Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What We Did this Canadian Thanksgiving

Tomorrow, our American friends and family will celebrate American Thanksgiving. I thought it might be fitting to share a little about how we spent our Canadian Thanksgiving this year (which actually included time with American friends!)

Dinner was the usual spectacular fare that's offered up at the parents of Mister Man (AKA Bob 'n Mer). Most of the Mister Man clan were on hand to enjoy the turkey and fixin's and the laughter that always manages to fill the room on such auspicious occasions. And when the last dish had been washed and put away, we sat down with a cup of tea and watched our niece, Andie, work her magic with some beads. You see, Lisa had a hankerin' for some new baubles, so right in front of our very eyes, she commissioned Andie to make her a necklace.

The concentration on Andie's face was intense.

It was matched only by the expression of sheer joy on Lisa's face.

Somehow, in all the excitement, I forgot to take a photo of Lisa WEARING her new work of art, but I DID manage to snag a photo of the work in progress, moments before it was finished.

It continues to bring joy to Lisa. I know this for a fact, as I saw her wearing it just days ago! If you are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, may joy surround you...... (like a necklace made with love by a fabulous niece).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Think This Photo Says it All

Ever in search of great spots for noshing and hosting our bestest out of town visitors, we were excited to try Main Street's latest acquisition "Lucy's Eastside Diner". Open 24 hours, this holds great promise for late night snacks and weekend brunches. We went for dinner. Mister Man swears by the sliders (little mini burger nuggets topped off with chevre). I had the meatloaf, which was tasty (though the taters were of the reconstituted variety - so next time, I'd have the loaf with some fries.)

The other thing you might notice in this image is the beyond-awesome fish eye lens with which this photo was taken. The lens was a gift from Mister Man. It's actually "son of Lens Baby", (AKA the Lens Baby Scout.). It's a fabulous lens. FABULOUS. It even comes with a sense of humour: when you take the Lens Baby out of the box, there's a note that says "Mama?"

Okay. I will confess. Last weekend, Mister Man and I were have a late afternoon round of cozy cribbage, over a bottle of wine and much laughter. He said "hey, do you want your Christmas present now?" I think you can figure out what happened next. I LOVE my Christmas present. The Lens Baby line of camera accessories bring me great joy. Stay tuned for more fantastic photos.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Festive Dinner Came Early for our Clan This Year

Okay. So maybe we DID have a bit of a "faux Christmas" lunch a few weeks back. Now, before you get all high-up on your horsey and call us barbaric and out of control, let me 'splain.

1. Bob 'n Mer were getting ready to fly south in true Canadian snowbird style.
2. Brother Paully (okay - he is not a man of the cloth - he is actually my brother), and sis-in-law Michele were in town. *note of pride here* My baby brother has published a book on the Census of Marine Life and has been jet setting here and there as part of the book launch. And of COURSE he had to stop on the West Coast of our fair country!

These 2 singular events were the reason for our festive family gathering. And here's what happened. We had a "festive lunch". While Santa wasn't present, we managed to have a lovely nosh.

Later that night, we surprised Paul and Michele with a trip to Stanley Park, where we took a ride on the ghost train. This year's theme was Alice in Nightmareland. In the lineup, I marveled at the illusion created by the flourish of light above this patron's head. It looks like a set of other worldly "deely bobbers".

There were some interesting characters in line with us.

We knew we were in for adventure when the train blasted into the station.

Sure enough.....

But the highlight of the evening came when we tried to discern who made the best Alice. What do you say? Door number 1?

Door number two?

Or Door number three?

I'll take "brunch the next day" for 100 points, Alex! Kate and Collin and their lovely family had us over for brunch. I love this photo of my brother.....

Kate and Paul and I grew up together, and now we found that, decades later, we were no longer the kids around the table. Life is funny like that.

At the end of the day, we all admired the lovely art installation that was laid out on the front lawn.

Deck the halls!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Stave Lake with Our American Friends

About a month ago, Paul and Lisa came up from Seattle for the weekend. As you know, a visit from our American pals always spells adventure. We headed out to Stave Lake to visit the decommissioned dam. Mister Man and I love this place. It's just one photo op after another.

Not to mention there are lots of hands-on displays to help explain how hydro electric power is generated. (though this TECHNICALLY isn't one of the OFFICIAL hands-on displays.... You may recall that I had a traumatic run in with one of these things some years ago and I might still be a tad scarred....) But clearly Lisa is braver than me, because she went for the re-enactment faster than you can say "Bob's yer uncle".

In any event, Mister Man, Paul, Lisa, Poot and I had a blast poking around.

And with these kinds of vistas, who could complain?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake (Happy Birthday Tamara!)

Whenever I make a new cake, Mister Man loudly exclaims "this is your best cake EVER". Well, this time, I think he might have actually been right!

It was Tamara's birthday, and as always, we were heading to her place for a pot luck. We had appies thanks to Kari and Jan. (Oh, I should mention that the FIRST thing we do when we arrive at Tamara's place is to change into our pj's. Life is better when you're wearing pajamas.)

And Tamara, bless her socks, had quizzes. And we all know that quizzes lead to prizes!

