Thursday, July 23, 2015

Happy Summer Days!

Hello friends!  I hope you're all keeping well and enjoying these lovely summer days!  Can you believe how quickly the season is progressing?  August will be here before we know it!  I haven't posted on here for several weeks, so I thought I'd share some of the highlights of my summer with you today.  

Outdoor Picnics

Outdoor picnics really top my list of fun things to do in the summer.  A couple of weeks ago, my girls and I visited the Saturday Farmers Market in downtown Barrie.  We purchased some delicious pierogies as well as fresh artisan bread and walked over with our purchases to Heritage Park adjacent to the lake.  We chose a shady spot on the grass under a tall tree, laid out our blanket and enjoyed our yummy lunch!  

Summer Flowers

Last summer, I was driving along one of our neighbourhood roads and spotted the most beautiful zinnias growing along the edge of someone's home.  I stopped the car and went over to get a closer look, as zinnias aren't very common here. As I was admiring the flowers, the owner of the home (an older, mature man) came out to greet me.  I mentioned how beautiful I thought his zinnias were.  He was so pleased that I like them and went on to ask me if I would like a bunch of his dried zinnia seeds.  I of course said yes and thanked him profusely!  He explained how I should sow the seeds in the spring.  I did as I was told and planted them in my garden in late May.  About a week ago, the first zinnia bloomed!  And now they're all blooming!  I'm so pleased with myself! 

Baking Pies

A few weeks ago we went strawberry picking at Barrie Hill Farms.  The strawberries were so sweet and delicious, we came home with quite a haul, Most of the berries were gobbled up within a couple of days, but not before setting some aside for this strawberry pie!  It was utterly delicious served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Picking Wildflowers

On this day, I went with Annabel to a playground near our home.  She rode her bike, we sat side-by-side on the swings, talked and laughed about nothing in particular at all.  On our way back home, we stopped over at a field to pick wildflowers, something we love to do.  Annabel filled her water bottle with buttercups and was especially chuffed with herself when she found a way to secure the bottle to her bicycle for the ride home.  She's too cute!

Ice Cream

My English girlfriends will know precisely what this ice cream is called, but for those of you who don't already know, these go by the name 99 Flake or simply a 99! It's really just a regular soft serve ice cream with a piece of Cadbury Flake bar inserted in it.  This was the very first time I saw an ice cream truck owner (on this side of the pond) with this option on their menu.  Of course, I had to try it.  It was an absolute treat and needless to say, my girls and I felt very "British" while eating our 99s!  

Beach Days
Nuno, the girls, and I headed to Wasaga Beach on Sunday for some fun in the sun.  It was our first real beach day of the summer.  I adore this "selfie" Nuno took of us!

And here is a photo of me and my girls in the water.  I'm not sure if you can tell from the photo or not, but Annabel was the only one brave enough to immerse herself in the freezing cold water! Anita and I barely made it past our knees.  Ha! 

And a sweet surprise!

My dear friend Martha Ellen, over at The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen returned from her holidays in England and has been blogging all about her adventures there! She purchased the above bluebell mug in a National Trust store for a giveaway on her blog. I entered and was so surprised to learn that I had won!  Look how far this little mug has traveled - from England, back to America,  and finally to my home here in Canada.  Thank you so much, Martha Ellen!  I have already enjoyed a cup of tea in my new mug.  I dream of seeing those same bluebells in England one day, just as you did!

Wishing you a fun weekend filled with the many pleasures of summer!   xo

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Fish Pie, Oh My!

Has it really been four months since my last post?  It has! And I can hardly believe it!  Winter has come and gone, and here we are nearing the end of spring; with June now officially at our doorstep! I do hope you've been keeping well.  Spring is in full swing here, in all its glory, and I'm enjoying every minute of it!  I hope you have been, too?

I want to share with you a recipe I tested for the first time yesterday - fish pie!  I happened upon this simple, yet delicious recipe while searching for some dinner inspiration and found it on the BBC Good Food website.  I posted a picture of the finished pie on Instagram last night.  Several friends asked me for the recipe, so here it is! 

