Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!

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Beautiful Parliament Hill. I’ve been lucky enough to go many times.
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Confederation Bridge in PEI

Hey guys!

One day late, as I was celebrating my beautiful country with family,  but Happy Canada Day!

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Canada in the past while, dually brought on by our big birthday and my best friend being steps from a terrorist incident overseas.  I have always loved being a Canadian, but I think that the feeling solidifies with age as the exotic sheen of other countries fades away and you realize other places are great to visit, but this is home.

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A lighthouse on the west coast

As kids, our family did not take a lot of vacations.  We went camping a lot though on the weekends, and I can’t say how lucky I was to grow up a few hours from the Rockies in Alberta. Beautiful rivers, quiet lakes and majestic mountains are mostly what I remember about those trips.  I also remember driving past mines, oil derricks and logging operations and having my parent’s explain to me the many economic drivers of my province.

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This is Western Brook Pond in Newfoundland, which is actually not a pond, but an inland fjord.
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Another of the beautiful Western Brook Pond

Every 4-5 years we would go on a bigger trip, though, and always somewhere in Canada.  My parents believed that we’d have our whole lives to go outside our borders but that it was important for us to learn about and appreciate our own country first. And so, I’ve seen every province of this awesome country. I’ve been in the Arctic circle. Stood in places so remote you can see three distinct lines of mountains and not a road, settlement or even a utility line.  I’ve been to the tops of mountains and roasted in the heart of the Okanagan.

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Icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland

I’ve waved at icebergs and boated on inland fjords. I know that there is a Canadian Mediterranean where palm trees grow.  I’ve visited Peggy’s Cove and the far edge of Vancouver Island and endless places in between.

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This is Confederation House

There is no place I’d choose to have my roots rather than Canada. This country has many problems of its own that need to be worked on – like getting clean drinking water for all citizens, stopping the MMIW crisis, integrating refugees to our country so they can thrive and putting in place sustainable means of driving our economy.  Canada has it’s issues just like anywhere else.

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The Yukon
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Indian Head Cliff

That being said, we are a nation that came into its identity not through monarchist birthright nor through civil unrest, but by coming to the aid of the world when our help was needed.  We are the nation that brought peacekeeping to the world. Our flag is a symbol of love to those we’ve helped and hope to those who dream of a better life.

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Quebec City looks like a European City!

As a Canadian, I was born into some of the best luck imaginable by being born into a life here.  Canadians are quietly patriotic, but Canada’s birthday is often our excuse to show our love explicitly for this awesome country. The first 150 were great… I’m looking forward to what we’ll have seen and learned at 200.

If you’re Canadian, how did you celebrate? If you’re not, where’s somewhere in Canada that you’d like to visit?

My Summer Reading List

20170605_21375920170605_21381020170605_214003Hey guys!

I wanted to share something a little different today, because it’s something I’ve recently started doing again, which is reading just for fun! Most of the past five years I have been reading for research and professional development, as well as my love of cookbooks! Not much else has earned a commitment for cover-to-cover reading since my degree, but recently that has been changing!

 

When I got this house, I loved the front window that looked out over the greenspace between the row homes where I live. I remember thinking… god that’d be the perfect spot to sit with a cup of coffee and read a book. Fast forward almost two years and it’s finally “book” instead of textbook! I admittedly have a couple books I’m reading for research purposes for a class I’m developing, but otherwise… all for fun!

There are admittedly a few books I’m re-reading, like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, but for most of these, they’re a first-time read!

Summer Reading List:

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

A Guy Like Me by John Scott (with Brian Cazeneuve)

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison

No Ordinary Men by Bernd Horn

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What books are you reading this summer? I have a bunch more that I’m hoping to take out from the library like The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda, but it’s on a waiting list, so that may be a fall book! Also, if you like suspenseful books, check out Caitlin Covington’s Summer Reading book review, because it seems like she loves suspense and she actually gives short reviews of each book! While you’re there, because she’s Southern Curls and Pearls… check out her outfit posts. And her travel posts. She’s got to have one of the funnest blogs to read and her photography and mostly affordable fashion is spot on.

 

 

 

Real Girl Review- Sally Hansen Miracle Gel

Hey guys!

