Monday, January 25, 2010

The Winner REVEALED!!!

Hello Everyone:

First of all, I want to thank-you for your well wishes for my little Daisy. I'm happy to report that she came out of surgery and is doing reasonably well. The surgeon said everything went according to plan and the blood work they did pre-anasthesia showed she's fit as a fiddle with no underlying health problems.

But as well as she's doing she did just have surgery. So she's in pain. And it breaks my heart to see her suffer. In fact as soon as I got her into the car she started crying. LOUDLY. I'll fully admit that I sat there holding her and balling my eyes out. Thankfully that's the only breakdown either of us have had. Needless to say I can't wait until she's back to her old puppy self! :o)

Anywho - I bet you're here to find out who won the Newman's Own Organics Giveaway! Well this afternoon I plugged in the entries into the random number generator. From there it popped back a number that corresponded with the entry belonging to "A Bike Rider in the Big Smoke!!!!!" And the winning comment? "me want goody...omnomnomnomnom." LOL That one cracked me up! So Bike Rider if you'll contact me with your addy I'll happily send the goodies your way!

Tomorrow is a long day (I'm traveling for work) and today has been draining. So I'll leave you with pictures of one of the yummiest breakies I had on my last visit to Toronto. Home-made crepes expertly prepared by my father! These were perfectly thin, filled with preserves, freshly whipped cream, and mixed fruits. In the words of Bike Rider "omnomnomnom!" :o)

PS: Aren't the pictures awesome!?!? They were taken using the awesome camera I bought the Fiance for Christmas! Almost as good as what I'd expect from a DSLR. Love it!

A Bicycle Made for Two

Hola friends!

Today my little fur baby is getting spayed. And until she gets out my mind is kind of procupied.

Mind you, I did want to blog this morning. So I'm going to leave you with a couple of pics of Daisy's favourite activities: sitting on her bed surveying the neighbourhood, napping with her friend the lamb, and cuddling under the covers.

See you in a bit with the results of the giveaway!!!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

GIVEAWAY (and a Newman's Own Organics Review)

Hola peeps!

Have I got a post for you today! :o)

An embarrassingly long time ago  A while ago I received a ridiculously generous package from Newman's Own Organics to review for the blog. And when I say ridiculously generous I mean RIDICULOUSLY! Check out the stash (oh and please excuse the ghetto iPhone pics - I was having laptop problems back then and was blogging from my phone):

Never in a million years did I expect so many items to review. Which is probably (in part) why it's taken me so long to write this post. I even enlisted my mother (in Toronto), my sister (in Montreal), my co-workers and the Fiance to help in the process.

The items for review included chocolate chip cookies (including an orange flavoured ones), Newman-O's (regular and minty), dried fruits, a variety of mints, Soy Crisps, chocolates, Hermits, Fig Newmans, and Ginger-O's.

First the background - Newman's Own Organics is the second generation of Newman's Own. In fact, it was started in late 2001 by Paul Newman's daughter. The principles behind Newman's Own Organics "Great Tasting Food that Happens to be Organic." You can't argue with that.

Now I have to be perfectly honest bloggies and confess that I didn't love all the products. Sure there were some I LOVED (!!!!) but there were others that I thought were yucky. Overall, however, I was still impressed with the line. It uses whole ingredients, is organic, and a much better option than your average supermarket brand.

First up were the chocolates - which the Fiance, my mom, and my sister helped to sample.

I have to give Newman's Own Organics kudos for the vast selection of chocolates. We're talking mocha, orange infused, milk, dark, and even super dark bars! I was excited to try the chocolates and was suitably impressed with the fact that all the chocolates were Rainforest Alliance Certified, and thus sustainably farmed.

Unfortunately, none of us were very impressed with the taste of the chocolate. In fact I would almost dare to say that they were lacking in a perceivable chocolate flavour. Rather, I found them to be overwhelmingly waxy. Sorry - but I have to be honest. :o(

Next up were the pretzels: Stars of the show - by far! LOVED them!!!!!

