October 30, 2013

The War of 1812

[This post is part II to our Niagara adventure this past summer with our friends from Alaska.  You can find part I, all about our wine town in Niagara Wine Country, here.]

After a dreaded and sad goodbye to our Alaskan friends visiting for our wedding this past summer, Steve and I weren't yet ready to leave Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Is it crazy that we fell in love with this area so much that we even talked about living there one day?  But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Situated along the Niagara River where it empties into Lake Ontario, Fort George once stood as the headquarters for part of the British Army during the War of 1812.

Fort George, The War of 1812

To protect their interests in Upper Canada, the British constructed a fort along the Niagara River, as control of the river supply route was essential to the survival of the British forts west of the Niagara region. By 1802, Fort George had been completed and became headquarters for the British army, local militia and the Indian Department. However, in May 1813, Fort George was captured and destroyed by American artillery fire when the U.S. forces tried to use the fort as a base to invade the rest of Upper Canada. After a seven month occupation, the fort was retaken and remained in British hands for the remainder of the war. Although little changed geographically at the end of the war, the hardships of soldiers and civilians alike during the war very much forged the two separate identities of the United States and Canada.

Fort George, The War of 1812

After the war the fort was partially rebuilt, and during the 1930's the Fort was reconstructed as a National Historic Site. Today, the friendly and well informed staff dressed in period costumes offered a variety of programs, including musket and military music demonstrations, and insights into life of a garrison (a body of troops stationed in a particular location), bringing the fort to life. Despite the mid-summer heat, we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the restored buildings including the soldier barracks, officer's quarters and guard house/military prison and learning more about the early beginnings of the place we call home.

Fort George is probably not going to be the first on your "Niagara Falls area to-do list", but it is definitely of interest to any one that enjoys history.

Who knew this much history was in our own backyard?

Fort George, The War of 1812
Fort George, The War of 1812
Fort George, The War of 1812

Do you enjoy learning about your local history? 


In sad news, we lost our faithful ultimate road trip companion, Mo, this week. Some people may turn up their nose or judge us for having a small rodent as a pet, but his almost cat-like attitude changed a lot of peoples' perceptions of mice. He was one of a kind and as a friend recently told me, "The littlest creatures can capture our hearts in the biggest way." So much love came in that little package. We'll miss you little buddy!


October 27, 2013

Potato & Leek Soup

I saw some whopper leeks at the farmer's market last weekend and combined with the potatoes in our pantry, was inspired to try another soup recipe: potato and leek soup. This soup is really really simple and inexpensive to make.  Not to mention, it is perfect for late fall - hearty, rich and delicious, without all that guilt accompanied by heavy cream. It’s even substantial enough to make a meal on it’s own with a side salad and some bread. 

Yields: 4 to 6 servings

What you'll need:
+ 1/2 cup of butter
+ 1 large yellow onion, chopped roughly
+ 1 large leek, thinly sliced
+ 3 to 4 medium white potatoes, peeled and chopped
+ 5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
+ 3 cups chicken or veggie stock
+ 1/2 cup white wine (optional, but totally recommended)
+ salt and pepper, to taste
+ fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish, optional) 

1| Melt butter in large and deep saucepan.  Add the onions, leeks and garlic and cook over medium heat until onions have become soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.
2| Gradually stir in the stock. Add the potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
3| Puree the soup with an immersion blender.  If you want some chunky potato bits, pulse for only a few seconds.  If you want smooth and creamy soup, pulse for slightly longer.
4| Add hot water or more stock to the puree until it is the consistency you desire.
5| Add the white wine and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Warm through.
6| Ladle into serving bowls and garnish.  Serve with garlic toast.

Cooking notes:
To clean leeks, halve the white portions of the leeks lengthwise and rinse under cold running water. Be sure to wash thoroughly as there is soil trapped in between the leaves. 

While the color of this soup doesn't look too appealing, it's all about flavor.  If you want a little color, substitute some of the white potato for sweet potato.



For your weekend reading, this past week I:
>> Showed you what's in my camera bag.
>> Shared my favorite Halloween movies and revisited my ghosts of cosumtes past.
>> Shared tips for getting the most out of your farmer's market experience.
>> [Re]introduced myself to all of my old and new friends.