Keep in mind, that I followed the recipe for the most part, but did tweak it a little, as I often do.


800g skinless white fish fillet (I used 5 pollock fillets)
600ml whole full-fat milk (I used 400ml 2% milk, 200ml 10% cream)
1 small onion, peeled, quartered
4 cloves
2 bay leaves

4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
1 small bunch fresh parsley leaves, chopped

100g butter
50g plain flour
salt and pepper to taste
pinch fresh grated nutmeg
1 kg potatoes, peeled and evenly cubed (I used 5 large russet potatoes)
50g shredded cheddar cheese ( I used marble cheddar)


Place fish fillets in a large skillet and pour in 500ml of milk/cream. Set aside the leftover 100ml for the mashed potatoes later.

Add quartered onions, cloves and bay leaves into the skillet.  Bring the milk just to a boil.  When bubbles begin to appear, lower the heat to low and simmer for approximately 6 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Flake the fish into large chunks into a square casserole dish. Strain the milk mixture into a bowl or large measuring cup, discarding the onion, bay leaves and cloves.  Set aside the milk mixture to cool.  

Arrange the quartered egg slices evenly over the flaked fish.  Scatter the chopped parsley over top. Set aside.

For the sauce  Melt 50g of the butter (the other 50g you will use for the mashed potatoes) in a pan, stir in the flour, and cook for one minute, over medium heat, stirring all the while.  Slowly pour in a ladle of the milk mixture you previously set aside.  Continue to stir and slowly add in the remaining milk mixture.  Stir until the sauce is nice and smooth.  Return mixture to heat and bring to a boil, lower heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.  Season with salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg. Pour the sauce into the casserole over the fish.

For the mashed potatoes Boil potatoes until tender, but not falling apart. Drain water and season with salt/pepper and the remaining 100ml milk and 50g butter. Mash until fluffy.  Top the pie with the mashed potatoes, making sure to seal the edges.  Fluff the mashed potatoes with a fork and evenly sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese over top.

Place the fish pie in a preheated 375 degrees F (or 200 degrees C) oven. Be sure to lay a sheet of aluminum foil under it, just in case any of the filling leaks out.  It's better to be safe than sorry! Bake the pie for 30 minutes.  The cheese topping will be glorious.  I served the pie with a spring mix salad.  It was absolutely delicious!  This recipe is definitely a keeper.  We all loved it and I'm already looking forward to the next time I make it!  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Step-by-Step Homemade MMMMMadeleines!

What are madeleines?  Not everyone knows what they are exactly.  Are they cakes or cookies?  Well, these shell-shaped confections are actually traditional French cakes.  You can find them for sale in bakeries all over France.  Here, they are not so easy to come by.  To be honest, the only place I have seen them for sale is at Starbucks, in sealed packages of three.  I've tried them; they're good, but  nothing can ever compare to the taste of fresh home-baked madeleines!

Last week I baked up a batch of madeleines and today I am sharing the recipe here!  You won't believe how easy they are to make; even the most inexperienced baker won't find it too daunting. I've adapted this recipe from David Lebovitz, a world-renowned American pastry chef and author, currently residing in Paris.  You can find the recipe for his glazed lemon madeleines in his wonderful book, The Sweet Life in Paris!


makes 24 individual cakes


9 tablespoons(135g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus more melted butter for preparing the molds
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (130g) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
11/4 cups(175g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
grated zest of one small lemon 


First you will need to find yourself a 12 cavity madeleine pan. I bought my Wilton pan a few years ago; I can't remember where.  I do know that Amazon carries a wide variety of them at very reasonable prices.


Dip a pastry brush in melted butter and brush the cavities of the mold very thoroughly.  Add a small amount of flour to each cavity and shake around until the entire pan is dusted.  Tap off the excess flour.

Important: Place the madeleine pan in your freezer for at least one hour before baking!

