out there that have nailed down the whole lifestyle thing perfectly. So many coquette versions of the 'dream life' out there that I myself subscribe to, that I sometimes wonder what the point is of continuing to write little soundbites about food, makeup, wine etc. when so many people do it better.

The idea of my blog in the first place was to celebrate imperfection, but I still find myself wishing that my pictures were a little more curated, that my outfits were actually 'post-worthy' and that my audience was the size of Texas. All these modern tools that allow us to share our lives with each other also seem to, at times, set the bar higher than any of us can reach.

This post is not a goodbye so much as a plan to get back to my original intention when I started blogging.  To celebrate the messier side of life and to deliver posts 'without a glossy finish'. What that looks like, well, I'm not sure yet. But I hope to have fun doing it.

Comfort, Joy and All of that Other Stuff

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I am writing this post in a dark room with only the twinkle of my fake Christmas tree and the glow of my laptop to light my way.  It's November 30th, arguably a day too early to be putting up decorations but since December decided to fall on a Monday and wreck everyone's plans, this will have to do. I've done no Christmas shopping, have gained enough 'winter' weight already that most of my holiday dresses from years past don't fit and haven't bought my tickets home for the holidays yet. Comfort and Joy. Anxiety and Lethargy.

The subway stop banners near my apartment building perfectly sum up the potpourri of emotions that December brings out in many of us.  On the one side there is an ad for a warm coffee that promises you that every sip will be filled with ideal holiday cheer, and to the left of this banner is an ad for a number to call if you are in emotional distress.

As always, I fall somewhere in between, as I imagine most people around this time of year do.  Sometimes my nerves will make me feel like I'm trapped in a monochrome nightmare and sometimes I'll buck up, put on my ugliest snowflake sweater and rejoice in a sliver of momentary peace of mind.  If you're experiencing holiday stress or just general life stress and can relate, here's a little list of super obvious dos and don'ts that I find helpful around this time of year:

Do

1. Curl up with a good book near the tree 2. Meditate 3. Exercise, even just a little stretching helps 4. Lose yourself in your favourite TV series (just don't binge watch or you might feel even worst when you surface)  5. Dab a few drop of essential oil on your face (lavender does the trick)  6. Call a friend (chances are a familiar voice will perk you up) 7. Cuddle up under a knit blanket (nothing beats the sensation of being all wrapped up and toasty)

Don't

1. Dwell on all of the stuff you need to get done 2. Check your bank account constantly 3. Compare your holiday decorating flair to anything you see on Pinterest (those crafty types always make everything look so simple, but I bet in truth they were pulling their hair out hand-painting ornaments and acorns) 4. Tell yourself this will be the best Christmas ever (setting yourself up for disappointment) 5. Micromanage your family around the holidays (nobody likes a bossy-pants Santa)  6. Worry too much about your cooking (aim for edible)

Remember folks, it's only a month and after that we can all focus on something new, like breaking our New Years resolutions.

Sesame-Covered Halloumi Bites

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The idea of taking my favourite cheese, covering it in flour and sesame, and then pan frying it to perfection was almost too much excitement to handle this weekend. I'd seen the recipe in Chatelaine and wanted to try it out as an appetizer because, who knows, maybe I'll serve it for Christmas this year. My family is half Middle-Eastern so I know it would be a big hit.

One word to the wise, though. Make sure if you are serving these crispy little cubes before supper that you eat light afterwards. I ate my share of these bites and then was unable to touch my dinner.  Fried cheese is delicious but filling as heck. This popular cheese from Cyprus has a high melting point which makes it ideal for heat. Serve with a bit of drizzled honey or honey on the side to cut the saltiness. We paired these bites with a nice white wine from Galillee.

Sesame-Covered Halloumi Bites -recipe adapted from Chatelaine

Ingredients

I pckg of Halloumi cheese, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup of sesame seeds or enough to coat your pieces

1/2 cup of flour or enough to coat your pieces

A generous amount of sesame oil to coat frying pan

1 egg

2-3 tbsp of honey to serve

Instructions

1- Prepare cut cheese on one plate. Prepare another small plate with flour, and one with sesame seeds. 

2-in a shallow bowl, crack your egg and beat lightly.  Take your pieces of cheese, one by one, and coat in flour.  After coating in flour, dip each piece of cheese into the egg and then coat in sesame seeds.

3-Once all pieces are generously coated in both flour and sesame seeds, heat your oil on medium heat and pan-fry the pieces until golden brown on all sides. This process should take a couple of minutes only. Pieces should look crisp but not burnt.

