Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Please!!

My Mom came for a visit this past weekend and whipped up a homemade salad dressing for dinner one night...it was SO YUMMY!!  We ate it 3 nights in a row!  Call it pregnancy hormones if you want, but I licked my bowl clean couldn't get enough of it!!

On the 3rd night, I finally smartened up and had her show me how she made it...we adjusted as we went along, 'cause she usually just throws things together. She is one of those cooks that just makes it up as she goes or goes by 'it looks right' and tastes fantastic!!

So, it's no magic recipe, it's actually my Mom's, girlfriends caesar dressing, with our own 'changes'.  But for me it had so much flavour compared to my plain, old ranch. Plus it didn't have the raw egg that most homemade recipes do, which is fantastic for this pregnant Mama. It's not a hot one either...I remember my high school boyfriend's family recipe (super yummy as well), they LOVE garlic and it was a 'hot' one they always made...and I enjoyed it every time they made it...but this rendition is a little on the, maybe, sweeter side?? You'll have to try it yourself!!

 Like I said, call it pregnancy hormones, but I can see it being thrown together a couple times a week in this house!!

Home made Caesar Salad dressing


Here is what we did, you can adjust and add as your pallet tells you to!



Homemade Caesar Dressing
3/4 Mayonaise (we used Hellmans)
2 med. fresh crushed garlic
6 shots of Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp pure Maple Syrup (no Aunt Jemima in this recipe!)
4 shakes seasoned salt (we used Lawry's brand)
1 tbsp milk
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese (we used the small hole on the grater and also used Asiago and liked it better, that nuttier flavour in the cheese)
Croutons (I like the 'lightly buttered' kind instead of adding pretend garlic or herbed ones)
Your favourite greens

Just add all the ingredients in a small bowl or mug even and mix up...we waited until it tasted right and then added the cheese.  Toss the dressing with your greens, enough to cover your lettuce as you like and then add your croutons accordingly. You can sprinkle some extra cheese on top of each bowl if desired!

Enjoy!





Monday, February 20, 2012

5 months

Well, we've made it past the half way mark and now it feels like crunch time!  You wait so long to get this far and then the rest of it flies by!!!

5 months

So we just had the 2nd ultrasound and they are 80% sure that it's a GIRL!!  She was quite busy moving around that day and had her legs crossed...but when they did get the right view there was an 'absence' of anything protruding...lol...2 technicians agreed on the 'absence'...but we're still a little hesitant to go into full 'girl' mode. Hopefully there is still one more ultrasound in the immediate near future!!  We would like to know if we can start buying pink or not!! So many sales on right now too...especially since new baby will be a summer baby and Little Miss was a fall baby...so the clothes don't match up exactly. 

Baby Girl - 5 months

So the preparation is on!! Luckily we don't have to repaint the guest room (aka baby girl room)...it hasn't been painted since we moved in!!!! It was the only room that wasn't done! The paint is even sitting in the closet ready to go and the colours would work for a boy or a girl! But that will come after the basement. Downstairs the tv room area is quite large, so we have pretty much split it in half to create the new guest room (aka someday our master bedroom)! My Father in law has come up to help Hubby build the wall and get it ready!  So they started yesterday and have made some great progress. They are out at Home Depot right now getting some more supplies!

About to get started


Little Miss is super excited to be a 'big sister', she keeps telling me how excited she is about the baby. The morning of the ultrasound she told me that she hoped it was a girl, but if it was a boy that would be ok too. She said that she knew boys didn't like to play with Barbies, but that was ok, because she had a Ken doll that he could play with. So in her mind, she still had a playmate! ;)

She has now started to talk to the baby...she usually says 'good morning' or 'I love you baby', it's really sweet. Once we decided to tell her I was pregnant we would talk about how big the baby is each week. The few websites that I get weekly baby updates from include the approximate size of the baby and relate it to a fruit or vegetable. So if we don't have that item at home, we'll talk about it on our grocery store trips!  It has been a neat way to keep her interested and involved in the baby's growth.


