Archive for June, 2011

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Happy Red & White Strawberry Squares

June 29, 2011

Canada day is just around the corner and I’m sure all of you are looking for a special red and white treat to take to your long weekend BBQ. These squares are always a winner in my house, and whenever I take them to a gathering. I was given this recipe by a friend I worked with in university and have made it every strawberry season since. It is light and yummy!! To travel, I usually cut and freeze the squares so they stay as cold as possible.

Strawberry Squares

Shortbread Crust

1 ⅓ cups flour

2/3 cup butter

3 tablespoons brown sugar

          – Mix, press into a 9” pan & bake at 350˚ for 15 minutes

 Filling

2 cups strawberries

½ cup sugar

1 package strawberry jello

1 package Dreamwhip

      – Heat 2 cups strawberries until hot. Add  ½ cup sugar and 1 package strawberry jello, let cool. Make 1 package Dreamwhip. Add ½ to strawberry mixture, reserve other ½ for topping. Pour strawberry mixture over the shortbread crust and let cool. Top with remaining Dreamwhip, Refrigerate. Top with sliced strawberries.

I’m off to make some strawberry popsicles… be prepared for more yummy strawberry recipes!! 🙂

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52 Weeks of Happiness: Week 6

June 28, 2011
This week we participated in the Maggie’s Place Stroll-a-Thon and Touch-a-Truck fundraiser. Maggie’s Place is our community family resource center that is near and dear to my heart, it definitely makes me happy!! Not only have Thomas and I made some wonderful friends, I have gained a wealth of knowledge and felt support in the  many baby decisions that a first time mom has to make.     
 

Ready to stroll

 
 
Maggie’s Place offers lots of programs. Some of the programs Thomas and I have been involved in include, monthly breastfeeding support group, Baby, Me & Mother Goose song and nursery rhyme time  and weekly parent & tot playgroup. I have also borrowed many different books from their amazing library.
 

Thomas the Firefighter

 
We love Maggie’s Place and were so happy to be able to raise money for such an awesome community resource.
 

P.S. Sorry about the mispost last night, not sure what happened there. Look out for a real BBQ post as soon as I have a few minutes to sit down and write it.

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Oh Sunny Day

June 22, 2011

Although we haven’t had much sunshine (yes, I’m complaining once again!)  it is time to start thinking about what kind of sunscreen you are going use. One important thing to remember is that sunscreen (like all lotions) has an expiry date. I learned the hard way that the date is there for a reason, I got a terrible burn using expired sunscreen!

The first thing to consider is the amount of SPF (or Sun Protection Factor) you need. SPF measures how much the product shields the sun’s shorter-wave ultraviolet B rays, known as UVB, which can cause sunburn. When I was growing up SPF 15 was all you could get and considered the best but now you can buy SPF 100. So, what does that mean and is it necessary? I’ve read quite a bit of research and it all points to the fact that it’s the way you put the sunscreen on more than in amount of SPF it has in it. It is important that you apply sunscreen thickly and evenly at least 30 minutes before you go outside, and reapply after swimming, sweating or every 2-4 hours.

So, to choose an SPF number is the next question. SPF 15 blocks about 94% of UVB rays, SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays, and an SPF 45 blocks about 98% of rays. From what my doctor said to me, SPF 15 is all you need when applied properly and worn with a hat and protective clothing.

Ingredients are also important when considering sunscreen. There are a few chemicals that you should stay away from (if possible) but the two major ones are; oxybenzone and benzophenone. I always try to use products that are as environmentally friendly and natural as possible. To help me make decisions I use the Environmental Working Groups cosmetics database, check it out:

I am all about trying to use products that are as natural and chemical free as possible so for sunscreen we have been using GreenBeaver SPF 30… I find it’s a little greasy but not too thick and doesn’t leave your skin white and best of all it’s made in Canada!! 

Hopefully this will help you make your sunscreen decision… that is, if the sun ever shines long enough for you to need it!

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52 Weeks of Happiness: Week 5

June 21, 2011
Happiness is sisterly visits!! It isn’t very often that my 3 sisters and I can get together… although Emma, Meghan and I live fairly close to each other Laura is a plane ride away so we are only ever in the same place at the same time a couple times a year. Last week just happened to be one of those times.
 

Sisterly love... We're missing Emma here, she was a school.

 
These visits are especially important now… Thomas loves spending time with his aunties!!

