baby, baby, baby oooh

Last weekend my sister Erin and I (+ mom) hosted a baby shower for our little sister, Jill.

Newsflash: Jill and Alex are having a baby and I am finally getting a local niece or nephew!!! Thanks guys.

As you may know, I love planning a party so I got to it early on… so early, that I may of leaked the big news to some of her friends accidentally. Busted.

* * *

First up, the invite: And because I truly believe in mailing out invites – I am including a sample of the envelope too. The invitees has custom address labels. Tip: I like to purchase somewhat-related stamps when sending invites! 
Argyle-Baby-Shower Invite Argyle-Baby-Shower Invite2 Argyle-Baby-Shower Invite3Decor: I made a few banners for the party room and the front window. I bought some flowers and pulled out that springy table clothes. Easy! We also had some balloons and raindrop banners outside but again, I forgot to take a pictures. Tip: Buy a cute crib sheet (last photo) and use as a table covering – then give it to the mom when the party is over!Argyle-Baby-Shower BannersArgyle-Baby-Shower3Argyle-Baby-Shower6Argyle-Baby-Shower11Argyle-Baby-Shower13Argyle-Baby-Shower15Favours: This is when Pinterest makes you do things you don’t need to do… like favours for a baby shower. Simple but cute although Mike’s comment was that the popcorn has already popped and I should of filled the bags with kernels. Um, no – not pretty. Tip: Avoid Pinterest and ignore your husband. Argyle-Baby-Shower4 Argyle-Baby-Shower POPcardGames: Erin planned a few games – one being Trivia because Jill is a trivia nut. It’s a fun addition to a party and no one in my house was forced to smell diapers with random brown stuff in them. Tip: Have paper and pens ready to go so your games look legit.

Erin’s Ten Trivia Questions

Q: How many children did Queen Victoria have? Bonus point if you can name one.
A: Nine – Victoria, Edward, Alice, Alfred, Helena, Louise, Arthur, Leopold, Beatrice

Q: Name one of the top three baby girls name in 1916?
A: Mary, Helen, Dorothy

Q: Originally Pampers diapers used pins. In what decade was the pin replaced with Tape?
A: 1970s

Q: What percentage of babies are born on their due date?
A: 5%

Q: In 1928 the Gerber company introduced its first line of strained foods. Name one the first varieties.
A: peas, prunes, carrots, spinach and beef vegetable soup

Q: How much did the heaviest baby born on record weigh?
A: 22 pounds, 8 ounces (Italy, 1955) (Somebody sure  carb loaded!)

Q: In what year did Uncle Jessie and Aunt Becky (from Full House) give birth to twins. Bonus points if you can name them.
A: 1991 – Nicky and Alex

Q: What is a baby owl called?
A: Owlet of Fledging

Q: What Michael Jackson song topped the charts the month Jill was born (May 1983)?
A: Beat It! 

Q: Jill’s baby is due in July. What is the birthstone of this month?
A: Ruby

Food: We had 32 guests from the age of 7 months to 91 years-young! All female, except the dog. We served mimosas, perrier, tea and juice packs for drinks and all of the food was utensil-free. The spread included chocolate and carrot cupcakes made by mom, lemon poppy seed loaf, homemade sprinkle fortune cookies, cheese and charcuterie boards, traditional devilled eggs, beet-pickled devilled eggs, a cheese ball with maple syrup, guacamole, artichoke dip, veggies, a baguette and skewers (feta + watermelon + mint) (bocconcini + tomato + basil) (an idea I got from another baby shower I attended). Tip: If you decided to make homemade sprinkle fortune cookies, be sure to let your guests know you put fortunes in them!Argyle-Baby-Shower1 Argyle-Baby-Shower2 Argyle-Baby-Shower7 Argyle-Baby-Shower8 Argyle-Baby-Shower9 Argyle-Baby-Shower10 Argyle-Baby-Shower14 Argyle-Baby-Shower16So that’s it. Another party over. I said I’d host 12 parties in 2016 and this is party #3. I have to step it up!

