Sunday, January 30, 2011

Whoopies and Yoga

How was your weekend?  Mine was good.  I had a nice balance of productivity and relaxation.  I managed to tackle my embarrassing pile of laundry.  The second load is in the drier as we speak.  I also cleaned up the disaster that is the garage.  We missed garbage day 2 weeks in a row so it was getting a little out of control.  Now, before you give me grief about missing garbage day let me explain that London is on a rotating garbage schedule so that means that garbage pick-up is on a different day each week and some weeks there is no pick-up whatsoever.  The whole system is confusing and causes grief for a lot of people.

I also attended a hot yoga class this morning with my friend Alison.  I started going to hot yoga a while ago but fell off the wagon.  I have to admit that I didn't think it was possible to sweat that much.  When I finish hot yoga I always feel rejuvenated but very gross. 


I am going to try to hit up the hot yoga once a week now.  I have always had issues with my flexibility and I have no doubt that regular yoga practice will help with that issue.  I also have a bet going with a friend that I will be able to touch my toes by April.  So far mid-shin is my best effort.  Time to lengthen those gams of mine. 

I also managed to find some time to whip together these beauties.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies.  I have to admit, being Canadian, I had never even heard of Whoopie pies until I started this blog.  Crazy, I know, I know.  I can't take credit for this recipe as it was all Martha Stewart but I will take credit for eating half of them already.  Yummy!  I will be making some changes and trying to come up with my own Whoopie creation to share with you in the future. 

This week's baking experiment will be in the form of cupcakes.  It is my brother's birthday and I promised to make him a home made cake or cupcakes for the occasion.  I want to make something special for him so if you have any suggestions for flavour combinations or decorating idea let me know.  I want them to be extra special. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

PBG Good News: Little Dresses for Africa

It's time for another Good News post.  With so much pain in the world we need to look at the people that are making a difference. 


(Source)

Little Dresses for Africa is a non-profit organization that provides relief to the children of Africa.  People from all over work together to make and distribute dresses made from pillowcases for little orphan girls in Africa. 

Because of the widespread AIDS epidemic in Africa young girls are often required to become the primary caregiver for their sibling and elders.  It is rare that there are enough resources to provide food, shelter and new clothing for these young women.  Their hope is to bring some happiness and love to young women to need it the most.

You can see by the smiles on their beautiful faces how much they appreciate this small token of charity.  It is possible that some of these young girls have never had a brand new dress all for themselves.  Many of the dresses are actually made from a pattern using a pillow case. 

I think this charity is so brilliant.  I am sure most of us right now have one if not more pillowcases that could be turned into a beautiful summer dress for a girl in need.  I love the simplicity of this charity and I am planning to work with my mom to sew a half dozen dresses ourselves to send to the charity. 


Do you have a good new story or charity that you think deserves some attention?  Let me know and I will highlight it in a future PBG Good News post.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Homemade Pizza

As sisters often do (or at least I often do) I invited myself over to my prothers house for dinner on Saturday.  If I haven't already mentioned it my brother is a fantastic cook.  He has a talent for flavour that I take full advantage of.  Thankfully, he doesn't mind so I get lots of yummy home cooked meals.  He even tries hard to accomodate my vegetarian tendancies despite the fact that he is a full fledged carnivore.  Oh, and if I didn't mention it before, my brother is the biggest goof I know. 



This last visit I was rewarded with home made pizza.  I am talking home made crust, home made sauce and losts of yummy toppings.  Pizza is one of my favourite foods and you have not lived until you have had home made pizza.  The crust is soft and chewy, the toppings are always exactly what you want.  I hate too much sauce and not enough cheese.  So, I always get mine light on the sauce and heavy on the cheese.  Just the way I like it.

The sauce...as I mentioned, home made.

My vegetarian pizza with cheese, tomatoes and basil.

The carnivore with bacon, pepperoni mushrooms and red peppers.  (I may have had a slice of this and it was yummy)

In the oven.  I can't wait. 

Ready....set...