4-Serve with drizzled honey, or your choice of dipping sauces. If you have any left over you can also serve in a salad. Enjoy!

Does Absence Really Make The Adult Heart Grow Fonder?

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The next couple of weeks of my life will be celebrating milestones and reunions.  There will be a dinner with a friend whose recently became a home owner, followed by my eight year anniversary with my boyfriend, and then a visit from my mom in early November.

It seems that much of my adult life recently has been lived in the anticipation of seeing people again, people who a mere decade ago or less were either right around the corner from me or living under the same roof. Unlike many of my friends, I never lived away from home during undergrad or took a semester abroad. It was only later on, during my Masters, that I resided in Ontario while my family and boyfriend remained in Quebec.  I think the result is that many of my amigos had an earlier taste of freedom, and the challenges that sometimes accompany it, than I did.

A perpetual late bloomer, I feel like the past few years have been a tardy onset of learning how to fend for myself in the great big world.  I've felt this most acutely with my parents. I often wondered if I remained in Montreal and tried to build a life for myself there, would I run to their house each time I had a hiccup or felt discouraged?  As it is, they are the first people I call in times of doubt. Although even in that respect, I like to think that I've gotten better at consoling myself.

My mom's impending visit, and my excitement around it, have got me thinking of the pros and cons of living away from one's immediate family.  It helps that we are six hours apart and not overseas, but I still wonder if quality really trumps quantity. I know that if I was still living in Montreal I'd probably be over every Sunday for dinner (at the very least) but would I be as jazzed to see her as I am now? 

Would I be working on an itinerary for what to do on our visit with such fervor, making sure that we hit all the places that I've wanted to share with her, the tastes, sounds, sights, that make Toronto more than just an alien city to me? 

I don't really have an answer quite yet.  All I know is that in the absence of physical proximity to my family, I sure think about them a lot more.  My mom, my dad, my brother and sister-in law, and of course the family pets.  I wonder whether I'll look back on these years and think that it was a mistake to live so far away from them, or that it was exactly what I needed to see them with the amount of love, respect and individuality that each one of them deserves. To see us each as separate but together and bound by deeper ties than just an area code.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

                                                          These muffins are worth risking a muffin-top midriff for.

                                                          These muffins are worth risking a muffin-top midriff for.

I was at a wedding a few years ago when I told a group of guests that I hated mashed potatoes more than life. To the dismay of everyone at my table, I went on and on about how horrible they were just to get a rise out of people. I mean...who hates mashed potatoes? They are so utterly harmless and fluffy. Now I eat them whenever I get the chance, because I'm a walking contradiction. My taste buds did a back flip on me and forced me to eat my words. I don't know how it happened. I just started loving the very thing that I hated.

Similarly, I've never really liked pumpkin spice (or so I thought).  Pumpkin-spiced beverages are so chock-full of chemicals that you risk glowing neon orange after drinking one. I even wrote an earlier post about how I wanted to wait until it was officially Fall to have my one obligatory Pumpkin Spice Latte before being done with it for the season. Kind of like how you drink eggnog around Xmas for family photo-ops until you realize how gross it is that you're gulping down liquid egg goop.

But the commercialization of all things Autumnal must be a powerful drug, because I'm suddenly craving pumpkin spice everything, 24-7. I figured I'd channel my desire into a healthy batch of spiced muffins. I mean, who can resist a muffin so versatile it can be dipped in coffee for breakfast or glazed with cream-cheese icing for dessert?  Here's the darn recipe.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins (Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. baking powder

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

Pinch of cloves

1 cup of sour cream

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs

4 cups (2 cans) of canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup of butter, melted

Instructions (preheat oven 325 or 350, depending on how hot your oven is, and line muffin tin with baking cups):

1-In a small bowl, mix your flour, spices, and baking powder together and set aside. 

2-In a large bowl, mix together your sugars, butter, eggs, sour cream and pumpkin puree until well combined.  Add your flour and mix-well until your dough is formed. Should be wet but firm enough to stay together. 

3-Fill cups completely so that your muffins are massive suckers, and bake for about 35 minutes.  Let muffins cool for 30 mins or longer before consuming.

This recipe made a ton of batter so I saved some to make a few pumpkin loaves for Thanksgiving. The batter keeps in the freezer for up to a week.

