“Son of a Nutcracker!!”- Buddy The Elf

I know, I am terrible. I have been the worst kind of amature blogger (the kind that doesn’t blog often enough). Now that all of that is out if the way, I thought we could have a little catch up over coffee. I am drinking a giant one at the moment, so grab a cuppa and settle in (or just skim the pics haha, your call). Since I blogged last…

  1. I survived another semester of grad school while working full time. I am happy to report that I am half done and I haven’t died yet!
  2. My Christmas wish came true; we can land the new helicopters on the roof at both of the hospitals in the city. For those of you that don’t know (I don’t think I really talk shop on here), I am currently working as an air medical transport nurse. For the last 18 months we have not been able to land on the raised helipads in the city, adding close to 15 minutes to our often time sensitive transport calls in the maritimes. This is probably the highlight of the year because it is so much better for our patients!DSC_0087
  3. I am still obsessed with The Ordinary skin care products and have become equally as obsessed with dermaplaning my skin. This is when a trained professional/skin care guru uses a sharp surgical blade to exfoliate your skin and remove all of the fine “peach fuzz” from your face.  This not only helps your skin care regime absorb better but it also encourages cellular turn over/ regeneration. Dermaplaning can help with scaring/ hyper-pigmentation, not to mention it results in an incredibly smooth makeup application. You can have this procedure done every six weeks or so and NO, your hair won’t grow back darker or thicker (but if you have a significant mount of dark hair you may find the re-growth more noticeable) . Don’t believe me? Read this Refinery 29 article and do a little research before going under the blade.orig
  4. I am trying to start a new holiday tradition of having a few girls over to make holiday centrepieces. It is a super easy way to get some people together for an afternoon chat, some mulled wine or cider and then everyone gets to leave with something beautiful for their holiday table. Anyone can do it, even if they have zero crafty bones in their bodies and they are shockingly inexpensive. All you need is a little flower pot or water tight tin (I picked these up at Ikea and they were perfect), some flower oasis (the green sponge they sell at the dollar store), some seasonal branches (pine, holly, spruce, cedar, magnolia) and some sparkling picks or ornaments. Then you simply trim down some sprigs and branches and stick them into your oasis until you have a full centrepiece that just needs a little sparkle to make the table shine! Water them as necessary and they will last well into the new year! They make the perfect hostess gift!centercenterpeicecenterpiece
  5. I limited my Christmas baking this year. I am trying to cut back on refined sugar, plus there is always an abundance of sweets and treats both at work and at home over the holiday season. I made a single batch of whipped short bread for my grandmother this year and I accidentally added almond extract instead of vanilla (seriously, why is almond now in a brown bottle too?!). This turned into a very happy accident, as they tasted even more special with the sweet almond aroma. In the future I am going to continue to skip the vanilla and opt for almond everything! Find my simple, melt-in-your-mouth recipie hereblog 5DSC_0128blogblog 3
  6. As many of you know, I have ordered my glasses online for close to 10 years. I have tried many different companies but I seem to have the best luck and the best service with Clearly Contacts. They have a fantastic selection, have incredible sales and they stand behind their product. If you don’t like them, they will ship them back for free and give you your money back!! My new favourite line is called Main and Central and these glasses  are not only my all time fav, but the ones I keep getting compliments on!

Finally, I thought I would share the ultimate recipe for mulled wine. For those of you who have never had it, mulled wine is a hot beverage consisting of wine (usually red), spices, citrus, sugar and maybe a liquor. There are a million ways to make it and people have literally been enjoying it since the 1300’s. Charles Dickens was a big fan and many different cultures and countries have their own version that is a traditional beverage enjoyed in the winter and throughout the holiday season. It tastes like Christmas in a mug! I have tried many recipes but the one below is my favourite and it can be made in the slow cooker! Happy holidays!

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Spiced Mulled Wine (slow cooker style, you can easily double it!)

  • 1 750ml bottle of red wine (this doesn’t need to be expensive, just full bodied and not too sweet. It is the perfect way to use up gifted wine you otherwise wouldn’t enjoy or homemade wine).
  • 2 cups of apple cider (you can also use OJ, but trust me, spiced apple cider elevate this!).
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 5 or 6 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cardamom pods (if you can find them, I didn’t have any).
  • 2 whole star anise
  • optional 1/4 cup of brandy

Add wine, cider, honey, orange zest, and orange juice to a good sized slow cooker. Stir to combine. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise. Cook on low until warm, 30 minutes to 1 hour, slow cooker dependant. Stir in the brandy and once fully hot, switch to keep warm and ladle into mugs or pretty tea cups. Garnish with orange slices and cinnamon sticks !

