“Bad weather always looks worse through a window.”- Unknown

Last week we had a snowstorm. When I say snowstorm, what I really mean to say is that we got close to 70 cm’s of fresh, white powder in less than 24 hours. That is enough snow to fully bury a car, to close schools, to stop busses and enough to form snow banks taller than a person.

Working as a nurse, I am considered an essential service worker. This means if I am scheduled to work I am expected to make it work. Hospitals don’t close, patients continue to need care. Many times I have found myself shovelling out at 5 am and travelling to work with a shovel in the backseat and a bag of traction sand. I always seem to make it.

Last week was a different story. I was not scheduled to work and happened to have company staying from out of town. We picked up essentials in advance, planned some meals, dug out the board games and my sister trudged through the thick of the storm to join us and have a sleep-over. It was the best snow day I have ever had and luckily we didn’t lose power.

It was so fun that I decided to produce a “Snowstorm Survival Guide for Grown-ups”. Adults only because there was a lot of liquor involved….

Snowstorm Survival Guide for Grown-ups

1: Prepare in advance.

Get groceries, plan meals, have candles and batteries incase the power goes out. Our shopping list included..

  • Breakfast foods- Bagels, eggs, avocado, cheese, coffee, cream and all the fixings to make spicy gin caesars (gin is superior to vodka in my opinion- try it for yourself!). Gin, Clamato, lemons, celery salt and seasonings.
  • Snacks- storm chips, water, pop and gatorade (you know, incase you get a hang over).
  • Supper- Pizza dough or the ingredients to make it (I get mine from a pizzeria up the road for $2 a ball- can’t beat it!) as well as toppings to dress it up (we used pesto, mozzarella, onions, shaved summer sausage and fresh basil).
  • Liquor store run – besides your gin, you may also want beer, baileys, prosecco and wine (like I said this is a grown-up snow day).
  • Make sure you have cat food. They will resent you if you don’t.
  • Also note: calories and grams of carbs do not count on storm days. Look it up, that is the truth.

2: Be comfy.

Lay out your comfiest sweats so you can roll out of bed and into them while the coffee is percolating. Place winter gear on radiators so they are warm. This will make going out to shovel- which you will have to do, a tiny bit easier. No need for makeup, bathing is optional.

3: Plan activities to pass the day.

Pull out board games, plan a special cocktail recipe, have a great play-list on hand and maybe a movie or two to fall back on.

Our day went like this…

We woke up, had coffee and delicious egg sandwiches with spicy avocado and havarti on bagels. We played a game of crib and then my sister arrived and we began to make (and drink) caesars- they were delicious and went perfectly with a couple of intense games of Settlers of Catan. 

 

Next we made French 75’s- Graeme brought the fixings, all we had to do was make some simple syrup (1:1 water and sugar brought to a boil with lemon zest on the stove until sugar has dissolved – then cool). These are delicious, simple and taste even better when garnished with sugared lemon zest and served in vintage champagne glasses- we are fancy like that.  We made the cocktail in bulk, served it with a ladle and kept it chilled on the front step.  Recipe is as follows…

  • 1 pint of gin
  • 1 bottle of prosecco or champagne
  • 200 mls of fresh lemon juice (6.6 ounces)
  • 120 mls of simple syrup (4 ounces)


 

After all of the caesars and French 75’s we had some snacks- aka storm chips, and the group began to shovel out the five foot drift that had formed in the driveway. My little car was utterly buried and in the end there were six foot banks towering over the sides of the driveway- with that much snow there becomes a point where there is nowhere left to throw what you are shovelling!

Next up was wine and pizza followed by a few games of Wizard and Sequence.  It was a wonderful day and it ended with everyone going to bed full, warm and just a little buzzed.


Hopefully this can inspire your next storm day and I hope you are able to have at least half as much fun as we did!

-m

 

 

 

“Romance is the icing but love is the cake.”- Julia Child

A short few months ago one of the very sweetest people and her equally sweet Irish bloke got married. It was a wonderful celebration filled with so many special moments and just as many lovely details. The night was full of dancing, great food, memorable speeches and it ended with the beautiful bride and her handsome groom singing the night away at the pub up the street (in true Irish fashion). The weather was perfect for the outdoor ceremony and it all went off without a hitch. It was in short, an incredible day.