Glossless Loves...Bookish Details

Somewhere around September, mid-month, I ran out of things to blog about.  Anyone who has ever blogged on a semi-steady schedule has probably felt this way before. I looked around for inspiration but nothing did the trick.  Blogs elsewhere were doing it better, faster, and to larger audiences.  Sure, I still wrote during that time, but mostly chipping away at essays that didn't fit into the blogging format. And I read. Devoted whole weekends to reading while the leaves changed outside my window without me noticing.

There's a comfort in books, even when the well of ideas and posts run dry, even when your bones ache with fatigue or ennui. So here's some bookish paraphernalia that has delighted me this fall, to inspire you when everything seems rather blah:

1.  A book on the wall/Soho Art Custom Framing/ $15 

These small frames are perfect for for tiny spaces. We hang ours over our nightstand next to our bookshelf. Duh...

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2. A book-Inspired onesie/Out Of Print/ $22

There's a new-ish baby in the family and this book swag is way to precious to handle.

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Weekend Wine Pick: Harvest Gold 2013 Dry Mead

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As a wine lover, It's hard to believe that two weeks have passed since I last took a sip of the good stuff. The truth is I've had really bad stomach issues lately, and alcohol isn't exactly known to be the best cure-all for digestive ailments. I figured that a splash of dessert wine couldn't hurt though.

Rosewood Estates Winery Harvest Gold 2013 Dry Mead is a light honey wine the goes down smooth and kind of makes it okay that the summer is coming to an unceremonious end. I found that I had to drink it well-chilled, otherwise it tasted a bit off.  But once you pop it into the fridge for awhile it's quite nice, if you like a mix of floral and honey notes that aren't too heavy or syrupy.  Here's a bit more info about this harves mead:

Tasting notes: Honey, Floral

Pair with: Guiness Stew or Pot Pie

Cost:  $ 15.20 CDN

Perks: This dry mead is sure to provoke a lot of buzz (bad pun, sorry) at the dinner table. Your guests will no doubt be curious as to what mead is.

Cons: It tastes kind of gag-worthy if you don't refrigerate it well enough.

Overall Glossless Rating (based on totally unscientific and arbitrary values): 6.5/10

Why I Won't Drink Pumpkin Spice Lattes Until It's Actually Fall

Listen to the owl mug and love the moment

Listen to the owl mug and love the moment

First the temperature drops, then the leaves start to change, suddenly you're doing mental math about what percentage of your paycheck you'd have to put aside to afford those new Kate Spade wedge leather boots. Yes folks, It's the prelude to another fall, and for some reason people seem to love fussing about it.

Now, don't think of me as a hater, but as a bonafide summer girl who thinks life is best enjoyed outside in a light floral dress with a chilled glass of wine. Fall, to me, is just that season that comes after the best season ever.

So what really grates on me is when people start getting excited about fall and all of it's endless cozy possibilities while it's still summer out!  Aren't the summer months short enough without people everywhere starting to wax poetic about cable-knit sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy partaking in the commercial ploys and joys of fall to a certain degree as well.  I like going pumpkin picking, and am not totally immune to the buzz of colder weather fashion predictions.   But do me a solid and save all of your excitement until the Autumnal Equinox, which according to The Old Farmer's Almanac falls on September 22nd, 2014 at 10:29pm for all of us dwelling in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Then, and only then, will you find me curled up under my favourite crocheted blanket sipping on pumpkin spice at the stroke of midnight.  For the meantime, I hope you all will try to live in the moment and embrace the remainder of your summer, because summer it still is!

Pit Stop: Ma Maison aka. The GTA's Best Croissant

Long weekend? Lots of time on your hands? Well then, why not set off on the holy grail of all journeys to find the best croissant in the GTA?

I had heard a rumour that the most authentic tasting croissant in all of Torontoland and her humble surroundings could be found in the heart of Etobicoke.  That is to say, not exactly where the trend-setting types are hanging out.  You know you've traveled beyond the downtown core when you haven't seen a single hipster for kilometers and kilometers, when trendy coffee shops turn into mom and pop shops, turn into gas stops.  There is less foot traffic to be had in general, the streets are almost devoid of people. 

Now before you start calling out for help, you spot a sign on the left side of the street (you're on Dundas West, by the way) that says Ma Maison (4243 Dundas West), which translates into My House, for all of you non-Frenchies.  It doesn't look like much from the outside, but when you walk in, you suddenly realize where all of the population of Etobicoke has been hiding. There is a line inside that coils around most of the shop's interior. 