I’m back with another real girl review today! Recently I’ve been trying out some nail polish options for longer wearing and “gel-like” formulas. In an ideal world, I’d be getting a gel manicure every month or so, but this is not an ideal world and girlfriend cannot afford that. I wish, though!

Wanting a similar quality manicure with regards to durability and extended wear time, I have been trying some drug store options that promise lasting shine and long-lasting color. This first post is about the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel line.

First of all, this polish is $9.97 for the base color and $9.97 for the gel topcoat. You don’t need a UV light for this product to work. A once-monthly salon gel manicure would cost you around $420/yr, whereas a monthly new shade of this product that promises to last 14 days would cost you around $140 (including 2 bottles of the topcoat). Definite potential savings, but does it hold up to its promises?

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Long story short… no. This polish lasted 5 days, and on the fifth day it was significantly chipped. The first couple of days I was hopeful- other than some light bubbling, and one tiny chip the shine was great, the application was easy and the color was gorgeous.

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As you can see here, three days in there was already considerable chipping.

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These pictures are on day five, and the chipping had spread to both hands. When I went to take it off, the remaining polish would not budge- for something that was chipping so much, it was seriously difficult to remove. I sat for thirty minutes and used a buffing file and a lot of nail polish remover to get my nails clean.

This polish honestly lasted less time than my usual routine of Sally Hansen Triple Strong, color and Sally Hansen Diamond Flash top coat (on short nails, that lasts me 7-10 days). As you can see, I’m a major fan of Sally Hansen but this product just did not work out for me. I will be trying it out with the shortest of short nails to see if that has any bearing on how the product performs but for now… It’s not something I’d recommend.

I’m going to be trying out another major brand’s 2 step gel line soon, but please let me know if you have a favorite that I should try! Or any tips for how to get this polish to work for the full 14 days…

About my Dad

Hey guys! And Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads and extra dads out there. Often unsung, overshadowed at times by the amazing contributions of our mums, I know my dad has always been there for me to ask for help with a challenge or advice. He’s taught me a lot about life and just like I shared a bit about my mum, I wanted to share a bit about my dad this Father’s Day. He’ll read this in six months and probably make fun of me!

It’s not very often that people have the opportunity to share something that they’re immensely proud of about one of their loved ones on a larger scale. When I was completing my degree, a friend of mine that I worked with as an editor for the Canadian University press asked if I’d be willing to work on a project with him. The project was profiling local volunteers, and one of them ended up being my dad.

My dad has been volunteering since his late teens. He’s always been pretty generous with his time, even now that he’s an incredibly busy business owner, husband, dad of two and dog-dad… he’s still volunteering. It’s often easiest to see those good parts of people, they’re public, often visual. The number of t-shirts he has from volunteering events is ridiculous.

What isn’t so easy to see at first glance is someone’s character. You often learn of it through watching their actions, and how they respond to challenges. How they treat others when life is tough and at times, overwhelming. When I struggle with motivation in life or feel like I can’t do something, I think of two things:

  1. My mother did not raise me to quit
  2. I am not following my father’s example

Simple. Where my mom instilled a steely nerve, my dad showed me what that looked like in practice in the workplace. Having owned their business since I can remember, my dad always had a regimented schedule when he was home (in the office by seven, thirty minute lunch, off at five- and always on call, day, night or weekend). He was away a lot when we were kids, and I remember him working at 8pm and later at night when he’d call to say goodnight. As I got older, I realized the longer he worked, the sooner he came home to us. As an adult, I now understand how little he enjoys being away. As a professional, that example taught me what it means to get the job done even when it’s not easy or comfortable.

My dad is one of very few people I know who loves his work and makes a good living doing it. It’s not his side job, it’s his livelihood and he (and my mum) built that from the ground up. When I need an example of what it really means to work hard and be successful, I look to him. And while he’s successful and a leader in his field, the worst thing I’ve ever heard him say about someone is that they were a buffoon. Yep. A buffoon.

Don’t worry, he said it with a lot of feeling. And they definitely deserved the title.

So when I think about what I wish people knew about my dad, it’s not the surface stuff that you could see from his volunteering t-shirts even though that’s great. It’s the guts of him I wish more people know- the persistence no matter what, the great example he sets in business, his love of our family, his soft heart and how he taught me what hard work really means through example.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I love you.

