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2015 Highlights

I’ve started making a habit of regularly taking the time to reflect and appreciate just how lucky I am and how wonderful life is. And there’s nothing quite like go over old pictures and videos to help keep my humble and motivate me to keep trying to make the out of life.

2015 was full of babies, weddings, travels and so many great friends. Thank you to everyone who has always supported and encouraged me and have given me the confidence to be unapologetically myself.

Here’s a little video of some of my favourite moments and events from 2015.

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Let’s make the rest of our lives, the best of our lives!

xox ngoc

IKEA designed soft toys based on kid's drawings to raise money for charity

IKEA has taken 10 drawings from children around the world and turned them in to adorable soft toys. This limited-edition line is part of the Swedish company’s Soft Toys for Education Campaign, and they are donating $1 from each sale to UNICEF and Save the Children to support children’s education projects.

When I saw an ad for these toys, I had to go pick some up for my little cousins. These stuffies are even cuter in person than I had imagined. And the little ones thought they were pretty fantastic as well!

SAGOSKATT Soft toy, monster, blue

Photo: Adweek and Ikea

 

Blue ikea toy

Photo: Adweek/Ikea

 

greensofttoy

Photo: Adweek/Ikea

pinksofttoy

The stuffies were super soft and squishy and easy for their little hands to grab and play with. And they really did all look remarkably like the drawings. To see all the stuffies from this special line, visit: http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/search/?query=SAGOSKATT

 

 

Tea flavoured macaron recipe

IMG_0102 copyI’m usually more of a savoury snacker when it comes to guilty pleasures, but there’s just something about macarons that I can never resist. After seeing so many pins on pinterest claiming that making them yourself isn’t THAT hard… I decided I’d give it a try.

We found a basic macaron recipe from The food network and altered it a bit.

Ingredients for the cookie

1 3/4 cups icing sugar
1 cup almond flour
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar)
1 teaspoon of ground up Shades of Earl Grey tea leaves
Gel food colouring (optional)

 

Ingredients for the filling

1 stick of butter (room temperature)
1 cup of icing sugar
2 teaspoons of honey

 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F

Line 2 big baking sheets with parchment paper

Combine icing sugar and almond flour in a bowl and mix together. Than sift the mixture so that any large pieces of almonds don’t end up in your batter. You’ll may end up with as much as 2 tablespoons that is too big to use.

Take a teaspoon of Shades of earl grey tea leaves and chop it up so it’s more fine and add it to the almond icing sugar mix.

Beat the egg whites on medium high speed until frothy. Then add the caster sugar to the egg froth and continue to beat until you get stiff shiny peaks. This will take about 5 more minutes using a stand mixer.

Fold in the almond, icing sugar, tea mix into the egg whites. You can also add in any food colouring now if you would like. Keep folding just until the batter is smooth and slides off the spatula in ribbons. Don’t overmix to the point that it’s runny or else you will have flat cookies. If you undermix it, your cookies are more likely to crack.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a round tip. We used a 1/4 inch round tip but a 1/2 inch tip might work better.

Pipe circles on to your parchment paper lined baking sheets.

Then firmly with both hands pick up the baking sheets and rap them against the counter at least 2 times. Then rotate the pan and do the same thing. This will help prevent cracking of the shells.

Leave the cookies out to dry for about 15-30 mins until they are no longer sticky to the touch. This will help them keep their shape during baking.

Pop it in the oven for about 20 mins. You should be able to peel the cookie off the sheet easily and cleanly. If some of it sticks, than it’s not quite ready. Let them cool completely before removing them from the sheet.

Instructions for filling

Beat the butter so it’s a little fluffy and slowly add in the sugar. Beat until it’s fluffy.

Then add in the honey. Then add your icing to a piping bag and pipe on to one macaron shell and cover with a second one.

Voila! Now sit back with your favourite cup of tea and indulge!

 

Check out the video to see each step of the process! Good luck and let me know how your macarons turned out.

Green tea popsicles

 

As a kid, I could never get enough of those rocket ship popsicles! Though I have slightly more grown up tastes now, I still love a good popsicle on a hot summer’s day. Using green matcha tea adds tons of great antioxidants as well as a delicious flavour into these easy to make treats.