There was however, almost a small, teensy-tiny hitch. I was in charge of the wedding cake. She had asked me months prior to her big day and after a discussion on what exactly she was hoping for we had settled on a rustic, naked style cake. I had no idea what I was in for, never baking a cake of any real magnitude before, but I figured no matter what it would all work out in the end. After a trial run of a couple different recipes for the cake/icing and a mock up of what it would potentially look like (with help and encouragement from my dear, patient, friend Heather) a recipe and plan was settled upon.

The day before the wedding, the cakes were baked- A white almond wedding cake that was enhanced by both vanilla and almond extract-four nine inch rounds. They were wrapped in four layers of good quality plastic film and frozen (as per Deb P from Smitten Kitchens suggestion- freezing keeps it fresh AND makes a cake much, much easier to frost). Lemon curd was made, as was a lemon glaze to keep the layers moist. The next day the layers were removed from the freezer and levelled with a sharp knife. As they started to thaw I whipped up a swiss meringue butter cream (found here) and slowly assembled the cake. It went cake, glaze, buttercream, lemon curd and repeat; resulting in the tallest and most tasty sandwich I ever saw. I ensured that some butter cream was spilling over the sides and I used a large, metal icing spatula to scrape the rough frosting around the cake as the cake stand was turned by my sister- resulting in a perfectly rustic and “naked’ cake. It was beautiful and all that it needed was some fresh flowers to finish it off.

I am sure by now you are all wondering where exactly the teensy -tiny hitch comes into play? Well that occurred on route to the wedding. The cake had been in the fridge wrapped up prior to the commute. It was about 32 degrees out with not a breath of a breeze. We ended up stuck behind an accident and despite the air conditioning on high, the cake got softer and softer (thank goodness I chose a meringue based butter-cream, they hold up better and can sit out for hours with no change in consistency). Halifax my dear friends, is a very, very, hilly city. With the cake plate secured between my knees and the cake itself firmly grasped between my hands, we turned onto the biggest and steepest hill that the city has to offer and half of the cake- the part secured with my hands promptly slid, almost directly off of the other half and well off of the cake plate. It was like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I hastily slid it back into place and ran with it into the reception room. Three minutes before the wedding was to begin I was preforming life-saving surgery on the cake with just a butter knife and sheer will. It survived without full CPR and I made it to my seat just barely before Kailee started her decent down the isle.

During cocktail hour my friend Heather and I went to assess the situation and to apply the decorative flowers. The cake looked great and we celebrated with a glass (well maybe two) of Prosecco. Find incredible pictures of the cake and the beautiful couple taken by the ever talented Chelle Wooten, wedding photographer extraordinaire (find her here) below. Thanks Kailee and Pearse for letting me be part of your wonderful day!

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“Christmas: The only time of year you can sit in front of a dead tree and eat candy out of socks…”-Unknown

I am long overdue for a post, I have been a bad blogger and although I can provide you all with a tirade of excuses, let’s just chalk it up to life getting in the way….

Last week I had a very interesting conversation with a friend about holiday traditions. She had been listening to a radio program that was discussing how those traditions, no matter how small, are what shape the holiday season for so many people. When adults think back to their childhood Christmases it is very seldom that they can recall the gifts but they can quickly rhyme off the traditions their families held that make the festive season really come together for them. A comical discussion comparing our traditions quickly ensued (they were so different!) and it got me thinking about what makes the holiday come alive for me..

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In our household we always have had a slew of long standing traditions when it comes to the holiday season. Some are pretty universal, my mom made shortbread (find link to incredibly simple and well loved recipe here), we trimmed the tree, overindulged in holiday movies and we always attended Christmas Eve mass. Christmas morning was spent in our new pajamas (which my dad still gets us!), strategically passing gifts around while mom and dad drank dark coffee in long, slow gulps, trying very hard to wake up and be lively. Living away from family for the most part meant that Christmas morning was punctuated with dozens of phone calls, visits from neighbors/friends and sometimes our Christmas day even included packing up the car and making the 3 hour trip to Halifax to see the people at the other end of the telephone line. A few things have changed, mainly that my sister and I are now also enthusiastically pounding back coffee in our jammies and my career means that I spend every second Christmas with my chosen family as opposed to my biological one. I wouldn’t change a thing.

