Monthly Archives: July 2011

a straight message from the baking gods

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one of the traits that i unquestionably inherited from my mother is the desire to incorporate snacks and treats into celebrations and even everyday events. kevin can attest to that. often, when we’re driving out on a week night game day, i’ll unpack a little car picnic to help make up for the fact that we’ve both been working all day and, given the distance to most arenas, won’t get to eat something before play begins. this is, of course, more a factor for him than it is for me, but i like joining in on the delicious fun. often, while chatting about our days, i’ll peel an apple or cut up some cheese to pair with crackers and by the time we hit our destination, we’ve each had enough to snack on that we feel satisfied and he’s ready to do his thing on the floor.  as i said, it’s in my genes – in my case it’s a desire, but in my mother’s it’s a habit. i plan the details out every time, but i’m not always so good at the execution. case in point: friday morning. in wonderfully gender-specific role-playing, kevin was out getting an oil change while i stayed home to bake muffins for our road trip to victoria. i hadn’t planned on baking that morning, but in the days leading up, when i had planned on getting it done, i just didn’t. as the man would gladly tell you, the rush got to me and i was a little rattled when the car was ready and he swung by to pick me up.

for an entire week, i’d been dreaming about this concoction. i came across a tweet sharing this recipe for strawberry rhubarb muffins from jules gluten free website and couldn’t wait to make it. knowing i would never eat a whole batch on my own, i had to wait for kevin to get back to town and figured our trip would be the best opportunity. (see above: car snacks desire.)

yay for summertime produce! the strawberries are local from the market around my place and the rhubarb came right out of a friend’s garden around the corner.

a few modifications i made: i chose the non-dairy options, i used 3 tablespoons of applesauce instead of egg (or flaxseed substitute) and i only had all-purpose flour on hand. note: she’s not kidding when she says that the batter will be thick.

awaiting the seriously delicious sugary topping then ready for the oven.

this is probably the best baking i have done in ages. strawberry rhubarb muffins are off the hook. the only warning: not so travel friendly. the topping is crumbly and, without a plate underneath, you’ll undoubtedly lose some. just lick your fingers to make the most of it.

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working the sm angle

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i take great pleasure in seeing social media work well and properly. don’t get me wrong, it isn’t just about me basking in the perks that serve as fallout from the occurrence, it’s the satisfaction in being reminded that there are people out there who are doing it right. i have several first hand examples of this and, yes, most of them do involve me reaping some kind of tangible benefit. i’m happy to add another story to the arsenal thanks to this weekend and the magnolia hotel in victoria, bc.

when we first got to town, we decided to see if we could check in early prior to meeting up with some friends for lunch. it’s a pretty common practice among travellers, no big deal. the girl working the desk wouldn’t agree. she wasn’t handing out a really bad experience, but she was trite and condescending and i left feeling a lot disappointed in a place that from memory of a single trip a year ago ranked as one of my favourite hotels in the world. so, i did what i always do when something particularly good or bad happens (or, let’s be honest, when anything happens): i tweeted about it. sure, i was being a bit of a baby about it, but the run in was a rough way to kick off a weekend i was really excited about.

no matter. recognizing the reflection a publicized bad experience could have on the hotel and the potential reach of that story via the avenues i had access to, the manager opted to nip it in the bud. by the time we’d placed our orders at a restaurant up the road, he’d addressed the issue on twitter and had also gone far and above in making up for the initial strike against the hotel – he’d upgraded our room.

the fact is that his action didn’t change my experience, but it did replace the negative with a far greater feeling. we, as customers, felt like we had been listened to, that our opinions were valued and that this establishment really did invest in our stay with them. the hand-written note and box of chocolates waiting in our posh upgraded room were a nice touch as well.