“Good to the last drop.”- Maxwell House Coffee, 1956

I have a confession to make. I was once a product whore. Yes, it is an ugly term but it is a term that describes me perfectly while I was in my early 20’s. I was consistently inconsistent, rarely finishing a product let alone buying it again. I was always in the search of the next best thing. There are pros and cons to this behaviour. If you are flexible, running out of your favourite coffee on a Sunday morning doesn’t ruin your day.  It may however, mean that your skin is less consistent and you aren’t guaranteed to enjoy your glass of red wine at the end of a hard day. Don’t get me wrong, I still try new things all of the time but over the years I have collected an arsenal of products that I buy again and again. I guess you could call them my ride or die products that I sometimes even stock-pile in advance as to not risk running out. Here are a few of them. Some are expensive, some are not but all of them are equally well loved.

The Ordinary’s Buffet Serum (find it here)

This is a multi-technology peptide serum full of heavy hitting vitamins and peptides that my skin just eats up. This only serum I have used to the very last drop. It is affordable and my skin has never looked better. I may or may not have two bottles stogged away in my linen closet (which is excessive as it took me more than six months to go through one).

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The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors (find it here)

I have used dozens of moisturizers in the past at varying price points and this is the first one I have ever re-purchased more than once. It is thick, a little goes a long way but it isn’t heavy and it doesn’t clog my pores. It is 100% unscented and now comes in 100 ml bottles. Did I mention it is ridiculously affordable?!

Make Up Forever Water Blend Foundation (find it here)

This foundation is slightly on the more expensive side but it has lasted me over six months. It comes in 19 colours and is so light and dewy it is hard to tell there is anything on my face. I spent years wearing tinted moisturizers because I love the natural look and this gives me the perfect amount of build-able coverage while keeping my skin dewy and fresh. If you are looking for full coverage foundation, this is not the product for you, you may want to try thisthis or for an affordable full cover, this.

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MAC Modesty Cremesheen Lipstick (find it here)

I have been wearing this shade for years. I just finished off my 6th tube and for good reason, it is the perfect muted, everyday pink. It is super neutral, goes on smoothly and has just a hint of mauve which makes your teeth look extra white!

Rimmel Kate Moss Lipstick in 08 (find it here)

This colour looks great on EVERYONE. It is less than $7, super creamy and smells like old fashioned lipstick. I buy this for everyone and suggest it to anyone who wants to take lipstick for a spin but is overwhelmed or afraid of a bold lip. It is a little punchier than the MAC one above but still pretty neutral!

Nuknuuk Slippers from Costco (find them here)

I am just working in my third pair. I am extremely hard on footwear and these beautiful slippers last me two years before they need replacing. They are made of sheepskin and are lined with thick, cushiony sherpa. They are so luxe and come in at less than $30.

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Bed Head Urban Antidotes shampoo/conditioner/mask (find them here)

I have used Bed Head shampoo for close to ten years. It keeps my hair super shiny, residue free and manageable. I have tried many shampoo/conditioner combos from both the salon and drugs stores over the years and nothing compares to these products. Best of all, they smell AMAZING. You only need a small amount, a litre lasts me a year and you can always find it at Winners or on sale at salons. I only started using the mask in the last year as I am getting my hair cut a lot less frequently now that I have grown it out. This mask prevents and repairs the split ends that I get from using hot tools.

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Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay (find it here)

Don’t let the price or the packaging fool you, this mask is the bomb. I found it after watching Mindy Kaling using it on her instagram page. You mix it with apple cider vinegar, apply it to your face, let it dry and then it wash off. This mask leaves my skin so soft and the jar will likely last me ten years.

Saje Yoga Mat Spray (find it here)

This stuff is antibacterial, smells amazing and is useful for so much more than just your yoga mat. Sure, I spray this stuff on my yoga mat like you are supposed to, but I also spray it in my shoes and in my suitcase after travelling. It is seriously good.

FullSizeRender-3.jpgBath and Body Works Eucalyptus Mint Hand Soap (find it here)

This stuff smells crisp, fresh and clean. I stock up on it when it is on sale and people always comment on how much the love the smell of the soap in my bathroom. What can I say, I am a people pleaser.

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And because wine is the best here are three bottles of big, beautiful reds that I keep coming back to again and again!

Urceus, Primitivo

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Las Heramanas, Monastrell

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Dominio De Heredia,  Rioja

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“If eating cake is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”- Lorelai Gilmore

It is hard to beat a really good cake. Whether you are celebrating a milestone such as a birthday or you are just having a no-good-very-bad-day,  a slice of really delicious cake has the ability to make your bad day a little less awful and can take a celebration and elevate it to a party. Cakes have been used in this manner for centuries and as the science behind baking improved as well as the availability of baking ingredients, they went from what was basically sweetened bread to the cakes we know today.  Initially used in religious ceremonies dating back to ancient Egypt, cakes really began to be prominent fixture at many celebrations over the past 300 years. Now a days, it seems we look for almost any excuse for a cake. Getting your braces off? Better pick up a cake! Your best friend’s divorce is finalized? Perfect opportunity to bake a cake! The dog finally peed outside consistently? A cake only makes sense!

