26 Feb

I Made a Snowman

Snowman!No, in fact I did not use shit for his nose, in spite of how it looks

. . . because the snow conditions were perfect.

. . . because I wanted to cross something off my Winter Bucket List

. . . because I share my interests with 4 year olds

. . . and because I wanted to get a selfie with a snowman.

Snowman!

You can imagine my grief when I came home to find my snowman faceplanted into the cement as if someone dropkicked him.

Snowman
February 2012
My he rest in peace.

Snowman!

24 Feb

I drink a lot

My internet friend Nicole at Just Live It is hosting Bloggers Like Us where a group of bloggers answer one question a month to learn more about each other.

Last month was Where Do You Blog From Most Often?

This month is

What do you sip on to get your day started?

I wish I could show you a picture of a saucer and cup filled with a foamy cappuccino sprinkled with cinnamon and sitting on a café table lit by the early morning sun.

But I’ll be honest and show you this:

I drink a lot

Yes, that’s nearly 3 litres of beverage that I consume in the morning at my cubicle (if the phone and fluorescent lighting don’t give that away).

From left to right:

Water in the pink water bottle that I’ve been carrying with my everywhere for the last 5 years.

Green smoothie in a green bottle: Soy milk, protein powder, and spinach.

Hot green tea in the thermos Matt bought me for Christmas this year.

Needless to say, I take frequent bathroom breaks throughout the day.

21 Feb

Four Things

I’m loving my new Adidas tights. They’re thin, super soft and smooth, and my stomach doesn’t show when I wear shorter tops because the waist is nice and high. That’s normally not a very flattering cut, but since they have horizontal stitching just above the butt it makes them look good in spite of the high waist.

Also they’re kinda wild and much more exciting than the blacks and greys I normally wear (even though they’re, ya know, still black and grey).

Adidas Tights

I started out 2013 by keeping a day-by-day calendar. I wanted it to track my weightlifting progress but it’s become more like a journal and I’ve been filling it in every day with not only my workouts but also noting cool things I’ve cooked, interesting news headline I’ve read, and what the “Best Part of The Day” was. I think it’ll be interesting to look back on at the end of the year.

2013 Day by Day Calendar

I’m three quarters of the way through Storm of Swords, the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Holy Shit it’s good. I basically spend all my spare time reading, speaking like I live in the Middle Ages, and saying things like “I am the Mother of Dragons!” and “You know nothin’ Jon Snow” in British accents.

Storm of Swords

I started Cycle 3 of my 5/3/1 Training programme and it’s been going well. I haven’t done a full recap of Cycle 2 because it wasn’t much different from Cycle 1. My loads were similar but I was able to squeeze out more reps in my final working set, so I felt accomplished.

Cycle 3 is already starting out as a challenge which is already starting to excite me. The testosterone will be raging.

Weightlifting

20 Feb

Date & Peanut Truffles

Date & Peanut Truffles -sugar free, super easy, and just 4 ingredients

Since Lent started last week and while I < em>been craving sugar, it’s not as much as I expected to.

. . . perhaps because I’ve been substituting sugar with more than my fair share of nuts and dried fruit. But in an attempt to stop myself from just eating them by the handful I decided make little truffles.

These are similar to the rosemary sea salt larabars that I’ve made before. They’re super easy. It’s just dried fruit and nuts in the food processor and formed into balls.

You can really do any fruit and nut combination. You can add spices or herbs or cocoa or flavour extracts. Anything goes.

For the nuts, I really like peanuts because they process smoother than almonds or other nuts. But any nut will do.

Apricot & Peanut Truffles. . . this version was made with apricots instead of dates

For the dried fruit, dates work best because they are sticky and smooth and hold together well when processed. I made this same recipe twice, one with dates and once where I subbed apricots for the dates. I preferred both the flavour and the texture of the date balls better so that’s the recipe I’m putting here.

