Sunday

Lately up North: Christmas tree hunting & feeling festive!


Even though it has been SO cold up here in the north lately, I can't deny that it has also been incredibly beautiful. We've had record breaking amounts of snow, and even though it makes for a lot of extra shovelling, it certainly makes everything feel a little more festive.

Below is the view from our bedroom window... what started as some pretty icicles has transformed into this mushrooming mass of snow which completely obstructs our view of the outside world. Even the icicles themselves have been engulfed by the snow!



On Saturday morning (despite the minus 25 degree weather) we bundled Zac up as much as possible and set out into the woods to find our prefect Christmas tree.

The snow was so deep that we had to wear snowshoes to prevent ourselves from sinking into oblivion. Even the charming wooden sleigh that I insisted we bring for Zac turned out to be useless and only sunk deeper and deeper into the snow. So we carried him instead.

Picture me, 31 weeks pregnant, trudging through 4-foot deep snow on snowshoes, carrying a two-year old. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I felt pretty tough ;)


Zac, who hates the cold, was not a happy camper at first. He was so bundled that he could barely move, but he was still cold, and he cried for the first 5 minutes or so, begging to go back.

But then we found a few contenders for our tree. And Zac's mood turned around quickly when we asked him which one we should pick. We both loved watching Adrien cut down our perfect tree in true mountain-man style.



With smiling faces and frozen toes, we trudged our way back to the car with our tree, and ate homemade gingerbread cookies all the way home. It was wonderful.

And when we got home, we cranked up the Christmas tunes. And the boys drank their eggnog, and we decorated the tree...



It was one of those wonderfully delicious December weekends that makes you fall in love with life (and winter) all over again.


And these boys.... how I love these boys! I feel so blessed to call them mine. Can't believe I'll be adding another one to the lot 2 months from now!

~*~

And before I go, here's a cute little Christmas tune to lighten your mood...


(I just love that line "I want to hang your stocking next to mine, when we're ninety-nine". Too cute)

I hope you're finding the time to relax and enjoy your December. Try not to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of holiday stressors... it'll be over before you know it :)
oxo
Vanessa.

Seriously, the best gingerbread cookies EVER!


My friend Michelle finally gave me her treasured gingerbread cookie recipe (which I've been hounding her for for months now).  These are the chewiest, most delicious gingerbread cookies imaginable! She's brought them into work a few times now, and we all go gaga over them. And every time someone tries them for the first time, they inevitably declare how these are the best gingerbread cookies they've ever tasted.

So here it is for you to try. These kinds of recipes need to be shared...

Best Ever Gingerbread Cookies

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses

1 3/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the sugars, oil, egg and molasses until well-combined. Then using a wooden spoon, mix in the remaining ingredients until all the flour is absorbed. The dough will seem dry at first, but will come together. If necessary, add 1-2 tsp of water.

Use your hands to roll the dough into 1.5 inch balls, then roll the balls in coarse sugar. Place balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet (no need to flatten them, they will spread out on their own), and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes   *don't overbake these cookies! Max 1 extra minute... if you must ;)

Allow the cookies to cool on their baking tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!!


Tuesday

Life lately: staying warm in sunny Florida


We have jet-setted off to Naples, Florida for a few days to escape the crazy snowy north. I am spoiled, I know.... but with a new baby arriving in February, and a jam-packed schedule up until then, there will be no time this winter/spring for any kind of an escape or babymoon. So we are squeezing it in now, and it has been wonderful!

My in-laws have a place here in Naples, which makes travelling with kiddies SO easy. We are already set up there with strollers, high chairs and kids beds... not to mention my wonderful mother-in-law who cooks delicious meals for us, and babysits in the evening so that the hubby and I can go out for much needed date nights :)


^^ we visit Naples frequently, so we have our usual stops and traditions. Like taking Zac to the Naples Zoo, and eating lunch on the beach at the Ritz hotel (even if we aren't staying there). The kids meals come in these cute little bento-boxes, and they have delicious fish tacos for the adults. ^^

^^ Zac thought the white sand was snow, and was afraid to touch it. We had to carry him the entire time... and with a 29-week belly, carrying a two year old is getting tricky. He's such a monkey that son of mine! ^^

^^ This was the first time that Zac was actually interested in the pool. He LOVED it! And speaking of love, Zac is completely in love with his baby cousin Lola. He always asks to hold her and tickle her toes, and push her in the stroller. I think he's going to be a great big brother ^^


It's been a lovely little getaway in the sunshine state, but tomorrow we head back to reality. Such is life. We have a few days in Montreal and then we're heading back up north for work until Christmas.

I hope you're doing well out there.
oxo
Vanessa.

Saturday

Weekend Treat: Amazing Almond Kamut Shortbread


I think I've come to the conclusion that shortbread is my all-time favourite kind of cookie. To some, shortbread can be rather boring.... but to me, it is downright heavenly! There's something about the initial "snap" of a shortbread cookie, followed by it's melting into buttery goodness inside your mouth. True perfection!

These shortbread are a teeny bit healthier than the standard version, thanks to the kamut flour and ground almonds. But additional fiber & protein aside, the kamut gives the cookie a beautiful golden colour and deep nutty flour that is simply irresistible!

Read on for the recipe...