Almost the end of day 1
Day 2, all wiring and drywall on one side done

Day 3, insulation and finished drywall

We decided to include our own little touches to the wall...Little Miss drew a picture of herself at the beach to put in the wall and she chose a little cowboy toy doll that we taped onto the inside as well. Just something kinda fun. A friend of mine, when her father built their family cottage, he included 'things' in each wall...not sure if it's letters or items or what...so if they ever build on or rebuild they have some 'treasures' from their Dad who has passed away.

It has been great to have my father in law with us, we never seem to get enough time when we go down. Plus it's great for Hubby to have his Dad mostly to himself since we live so far away.  :D

Hope everyone is enjoying 'Family Day' and 'President's Day'!!







Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 14th

Valentine's Day has come and gone for another year...how did you spend it??

Our family stayed in for dinner (we had gone out on the weekend as a treat and I'll get my favourite 'Carrabbas' dinner in a few weeks when we're close to one!)

Little Miss and I did make the sugar cookies for her class. I let her decorate them and help put them into the little cello bags and even tied and curled the ribbon!  She did a pretty good job for a 5 year old!

Recipe

Like my fancy countertop?? The house we bought was still decorated in the 60's from when it was built...I am planning to paint it until we have the reno done...just haven't gotten it done yet!  Have any of you painted your countertop??

Back to cookies...I like this recipe, it doesn't have to be refrigerated and is forgiving...just like she says...which is good for me because I haven't worked with this kind of dough very much.

Decorating for her class


I also use Sweet Sugarbelle's royal icing recipe. It has been working well for me...I did however learn that having fresh meringue powder is important. It made all the difference! Using the older meringue powder made my icing granular...so buy some fresh!


Little Miss is learning some great hand eye coordination by doing the icing herself...she is learning to control the flow of the icing and stay 'in the lines'...I do keep reminding her that she has only done this a couple of times, so the only way she can get better is to keep trying and doing her best.(My little pep talk for her) I am surprised that she had the will and patience to sit there to do 24 cookies! I think she would have stayed to do more except it was bedtime.

I then continued to work on 'my bunch' of cookies that are a little more intricate. I'm still working on design and technique and I probably enjoy it because it's 'me' time!  Plus I like to eat them give them away to friends and family...they are not Hubby's favourite type of cookie (so sad).

Finished cookies

If you are looking for tips and techniques, visit these blogs, they are a wealth of information!

http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/blog
http://sweetopia.net

You can also view my Pinterest board 'Cookies' to get some inspiration of your own!!


Thursday, February 09, 2012

NOLA Part 2

On the Friday morning I headed down to the Quarter after breakfast (possibly at Pinkberry) and joined a free walking tour.  It was at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (which is really a building in the French Quarter, close to the Mississippi, that they have preserved and set up as a small museum). It wasn't super long and they really only took us down towards the River because the city doesn't want a 'free' tour going on in the Quarter where all the other paying tours are going on. The information that the guide shared was incredible!!

The Cabildo Museum, holds a legacy of historic
 events and cultural diversity about the state of LA.

When the France took over New Orleans, they told the French people it was mountainous and hot and sunny...well when the French came over it was hot, humid and swampy!  Word got back to France that this 'new land' wasn't so great and no one wanted to come...so France emptied out their prisons and married the criminals and prostitutes and sent them over!  Many died on the long journey over from disease and from 'new disease' when they got there...so the founders of New Orleans were criminals and prostitutes!  LOL

Pretty ironwork on a door

If you visit NOLA, I highly recommend the free tour!!

Our guide also told us that when Spain took over after France's 40 years there, few Spanish families came to settle, so the Spanish men married the French's daughters!  I guess that was a 'tsk, tsk' type of thing too!

Lots of these entranceways into beautiful courtyards or restaurants


Through the entranceway into the courtyard

In the 1790's the Spanish, are the settlers who built all these courtyards...they would build the homes/buildings right up to the sidewalk, leaving a space of beauty, an oasis, in the middle for themselves to enjoy...they could shut out the 'bad' of the outside world.  The big openings with the gates (two pictures up), were for the horse and wagons to enter and exit from the courtyards inside.

Beautiful ironwork on one of the large entrances



One of the gates into Jackson Square


A bench inside Jackson Square


Evidence of Mardi Gras

I liked Royal St., there were a bunch of cute shops there to browse in and the sign still had some beads hanging from it..evidence of the ever popular Mardi Gras, that happens on any Tuesday between February 3rd and March 9th. It is the day before Ash Wednesday.  The best place I found to pick up the cheaper beads (all the others seemed to be speciality ones, ie. NFL teams, or some kind of a theme) was in the French Market.