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Your eyes are assaulted with all sorts of French treats, madeleines, macarons, but you need to stay on task.  You came here for a croissant and you will leave with one.  You heard that the gentleman who runs the place, Patrick Alléguède, is a classically-trained, award-winning chef who amongst his many accomplishments was selected to be part of a culinary team for the pre-opening of EuroDisneyland, as per Ma Maison's website.  What's good enough for the French Mickey Mouse aught to be plenty good enough for you.

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You take one bite into the breakfast pastry and are transformed.  The butter is perfect, the ratio of flakiness to soft interior is just right.  You feel instantly sad for all the other croissants in the city that are being passed off as the real thing but are stale or undercooked or taste like cardboard. This guy and his staff know what they are doing.  You are in good hands. 


The inside of the shop is homey and highlights the many products that would make your life all that much better while expanding your midsection.  You could blow a whole paycheck on this joint but won't this time.  You're still savouring the croissant.

Best Croissant Runner-Up: Extra Butter (283 Roncesvalles Ave.)

Now all you pastry aficionados, let me know where you've tasted the best croissant in the GTA? 

Lessons We Can Learn from our 'Older' Parents


Photo Credit: Omega Photography 
                             
I was born when my father was 39. While that’s practically adolescent by today’s standards, back in 1985 I was one of the few kids on the block with a verging-on-middle-aged dad.
I remember being at a park with my parents as a kid and having someone ask me if my dad was my granddad. I was mortified that they could possibly mistake the handsome salt and pepper haired man that I was with for my gramps.  While I like to think that the honest mix-up had more to do with how baby-faced my mother was, she’s 13 years my dad’s junior, it taught me very early on to be protective of my dad.  
Fast-forward 29 years and dad’s now on the cusp of turning 70, while I’m quite anticlimactically inching towards the big 3-0.  Over the years we’ve celebrated most of our biggest age milestones together, 10 and 50, 20 and 60 and so on.
As the possibility of starting my own family becomes more of a reality, I’ve thought a lot about how being raised by a forty-something is more and more the norm these days, especially amongst young professionals.  
In many ways, I think ‘older’ parents are often more emotionally and financially ready to take on the task of raising kids, although there are plenty of exceptions, good and bad, on either end of the age spectrum.
Being raised by a slightly ‘older’ parent has taught me some valuable lessons over the years, some of which are worth sharing:

Lesson #1- Health Matters
Whether it’s bi-weekly trips to the tennis club or taking the dog for a long walk, dad’s always kept active.  At 69, he divides his time between golf rounds, yard work and pool maintenance.  While he’s not out running marathons, all the little things he’s done to keep fit over the years add up.  
He’s taught me firsthand that if you incorporate moderate exercise into your day and avoid things like smoking, you can really contribute to the quality of your life.
Lesson #2- Life is Not a Rat Race
Dad immigrated to Canada from Egypt when he was in his early 30's.  Despite having an engineering degree he started off his working life by loading textbooks onto a truck.  He finished his master’s degree at night school and finally landed a job in his field.  All of this took time and patience and I imagine more than a little faith that it’ll all work out in the end.  Yes, both the times and economy were different back then but he still had to work his b--- off.
Whenever I get down on myself for being almost 30 and not having all of my ducks in a row, I remind myself that we all come into our own at different stages in life and that's okay.
Lesson #3- You Have To Enjoy the Small Things
People always throw the ‘small things’ cliché around, but it’s one thing to say it and quite another to live it.
Whenever I call home, dad runs through a detailed list of what each one of our family pets is doing at the moment, or he will comment on the intricate details of what he and my mother are up to that day (usually a morning coffee, followed by a few rounds of tennis and maybe a trip to the market). 
My dad is a cancer survivor who knows firsthand that tomorrow holds no guarantees.  But instead of letting that paralyze him with fear he finds quiet beauty in his routine and truly enjoys the simple details in life. 
Lesson #4-Family Is Key
My dad has always been there for his immediate and extended family.  He’s helped family members get back on their feet and even came out of retirement to help put me through grad school.  He does all of these things with no expectation of return.  Instead of giving handouts, he gives hand ups.
Through his example, I’ve come to realize that a loving and supportive family (no matter what baggage comes attached) is an invaluable gift that needs to be tended to. 
Lesson #5-You Can Keep Your Youthful Spark Forever
My dad has a black and white photograph of his parents, siblings and himself framed on his dresser. They are at a beach in Alexandria.   In the photo he is the youngest, a little runt of a boy in swimming trunks with a big smile. I see that same smile reappear often- when he is telling jokes to friends, when he is sitting across the table enjoying a meal, when his favourite hockey team scores a goal! 
In his life, humour is the fountain of youth and it’s a public fountain that cost nothing and can nourish everyone.
Happy Birthday Dad!