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Anyway I am not here to discuss the history of cakes (although it is seemingly extensive), I am here to talk about how easy baking a cake can be. People are intimidated by cakes but honestly, it is easier than putting together Ikea furniture. You just have to have a decent recipe, you have to follow it correctly and it helps to use fresh, quality ingredients. If your baking powder is ancient, your cake may not rise. If your cocoa powder is old and of poor quality, your cake may not be quite as rich as you hoped. In all honesty, the hardest part of baking a cake is frosting it. Making the frosting is easy, but getting it on there and to look like you didn’t apply it with your hands while wearing old woollen mittens is the most difficult part. Luckily, rustic is in these days when it comes to baked goods and everyone loves a sheet cake with a thick layer of frosting slapped on haphazardly. It is hard to screw up something made with sugar, butter and eggs. Even if it looks like it was baked by a three year old while they were blindfolded, it will taste good and when it comes to cake, taste is ultimately what matters.

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I am going to share a basically fool proof chocolate cake recipe that uses the addition of sour cream and espresso powder to help create a moist and tender cake with an elevated degree of chocolatey goodness. I am also going to share a recipe for swiss meringue butter cream. Yes, it sounds a little scary and most definitely a little intimidating but if you have a hand mixer or stand mixer, you can’t screw it up. It’s light, not too sweet and this frosting holds its shape/height beautifully. Even when un-fridgerated for long periods of time, even in the summer. It is one of the best frostings I have ever made and I keep coming back to it again and again. It is the only frosting I truly trust for big events such as weddings! When you add espresso powder and good quality vanilla, you may have the best frosting in the world.

Happy baking all. Have faith in yourself, the science of baking and your oven. You will likely wish you baked a cake sooner and you may even start looking for excuses to bake one again and again.

-m

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Very Chocolatey, Chocolate Cake (adapted from Baking A Moment )

You will need:

  • 1.5 c white sugar
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c of cake flour (or all purpose if you don’t have cake)
  • 1c unsweetened cocoa powder (Costco has some great high quality cocoa)
  • 2 Tbs of espresso powder
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1c softened butter, cut into cubes
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1c sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 325. Butter and flour three 8 inch cake pans (you can use a sheet pan likely, just adjust baking time accordingly) and line bottom with parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix with a whisk to incorporate them and to get rid of the lumps! Add butter and mix on low until butter and dry ingredients are the texture of damp sand. Add eggs one at a time and once they are fully incorporated add the sour cream and vanilla. Beat on med speed for 2 minutes and then divide batter between pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely, then frost or glaze as desired!

Swiss Meringue Butter Cream

The recipe I love best (and I have tried several) is adapted from Martha Stewart. Find it here. Tips….

  • Don’t get any yolks in the egg whites, they will never form stiff peaks if you do…
  • Use beaters- hand held or stand mixer. I think this would almost be impossible by hand unless you are a professional arm wrestler.
  • Make sure your butter is room temperature.
  • If it looks like it is curdling when you add the butter just keep going. It will come together I promise.
  • If you want to make it espresso flavoured, add 2 TBS of espresso powder (not instant coffee) when you add the vanilla. I always use this one when I bake.

“What is this wizardry?!”- Me (trying LipSense for the first time)

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I still remember my very first lipstick. My aunt and mother picked out a frosted pink CoverGirl concoction for me while back-to-school shopping in Halifax in the 90’s. That frosty lipstick made me feel like Shania Twain (who else would my lipstick goals have been?) and I was so excited that I re-applied it three times within ten minutes. I distinctly remember my aunt telling me to “slow down or you won’t have any left for tomorrow”.   That was the beginning of a long (and sometimes financially unhealthy) relationship with lipstick. Name a trend and I have likely tried it.

In recent months I had read about a relatively new formulation made in the USA called LipSense. This line has been gaining popularity in the past couple of years, to the point of not being able to keep inventory in stock and having to limit their colour range to enable them to keep with the demand. Why is it so popular? Well the company proposes it doesn’t wear off. It is marketed as a 4-18 hour wear lipstick that claims to go on and require no maintenance with the exception of reapplying a protective and hydrating gloss throughout the day to maintain it. Sounds easy enough and impossible all at the same time. Honestly though, how could a lipstick last through drinking coffee, eating, talking, working out and doing all of the things that people generally do throughout a day and not budge?Lipsense-1

How does it work? Well the brand says that you apply three thin layers, allowing each to dry for a few seconds. It uses medical grade alcohol that evaporates and adheres the colour  to your lips which is then sealed in with a gloss. The gloss comes in a range of formulas including glossy, matte, pearl and a handful of glittery and shimmery ones.

