My blog is moving! Come check out my new Food/Travel blog (in progress)


Hello Friends!

I hope you’re all having a great spring!  I just got back from a short (but sweet) visit to beautiful Vermont. It was my first visit there in years, which was a real treat because I normally get there a couple times a year (!). It was a long overdue visit and great to be back. I’ll be sharing our adventure of the beautiful countryside, craft beer/cider/wine touring, delicious food, chocolate tasting (and more) very soon.

For now, here is a gorgeous photo of this handsome lad enjoying some yummy beer sampling atop of a hill at one of thee beer mecca’s of the world… apparently— according to craft beer fanatics anyway. Many of whom do regular pilgrimages to this place which is located fairly close to Stowe.  Beer is super tasty and what a view to go with it….


You’ll find that story soon on my brand new blog! Speaking of which….Yep, I’ve FINALLY got my new food/travel blog up n’ running with a brand new name. I’ve moved all my stories over, so you should be able to look up older posts. As a result I won’t be posting anymore on this one and I’m also cancelling this domain…so not sure if it’ll even be visible.

I’m in the process of redirecting this blog to a new one, which has a completely new domain name. On the off chance it doesn’t work and I wasn’t successful in moving all my wonderful followers over (that’s you guys! :D), I hope you’ll come check out my new site and re-follow me at Pies & Prejudice. (piesandprejudice.ca–just in case the link doesn’t show).  The new site is bare bones right now as I’m still creating and working out the kinks, but it should be up for you to take a peek at.  I’ll be tweaking  things as I go and I’m also very excited to share more of my recipes as well.

Part of the delay getting the new site going was figuring out how to move everything from this blog over to my new one. It would have definitely been a lot easier to just start anew and not bother with all my old posts. But you never know when you guys will want to go to PEI or New Orleans and want to read my wonderful adventures to get some ideas or inspiration…right?? (ha ha okay okay, mayyybe not).

I hope to see you over there and I’ll DEFINITELY be posting regularly. Which means more than one story/post a season (lol). Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram too, if you’re not already: http://www.instagram.com/piesandprejudicebaker. You won’t regret it.

Have a wonderful weekend all, and I’ll leave you with this photo of me doing some excruciating work (HA!) taste-testing some delicious cider –which I was very happy to come across in the land of craft beer, especially since I’m not supposed to be not drinking beer (OOPS). The sweet cherry cider made with fresh cherry buds was worth the visit to Vermont, alone.


Hope to see you at my new blog!

Love,  Dana xo

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Winter Fun, Blog Revamp & A few Geeky Pies


Hi friends! I hope you’re having a good winter so far. How are we at the end February already? Seriously. Last time I posted checked, we were celebrating Christmas. CRAZY! How did that happen?

Happy First Day of March! I actually finished this post yesterday but somehow forgot to hit publish, which is why you aren’t getting this ’til today. Ooops. But because I did write this at the end of February (I swear!), I’m still allowed to be talking about winter, snow and Christmas… right? (crossing my fingers that you agree). This paragraph was just added today, because I don’t normally like to write more than I need to 😀 So let’s pretend it’s still February…even for the few hours minutes it takes you to read/browse this post.

Remember awhile back I’d said you’d see some changes on my blog? And a new name? It’s just about ready! I’ve been busy creating my brand new site which will be more food-focused but don’t worry– I’ll still be sharing travel stories, too. I’m pretty excited and really hope you guys will like it. Just a warning though, it’s gonna be heavy in the geek department 😀

Like this…

Superman Pie, anyone? Lois asked me to make this for her friend Clark. She wanted to let him know she’s onto him (whoa, that could have a couple different meanings..EEK). You’re secret’s out, Superman. Er, I mean Clark. BUSTED by a yummy Sweet Cherry Pie. Whoopsies!

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 The Man of Steel approves of this pie. It’s a mix of sweet cherries (frozen–but I can’t wait to make it with fresh ones this summer), a dash of cardamom, lots of cinnamon and a splash of Grand Marnier for a SUPER yummy flavour (see what I did there?).

Not into superheros (say WHAT??) but you’re still feeling sorta nostalgic for the 80s?

Okay, how about a Pac-Man pie to bring you back to those lazy hazy Saturday afternoons at the arcade? (I may or may not be old enough to remember spending all my free time with my friends at our local arcade which, I might add, was way too conveniently located close to my high school). Ok, I’ll admit it…I played a pretty mean Pac-Man back in the day (even though I’m still 21…Shh!!). Waka waka waka. Here…let me distract you with a pie!

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This is a Wild Blueberry and Cinnamon pie. Such a great mix and catching those elusive pastry ghosts was so darn yummy! I felt like I was 8 years old again (so about 10 years ago, or so… he he).

Apparently February 27th was National Strawberry Day. Yep, in the middle of winter instead of, say– maybe June? Whoever came up with that is not the brightest crayon in the box, but let’s roll with it. It gave me a great excuse opportunity to make something with strawberries since it’s been too long.