Thomas and Auntie Laura

 How could I not talk about sisterly love without posting a Swim sister original… 🙂

 
 
 
 
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52 Weeks of Happiness: Week 4

June 14, 2011

Happiness is sunshine!! Although we haven’t had many sunny days, the few we’ve had have been wonderful!!! Enough sun that I have not lost hope that summer is around the corner and that everything in the garden is starting to bloom!!

Play dates on the patio

Korean Lilac

Baby Iris

Peas

Baby Spinach

Peppers

herbs, herbs, everywhere

Geraniums with lots of buds!!

 
 
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52 Weeks of Happiness: Week 3

June 7, 2011

This week I am so happy and grateful for our health. Thomas and I have both been sick with a terrible chest cold. Thomas is back to his good ol’ self and I am definitely on the mend.

Another important family member was injured this week. Our dog Teddy was attacked by the dog across the street. I took him into the vet as soon as it happened and am so glad I did. He ended up needed surgery right away. He had to have a skin and muscle graft as well as 30+ stitches… a lot for an 11 pound pup!! The vet was really concerned that the grafts wouldn’t take and he would need more surgery but everything looks to be healing really nicely!! He has really come around the last two days, up and walking, eating and wanting to hang out.

This is an old photo of Teddy. Right now he has a naked (and very nasty) looking bum.

 

It’s interesting how you can go from a healthy house to 3 family members feeling under the weather overnight. I am so grateful that we are all on the mend and happy that we are almost back to normal, whatever that means 🙂 !!

 

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Coca-Cola Cake

June 6, 2011

Don’t think that I am advocating taking up a Coke drinking habit by posting this recipe. I am not a pop drinker nor do I think it is a good idea to become one. However, everything in moderation right?! So, my baby sister turned 16 at the beginning of May. I gave her a stack of cookbooks and asked her to choose which cake she would like. This is what she chose…  it was so good that since then I have made it for another family birthday (see  52 Weeks of Happiness: Week 2 post). It is moist and crumbly and everything you’d ever want in a deliciously chocolatey cake. It is another one of Nigella Lawson’s recipes which I have ‘tweaked’ a little to make my own.

Coca-Cola Cake

for the cake:

     200 g. plain flour (1¼  c. less 1 tbsp.)

     250 g. brown sugar (1 c. packed)

     ½ tsp. baking soda

     1 large egg

     30 g. yogurt (1/3 c.) + 100 ml milk OR 125 ml buttermilk – I used the yogurt mixture

     1 tsp. vanilla extract

     125 g. butter (¼c. + 2 tsp.)

     2 tbsp. cocoa powder

     175 ml Coca-Cola

for the icing:

     225 g. icing sugar (1¾ c.)

     2 tbsp. butter

     3 tbsp. Coca-Cola

     1 tbsp. cocoa powder

    ½ tsp. vanilla extract

for the pan:

     22-23 cm Springform pan, lined with foil to prevent the batter from leaking, then buttered

Preheat the oven to 350° and put a baking sheet in at the same time.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking soda. Beat the egg, milk-yogurt (OR buttermilk) and vanilla. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, add the cocoa and coke, heat it gently.

Pour into the dry ingredients, stir well with a wooden spoon, and then add the liquid ingredients, beating until well blended (I do all this in my stand mixer).

Pour into the prepared springform pan and bake on the warm sheet for 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Leave to stand for 15 minutes in the springform before unmolding. Then unclip, unwrap and turn out on a wire rack. Line your cake plate with strips of wax paper (2″ W X 5-7″ L) around the entire edge of the plate (lengthwise so that they are not too far into the middle). This will make for easy clean up when icing the cake – Martha Stewart taught me this!!

Sieve the icing sugar and set aside (or just run a whisk through it in a bowl, thanks again Martha).  In a small sauce pan (I just rinsed out the one I used earlier) combine the butter, Coke and cocoa. Stir over low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and spoon in icing sugar, beating as  you do so, until you’ve got a good, spreadable but still runny icing (I used all the icing sugar).

Pour this icing over the cake, while the cake is still warm, and leave it to cool.

Serves 8-10

To Decorate: Nigella recommends sprinkling the top with chopped walnuts when the icing is still warm, I will probably do that next time. This time, I made chocolate decorations by melting some good quality semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler. Once it has melted put it in a zip-lock bag and give it a few minutes to cool. Then simply cut off the corner and drizzle it onto wax paper in whatever shape you prefer  and refrigerate until hardened.

 

 Decorate the cake right before serving.

This icing needs to be kept cool. This cake travelled in the car for over an hour and the icing started melting… it was much prettier before I left it out in the heat!!