Fall in the New Hood

Today, we plan on gallivanting around our new hood, oogling over the changing leaves at Forks of the Credit Provincial Park.  That is, if the blanket of smog fog covering the city disappears. On Monday, I abandon my life on the Real Housewives of Toronto and start working again.  I can't believe it's been four months since I said a tear-filled goodbye to all of my friends of all animal varieties at the Zoo, but I am ready for it! I'm sure there will be plenty of updates in the coming weeks as I follow the same career path I was on in Alaska, but in a much different environment.  


As most people on this Earth know, the series finale of that show about a chemistry teacher turned meth cook (also known as Breaking Bad for those that have no idea what they're missing) is tomorrow night.  Since I am only starting this last season, I have decided to disconnect from social media for the next couple of days (easier said than done, I know).  I can already predict twitter, facebook and every other website will be blowing up with details about Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, so I can't ruin it for myself.  I will be back mid-next week with lots of updates on the weekend, my new job and maybe even hockey preseason :)

P.S.  Did you know that tomorrow is National Coffee Day?  I'm lovin' our new french press and this sounds like the perfect excuse to have an extra cup while sitting on my couch in my pjs for just a liiiitttttttttlllllle bit longer.

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In case you missed it, this week I:
♥  Gave an update on life lately.
♥  Broke my toe, but made unbelievable pork chops with apples and onions.
♥  Described the sights and sounds from 42 floors up.


Have a good weekend!


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Reflection From 42 Floors Up


I'm currently staring out my window at the world from 42 floors up, coffee in my hand.

From 42 floors up, I can see... The condo next to us under construction. A crane sits on top, lifting pieces of window pane over 30 floors. When it swings around it gets so close to my window that it looks like I can reach out and touch it. Men in yellow hard hats are working like bees in a hive, drilling, hammering, welding. I look down at ground level and as soon as the feeling of vertigo subsides, I see people walking dogs in the small green space across the street, commuters hoping on the city bus, cars on the highway speeding to their destination and gargoyles protecting the building a block over, as if it were Gotham City and Bruce Wayne lived in the penthouse.  North, planes continue their descent to the large airport, several miles away.

From 42 floors up, I can hear... the car horns of people with some place to be, the wind billowing against the windows, the constant beep beep beep of a dump truck and the sound of a drill against concrete.  

From 42 floors up, I feel... like I'm on top of the world.


Hope you're having a sunny Thursday!

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Linking up with Story of My Life for my last Blogtember post.  Bring on October!

Pork Chops & a Broken Toe

So, yesterday was supposed to be the start of my new fitness plan.  But, I had a few "setbacks". A) The condo had yet to activate my key to open the gym door and my new "friend" Lisa at the front desk was too busy to do it for me. Thanks Lisa. And B) I broke me toe... stubbed it on the bed post.  It's pretty black and blue, and sore, so I'm going with its broken.  It's ok though, I don't bruise, so any time I do get one, it's kind of a big deal.  As in, I make it into a big production and wave it in Steve's face at least 10 times until he's had enough and pokes it. Ouch.

Moving on... Because of these "setbacks", I spent most of the afternoon thinking of the perfect fall recipe that combined the pork chops, onions and green apples we had in the fridge.  I came across this winner and with some minor tweaking, it is definitely going in the books as one of our fall favorites. So, in a twisted way, thank you bed post for colliding with my toe.


Serving size: 2
Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 to 40 minutes

Ingredients:
2 bone-in pork chops
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp olive oil 
2 tbsp butter
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 large green apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (white wine or beer can also be used)

Instructions:
+  Generously season both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper.
+  Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat and then swirl with olive oil.
+  Sear each side of the pork chops until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer pork chops to a plate.
+  Swirl the butter into the skillet.  Add the apples and onions.  
+  Saute until the onions are slightly caramelized and the apples are slightly soft, about 10 minutes.
+  Stir in the stock or liquid of choice.  Return the chops to the skillet.
+  Allow the sauce to simmer, cooking the chops until tender, approximately 15 minutes.  
+  Turn the chops half way through and covering with apple mixture.
+  Allow the sauce to thicken slightly.
+  Serve with sides of your choice (we had roasted broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes).







We're always looking for new and creative, yet affordable, recipes.  This recipe was not only delicious, it only cost us around $5 for 2 servings!  That's my kind of dinner.



Do you have any favorite fall recipes?