Date & Peanut Truffles -sugar free, super easy, and just 4 ingredients

Date & Peanut Truffles

makes about 15 balls

170g/6oz pitted dates
85g/3oz unsalted peanuts
a dash of sea salt
28g/1oz unsweeted shredded coconut

In a food processor, blend the dates, peanuts, and salt for 3-5 minutes until the mixture comes together into a smooth paste. Form with wet hands into 1 inch balls. Roll the balls in the shredded coconut.

18 Feb

Drinks and ‘Skating’

Three cheers for a day off! It’s Family Day and I’m relaxing on the couch with Bagigis after a good workout and a few chores. It’s a nice change from Monday mornings in the office that’s for sure.

This weekend we went out to celebrate my friend Tina’s birthday which was this week. Last weekend I made her a panettone for her birthday (I’m trying to hone my panettone making skills) which turned out pretty good, though I think I would have liked it a bit sweeter.

Panettone (8)

This weekend we went out to celebrate.

The plan was to go ice skating at Charles Clark Square downtown Windsor and then head for drinks somewhere. Since we ended up getting at least an inch of snow that afternoon, the rink was closed for cleaning when we got there so we headed straight for the bar instead—The Kilt and Fiddle.

Tina's Birthday

Late in the night when we had our fill of drinking we decided to try skating again. . . only everyone was too cold to bother putting their skates (except one brave soul: Kyle) on so we ended up just sliding around the ice in our shoes.

Charles Clark SquareTina at Charles Clark SquareMe at Charles Clark SquareThe Group at Charles Clark Square

I really wanted to actually skate . . . but at least I still have a few weeks of cold weather ahead of me to get out on the ice.

Happy Birthday Tina!

Tina's Birthday

15 Feb

Coconut Cardamom Macarons

It’s the 15th of the month, that means it’s time for this month’s Baking Partners Challenge. The theme for this month is Macarons.

Coconut Cardamom Macarons (10)

I know you guys, I gave up sugar for Lent but luckily for me I whipped these up a few weekends ago when I was still indulging in the white stuff.

I think I’ve only eaten macarons twice in my life and neither time was I all that impressed, so naturally I wasn’t excited for this challenge; I’d rather be eating macaroons instead (mmm… macaroons). But in a way I was excited because otherwise I probably would have gone my whole life without making macarons and that would have been a damn shame.

They were enjoyable, delicate, and eating them felt really indulgent though that last part may be because making them myself allowed me to fully appreciate all the effort that went into making these fickle little sandwich cookies.

I did a bit of research on macaron making before diving into it since I’ve heard they can be a bitch to make. I read blogs and books and magazines and watched the Sandwich Cookie Episode of Bake with Anna Olson more times than I care to mention.

Finally I was ready to start.

Coconut Cardamom Macarons (3)

What is a Macaron?

Basically it’s a fancy sandwich cookie. The cookie part is made from almond meal, sugar, and well beaten egg whites to make a sweet biscuit that’s crisp on the outside but chewy on the inside. They’re so delicate that they pretty much have to be sandwiched together to hold up.

The filling is usually a jam or curd or ganache but I went with a buttercream which was really rich and very sweet (too sweet for some, but not for my sugar loving family).

The recipe I used was Martha Stewart’s recipe for French Macarons not to be confused with her recipe for Parisian Macarons which is somehow different in ways I fail to understand. (Are Parisians not French, Martha?)

The Filling

Now of course a macaron is nothing without its filling and Martha has a number of recommendations that are just as complicated (if not more so) than the macarons themselves.

I liked the sound of Martha’s coconut filling because it is a Swiss meringue buttercream filling with coconut flakes stirred in . . . and I myself am equal parts buttercream and coconut fanatic.

I’ve never made Swiss meringue buttercream before since it involves complicated things, like double broilers and candy thermometers, of which I like to steer clear. So before starting I consulted my sister, the buttercream guru. (Legend has it she once made 18 different buttercream variations to find the perfect recipe.) She confirmed that Swiss meringue is a bit time consuming but figured I could manage it without experience. And manage it I did.

The Swiss meringue buttercream took a bit more attention than other frostings, but it had a nice smooth consistency that’ll get me making it the next time I tackle a cake.