My apologies – I got so caught up in serving mimosas and catching up with all the lovely ladies that I didn’t take any pictures at the event BUT as a dedicated blogger / designer / party planner – I got lots of detail shots! Hah. 

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uuni fan

My sister Jill bought a Uuni wood-fire pizza oven. I am pretty sure it was one of those impulsive online purchases but, after Saturday night, I am sure glad she did.

This thing can cook pizza!

Here are the specs from the website – Note: Jill has the first generation Uuni but below is for the Uuni 2S… similar but with a few upgrades including a stone base. Also, Jill ordered her’s from the States and our other sister sherpa’d it across the border:

Extreme 900°F heat
Uuni 2S gets up to 900°F which enables you to cook things really fast. You can make a stone-baked, wood-fired pizza in just 90 seconds! It’s also not just for pizza; you can cook flatbreads, fish, vegetables, steaks or really anything that enjoys short cooking times.

Wood-fired
Uuni is powered by wood pellets which are very energy-dense and inexpensive; they’re like regular wood except compressed. No additives, no hidden extras, just wood. The pellets ignite easily & Uuni 2S takes just 10 minutes to heat up, from cold up to 900°F.

Lasts a lifetime
Uuni 2S is made of beautiful brushed stainless steel. It weathers and ages as you use it, but it doesn’t rust and it just keeps on performing. It’ll make for a key feature in your outdoor kitchen or barbecue area.

Entertainment
Because of the ease and speed of use, Uuni 2S is fantastic for entertaining friends or family. Get the gang together to make their own pizzas and then wood-fire them to perfection in front of their eyes.

We spent the weekend in Pugwash – perfect spring weather and a great opportunity to finally test the Uuni out. It’s easy, fast, portable and fun. The pizzas are amazing – especially the crust.

Here are some pics. It made me want one. How about you?IMG_5319 IMG_5325 Above: Prepping caramelized onions and roasted medallion cut potatoesIMG_5326 Above: The Uuni is table-top friendlyIMG_5328 IMG_5329 IMG_5330 IMG_5331Above: Pierogi Pizza! Sour cream base, thinly sliced roasted potatoes, cheese, chives and a dollop more sour cream on top. IMG_5332 IMG_5333
Above: Nanny came over for pizza too!
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IMG_5337 IMG_5338Above: Simply slide in, close the door, count to 30, open and rotate, count to 30, open and rotate, count to 30 and remove!
IMG_5343 IMG_5350 IMG_5351 IMG_5352IMG_5353

Feedback from the toughest critic, 7-year-old David, who has a very specific pizza palate: “This is better than Salvatores… Next time I want pizza, I am ordering from Jill!”

Oh, and I this is not a sponsor post. I don’t even own a Uuni but it sure is on my wish list! #fangirl

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the meat on the street

Do you eat meat? Why?

It is rare to get asked that but when you don’t eat meat, people ask all the time.

Why? Don’t you miss bacon?

I stopped eating meat over ten years ago – mostly as a personal dare. I was surrounded by family and friends who were vegetarian and I wanted to see if I could do it. In all honesty, it hasn’t been hard. Sure, boxing day sucks but I’m happy to throw a veggie burger on the barbecue and hand over my diner breakfast bacon to Mike. #luckyguy

Once I got in the groove, the thought of eating chickens, pigs and cows grossed me out. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with others eating meat – and at times, I think I maybe should too (weak + the shakes + tiredness + frequent blood donor reject + carboholic + lazy with legumes) – but I am just not willing to go back.

To be clear… I am a lazy-half-ass vegetarian. Could I go vegan? Hell no! Eggs and cheese are my favourite. I went back to eating occasional seafood when I was pregnant with David (low blood pressure and iron + an emergency trip to the hospital can shake you up). I figure it is better for the economy to eat seafood in Nova Scotia so I do – just don’t make me boil a lobster. I wear leather but I make a conscious effort to buy products that are not tested on animals. I respect the local movement but shop online. I occasionally eat poutine and don’t question the gravy. I love gummies (are they still made with gelatine?). I don’t buy lard or meat stock but if meat lands on my plate, I happily push it aside and move on.