I love pretzels but more often than not they aren't so good for you, not dense enough, too high in salt (in fact I crumble all the salt off of pretzels before I eat them), and missing a certain je ne sais quoi! lol These pretzels were basically the pretzels of my dreams.

The ingredient list was fairly impressive.

The nutritional information not too scary.

And the serving sizes surprisingly generous and filling (must be the high protein count).

Basically I can't wait until my next cross-border trip (unfortunately these products are not available in Canada) to stock up on these babies!

And my favourite? The Spelt Pretzels. Perfect texture and taste. But the same can be said for all the Newman's Own Organics pretzels. I highly recommend all of these babies!!!

Next up: Soy Crisps

Sure, like the other products the ingredients list and nutritional info was good. But the taste . . . please don't hate me Newman's Own Organics peeps but I didn't like them. At all. I found the taste to be powdery and artifical. In fact I ate one and quickly drank some water to get rid of the taste. It didn't work. So I possed one of the mints instead . . .

Next up: The Mints. No pictures of these babies (you'll have to look at the Giveaway section for those) but needless to say they were very good. Super cute packaging and organic to boot. WIN.

Next up: The Cookies. I'm kind of low on pictures of cookies. Mostly because they were inhaled (!) by the Fiance before I got to take many but also because I had to replace my iPhone mid-review and lost some pics.

Nonetheless, the Fiance raved about the Hermits, the Fig Newtons, Ginger-O's, and the Mint Newman-O's. But seemed considerably less convinced by the chocolate chip cookies and the regular Newman-O's. My co-workers sampled both the regular chocolate chip cookies and the orange infused chocolate chip cookies and she liked neither. She described the texture as powdery and the flavour generally lacking. I tend to agree.

My Overall view on Newman's Own Organics products would be that their heart is in the right place. They give a ton of money to charity (like Father, like Daughter) and make ethically produced goodies. Unfortunately, their products are of varying degrees of yuminess. I most highly recommend their mints, pretzels, and most of their cookies. But I can't say the same thing for the Soy Crisps or their chocolates.


But enough of me talking - taste is after all subjective. Which is why I saved some Newman's Own Organic products for you to try!!!

That's right - it's GIVEAWAY TIME!!! :o)

That's right, you could win this selection of Newmans' Own Organics products. And here's how to enter:

1) For one entry, comment on this post

2) For another entry, link back to this post and comment again leaving a link to your post

It's that EASY! :o) The giveaway is open to both U.S. and Canadian residents and closes Monday, January 25th at 8AM Pacific Standard Time.

Now get commenting!!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Blogger Aid - the Haiti Edition

Like most of you, I've spent the last couple of days completely overwhelmed and saddened by the utter devastation in Haiti. It truly breaks my heart to see the sheer scale of human suffering.

In the spirit of giving some absolutley wonderful bloggers have kicked off various fundraising campaigns. These run the gamut from money for comment campaigns to blogger bake sales. I'm a blogger and I love to bake so that's how I will be participating!

The Blogger Bake Sale for Haiti, hosted by the wonderful The Chic Life, will take place on January 27th, 2010. Because it's online you don't have to be local to buy the goodies. Please head on over to The Chic Life to find out more deets. Please note I'll be baking some uber-delicious whole wheat banana carob cookies. Yummers! I swear!

I hope you'll consider baking or buying! If you're looking for other ways to donate please make sure you give to reputable agencies. Organizations such as UNICEF, MSF, World Vision, Samaritan's Purse, The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, and Yele Haiti are all fantastic options!

Don't have time to write a check or fill out a donation form? No worries!!! In Canada you can text HAITI to 45678 to donate $5 to the Salvation Army. In the United States you can text YELE to 501501 to donate $5 to Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti foundation. Fundraising goes high-tech! I love it!

Please keep the people of Haiti in your prayers (or heaven-ward happy thoughts - as the case may be). They need them so!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And then it all went Topsy Turvy

Hola peeps:

This time last week I was somewhat impatiently waiting for the Fiance to get back from a trip near the border. I say impatiently because I knew he was bringing with him my gift from the Blogger Secret Santa exchange. Around the time I expected him to be home I got a call:

Fiance:  Hi. I'm calling to let you know that I rolled my truck.
Me:       No you didn't!
Fiance:  Yes, I did.
Me:       SHUT UP! No you didn't!

