Wednesday 31 October 2012


Hallowe'en is here.  And we're ready.  This may not seem newsworthy but it is.  There have been years where we've found ourselves panicking to get costumes ready at the last minute;  running to the store hours before trick-or-treating to buy whatever might be left of the Hallowe'en candy;  tossing around some last minute decorations… all in a stressful hurry-up-and-get-ready blur.   This time the costumes were ready by last weekend and that by itself is cause for celebration.

Granted, we’re getting off easy this year.  We didn't have pumpkins to carve due to an incredibly hot & dry summer that resulted in disappointing apple and pumpkin crops.  There was no apple-picking this fall, and pumpkins have been impossible to find.  Outdoor decorations were also struck off the Hallowe'en to-do list thanks to Hurricane Sandy.  They would have just ended up halfway across the neighbourhood.

One of my favourite Hallowe'en photos, from way back when they were all still young enough to go trick or treating:

And I have a confession to make.  Those boxes of Hallowe'en chocolates, the ones sitting in the pantry appearing to be whole and intact…. well, they're not.  I opened them.  And ate some, a lot actually.  And hid the wrappers.  And glued the boxes back together. 

And finally, a peek at my Hallowe'en Pinterest board.  Pinterest is the ultimate time waster... I love it!

Happy Hallowe'en! 

Halloween Link Up

Monday 15 October 2012

Autumn, Crusty Bread and a Wicked Spinach Dip

We're still crushing on fall despite the fading autumn colours.  There are less fiery reds & golds brightening the landscape as the leaves fall from the trees and reveal shades of brown.  Combined with grey windy skies, it's beginning to feel decidedly more wintry and a lot less like the end of summer.  The warm & sunny fall weather of the past few weeks is giving way to cold & rainy days that are getting shorter as the nights grow longer.  The furnace has been turned on and the fireplace saw some action this weekend.

Hubby made some amazing pulled-pork in the crock pot on Sunday and as we were piling it onto fresh crusty rolls we were reminded of the spinach dip I often make and how amazing it is with fresh bread.  This is a dip I've made for years that everyone loves and asks for again and again.... even after filling up on pulled-pork sandwiches.

Knorr® Spinach Dip
Adapted from Knorr's Classic Spinach Dip Recipe
 1 package (10 oz / 300g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
        1 container (16 oz / 500ml) sour cream
        1 cup Hellmann's® mayonnaise
        1 package Knorr® vegetable soup mix
        1 can (5 oz / 140g) water chestnuts, drained and chopped
        ¼ cup finely diced red onion

A few things about how I prepare this:

Squeeze as much water as you can out of the thawed spinach.  I usually put it in a fine mesh strainer when it’s thawed and push it into the mesh to force out as much liquid as possible.  I do not cook the spinach.  Please make sure you use chopped spinach.  Frozen whole spinach will not work... trust me.

I use sour cream, but plain Greek yogurt can be substituted.  I have not tried this.  Someone might notice and I’d have a spinach dip mutiny on my hands.  My family really loves this stuff and it has to be just the way I’ve ALWAYS made it.

Mayonnaise.  Only MAYONNAISE.  Not Miracle Whip.  Miracle Whip is salad dressing.  It is NOT mayonnaise.  They cannot be used interchangeably.  Not ever.

Knorr brand vegetable soup mix is what works best in this.  I’ve tried other brands when the Knorr has been sold out (which happens a lot) and it just isn't the same.  This stuff is like crack and if it’s on the shelves, buy a few… one can never be too prepared for the next Knorr vegetable soup mix shortage.  I roll over the package a few times with a rolling pin before I open it to crush the soup mix into a powder… I think it helps to intensify the flavour.  I chop up the red onion and water chestnuts very fine for the same reason.  Some recipes call for green onion instead of red onion.   Again, I don’t dare mess with my version of this recipe and the red onion adds more flavour.

Once you’ve got it all mixed up well in a bowl, cover it and let it sit in the fridge for a while so the flavours can blend.  I usually give it a couple of hours and then let it sit at room temperature before serving as it tastes better when it isn’t ice cold.  If I’m worried about a nice presentation, I’ll hollow out a sourdough or pumpernickel loaf to serve it in, but usually they’re digging in as soon as the lid comes off the bowl.  I always make sure to have plenty of bread for dipping… a couple of sliced French baguettes are perfect.  Cut up veggies are yummy too!

Doubling this recipe is a very good idea… or it’ll be gone before you know it.

If you're feeling really ambitious, make a couple of baguettes from scratch.  It's easy and they're so much better than store-bought.... crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside.  I mix up this recipe in  my breadmaker and then divide it into two loaves, rise & bake.

Crusty French Bread Recipe from

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Monday 8 October 2012

Turkey and Gratitude
The long Thanksgiving weekend is here!  As excited as I am about enjoying three days off with my family and sitting down to an all-the-trimmings turkey dinner, I'm also reflecting on the many things we have to be thankful for.  Traditionally, Thanksgiving celebrated the harvest and all the blessings of the past year.  It was a holiday created to express gratitude.  I've been thinking about gratitude a lot lately.  I've watched people I love and care about struggle with various crisis in their lives and I am reminded again and again of all that we have to be thankful for.  

Gratitude is about taking notice of what's around you and being aware of all the good things in your life.  Often we are so busy thinking about the future, or dwelling on the past, that we don't see the present and all the things we should be grateful for on a daily basis.  Sometimes we get caught up in comparing our lives to the lives of others and wishing for better or more.  Gratitude is the act of looking to our own lives - the roads that we've travelled, the experiences we've been through, the gifts that we've been given - and appreciating all that this life is teaching us.  Life may not be perfect and our paths may need adjusting, but gratitude requires that we look to the good in our lives and be thankful for it.  Often the very things we take for granted are the things that some people only wish for.  Despite hardships and challenges, when you stop and really take a look around you, life is pretty good.

So this Thanksgiving weekend I am thankful for my family, healthy kids, our imperfect home, the turkey that's in the oven, and the beautiful autumn weather.  I'm also grateful for teachers that do great crafts in their classrooms.  A Thanksgiving table setting can be a beautiful thing, but it's decorations like this that make them great:

Easy, peasy... a potato, some toothpicks and construction paper 'feathers', and a turkey face from a colouring page... love it!

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Monday 1 October 2012


October's here.  This is where the whole holiday season craze begins, and thinking about Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas and all the other seasonal stuff is enough to stress me out, but I'm not going there today.  Even though we're still enjoying warm, sunny days, there's no denying that autumn is here.  The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler, and it just feels like fall.

I love living in a part of the world that offers such distinct and dramatic seasons.  A part of me is happily anticipating all things fall - blowing leaves & crisp frost, hot cider & pumpkins, boots, mittens & cozy sweaters, glowing candles, and the warmth of the fireplace - while another part of me is wistful over the passing of another happy, shiny summer.  




And there it is, a random photo sampling of the different joys we find in each season.  Note to self: take more pictures in the SPRING...

These changing seasons mark off the passage of time in such a tangible way and today I'm just soaking it all in, the nostalgia of seasons past, and the promise of seasons to come.

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