I used this great recipe for green tea mango popsicles from the minimalist baker and used honey instead of agave and added a tea spoon of coconut oil into the green tea portion.

Here are a few tips for making your own popsicles.

  • I didn’t have enough popsicle molds so I tried using a tovolo ice cube tray. These silicon trays made it super easy to pop the popsicles out. Next time I’d prefer a slightly smaller cube size but it worked out well as a mold.IMG_1002 copy
  • The paper straw sticks on the other hand did not work out well. I used it mostly for aesthetic reasons but within minutes of eating the popsicles, the paper would get wet and the sticks would bend so it made it a little more than difficult to eat. Using dixie cups would have also worked out well as an alternative to a popsicle mold.

squarepopsicle

  • When picking a popsicle mold, try to find one with rigid sticks or holes in the sticks so that when you pull out your popsicle, the stick doesn’t come out by itself.
  • For the silicone ice cube trays, it was super easy to pop out the popsicle once it was frozen. The actual popsicle mold though was much more difficult. You’ll have to run it under running water to loosen it a bit. My tray had lots ridges and curves around the edge which made it a big of a nightmare when trying to pull the popsicles out. Next time I’ll stick to much simpler shape.
  • For layers, mix your first flavor and then stick the trays in the freezer for at least 10 minutes to let it solidify a bit to get a nice clean line. I was a little anxious and poured my second layer on to soon and it just ended up combining. But not in pretty marbling effect. More like a green and orange makes brown effect.

Once they are frozen, grab some friends and sit back and enjoy these delicious treats!

 

 

Oliver & Bonacini: Canoe

So a couple years back when I had just moved to Toronto, and barely able to keep my bank account out of the red, we’d always joke about going to eat at Canoe. Only because with my negative bank account, I pretty much survived off of instant noodles so spending a weeks’ worth of food budget on a single meal at Canoe was never even a real option.

Four years later (OG has it been that long?!), I’m lucky enough to have a stable job, and have paid off my student debt. I can’t say I’ve given up instant noodles entirely (who am I kidding? It’s my go to hangover food), but I have increased my food budget ever so slightly. Even still, I’ve never been to canoe.

So one night, the bf called and told me to put on something nice, because he made reservations for us at Canoe for our anniversary. When he came to pick me up, there were dresses everywhere, and my grumpy butt sitting there frustrated that the 12 extra pounds I now carry around has somehow made almost every single dress I own to no longer fit. I’m convinced that somehow, everything I own has shrunk.. I mean.. with the humidity.. and the summer heat… that’s possible right? Right?

Anyways, I finally settled on a loose backless dress and off we went.

We started off with a half order of the canoe raw bar that included oysters, juicy prawns, smoked salmon, two different kinds of ceviche, plus poached lobster salad. OMG. SOOOOOOOOOOOO good. For $35 dollars, it was a great appetizer plate to share.

CanoeRawBar

To drink, we had a gin fizz (gin, lemon, sugar, egg white & soda), and a few glasses of red wine (Delaforce Touriga Nacional Douro Valley from Portugal). The bf was a little clueless about how to smell and taste the wine so our wonderful server gave us a mini lesson.

My entrée was mackerel and ridiculously buttery melt in your mouth lobster on top of buttered turnips, algonquin grits, and spinach. It was so rich and although it didn’t look like a lot of food, left me feeling quite satisfied.

me

The bf got alberta lamb which came in 3 different cuts. Also really yummy but didn’t even come close to how amazing my dish was.

Though the desserts looked delicious, I was too stuffed from the appetizer and entree so I decided to pass. To finish off the meal, our server brought over this little surprise. Look at how cute this is!
anniverary

The whole dinner was amazing. Our server was wonderful and gave us just the right amount of attention. He made wonderful recommendations and really added to the whole experience.

I’m now determined to save my pennies so I can splurge on nice meals like this more often!

J’adore Paris.

paris is always a good idea

Paris, je t’aime…

I’ve never been one to dream about Paris or have ever felt the need to go. But as soon as I stepped foot into this magical city, I was hooked.