I figured there was probably no better way to celebrate it than with a bucketful of fresh(ish) strawberries, loads of chocolate and Deadpool. Who’s with me?

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Because when your buddy Deadpool asks you to make him a pie you really can’t say no. He insisted actually, and he used quite foul language (yikes!) while he was at it. So I figured I’d better comply with his demands just so he doesn’t beat me up. And he told me he likes strawberries so I think this will appease him. I think I’m safe for  now (at least until his next pie request, anyway….Womp womp womp). I’m happy he liked his pie though because it took me MAXIMUM EFFORT to make it a good likeness of him (#extrageekalert)

It’s time to take a break from pies & all things geek (but just a short break– I promise)

I can’t believe how fast winter seems to be flying by this year. Anyone else notice this? The fact that it’s been milder than usual probably helps. One day last week we reached 14C (!!) which is unheard of in mid February around these parts (hello, Canada? Brrr). We’re normally at -10 at this time of year, and usually it’s much colder even. Back in November I was playing with the idea of going south this winter but I’m actually glad I didn’t book anything because this has been the best winter ever.

The milder weather means I can spend more time outdoors soaking up my Vitamin D too.  And it’s much easier to enjoy all that sun when it’s not -45!

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The days are getting much longer now, too which I love. Like many Canadians, I’ve diagnosed myself with Seasonal Affective Disorder so by the time January rolls around the shorter days have really started to take their toll.

At this time of year the sun is setting approximately 1 minute later, sometimes two, every day (I might check this stuff regularly) and now it’s light out until almost 6pm. I’m definitely counting down the days ’til Daylight Savings (11!) and Spring is here in less than 3 weeks (18 days, baby!). If you wanna follow along, I’ve added a Spring Countdown here on my blog :). Don’t worry my fellow winter-haters, I got yer backs.  

Even though we’re having a mild winter, I don’t plan to dig out my flip flops from storage just yet. I learned THAT lesson a few years ago when I hauled my summer clothes out after a mild start to spring and the next day THIS happened. This was   early April one year (2007) in Ottawa.

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You can imagine the curse words that were uttered (and I rarely swear, except around Deadpool–he’s a bad influence) when I woke up to this surprise that morning. It took my friend Al an hour to even find his van in the driveway, let alone clear it off.

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Okay, I’m still trying to repress that memory. Let’s move on to something much more fun, shall we?

Like pie! Um, yeah, back to pie. You can never get enough pie, right? Although I’m thinking about re-starting a strict paleo plan so I might not be baking/eating much of the pies I make (or trying not to, anyway).

I made this for my fella for Valentines Day. Is there a better way to show your love than Darth Vader and an insane amount of chocolate? Welcome to the Dark Chocolate Side everyone. It’s tasty to be here.

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This is a rich chocolate cream pie on a gluten-free chocolate cookie crust and a smattering of homemade raspberry preserves on top.  For some reason, using Darth Vader on my pie just called for something ‘red’…(Hmm, very strange indeed). I don’t generally like to mix fruit with my chocolate, but this was a fun addition and it worked out really well. The dark chocolate shavings on top certainly helped balance out the fruit. You really can’t ever have too much chocolate.

Because we’re just about into March it feels very weird to chat about Christmas buuuuuuuuut better late than never, right? (don’t answer that question). So I thought I’d still share a little holiday recap with ya’ll.

My holiday was fabulous but it was also insanely busy with my baking marathon leading up the holidays. I got tons of orders (thanks to my sweet friends for recommending me…you guys rock!) and this was on top of the gazillion doggie and human treats I usually make every Christmas for my clients and friends.

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I was quite happy to take a break from the kitchen by the time Christmas came around. And the desire to take a baking break rarely happens…

On Christmas Eve, when I was finally done all my baking, it was time to meet my friend Al for a festive drink and dinner. It was the perfect way to kick off the holidays!

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We’ve been doing Christmas Eve together for almost 20 years so it’s pretty much a tradition now. Al hails from the Yukon so it’s a pretty far trek to go for just a short time (though he does go home occasionally). Since my dad’s passing a few years ago, I don’t really do much for the holidays anymore. My mom and I aren’t close at all, unfortunately, and my brother lives across the country and never comes home at Christmas. Plus I haven’t heard from him in a long time, so that doesn’t help. Most of you know about all my family ‘drama’ so I wont’ go into it here. Things happen, I’m dealing with it. I really miss my dad so Christmas is always kinda tough, but it does get a bit easier every year.

I did, however, get together with my favourite Aunt during the holidays and we always have a fun visit when the two of us meet up. She’s the best (and kookiest) woman on the planet. Never a dull moment with this sweet lass.

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I’m also grateful for friends who always include me in their holiday festivities as well. Especially Kat, one of my dearest besties, who always makes time for me even though she’s super busy with her own family at Christmas. We always laugh until our ribs hurt, it’s great. She and I have been finishing each others sentences since 1989 💖

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Normally Billy and I go somewhere for the holidays as well, even if it’s just a short  road trip. This year’s was quite spontaneous as we didn’t have a plan, or a destination, until a few days before Christmas (we were both too busy baking/working to plan anything, really).