If you are walking past Cafe du Monde, keep going a few blocks and you'll come to the market...there were lots of great places to eat at and a flea market type spot at the far end. These beads were the cheapest and the kind for throwing away (like Mardi Gras). Along the way in the market, I came a cross Rod Broussard, a local photographer, he had the best work (to me anyway) that I saw the whole time I was there....take a moment to check out his site...I think my favourite was the 'Weeping Angel'. I didn't purchase this one, but I did buy one of the 'French Quarter Door' prints, with the red doors and turquoise shutters.

video

When I made my way back towards the 'Square' I passed these gentlemen. Take a quick listen!! I then went around the back of Cafe du Monde and you can see them in the kitchen making the Beignets! Quite interesting!

Comes out of the roller and through the rectangular cutter,
then they get tossed into the deep fryer behind them!


The Horse heads

These aren't really considered 'old' when it comes to New Orleans history, or so I was told anyway and some locals in the shops had no idea where to send me when I asked about them...I just happened to come across them. I believe these were on Royal St. as you get closer to Canal St., these ones still had their rings. They were used to tie up the horses when people would stop and go into the shops...many have had their rings stolen and some are all chipped up, but this was the nicest bunch I came across all in a row.

Canal St. trolley

Canal Street was considered 'neutral ground' between the early settlers in the French Quarter and the working class of the Business District. The tour guide from the National Park said that New Orleans actually had many canals running through it and anywhere you see streets with the middle sections, this is where the canals use to be. He said that the French Quarter was built 'right' for proper drainage and then the 'American's' who were in the Business area redesigned their area, covering up the canals and didn't do such a great job...where the flooding was I believe?? Hmmmm....don't quote me though!

Oh! New Orleans actually has a subtropical climate...they had some banana trees growing in Jackson Square that the Guide had pointed out!

Overall I enjoyed the city, there is still so much to do and see there...I have my list of 'to do's' if we ever go back, ie. I'd take a proper tour of the graveyards and of the streets with the massive, southern homes, do the horse and buggy tour around the Quarter and take more pictures!! Oh, plus eat lots more Pinkberry!!


I'll leave you with this funny picture...this is what I looked at the flight to New Orleans...the lady in front of me, ever so kindly, hung her hair (at least it was clean!) over the back of her seat so that it nicely dangled above my tray table!  Hubby and I couldn't believe it! I'm sure my mouth was wide open, completely stunned that someone would do that??!!  Am I wrong?? Seriously. Thank goodness no hairs fell onto my table, I think I would have lost it! I'm not sure what actually stopped me from asking her to move her hair, but I didn't say anything...I think I was just too stunned...(oh, Hubby kindly reminded me it was HIM that stopped me).

Cheeky ladies hair

Hope everyone enjoys their weekend!



Tuesday, February 07, 2012

NOLA

Back in September, I was fortunate enough to travel with my husband (who was going to a conference for work) to visit New Orleans!! Originally I had no desire to visit there, only because when we save our money to go on vacations, I usually like it to be spent by the pool or ocean in the hot sun relaxing, which is my favourite place to be. So I researched the area and the more I read, the more excited I was to be going!! (I took about 200 pictures on this trip and I am going to have trouble choosing, so go get your cup of tea and settle in for a bit!!)



While Hubby was busy in the Convention Center, I made my way multiple times a day down to the French Quarter exploring!  Our hotel was right across from the Convention Center, so it was a bit of a hike to get there!  I actually enjoyed the exercise, but the sweating was a little more intense than I expected, to say the least!!! (Each day it hit 104F and that was with humidity!) On the upside of the sweating, I'm pretty sure with it being combined with all the walking I lost about 7lbs!!!!!  :D  I'd like to think I did anyway!

I think the first thing I really liked about NOLA (short form for New Orleans, Louisiana), was the fun colours they used on their buildings!! The ironwork was incredible as well, such beautiful detail on everything!