After having a very difficult time booking trains from Amsterdamn into Paris, we finally arrived.. with absolutely no idea where we were going to stay. We bumped into a fellow Canuck at the train station who suggested a hostel near Monte Martre. Rach and I hopped on the metro (after almost being scammed) and made our way there only to find out that of course they were completely booked up. A little discouraged, we plopped ourselves right outside that hostel to “borrow” their wifi so we could find some kind of shelter before the sun set. Turns out, this hostel being booked up was the luckiest thing to happen to us in Europe. Because it was booked up, we ended up going to St. Christophers and meeting our all time favourite travellers.

The Hostel.

I would HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend St. Christopher’s if you’re looking for a social hostel where you can easily meet people. They have a great bar that fills up at night time with tons of friendly travelers. We had managed to get to the hostel after dinner and immediately met our new friend Alex who we instantly hit it off with over some cheap and delicious Parisian wine.

The bedrooms were clean and have cages underneath the bed for you to lock up your stuff. Careful though.. the hydrolics on ours were broken and out of no where, they can come slamming down at a ridiculous force. I laughed real hard when it happened to Rachel because with her clumsy nature, it was such a typical thing to have happen. But jokes on me because the next day, I had a nice bump on my head as evidence to show how easy it was to get knocked out by one. They also have paid lockers in their lobby so you can leave your bag there when you check out if you don’t plan on catching a train/plane until later in the day.

I opted to just hand wash my clothes in the sink and hang them in the hostel. If you’re much classier than I am and would like to not have your undies hanging out all over the place, there is a laundromat just a couple blocks down.

One of the things that I loved was how casual they were about bringing your own drinks and sitting at their bar. We would always just walk down the street to a convenience store, pick up a cheap bottle of delicious wine and have the bartender open it for us.

The food.

Raclette in Paris France

Crepes, cheese, pastries, bread, and wine were the only things that went in my little belly. For a girl that doesn’t typically eat bread, I couldn’t get enough of it. The smells of freshly baked pastries as you walked by the shoppes were just intoxicating. If you want to stick close to the hostel, I’d recommend grabbing a bottle of wine from the nearby convenience store, some glasses and sit out on the canal and enjoy the fresh air.

There is a little crepe shop right by the hostel near Crimee station that is so fantastic. Most of the restaurants just north east of the hostel are catered to locals so the staff very rarely speak English. It was definitely at these restaurants that we had the most phenomenal meals though.

 

The sites

Walking tours. There are a few free walking tours in Paris. I can’t remember the one we went on exactly but it started at our hostel. These tours are a great way to meet other travellers and see many of the top sites in Paris. That’s where we met our super group, Jeff, Katie, Liam, and Alex who definitely made our Paris trip memorable.

eiffle tower in paris france

The Eiffle Tower. It was like being a movie. We opted to climb the stairs instead of waiting in the seriously long line to use the elevator lift. My fear of heights was a serious hindrance during the climb as you are very aware of your surroundings and how high you are.

Notre Dame in Paris FranceNotre dame. So nice! This was the first of the churches that we visited and it was definitely in the top of the list. We got there bright and early after our pub crawl because we heard they had free English tours. Unless you are very very very passionate about history and religion… I WOULD NOT GO ON THAT TOUR! Our super group was so excited when the tour started.. our tour guide started out giving a very detailed description of this one area of the outside of the building… and 20 mins later when the lady was still describing the same area, I knew if I stayed for another minute, I’d fall asleep while standing. I glanced around and saw the pain in my other friend’s faces. Jeff caught my eye and without a word, we not so discretely slipped away to find some other adventures, abandoning our poor friends to this torture. I later found out that they only lasted another 30 minutes before they too could not take it anymore.