When my mom was in her twenties she was a vegetarian. It was the seventies and she was down with the cause. She has said many times it was much harder back then and I totally get it… we are spoiled with countless online resources and cookbooks, not to mention FAUX MEAT everything. If you dare.

So as easy as life as a vegetarian is in 2016, I can’t help but notice a new trend in Halifax Restaurants: Less meatless options than before and bacon everything!

To prove it, I thought it’d be fun to share a few menus I have found and make comments on why I’m tired of doubling up the appys.

La-Frasca-Menu

Above: LaFrasca Cibi and Vini – only one pasta, one pizza and two appetizers (none being salads) and no main dishes. Ordering ravioli always makes me nervous – sometimes you only get 4! Try rationing four ravioli squares over an hour long dinner. It’s just sad. BlackSheepAbove: Black Sheep – Brunch all day. Cocktails and small plates at night. I’ll try the Veggie Hash please but what I really want to know is WHERE IS THE VEGETARIAN EGGS BENNY!?!Field GuideAbove: Field Guide – A small restaurant in the North End of Halifax, Field Guide is dedicated to bridging the gap between diners and their food through an open concept kitchen and passionate service. Placing a big focus on supporting local farmers and producers, featuring NS craft beers and serving up some of the best cocktails around, Field Guide is a place to gather. $10 for cheese on toast! I actually got this one time and shared it with my friend. Suckers. I must admit, I have usually ended up at Field Guide for the drinks, not the food so I am eager to go and try the Gnocchi. Quail eggs freak me out.
batteryparkAbove: Battery Park Beer Bar and Eatery – Craft beers and small plates, designed for sharing. My friends (3 vegetarians) went here and had the nuts… This menu does not lure me to the Dark Side.

LotsixAbove: Lot 6 Bar and Restaurant – Small plates, big flavour. I went here with 7 others – they all ordered from the large plates and I had two appetizers and was cranky.Studio EastAbove: Studio East Food and Drink – Casual, global cuisine, local ingredient, sustainability. I plan to try the curry. TempleAbove: Temple Bar Cocktails & Kitchen – I’ve gone twice. As you can see, there are zero warm plates for vegetarians… I’ve had the cheese plate twice… The drinks are great.

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Do you eat meat? Are you loving the current bacon obsession?

I asked a few of my friends and family why they were/are vegetarian and now I’d love to hear from you.

“A very long time ago (too many to think about), I stopped eating meat and fish for about a two year period. I’d like to think my decision was for good reasons such as animal welfare and health, but truthfully, although that may have been part of it, I believe it was mainly because I was a very poor university student living with a friend who by that time had been (and still is) vegetarian for a number of years. My first professional job with NS Environment involved a lot of travel and a lot of eating out. At that time there were essentially no “vegetarian items” on menus so you simply ordered whatever without the meat or fish. Grilled cheese sandwiches (in fact most) were were made with processed cheese – you get the picture. Anyway after several months started to crave meats and one day, I just gave in – am very supportive of the vegetarian diet and always conscious of restaurant menus. I agree that the food industry seems to be more focussed on gluten-free choices – somewhat unfortunate in my opinion…” – Theresa (my mom)

11696562_10155815206835111_9115141172801894658_oMy mom and older sister Erin

“This sounds lame but I always knew I would be a vegetarian. I didn’t, however, make much of an effort to switch to a vegetarian diet until university. The meats served at the dining hall started to gross me out. I’ve been vegetarian for almost 20 years now. Since I enjoy cooking it’s not hard to eat at home but eating out is still a challenge. I don’t think it’s just Halifax – almost every restaurant I go to has such limited vegetarian choices. More times than none its not even a choice – it’s only one meal. It vexes me that restaurants are more willing to provide lots of gluten free options but not vegetarian options. Although I’ve been raising Sam and Margaret vegetarian I’m thinking of introducing meat into their diets because of the challenge of eating out when there are so few vegetarian options” – Erin (my sister)