Eat!!!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

PBG Reno: Kitchen Back Splash Update

I decided this weekend to tackle a project that I have been putting off for far too long.  I bought all the materials well before Christmas but was reluctant to start the project since it would be my first home renovation project that I would be doing all on my own. 

The Project:  Kitchen Back Splash

When I first moved into this house one of the major eye sores was the kitchen back splash.  For some reason, the previous owner had a basic tile back splash which would have been fine if she hadn't PAINTED  OVER THE TILE with a weird textured stone paint.  Who does that?!?  It was terrible. 

Last year I finally updated the counter top and sink (with some help from my super handy step dad) but I was struggling with the hideous back splash.  I don't have a big budget and so many of the options I love are a little too expensive. 

Eventually, I came across a product that both fit the budget and looked beautiful - faux pressed tin panels in a beautiful copper colour.  Brilliant.  I was able to install the panels over the existing awful painted tile.  It was actually fairly simple and I am proud to say I did the entire project myself.  Sure, it's not perfect but it looks so much better than it did before.

Before



After



I am so proud of myself for attacking the project all by myself.  I think the end result is beautiful and makes the kitchen so much warmer and inviting.  I am looking forward to dinner parties and kitchen gatherings in the future. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

PBG Good News: Ben's Bells

Jeanette is a mother, like any other mother.  And like any other mother who has had to suffer the loss of a child, she experienced a depth of pain like no other.  At first, she felt as though she could not go on and had it not been for the love of her still living son she may not have survived.  But, she had to survive for the sake of her family. 

So, slowly, together they began finding ways to cope with their pain - they started making wind chimes out of clay in their own back yard.    The therapeutic effect of working the clay in their hands had a calming effect they could not have predicted.  And through all of their pain it was the small kindnesses of others that really kept them going.  They decided to make hundreds of the Bells and distribute them randomly around Tucson to pay that kindness forward.  Since Ben’s death, it had been the kindness of others, strangers and friends, that had helped us begin to heal. We wanted to find a way to pass on that kindness and to help others in the process. 


A few weeks ago their random acts of kindness would offer more healing and support then anyone could have imagined.   As I am sure you have all heard about the terrible shooting that took place in Tucson.  At a time when the community needed it most, Jeanette and her Ben's Bells wind chimes became a symbol of hope for a community devastated by pain and destruction.  Jeanette and her supporting chorus of angels distributed hundreds of Ben's Bells.  Even when they were not allowed on the crime scene FBI agents hung the bells of hope on the trees inside the yellow tape. 

If you would like to see the original story that was broadcast on MSNBC click here and follow the links to see the story on Ben's Bells.

If you want more information about the organization go to:  http://www.bensbells.org/

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Things that Make PBG Happy

The weather here has been dull, cold and dreary lately.  So, I decided to bring some sunshine in the house in the form of bright yellow tulips.  Aren't they lovely? 



These brightly coloured lemons and limes also brighten my day.  I like to keep them out on my window sill so I remember to use them when I am making my lunch for work or my dinner at night.  I made some sweet lemon curd a few weeks ago with some extra lemons I had that were going to go bad.  Yum!


Yuuummmm.  Meringues.  I don't think I need to say anything else.


Look at that face?  She is nothing but trouble most of the time but she can turn on the charm when she wants something. 


I just started reading this book and so far it is pretty good.  I joined a friend's book club and we meet to discuss this book on February 15th.  Reading with the pressure of a deadline is a little stressful.  But, I am looking forward to meeting to discuss my thoughts about this book with the ladies. 

I have also had the pleasure and luck to make a new friend recently.  While I just met this person a few weeks ago I feel like I have known them much longer.  These are just a few things that are making me happy right now.

PBG Recipe: Cheesy Beer Quick Bread

I love the idea of making my own bread.  I don't like the idea of having to mix it, rise it, knead it, rise it again, then bake it.  I like the instant gratification of quick breads.  No need for yeast reactions and waiting for warm gooey dough to double in size.  I came across a version of this recipe and tweaked it a little to my taste.  It is a dense and moist bread.  It would be perfect with a bowl of warm, spicy chili on a cold evening. 


Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
A sprinkle of rosemary and chives (you decide how much you want)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
12 ounce bottle or can of beer (you decide what kind and be sure to save yourself a sip at the bottom of the bottle)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prepare a loaf pan with cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, garlic and herbs. Add cheese and whisk to combine.
  • Slowly add beer to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Dough should be thick.
  • Knead dough a couple of times until it comes together.
  • Place dough in prepared loaf pan and pour oil over top evenly.
  • Bake 55-60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekend, Coffee, Wine and Friends

How was your weekend?  Mine was pretty good.  It started off extra good because it was extra long.  I was able to take Friday off last week since I ended having to work on Christmas Eve to finalize some important stuff for a project at work.  I decided I wasn't ready to commit to a full week at work in 2011 just yet so Friday I decided was the perfect day to take off.

Friday was pretty good.  I spent the afternoon at a local coffee shop with a new friend.  We talked nerdiness and other such things.  New friends are awesome.  I had myself a chai latte and we chatted the afternoon away. 



Friday evening I had dinner with my mom and step dad.  Chinese take-out.  Certainly not the healthiest but it was yummy nonetheless. 

Saturday was pretty exciting too.  My personal trainer has recently purchased a local cardio bootcamp and wanted to make a video of a class to add to their website to give potential clients a better idea of the program.  I had not attended any of her classes but since she worked with me as my trainer last year she thought I might be interested.  I will have some more info for you about this cool bootcamp program in case you are interested in attending but let me just say the class in INTENSE!  And also a lot of fun.

After the hard core workout I deserved a reward.  So, I got cleaned up and met some friends at the local Wine and Food Show. 

I have never been to the show before and it was a blast.  We participated in a wine tasting and learned how different glasses actually make a difference in how the wine tastes.  We also participated in a cheese tasting which was also good but most of the cheeses were fairly common.  I was hoping to get something different to try.  Oh well, it was still cheese and it was still good.
 
Adam and Lulu

Joel and Caroline
I spent the day on Sunday just chillin and getting groceries.  I was supposed to do some laundry but could just not get myself motivated to do it.   I am heading to bed early tonight.  Another late game of Ultimate Frisbee tomorrow night so I need my rest.



Friday, January 14, 2011

PBG Good News: Curious Crows

Do you watch or read the news?  Are you as fed up with all the bad news as I am?  It seems like every time I watch a news broadcast it is all doom and gloom and destruction.  And, to be honest, I rarely watch the news for this reason.  I know this is not great because it means I am not nearly as educated in world politics and world events as I should be.  But it is just too hard to hear about all of these terrible news stories everyday and not have it affect my mental well being. 

So, I decided to take on the mission of finding one Good News story each week to share with you, my dedicated readers.  At first glance this does not seems like it would be that hard to do but, quite frankly, it was way harder than I expected.  Do you know how hard it is to find some good news?  And once a good news story is found it is usually too sappy or cheesy to be of any value. 

But, after some investigative digging last night and this morning I finally found an interesting story. 

Source:  BBC
Curious crows use tools to explore dangerous objects


You can click the BB link about to get the full story but here is my take on it. 

Researchers have discovered that New Caledonian crows use tools to investigate unfamiliar and potentially dangerous objects.  The same way that you or I might use a stick rather than our hands to poke a dead animal or an unfamiliar substance, these birds are using "tools" to investigate objects the researchers place in their environment.  These particular birds had already been known for using tools like sticks to gather food from hard to reach places.  Studies have also revealed that the crows will craft tools into more suitable shapes and use more than one in order to reach food.

The fact that these birds have been seen using tools to investigate non-food related items in interesting indeed.  Only a few other species have been reported to use objects and tools in this fashion.  Animals are so much more intelligent than most of us give them credit for.  But these birds are proving that the animal kingdom is still full of surprises.  I wonder if Bella will ever make her own tools?  Probably not.



And that, is your PBG Good News story.

Do you have a good news story you would like to share?  Please leave a comment ans let's spread some good news.