As for more unconventional or at least “less common” traditions, we have a few and they just so happen to be my favorite ones. Every Christmas Eve after mass we have always had fried ham sandwiches. Yes, they are exactly what they sound like; fried ham with some HP Sauce, served on soft white bread with a side of crisp pickles. It’s a weird one (I freely admit this) but we have just always done that (I think my mom may have grown up doing the same). You don’t have to take my word for it but very few things come even close to being that delicious and maybe it’s the tradition that makes it taste so incredible for something so simple.

One of my very favorite traditions growing up was that my mom and nanny always gave my sister and I Christmas ornaments. We were allowed to open these Christmas Eve (after the ham sandwiches, clearly) and hang them on the tree. We each had our own shoe box filled with these treasures and we were each responsible for hanging them every year. Over the years we have amassed quite a collection. When I bought my first house my mom gave me my shoe box of ornaments and now the best part of decorating for the holiday is enjoying my sentimental collection.

As for new traditions? Ornament exchanges with friends happen annually and donations are collected for local charities that help abused women and children. Food banks are visited and sweets are baked for coworkers who are busy taking care of other peoples loved ones. If I am lucky enough to make it home to the little island on boxing day, all of my lifelong friends (my other chosen family) convene at a house party and usually end up dancing the night away at The Old Dublin Pub. Last but not least, mulled apple cider is enjoyed with a healthy splash of spiced rum. It tastes and smells like Christmas, basically the holiday season served up hot in a comfortable mug (seriously, it beats the hell out of egg nog and rum!).

What are some of your traditions?

Need some last minute gifts? Be sure to check out Dots and Loops, a beautifully curated shop filled with handmade gifts and many local products. It is quirky, fun and I guarantee you will find something for even the most persnickety person on Santa’s list. For all you online shoppers, shipping is fast with a fantastic flat rate but if you prefer to shop in person, it is located seaside in picturesque Lunenburg (go for gifts stay for the view!). The customer service is incredible (seriously, I received a hand written note with my order!) and it feels great to support local business! Happy shopping!

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-m

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For What It Is Worth..

“For what it is worth: It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you are proud of, and if you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start over.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Last weekend I turned thirty. For a couple of months I have been dwelling on the fact that thirty is a pretty big double digit and a significant milestone. Seriously, it isn’t that long ago that it was a big deal to live to thirty (what with the plague and all). In my mind thirty meant I was officially an adult, not that I already wasn’t one, but come thirty you kind of have to have your shit together. It is almost an unwritten expectation. For some reason thirty, to me, was coming with strings attached. These strings included retirement investments, future planning, being kinder to myself and a fool hardy nightmare that I would wake up on the morning of my thirtieth and my face would be cracked into a million wrinkles (thanks Lesley for planting that little seed in my brain to grow when you yourself turned 30). Not even a touch logical, but for some reason I secured some anti-wrinkle cream the week before, you know, just in-case. With the big day fast approaching people were very generous to relay to me how they felt when they turned thirty and what have been the best and worst ages in their lives. Not gonna lie, mixed reviews were handed down on the big 3-0. Some people told me their thirties have been the best years of their lives, others stated they spent the year and the months leading up to it in hibernation. I swear, I was not obsessed with thirty, I was just dwelling a little more than I probably should have.

Well, the day came and went.  I had the most marvelous time and thirty has been nothing short of wonderful so far.  I spent the day with family, friends and almost all of the people I love. I was spoiled silly. I felt loved and I felt grateful. I am going to make thirty count, it is going to be my very best year yet!

In thirty years, I really do have so much to be grateful for. …

  • I have an amazingly supportive family that loves me unconditionally (and trust me, sometimes I am hard to love). A family that values honesty, generosity and education.
  • I have a wonderful network of kind and compassionate friends that help and encourage me to be a better person and my best self. My sister clearly falls into the first two categories, because really, what is better than a built in best friend that has to love you even when you are being an ass (..because she is also your sister! Ha!).
  • I have been given many wonderful opportunities over the past thirty years (I am quite certain I have even taken a few for granted).
  • I am self sufficient and I have a job that I love. A job that I feel grateful and honored to be able to do week in and week out. A job where I make a difference and am challenged every time I step through the door. How many people can say that?
  • I grew up in a safe and beautiful place. A place that shaped who I am, a place that values community, kindness and generosity over material things.
  • I have been lucky enough to travel. I have seen a small portion of the world outside of where I live and that has lead me me to value diversity, become more cultured and to also appreciate even more where I come from.
  • I am young, I am healthy and I still have my whole life ahead of me. As a nurse every week I bear witness to the sick and suffering. I also witness resilience, second chances, the wonder of modern medicine and healing. Nothing makes me value my health and well being more than this.