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cherries, sweet peas, tacos…and needlepoint

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today didn’t go as smoothly as i might’ve liked. not that i had specific expectations or that anything went particularly wrong. it was just one of those days.

of course, no matter how gloomy, into each day shines a little sun.

my first ray came courtesy of darling jessica marquez from miniature rhino. in spite of a frustrating postal strike, the queen’s mail must get through…eventually. i’d been waiting on this package forever, since the second these astrological needlepoint kits were featured by design*sponge. (didn’t i tell you i can’t bear to miss a thing that happens over there!?!) i bought us one each: capricorn & scorpio. of course, one to represent each of us. clearly, i’m not anticipating this will turn into couples crafting:episode one.

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regard the adorable packaging job and all the thoughtful little goodies inside: business card, postcard, hand-written note, tiny miniature rhino pins. a delight to receive!

after a tumultuous finish to the work day (and week, for that matter – yay!) i had to walk over to see the naturopath for some not so great news from them. fortunately, my (somewhat) feeling sorry for myself walk home had me cross paths with the local farmer’s market and everyone knows there’s always something to make a stop in there worthwhile.

my loot:

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cherries! the first local batch of the season

sweet peas! already, their scent has filled my entire apartment

tacos! roasted yam and black bean – vegan and entirely delicious

life is good.

coconut water: the magic elixir

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of a million refreshing twitter discoveries, sweet potato chronicles is just one. while it isn’t always content that is right up my alley (more kid- and/or meat-focused than i am) i have walked away from this site with several fantastic recipes and ceri marsh is definitely worth the follow.

today’s spc topic: coconut water. i’m a big fan. it’s refreshing and the hint of flavour that it offers is nice – not too sweet or coconut-ty.

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let me share with you, however, a little lesson that i learned on the weekend. i’d bought some blue monkey coconut water last week. when faced, for the first time in a coconut water purchase, with the decision of regular or with pulp, i decided on a split. i’ve always thought the mere existence of juices without pulp weird and wondered who buys that stuff. let me assure you that coconut water is an exception. i have been humbled. after a few sips, i actually had to run my beverage through a strainer in order to remove the chunks of coconut that were featured inside. they were the consistency of the chopped up nuts you get on a sundae. extremely uncomfortable to swallow. i’m just really not into chewing my drinks. are you feelin’ me?

do run out and try some, though. as quoted from the spc post:

“Really, they are marketing coconut water as a an all natural replacement to Gatorade and that’s something I can buy into.”

succulent spending

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i never delete a design*sponge digest email. while the home decor stuff rarely interests me, i dig the arts and crafts, the pretty pictures and the decadent recipes and never want to miss out on an interesting post. after seeing the write up on heat proof flowers this week, i tweeted “succulent shopping may have just appeared on this long weekend’s agenda.” not one who likes to go back on her word, i engaged the assistance of the most avid gardener i know (my mom) and headed out to the place that is reportedly the authourity on succulents in these here parts, western independent greenhouses. there, i found row upon row of gorgeous plants that could potentially come home with me.

my observations combined with a little reading on their site and some research online prove that i am doing the plants a huge disservice by referring to them all as succulents. my photos include an array of echeverias and aeoniums as well. unfortunately, while i know i saw all types, i’m not knowledgeable enough to identify which is which.

because these plants have adjusted to life in dry and arid climates, they’ve developed various ways of storing water into their leaves, stems and roots and they appear more fleshy than most other plants. this makes them easier to care for and great indoor plants for which there is no concern when summer heat hits. provided they are supported with good drainage and less frequent watering, they can dress up a home in a different way than the usual green, leafy houseplant style.

while some varieties will grow big, tall and hardy, my greater interest is in the rock garden type planters that are more commonly found at flower shops. instead of purchasing one of the gorgeous ready made groupings that were available (for very reasonable prices) today, the intention for my visit was to select the plants that appeal to me and to put together my own creation later this week.

the shades of most plants don’t stray far from greens and reds or greys and yellows, but it’s fairly easy to combine them to produce complimentary and attractive pieces with a lovely desert feel to them. some variations even offer shoot up flowers in pinks and purples to add some spikes of colour.

we had a pretty good time exploring all the different options available and collecting the ones i liked the best. after all was said and done, i have all the makings of a killer succulent garden of my own and can’t wait to put it together.