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

PBG Recipe: Peanut Butter Chews

These treats are a healthier alternative to a cookie if you are looking for something sweet to eat or a yummy pre-workout snack.  They are also super simple and come together in 5 minutes flat.  I borrowed this recipe heavily from Angela over at Oh She Glows.  She really does have some of the best recipes on the 'net these days.  I added some dried fruit and chia seeds (I add chia seeds to everything) but you could add nuts or other seeds to boost the protein. 


Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup all-natural peanut butter
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup puffed rice cereal
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp organic brown rice syrup
  • 3 tbsp chopped dark chocolate
 Directions
  • In a medium sized bowl, stir together the peanut butter, brown rice syrup, and vanilla.
  • Microwave on high for 45 seconds.
  • Stir well and immediately add in the rice cereal, chocolate, cranberries and chia seeds.  
  • Stir very well until cereal and add-ins are fully coated with the peanut butter syrup mixture.
  • Roll the mixture into seven good sized balls. 
  • Place the balls onto parchment paper and freeze for 5 minutes and they are ready to eat. You can keep these chews in the freezer in a sealed container.
Nutrition
Calories 113
Total Fat 6.0g
Total Carbohydrates 13.4g
Dietary Fiber 1gSugars 8.8g
Protein 3.0g

Monday, January 10, 2011

Nothing More Than Feelings

*disclaimer:  things are going to get a little touchy-feeling.  Consider yourself warned.

Why do I find it so hard to talk about my feelings?  For as long as I can remember I have been terrified to show my emotions.  It doesn't matter if these feelings are happy or sad or angry.  I seem to want to present myself as being on a even keel most of the time.  The reality, is that, like everyone else, I have my ups and downs. 

When it comes to sharing negative emotions or negative things in my life I feel like admitting I am scared (or sad, or angry) is the equivalent of saying I am failing at something.  While I am by no means a perfectionist in all areas of my life I have certainly spent a lot of energy working hard to be the best sister, daughter, girlfriend, manager I can be.   

I find it excruciatingly painful and awkward to bare my soul to anyone. In my mind, any admittance of emotion is an admittance of some sort of failure - feeling like a loser (because you are) for not being able to resolve my issues on my own goes against all my perceptions of self preservation.   There are very few people I am able or willing to open up to.   If you don't already know this about me my mother is my best friend.  I love her dearly and the thought of living without her seems impossible.  But, even with the woman who birthed me and raised me I find it hard to share because of this embarrassment.  Luckily for me, after getting to know me for 33 years she is able to read me like a book so I don't always have to say anything to her for her understand what I am feeling.

My mom and step-dad
Another reason I find these types of conversations to be so hard is that I avoid conflict like the plague.  Ever since I was very little, I have done everything I can to avoid confrontation.  When others are angry, even if that anger is not directed at me, I am extremely uncomfortable.  I actually have a really hard time watching reality programs like American Idol because it makes me physically ill to watch some poor person bare his/her musical soul just to be ridiculed by the sometimes cruel judges.  So, when a conflict arises in my personal life I am very quick to shut down.  I will leave the room or avoid the conversation altogether. 

Needless to say, this is not a healthy way to deal with conflict but it's what I have been doing for 33 years.  It's a hard habit to break.  But, now that I am acutely aware of my issue I can take some steps to deal with it.  But, I will admit, it is hard.  It is hard for me to understand how sharing my pain with others will actually make me feel better.  It's hard for me to put myself into a situation that will make me feel so uncomfortable.   It's hard for me to deal with such a grey subject matter as feelings - I like my life to be very black and white and emotions just do not let me do that. 

So,  I am doing what I can, in baby steps, to improve in this area of my life.  I am talking to friends and family about issues I have been having.  Writing in this blog has also been helpful to some degree.  For some reason, writing about how I feel is so much easier, since I am able to edit myself and make sure my message is always clear before pushing that publish button.  But, at least it is a start.


Thanks for listening.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

PBG Recipe: Marshmallows (and PBG Redesign)

You may have noticed that I have been making some design changes to the site.  I wanted to "perk" it up a little.  What do you think?


