Sandbanks Provincial Park

We picked a perfect day to go snowshoeing in Sandbanks Provincial Park.  The sun was glinting off the crisp white landscape, and the clear blue sky highlighted the mist in our breath.  Laying down the first set of tracks in the fresh snow is always such a satisfying feeling and for a moment, the world feels is still with only the crunching sound of footsteps echoing through the woods.  The best feeling of all however, is returning home to a cozy wood burning stove and warming up with some hot tea and a greasy breakfast.

Panama

Last January, the need to escape the dreary Canadian winter was much stronger than in previous years as 2013 had been a particularly rough patch in my life.  I had gone through a separation and my holiday season had been overshadowed by family health concerns.  By the time the New Year rolled in, I had finally emerged from a couple of months of dark solitude and all I wanted was some space to regroup, clear my head and spend some quality time by myself.  While I normally preferred more off-the-grid adventure travel, I recalled loving the all inclusive resort I visited in Costa Rica, so when my travel agent suggested Panama, I jumped on a plane and left the cold behind.

The next week turned into a self made retreat.  I meditated and did yoga on my balcony each morning, ate platefuls of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, went for long runs along the beach, and read and wrote my heart out.  I also went on a day trip to El Valle de Anton, a small Panamanian village nestled on the site of an extinct volcano.  In the valley I visited the peaceful, rustic El “Nispero” zoo, home to an impressive biodiversity of species and a beautiful collection of birds.  I also hiked through the local rainforest to the Chorro del Macho volcanic waterfalls and relaxed in the natural hot springs.

However, I was really looking forward to the second excursion  – a partial transit of the Panama Canal.  I spent the day drifting along the canal and experienced crossing through two one hundred year lock systems: Miraflores and Pedro Miguel.  The Panama Port operation was quite impressive and it was pretty amazing to see how quickly the chambers filled.  To learn that over 25,000 workers died during the canal’s construction was pretty shocking, and to me the canal felt more of a cold, industrial traverse than a wonder of the world.  This inspired me to play around with the contrast and saturation in the photos I captured, attempting to bring out some of the darkness and sickness that plagued the canal’s history.

Panama was a fascinating place to visit.  My soul healed in the beauty of its rainforests, and I loved learning about the unique history of the country.  Driving through Panama City on the way back to the airport, the twisting sky scrapers loomed over me. The Dubai-like architecture reminder that even though this city is very much in the international spotlight, I will always remember the quieter moments that I shared with this country on my little wooden perch on the beach.

Oscar Party Food 2014

Oscar night is here and I’m about to start my afternoon cooking marathon in prep for the big night.  Solid nominations this year and great inspiration for some awesome Oscar party dishes!

What will you be making tonight?

OSCAR MENU 2014:

American Hustle – mini caesars inspired by the spicy clam conversation, and did you know? The Bloody Mary was invented in NYC!

Captain Phillips – chicken samosas or “sambuusas” as they’re called in Somalia – with mango chutney

Dallas Buyers Club – 7 layer Tex-Mex dip with blue corn chips

Gravity – astronaut ice cream

Her – heart shaped English muffin cheese pizzas inspired by the pizza Theodore has on his first date with Samantha

Nebraska – beer nut flavoured popcorn balls – did you know Nebraska is one of the top producers of popcorn in the country?

Philomena – Guinness braised onion and aged white cheddar quiche – inspired by the scene at breakfast when Philomena learns about her son

12 Years a Slave – PC Cotton Candy ice cream inspired by the important of cotton picking throughout the film

The Wolf of Wall Street - chocolate coins with icing “cocaine” sugar.  Crap movie, crap food.

And the rules of the night are as follows:

  1. Shot if you lose a category
  2. Shot if someone hears you ask who won
  3. Everyone has a shot if the person on stage either thanks god, says “I never expected this” or “I’m running out of time”
  4. Bonus: everyone takes a shot if we see Rob Ford in the audience

The specialty shots of the night:

Frozen blue jello shooters

Non alcoholic underage shooters aka “The Woody Allen”

Happy Oscar Party!  And may the odds be ever in your favour…

 

Prince Edward County

Last summer I went to visit my friends who recently moved to Wellington in Prince Edward County.  The weekend away from the smoggy city was spent enjoying fresh county food, local wine, good company and the picturesque countryside.  The county was a much needed breath of fresh air for the soul.  As much as I love city life, I can really see myself living in the country one day.  While I can embrace and take full advantage of all a busy city has to offer, I can also shed the constant stimulation and materialism and feel just as satisfied with simplicity and quiet.  I think it is a balance that will be important to be restored, but in the meantime I’m grateful to have such lovely friends as hosts.

If you’re looking for a venue to host an event in PEC please check out their space:

http://www.studiohousepec.com/

Quest For The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie: Martha’s Stewart’s Chewy Cookies

Martha Stewart's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Martha Stewart’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

The quest continues with another Martha Stewart cookie recipe, because she is the queen of baking after all.  I thought that I would like these chewy cookies the best but I think her crispy ones are still the most addictive.  I’ll let you be the judge!

Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (about 12 ounces) semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

QUEST COOKIE RATING – 8.5 – [10 = perfect — 1 = would not make again]

“If cookies be the food of love…munch on.”
-Dame Judi Dench