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Life Lately


Life has definitely changed in the past year.  One year ago today we would have been watching the snow creep down the mountains.  While others back home and in the Lower 48 would have been complaining about summer's official end, those up in AK would have been talking about the first snow fall, the days getting shorter and the temperatures dropping. The view from our living room window would have been something like this (minus the snow)...



Now, one year later, it looks something like this...


From mountains to tall buildings, the past year has involved a lot of change.  Packing up the truck, our stability and comfort and driving over 6000 km home, gaining a new last name and family and moving into the 42nd floor of a condo in a big city.

And now, for some pictures from this past weekend...



1//  Kitchen 2//  Living room  3//  A little AK comfort down the street 4//  Our view: morning  5//  Our view: noon 6//  Our view: night  7//  Our view: night  8//  First dinner  9//  Local farmer's market


Lastly, I can't forget to mention that Steve also stole the thunder this weekend.  Word's out in AK that he has moved on, in the form of a very nice article in the newspaper. "Pure class." Tear.







Happy Monday friends!


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Linking up with Story of My Life for Blogtember and Sami's Shenanigans for Weekend Shenanigans. 


Comfort

We're moving today, and even though I said I didn't have a post ready, I guess I lied.  Forget I had this baby sittin' around.


Today is September 20.  The official kickoff to fall is in 2 days.  Summer's over. Sigh.

To me, fall screams comfort.  I am very much a homebody, so fall, comfort and I get along real well.

Some things I love about fall: pumpkin spice lattes, root vegetable soup, pumpkin-scented candles, fall decor, Halloween, crisp air, changing colors, scarves, big sweaters, leggings and boots, AND the start of a new hockey season. (Yes, I am Canadian and hockey reigns supreme for me.  Sorry to all of you football fans.)
1//2//3


What does comfort mean to you?




Linking up with Story of My Life for Blogtember and We Took for Road Less Traveled for Fresh Face Friday.



Never Tell a Woman...

So tomorrow is moving day (which means hockey starts up again soon), I start a new job this month and today I have ants in my pants from all of the excitement.  That combo does not equal productivity, so instead of a thought provoking post with beautiful photos, I think I will leave you with a story that has been sitting in my drafts since the day it happened.  Fair warning: it may leave you looking like this...


**********


Rewind back to the time we still lived in Alaska and were not yet married. I think it's safe to say there was still snow on the ground as well. 

We were in a popular jewellery store, that shall remain nameless, looking at wedding bands.  We were approached by the salesman, and since I knew exactly what I was looking for, I asked to see a couple of the bands they had on display.  I asked him the standard questions, like how long it would take to order, yadda yadda yadda, and he asked me what size my finger was.  Having already been to a few other stores, I told him my size.  That's when he turned to Steve and oddly asked, "Do you like to cook?".  Caught off guard, Steve answered a hesitant "Yes".  Then the man turned back to me and  proceeded to say, "Well you should probably get a size bigger then, you're going to gain weight after you get married."  I kid you not. It was one of those comments that took a few minutes to register in my head.  I handed him back the ring, politely said thank you, he told me he'd get me the info I asked for and we left the store.  


Back in the car, Steve and I both just looked at each other, laughed and said "Did that just happen?", not to mention it the rest of the day.


If that wasn't bad enough, the story continues... Fast forward two days, when I had already put it out of my mind and written off receiving a phone call from him.  I was at work when I get a phone call from an unknown number.  It was him, with the info I asked for.  Great. (By the way, in the two days it took him to get me that info, I had already found and ordered two wedding bands online from a different popular jewellery store, for less than a third of the price of one at that store.) Before he could say anything, I said, "Thanks for calling, but I'm no longer interested."  He asked why and I simply told him it was because I had purchased rings (plural) elsewhere.  As if that wasn't a good enough answer, he continued to pry, asking why again and if it was something wrong with the service, almost like he knew.  
Now, I probably should have called and complained after the first comment in the store, since it caused the store to lose out on a sale, but being the nice person I am, I tried to put it out of my head.  But, since he asked on the phone, I decided to let him have it.  I told him that yes, it had something to do with the service and that I didn't like his comment he made about women gaining weight when they get married.

You would think any smart person would just say "I'm sorry I upset you" and it would be done with.  Oh no, clearly there was no brain in his bald head.  He pulled out the shovel and kept on digging.  He said, "Well, it's just a natural progression for a woman."  I was in awe and probably could have made some really horrible statement about something that happens to men when they get older, but I'm classier than that.  I interrupted him, not so politely this time, and said, "Stop.  You NEVER EVER talk to a woman like that!" and hung up the phone, hoping he got the picture and the fact that he definitely just lost a sale.  But damn, I felt good.

