August 31, 2015

Days of the Month: September

Another month, another 30 days worth of celebrations! Here are September's days of the month and more fun blog post ideas, for those days when the creativity is lacking...

    1. Calendar Adjustment Day - Plan a fun activity this month!
    2. V-J Day - This day marks the end of WWII. Celebrate your freedom, and remember those lost.
    3. Skyscraper Day - Give us a tour of your town. 
    4. Bring Your Manners to Work Day - Pay it forward at work today.
    5. Be Late for Something Day - What is your morning routine to ensure you get to work on time?
    6. Fight Procrastination Day - What motivates you? Create a to-do list and check everything off.
    7. Buy a Book Day - Review your recent summer reads.
    8. Another Look Unlimited Day - Do you shop at thrift stores? Show us your best haul. 
    9. Wonderful Weirdos Day - Do you have any 'weird' habits? What are they?
    10. Swap Ideas Day - Share 15 blog post ideas.
    11. Make Your Bed Day - Give us a tour of your favourite room in your house.
    12. Chocolate Milk Shake Day - Share your favourite shake recipe.
    13. Fortune Cookie Day - Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
    14. Eat a Hoagie Day - Mustard or mayo? What is on your perfect sandwich?
    15. Greenpeace Day - How do you help Mother Earth?
    16. Collect Rocks Day - Are you a collector? Show us one of your collections. 
    17. International Country Music Day - Share a song that has meaning to you.
    18. Water Monitoring Day - Share your favourite beach memories.
    19. Coastal Cleanup Day - Pick a shoreline and help clean it up! What did you find?
    20. Wife Appreciation Day - Plan the perfect date night. What is it?
    21. World Gratitude Day - What are you thankful for? Don't forget to thank a stranger today!
    22. World Car Free Day - Commute, walk or ride your bike to work today!
    23. First Day of Fall - What is on your fall bucket list?
    24. Punctuation Day - What is your biggest grammar pet peeve?
    25. Hug a Vegetarian Day - Do you know a vegetarian? Have them share their favourite recipe.
    26. World Dream Day - Share your craziest dream. 
    27. Tourism Day - Be a tourist in your hometown for a day. Where did you go? What did you do?
    28. Drink Beer Day - What is your favourite beer to drink in each of the seasons?
    29. International Coffee Day - Coffee or tea? What is your go-to caffeinated beverage?
    30. Ask a Stupid Question Day - Have your readers submit their FAQ. No question is a stupid one.
    September is...
    Self Improvement Month - What is one thing that you would like to improve or change?
    Better Breakfast Month - What is your perfect breakfast?
    Chicken Month - Share your favourite chicken recipe.
    Piano Month - Do you have any hidden talents? Can you play any instruments?
    This is just a small sampling of the many interesting and fun days celebrated in the month of September.  I hope you enjoy this feature, and that it brings your some inspiration when the creative juices just aren't flowing this month!

    Happy September!

    Past months: March  |  April  |  May  |  June  |  July  |  August
    What will you celebrate this month?


    August 28, 2015

    Favourite Summer Memories

    Things end, but memories last forever. Like this summer. Can you believe its already the end of August? I know, I don't want to believe it either. Pretty soon all of the kids will be back in school, the tourists will have flocked home and the leaves will begin to change. At least we'll always have the memories of Summer 2015...

    Summer 2015 brought lots of family time. I got to see my sister a record two times in 3 months! Before May, I hadn't seen her since August 2014, so I was in need of some little sister time. 

    Summer 2015 brought our annual camping trip to Algonquin Provincial Park. Last year's canoe-in camping trip was such as success, that we decided to add a couple members of the family and do it again. 

    And last, but definitely not least, Summer 2015 brought the end to the suspense - our 'mystery family trip' destination was revealed. We spent 10 fantastic days touring Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast. [More to come on this adventure in the coming weeks.]

    What is your favourite memory of summer 2015?


    August 26, 2015

    #ad Grilled Honey Garlic Cornish Hens

     This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #JuicyGrilledCornish #CollectiveBias

    Grilled Honey Garlic Cornish Hens

    August may be coming to an end, but that doesn't mean the grilling needs to stop. There are plenty of grill days remaining before the weather starts to turn. Summer grilling doesn't need to be all hamburgers and hotdogs. Sometimes its good to think outside the box, and try something a little more daring. 

    While shopping at Walmart, I stopped by the open freezer cases in the meat department to see what caught my eye. The twin-pack of Tyson® Cornish Hens was calling my name. I've never made Cornish hen before, but am a big fan of grilled chicken so I thought I'd give it a try. When creating meals for my family, healthiness is extremely important. Lucky for me, Tyson Cornish Hens are all natural, with no artificial ingredients, preservatives, added hormones or steroids. As I continued to cruise the aisles, I picked up a bottle of Kikkoman® Low-Sodium Soy Sauce in the Asian Food section to create the perfect marinade for the Cornish hens. Marinating the bird will keep it moist and juicy, and give it added flavour. 