Eventually he was able to convince me of the fact that he had in fact been in an accident. Turns out it was less of a roll over and more of a flip (as if that makes it any better). Thankfullly (gracias baby Jesus) the Fiance emerged with nothing but a few bruises and one tiny little cut on his finger. His truck on the other hand wasn't as lucky.

Lesson of the day #1: Watch out for black ice on crazy mountain roads!

Lesson of the day #2: Always wear your seat belt - you see when the truck finally came to a stop the Fiance was left literally dangling by his seat belt. He then had to free himself, kick his door open (the truck was resting on the passenger side) and pull himself out like you would from a submarine.

Lesson of the day #3: Carry a flashlight in your truck. That way you can crawl around gathering your Fiance's Blogger Secret Santa present which has spilled in the ditch.

Which is basically my way of saying thank-you to my Secret Santa - Caroline of the Broccoli Hut. It's also my way of telling you that I don't have any pictures of my goodies as they weren't exactly blog-worthy after the accident. Nonetheless, Chickpea did send me some awesome Kashi cereals, Odwalla bars, trail mix (peanut free!), and a lovely magazine. I was especially thrilled since you can't find these Kashi cereals or the Odwalla bars in Canada.

Muchisimas gracias Chickpea! :o)

The Yummy Factors - High Altitude Eats

But enough about unfortunate accidents - let's move on to some gratuitous food pics!

My parents were extremely generous this Christmas! One of the presents they gave me and the Fiance was a gift certificate to dine at the 360 Restaurant at the top of the CN tower. It's kind of a fancy pants restaurant that serves delicious gourmet food. As an added bonus it also rotates once every hour. Meaning you get ridonculous views of the city - perfect for a first timer like the Fiance!

We chose to go up during our last week in Toronto. To get up the tower you first have to go through some very serious looking security. The technology at the CN Tower is better than any I've seen at any airport - they even make you step through a machine that blows air at you and detects explosive particles. Once successfully past that point you get into a glass elevator. That's right. Glass. Glass on the bottom and glass on the sides. You then make the climb up to the observation deck (the elevator ride lasts approximately one minute).

Since we were early for our dinner reservations the Fiance and I hung around checking out the city sights and enjoying the most spectacular Toronto sunset!!!

Just as the city was beginning to descend into darkness, we headed upstairs to the restaurant. I've been to the 360 many times before and it always looks different. For a while there it had a very classic decor, then they changed it up and went ultra modern. This time I think they've finally settled on a decor combination that doesn't take away from the spectacular views!

After spending some time looking through the menu we decided to go for the prix fixe (set menu). I chose the spicy shrimp as an amuse bouche, a charcuterie platter as my appetizer, a steak as my main meal, and a sour cherry and apple crumble for dessert. The Fiance ordered similar starters but instead chose a pork tenderloin as his main and a bread pudding for dessert.



Everything was absolutely delicious!!!! But BY FAR the star of the evening was the charcuterie platter. It included cured meats, pickles, caramelized apples, blue cheese, mustard, and bread sticks. It was seriously spectacular! Next time I think I'd go back, skip the prix fixe, order the charcuterie platter, maybe a side salad and then a dessert.

All in all it was a fantastic evening with wonderful company. :o) And it was all thanks to the generosity of my parents - I really am grateful to my mom and dad. You see, living in the sticks you don't get to experience fine dining very often. So this was a real treat! Not to mention it also helped us celebrate our engagement in a proper way - even if it was many months after the fact.

Gracias mom and dad! :o)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cheers to you my Dears!

Hola amigos! :o)

Tonight I was thrilled to discover that the wonderful Mara of "What's For Dinner?" awarded me the Beautiful Blogger Award:

I admittedly felt all warm and fuzzy when I received this award! Thank-you Mara!!!