” I became a vegetarian because I felt it wasn’t right that something died so I could eat – especially as I didn’t need meat to survive and could do just as well on alternative sources of protein…Vegetarianism is on the increase in the UK – as is flexitarianism (cutting right back on meat and having meat free periods). Maybe it’s not the same trend in Canada?” – Rachel (my sister-in-law)

“I temporarily became vegetarian after I paid for and watched a goat be slaughtered whilst on a camel trek in India. The next day i had serious bathroom issues. Two years later, I got drunk, smelled hot dogs and sausages on the bbq, and had an amazing meal. I love vegetarian options, making vegetarian meals, and making fun of vegetarians….but I love my medium rare steak more!” – Jill (my sister)

“I became a vegetarian for a boy a long time ago. I didn’t eat well and carb loaded like crazy and was always on the hunt for fake meat products to enjoy. While I was pregnant with my first, I day dreamed of roast chicken a lot. After she was born the thought remained and I had some and haven’t looked back. Restaurant menus in Halifax have definitely changed but I must admit that I got sick of vegetable penne and portobello mushroom everything a long time ago. The small plate sharing thing is lovely but I must say some cheeses and nut packed salads would be good too” – Sarah (my friend)

“Like Erin, I always kind of thought it inevitable that I’d become a vegetarian. Luckily the whole family went vegetarian while Erica and I were still teenagers so the switch was pretty easy since our mom was doing all the real work. Twenty years in I’d say my primary motivation is environmental with my health and animal welfare as happy secondary benefits. As for finding meat-free options in Halifax as we have discussed I think the new crop of restaurants has really dropped the ball (2 Doors Down being an exception). And my number one pet peeve is salads with meat in them – so unnecessary!” – Amanda (my friend)

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Bon appetite!

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*I went back to eating occasional seafood when I was pregnant with David (low blood pressure and iron + an emergency trip to the hospital can shake you up). I figure it is better for the economy to eat seafood in Nova Scotia so I do – just don’t make me boil a lobster.

 

let’s taco bout a party

Taco Party copy

Re: How to cook dinner for 34 friends

It’s Taco Tuesday!

If you recall from my 100 Days of Summer list, I wanted to host a summer backyard taco party (see #62) but it didn’t happen so I convinced Amanda to co-host this with me in November. Our thought was November is pretty drab, let’s party! The plan was pretty simple – invite some friends, make some tacos and decorate (obviously!).

A few weeks before the party we had a craft night – where Amanda, Sarah and I drank Moscow Mules, Amanda, Sarah and I watched Project Runway and Sarah and I watched Amanda make papel picado banners. They’re amazing as were the drinks and Season 14. IMG_3931

To make these fabulous Papel picado (Mexican tissue paper banners) you need tissue paper, string, scissors, a template (photocopied), lots of time AND lots and lots of patience. Amanda took 4 sheets of tissue paper – laid the template on top then folded and cut out each shape. With these showstoppers up, the only other decor needed were candles, lights and bright pink carnation flowers … voila! olé!!! A party! IMG_3918IMG_3933 IMG_3932Now for the food – after all, when TACO is in the name of your event, you must deliver. We kept it pretty simple but even so, there was a lot of pre-party prep involved. The great thing however, is once everything is ready and the guests arrive, you open the taco bar and let loose – only checking occasionally that nothing has run out.

Below is the menu we made because y’all will want to have a party too! The keyword is easy and the must-have tools are a slow cooker and food processor:

Tacos-01

5 Ingredient Spanish Sangria (doubled)IMG_3927

The Classic Margarita (made a pitcher)

Three Ingredient Slow Cooker Taco Chicken (doubled and they ate it all)IMG_3926

Crock Pot Refried Beans (I almost doubled this, good thing I didn’t – it makes a lot!)

Triple Layer Guacamole Creamy Cotija and Confetti Salsa Party Dip (doubled)IMG_3930IMG_3929

Mexican Tortilla Rollups

Pineapple and Mango Skewers

Bowls of Tortilla Chips and Tostitos Multigrain Chips

Hard and Soft shells (buy more soft shells, people prefer them or need them for wrapping their hardshell!)

