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Archive for December, 2009

Holiday highlights

December 31st, 2009

I just got back last night from visiting my in-laws in Calgary, feeling very fortunate (and overfed). Here is a collection of shots from a jam-packed last few days.

My parents asked all the kids for Christmas wish lists. One of the things I asked for was “fun bright socks”. Don’t these ones rock? (Yes, those are sparkly x’s and o’s on the toes.)

John caught this shot of his sister and brother-in-law’s two new puppies. Sunday is a 7-month-old rescued Border Collie / Blue Heeler, and Sophie is a 13-week-old Black Lab. They are too cute for words.

Calgary skies are unlike anything we get here. I took these on a stroll around the block, near my in-laws’ place.

John and I did a day trip to Banff. It’s always a surreal drive — I feel like we’re in the midst of a model train set every time. The Rockies are breathtaking, even through a mud-splattered windshield… and photos never do them justice.

I’ve never seen frost atop snow like we saw in Banff…

I really liked walking atop a frozen Minnewanka Lake.

So did John.

We realized it was our one-month wedding anniversary that day. My pathetic attempt at a snow-track greeting… just in case you can’t tell (ha!), it’s supposed to say “Happy 1 mo.”

We saw lots of deer and elk during the week…(though, sadly, no giant Mini Wheats)

A terrific way to wind down 2009, I gotta say.

I hope you’re having a terrific holiday too. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2010. See you on the other side!

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Corny season’s greetings (with a DIY download)

December 24th, 2009

Over the last couple of days, I’ve whipped up three batches of Gingerbread Caramel Popcorn, a recipe I found online and then modified slightly. The aroma in our place is downright heavenly.


•    15 cups popped corn (I used air-popped)
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1 cup butter
•    2 cups packed brown sugar
•    1/4 cup corn syrup
•    1/4 cup light molasses
•    1 Tbsp. ground ginger
•    1 tsp. cinnamon
•    1/2 tsp. baking soda
•    pinch of cayenne pepper
•    2 cups roasted pecans
•    240 g bag of peanut m+m’s


Preheat oven to 250˚F. Place popcorn and pecans into two 13” x 9” pans.

Mix together salt, butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, ginger, cinnamon & cayenne in a large saucepan. Heat over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for 5 minutes:

Remove pan from heat and mix in baking soda. Mixture will foam up — this is why you need a large pan!

Pour mixture over popped corn / pecans in prepared pans, mix thoroughly. (The mixture gets a little stiff as it cools over the popcorn… you’ll get a few more shots at coating everything later, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect at this stage.)

Bake pans at 250˚ for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until corn is glazed and crisp. (During these stirs, any excess caramel will be at the bottom of the pans, and you can spread it out more evenly.)

Cool completely. I doled out the popcorn in treat bags I’d picked up at Michael’s Craft Store, throwing in peanut m+m’s (yes, I’m still a little obsessed with them) as I went. Each batch yielded about a dozen bags, though the recipe says that it makes 30 servings.

I designed a card — with knee-slapping punny greetings on the front, plus the recipe on the back (see top photo) — had them printed up at a copy centre, and tied them on each bag.

The feedback so far is that the popcorn is delish (though both John and I already knew this, since we did some very scientific taste-testing).

If you’d like to put together a batch of the popcorn too, please feel free to click here and download the artwork for the tags so you can also give out corny greetings with the treats!

Technical stuff for printing the tags: I’ve laid out the artwork so that there are four tags per 8.5″ x 11″ sheet. There are two pages to the PDF, and they should be printed back-to-back. When printing, specify that it “Fit to page” and make sure the printout is centered on the sheet. The artwork includes cropmarks on the front side, so you can use these to cut out the tags — if printed correctly, the recipes on the backs of the tags should line up nicely with the front.

Do you have any simple holiday treat recipes to share???

Enjoy, and merry merry to you!

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A toasty afternoon with The Vinyl Café

December 21st, 2009

For fellow canucks, The Vinyl Café and the sound of Stuart McLean’s voice are likely familiar to you — stories of Dave and Morley and other characters who are practically family members to some listeners by now. Lucky duck that I am, I got to play the role of Amanda’s date yesterday, and we went to see the Ottawa show of the Vinyl Café’s Christmas Tour, which also featured Jill Barber and Matt Andersen. To top it all off, we got to sit in a loge; it couldn’t have been more perfect… unless I’d had binoculars-on-a-stick and a fan.

Seeing the stories being told was a lot more magical than just hearing them over the airwaves. Stuart McLean truly has a gift for storytelling, and watching him made me realize how each word, breath and every decision about timing was crucial to his delivery. The room was full of laughs, some sniffles, and plenty of feelings of nostalgia.

Jill Barber was ever-charming and glamorous:

And I’m thankful for the introduction to Matt Andersen, who got a standing ovation after this performance:

Matt’s parents flew in from the East Coast to watch this show… and Stuart asked Matt’s Mom to come up and help sing this number:

The show’s finale had the room singing along:

For the entire show, I felt like I was tucked in. I’m not someone who feels particularly “Christmassy” during the holidays, but this was definitely the most I’ve felt in a long time. When it was time to go, I was half-surprised to look down and realize that I wasn’t in my pj’s and slippers.

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