As a recipient of the award I have to name 7 things that my readers may not know about me and then pass it on to 7 other bloggers. Here's my list of 7 things I'm sure you've been dying to know about yours truly! lol :o)

1) Technically I speak French fluently (I've lived and studied in Paris - twice). Unfortunately I live in a part of Canada where no one speaks French. Once in a while this will lead to me freaking out about having forgotten everything. Then I'll have a dream. Completely in French. And all will be right with the world again.

2) This blog has helped me reconnect with a childhood friend. Some 20 years later and it's probably only now that I realize how much we really have in common.

3) Although I pretend I'm not, I'm a sentimental and romantic sap at my very core. In fact I love the feel of an old book with slightly weathered pages, the unexpected surprise of a letter from a far-away friend, and cuddles. Lots and lots of cuddles.

4) When I was in my late teens and early 20s "City Dance" by Renoir was my favourite painting. I loved the detail that went into the skirt. I used to think I could almost hear the subtle rustling of the crinoline.

5) While I still love "City Dance" I would have to add something by Van Gogh to my list of faves. The paint in a Van Gogh work lies on the canvass in clumps. Frenzied. Manic. Emotional. Riveting. Clumps.

6) In my lifetime I want to travel and experience as many places as possible. "I want to know that the world is round. Not just believe it."

7) I believe in miracles. Small and large. Whether in grand Biblical events or the kindness of strangers.

In all honesty I wish I could give the award to everyone who reads this blog. I can't emphasize to what extent all of you constitute my support system. I'm grateful that you choose to follow along with this journey that is my life. Thank-you friends!

Now since I have to choose 7 bloggies, I choose the following:

My sister - Cookbook Fixation
CarolynM - Esprit d'escalier
Andrea - Off her Cork
Sarah - Run Sarah

See you in the morning amigos!!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ch Ch Ch Changes! And Some Street-Eats Too!

Hola Peeps!!!

I have to start off by letting each and every one of you know how grateful I am for all of your comments on the wedding dress of choice!!!! Let's face it - as much as the dress is all about what I want it's also about looking ridonculously good! It's pretty safe to say that every bride wants her groom to be speechless (not to mention moved to man tears) and every guest at the wedding to think she's the epitomy of the picture perfect bride. You guys made me feel like I might have a chance at achieving both those things. And for that:


Ch Ch Ch Changes

Since I was travelling in and around New Year's I didn't get a chance to write a proper resolutions post. Although I'm pretty happy with my life, there's always room for improvement.

Cue the resolutions:

1) Get back into tip-top shape - in time for my November wedding!

2) Take better care of my skin - I'm turning 30 this year and I know the face I inherit in my 40s and 50s will be the one I take care of now!

3) Make new friends - I'll admit I don't really have friends in the small city where I live. It's led to some lonely time especially pre-Daisy. I'd very much like a Rocky Mountain posse!

4) Pray more - I talk to God but I think He'd like to hear from me more. And heaven nows I need His help! :o)

5) Eat a more balanced diet - I eat pretty healthfully but I've yet to figure out the optimum diet for me. Last year I went pescatarian for half the year. I quite enjoyed the change but a visit to the Doctor revealed my body wasn't quite as gung-ho. There's still some tweaking I need to do!

6) Work less but Relax and Play more - this is an order from my Doctor. And he's right. My career as a criminal lawyer is more often than not seriously stressful. During crazy times (like this week for instance) I'll eat in a hurry, work long hours, and only want to hit the sack by the time I get home. Somehow I have to figure out a work-life balance that leaves me energized and renewed each morning.

Whew! That's a lot stuff but I think I can do it!

So far I've made a lot of changes this first week of January on every front:

1) I hit up the gym several times and got some interval runs in (great for when you want a high calorie burn and you only have a short amount of time). I've also practiced yoga several times. After scoping out the local gyms I've finally chosen one and today I will go sign up for my membership.

2) I've started drinking copious amounts of water from the pink Nalgene bottle the Fiance got me for Christmas. I've also begun a daily skin care regimen. I'll have to feature that on the blog soon!