I am sure the list can go on and on but I think my uncle said it the best when he said  to me..
“Honey, you are dead a long time. At least we are all on the right side of the grass.”
– The always witty and honest John Ingram


Now that I have been a thirty year old for all of eight days, I thought I would share some of my expertise in the field and few things I have learned over the years.. 

  • Take opportunities when they present themselves. When a door opens it may not be there in a week, a month or a year. Maybe it is applying for a job, maybe it is going on a date and maybe it is a travel opportunity, just be sure to challenge yourself. What is the worst that is going to happen? Maybe you will be told you need more experience, maybe you will fail, or maybe it will just end up being a great story but at least you tried and put yourself out there. Now you can be a better you with those experiences, you can grow, learn what is important to you and be ready for the next door that opens. And maybe, just maybe it will be the best thing that ever happened to you. Put yourself out there, who knows what will happen.
  •  Grow and nurture friendships. As I am learning very quickly, life gets in the way. Marriages happen, children happen, work happens, life happens and important things like friends can often get put on the back burner. If a friendship has a good foundation this won’t matter. You could go a year without speaking to someone but when you finally do see them, it’s almost as if no time has passed between you. Those are the kind of friendships I am thankful for.
  • On the flip side, life is too short to spend time with people and doing things you don’t enjoy. This is a hard one, especially if you are a people pleaser like me. It is OK to say “no” sometimes and it is OK to take time for yourself.
  • Do the things you love. Love the ocean? Go to the beach! Love being creative? Take an art class. Whatever it is, do it and enjoy it (as long as it is legal, doesn’t hurt anyone etc. For the record, if you love doing heroin, I am really not suggesting you do that or endorsing it. Please refer to bullet number six if this is the case). Spend time with the people you love.
  • Care less about what people think about you. At the end of the day you only have to answer to yourself. Wear crazy lipstick, drink a little too much wine. Care a little less and enjoy yourself a little more.
  • Take the time to take care of yourself. Go for a walk, eat the salad, wear sunscreen and live a healthier life.  Preventative diseases cut lives short and put a massive tax on our health care system. Diabetes, congestive heart disease and skin cancer may not be totally avoidable but if the opportunity is there to prevent it, take it. A little time spent on your well being now could add quality years to your life. Plus, if you are my friend I guarantee you have heard me say many times  “Basal cell carcinoma is not cute, especially when it comes back the second time”. I may have even showed you a horrific picture while urging you to protect your skin. I may have even told you that you will “look like a raisin in ten years” and I may have actually gotten into an argument about sunscreen with you. This is because I love you, so love yourself too !

Happy being your best self all, sorry for the impromptu lecture, I was just on a bad-ass, thirty year old roll…
-m 

Happy nurses week !

To the nurses and health care providers that I have had the privilege to work with,
You are a remarkable group. Your adaptability, passion and empathy are exceptional. Nursing has afforded me many opportunities and as my career and knowledge continue to grow so does my admiration and respect for the people I work with.
To many families and patients you are a tour guide through the abyss of medical terminology, procedures and tests. You share in the hope and promise that comes with good news and you share in the disappointment and fear that bad news and sometimes even devastating news brings. You tour them through this uncharted territory with dignity and respect.  This safari ride has stops they never thought they would see and has taken them places they never knew existed. And as their tour guide you help them cope, you teach them adaptability and you show them compassion.
I have seen the delight you share as a new father sees his baby for the first time. I have also seen you celebrate with genuine pride when a premature baby finally meets the milestone their family has been wishing for.
I have seen you shed tears of joy when a patient finally leaves the icu after you worked so hard to make sure they had a future. And I have seen you band together and rally when things fall apart. They do fall apart and they will fall apart but you know that and you face it every day.
I have seen you hold the hands of families when they learn there is nothing more that can be done and I have seen you hug a stranger like they were part of your own family.
I have seen you advocate, persist and demand for your patients especially when they could not do so for themselves. And I have seen you go above and beyond your job description even in the small confines of a helicopter.
I know you lose sleep sometimes and I know you go home and wrack your brain looking for something you may have missed.
I know you go home and cry sometimes for the lives lost and suffering you have seen endured. I know you sometimes have to step away and that is ok.
What is the most remarkable thing about all of this is that you go home to your families where you are a parent, a partner, a sister or a brother.  You care for them, love them and lead full lives and then you get up and do it all again because you love your job. You are passionate about your job and you are good at your job. Your job is important even when you are sometimes made to feel like it’s not and even when you feel like no one sees how much you give to so many people.
You are selfless. You are strong and you are brave. You don’t just save lives, you save the future.
So to the medical professionals that I work with, that I have worked with and the ones that I will work with, I am so proud to have seen you don all of the many hats required of you with such grace. My respect and admiration for you grows every day and I hope you know how important you each are to so many people. Happy nurses week.