We ended up going on a super fun road trip to Barrie (north of Toronto) to visit Billy’s awesome long-time friends’, Lenka & Brad. Since our trip was fairly spontaneous, all of the rental cars were already gone so we got stuck with a truck. While I do love a good truck (my ‘dream’ car is a pick up truck–yeehaw!) we learned that our credit card insurance doesn’t cover truck rentals so it ended up costing us almost triple what we expected, and budgeted for, on this road trip. Oops! Lesson learned. We’ll definitely plan more in advance if we’re going to rent a car again– especially during the holidays.

But it was a great road trip and we had an absolute blast with Lenka and Brad. These two of some of the sweetest, kindest and most generous people you’ll meet. Our holiday consisted of loads of laughs, shenanigans, wine, card games and dart competitions, and amazing food. Brad is an exceptional cook and Lenka is the hostess with the mostess and a party-planning/organizer Queen.

We loved spending part of the holidays with them (thanks guys💕) and both of us had such a fabulous time.

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We had Christmas dinner the night we arrived and it was absolutely fabulous. It was one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in a long time. Brad rocks in the kitchen!

The next night we checked out a local brewpub Barnstormer which was a lot of fun. I couldn’t try their beer unfortunately (ok, I had a sip), but they had a nice cider and the food was pretty good.

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Brad wasn’t too happy about how long he waited for his beer. Or maybe it’s because the pizza was all gone, we’re not too sure.

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Billy seemed awfully happy when Brad attempted to put him in a choke hold when it was discovered that there was some missing beer.

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Lenka and Brad have a ‘games’ room in the basement and we had fun playing a few rounds of darts. No eyes were even poked out in the process…surprisingly!

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This is Bing, their cute doggie friend. He really likes Brad…and beer.

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Some euchre fun, wine and beers, and a delicious cheesecake! YUM

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Because it’d been a couple of days since I baked anything, I was itching to bake something. So with our hosts out at a family gathering for one of the evenings we were there, I may or may not have sneaked into the kitchen and made them some Toblerone Shortbread.

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Fortunately it was a success, even though it took me 3 hours to find a mixer (!!!??) While this may be quite normal for some, any baker such as myself might also find this insane. I must use mine every single day (haha) so it’s up there in an obvious place with the flour, sugar, pots, frying pan, chocolate, coffee….all the normal stuff I’d reach for in my kitchen at any given moment.

I found their mixer in a back closest— between the closest black hole and the nearest Death Star (HA!). I think they were more surprised they even had one and that I actually found it.

“Hey guys, I made you cookies. Luckily I found the mixer”

“What? No way, you found the mixer? Wait..what? We have a mixer?”

Not too surprisingly, it looked like the one my Grandma used back in 1939 so I was surprised it even worked. But it did! And luckily they enjoyed the cookies. I suspect the mixer might not get used again until our next visit and I do a hostile kitchen takeover (he he).

This guy liked the cookies too. And the Christmas tree photo opp.

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See how normal (ish) my hair looked in this pic? (I’m looking at you, Lenka). As any of my friends who’ve done a sleepover party with me can attest, I have the wildest hair upon awakening and it’s usually not the ideal time to do a photo shoot (haha). If you don’t know me that well (though I suspect most of you wouldn’t be overly surprised given how my hair normally looks) just pretend you’re having a sleepover with your friends and one of them wakes up looking like one of the dudes in Metallica. Or Twisted Sister. Or, worse, Kiss. Yes it’s that bad.

While standing at Niagara Falls (back in September–and I’d already brushed my hair that morning!) I looked like I was doing an 80’s heavy metal video. ROCK ON!

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I was a rocker in the East Coast too. In fact, I can probably do a travel post on JUST my crazy hair pics. Stay tuned 😀

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Okay enough laughing you guys, and let’s get back to Barrie.

Our little monkey came along for the trip and enjoyed bossing poor Bing around. Even though it was more his house than hers (haha). What a kook.

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Too much holiday fun means nap time for both of these guys. Two peas in a pod. (Go Redblacks!)

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We stopped in Kingston, Ontario for coffee along the way and did a fun walk with the little cutie.

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How about this view (Lake Ontario) with your morning coffee?

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When we got back to town we squeezed in a visit with my lovely friend Jen at her Mom’s place for New Year’s dinner. Jen’s mom, Joan, is an incredible cook and she never ceases to amaze me with her meals and desserts, too (she’s a big inspiration to me since she’s such an amazing baker). We had a wonderful time with their family and dinner was amazing.

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We also did a holiday brunch at one of our favourite restaurants in Ottawa when we got back home. Delicious!

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Hope you guys are doing wonderfully and don’t forget to check back here for my newly revamped blog very soon. Happy Daylight Savings/Spring, though I’ll likely be back with another rambly post (along with too many pie pictures) before then.

