Oh Christmas tree! (the perfect advent calendar for beer lovers)

I love getting into the Christmas spirit!

Shopping and decorating are two of my favourite things, but I try to avoid making our house look like the holidays threw up all over it. For that reason, I try to find unique ways to express my love for Christmas. This is one of those things. Continue reading “Oh Christmas tree! (the perfect advent calendar for beer lovers)”

Grab-and-go breakfast cookies

If you’re like me, you can’t make it past 9a.m. without something in your stomach…but getting up 10 minutes earlier to scarf down a proper breakfast is impossible.

These cookies are the perfect solution. They’re more filling than a store bought granola bar and just as easy to grab on your way out the door. Plus they’re delicious.

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I’ve tried a few different recipes in my search for the perfect breakfast cookie but most were too crumbly. After a bit of tinkering, I’ve landed on the trifecta of moistness, texture and a touch of sweet.

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This batch will make about 20 cookies, so two weeks worth of workday brekkies if you’re sharing. If you store them in an airtight container, they should stay fresh until you run out 🙂

You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups large flake oats (rolled, not instant oats)
  • 1 2/3 cups whole grain flour (whole wheat will do)
  • 1/2 cup bran
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix together the first six ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. In a saucepan on low heat, melt together the coconut oil, canola oil, maple syrup and brown sugar.
  4. Pour the oil and sugar mixture over the dry ingredients and stir.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla and stir.
  6. Mix in cherries and pepitas or your choice of dried fruit and nuts (you could even get a little wild and add some chocolate chips.
  7. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and scoop golf ball sized mounds of cookie dough onto the sheets. If you’re using your hands instead of a scoop, you may need to rinse them with water occasionally to avoid sticking.
  8. Bake cookies for 12 minutes and let them cool slightly on the baking sheet before moving them to a cooling rack.

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These make a great after school snack too! Or you could toss one in with your lunch for an afternoon pick-me-up.

For those of you who are calorie conscious, each cookie contains approximately:

  • 185 calories
  • 2 grams fibre
  • 5 grams sugar
  • 129 mg sodium
  • 11 grams fat

Now you have no excuse to skip the most important meal of the day! Bon appetite, breakfast eaters!

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Crafternoon: DIY Hallway Catchall

Last weekend a bunch of girlfriends and I got together for what I like to call “Crafternoon”. Instead of tackling a project alone, we vote on a DIY that we want to make, I buy the supplies and do a bit of prep work, and we spend an afternoon creating something we can take home with us.

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It’s a great way to spend time together, especially if some of the friends in your group are eager to get into crafting but don’t really know where to start.

IMG_8446This “Crafternoon” we made hallway catchalls. They’re like a little all-in-one station you keep at your entryway to hang your keys and leave reminders for yourself. The perfect solution for anyone who can never seem to find their keys in the depths of their purse (ahem…me…ahem). Check out what an awesome job everyone did!

Are you on board yet?

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You’ll need:

  • A piece of wood at least 6 inches wide and 8 inches long (I cut a 1”x8” into a bunch of pieces so ours were each about 7.5” wide and 10” long)
  • Fine grain sand paper
  • Stain or paint and a foam brush
  • A mason jar
  • steel strapping
  • Wire cutters
  • Hooks
  • Screws that fit your hooks and aren’t longer than your wood is deep
  • A drill (or a screw driver and some elbow grease)
  • A clothes peg
  • Glue gun and glue sticks
  • Something pretty to put in your jar

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1. Start by lightly sanding your wood and painting or staining it a colour of your choice. If you’re making this craft with friends, may I suggest a snack break while you wait for the paint to dry?

2. Using wire cutters, snip a piece of plumber’s strapping that fits around your mason jar minus about 1/4”.

3. Without attaching anything yet, arrange your mason jar, hooks and clothes peg on your board so you can envision what the finished product will look like. You can orient your board portrait or landscape.

4. Wrap your plumber’s strapping around the mason jar to give it a round shape. Drill a screw into the last hole on each end of the strapping so they are about ½” apart on your board. You want to create a ring that is snug enough to hold your mason jar firmly but loose enough that you can slide it in.

5. Using hot glue, stick your clothes peg onto your board.

6. Position your hooks and screw them into place.

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Now all you have to do is put some flowers in your jar, hang the board on the wall by your door and marvel at its beauty while it keeps track of your keys.

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Are you a fan of crafting with friends or do you prefer to Do It Yourself by yourself? What are some of your favourite projects to do with others?

 

Tasteful holiday decorating: Easter

If you’re a home decor addict, like me, you probably spend hours browsing the seasonal section at your favourite stores. I get it. Holidays are fun, and filling your home with signs of the season is a great way to get in the spirit. But when it comes to decorating for the holidays, I’m a firm believer that less is more.

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There are a few reasons.

Firstly, if you put time and effort into designing your space, everything you add, even temporarily, should suit the vibe you’ve created. Overdoing it on holiday kitsch usually works against that principle.