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October 25, 2013

What's In My Camera Bag?

I'm a girl who likes to take photos.  But, I think that's pretty obvious.  Whether we're going for a hike, taking a drive or visiting family on a special occasion, I always like to be prepared. I'm no professional photographer, but have learned what I need to keep in my camera bag, no matter the occasion.  So, today I bring you:

Let's start with the most important piece to this puzzle, the bag itself.  I've got two different bags that I'm constantly switching back and forth.  No, I'm not high maintenance, they both just serve two different purposes depending on what I plan on doing.

LEFT | Lowepro Flipside Sport 15L AW (Approximate retail price: $144.99 USD )
This bag is built for photographers in pursuit of active adventures. It is lightweight and breathable and the customizable camera compartments allow for multiple gear configurations so you can vary the gear you bring on each adventure and fits my 100-400mm lens perfectly! This bag is also great if you are traveling in foreign countries because the back-entry access provides extra security.  Other features include, tripod and trekking poles attachment, hydration pack pocket, all-weather cover and back panel zippered pocket.

RIGHT | Lowepro Passport Sling II (Approximate retail price: $59.99 USD)
This bag is perfect for the casual traveler and the perfect carry-on bag!   The great thing about it is not only does it have customizable camera compartments to allow for multiple gear configurations, it is also expandable to create 30% more space for personal gear and has outside pockets for items you need to access easily like your phone, sunglasses or water bottle!

Now onto the guts of the bag...

1 | Camera body + lenses I shoot with a Canon Rebel EOS T2i.  I'm saving my pennies for something bigger and better, but in the mean time this camera works perfectly!  I have 3 lenses: 18-55 mm, 55-250 mm and 100-400mm.  My favorite lens, especially for shooting wildlife, is my 100-400mm, which I purchased gently used for a friend of a friend in Alaska, saving me over $800!

2 | Lens hood This device helps block the sun or other light sources in order to prevent glare and lens flare.  Perfect for shooting wildlife on a sunny day!

3 | Lenspen brush The perfect cleaning tool for all photography equipment.  It is equipped with a retractable natural-hair brush on one end and a flexible rubber tip on the other, allowing your to smoothly, and safely, clean your equipment.

4 | Filters Each of my lenses is covered with a clear filter for protection.  That way, incase of an accident, the filter will be the first to scratch or break instead of the lens itself!

5 | Small towel For the days when you can't control Mother Nature.

6 | Santizing wipes Because you don't want your camera to get sticky!

7 | Lens cloth Similar to the brush, this cloth allows your to safely clean your lens surfaces.

8 | Extra battery, memory cards and USB stick Always better to be prepared!

9 | Plastic sealable bags I use these to keep my extra battery, memory cards and USB stick together so that I don't lose them.

10 | Tripod: Manfrotto 390 Series MK394-PQ This tripod is lightweight and fits perfectly in the Lowepro Flipside Sport tripod attachment.  It is designed to ensure maximum durability, has an integrated compact photo head with a quick camera attachment that provides fast, multi-angle movements and the aluminum legs can be compacted quickly and independently set in two different angle positions. 

Why use a tripod?  A tripod will help your capture the ideal shot in all different circumstances.  It only takes seconds to erect and adjust, yet it can support your camera in the perfect position for however long you wish, helping you take great images.  Whether you are trying to freeze the movement of a waterfall or catch the beautiful aurora borealis, a tripod is a must!  A steady camera is a necessity for all types of photography.

Not pictured: iPhone, battery charger

What are some of your camera bag essentials?

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October 23, 2013

Halloween Blast from the Past

This year with Halloween being on a week night and Steve being out of town, I will probably just sit at home and watch scary movies, alone, with a glass of wine.  Who am I kidding, scary movies are not my thing! But the wine will definitely be present. How can I not be a fan of scary movies you may ask? Well, because I'm a total believer that they could all happen in real life. Possibly also one of the reasons I did not have many dolls as a child. And yes, I believe in ghosts and UFOs. I was the crazy kid that swore she saw a UFO out her bedroom window.