STEP 2  

In a mixer bowl, blend the eggs, sugar, and salt at medium speed for approximately 5 minutes. 


Sift flour and baking powder into a medium bowl.  Using a spatula, gently fold the sifted mixture into the batter, little by little, just until combined.


Add the lemon zest to the cooled butter.  Fold the butter into the batter, a couple tablespoons at a time, just until incorporated. You do not want to overwork the batter!


Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or a maximum of twelve hours.

*For best results, freeze the prepared madeleine pan for one hour and refrigerate the batter for one hour, as well.

STEP 6  

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.


Plop 1 tablespoon of batter into the center of each cavity.
The batter will be thick and sticky.  
DO NOT spread the dough!  It should spread out evenly as it bakes.


Place pan in preheated oven on center rack, Bake for approximately 10 minutes.

Mine were done in exactly ten minutes, but every oven differs, so keep an eye on them.  If you touch the top of a madeleine with your finger and it springs back, then they're done!


Remove the madeleines from the pan and allow them to cool on a rack.


Sprinkle them with powdered sugar and try eating just one.  I'll bet you won't be able to manage it!

These are just divine accompanied with a cup of coffee or tea...even a tall glass of milk. MMMM!

I'm curious.  How many of you have eaten madeleines before?  Where? When?  Have you or someone you know baked madeleines at home?  Please share your thoughts. Don't be shy.  Stop in and say hello!  I love to read your comments!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Apron Collection

Hello friends! Happy Tuesday!  Brrr!  It's so cold here in Barrie today! It's currently -15 degrees Celsius or 5 degrees Fahrenheit!  You wouldn't know it by looking out the window, though.  The sky is a cloudless blue, the sun is shining bright,  and the snow on the ground is sparkling!  I am happy to enjoy the view from inside today.

 Did you know that I have a thing for aprons?  Not only do I collect aprons,  I also love to wear them.  I have acquired quite a collection over the years. If you happen to knock at my door in the evening, chances are, you will find me wearing an apron whilst preparing dinner.

An apron always hangs on this hook on the side of my kitchen hutch. The one pictured here with the Eiffel tower print is the latest addition to my collection.  It 's a birthday gift from a dear friend who apparently knows me very well! 

I thought it would be fun to show you a few of my favourite aprons in my collection.

This is a waist apron (or half apron) from Laura Ashley.  I love the floral print and soft blue color!

The one on the left is a Jessie Steele red/white polka-dot bib apron.  The half-apron on the right was a thoughtful gift from a friend who visited  Disney Land Park in California and knew how much I would appreciate it!

I love the darling ruffle detail and the Minnie Mouse applique on the front pocket! 

This pretty Cath Kidston half apron came all the way across the pond!

This apron holds a special place in my heart.  It was handmade by one of my friends! Isn't it beautiful?

Look at the detail of the pocket here!  So much work and love went into the making of this apron.  That is why I treasure it so!

Last but not least, is this vintage little half apron.  I love how dainty it looks.  My mother bought this one for me a couple of years ago on one of our thrift shop outings together.  

Although I adore the delightful half aprons, I don't wear them nearly as much.  When I cook, I like to cover up, so I always reach for a bib apron, as it offers more coverage!

Here's a sweet apron poem I found online...

Mother's Apron

It hangs there on the kitchen wall, 
A tattered apron, that is all,
But there is something I recall, 
The love when Mother wore it.

From early morn 'till setting sun, 
Her work, it seems, was never done,
Us children kept her on the run, 
That apron, I adore it.

It tells of when I tried to flee,
When chased by angry bumble bees, 
And then my Mother rescued me, 
And in the process tore it.

It tells of when I stayed home ill, 
With burning fever, then a chill,
And on her apron, tonic spilled, 
Because I tried to pour it.

My mother had no fancy clothes,
With satin ribbons, lace or bows, 
But in that apron love she showed, 
And we could not ignore it.