 

Ps. These photos are of one of my dad’s other talents… landscaping!

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos!

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Hey Guys!

I was strolling through Sobeys the other day with my mom when she called me over to tell me about how good of a price the pork shoulders were. She was right, and the butcher assisted us with picking one out for me, which cost a whopping seven dollars. It was supposed to be super hot the next few days so I knew I needed to figure out some way to cook it in the slow cooker that was still fun but didn’t require an oven for side dishes (because I loooove oldschool hashbrown casserole!).

So, I took inspiration from the awesome roasted meat dishes in Pati Jinich’s Mexican Today cookbook (you guys should check it out!) and decided that this pork shoulder should be slow cooked with a chipotle adobo sauce.

This was 100% an experiment. It could have been a 10$ total fail. But, I lucked out and it was delicious and I have a bunch of meat hanging out in my freezer for later! I am going to try to make a “Burrito Bowl” with the leftovers and I will update you if it works out well.

This isn’t one of my “ultra cheap” meals but you could definitely pare back areas to make it more affordable! You could marinate/slow cook just in the chipotle, and skip the pico to save about $2.75 total (bringing your per serving down to $3.41). But for me, this is an awesome “fun” meal and totally something I’d make for a celebratory taco night because it’s enough to feed a crowd and keep the food budget around $25. Life is short, eat the tacos… and if you can’t afford the tacos right now, try one of these ultra affordable recipes I’ve shared.

Pork “Carnitas” Tacos

$ 3.87 per serving (2 tacos) or $23.22 for 12 servings

Cost of Meat: $7.24 ($0.66 per taco)

Marinade/Sauce(per serving=$0.67):

1 can of chipotle chiles in adobo- $2.48

1 yellow onion- $0.35

2 jalapenos- $1.20

Total: $4.03

Taco Fixings (per serving= $1.88):

1 Radish per 2 tacos- $0.14 (0.84 for 12)

Guacamole (I used store bought, just a small smear to cut the heat and hold your fixings in)- ~$0.83 (~$5 for 12)

Pico De Gallo (check out how I make mine here)- ~$0.20 (~$1.20 for 12)

Tortillas- $0.52 ($3.09 for 12)

Optional: Torn parsley or cilantro and lime wedges

Total: $11.33

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Your first step is to cut the fat cap off of your pork shoulder and put it in the bottom of your marinating bag. Our butcher at Sobeys shared with us that it’s actually easier to pull the pork apart if you do this step, but so long as you lay it across the top of the shoulder while cooking, it will still keep the meat nice and juicy! Next, in a blender throw in your jalapenos (I did mine with seeds, just removed the stem) and onion as well as your can of chipotle chiles in adobo. I use the adobo can to add 2 can-fuls of water to the blender as well and blend until smooth. I added the pork shoulder to a zipper bag, poured the sauce over and marinated it overnight. You could totally just pour this into the slow cooker at this point, though.

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The next morning I put my pork shoulder in the slow cooker for 6 hours on high by accident. I meant to put it on for 8 hours on low but I failed. Even though I obviously overcooked my meat, it was so delicious and juicy (not at all dry, seriously) and easy to pull apart. I put the meat in a lasagna pan and pulled it all apart, pulling out the hock and excess fat as I went, and then let it cool for about 40 minutes before I put it in the fridge to fully cool. You could serve it once it’s pulled though! I just timed my day poorly and needed to put it in the fridge until dinner.

To make your tacos, I smeared guacamole on my tortilla, then laid down the meat, pico de gallo, and radish slices. I topped mine with parsley for the pictures but totally not necessary. A squeeze of fresh lemon was nice, though!