I won’t lie, I was extremely skeptical when I got my hands on a tube. First of all, I generally hate “pyramid schemes” or anything that remotely resembles them. Plus I like to be able to walk into Sephora or Mac and get the instant gratification of buying a lipstick while having the opportunity to try it on first.

The application also seemed like a lot of work with a handful of rules. You have to apply it in one direction, one layer at a time, not pressing your lips together throughout the process (which I was absolutely terrible at but spoiler alert: it was totally worth the effort). It felt both dry and sticky at the same time and I found it burned slightly the first time I used it (research told me this was likely due to my dry lips). Then you seal it in with a gloss, which is something that hasn’t graced my lips since 2001. After the process, which may have taken a minute total, I rubbed my lips together and was surprised at how soft and hydrated they felt once the gloss was on. The dry/sticky feeling was gone, as was any tingling I initially felt. They were smooth, not sticky at all, the colour had a great sharp edge with no bleeding and I was surprised that I didn’t hate the glossy look.  When I did the “rub your lips test”, which I have seen dozens of times online when debating buying the product, there was nothing on my fingers and the colour hadn’t moved even the tiniest bit. I then tried rubbing it off gently with a towel and all that happened was that the gloss had come off. The colour was intact and perfect.  I was shocked. Throughout the day I had a coffee date with a friend, I ate supper and I did some gardening. Six hours later it still looks great and all it required was a couple reapplications of the gloss to protect it and stay hydrated. Honestly, it was shocking. Taking it off was a little difficult (makeup remover and face wash don’t even begin to touch it) but I have since learned that plain old neutrogena soap takes it off with very little effort.

 

 

So is all the the hype worth it?

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Con’s to LipSense

  • The upfront cost is relatively expensive. It is $3o a colour, $25 for a gloss and $12 for the remover. A starter kit it $67 plus tax which seemed like a lot at first.
  • The application takes a little getting used to but it isn’t hard.
  • It “tingled” a little initially but I have since started using the gloss at night to keep my lips hydrated.
  • It was initially difficult to remove even with the remover (however, the remover is great for mistakes during the application) but once I tried Neutrogena soap it came off very easily.
  • Can’t try on colours prior to purchasing, but you can google the colour you like and see what it looks like on a variety of skin tones and lip shapes.
  • You have to wait to get it and waiting is hard sometimes. Not a real con, just me being impatient.
  • The packaging sucks. This also isn’t a real con, but it just looks a little “dated”.

Pro’s to LipSense

  • It really does last and not transfer. At all. It is magic.
  • The colour range is awesome. Thirty plus colours and new limited edition ones are launched every couple of months. There is something for everyone and it is broken down by undertones making it easy to find what you want. I haven’t tried one I didn’t love!
  • 1 tube of Lipsense colour has 2-4 times the amount of product than most popular liquid lipsticks and you will apply it a lot less. It will last forever and you only need one gloss regardless of how many colours you acquire.
  • You can layer more than one colour with another to create new looks. Two colours can give you eight options depending on the order you layer them in.
  • It is FDA approved, vegan, kosher, non-GMO, gluten free, lead free, it protects you lips from the sun (SPF 15 equivalent) and is NOT tested on animals.
  • My lips are more hydrated and plump than ever.
  • The fabulous return policy. SeneGence has a 100% guarantee which includes money back or a new product within 12 months of purchase if a customer isn’t happy with the product (this does not cover leaving it in a hot car and destroying it though!).
  • It is the ultimate lip product for brides, people who wear masks at work, mom’s on the go and anyone who doesn’t have the time to reapply it and check it throughout the day.
  • It is also red wine safe (I personally tested this theory) , it doesn’t come off on a coffee cup and it doesn’t travel around your face/get on your teeth. Win win.

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In my opinion, the pro list far outweighs the con list (lets be honest, some of the cons were far fetched to begin with). After a few months of using it, I am still hooked and have amassed a handful of colours. I initially signed up as a distributor for the discount (20-50% off) and have actually ended up selling it on the side after dozens of friends asked me about it and how to get their hands on some. It is very rare that I stand behind a product enough to sell it. I am a cynic 82% of the time and LipSense has blown any of my initial skepticism out of the water.

Interested in trying it yourself? You have nothing to lose with the money back guarantee! Check out Shabby Yet Chic Lips on Facebook or search Shabby Yet Chic Lips (username or hashtag) to find my page on Instagram! Interested in becoming a distributor? Just message me on any social media for more information!

Great long-lasting-lips for everyone!

-m

 

“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