And now it hangs upon the wall, 
What looked so large, appears so small, 
A mem'ry since I learned to crawl,
I know now why she wore it.
by David Ronald Bruce Pekrul

Do any of you collect aprons, too?  Do you wear an apron when you cook?  Or do you wear one all the time?  Maybe you don't like aprons at all!  I'd love to know.  Leave me your comments below!  

Keep cozy and enjoy the rest of your week! xo

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Happy January, Happy New Year!

Hello friends!  It feels good to be back after several weeks since my last post.   Let me begin by wishing you a very happy new year!  I do hope 2015 is off to a great start for all of you!

I want to say a big thank you to my blog friends and followers who come to visit every once in a while,  read my posts, and take the time to leave a comment.  Your comments make me smile!  They let me know that yes indeed, there are people out there who enjoy reading what I post!  So, again, thank you for your friendship and support this past year.  I hope to see a lot more of you in 2015. My world is a happier place with you in it! 

Are you curious as to what I have been up to these past few weeks?   Well, let me show you! 

December is a very busy month for our family.  Both my husband and I celebrate our birthdays in December, and of course there's Christmas, and the holidays!  Those two precious weeks of Christmas holidays are my favourite time of the year.  My husband tries to schedule the same time off  work as our girls have from school, so that we are all home together for Christmas break.  Lucky for us, it worked out perfectly this year! 

My darling husband, Nuno, celebrated his birthday on the 14th of December!  I baked him his favourite cake, Victoria Sponge (filled with homemade buttercream and raspberry jam) and decorated it with vintage cake toppers - evergreen trees, chopped wood and an axe, He recently taken on a new hobby - collecting and restoring old axes - so it was the perfect theme for his cake!

These are some of the presents waiting to be open on Christmas day.  Isn't the tree skirt beautiful?  I especially love the ruffled edge!  I had been searching for a red/white gingham tree skirt but to no avail.  One of my dear friends found one and mailed it all the way from the USA to my door!  How lucky am I?

And this is what Christmas morning looked like at our house!  These were the first gifts my girls wanted to open - their gifts to each other.  Annabel bought Peter Pan for her sister with her savings (Anita LOVES Peter Pan) and Anita bought her little sister this giant Mickey Mouse stuffy because "Mom, she always hugs it whenever she walks into The Disney Store!".

This is me with my husband and my girls celebrating my 38th birthday in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.  This is where I spend my birthday most years.  It's my favourite little getaway! A place that's far enough away, but close enough to home.  Niagara-on-the-Lake is a couple hours drive from where we live and has become a much anticipated birthday tradition for all of us!

This is the famous gazebo situated at Queens Royal Park, overlooking Lake Ontario.  On clear days, you can see the CN Tower and the Toronto skyline across the water! Many couples choose to perform their wedding ceremonies here.  Isn't it romantic?  This gazebo was actually built for a movie filmed in the 80s, called Dead Zone,  When the movie was finished, the gazebo was donated to the town.  Whenever I visit NOTL, I always stop here to take a picture.  

This is Queen Street and in the center is the Memorial Clock Tower/Cenotaph .  This heritage district has plenty of shops, one-of-kind boutiques, galleries, and eateries.  It's quaint, historic, romantic, and I fall more in love with it each time I visit!  I took this photo before the sun came up, around 6:30 am on a frosty morning stroll through the deserted streets. 

This is the lovely hotel where we stayed for two nights.  It's our second time staying here, and we hope to visit again soon! 

I will leave you with one last photo.   I took this shot the morning before we left for home.  As you can see, it started to snow!  Niagara-on-the-Lake always looks so magical in the snow.  The snowflakes fell fast and furious and within minutes, everything was covered in white.  I couldn't resist taking a photo at the corner of King and Queen Street where the glorious Prince of Wales hotel lies.  Isn't it a beautiful scene?  It was pure magic!

Here's wishing you a magical 2015!  May this new year fill our homes with love, peace, joy, and laughter!  Happy January, friends, and happy new year!