 
This weekend has been pretty good.  I went on a road trip/shopping trip to Ikea with my friend Claudia.  She lives 3 hours away so we don't get to see each other very often.  Although, she is moving an hour and a half closer very soon.  That makes me very happy.  We did lots of chatting and a little bit of shopping.  I purchased a bunch of kitchen gadgets including some loaf pans, cupcake cups, a zester, melon baller, corer, some cookie cutters and a some very tiny bowls I thought I plan to use for recipe prep.  All in all it was a good day.

 
Today I did some major cleaning on the upper level and main floor of the house.  Sweep, mop, wipe.  I also ventured to make home made marshmallows.  It was a success.  Candy can be tricky so I am just glad this wasn't a gooey disaster.  The resulting treats were soft and sweet with just a hint of vanilla.  They would be perfect for s'mores or hot chocolate.







Ingredients
Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup water
3 packages unflavoured gelatin
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 egg whites, room temperature
1 vanilla bean

Directions
  • Spray the bottom and interior sides of a 9x13-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray. (my 9x13 pan was dirty so I just used two circular cake pans)
  • Sift together the cornstarch and confectioner's sugar in a small bowl, then dust an even layer of the mixture over the prepared pans, making sure to coat thoroughly. Set aside. Reserve the rest of the cornstarch and confectioner's sugar.
  • In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup of the water and allow to sit until softened and all the water is absorbed.
  • In a medium sized sauce pan combine the 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt.
  • Stir using a wooden spoon, over medium low heat, until the sugar has dissolved, around 3-4 minutes. Bring the mixture to the boil over medium heat and cook for around 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and add the gelatin. Stir until dissolved.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
  • On medium speed, pour a thin, steady stream of the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the egg whites.
  • Slowly increase the speed to high and beat until the batter has nearly tripled in volume and has cooled to room temperature, around 12-15 minutes.
  • Split vanilla beans down the middle and scrape out the flavourful seeds.  Add the vanilla to the mixer and beat for about a minute more.
  • Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pans, using an oiled spatula to smush into corners and smooth the top.
  • Sift over another generous layer of the reserved cornstarch and confectioner's sugar mixture.
  • Let stand until set, at room temperature and uncovered, around 3 hours.
  • Onto a large board, sift some more of the cornstarch and confectioner's sugar. Run a thin knife around the edge of the marshmallows to release from the pan then invert onto the dusted work surface.
  • Use an oiled knife or cutter to divide into your desired shapes. Coat these with a sifting of the last of the cornstarch and confectioner's sugar to keep them separate.
  • Store in an airtight container with parchment paper between layers, for up to one week.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Winter by the Water

Happy Friday, everyone!  This week went by so quickly.  I love a 4 day work week.  The weather here in my neck of the woods has been a typical Canadian winter.  Over New Year's the weather warmed up to almost 10C and melted most of the 3 feet of snow that we had and then a few days later the temperature dropped down below freezing again and everything was back to a rock solid block of ice.  Ah...Canadian winters. 


Over the Holidays I took a drive to the small lakeside town of Port Stanley.  It is a beach town about 30 minutes south of London.  While this place is all hustle and bustle in the summer in the winter it is almost deserted. 


Despite the desolate surroundings I think it is just as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer.  I walked along the beach to check out the huge ice waves.  It's hard to tell in the pictures but these waves of frozen water were at least 10 feet tall. 



Mother Nature is amazing.  It was awe inspiring. 

What are you up to this weekend?  My Friday night was low key.  A visit to the parents for dinner then home to chill.  Tomorrow I am meeting a friend I haven't seen in ages for chatting and shopping at Ikea.  I don't plan to buy anything but who knows what will fall into my cart :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

PBG Photpgraphy: Series 1

One of the items on my vision board and one of my quasi New Year's resolutions was to spend more time on one of my creative hobbies...photography.  Below is a sample of some of my recent attempts at artistic photography. 

Most of the photos below were taken last year in Austin, Texas or Halls Lake, Ontario, Canada.  Let me know what you think?