I’m back!

Well, hello there!

Sorry about the long dry spell between posts, but we were on vacation for a week at the beginning of the month (my last post actually went up the day before we left!) in Las Vegas and at the Grand Canyon and things have been nuts here since we got back! I just finally got through all of my vacation pictures and will write a separate post for them. The Grand Canyon was absolutely stunning and it would be a crime not to give it all the attention it deserves. As for Vegas, it was fun, but we are not gamblers (we spent all of 6$ in the casino at the last hotel we were in lol) so we had our fill of being in a heavy gambling environment by the time we left, but the shopping was great and the hotels there are seriously impressive in terms of size and amenities. It was also very easy to get some good food there and coming from me, that means a lot since I am a serious food and am known for not enjoying American food at all any place south of Massachusetts. I apologize to any Americans reading this, but I am not big on fried food at all and  there is also the fact that high fructose corn syrup makes me break out in itchy hives and you guys put a ton of the stuff in your food.

More about our vacation in another post though,  I’m here to update you on what I’ve been up to since we got home, which has been gardening and cooking!

I have also been keeping up with the growth of the buds on our maple tree and as I suspected, by the time we were back from our vacation two weeks ago, there were miniature leaves on the branches!

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Maple tree leaves first week of May
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Maple tree leaves first week of May

And this is what our lovely Sugar Maple looks like now, with its pretty much full-grown leaves, just one week later:

Maple tree leaves second week of may
Maple tree leaves the second week of may

This picture was taken from the same angle as the previous one, so you can see just what a difference a week can make, especially when a perfect combination of drop dead gorgeous weather and Spring showers are thrown into the mix.

The aforementioned perfect Spring weather also allowed me to get some gardening done! I am not an experienced gardener since our rambling old duplex is my first non-rental home. I have never before had any type of garden that I have had a free rein with, so I have been going at the gardening thing slow and steady. The first summer I was here I planted some lupine seeds that I brought home from a vacation to Prince Edward Island and courageously planted a lavender plant that I tried to keep in the house, but that Quinn kept eating. I squealed with excitement last Spring when the lavender survived the winter and the lupines grew. The lavender did wonderfully throughout the Summer, but a local cat began using the scraggly little cedar shrubs in our front garden as a urinal. The sturdiest lupines were unfortunately growing right in front of the shrubs and eventually lost their battle with the cat pee and I nearly cried. Before we left on vacation I yanked out the yucky, partially dead cedar shrubs (they liked the cat pee about as much as the lupines did, but had the advantage of being far less tiny, so were not completely dead) to make it clear to the cat that he would have to go and pee in someone else’s front garden and crossed my fingers hoping that the lupines would come back. Just like last year, the lavender woke up from its Winter hibernation and shortly thereafter, the lupines miraculously poked their way out of the ground. More gleeful hopping around ensued and my Darling gave me a goofy grin and shook his head at my enthusiasm.

Since I managed to keep my first plants alive for two seasons, I decided that it would be safe for me to spend some real money on more plants. I therefore headed out to Pépinière Jasmin, where my mother has been purchasing more of her gardening fare for years. It is also where the stunning St.Joseph’s Oratory buy their flowers, gardening tools and earth. I decided to plant all of my own flowers in my pots this year instead of buying the pépinière’s arrangements and I also bought a bleeding heart which I planted in our front garden where the cedars used to be. It was quite a job digging the hole for the bleeding heart and cutting through all the old cedar roots, but I did it on my own and was darn proud of myself for pulling it off! I did all of my shopping and planting last Thursday. There is no sign of last year’s offending feline as of yet.

One of my flower pots for the front of our house.
One of my flower pots for the front of our house.
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The bleeding heart in our front garden.
The flower pot for our front balcony.
The flower-pot for our front balcony.

I’ll post some more pictures of our flowers pots once they have grown in a bit, maybe in about a month.

Now, for my current favorites! As usual most of them are food related!

1- I tried my hand at making pickles the weekend we got back from vacation since they had some eight packs of Canadian greenhouse grown pickling cucumbers on sale at Provigo and Loblaws. I used this recipe from The Creekside Cook and they turned out pretty good, however I would suggest cutting the quantity of salt by a quarter to one half as my batch turned out a bit too salty. I poured some of the brine out and replaced it with water and the pickles tasted much better afterwards. They are still nice and crispy after a week in their jar.

2- I also decided to try making my own ice cream last Friday since my Darling owns an ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt machine and naturally brought it with him when we moved in together last year. I made a batch of this chocolate gelato as a surprise for him and oh, my goodness did we both ever gobble it up! We will never be buying ice cream at the grocery store again. You do not need to change a thing in this recipe, it is absolutely perfect. the only thing I will be doing any time I make it will be adding some cinnamon or cardamom to it for my own tasting pleasure.

3- Fortnum and Mason’s Chai tea made the traditional way with milk and one cube of raw cane sugar. You will never see Chai tea the same way again, I swear.

4-My LK Bennett Marlene Fitted Dress, which I splurged on in Las Vegas. We do not have LK Bennett stores, so I took the opportunity to shop at the one in Las Vegas and bought my first piece of their clothing. I am so, so glad I splurged. The dress fits my curves like a glove and I wore it for nearly twelve hours last Saturday to my future sister in law’s bridal shower and the ensuing drinks and dinner evening and still didn’t want to take it off. LK Bennett’s clothing is a bit on the pricey side, but they often have sales which are worth keeping an eye out for. Forget their shoes unless you have very narrow feet though. I can’t even fit my toes into most of their footwear.

5- This beautiful rendition of This is The Day the Lord Has Made by John Rutter. The most beautiful recording of it is by the choirs of Westminster Abbey and St. George’s Chapel from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding in 2011. It is totally worth a listen and a watch, I am often moved to tears and goosebumps by it This is the day John Rutter – YouTube.

There, I’m all caught up on the regular stuff! I’ll be back soon with my vacation post, including some favorites for anyone wanting to visit Vegas and the Grand Canyon!

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