Are We There Yet?


I've been doing kettlebell classes for a little over six months now and while I'm hardly an expert at it, I can tell you what the Turkish Get Up is, which is a long way from the person who was once terrified of any form of exercise that made you sweat.  I never realized how gratifying swinging a bell could be or that I'd look forward to planking for extra time.  It helps that my instructor always strikes a balance between praise and pushing us further and switches up the class enough so that we're never quite sure what's in store for us next.

Kettlebell classes have done a lot for my historically low confidence and while I still carry some extra weight around, a lot of the psychic weight has melted off of me, although it seems like there's an endless supply.  Getting in shape has been a slow process and one that I initially went into kicking and screaming.  I'm still not sure if I'm 'there yet' or will ever be.  The problem is that when I visualize 'in shape', I tend to demand absolute perfection.  So the perfectly in shape me would be someone who's slender and chiseled, who's happy and at ease, who's shiny and successful and with no hairs out of place even after swinging a 50lbs kettlebell. In other words, impossible.

Goals are like a moving target and if we are lucky enough to hit one once, it will just as soon reposition itself.  I learned that the hard way in class yesterday.  I had been told that my form had gotten a lot better in recent weeks and I carried around that praise with me like a girl scout badge.  But yesterday I was tired and sloppy and couldn't manage to execute a move called the clean and press while lunging without stumbling and cursing under my breath.  I was having trouble balancing (which is a theme that often comes up when I'm practicing yoga) and even when I tried the move with the lightest bell in the class I continued to have trouble with the move and was falling behind compared to the other students.

This made me so angry with myself that I considered walking out of the class, something I've never done before, just so that I didn't have to watch the mirror reflection of me sucking so hard.  There it was again, that demand for absolute perfection, egging me on from the sidelines and offering no constructive criticism.  I almost wanted to scream at myself "cut me some slack, I'm trying".  But then in the last minute of practicing I decided to stop looking around to see how quickly everyone else was getting through their reps and to just do mine as slowly and focused as I could in order to finish.  I was a bit steadier then I was before and I no longer wanted to crawl under a rock and cry. 

So what is the glaringly obvious moral of the story that I continue to learn in the almost third decade of my life? Wherever you are is there.  So why not buck up, suck it up, cut yourself some slack and focus on the task at hand?  Okay, now let me go practice my lunges.

Baking Lingo - Macaroon, not Macaron


This weekend my household asked me to whip up a batch of macaroons, emphasis on the oons.  Now before your mind is blown picturing me labouring over perfect french confections, all colours and flavours of the rainbow,  I'll repeat myself:  I made macaroons, not macarons.

Macaroons are like the macaron's estranged hillbilly cousin.  They are as simple as the macaron is sophisticated, and as easy-going as the macaron is fussy.  I love both equally but am not skilled enough to make the latter.  Both are meringue-based but a macaroon is essentially a ball of coconut and egg-white dipped in chocolate, whereas the macaron is a meringue sandwich with a variety of fillings.  

Now that we've distinguished between the two, I will emphasize that both are equally delicious.  A word to the wise though is to always tell people that macaroons are coconut-based before they bite into them.  Coconut seems to be a polarizing ingredient that people either love or hate, and if someone who isn't a fan ends up eating a macaroon they'll be pretty disturbed with how it tastes.

For the rest of us who are coco for coconut, here's the recipe:


Macaroons
Original recipe found here

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Ingredients:

1 bag of flaked coconut
3 egg whites
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp of flour, all-purpose
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
 small pinch of salt
1/2 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

1-In a medium sized bowl, mix together your coconut, sugar, flour, extracts and salt until just combined.

2-In a separate bowl, whip together the three egg whites until soft peaks form.  If you're a sissy you can use a mixer or try to do it pioneer-style with a large whisk (which takes a lot of elbow grease).

3-Fold your egg whites into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Form small balls with your palm and place on sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden at the bottoms and edges.

4-Take the chocolate and melt in a small pan. Once the macaroons have cooled for a 30 minutes, dip them head first into the melted chocolate.  Refrigerate so that the chocolate sets.


Enjoy and roll your eyes at everyone who still confuses their macaroons with their macarons!

Did You Have a 'Relax-Full' Weekend?