Lots of love,

Dana (the rocker chick) xo

Christmas Baking: Share and Inspire Others Recipes


Hello friends, I hope you’re all enjoying the start to the holiday season and you’ve had a chance to get your shopping and baking done.


I’ve been a busy bee baking tons of my favourite Christmas treats for all my human (and doggie) friends for the holidays and also creating a few new ones, as well.  You can never have enough shortbread, sugar cookies, brownies and festive cupcakes for the holidays, right? 🙂

In case you’re looking for a bit of inspiration for your holiday baking, I wanted to share this wonderful collection (just below) of recipes put together from Esme of ‘The Recipe Hunter’ . I am delighted to announced that I got to be part of this wonderful recipe-sharing event so you’ll notice that my Boozy Spiced Rum & Eggnog Cupcakes (my last post)is included on this awesome list of delicious offerings.

Check it out and Happy Baking guys n’ gals! I’ll be sharing another one of my travel adventures in the next couple of days plus and another delicious christmas treat recipe….and my name change finally as well.

Happy holidays, everyone!
Dana xo

The Recipe Hunter

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First and foremost, I wish to extend a hearty and very big thank you to one and all for your partcipation in this new monthly recipe exchange!!  I am overwhelmed with the great response on our very first monthly Share and Inspire Others! Themed Recipe Exchange.

I am so excited with all the fantastic entries, that I have decided to release this post earlier that originally planned.  Without further ado, herewith the December 2016 Share and Inspire Others! entries.

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Posted in order of emails received:

Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls courtesy of thehappiestpixel
I hope you like it. It’s a sweet Christmas treat. But it’s so nice I want to eat it every day…  They are so nice. trh-eggnog-cinnamon-rollsAlmond Snowball Cookies courtesy of Betsy’s Bakehouse trh-almond-snowball-cookiesBanana Cake  courtesy of Aayushi Manish
Ripe Banana flavor & Walnut Crunch made a Delicious cake
trh-banana-cakeSpritzgeback cookies courtesy of Pumpkin Pie and Me {est. 2014}
This recipe…

View original post 873 more words

Boozy Cupcakes: Spiced Rum & Eggnog–with an Eggnog Buttecream

Hi Folks, I hope you’re all doing great and not overly disappointed that winter is here…especially after such a relatively mild, dry Fall (at least here in Ontario). Just when I was hopin’ for a green winter…curses! 🙂

The snow has, at the very least, thrown me right into holiday baking mode. Okay, okay I’m always in baking mode but—right now it’s ALL about the cinnamon, the peppermint, all those fun cookie shapes and, of course.. the Egg Nog!

How about one of these to make your holiday season Merry & Bright? Spiced Rum & Eggnog Cupcakes with a whipped eggnog buttercream…

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This doesn’t look like a bad way to drink all that Holiday ‘Nog, right?

This year will be my first Christmas with my baking biz so I’m pretty excited. I’ve gotten a couple orders already (woohoo!) but now that I’ve got my holiday menu out, I’m hoping to be baking non-stop ’til Christmas Eve. Since this blog is moving toward baking & food, I thought I’d share some of my favourite holiday recipes with you guys. This is the first recipe of my 12 Treats of Christmas!

As many of you know, I bake exclusively gluten-free these days. I love creating copycats of all the classic faves and coming up with new creations, too. Many folks who have tried my goodies tell me they can’t tell the difference (from regular gluten ones) so I’m taking that as a sign that I’m on the right track. Regardless, I’m having fun creating and taste-testing. If you don’t need to avoid gluten, just swap regular flour for the GF flour in any my recipes. I always try to come up with very versatile, allergy or diet-friendly recipes and give as many options/substitutions as possible.

Today I’m sharing these fun cupcakes that will defintely put you in the Christmas spirit. Add a bit of booze to the eggnog buttercream as well (for adults only, of course) and you’ll REALLY start feeling the Christmas spirit 🙂

It just ain’t the holidays without copious amounts of eggnog, at least for me anyway. Even if you can’t have dairy, there are several great dairy-free options (homemade or store bought) these days so you never have to go Nog-less. I generally don’t drink a lot of dairy myself so I’ve tried quite a few of them. My absolute new favourite is the So Delicious Coconut Nog. It tastes just like regular eggnog (and not coconut-y, either–surprisingly) and it’s absolutely delish. I don’t care for the soy milk ones (good thing because I usually avoid soy like the plague) and the almond milk nogs I’ve tried aren’t amazing, but not bad either. But don’t worry, you can add any eggnog to these festive cupcakes and they’ll still be amazing!

Here’s a funny story about when I was a kid and spent a few months drinking eggnog as meal replacements because I wouldn’t eat real food (just scroll down if you want to jump right to the recipe):

When I was about 8 years-old, I suddenly started worrying that I was going to choke on my food. It would take me hours to eat a meal, especially if it was something chewy like meat. My mom would sometimes have to put my food in the blender (Ugh!) and she also made me fresh eggnog when I wouldn’t eat breakfast or lunch. I wasn’t eating a whole lot (and I was super skinny to begin with) so she really wanted to make sure I got enough protein/nourishment. The eggnog was quick and easy to make and there was no chewing involved whatsoever.