A Cajun restaurant on the way to the Quarter

Hubby and I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and we got to see one of the cemeteries on our drive into the city...it's kinda neat, because they bury their dead above the ground in these whitish tomb style buildings because of the water table and out of ritual. (I do not claim to be a NOLA expert, so if I have mispoke about anything, please feel free to share what you know as well!!). I was told to make sure to take a tour if you want to visit a cemetary, not to go on your own, as well, they close early at about 3pm.

Our first evening we enjoyed the balmy night air and headed down to the French Quarter...we walked around the famous Jackson Square (where the horses are all lined up for tours and the artists sell their paintings). The very popular 'Cafe du Monde' is also right across from the Square and we sat and enjoyed some Beignets (pronounced BEN-yea). Hubby says to the server, 'Could I get a little more powdered sugar?'...poor girl didn't know what to think...he was just being silly with her.

Beignets at Cafe du Monde with coffee

The next morning I made my way to the French Quarter again and took a million pictures along the way...



These were the doors on the Insectarium on the west corner of the French Quarter


French Quarter building

Shotgun homes in the French Quarter

These were the only 'shotgun' homes that I saw in the French Quarter...I read that they were called that because of their simple floor plan inside...you could literally shoot a gun and it would go through each room in the house. 

Great door!

Great door knocker!

 
Looking down on Jackson Square

In the heart of the French Quarter is Jackson Square (the park), the square was named in honor of Andrew Jackson, the hero of the battle of New Orleans for which one of three statues are in honor of. You can also see the St. Louis Cathedral in the middle..it is said that you can draw a line down the middle of it and everything on either side is a mirror image. The 2 buildings on either side are the exact same, one is the Cabildo Museum. Then the buildings that make up the right and left sides of the square are the Pontalba Buildings, merchants downstairs and living quarters upstairs.

So you may be wondering if I went to Bourbon St.?  Well, yes we did...now please remember, this is my opinion based on my experience there...it was my least favourite street. Hubby and I went together during the day and I was completely shocked at the 'in your face obscenity' to be quite honest. I knew it was a party street, but I didn't realize that it was so graphic right on the front windows! That certainly isn't my idea of exploring a city, so I think we finished walking the block and I took my picture of the street sigh and we were outta there! 



I'll leave you with this last picture, I think this was my favourite door picture.



Part 2 of my trip will be next!!



Saturday, February 04, 2012

Valentine's Day!



It's February 4th and Valentine's Day is quickly approaching!! Thought I would share with you something we are doing here this year.

Crayon Hearts
I actually saw this craft, in the Martha Stewart Living magazine, when I was first married, living in our tiny apartment and wanting to be all 'suzy homemaker'. I thought, this looks like a fun activity...I went to the dollar store and bought some boxes of crayons so I could begin!
I have to admit, it was a bit of work...the most time consuming part being, sharpening the crayons to get the shavings...but it was worth it in the end. I followed the directions and used some cheapie thread in similar colours that I had laying around. We bought a small piece of doweling at the hardware store (like less than $1) and I gave it a coat of white paint I had left over from something (you could even use craft paint if you don't have anything else available). Hubby nailed 2 tiny nails above the window frame and that served as a holder for the ends of the doweling.  Slide the threaded hearts onto it and ...
Voila!
The hearts are now about 8-9 years old..I keep them in a file folder in our Valentine's box and they have all held up perfectly! If you have some time and have some crayons, get sharpening!!

Martha Stewart Living


We are also going to make some sugar cookies with royal icing for Little Misses class. I have discovered a few amazing  cookie blogs that are just a wealth of information!! Having read their suggestions and watched their videos, my skills have greatly improved and I am much more efficient! I'm no where near to opening my own cookie store, but you can only improve with practice!!






These are the Valentine's cookies we made last year...it was a family effort, Little Miss, myself and Grammie. Little Miss decorated hers for her class and my Mom and I took our time working on our masterpieces.  ;)

There is definitely a technique to decorating them, like I said, it just takes practice...and some proper tools...but I encourage you to take a look at these blogs for their tips and tutorials before you get started...it can make the process so much more enjoyable!!

http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/

http://www.sugartreeblog.com/

http://sweetopia.net/

Happy Cookie Making!!


Sweet SugarBelle

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