3) I invited someone over for a very successful girl's night featuring healthy eats and SATC the movie. I'm hopeful I'll also meet new people at the gym and at Daisy's puppy kindergarten classes.

4) I've been spending a lot of time praying this week. And not only when I want something. :o)

5) I've begun taking vitamins like it's my full time job. Also, I've reverted back to eating non-pescatarian options as well. On the whole however I have been sticking to mostly a pescatarian diet with well-balanced choices at every meal.

6) This one is all about balance! Exercising has helped a great deal towards feeling de-stressed. Those lunch time runs help a bundle! I've also been careful to leave work at work and not bring those frustrations/stresses/anxieties home with me. As an added bonus I've started hitting the sack way early (old lady style). Getting eight hours of sleep a night has been nothing short of fantastic!!!! :o)

How about you bloggies - what changes have you made in 2010? Do you make resolutions?

The Yummy Factor - Handheld Market Eats

Whew! That was a lot of talking and no pictures! I say we finish off this post with yummy food pics! :o)

While in Toronto over Christmas, I made a point of introducing the Fiance to Kensington Market. Adjacent to one of Toronto's China Towns it's a market area featuring mostly Latin American/Caribbean and Portuguese eats. If you're looking for fancy pants high-end eats in Kensington, you're in the wrong place. However, if you're open to wonderful humble market eats well then Kensington is just perfect!!! :o)

During our visit we went with the intention of sharing a variety of small dishes. In the end, it was a visit featuring handheld market eats:

Eat #1: Jamaican Patty! These are street food at its very best. They're not healthy at all but they are pretty yummy! Essentially they consist of a beef paste inside a yellow flaky pastry. You can also get variations such as chicken, goat, or vegetarian eats.

Eat #2: The Noble Pupusa! lol :oP This is the National dish of El Salvador ( the country of my birth). Essentially it's a pan-grilled stuffed corn tortilla served with curtido (a sauerkraut type dish) and salsa. The fillings include cheese, a bean paste, or a refried pork base. If you mix more than one of the fillings it's called a "pupusa revuelta!" Yum!

Eat #3: Chilean Empanada! These are delicious. The pastry on a Chilean empanada is made of a slightly chewy bread-like dough. The filling is most often beef but can also include chicken. These empanadas have a hint of Moroccan type flavour in that they mix their savoury with the sweet, by way of raisins.

The Fiance comes from a city without an abundance of ethnic eats so he was suitably impressed! Full belly = Happy boy! :o)

Have you eaten any of these street eats? What do you think of them? What's your favourite street eat?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Chosen One - the wedding gown edition

WARNING:  If you know me and will be attending the wedding please do NOT read this post! It will contain spoilers as to the wedding dress I chose. I much prefer that you be surprised and awestruck in November than now!


Whew! Now that I've taken care of that . . . Happy New Years peeps!!!! I hope you had a wonderful time ringing in 2010 with those near and dear to you! I spent New Year's Eve with the Fiance, Daisy, and my family in Toronto. It was our last night in the city which made the moment all the more melancholic. I was admittedly sad at the airport but I've decided instead to be happy for the moments I shared with those I love, in the city I love. Besides, I accomplished so much in Toronto, including finally choosing a wedding dress!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When last we left off there were four contenders - Rasia, Ronda, and Hebron by Pronovias and Diana by Enzoani. I spent a good chunk of time considering my options and decided that Hebron would not be "the one." She just wasn't flattering on my body - I loved the bling but the flare started too low for my body type.

That left me with Rasia, Ronda, and Diana. On this visit I tried all of them on again (and possibly again after that :oP).

Once in Toronto I quickly eliminated Diana. She had some lovely details but I was concerned that her top was way too wide for me and not very flattering. Given that it was way too wide on a dress that was two or three sizes too small I knew that it wouldn't get any better.

After trying on way too many dresses during four (!) visits to bridal salons I narrowed it down to five finalists. It came down to two girls you've already met and three new contenders.