My parents were still worried though, so I eventually saw the doctor who thought maybe I was anorexic (I wasn’t). If that had been the case, though, I would have made history as the youngest person ever (at 8 years old!!!) to have an eating disorder. I didn’t have one, fortunately, but I went to see a counsellor anyway so we could figure out what was going on. Shortly after, my whole paranoia somehow passed and I was back to eating normally again.

I eventually figured out why I was so paranoid and it had to do with a story my brother had told me awhile back: One of his friend’s had almost died from choking whilst eating a hot dog!!! I guess at the time I didn’t realize how much it freaked me out, but that explains the panic I was feeling each time I ate anything (except for chocolate or cookies—for some mysterious reason). I must have just forgotten this story or somehow didn’t attribute it to my fear—until I put two & two together (much, much later). 

People were actually quite surprised I was afraid of choking because I used to partake in food-inhaling contests with my friends (stuff like ‘who could eat a bag of marshmallows the quickest? yikes!). We’d barely chew our food so we could get it down fast to win the race. So clearly I wasn’t always afraid of choking on food, else I wouldn’t have been swallowing marshmallows whole….at lightening speed, even!

Aside from this brief episode of weird paranoia, I have always been a pretty happy eater.

See….

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always talking or eating (or sometimes trying to do both) not much has changed. I’ve always loved food! Excuse the photo quality, this was the late 70s/very early 80s.

The eggnog that my mom made did help during that time and I always enjoyed it as it was always fresh, homemade and super tasty (I’m glad we didn’t worry about raw eggs back then or I wouldn’t have had the eggnog, either).

Moral of this story (besides never listening to your brother, or at least the scary stories) is that I was introduced to FRESH EGGNOG at a fairly young age. Sure the store-bought ones are pretty tasty, they just can’t really hold a candle to homemade ‘Nog. If you haven’t made homemade Egg Nog before, you are missing out and maybe you should add that to your list of fun things to do this Christmas.

If you like Eggnog (and rum), you’ll love these cupcakes. Even gluten-free, they’re moist and very delicious. Don’t worry, you won’t get tipsy after eating one of these because the alcohol in the rum cooks off during the baking process and it leaves just a hint of tropical flavour behind. You can use any spiced rum you like or just leave it out (gasp!), if you prefer.

The buttercream is a cooked frosting with a splash of eggnog. If you prefer, just use your favourite recipe and use a bit of eggnog for some of the milk or maybe try my yummy vanilla buttercream I posted awhile back that goes with my coconut cupcakes (just sub ‘nog for some of the coconut milk and use all butter). This frosting (below) is incredibly tasty, less sweet than a typical frosting, and has a wonderful whip cream-like texture. It’s similar to an Italian buttercream, but since I don’t like eating egg whites, I find this an awesome alternative. It takes a bit more work than your standard buttercream but it’s soooooo worth it. There are plenty of versions of this type of buttercream…just google ‘flour frosting’ and you’re bound to find tons of great recipes.

Hope you are all having a wonderful start to the holiday season! Happy ‘Nogging and let me know if you like the cupcakes. It’s not Santa that you have to worry about stealing these…you’d better hope Captain Jack Sparrow doesn’t find them first. Arrrrr  😀

xo Dana 

Spiked Rum & Eggnog Cupcakes with a Whipped Eggnog Buttercream

 

 Makes 12 Cupcakes

Note: if using my buttercream recipe below, make the frosting first before the cupcakes as the cooked frosting needs to cool completely (about 1 hour in freezer or a couple hours in fridge) and then it needs to sit at room temperature for awhile before mixing in butter & whipping. If you’re making a standard buttercream, no need to make the frosting first.  

Ingredients


1 ¼ cups GF flour (this is a good one..or reg All-Purpose flour)
1 cup sugar (any dry sugar is fine, including coconut sugar)
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (dried is fine, too) + more for sprinkling on
1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temp
½ cup eggnog (regular or dairy-free)
2 Tablespoons Spiced Rum (optional)
1 Tablespoon vanilla bean extract (or reg vanilla)

Instructions 
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners. 2. In medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Set aside 3. In large bowl beat butter for a couple minutes and then add sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. 4. Add in eggs, one at a time…scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula if necessary. 5. Add half of the flour mix, stir gently and then add eggnog and rum. 6. Pour in remaining flour and mix just until combined. 7. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling each to about 2/3 full 8. Bake about 18-20 minutes or until tops are slightly golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before frosting.