Saturday Mornings are for….

“Saturday mornings are for mimosa’s and brunch.”-unknown

Brunch, everyone’s favourite meal and the perfect way to wrap up a weekend (if you happen to have weekends off)! What is better than the luxury of getting out of bed late and enjoying company over a mimosa and a hot cup of joe. In Halifax you can find weekend brunch offered at pretty much every place that has evening dinner service. There is something for everyone and recently my favourite brunch spot was pushed, with a great big shove into second place (sorry Coastal Cafe, I still love you, just a little less on the weekends). My new go-to is EDNA, which also happens to be my favourite place to eat in the city. It never lets you down! The service and atmosphere are superb and with an ever-changing menu it’s like a new dining experience every time you go. I don’t know why I waited so long to try their brunch menu. Like the dinner menu it changes frequently, but a couple of signature dishes remain the same. Creative food, competitive prices, not to mention great coffee, and fresh grapefruit mimosas. I was sold from my first bite. You will not be disappointed with the chewy, coconut-y french toast made from local baguette or by the perfectly poached eggs and the duck fat smashed potatoes will leave you wishing brunch was available seven days a week. Find the menu, hours and everything else you may want to know about your new favourite haunt here.

However, if you would prefer to stay home, lounge in your PJ’s and drink coffee out of your favourite mug. Or if you remain in hibernation because the snow banks are still as tall as I am, here is a recipe to enjoy brunch from the comfort of your own home made with ingredients I guarantee you already have on hand. I am calling them mile-high pancakes because they puff up to be almost an inch thick. They are tender and fluffy and will literally take five minutes to make. They are potentially the best I have ever had. Honestly, try em’ and tell me what you think! Happy brunching all!

-m

Mile High Pancakes

You will need…

  • 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3.5 tsp of baking powder
  • 1tsp of salt
  • 2 tbs of white sugar
  • 1.5 cups of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3tbs of melted butter

Sift dry ingredients together and make sure they are all mixed well. Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and place egg, butter and milk in the hole. Mix until all is just incorporated and smooth. Try not to over-mix (or they won’t be fluffy!). Heat frying pan or griddle to medium and give a quick coat of oil or butter. When the pan is hot pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan for each pancake (this will make about 8 good sized pancakes!). Flip when the top starts to bubble or when bottom is golden brown and cook second side until golden and toasty.

So Long Summer..

“So long summer, hello fall!”-Everyone on the East Coast

Even though it is still technically summer by dates, the weather is quickly changing and it feels like fall. Starbucks is advertising pumpkin spiced lattes, university students are already a little homesick and all of my flower pots have abruptly gone to seed. I am certain many people are beginning to mourn the loss of summer and how abruptly she came to an end. I am a little bummed but I love fall and feel like there is so much to look forward to. Dark lipsticks, tights, scarves and boots. Pumpkins, jellies and kitchens slightly nutty with the warm aroma of cinnamon (honestly, I can’t get enough cinnamon). The leaves change and the air is crisp. I really can’t see what there isn’t to love about fall.

Summer did fly by and here in Nova Scotia the weather was uncharacteristically humid and cool. Beach days were few and far between but I made the best of it with a trip home to the beautiful Prince Edward Island (where you honestly can’t drive straight in one direction for more than 20 minutes without reaching the ocean). I antiqued, went to the beach and spent lots of time with family and good friends. Some pictures from my summer adventures are below! Happy fall everyone!

              Halifax Public Gardens
                Dee Dee’s icecream
                 Chester Nova Scotia
              Greenwhich beach, PEI
                    Sun dried laundry

Raspberries from my garden

              A red dirt road on PEI

Yellow canola field on PEI

                     East Point, PEI
         Province House, Charlottetown
        Nanny and Papa in the gardens
            East Point lighthouse

Inside of a little lighthouse