So, I stick to the "safe" Halloween movies. The ones without chainsaw-wielding men or paranormal activity. Here's a list of my favorite [safe] Halloween movies:

Do you have any favorite Halloween movies? 

While we're talking Halloween, let's take a quick look back at some of my costumes over the past 7+ years, my "ghosts of costumes passed", back to the days when dressing up for Halloween meant parties and $ beers. (I apologize in advance for not asking the permission of those of you in these pictures.)

Definitely not my finest moments, but definitely some amazing memories.

What's your favorite Halloween memory?

Helene in Between

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October 14, 2013

Getting to Know Me

Hello friends!  Happy Canadian Thanksgiving.  I hope everyone enjoyed time with family and is rested after stuffing your goblet with a delicious home-cooked meal.

With the growth of this little blog from something I only shared with family and close friends to sharing with new friends all over the world, I thought it was about time I reintroduce myself.  Last week I was nominated for two blog awards and so I thought that answering the questions I was asked would be a great way to do it.

So, without further ado,

1// Beer or wine?
I absolutely hated beer before we moved to Alaska and would have picked wine any day.  But, now I've kind of done a total 180 - from not drinking beer at all, to loving one of the strongest beers, IPA.

2// Do you prefer a night out or a night in?
I'm a homebody.  My ideal night in would be having friends over for drinks and dinner, followed by game night. Catch Phrase anyone?! 

3// Describe yourself in 3 words.
Daughter. Sister. Wife.  

4// Would you rather give up Internet or tv for a month assuming you can't watch tv online and can't get internet on your phone.
TV.  We did without for an entire summer and I was perfectly fine with that.

5// If you change one thing about your childhood, what would it be?
I had the perfect childhood.  My parents were extremely supportive and encouraged me to follow my dreams. 

6// Have you ever broken any bones?
Only fingers and toes from doing stupid things like jumping off swings when I was a kid.

7// What has surprised you the most about the blogging world?
That this little blog, which I started to chronicle our Alaskan adventures for family and friends, has grown so much.  The blog world is extremely supportive.

8// Do you shower at night or in the morning?
I'm out the door at 6:45am every morning.  Already waking up at 6am is pushing it, so definitely a night showerer.

9// What's your favourite sport to watch?
Duh, hockey!

10// What are you up to this weekend?
This past weekend my sister and I traveled 3 hours north of Toronto to Haliburton for a girlfriend's beautiful wedding, then I had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at my father-in-laws. This coming weekend my parents are coming to town and Steve's hockey season officially kicks off so I plan on cheering him on with a huge crowd of family and friends.

11// Are you a dog or cat person?
Total dog person.  Believe it or not, our family didn't get our first dog until  I was 21!  And now we also have a mouse, so I don't think that would work too well with a cat.

12// What is your dream job?
Growing up I was determined to be a Marine Biologist.  I've been told this was a dream of many.  However, I stayed on track, graduated with a Marine Bio degree and am now using my experience in school and past jobs as an Educator at an aquarium.  I would say I'm livin' it.

13// If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
I would love to be able to fly, or snap my fingers and be in a new place.  I'm really getting sick of all the driving I've done over the past 6 months.

14// What is your most attractive feature?
I've been told I have nice eyes?!?  They may be very blue, but I'm also as blind as a bat.

15// What is one city would want to see before you die?
I have many places on my bucket list.  If I had to pick a city, it'd be Paris and if I had to pick an adventure, it'd be an African safari.

16// What was your worst subject in high school?
Physics, and in university too.

17// What is your favorite accessory?
My husband!  Does that count?  Ok, since it's fall, I'm currently loving scarves.

18// What is your least favorite color and why?
Blue.  It's the color of lakes and oceans and that makes me happy.

19// How would you describe your fashion style?
Lacking.  I don't really have a style. The only times I really dress up are on weekends when I have some place to be, and even that recently has been slacking.

20// What is one thing you love about blogging?
Sharing my adventures and meeting new friends!


And I obviously can't hit publish on this post without sharing some pictures from my beautiful friend's perfect wedding day...