After coming off of a three-day or four-day weekend it's always hard to get back into the swing of things.  It's as if those few days of leisure give us a glimpse of all the things we could be doing with our time if money wasn't the motivation that loomed over every decision in life.

In a perfect world of forever weekends, some of us would be constant gardeners, while others would be certified beach bums, and still some of us would be happy to play out the rest of our days in a cabin with a cup of coffee, a typewriter and a few really, really good books.  I guess that's what retirement is for.

But since my generation will probably all be retiring at 90 (considering the current economy) all we have for the moment are those few long weekends and vacation days to break up the monotony of our week;  a few crystallized sprinkles on an otherwise vanilla doughnut. 

Yesterday, I found myself asking someone if they had had a 'relax-full' weekend.  My brain was still on auto-pilot so it took me a moment of reflection and embarrassment to realize that 'relax-full' is not a word.  I guess I was going for a mixture of peaceful and relaxing, but it came out as a jumble of both.  But then it occurred to me that maybe there is a sort of usefulness for this made-up word, at least for people like me.

If you're the type of person who is happiest when they've got a full agenda of activities booked up for their weekend, then maybe 'relax-full' is what you're going for.  Maybe it's impossible for you to unwind as soon as your weekend begins, and you need a marathon of epic proportions to coax you into some post-sweat zen-like state.

I personally only start truly relaxing on day three of my four day weekend, which is why super long weekends are so precious to me.  Whether I'm on a trip with family or friends, or just hanging out my with my boyfriend in and around the apartment, my long weekend usually plays out like so:

Day One: I'm consumed by the shock of trying to adjust to so much free time on my hands and making sure I've got a shit-ton planned to keep me busy. 

Day Two: I spend over-analyzing whether I feel relaxed-enough while gnawing at my cuticles and fluttering from one task to another.  You can see me pacing around a lot on this day.

Day Three: This day is a sort of oasis in the desert where I stop beating myself up for not being an instant-relaxer and just sort of let myself be.

Day Four: By this day I'm either bored or antsy or both and ready to get back to the real world.

So 'relax-full',by definition, is my kind of weekend.  A weekend jammed full of stuff with a sliver of relaxation in there for good measure. 

What about you?  Do you find it hard to relax on the weekends? What's your method for mellowing out? 

Pit Stop: Louie Craft Coffee on King St.



Finding a great coffee shop around where you work is harder than it seems.  There are a few things to consider if you are looking to become a regular on your breaks.

1) Is the coffee good?
2) Is the staff friendly enough that you'd want to come back?
3) Is the food decent? 
4) Is the atmosphere alright?

Sure, some people will just jog over to the nearest Tims and call it a day, but for the rest of us discerning little worker bees, sometimes a great latte is the difference between a mediocre Wednesday and one that holds promise.   Since my work is located in the heart of Liberty Village, I've been circling around our coffee shops for months like Goldilocks trying to figure out why none of the local cafés met my list's criteria.  One was really friendly but their coffee kind of sucked, the other made great coffee but their staff scowled at you every time you asked for a danish, the third had alright coffee but their atmosphere was so generic you grew bored of sitting there after awhile.  Finally, right as I was about to give up and just start bringing my coffee from home Louie Craft Coffee opened up on King St. at the corner of Fraser.  
 

 
Louie Craft Coffee is the kind of place you mention to others when they ask "Where can I get a decent cup of joe around this joint?" It's a shop run by two sisters and named after their dog.  The interior is what I'd describe as minimalist-bistro without being cold.  The door is always wide open (at least in the summer) and inside is a beaut of a coffee machine and the kind of scones and cookies that would make anyone's mouth water.  My personal favourites are the triple chocolate cookie and their bacon scones.  They also have a selection of baguette sandwiches that pass the taste test of someone who is frequently bored by sandwiches. Great bread and ingredients like brie, turkey and apples all help jazz up a basic sandwich.  One of their workers even makes lemonade from scratch, which I've been meaning to try.  Oh, and did I mention that the staff is helpful and friendly?  





So the next time you're in Liberty remember to stop by the coffee shop that starts with the letter L. 

Martini of the Moment: The Darn Near Perfect Lychee


A classic lychee martini is miles more sophisticated than gorging on lychees straight out of the can, and quite simple to execute as well.  You don't need a fancy certificate in mixology to nail this one.  All you need for this perfect summer sipper is a bit of vodka, triple sec, lychee and ice.