Whipped Eggnog Buttercream

Ingredients


1 cup sugar  (regular granulated, not the icing/powdered kind)
¾ cup milk (regular or dairy-free)
¼ cup eggnog
2 Tablespoons GF flour (I often use white or brown rice flour)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 teaspoons vanilla bean extract,
1 cup butter, slightly softened

Instructions;


1. In a medium saucepan combine sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Add milk and eggnog and whisk mixture together until it’s fairly smooth.
2. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the milk mixture starts to thicken and becomes almost like a cupcake batter in texture. It usually takes about 5-8 minutes. When it starts to get to thick and hard to mix easily, it’s ready.
3. Take off heat & stir in vanilla extract. Cover and immediately put in freezer to cool.
4. After about 40 minutes, or a little longer, your mix should be cool enough to use. Make sure it’s not warm at all, or the butter will melt and it won’t whip up properly. At the same time, you need to leave it at room temperature for a little bit so that it’s not too cold or the butter won’t absorb properly into the mix.
5. Gradually add the butter (I like to add it in a few pieces at a time), and beat at low-speed with hand mixer. As it starts to get whipped, you can increase the mixing speed a little. Mix for about 2 minutes until it resembles whip-cream. I usually put it in the fridge for a few minutes before adding it to cooled cupcakes so that it keeps its shape (especially if you use it for piping). Garnish with fresh nutmeg & enjoy 😀 ARRRRRR!

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Mackinac Island: Time Travel, Bikes & Movie locations

*UPDATE: howdy ya’ll! You’ll see a few changes to this blog very soon including a brand new name! I’ll still be sharing road trip stories, but you’ll see a mix of lifestyle, food *and* travel stuff. I’m roadtripping much less these days– hence my lack of posts lately 😀 I hope you guys will stick around and, as always, thanks for reading xo

Warning: this post is pretty long (no surprise there, I’m sure) but I gotta make up for lost time, right? (Don’t worry, a bulk of this story is just pretty pictures)

Now…let’s head over the border to Mackinac Island in Michigan, shall we?

Grand Hotel Mackinac Island

Main Street Mackinac Island

I hope you’re doing great and enjoying the start of the holiday season (how are we almost at Christmas already? EEK!). I’m excited to get my holiday baking on and also hoping for some orders for the holidays, too. I was crazy busy over Thanksgiving (I made over 20 pies!!!) which was really fun. A big thanks to my friends for your support, spreading word of my treats and helping me launch my new biz. I couldn’t have done it without you guys! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU ❤

I’ve also started a fun new project called  ‘Pie It Forward’. Every week I’ll bake a pie to share with a good friend over coffee, to bring to someone in need of a smile, or for an awesome volunteer, charity or local heroes (like firefighters or paramedics). I’ll share my pics on here, too, in case you guys want to follow along. It’s gonna be fabulous!

Speaking of pies, I made this a couple of weeks ago for our Ottawa Redblacks when they won the top spot in the East. It’s a Red & Black Berry pie 🙂

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Since this pie was made, however, we went on to win the long-overdue Grey Cup!! (our version of the Superbowl) Woohoo!

Okay, enough about food…lest you stop reading because you’ve gotten too hungry.

While I’m not a big fan of Fall, I at least started the season off right this year….with a ROAD TRIP! I actually haven’t gone anywhere in nearly a year (big reason this blog is becoming less travel-focused) so this trip was lonnnnnggg overdue.

This guy sure was happy about hitting the road again, especially since we missed our usual trip to the East Coast last summer.

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We’re on the road, baby!

We had actually only planned to go as far as Mackinac Island (Michigan) but, like any good road trip, the wind kept taking us further. So somehow we ended up in Indianapolis…at a Colts game! (OMAHA!). Have no fear, I’ll share that adventure in my next post.

I’ve been to Mackinac Island before but it was a long time ago (almost 15 years ago) and it was very briefly (we’re talking half a day) so I’ve been wanting to go back for a long time now. The Island is pretty close to the border (near Sault. St Marie) and lies between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.

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This is where one of my favourite time-travel movies ‘Somewhere in Time’ (with Christopher Reeve & Jane Seymour) was filmed in 1979. The movie became a huge cult classic and the famous Grand Hotel, where most of the movie was filmed, still holds the popular ‘Somewhere in Time’ convention every October (that’s how big of a fan base it still has, even many years later).

Grand Hotel Mackinac Island

The Famous Grand Hotel from the ferry

This photo was taken on my first visit on the island in 2003. This is the beautiful path behind the Grand Hotel along the shore of Lake Huron. It’s also where some of the movie was filmed.

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Is it you? No..it’s actually me! Way back in 2003

I’d kinda like to do some time-travel and maybe go back to this time (early 2000s) when I was just a Spring Chicken (*sigh*).

Here’s my good friend Al hanging out with the horses on Mackinac during our visit way back when. He looks like a spring chicken, too!

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The best, and possibly the biggest, draw to this lovely Island (aside from the Grand Hotel) is that there are NO Cars allowed on the island at all–except for emergency & construction vehicles (and maybe the odd DeLorean).

Which means you’ll have to leave your car in St Ignace or Mackinaw City to visit the island. The ferry goes back and forth quite regularly and it’s a super short trip– only about 15 minutes to the island.