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October 9, 2013

Fave Fall Food

Every year when the leaves change color and the temperatures drop, my taste buds start to crave certain fall-specific flavors.  The cooler weather is the perfect time to enjoy hot dishes and seasonal items not readily available other times on the year.  The farmer's market is always best in the fall, full of root vegetables - squashes, potatoes, carrots, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, onions and tomatoes.  My mouth just waters thinking about it.

Here are two of my favorite fall recipes that I made this past weekend:

Cream of Root Vegetable Soup

Serves: 4 to 6 people


2 tbsp unsalted butter
11/2 cups onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups sweet potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cups Yukon Gold potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
11/2 cups parsnip, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cups celery root, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cups carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
8 cups chicken stock
1 cup 35% cream
salt and pepper to taste


1. In a large pot, heat butter over medium heat and saute onions for 5 minutes, or until translucent.
2. Add garlic, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg and stir for another 30 seconds to toast spices.
3. Add root vegetables. Stir to combine.
4. Add chicken stock to pot, cover and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 1 hour or until all the vegetables are very soft.
5. Using an immersion blender, puree root vegetables and stock to desired consistency. You may have to add some water to thin.
6. Add cream and warm through without boiling (see notes below). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Notes: Since this recipe makes more than we can eat, I like to freeze some for later lunches and dinners.  If you plan on reheating later, I would recommend not adding the cream all at once. Reheating soup with cream doesn't always work. Instead, reheat the soup and then add the cream. 

Pumpkin Cookies

Yields: approximately 60 cookies


2 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 15-ounce can pumpkin (approximately 2 cups)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar (add until desired consistency/firmness)
ground cinnamon sprinkled on top 


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl beat the 2 cups of butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat until combined. Beat in the eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in as much of the four as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour with a wooden spoon.
2. Drop dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
3. For frosting, in a small saucepan heat the 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar until melted, combined and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting on cookies. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon if desired.

Do you have any favorite fall recipes?

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October 7, 2013

Black Socks & a Weekend Recap

It was officially our last weekend before hockey starts and I start working on Saturdays, and the weather sucked. The plan was to sleep in, but apparently when your new routine means a 6am wakeup time, your body thinks sleeping in means 7:30am on a Saturday.  I wish someone warned me.

I sold my soul to the devil this weekend... I bought black socks. A 20 pack. For as long as I can remember, I've had a thing against black socks.  It's not an irrational fear, but it's definitely irrational.  They creep me out.  So much so that after Steve takes off his dress clothes when we get home from a game, he keeps the black socks on because he knows it bothers me. But, in the name of my work uniform, being more professional, and keeping my job, I had to surrender the white socks. Steve says they'll make me look "fresh", but you better believe those babies will be coming off the second I walk in the front door.

This weekend was fairly uneventful, so here's some really boring photos from the past few days:

1//  Ok so this pic isn't from the weekend, but look at that sunset.
2//  Joining the rat race.
3//  My new lunch view, the CN tower.
4//  Mill St pumpkin ale.
5//  I'm a fan of fall decor, but this pumpkin telling me "you only live once" is a little extreme.
6//  Stuck in the clouds.
7//  Loving the new KitchenAid and all things pumpkin.
8//  We're hooked on homemade bread.

Oh, we also finished Breaking Bad... mind blown!  What an amazing series, and I'm pretty sure the only one I've ever successfully watched beginning to end.

But back to the black socks - To balance the evil black socks with something good, I bought myself an immersion blender so that I could make one of my favorite fall recipes, root vegetable soup. I can't wait to post the recipe, along with another one of my faves later this week.

Have a good week friends!

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October 5, 2013

Rules for Becoming a Gold Medal Commuter

Hey friends! Did you miss me?! I've been MIA this week, and despite what I said last weekend about taking a short social media break because of Breaking Bad spoilers, I kind of let the break drag on longer than I would have liked. First off, I somehow managed to get stung by a wasp 42 floors up.  Long story short, my hand blew up like a water balloon and I turned into a big baby.  I think it's safe to say I'm a wee bit allergic. I also started a new job on Monday, after just over four months of not working, and let me tell you, adjusting to a brand new routine killed me this week. New wake up time, new mode of transportation, new commute time, new employer, new coworkers and in a new city I've never worked in before. Killer. With that being said, and as much as I've complained to Steve this past week about not being able to keep up this routine for long, I'm where I'm meant to be. 