Secondly, simple subtle touches tend to have a lifespan beyond the holiday they’re celebrating. If you do it right, you shouldn’t have to furiously tear down your Valentine’s decor on February 15th.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the more you buy, the more you store (or waste). Going overboard on holiday decor means you have to find a place for it in the off season, or get rid of it and start again next year. Uncool.

Here are my tips for adding Easter flair to your home with a subtle, tasteful touch.

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  1. Start with the front door. A seasonal wreath that adds a pop of colour to your home reminds you and your guests that spring is around the corner. Making a statement at your entryway says, “Hey, I love holidays as much as the next guy” without cramping your interior style. I purchased this wreath at Target last year. It’s easy to store and because it doesn’t scream EASTER!!, I don’t feel obligated to take it down before I run out of chocolate bunnies.

2. Bring the outdoors in. Natural touches like pussy willow or forsythia are beautifully subtle signs of spring. I love pussy willow because it lasts for ages and its neutral colour doesn’t compete with my decor. In the winter, I fill this vase with evergreens or holly and swap it out when the weather warms up. Using the same vessel all year round and changing up what you put inside makes decorating easy!

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3. Keep your colours consistent, with a bit of flair. My centrepiece of gold foil eggs mimics the robin’s egg blue and cream of my everyday decor with a few pops of colour. The reds and pinks don’t overwhelm the room but add some fun to my normal palette. Filling a bowl with seasonal items is a simple way to switch up your decor between seasons.

What’s your seasonal decorating style? Share your tips and tricks for getting your home holiday ready in the comments!

 

Amazing eats at Butcher and the Vegan

I am a meat lover. I try to limit my intake but when I eat out, I rarely order a vegetarian option. So when James Kayser, the owner of Butcher and the Vegan in Hamilton, Ontario, invited me and my friend Cara, of Talk That Talk, to join their Kitchen Party, I was a bit skeptical. After eating everything on my plate, I am now eating my words.

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Every month or so, the restaurant hosts an evening of music, great eats and delicious beer pairings. This month, Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party were featured and Kayser created a “kitchen party” inspired menu to suit the music. Think impromptu gathering with great tunes and whatever happens to be in the refrigerator spun into a an artfully creative meal. To top it off, Collective Arts Brewing, also based in Hamilton, paired each course with one of their unique beers.

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Butcher and the Vegan serves both meat based and vegan meals. At the Kitchen Party, we dined strictly vegan. After a tasty little nibble of roasted chickpeas, out came the appetizer board. It included a play on a caprese salad, with avocado in place of buffalo mozzarella, a mediterranean layer dip on freshly fried nachos, an amazingly flavourful mostarda crostini and some delicious artichoke nibbles with a “butter” dipping sauce. Everything was fresh and had incredible depth of flavour. The nachos and artichokes were definite highlights!

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This course was paired with Saint of Circumstance Blonde, a citrusy, light beer that goes well with anything you might squeeze a lemon on. It cut through the buttery flavour of the nachos and artichokes wonderfully. While we digested our appetizers, Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party did their thing. The music set the perfect tone for the evening. Carefree and intimate with a bit of quirkiness. You can check out their tunes here.

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The main course was where the “kitchen party” theme really shone. It included “last night’s chinese” glass noodles and veggies, “cold pizza” (that was really quite warm), spicy vegan chili with killer sourdough bread and fried brussels sprouts dusted with citrus thyme salt that I am still salivating over. Not one animal product on the plate and I didn’t even miss it. Who knew brussels sprouts could be such a star?

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This course paired with Rhyme & Reason, a Collective Arts standby. It’s an extra pale ale that goes with just about anything. In 2014, it won best North American Style Pale Ale at the Canadian Brewing Awards. Go beer!

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We barely had room for dessert, but you can always find a little extra space, right? We finished the meal off with vegan sugar cookies topped with whipped “cream” and chocolate sauce. So good!

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To wash down dessert, we had the Stranger Than Fiction porter. It’s a dark looking, light tasting beer that’s full of coffee and chocolate flavour. A great match!

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While Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party finished their set, we polished off the last beer on our paddle, the Collective Project Black IPA. It’s a limited edition beer created by the head brewmaster at Collective Arts and it’s exclusive to select bars and restaurants. A great way to finish the night!

Luckily, the Butcher and the Vegan team were sympathetic to our full stomachs and wrapped up everything we couldn’t finish (plus a little extra :)). Next month’s musical guest is Hachey the MouthPEACE – he’ll be playing after Art Crawl on March 11th. Be sure to follow Butcher and the Vegan on Twitter to stay in the loop!

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Photos by Cara Cameron and Elise Copps

DIY clay bead necklace

This is a great craft for those of you who aren’t crafty. Polymer clay is very forgiving. If you’re unhappy with a bead you’ve made, you can squish it all up an start again!

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I made this necklace because I was having a hard time finding something that wasn’t too plain but wasn’t too flashy. Isn’t it great that when you can’t buy what you want, you can just make it yourself?! Budget about two hours and you’ll have a fantastic piece of jewellery that’s read to wear!