So ya, that actually happened. Safe to say that man should not be in the business where he deals with people sells jewellery to women.


And now, to wipe the wide-mouthed awestruck look off your face and turn it into a smile, here's ONE pretty picture, taken on my visit to Churchill, MB, aka polar bear capital of the world, in 2011.


© MW 2011


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Incase you missed it, this week I...
✓  Gave an awesome DIY for super easy and inexpensive driftwood candle holders
✓  Listed my road trippin' essentials


Have a good weekend friends!  


Linking up with Laurie, Rachel and Heather for "Lately", minus the pretty pictures because I've been too anxious lately to take any.







Nature, through my lens.


"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." 
- Albert Einstein


Photos taken on a recent visit to the cottage.


 



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Linking up with Story of My Life for today's Blogtember: only photos and This Analog Blog for Photography Friday.






Road Trippin' Essentials

Planning for a road trip can be very overwhelming.  It's hard to anticipate what you'll need along the way - the must-haves and the just-in-cases. While I may not be able to call myself an "expert road tripper", I did learn what it takes to keep both you, and your copilot/backseat driver/husband, sane happy for 4500 miles

10 items that we found essential for any multi-day road trip:


1//  iPod/iPhone  Make sure this baby is loaded with audiobooks and a road-worth playlist.  This will save your sanity.  And don't worry, the hours of silence between you and your road trip partner aren't so awkward.

2//  Snacks and drinks Pack a small cooler with lots of snacks and drinks.  It's a good idea to keep some fresh fruit and veggies on hand since you don't always eat the best while on the road. You can even pack some lunch meat, cheese and bread to stop for an impromptu picnic.  This also saves $$!

3//  Eyemask, pillow, blanket  When it's your turn to be copilot, you'll appreciate this one. Day or night.


4//  Toiletries  This includes plastic bags (double as garbage bags), wet wipes, hand sanitizer, roll of toilet paper, roll of paper towels (double as a lunch plate), first aid kit, etc.  Accidents happen, I know I'm always good for a few, and it's better to be safe than sorry.


5//  Chargers Because the last thing you want is for your iPod to die mid-audiobook or your camera to die mid-bear photoshoot. Ruins the day.

6//  GPS, road map, road trip guide A must if navigating unchartered territory.  It is also a good idea to bring some old-fashioned road maps, and even a road trip guide with detailed stops, like the only gas station for 300 miles.  You never know when you'll be driving through a spot that doesn't get satellite reception.  Again, better safe than get lost in the middle of nowhere with no gas.


7//  Camera Road trips are visual buffets, and if you're anything like me, you want to capture it all! Don't forget the extra charged battery and memory cards.



8//  Notebook and pen This is essential, especially if you love to take photographs like I do and don't want to miss a thing! It stayed glued to my hip the entire trip.  I jotted down things like the number of bears we saw, towns we stopped in and any other things of interest.

9//  Games  Whether you like to battle it out word for word in Scrabble or play the license plate game, road trip games are a must! They will help pass the time when you're stuck in a dingy motel in the middle of nowhere and when you're driving on the straight and narrow with nothing to look at.  Some friendly competition never hurt anyone.

10//  A best buddy No explanation needed.


(Note: You may always want to make sure your car if equipped with an emergency kit, but I think that's a no-brainer essential.)


Have you taken any memorable road trips? What are some of your must-haves?



Safe trippin'!







(Linking up with A Compass Rose/Found Love. Now What? for Travel Tuesdays and Treasure Tromp/Brachel Boulevard for Friends Around the World)

DIY// Driftwood Candle Holder



I am in love with the lake and all of the treasures that wash up on shore.  There is something so calming about treasuring hunting while the waves lap the shore and the gentle breeze blows. I love all of the driftwoof that washes up - each piece is unique.  With our move to a condo in the big city, I won't have the beach as my escape.  So instead, I've decided I will bring the beach to us with these simple and cheap driftwood candle holders.