    Tyson Cornish Hens & Kikkoman Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
    Tyson Cornish Hens & Kikkoman Low-Sodium Soy Sauce

    Have you ever made Cornish hen? While the name sounds a bit intimidating, they are actually very easy to cook and quite delicious. Did you know they can also be cooked on the grill? This recipe for Grilled Honey Garlic Cornish Hens is a clever take on one of my favourite chicken wing sauces, and with the perfect combination of salty and sweet, is sure to be a family pleaser. 

    Grilled Honey Garlic Cornish Hens
    Grilled Honey Garlic Cornish Hens

    Grilled Honey Garlic Cornish Hens
    Serves: 2-4

    • 2 Tyson® Cornish Hens, thawed
    • 1/2 cup Kikkoman® low-sodium soy sauce
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 5 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 3 tbsp cornstarch
    • 1 1/4 cup warm water
    • 4 green onions, chopped (optional)

    1. Using kitchen shears, remove the backbone of the Cornish hen and open up to lay flat. This is known as the 'spatchcock method' and allows for easier grilling. 
    2. Create the marinade by combining Kikkoman low-sodium soy sauce, honey, garlic, brown sugar and warm water.
    3. Add the Cornish hens to baking dish. Salt and pepper both sides, pour marinade over top and sprinkle with green onions. Refrigerate for 4-12 hours, flipping half way to get an even marinade.
    4. Preheat the grill to medium-low. Oil the grate so that the Cornish hen does not stick. When heated, place flattened Cornish hens on grill. Grill evenly on both sides for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, liberally basting with excess marinade every 5 to 10 minutes.
    5. Cook until internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165F. Remove from the grill and cover the birds with foil. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before eating. 
    Grilled Honey Garlic Cornish Hens

    I served the Cornish hens with roasted potatoes, local sweet corn and grilled zucchini, straight from my mom's garden.

    Grilled Honey Garlic Cornish Hens

    Winner winner, chicken dinner.

    Have you ever had Cornish hen? I'd love to hear your favourite recipe!


    August 23, 2015

    Food of Italy

    If you were to ask my favourite type of cuisine, my first response would likely be Italian. I love everything about it - from the fresh and local ingredients, to the simplicity of the dishes and the love that goes into every single meal prepared. So, on our recent family vacation to Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast, I took full advantage of everything the Italian cuisine has to offer. From cappuccinos and cannolis, to fresh lemons, olives and tomatoes, homemade buffalo mozzarella and salami, handcrafted pizza and pasta and fresh seafood straight from the Tyyrhenian Sea, my belly left the country feeling pretty satisfied. 

    The first stop on my recap of our trip to Italy is going to be a tour for your taste buds, also known as 'how we ate and drank our way through Italy'...

    The refreshing afternoon treat. Gelato was a must try on our culinary bucket list. I opted for the refreshing citrusy flavours of orange and lemon, whereas Steve preferred the rich chocolate and nutella.

    The starters. Bruschetta with fresh basil, garlic and tomato or an antipasto plate with local olives, cheese and salami were regulars around our dinner table. If that is all I ate the entire trip, I would still go home a happy girl.

    The pizza. Pizza is the most popular and best known creation of all Neapolitan cuisine, so of course we had to try it. The way the Italians make pizza is the way it should be, with a simple crust. None of that thick, doughy crust stuff. They let the toppings do the talking, with everything from arugula to mushrooms, olives, prosciutto and thick slices of parmesan cheese.

    The pasta. Campania, the region where Napoli and the Amalfi Coast are located, is one of the largest producers and consumers of pasta in Italy, especially spaghetti. Similar to the pizza, Italians do tomato sauce right, just a few crushed tomatoes with garlic and olive oil.  The ravioli below was the die for.

    The seafood. Spaghetti alle vongole, or spaghetti with clams and mussels, was my go-to meal of the trip. Pasta, olive oil, garlic and clams or mussels, it doesn't get much simpler than that. I can't wait to make it at home. Another local speciality that we had to try was squid and octopus, steamed with a bit of fresh lemon juice.

    The beverages. Wine, limoncello and cappuccinos. No explanation needed. 

    Are you hungry yet? I know I am!

    What is your favourite Italian dish?