I love this photo of Jan. She is taking one of the quizzes...

And I also love this photo of Tamara. She is opening presents.

After the quizzes and gifts, it was time for dinner. And dinner always leads to dessert. Andrew and Tamara were doing salmon on the grill, and they also did a really tasty potato dish from the Rebar Cookbook (I really do have to pick up a copy of this book for our home because there are some fabulous recipes in there!) Aileen was doing her world famous Caesar Salad, and I was doing birthday cake. Tamara LOVES all things orange, and being the season of orange, I thought she might enjoy a pumpkin spice cake. It just so happens that the latest issue of Fine Cooking magazine featured a recipe for Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake *insert chorus of angels singing*. It sounded delicious.

And delicious it was..... moist and slightly spicy, I would recommend this cake any day. It's worth the labour (and it is a bit labour intensive). Honestly.

Here's the recipe directly from the pages of Fine Cooking Magazine.

The Puree
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium-large pumpkin, cut in half from stem to bottom and seeded
(tinned pumpkin works too!)

The Cake
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, more for greasin' the pans
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached, all purpose flour, more for the pans
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk

The topping
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cups pecans
2 Tbsp firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp table salt
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped crystallized ginger

The Frosting (I doubled this part of the recipe, because I needed to patch a couple of divets that happened when the cakes didn't release so well)
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
8 oz cream cheese, softened at room temp
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 oz. (1 1/4 cups) confectioners' sugar

The pumpkin purée
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9x13-inch baking dish with the oil. Put the pumpkin halves in the dish cut side down and bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel the pumpkin and purée the flesh in a food processor until smooth. You’ll need 1-1/2 cups of the purée for the cake. Refrigerate or freeze any remaining purée for another use.

The cake
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans).

Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

The topping
Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and cook until the pecans brown slightly, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.

Make the frosting
(NOTE: I doubled it as I needed to patch a couple of divets that happened when the cakes didn't release brilliantly)
Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into
a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble the cake
Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nut mixture over the frosting and top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Arrange the remaining topping in a ring 1-1/2 inches in from the edge of the cake and serve.

American friends, if you're looking for a perfect Thanksgiving dessert, I think this cake might fit the bill perfectly.

P.S. Oh, and in case you're wondering, I did happen to win a prize. It was a much coveted Oprah magazine and it's still hanging proudly in our reading room! Let's face it, the odd issue of Oprah magazine makes the world a nicer place.....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The First Annual Zombie-a-thon

Ms. Annie and Mister Man enjoy a Zombie flick from time to time. So when Annie proposed a "Zombie-A-Thon", well it didn't take more than about half a second for Mister Man to start slamming his hands together like a 5 year old. One Saturday, Annie and Lara met up with Mister Man at our favourite local video store "Schlockbuster", so that they could pick out a few films to add to Ms. Annie's impressive home collection.

Throw in some lovely snacks and we were all set. Mister Man may be laughing in this tiny photo....

But I can assure you that there were many gasps and such through the course of the event.

Note the gnawing of fingers.

And even though she's pretending to be too cool for school, we all knew that she was a tad bit skeert.

I have a hunch that this will become an annual affair.... ZOMBIES BEWARE!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Montreal (Then and Now)

Greetings all people cruising around the blogosphere. While it may LOOK like I've fallen off the face of the earth, I was merely in Montreal for meetings last week and had a run in with a bad internet connection. I was staying in a drop-dead gorgeous hotel (the kind that features bath products by L'Occitaine, no less), but I didn't have wireless access in my room! How is that even possible? One could manage to get a wireless signal in the lobby, but not in any of the rooms. Who knew you could geo-block by floor? I suppose I could have written in the lobby, but I'm the kind of gal who prefers writing in her public diary wearing pj's and a tattered old shirt from some running event. That explains my radio silence.

But let me try to win you back by sharing some images of the September visit to Montreal when Mister Man and I dashed away for our 3 day honeymoon. This photo that Mister Man snapped with my iPhone pretty much sums up how I felt about it all.

First of all, we were staying in our friend Roy's very groovy and palatial pad. It was a perfect home base for us, presenting the perfect balance of practicality and luxury.

It's located in the heart of the downtown core, so we could essentially walk out our door and step into another world.

We strolled the streets and paused for libations and java and gorgeous treats.

We went to some AMAZING restaurants, and even played "uber tourist" one day, and took a carriage ride through the Old Port.

Okay, we didn't ride in the pink one. But we COULD have!

Montreal truly is a world class city.

There's history on these streets and in these buildings.

We spent some time in the Cathedral of Notre Dame and it took our breath away.

This also would have taken our breath away, had we enough courage and lack of good sense to spend the $75 beans for the privilege of being hoisted a hundred feet in the air to have lunch!

I'm not kidding you! The platform featured chairs that were mounted around a rectangular bar table. Waiters hovered around in the centre of the table serving you wine and lunch as you dangled from a piece of cable. Yeah - no....

But perhaps the thing that puzzled me most was this. All I can say is that this image has nothing to do with my experience of being hitched.....

My experience of it is more like this:

.... a loving and meaningful public declaration of partnership......