Thursday

"Two Candles"

My little baby is two years old today!  All week long, we've been asking Zac, "how old are you going to be on your birthday?" and he always responds "two candles!" (referring to his highly anticipated birthday cake). 

On the one hand it feels like time has just flown by, but on the other, I realize how much we've changed and grown over the past two years. I've come such a long way from that clueless girl holding a screaming newborn in her arms two years ago on this very day.

And my beautiful little baby boy - he's such a boy now! And not wanting to sound so clichéd, but with no other way to say it... he brings us so much joy. Like we don't even know how to contain all the love we feel for this boy. He totally rocks our world!


His birthday fell on a work day, so we celebrated in stages. He got to open one present from us in the morning, and a package that came in the mail from his Oma, and then it was off to daycare.


After work, we made cake and ate supper together (macaroni was my two year old's birthday meal of choice... which I discreetly spiked with sautéed green pepper and leeks).
And then there was The Truck...


When I saw this truck on Amazon, I knew Zac would go bananas for it. This boy LOVES trucks (and all things that go). And this truck is incredibly realistic looking and has so many little functioning parts and details... it's right up his alley. To say that he loved it would be an understatement. He basically couldn't function normally after... the truck had to come to the bathroom with him for bath time, and into his room to "watch him sleep" at bedtime. We are half-expecting him to crawl out of bed in the middle of the night tonight and start playing with it.


And then there was chocolate cake... In retrospect, not the best choice to give your already active toddler right before bed, but hey, it's his birthday. Then a few bedtime books, a brief recount of his birth story, and lots and lots of cuddles.

It was a much quieter, more low-key birthday compared to his first one (which we celebrated in Montreal with all our 20+ family members). Although we missed having our family around, there was something nice about being just the three of us, way up in the snowy north, away from the rest of the world.

All in all, it was a very successful second birthday.

Happy birthday, little buddy. We love you so much!

In the kitchen: Simple Tahini Cookies


These cookies are ridiculously easy to make (just throw everything into a food processor and voila!), and they go wonderfully with coffee or tea. They're kind of reminiscent of peanut butter cookies, only with a modern, edgy twist thanks to the sesame tahini.

Oh and they're toddler-approved too ;)

Read on for the recipe....

Eva Fehren Jewelry - I'm in love...


I read about this up & coming New York jewelry designer (Eva Fehren) in a magazine the other day, and I instantly fell in love.  Her designs are inspired by "the industrial, architectural and geometric elements of her native New York". They are both delicate and edgy at the same time.
I especially adore the structural diamond X-rings - wow are they ever gorgeous!


Oh if money were no object...

Sunday

a song for your Sunday night...


Here's a jazzy, romantic remake of an old Frank Sinatra song, by She & Him
I love it. Perfect for a night like tonight. Have a listen…

Their new album, Classics, is out December 2nd.

Tuesday

Cooking my way through Ottolenghi's Plenty More cookbook (a review, so far...)


I've been counting down the months for the North American release of Yotam Ottolenghi's second vegetarian cookbook, Plenty More. But when I first brought it home from the bookstore last week I actually found myself a little overwhelmed. There were so many ingredients I'd never heard of before (what on earth is kecap manis?)!

Though the pictures are incredibly beautiful, the ingredient lists are long (in typical Ottolenghi fashion) and a little overwhelming. But I finally put my hesitations and insecurities aside and dove in. And I have not been disappointed yet.


So far, my favourite recipes are the Braised Kale with Crispy Shallots (pictured at top of post), and the steam-baked aromatic Lemon and Curry Leaf Rice (pictured below). They were both unbelievable!!

^^ I loved this new-to-me technique of steam-baking the rice. It literally transformed ordinary basmati rice into something otherworldly! ^^

I've also made the Cauliflower Cake (delicious!), the Tomato and Pomegranate Salad (incredibly flavourful, though I would add half the allspice next time), the Sweet-and-Sour Leeks with goat cheese (also delicious), and the Steamed Eggplant with Sesame and Green Onion (not pictured above but it was absolutely amazing!!)

I have about 50 other recipes flagged that I'm dying to try in the future… Pink Grapefruit & Sumac Salad, Hot-and-Sour Mushroom Soup, Honey-Roasted Carrots with Tahini Yogurt, Smoky Polenta Fries… just to name a few!

So yes, I would definitely recommend this book. Don't let the weird ingredients discourage you. This is a great way to expose yourself to new cooking techniques and novel flavour combinations.

~ * ~

I'm curious, have you fallen in love with Ottolenghi's recipes too? I seriously want to travel to London just to eat at his restaurants!

If you do buy this book, I'd love to hear which recipes you try out and what you thought of them :)

~ * ~

^^ ps: I also highly recommend Ottolenghi's other cookbooks. I made the above chocolate babkas (Chocolate Krantz Cakes) from his Jerusalem cookbook the other day and they were OUTRAGEOUSLY, sinfully delicious! Recipe available HERE ^^

Monday

Well these coats are utterly gorgeous!






If it weren't for my six-month pregnancy bump, I would definitely be buying one of these gorgeous wool coats this winter. I love the turquoise… such an unexpected and uplifting colour for winter.

Images: 1, 5 - The Chateau Parka, 2 - Wool melton toggle coat, 3 - Mixed tweed toggle coat, 4 - Majesty peacoat. All from  J. Crew.
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