    Read more about our trip to Italy here:


    August 20, 2015

    Leftover Chicken Salad Wraps

    This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EffortlessMeals #CollectiveBias

    effortless meals; leftover chicken salad wraps

    Commuting over an hour to and from work each day eats up a lot of my time. On a good night, I leave work at 5:00pm and walk in the door at 6:30pm. That’s on a good night. So when I do get home, the last thing I want to do is put together a fancy meal. Especially when the weather is nice and the last bits of summer are calling my name. It's safe to say we are a family on the go. So, when we’re comparing work schedules for the coming week and coming up with a meal plan, minimal effort and time is number one. And, being on a budget, cost is a very close second. Bonus points if the meals we make can provide enough food for dinner that night and leftovers for lunch the next day. Enter Effortless Meals from Walmart

    effortless meals from walmart

    Found in the deli section, Effortless Meals from Walmart meals are convenient to purchase, help provide healthy, fresh options for dinner and create a positive mealtime experience for your family. My favourite is the rotisserie chicken meal - a 29oz rotisserie chicken, 2 lb side salad of your choice (potato, macaroni or cole slaw) and a 2L Coca-Cola. Chicken not your thing? Then why not pair that 2L Coca-Cola with a 16'' pepperoni or five cheese pizza. These effortless meals allow me to prepare a meal for my family in no time, leaving more time around the table for catching up and sharing the day. 

    effortless meals from walmart

    Have leftover rotisserie chicken? No problem. This recipe for leftover chicken salad wraps makes a great meal for lunch, a light supper, and takes hardly any time to mix all together. Not to mention, the addition of fruit and nuts and substitution of Greek yogurt for mayonnaise, makes it more nutritious. Effortless, affordable and nutritious. Like I said before, my kind of meal. 

    effortless meals; leftover chicken salad wraps

    Leftover Chicken Salad Wraps
    Makes 6-8 small wraps

    • 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
    • 1 cup red or green grapes, halved
    • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, slightly roasted
    • 1/4 dried cranberries
    • 1 cup green onions, chopped
    • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or 1 cup mayo)
    • 1-2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (only if using Greek yogurt)
    • Small handful of dill, minced
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • Lettuce (optional)
    • 6-8 small tortillas

    1. Preheat oven to 350F for roasting slivered almonds. Spread almonds in a single layer on cookie sheet. Check every minute until they're the desired colour (i.e. light brown).
    2. Shred leftover rotisserie chicken. 
    3. Add chopped chicken to a large bowl along with grapes, green onions, toasted slivered almonds and cranberries. Mix together.
    4. In a separate bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper. Adjust ingredients to taste.
    5. Stir all ingredients together until just combined.
    6. Allow the salad to chill for several hours, or overnight before eating. 
    7. To create the wrap, lay the tortilla on a flat surface. Add a piece of lettuce and dollop of chicken salad mixture. Roll up and enjoy!
    effortless meals; leftover chicken salad wraps
    effortless meals; leftover chicken salad wraps

    What if your favourite effortless meal?

    How would you pair Marketside products with Coca-Cola?


    August 18, 2015

    Free Things to Do in Toronto

    Like most people our age, we are on a budget. Gone are the days of going out for dinner multiple times per week or buying a brand new outfit "just because". With our new condo completion on the horizon, we are in serious savings mode. However, being on a budget does not have to mean we can't have fun. Luckily for us, there is a long list of FREE things to do in Toronto. Here are some of my favourite.

    free things to do in Toronto

    Get outdoors. Despite being known as the "concrete jungle", there are several parks scattered in and around the city of Toronto. One of my favourites is High Park. With over one million visitors annually, High Park is the jewel of Toronto’s park system.  Over one-third remains in a natural state, which means it is home to many species of wildlife. The park also offers many popular attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy - a dog park, small zoo, many hiking trails and playgrounds for children. The park is very popular in early spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, but also beautiful in the winter when covered in snow. Another park high on my list of favourites is Tommy Thompson, located on the waterfront on opposite end of the City from High Park. 

    free things to do in Toronto; High Park

    Take a dip in the lake. It’s no secret Ontario has many beautiful shorelines and some of the most pristine beaches. Locally, you can find Woodbine Beach and Sugar Beach, both popular during the summer months. Go for a walk along the boardwalk, take a refreshing dip, play a game of beach volleyball, build a sandcastle or just dig your toes into the sand and relax to the sound of soothing waves of Lake Ontario.

    free things to do in toronto; lake huron

    Let your feet do the work.  Toronto is a big city, and while most areas are accessible by transit, some things are best seen on foot. The patchwork of dynamic neighbourhoods, impressive architecture, green spaces, shops and eateries encourage visitors to lace up and hit the streets.  The City of Toronto has an extensive database for all self-guided City walks. Want something guided? The Tour Guys offer several free downtown walking tours throughout the summer months. 