Coconut Cardamom Macarons (2)

The Cookie

With a successful buttercream under my belt (Quite literally. I ate a lot of it by the spoon.) I moved on to tackle the main event – the cookies. Making them wasn’t as complicated as I thought. I followed the recipe exactly, using a few extra tips that I learned along the way and I got good results.

The only issues I had were:

1) Piping perfect circles took a bit of practice and I was practically out of batter by the time I got the hang of it.

2) It was difficult to get the baking time right. I wish that I would have baked them maybe one minute longer because many of them were too soft and stuck to the parchment when I tried to pry them off.

The Result

Immediately after I made a batch, I wanted to make another. I wanted to get them perfectly right (ie. perfectly round and baked slightly longer) and I wanted to try adding a different flavour to the cookie and I wanted to experiment with different fillings. I liked the buttercream a lot, but if you’re not a fan of super sweet things , then try a ganache or a citrus curd filling instead.

Obviously I’m going to be making these again. . . in 40 days.

Tips and Techniques

Here are a few posts I found useful when it came to making my macarons.

Macaron Troubleshooting

Top 10 Macaron Myths

Sandwich Cookie Episode of Bake with Anna Olson

Nick Malgieri takes on Macarons: The Preliminaries, The Shells, The Filling

The Recipe

Coconut Cardamom Macarons (9)

Coconut Cardamom Macarons

From Martha Stewart

Ingredients

For the Filling:

1 egg white
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

For The Macarons:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup almond flour (aka ground almonds)
Pinch of freshly ground black cardamom seeds
2 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar

Directions

For the Filling:

Place egg white and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat, and whisk on high speed until mixture is cool and stiff peaks form, about 6 minutes.

Leave meringue in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, on low speed, mixing after each addition. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut.

For the Macarons:

Preheat the oven to 375F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pulse the cardamom, confectioners’ sugar, and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift the mixture 2 times (don’t skip this step, sometimes there are big chunks of almond in the almond flour and you don’t want those).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add the sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on the baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks.

Tap bottom the of each backing sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let the cookies stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to 30 minutes prior to baking so that a sheen forms on the cookie and you can touch it with your finger without the batter sticking.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 8-10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees.

Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. (If macarons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macarons.)

Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon filling. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.


BakingPartners



13 Feb

Lent 2013

It’s Fat Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras, aka Paczki Day, aka Shrove Tuesday, aka one of my favourite days of the year.

Our social committee at work gave away paczki which was amazing because I wasn’t planning on buying any but I wanted one really badly. It was a good start to my day.

Dinner, naturally, was pancakes and sausage. I made these Swedish Pancakes from the NY Times. The recipe uses whipped egg whites to leaven the batter which made for some really light pancakes, but I found that they collapsed and lost a lot of their lift when I put them in a low oven to keep warm. They’re at their most delicious right out of the pan, which makes it tough to prepare them for more than one person.

So with today being Mardi Gras that can only mean tomorrow is Ash Wednesday or the beginning of Lent, the annual Christian 40 day diet fasting period.

As with last year and the 2 years before that I’m giving up sugar for Lent.

No more cookies or jam or candies or vanilla spice lattes. No more sugar at all. Not for the next 40 days at least.

I find giving up sugar extraordinarily hard. Harder than going vegan (’cause vegans can eat sugar) but I’m going to do my very, very best to stick with it.

Also for Lent I want to work on being less judgmental. I catch myself judging others a lot. I’m not a very empathetic person and I want to change that (or at least be more aware of it). I want to try to be more open-minded to what makes people do whatever it is I’m judging them for. I think it could make me a much more understanding person.

What are you giving up for Lent?

11 Feb

Fun Board Games

We spent Saturday night playing board games with my family. I love board games. I’ll always pass on playing cards (I hate cards) but not Board Games. They’re exciting and fun and they can get people out of their shell.

I like any kind of board game but some more so than others. Trivia games make me viciously competitive. Puzzle games make me feel like an idiot (especially when I play against the husband). So I particularly games that are lighthearted and involve lots of shouting and big groups of people.