Materials:
+ piece of driftwood (see notes below)
+ tealight candles (the ones with metal around them)
+ measuring tape
+ pencil
+ drill
+ 1.5'' spade or orbital drill bit
+ safety glasses
+ fine-grain sand paper

notes about the driftwood:  
// select a piece that is appealing to you
// piece must be at least 3 inches wide and with enough depth so that the candle will sit in nicely
// rinse the piece off with the hose and let it dry completely before drilling
// leave the piece outside for a few days to ensure it is completely dry and allow any critters calling it home to make an exit (sounds gross I know, but you'll thank me later)

Steps:
+ Choose the top side of you candle holder.  Make sure it sits flat.  
+ With the pencil and tape measure, mark where you want the centre of the candle. 
+ Drill away.  I recommend holding your wood in place with some sort of clamp to prevent it from slipping.  
+ Make sure you wear safety glasses.  Saw dust will be flying everywhere!
+ Drill the hole deep enough for the top of your candle to sit at or just above the wood line.
+ Make sure the holes are flat and even to prevent wax from getting everywhere.
+ To prevent slivers, sand any rough areas of the driftwood.  The finer grain sandpaper the better.
+ Add your candles and test that baby out!

Ironically, the power went out half way through writing this post so I was able to put it to good use.






Happy Friday the 13th!

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The Moment My Life Took a Turn

the moment my life took a turn

I like to consider myself a "preparer".  I may not be organized in my day-to-day life, but when it comes to big, potentially life-altering, decisions, I always like to know what's happening ahead of time.  For example, any other day a move to Alaska would have been planned with absolute precision.  But in our case, we had 5 days to get our shit together and hop on a plane.  

It's funny how life can take some pretty unexpected turns.  Like ours did for the 2010-2011 hockey season.  Let's rewind a little so I can tell you all about the moment my life changed, for the best.

Steve had been back and forth all summer, with two offers he was interested in - one for a team on the west coast and one on the opposite side of the country.  I can't exactly remember why, but the decision was finally made to go to the team on the east coast.  Closer to family, or comfort perhaps?  Can't say I wasn't thrilled with the decision - we had been dating for 5 years and decided to take the leap and move in together, and in the sunny south to boot.  

The end of training camp was nearing and my bags were packed and ready to go, bathing suit and all.  The only thing I needed for my drive was a GPS, especially if my parents were going to be ok with me doing it with Titus alone.  So, my dad and I headed to Walmart.  Somehow we ended up in the iron aisle when my phone rang.  It was Steve, and without me getting a word in, I heard the three little words that I was dreading, "I've been traded."  But before I could tell him it's ok and that some things are meant to happen, he said what I dreaded even more, "You'll never guess where."  Not sure how it came to mind, but I said "Alaska?!" followed by some words that should probably never be said in a raised voice in Walmart.  They were bad enough to cause my dad to come rushing over from a few aisles over.  

While Steve didn't have choice in the matter, he was hesitant to go.  And I don't blame him.  Alaska was so far and from what we had heard, cold and dark. The next thing he said will forever stick with me, from the exact words to exactly how it sounded coming out of his mouth. "Are you in?" he asked.  With a quick "You guys have nothing to lose," from my dad, right there in the iron aisle I said, "Let's do it", and went and put the GPS back.


We had 5 days for Steve to drive back from South Carolina, and for us to pack up our lives, say our goodbyes, "see ya in May" and board a plane, destination the Land of the Midnight Sun.  Only, that never really happened.  We didn't end up coming home for 3 years.


A week after we arrived in Alaska is when I started believing everything happens for a reason.  We were absolutely meant for that place.  It gave us both opportunities we had only dreamed about and we met some pretty incredible friends in the process.  


The moment my life took a turn wasn't just a move to Alaska with my best friend, it was a move that turn into happily ever after.


(To read more about the move, and the reason this little blog was conceived, click here.)



Enjoy the rest of your week friends!


[Linking up with Story of My Life. for Blogtember.]

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Myrtle

After a whirlwind few days exploring D.C. and Charleston, we finally made it to Myrtle Beach for a little r&r. While in Myrtle, the beach is your playground, with over 60 miles of sand, sun and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean.  While the beach all I need for a perfect and relaxing vacation, if you're looking for more, the fun extends beyond the shore to over thousands of area activities and attractions.

We spent most of the week enjoying the sun and warm ocean water - reading, boogie-boarding, shelling, building sand castles and indulging in one or two adult beverages.   