For a listing of what you would want or need to make this delicious meal happen:

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IMUSA Salsa Bowls – 2 piece • Imusa •
Scalloped Porcelain White Serving Bowl • Pier 1 Imports •
Avocado Bowl •
Marble Dip Bowl • Pier 1 Imports •
Cuisinart Velocity Ultra Trio 1-HP Blender/Food Processor with Travel Cups • Cuisinart •
Cuisinart Velocity Ultra 1-HP Blender • Cuisinart •
Oster Versa Blender • Oster •
Taco Rack • Crate & Barrel •
Charcoal Companion Sur La Table Taco Rack • Charcoal Companion •
Mexicali Taco Rack • Pier 1 Imports •
Hamilton Beach 6-qt. Programmable Stovetop Slow Cooker • Hamilton Beach •
Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 6-qt. Programmable Slow Cooker • Hamilton Beach •

For my own tacoloving self, here are some funny taco themed t-shirts etc…

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Express Ann Page Drink And Eat Tacos Can Cover • Express •
Express Ann Page Drink And Eat Tacos Napkins • Express •
You Better Have Tacos Doormat • Lulu & Georgia •
Fashion Pickle Taco Tequila Tank •
Tailgate Women’s Taco ‘Bout T-Shirt • Tailgate •
Buffalo David Bitton Lets Taco Bout It Tee • Buffalo David Bitton •
Chaser Tequila Tacos and Naps Graphic Tee, White • Chaser •
Chaser Tacos Y Cerveza Tee, White • Chaser •
Chaser Tacos Y Tequila Knit Top, Avalon • Chaser •

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Do you have a favorite taco recipe, or maybe a favorite slow cooker one? I’d love to hear about it. I’ve been loving anything that is easily cooked and/or does not require cutting to eat since hurting my hand so I would love to hear from you!

Vegetarian Tomato-Fennel Penne

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Hey Guys!

I’m back with a fun and easy meal idea! This was a total salvage use-up, with wrinkly tomatoes I stole from my mum  that were headed to the garbage and some fennel she had laying around! With some other bits and bobs it became a perfect bit of sauce for penne.

I love fennel, it has this flavor profile that reminds me of the spice blend in mild Italian sausage, just without the meat! The natural sweetness comes out as you cook it down. This dish is naturally vegetarian, and vegan if you omit or swap out the parmesan cheese, so this is a perfect dish for when you don’t know all of the food preferences of a guest.

Tomato- Fennel Penne

$5.32 for 4 or $1.33 per serving (but really… 59 cents a serving if those tomatoes were going in the trash)

~15 wrinkled tomatoes (salvaged from going to the garbage)- $0 ($2.97 for a pint if you have to buy)

1/4 of a fennel bulb- $0.82

1 shallot- 0.88

Penne- 0.65

Pantry essentials- garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

Optional: grated parmesan to finish

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This pasta is seriously so easy to make that your first step is to get your pasta water on to boil! Next, mince your garlic (1-2 cloves) and finely dice your shallot and put them in a hot electric skillet (med-high heat) to start working.

Next, add in slices of your fennel, and start halving your tomatoes. I toss mine in as they’re sliced to save cutting board space. Once the tomatoes are starting to soften, flip them cut edge down and squash them lightly with your wooden spoon. The seeds and pulp will come out and start to create the liquid of your sauce.

Continue cooking and squashing your tomatoes until your pasta is done, drain your pasta (reserve some pasta water in case your sauce won’t stick) and put it straight into your skillet to coat the noodles! When dishing it up, add a bit of grated parmesan!

Shop the Post:

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Michael Symon by Ergo Chef 6″ Chef’s Knife •

Michael Symon by Ergo Chef 9″ Chef’s Knife •

J A Henckels J.A. Henckels Chefs Knife • Zwilling J.A. Henckels •

Lenox Butterfly Meadow Carved Collection Individual Pasta Bowl • Lenox •

The Cellar Whiteware Square Coupe Individual Pasta Bowl • The Cellar •

Mikasa Swirl Square White Pasta Bowl • Mikasa •

Portmeirion Sophie Conran Celadon 4-pc. Pasta Bowl Set • Portmeirion •

Tabletops Gallery 2-pc. Pasta Bowl Set •

Glazed Pasta Bowls (Set of 4) • Sophie Conran •

Mikasa Swirl White Pasta Serving Bowl • Mikasa •

Bialetti Copper 5.5-qt. Titanium Ceramic Nonstick Electric Skillet • Bialetti •

National Presto Presto 16 Electric Skillet with Glass Cover •

DASH Dash 12 Rapid Skillet Electric Skillet •

Cuisinart CSK-150 Electric Skillet • Cuisinart •

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How do you like to use up tomatoes that are just on the edge of going off? I’d love to hear in the comments!