I could go on for hours about my new job, BUT I'm kind of restricted. I've taken numerous photos BUT I can't post anything yet. It has yet to open and I can't ruin the surprise. BUT let me tell you, it's AMAZING and I can't wait to explain at a later day.

Moving on... With the new job, also came a new way of gettin to work... public transit! I know it's only been a week, and by no means does that make me an expert, but commuting an hour plus each way every day gives you a lot of time for people watching, possibly one of my new favorite hobbies. If you're looking to earn a gold medal as the best commuter ever, I think I've come up with some pretty fool-proof rules that will earn you that status pretty darn quickly. 

Here goes,

1//  Avoid all eye contact.  Looking at someone else may cause blindness.

2//  To help with #2, make sure you have some type of electronic device glued to your hand at all times.  Who said Candy Crush is just for kids?!

3//  Make sure you talk on your phone as loud as possible. Others are dying to know what you're doing after work.  Also, feel free to do so in the "quiet zone".  After all, you are the exception to the rule.

4//  Sit in the aisle seat and don't move over when the bus/train is full. Following rules 1, 2 and 3 will help you achieve this because you can pretend you don't see the person.

5//  Don't cover your mouth when sneezing/coughing.  Share those germs with the entire bus! Personally, I can't wait to get the flu this year.

6//  Act like you're the only person on a full bus.  Line? What line?

7//  When boarding, cutting to the front of the line will actually help you get to your destination faster. It's science.

8//  Listen to your music without headphones, or loud enough so it's almost like you're not wearing headphones.  There's nothing like a little Sean Paul to get the blood flowin' before 8am.

9//  Skip the deodorant in the morning and go au natural.  Minor detail, right?

This rule deserves this fabulous gif...

10//  Stop the flow. Be that person that can't find their pass, stops in the middle of a sea of people, or is "wexting" their little heart out. 

11//  In the station, don't hold the door for anyone behind you.  Even though they are immediately behind you, let that door slam in their face.  Throw ALL manners and common courtesies out the window.

12//  Eat your food as loud as possible.  Chewing with your mouth open will earn you brownie points.

And last, but definitely not least...

13//  Join the door lice club. Make it your mission to get off that bus/train first, even if it means lingering and boxing out others that need to get off at an earlier stop.  (This can also successfully be done at airport gates.)

Do you take public transit and have any "rules" of your own?


Incase you missed it, this week I:
♥ Shared some fab fall photos from our weekend visit to Forks of the Credit Provincial Park.
♥ Totally slacked on the blog because I was too busy boycotting social media, getting stung by a wasp and becoming a big girl.

Have a wonderful weekend friends :)

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October 1, 2013

Forks of the Credit

I've come to learn that different is good.  Change is good.  Take for example, our love of hiking - we can still take advantage of the many trails Ontario offers, but it is different than it was in Alaska.  Different terrain, different flora, different fauna... a change. 

This past weekend we explored Forks of the Credit, a provincial park just north of Toronto in Caledon, ON.  Located on the Niagara Escarpment and famous Bruce Trail, this park surrounds a stretch of the Credit River as it narrows and rushes through a deep gorge, plunging over falls.  There is a network of trails to explore throughout park that take you through rolling hills, grassland, coniferous forests, past small lakes created by glaciation and up some fairly steep grades.

The entire area is remarkably beautiful and feels completely remote.  As you wander the trails, it is easy to forgot that you are just a short drive from Toronto.  This protected oasis is an absolute gem and a must visit for anyone in the area looking to get outdoors.

How to get there from Toronto:

  1. Take Hwy 410 N past Brampton
  2. Continue onto Hwy 10/Hurontario St
  3. Turn left onto Forks of the Credit Rd/Regional Rd 11
  4. Turn right on McLaren Rd
  5. Turn left into park

Cost: $14 per vehicle for a day pass (automated machine, coin or card only)

Have you ever been to Forks of the Credit? What is your favourite outdoor space? I'd love to hear!

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