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Waiting for the ferry in St Ignace

You get a great view of the island as you approach it.  It’s pretty magnificent…

Ferry to Mackinac Island, Michigan

This is the humongous bridge that connects Lower & Upper Michigan. You’d take it if you’re driving between Detroit and the Can/US border. 

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I missed this bridge on my first visit to this area because after leaving the island I headed back up to the border. On this trip, however, Cowboy and I were heading to Ann Arbor (near Detroit) after leaving Mackinac so we got to go over it. It’s not as long as Confederation Bridge (which connects Nova Scotia to PEI) but it’s still pretty impressive.

Ferry to Mackinac Island

Ferry to Mackinac Island Lake Huron, Michigan

Hello Mackinac Island! We’re heeeeere. Within minutes of getting off the ferry Cowboy made an instant friend. Not too surprised… such a charmer that boy. Look closely at his arm to see his new pal/stalker.

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The Butterfly Whisperer

Since there aren’t any cars allowed on the island, it forces you to get active. You gotta walk or bike everywhere if you venture further from Main Street. Or you can ‘cheat’ and take a carriage ride around the island if you wish, too. We rented bikes so we could see more of the island and get some exercise which was a good idea after spending so much time in the car en route here.

Fortunately they even allow kooks like this one to rent bikes here (explains the extra ‘fee’ ha ha).

Main Street Mackinac Island Michigan

Most of the hotels, Inns & B&B’s are on the main drag, or at least fairly close by. We didn’t actually book anything before coming (ya, we’re rebels) but it was near the end of the season so we figured we’d find something. And we did–fortunately–but the pickings were surprisingly slim.  A few hotel owners told us it was because the weather was very summer-like (about 25C, or 75F) which was pretty hot for late September. So there were tons of ‘spontaneous tourists’ arriving on the island the day we got here (Darn tourists! hehe)

We choose The Harbour View Inn which is absolutely stunning…

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Our Hotel: The Harbour View Inn

It’s a short 5-minute walk to the main drag, so it was a perfect location as well. A wee bit further than some of the places we’d looked at (the closer ones were filling up or way too crazy expensive) but not right in the thick of things, either. This place is definitely more of an Inn than a hotel since it’s relatively small… but not ‘B&B small’, either (thankfully). While I like B&B’s and have stayed in many really nice ones, there’s been a few that were so small I felt like I was in someone’s house (no thanks, unless it’s a family member or friend’s place).

How ’bout sitting out here in the morning with your coffee while listening to the sound of horses galloping nearby? Yes please...

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Just for fun though, we might stay at the Chippewa Hotel next time. It’s right on main street (very close to the ferries etc) so it’s much busier, but super close to everything which is always fun for a change. Plus it’s got lots of history too, which I really love (if you’ve stayed here, please let me know what you thought in the comments–thanks!)

Chippewa Hotel Mackinac Island

Chippewa Hotel

The famous Pink Pony bar is in this hotel too, which might be dangerously convenient 😀 

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You can’t come to Mackinac Island without going to the famous Grand Hotel– especially if you’re a fan of the movie. Since I didn’t get to see the inside of the hotel the first time I was here (which I always regretted), I wasn’t missing out this time. No Sireee…

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It was just as lovely as I’d imagined!

Built in 1887, the Grand Hotel is commonly touted as ‘America’s Summer Place’. In 1972 it offically became a National Historic Landmark. It also boasts the world’s largest front porch–at 660 feet!

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island

The Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel Mackinac Island

The front of the hotel from the lovely huge park close to the entrance.

The Grand Hotel Mackinac Island

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At the back of the hotel you can walk along the shoreline of Lake Huron and see the famous rock where part of the movie was filmed.

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Somewhere in Time Mackinac Island

Somewhere in Time Filming location

Because you can’t stand against a beautiful tree (and famous filming spot) and NOT take a fun selfie, right? BTW Cowboy did watch the movie at one point and he actually enjoyed it 🙂 It’s less cheesy/scary than it looks (haha). But it’s got time-travel in it so you’d be hard-pressed not to like it, really. Mostly though, he really liked these trees and walking along the lake.

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Tree Posers

Mackinac Island Somewhere in Time

But don’t worry, even if you’re not a fan of the movie (say what??) this hotel is outstanding and definitely worth a tour. Though you might have to put on your invisible cloak to get inside the hotel if you’re not a guest (I wouldn’t know this from experience, of course…*cough cough*).

The Grand Hotel

Lobby at the Grand

I was happy to come across this wall of cool memorabilia from the movie.

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Somewhere in Time Film Photos

This pic was taken in front of the Grand Hotel on my first visit there almost 15 years ago:

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My first visit to the Grand Hotel 2003

Even though it was the middle of July, it was pretty chilly that day (as you can probably tell by my fleece sweater. BRR!).

Annnnnd, this was taken on my recent visit this past September. Much nicer weather this time around!