The Louvre. While our other friends stayed at the Notre Dame tour, Jeff and I made our way to the Louvre. We must have the best timing because there was absolutely no line to get in. I hate to admit it but I just don’t appreciate art as much as I should. Especially being a photographer. I’m not a huge fan of museums and definitely have the mentality that if you’ve seen one naked statue.. you’ve seen them all. Don’t hate me. Luckily for me, Jeff had a very similar mentality so we grabbed one of the booklets from the front that listed all the popular pieces and decided to hit up all the “top” exhibits in as little time as possible. To spice things up a bit, he suggested we play a game where we give the paintings new names. If there’s one thing I’m terrible at, it’s being creative on the spot. Jeff who is so quick came up with names that they had me in tears from laughing. I on the other hand had the imagination of a rock and felt serious anxiety every time it was my turn to name anything. All and all, one of the best museum visits of my life.

Painting at the Louvre - Sad Clown

No idea what this picture is actually titled.. but ‘sad clown’ is my sad attempt at renaming it..

Monte Martre in Paris, France

Monte Martre. LOVE. This is the Paris that you see in the movies. We grabbed some baguettes and laid on the grassy hill and took in the sun. Note: there were a bunch of signs all over the grass that said something in French that I didn’t understand.. but I suspect it said something about staying off the grass…

smallmontemarteJeff Tosoian in Monte Martre

Parc des Buttes Chaumont – GO TO THIS PARK! Preferably early in the morning. It was so beautiful and relaxing with the mist coming off of the lake, runners jogging past, and artists with their paints and canvasses. It was absolutely the perfect place to write in your journal. It may have been one of my favourite locations in all of Paris.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont, paris, france

I can’t say enough amazing things about Paris. The food, the friends and the sights made this city unforgettable.

Organ donation

After writing my post about the super hero party I threw a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d share a story about a real life hero.

chiMy uncle (pictured above) did something amazing this year that is definitely worthy of sharing. His dad had been sick and learned that his kidneys were functioning at a very low level and would need to go on dialysis until it was his turn on the transplant list.

My uncle, who married into the family only a few years ago, but whom I’ve known for as long as I can remember (he dated my aunt for 12 years before getting married!) has always been caring, selfless, and generous. He’s the owner of Academia Tutoring Services and has a passion for teaching and inspiring kids to learn and strive for success.

Well when he learned that his dad would have to go on dialysis,  he didn’t think twice before asking to get tested to see if he would be a match for a live kidney donation. What happened in the next 3 weeks was a complete whirlwind. Within 1 week of getting tested, they called and told him that he was a match, and that they could schedule him in for the surgery 10 days later. Only letting his wife, and his boss know, he quietly went about taking care of all the loose ends that would need to be taken care of before the surgery. Being the humble and thoughtful person that he is, he didn’t want to make a big deal out of it and didn’t want to worry the whole family. The wonderful doctors at Toronto General did a great job and when I popped by to visit him after his surgery, even through the pain, he was in good spirits and was generously offering me a bite of his apparently “delicious” sugarless jello. 

His recovery took about 7 weeks where he had to be careful about over exerting himself, and avoid lifting heavy objects. But with some TLC from my aunt, he now he looks and functions as good as new! And his dad has also made a very quick recovery and is doing extremely well!

I can’t begin to say how much I admire what he did and can only hope that there is some serious good karma coming his way soon. If you haven’t thought about registering for Organ donation, I’d highly recommend at least reading into it and considering how your consent could potentially one day save up to 8 lives.

Sympathy for the Rebel

IMG_0425

birthdayboys

The exposed brick walls and the wooden crates and shelves gives the shop a rawness that I completely love. And then add in eclectic and edgy decor to really give the place a rock and roll, mod, and just downright edgy atmosphere.

orangecouch
recordplayer

Don’t even get me started on their incredible shoe selection. Cow boy boots and for $20-30 a pair!

bootsshoesgoldtipsyellowshoesbelts

I’m always a little conflicted when it comes to fur but I’ve decided that wearing second hand is ok. This incredible fur shawl was only 60 dollars.

mefur

I picked up an adorable red hand bag for $6, a pair of vintage ski gloves for $12 and a pair of boots for $18.

If you’re a fan of pre-loved items, and you happen to be taking a stroll down town Peterborough, than a stop into this store is a must!

Sympathy for the Rebel

387 Water St.
Peterborough, ON
705-742-6880