You’ll need:

  • a few colours of polymer clay (I like the FIMO brand, you can find it at Michael’s)
  • a skewer or straw
  • a baking sheet lined with foil
  • an oven
  • a piece of leather lace, about 2 ft long

First, decide what kind of look you’re going for. Do you want your beads to look the same or different? Will you be marbling colours? Do you want a rounded or flat edge?

To make a plain bead, pinch a piece of clay about the size of the tip of your finger. Roll it between your palms to warm it up. Once it’s pliable, roll it between the middle of your palms until it’s nice and round. When you’re happy with the shape, carefully insert the skewer through the middle. Make sure your skewer or straw will create a thick enough hole to thread your lace through.

To make a marbled bead, pinch two smaller pieces of clay in different colours. Roll them each into a long snake and wind the snakes around each other. Now swirl the two snakes into a ball and follow the process for making a plain bead until you’re happy with the shape and the amount of marbling. Make your hole and voila!

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To create a bead with a squared off edge like the one in the photo above, roll the bead back and forth on a flat surface once you’ve skewered it. Be gentle, or the hole will get to big. Once you’re happy with the edge, remove it from the skewer.

When you’ve made all your beads, you’re ready to bake! Bake the beads according to the directions on the clay you’re working with (usually in the low 200s for about 30 minutes). It’s pretty hard to mess this stage up.

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Let the beads cool and string them onto your leather lace. If you want to get fancy, you can add fasteners to the ends of your lace for a more sophisticated look. I opted for an adjustable knot that lets you change the length of your necklace depending on the shirt you’re wearing. This tutorial will help you learn how to tie one.

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Now for the best part – wear your handmade necklace and enjoy the oohs and ahhs when you tell people you made it yourself! Have fun crafting!

 

Winter Glamping at Toronto West KOA

My fiancé, Ryan, and I celebrate our anniversary on Valentine’s Day. Cheesy, I know. His birthday is February 10th, so I decided to make this past weekend a triple whammy and take him for a surprise romantic winter getaway.

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The Toronto West KOA was generous enough to put us up in one of their deluxe cabins, and Mother Nature did her job, supplying a solid dumping of snow and sub zero temperatures. It was a perfect cozy couple’s weekend!

The Cabin

Before picking Ryan up from work on Friday, I snuck into our cabin to drop off supplies and set the mood for Valentine’s Day. Our cabin was very well stocked so I didn’t have to worry about packing linens, dishes or any of that stuff, which made planning so simple! It allowed me to focus on the important things, like decorating every available surface with hearts ♥

KOA owner, Bridget, had even left a welcome gift basket to help us make the most of our weekend. It was stocked with hot chocolate, supplies for s’mores and a voucher for nearby conservation areas. We couldn’t have asked for more!

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Our cabin was nice and toasty warm and had a fridge, microwave, coffee maker, TV, DVD player and so much more! It also had a beautiful fire pit outside, which we couldn’t pass up despite the freezing weather. We could only manage a few marshmallows before our fingers froze but it was a very cool experience to build a fire in the snow!

Activities

The Toronto West KOA is in Campbellville, smack dab in the middle of some of the most beautiful conservation land in Halton. Bridget supplied us with some snowshoes and we braved the -20 weather for a trip to Mountsberg Conservation Area to try them out. We snowshoed out to their bison compound and were lucky enough to be greeted by Steve, the head of the herd. He was so incredibly huge! It was a very cool experience.

Then we love birds headed over to Mountsberg’s Raptor Centre to get up close and personal with some real birds (not quite as loving). We’re told Echo the screech owl is a very solitary creature – even though she looks cute enough to eat 🙂

Lunch at Mohawk Chop House

By lunchtime, we were ready to warm up with a hearty meal at the Mohawk Chop House. It’s a fantastic little spot located in the Mohawk Inn and Conference Centre, which is connected to the KOA by a scenic trail. We shared some croquettes to start off, then Ryan had the fish sandwich, and I had the braised beef stroganoff. All three were delicious and the Chop House had a wonderfully homey feel to it.

After all that food we were ready to head back into winter for some more exercise. The Conservation Halton day pass that Bridget included in our welcome basket lets you visit as many parks as you want in one day so we capped off the afternoon with a 3 km hike at Crawford Lake. Unfortunately, our camera and phones hated the cold weather so much, they refused to work, but trust me, the view was spectacular!

Cooking in the Cabin 

Preparing our meals in the cabin was one of the highlights of the weekend. There was something very romantic about being nestled inside, making dinner while the snow fell around us. Ryan and I are big food lovers so I found some creative ways to cook without a traditional stove. We made fondue Saturday night and it was fantastic!

Eating breakfast while the sun streamed in through the windows was also wonderful. The sunlight bouncing off the beautiful pine interior of the cabin was just beautiful!

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All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better weekend getaway. And it was only a 30 minute drive from our home in Hamilton. We will definitely be back!

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