I wanted to post a video of my boyfriend (who is a former bartender) making this drink, but he was too shy to get in front of the camera and narrate the process.  The best I could do was get a shot of him pouring the concoction into my cheapo martini glasses.  Ah well, there's always next time.  Meanwhile, below is the recipe for a darn near perfect lychee martini.

If hosting a small cocktail or dinner party, the lychee martini can serve as a nice dessert drink or a surprising switch-up from your usual bottle of chilled wine with your appetizers. 


The Darn Near Perfect Lychee Martini

Ingredients

2 oz. vodka
2 oz. lychee juice
1 oz. triple sec

Instructions

Prepare martini glass with an ice cube to chill the glass.  Pour your ingredients into a martini shaker with several ice cubes.  Mix vigorously.  Pour mixture into a martini glass, with or without ice cube, depending on preference.  Garnish with a couple of lychees.

Note:  The sweetness of this drink will distract you from the fact that it packs a real punch.  When you start asking for another 'Mechee Lartini' I'd say it's time to call it a night.  Drink responsibly and enjoy!    

What's On Your Summer Bliss List?


This summer has been kind of a strange one.  The weather has been a bit moody.   I'm talking storm clouds interspersed with sunshine and heatwaves mixed in with cold fronts.  With that in mind, I've been every bit as moody myself and it's been wearing me down lately.

One minute, I'll be in the throws of anxiety, and the next I'll be pissed off for no good reason.  While others are out on patios soaking up the sun, I'm more often than not pacing around, thinking about all the things I haven't gotten around to doing yet.  This line of thinking would be great if it actually made me spring into action, but instead it only translates into further procrastination because I'm too caught up with worrying.   

So as a sort of antidote to constant fretting, I've been thinking about all the small things I enjoy in the summer and taking note of them.  It sounds simple, maybe even trivial, but this task allows me to refocus the lens on my life and feel grateful for a change.  So the next time I start ruminating about a thousand things that are largely out of my control, I can turn to my summer bliss list and press the 'reset' button on my frazzled mind.

Summer Bliss List

-Picking up a bouquet of fresh peonies
-Playing musical trivia with my boyfriend after a beer
-Calling my aunt Denise and asking her about her day 
-Swinging a heavy kettlebell in the morning after an iced-coffee
-Feeling the grass beneath my toes as I practice yoga outside
-Eating avocado mint ice cream (total no-brainer)

So what's on your list? I'd love to hear about it. When's the last time you sat down and wrote out all the things that made you feel a little less heavy?  It's not always the easiest thing to shift one's attention, but it's worth a shot in the dark, or maybe a shot in the light.

Sincerely,

Ms. Moody, Herself 

How to Cope With Being Your Cat's Least Favourite Human


I never thought I'd be the kind of person who dedicates an entire blog post to a cat.  And yet, as I'm slowly but surely approaching 30 there is a small list of things I meant to accomplish before I said "Ciao, Baby" to this decade.  Somehow the cat ends up appearing on the list that I've recently been referring to as The Impossible Tasks List.

The Impossible Tasks List

1. Get my shit together (hasn't happened yet)

2. Publish something, anything (I've got a lovely pile of rejection letters)

3. Lose weight for health reasons (don't even go there)

4. Get my cat to stop hating me

Surely I thought that the last item could maybe happen before the end of this year? I mean, how hard is it to get a naturally aloof, fluffy sociopath with whiskers to stop giving you the stink eye?  You'd think that she would soften some if I petted her everyday and fed her gourmet cookies, right?  No can do.  This particular cat, Tuesday,  has got an eight-year vendetta out on me for swooping into the picture when she was a kitten and snatching up the attention of her knight in shining armour, my boyfriend.  Ever since then I'm pretty sure she's thought of me as the obnoxiously loud human being that approaches her out of the blue and asks her questions such as "what is the meaning of life?" that she just has no interest in answering.  Sheessh...humans can be so dramatic sometimes.

So I've decided to make a different kind of list that I think has a bit more potential than the first.  Maybe it can be used as a resource tool in times of deep despair when even your cat thinks you're the scum of the earth ;)

How To Cope With Being Your Cat's Least Favourite Human

1. Remind yourself that you're not alone. Plenty of people get the cold shoulder from their cats.  Seek these people out in crowds. They will naturally have their heads bowed in shame.

2. Toy with the sucker a little bit.  If your cats gonna hate you anyways, why not slurp the last of the tuna juice in front of 'em?

3. Read up on cat psychology.  You'd be surprised at how many people have penned books about the inner minds of kitties.  There's a lot of psychobabble out there dedicated to how they don't aim to please humans. At least then you can say, "It's not me, it's the meowser."