Rasia by Pronovias: Where let's face it "It's all about the back!" She was my mom's early favourite. I loved the tiered lace in the back but wasn't crazy about the inverted V fit in the front. Nonetheless it appeared that I'd lost some weight since September and she fit me much better. Her new flattering approach kept her in the running!


Ronda by Pronovias. She was the first dress I tried on where I couldn't stop staring at myself. I loved her delicate lace. I loved how she fit my curves in a totally flattering way. But I didn't love the sheer fabric that formed the straps. It came in too far and detracted attention from my face. But that could be fixed. Funny thing is she would have looked better strapless. I also wanted to make sure that she stayed tight to my body (I saw a picture of a bride in her Ronda and it was lose - which I didn't love). Turned out it would cost $800 in alterations to add more structure and make her strapless. Eeek. But still. She was so lovely.

Meet Hebra by Pronovias! She's fun, she's young, she's flirty, she's fashionable. And she made me feel awesome. Threw you for a loop didn't I!?!? She was very different but I loved her. Truth is I looked awesome in Hebra! She fit just right. Aside from sweet hearting the neckline there was nothing I would change. But was she right for a wedding or more for a party? I wasn't sure right away.

Behold the gorgeousness that is Medina by Pronovias. I have no qualms in telling you that Medina stole my heart. But not before she made it skip a beat. She was exquisite! Luscious really!!! And I looked amazing in this dress. She fit like a glove. When I tried this dress on with a matching ivory veil I got teary eyed. It was the first time I felt like a bride. But she was heavy. We're talking 25lbs of heavy!!!! Tulle, canvas lining, fitted satin heavy. I was still determined to wear her but was it the best idea for Mexico? Everyone including the sales lady said no - emphatically no. But I wasn't listening - then on my third visit I tried her on after having already spent four hours trying on dresses. Cue the dizziness. The room started to move and I held on to the mirror for support. It didn't help. I was growing faint and I had to step off the stand I was on and get her off ASAP. She was gorgeous but was she worth it? I would have to spend twelve hours in my wedding dress! They told me that they could lighten the lining a little. She would still be heavy. But my God I felt like a bride in the gown . . .


And this is Malibu from the 2010 Pronovias collection. She was literally the last dress I tried on! In fact she arrived in between my third and fourth visits. And wow did she throw me for a loop! She was fitted with more structure than Ronda. I tried on a dress three sizes too small (!) but she was built in such a way that she would still be tight in all the right spots even in my size. She was tulle with lace detailing (the pictures don't do her justice). She was light and yet elegantly dramatic. Plus she was classic. A vision in white. The Spanish bride of my dreams. After straying into satin and party-like dresses could she be the one? Was this the dress I wanted to live on in pictures and cinematography forever!?

So those were my choices. A handful of really gorgeous girls. REALLY gorgeous. The first one to be eliminated was Hebra - I loved her but I feared she would look dated in no time at all. I could picture my children looking at pictures going "WHAT was mom thinking?!?!" lol  Not cool!

The second to go was Rasia. I loved her back but wasn't crazy about her front. I needed to love every part of my dress. I guess we just weren't meant to be.

Then there was Ronda. My first dress love. She would require way too many alterations to get her to fit the way I wanted! And even those alterations were a risk not to mention pricey ($800!). Surely there had to be a dress out there that fit me the way I wanted it to without the need for major reconstruction. It wouldn't be Ronda.

It came down to Medina and Malibu. So different and yet they both captured my imagination in different ways. In the end the choice was clear. I went back for my last visit and didn't want to take this dress off - I spent an hour in the gown and could have stayed in it even longer. Le sigh. My dress.

She made me feel bridal in a way that I had always hoped. She was perfect - I knew she was. And with the right veil . . . it was just too much for me to bear! In fact I get giddy just thinking about her.

What's that?! Which one did I choose:

Isn't she gorgeous!?!?! Yaaaaayyy!!!!! So excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :o)

I'm sure you'll understand when I say that's the only picture I will post of me in the dress until after the wedding. I want the ultimate reveal to be a surprise. Yes it will be hard to keep it from you but I'm hoping it will be worth the wait.

Colour me happy. Very happy.