The tourists weren't the only ones that were taking advantage of the surf. This is what it looks like when the lifeguards clear a large stretch of the water when a 5-foot shark has been spotted right where you've been swimming all day.  Didn't stop us from enjoying the ocean though, even when it happened a second time on day 2. #couldhavebeensharknado


We couldn't have asked for better weather.  If it rained, it came at the perfect time of day, lunch time, when we needed a break from the heat anyways.  It looked like a work of art when the sky couldn't decide if it wanted to be sunny or stormy.

In the same day we witnessed two abnormal things:  1) a shark where we were swimming and 2) Ted Nugent. Yes, we visited the House of Blues for an Uncle Ted concert.   (While the House of Blues is an absolutely phenomenal venue, I've tried to supress the memory of Uncle Ted.)


We visited the Ripley's Aquarium to experience the world of sharks, rays and other amazing critters.


And on the last morning, we woke up early enough to watch the sunrise light up the sky and do a little beach combing.



Ahhhhhh, relaxation.  I could really get used to this unemployment thing. (Just kidding.)


Have you ever been to Myrtle Beach? What was your favorite thing to do?

Saying Yes to a New Adventure



Any guesses??  I'll give you some hints: This adventure does not involve 1] mountains, 2] thousands of miles in a car or airplane or even 3] a different time zone. But it does involve 1] tall buildings 2] the Great Lakes and 3] Christmas dinners. Now you think you know? Most importantly, it involves being HOME! 

That's right, we're going to be living at home for a FULL YEAR! (**happy dance**)

While staying at home may not seen like an adventure to most, it will be my first time home in three years and Steve's first in TEN! Not to mention, our first time living in our own place as husband and wife. 

No, Steve's not ending his hockey career, he's just signed with a new team in the Toronto-area. Bonus!

While it pains me that we're not going back to Alaska, or even Europe, after many tears, deliberations, arguments and weighing the pros and cons, we ultimately decided that the opportunities presented to the both of us at home (hockey, work, family, school, yada yada) were too good to pass up! 

5 reasons I'm excited to be home:

5//  Tim Horton's. 

4//  Lake Huron. 

3//  Family and friends will be able to watch Steve play.

2//  We won't miss any milestones, holidays or birthdays (including my SIL's dirty 30).

1//  More family, friends [and Titus] time!!!




Happy Saturday!


The Lowcountry

As our road trip to Myrtle Beach continued, we made a one-night pit stop in Charleston, SC. I've only seen pictures of this spot before, and they definitely don't do it justice. The South Carolina lowcountry is renowned for its historic cities, natural beauty and unique cultural heritage. This perfect combination makes it a tourists' paradise. 

A little bit of history for you: Founded and settled by English colonists in 1670, Charleston grew from a colonial seaport to a wealthy city by the mid 18th century.  In April 1861, Confederate soldiers fired on Union-occupied Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, signalling the beginning of the Civial War.  Charleston was slow to recover from the devastation of the war, however, its pace of recovery became the foundation of the City's greatest asset, the vast inventory of historically significant architecture. 

And now, some pretty pictures:


Before we left the Charleston area, we stopped at Middleton Place, a carefully preserved 18th century rice plantation and home of America's oldest landscaped Gardens. It was like stepping back in time. Established in the late 17th century by Henry Middldeton, who was the first president of Continental Congress, it has been in the same family for 320 years and is now a National Historic Landmark. 


At one time, there were three building comprising the residence of the Middletons, however, on February 22, 1865, the other 2/3s was burned by the Union soldiers. What is left is referred to as the "gentlemans' quarters", built for men who traveled in to visit the Middletons. 

As we made our way up the drive, we noticed sheep mowing the lawn.  Animals, you say? I was sold even before I stepped foot out of the car. And the animals didn't stop there - there were peacocks, cats, goats, pigs, cows, horses and chickens! Yep, I was in heaven.  If I could have a hobby farm wish list, those animals would be it. (Minus the peacocks. The boys are beautiful, but they scare me.)


The grounds were absolutely immaculate, complete with centuries old magnolia and oak trees dripping with spanish moss and alligators keeping guard in the ponds.


One of the most intriguing buildings to us was Eliza's house.  This two-family duplex was once occupied by former Middleton slaves and was filled with history.  It is known as "Eliza's House" in memory of Eliza Leach, a South Carolina African American born in 1891, and the last person to live in the building. She died in 1986, at age 94, after working over 40 years at Middleton Place.




Charleston's southern charm hooked me in, and I would definitely go back.


Have you ever been to Charleston, SC? What was your favorite part?