Bowls of toppings: salsa, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro and Pico de GalloIMG_3934

Mango and Pineapple Salsa

Bowls of lemon and lime wedges

Red Cabbage and Cilantro SlawIMG_3923

Tacos-01

I totally recommend hosting a Taco Party! It was a great turn out with 35 adults + two babies but no kids. Who knows what’s next? I would like to dabble in the fine art of the cheese plate but as suggested, we may tone down the class a bit and call it a Wine and Chees’er with Beer Party.

What about you? Any favourite party themes?

psst. Adult parties > kids parties. Just sayin’

psst. I saw this the next morning and pulled a muscle laughing so hard. I posted it on Facebook with the status : Me, 24 hours ago.

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5 things

Hi friends! I am back from March Break and true to its name, I took a break from work, blogging and Nova Scotia… but not winter. I thought I’d catch up with 5 things on a Monday!

IMG_21841. Not gonna lie, I am loving skiing! We went to Sunday River for the week with our neighbours. If you have any interest in skiing, this is a great way to spend a week. The kids joined a week-long camp and were dropped off at 9:30 am – they skied all day, were fed, had a blast and we picked them up at 3:00 pm and skied home. Amazing. Do it and teach them while they’re young-fearless-dare-devils.

Unknown2. Wanted: A treadmill currently being used as your clothes rack. No joke, this weather is nasty and there has been a lot of complaining from drivers about runners on the roads. I have signed up for the Bluenose half marathon and the Cabot Trail Relay and I am itching to get out there so for now, maybe I should suck it up and run inside. Help!

FB Wallpaper-013. Forever Young book club meets this week. Spoiler alert: I really loved this month’s book.

IMG_20764. I am working through my 36 THINGS TO DO BEFORE I TURN 36 list and it’s a slow start. I have 5.5 items done so far (won’t tell you which ones) but I am sad to say I know not all thirty-six items will be completed because they closed the Oval. Boo. My friend suggested I change that one to “Try Boarder Cross” and check it off as DONE.

 

FNPN5. And finally, lets talk about Friday on a Monday. So I’ve kind of slacked off on Friday Night Pizza Night and not because of the company or commitment. I was a bit overwhelmed by how it should work and now that I have given the event a bit of distance, I think I have the best plan yet!

Attempt 1: Everyone brought their own pizza (either homemade and ready-to-bake, ordered or frozen and we we ate together but independently. The idea was simple but it didn’t feel very communal and in the end, it seemed more chaotic than anticipated. too many pizzas and not enough mouths.

Attempt 2: Mike and I pre-made homemade frozen pizzas with sauce and cheese and everyone brought stuff to share and decorate. This worked great because the pizzas were small and several fit in the oven at once. It felt much better but there were only 8 adults so even though there was a night of prep-work ahead of time, it wasn’t too difficult to make and freeze the pizzas.

As much as I prefer attempt 2 over attempt one, it is expensive and time consuming plus there is a lot of planning. We do not have a deep freeze so it’s hard to know how many pizzas to prepare and then have a place to store them. I wanted attempt 2 to work but at the same time, it felt as though the spontaneity and ease of FNPN was lost in all of the planning and work.

Enter attempt 3: Everyone brings their own cheese pizza – it can be a homemade one (like we make [see recipe below]), or a store-bought pizza and we will have a topping bar. You know, like a salad bar! The toppings won’t always be the same, but that’s where the spontaneity kicks in, plus, it seems like it’d be easier for us to provide all of the toppings so there is not too much of one thing and not enough of another. And by bringing your own base(s), you can eat as much as you have.

I hope the new plan sounds enticing. To make homemade frozen pizzas – which are easy and great to make ahead of time for any pizza night – simply roll out your dough and bake it for 5 minutes max (just till it is dry). IMG_1990 Once the dough has cooled down, spread the sauce and add cheese. Cover each pizza with saran wrap and tinfoil. Freeze. When ready to decorate, take out of the freezer! IMG_1989

 

I hope to see you at the next FNPN! More details to come. I promise.

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