Here are some Fun Board Games that are my favourites.

things

Things

We play Things a lot with our friends, mostly because you can play it anywhere and you don’t even need to own the game to play. It just takes some pens, strips paper, and creative minds to come up with your own “Things” to get this game going. Like, Things Sam never does in the kitchen. . . or Things you would never tell your grandma. . . or anything like that.

 

catchphrase

 

Catch Phrase

This was a big hit with our family a couple years back and I think it needs to make a comeback. It’s loud and rowdy and easy to pick up and play with just about anyone. And, the more the merrier.

 

scribblish

Scribblish

I’ve never played this game and kept any kind of score; it’s more of a fun activity than a competitive game. The whole process of drawing pictures and guessing what they are supposed to be can get pretty damn ridiculous if you’re playing with the right crowd.

To get the idea, this tumblr is genius: The Horrors of Scribblish. You’re welcome.

 

Cranium

Cranium

Cranium has it all: words, acting, drawing, and trivia. It’s a really good game to play with a big group of people because it gets pretty wild.

 

And then there’s My All Time Favourite . . .

Monster Mash

Monster Mash

There are not a lot of things I would say that I am extraordinarily skilled at, but I’ll freely admit that at Monster Mash I am prodigious. I don’t think I’ve ever been beaten and I blow the competition out of the water. . .

. . . unfortunately that means no one ever wants to play 🙁

What are your favourite board games?

08 Feb

35 Donations

Blood Donation

Since I was in university I have been donating blood with Canadian Blood Services every 56 days, that is, every time I’m eligible.

There were times I had to delay my donations because my iron is too low to make the cut, or I had travelled to a malaria risk country, or I got a piercing, but I always go back as soon as I can.

Today I had my 35th donation.

And also I broke the 4 minute barrier for the first time. That’s right, I pumped out a pint in 3:58 something that the phlebotamist said she only sees happen once every 3 or 4 years and never in a woman. Why yes, I am bragging.

I didn’t get a sticker or a pin or anything like that to commemorate number 35. But I did get cookies that I luxuriously dunked in milk.

06 Feb

Work Out ‘Like a Man’

I recently read this post in The Cut: I spent Two Weeks Working Out ‘Like a Man’ and I was slightly annoyed.

The author writes about a 14 day period in which she tried out a bunch of different workouts she determined to be ‘manly’, like Crossfit, P90X, Martial Arts, and Bootcamps.

Kick_boxing
(source)

Showcasing to women these workouts that traditionally appeal to men is an awesome idea. The author could have done so much to encourage women to add them to their fitness regime.

For one, she could have refrained from defining male and female dominated exercise styles as mutually exclusive. She might have highlighted all the great fitness and women’s health benefits that come with these workouts, or the fact that women are often welcomed and made to feel comfortable in male dominated fitness environments, or the fact that the challenge of trying new workouts can be extremely rewarding.

But she doesn’t. So, to me, the article is a total failure.

cross fit women

Instead the author draws the line in the sand about what makes a workout ‘manly’ (we’re trying to break down these stereotypes and she just sustains them). She complains about the smell of the mats in a Muay Thai gym, laments about how she couldn’t keep up in many of the classes, and dramatizes about how her unbearably soreness is making simple daily tasks impossible for her.

Woman Flexing

Even I don’t want to try any of these workouts after that sort of review. Evidently neither do some of the commenters:

“I’m pretty happy with Tracy Anderson‘s workouts”

“I will stick to my yoga, spinning, and elliptical circuit, thank you. Just reading about not being able to put my shirt over my head is not appealing to me personally.”

Men should feel comfortable in a yoga studio or aerobics class. Women should feel like it’s okay for them to lift weights or kickbox. Can we just stop with the stupid exercise stereotypes already?

I think it’s awesome that the author tried out so many new exercises (and I’m kinda jealous too). Trying new forms of fitness is a great way to learn new skills and discover a new passion. But by framing the article around the fact that the workouts she chose to try are traditionally preferred by men does nothing to encourage women to try them out.

She missed a great opportunity to get women excited about trying something new.