    Take a stroll through history. The historic Distillery District is one of my favourite places, and a hidden gem. This pedestrian-only village is set amidst fabulous heritage architecture that comprises the largest and best-preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture. You won't find a franchise or chain operation here, so all the stores and galleries are one of a kind. Hundreds of films have also been shot here, including Tommy Boy, Chicago and X-Men. Mill Street Brewery is a must visit, and their Original Organic Lager is a must try. In December, the District is transformed into a winter wonderland with the Christmas Market.

    free things to do in Toronto; Distillery District; Christmas Market

    Take in the culture. Toronto is home to numerous districts, markets, festivals and museums that will allow you to explore the City's diverse culture. Take a stroll through one of the many districts, from China Town to Little Italy or the Danforth, known for its Greek culture. St Lawrence Market is Toronto's largest market, with other 120 vendors that sell everything from fresh veggies to breads, cheese, fish, meat and even arts and crafts. Some of the local museums also offer free access, including the Art Gallery of Ontario which is free from 6-8:30pm every Wednesday evening. 

    free things to do in Toronto; Art Gallery of Ontario

    What is your favourite free activity in your town?

    Amanda Moments


    August 14, 2015

    Mystery Trip Recap

    Bonjourno! We are back from our mystery family vacay, and I have to admit, it has not been an easy adjustment back to the 'real world'. Jet lag is the worst! So where in the world did we end up? When we checked in at the airport, we discovered that our adventure was taking us to Italy - Rome, the Amalfi Coast and Napoli, to be exact. It was a week filled with lots of sunshine, swimming, food and drink (wine, olive oil, pizza and pasta galore), and most importantly, family.

    So while I sift through my 1200+ photos from paradise, I will leave you with a little teaser of what is to come over the next few weeks. Here is a brief recap of our trip, in 5 photos...

    We spent a day and a half exploring the ancient city of Rome, with pit stops at the famous Colosseo, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and more.

    We took the high speed train south to Napoli, where we visited a winery and olive oil farm for lunch and walked the streets of Pompeii beneath the shadow of Mt Vesuvio.

    The majority of the week was spent along the Amalfi Coast, in a small town called Praiano.  We explored the coast, from Praiano to Amalfi, Ravello and Maiori, became mermaids in the Tyrrehnian Sea and loved the simplicity of the Italian lifestyle.

    Our adventures along the Coast ended with a day spent exploring the island of Capri. We toured amongst the yachts and million dollar homes, playing the "what yacht would you buy if you won the lottery?" game, we snorkelled and we ate delicious, fresh and local seafood.

    After an amazing week on the Coast, we were back to Napoli, where we toured the birth place of pizza, before boarding the high speed train and ending the trip where it all began, in Rome.

    I'm already ready to go back. 

    Have you ever been to Italy? What was your favourite part?


    August 12, 2015

    Rafting Down the Kenai River, Alaska

    Located approximately 2 hours south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, the Kenai River is the most popular sport fishing destination in the state of Alaska. The turquoise waters of the glacial stream are famously known for their yearly salmon runs, and the bears and bald eagles that visit for an easy lunch. 

    kenai river alaska float trip

    While the majority of people fish from the banks in what is known as "combat fishing" (think shoulder to shoulder with the next guy), others prefer to float the river. Or, if you're like me, you just prefer to float to enjoy the scenery. 

    kenai river alaska float trip

    Launching from Cooper Landing in the Upper Kenai River, the 3 hour guided evening float took us down the turquoise waters of the Kenai, through one of Alaska's most beautiful places. We let the guide to do all of the work, as we sat back and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the River and surrounding Chugach Mountains. 

    kenai river alaska float trip
    kenai river alaska float trip

    Much to our disappointment, we only saw one distant bear on our float. A brown bear, up to her neck in the water, fishing for her dinner. It was amazing to watch her power - not moving an inch and completely focused on the water below as the river rushed past.

    What made up for the lack of bears was the number of bald eagles. Not long after launch, we were already in the double digits. Some were perched on branches, with their eyes trained on the water below, while others were tending to their young in a nearby nest.

    kenai river alaska float trip; bald eagle
    kenai river alaska float trip; bald eagle nest

    Did you know that of all the birds in the wild, bald eagles hold the record for building the biggest nests? Some nests, or aeries, have been seen to be over 9 feet wide and weigh two tons! Juvenile bald eagles (like in the photo above) are all brown in colour until they reach maturity. It is at that time that they get the iconic white feathers on their head and tail. 

    A rafting trip was the perfect way to explore an area of the great state that we may not have otherwise seen by foot or car. So, if you're looking for an Alaskan adventure the whole family will enjoy, add a raft trip to your list.

    Note: There are several Cooper Landing rafting providers, so make sure to check out reviews, availability and timing, and compare prices before booking. No promotional items or discounts were provided in lieu of this post, all opinion are 100% my own.

    Have you been to the Kenai River? Is a raft trip something you would like to experience?

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