4. Be aloof back.  You ever notice how cats magnetically approach people who seem to hate them or be allergic to them?  It's as if they can somehow relate to the leave-me-alone-you-unworthy-fool vibe.

5. Lastly, deal with it. If you wanted unconditionally love you should have gotten a dog.  Cats teach you a lesson that we keep on learning as we age, which is that the world will shit whiskers on you so you better grow a backbone. Thanks to Tuesday the Cat, I'm working on growing an industrial strength one.

Pit Stop: La Cubana on Roncesvalles Avenue


I spend a lot of time on Roncesvalles ave. because it's on my streetcar route and I'm not the kind of person who seeks adventure that is out of the way.  I've been to the East End of Toronto maybe five times total and I've lived here for over two years.  I'm like a hamster on a wheel when it comes to how predictable my movements are.  

So Roncesvalles ave. is a strip that makes me feel footloose and fancy-free until I start to notice all the people with cool kids or dogs who are way more "granola" than I am.  These people silently judge humanity while I eat my double-scoop ice-cream and taunt their healthy-looking kids by making "mmmmmm" noises while they pass by in their little wagons.  These kids are child prodigies and are only allowed to munch on organic berries and maybe kale chips.  These kids' eyes are wide like saucers because they want my ice-cream soooooooooooo bad but their moms won't let them... but I digress.

There's a Cuban restaurant that opened on the strip in late 2013 but I waited until this summer to try it because I wanted to sit out on their quaint (read: small) back patio.  La Cubana (392 Roncesvalles Avenue) is pretty precious, and their 50's diner style decor is bang on.  While I found their dishes hit or miss, I'd go back again for their tropical chips and stiff drinks.  Here are a few pictures of the interior and some of the grub I'd recommend or pass on.




Hit Grub:

1) Tropical Chips and Salsa




The plantain, yuca and guava chips will satisfy your starch-tooth and the Salsa Verde is a refreshing switch-up for the usual red goop we've come to associate with salsa.  

2) Black Bean Soup, Chorizo Jerky



My favourite dish of the night. The crumbled chorizo perfectly complemented this thick, savoury soup and the fresh cilantro on top was a nice touch.


3) Grilled Coconut Shrimp


A sweet entree that used a lick-your-lips curry you almost wanted to lap up like a cat.  The shrimps themselves were an afterthought for me.

Miss Grub:
 
4) Guava BBQ Short Ribs


I'm a lover of short ribs, but these were somewhat dull.  I kept waiting for the flavour to kick in but the ribs tasted more like stewing beef to me.  My boyfriend like them, though.  He enjoyed the deep-fried onions and jalepeno garnish. 

P.S This restaurant doesn't take reservations, so try to get there early enough.  The patio fills up fast!

Weekly Wine Pick: Summer Romance Double Header


It's the heart of summer and you're in love.  Maybe you're in love with a really good book, or your new tattoo, or maybe even a living, breathing person. 

No matter what you're sweet on, I personally find that early summer makes me feel a heck of a lot lighter, flirtier, and ultimately more romantic.  Gone are the red wines that you sipped under your wool blanket.  Instead, there's a gravitational pull towards lighter wines that dance off the tongue and make you feel refreshed.

Here are two of my favourite summer wines so far:


1.  Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Tasting notes: Fresh Herb, Oregano, Citrus

Pair with: Seafood Linguini
 
Cost:  $ 29.95 CDN

Perks: This is truly a surprising tasting wine.  While others in my household told me they tasted pineapple, for me the overwhelming notes were herbaceous.  I'm the kind of girl who puts rosemary in my scrambled eggs just because, so you can imagine how thrilled I was with this find.  Why plant an herb garden when you can drink one?
 
Cons: It's in a bit of a pricier range for a young wine. 

Overall Glossless Rating (based on totally unscientific and arbitrary values): 9.5/10 

2.  Sofia Rosé 2013 

Tasting notes: Cherries, Field Berries, Watermelon

Pair with: Salmon Burgers
 
Cost:  $ 19.95 CDN

Perks:  This wine is named after famed director Francis Ford Coppola's daughter Sofia Coppola.  Every detail of this wine is as intriguing as it's namesake. I love the bowling-pin shaped bottle and it's soft label.

Cons: I love my rosés dry, dry, dry and while this wine was advertised as such it was a bit on the fruity/sweet side for me. 

Overall Glossless Rating (based on totally unscientific and arbitrary values): 7/10