The Grand Hotel Mackinac Island

The Grand Hotel Sept 2016

Cowboy wanted a fun photo for his upcoming rap album and thought the Grand Hotel would make the perfect backdrop for his album cover.

The Grand Hotel

Totally awesome dude! Gnarly to the max. Womp womp womp…  

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Main Street is where all the action is (aside from the Grand Hotel, of course) on the island. Since this is where all the ferries come in, you can’t avoid it even if you tried (you wouldn’t want to, anyway). It’s absolutely gorgeous and so vibrant with all the flowers lining the street. 

Main Street Mackinac Island

the Bustling Main Street

I’d love to come here in the Spring during the Lilac Festival which I’ve heard is THEE most beautiful time to come to Mackinac. Hard to believe that this place could get any prettier, really.

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One of the beautiful hotels on main street

Since it was early Fall, a good part of the street was decked out in gorgeous fall decor. As it was really close to our Thanksgiving (early Oct.) as well, this was a really nice festive touch.

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There are quite a few restaurants, cute shops (most of them are very touristy, not too surprisingly) bike rental kiosks and about 78 fudge stores lining main street. Okay, I’m exaggerating about that last one–but not by much. I think Mackinac Island has the highest per capita of fudge shops in the world.

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Needless to say there was a LOT of free sampling to be had.

Yep, fudge isn’t paleo-friendly so I was a bit of a bad-ass while I was here (please don’t tell the Paleo Police). I must have tried every variety of chocolate fudge I came across. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t read the ingredient lists before imbibing though as I generally avoid foods with nasty vegetable oils (Yikes!).

We wandered up main street munching on our fudge samples and soaking in the beautiful scenery with all the hustle and bustle of folks arriving from the ferries. With all the pretty horses trotting along beside us, it really felt like we’d gone back in time about a hundred years ago or so. (wait, did they have fudge back in 1916? If so, I bet it was probably much better then).

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Now, where did I park my DeLorean again? (ha ha).

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After we checked into our hotel, toured the Grand Hotel and wandered around main street eating way too much fudge, it was time to do a bike ride so we could see more of the island. There are several bike rental kiosks to choose from here, so it wasn’t an impossible feat in the least.

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Just a few minutes away from main street there are tons of trails (many of them being uphill–eek!) so we got to explore a few quieter areas of the island which was really nice.

It also reminded me that I need to get in better shape…

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Someone was lagging behind because he was busy taking photos (silly photo nuts).

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Oh look a painting! In the middle of the forest?

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We biked & hiked to a couple of really cool spots like this one: the incredible Arch Rock.

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This is a rare limestone arch which was formed during the Nipissing (post-glacial) period when the water levels of both Lakes Huron & Michigan were much higher than they are today. This hunk o’ rock rises 146 feet above Lake Huron and is pretty spectacular to see up close and personal.

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It’s absolutely stunning and the views of the lake aren’t too bad at all, either.

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Selfie time!

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The hike to Arch Rock wasn’t too hard at all. It was just a handful of stairs to get to the top (don’t worry,the view is so worth the work)

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We also biked to this cool spot…. Sugar Loaf!

Sugar Loaf Mackinac Island

It’s an enormous 75 feet-high landlocked rock that stands almost smack-dab in the middle of the island. Pretty impressive geological action going on here….

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On the way back from Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf, we checked out Fort Holmes as well.  This is the highest point on the island and was a strategic location for the military during the War of 1812.

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After a couple of hours of biking & hiking it was time to head back into town for a bite to eat and a refreshing drink to quench our thirst. But first…. coffee time!  

No Starbucks here, fortunately. This is the town’s favourite coffee shop, apparently. The Lucky Bean.

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A few of the locals and friendly tourists told us it’s the best spot in town. When it comes to coffee, always trust the locals, right?

Coffee sure was great, but I was disappointed they didn’t have any treats that I could eat (evil gluten)…darn!

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We chatted with some other tourists while sipping a cuppa out front on their little patio area. One of them graciously offered to take our photo, although they  accidentally drop the camera right after snapping the pic (Oops! All was good– it didn’t break..until Cowboy dropped it a few days later in Indianapolis lol)

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It was time to hit the patio to soak up the late summer sun. We choose the Pink Pony as they had a big patio overlooking the lake. Cowboy ordered a nice cold local lager and I tried a blood-orange cider. Yum!

Pink Pony Mackinac Island

Patio at the Pink Pony

And we grabbed some grub, too. The food here is fabulous and after spending a few days on the island, we both agreed this is one of the best restaurants/pubs on the island. SO if you come to Mackinac, make sure you have one meal (or at least a drink) at the Pink Pony. Tell them we sent you (ha ha).

Lunch at Pink Pony

Well, this is probably already long enough so I think it’s a good stopping point after this wonderful long first day on Mackinac Island.

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Be sure to watch for my upcoming post on our tour of Ann Arbor & Indianapolis (for some football fun!) I’ll also be posting a few food-related stories soon as well and my blog name will be changing in the next day or two. Hopefully you’ll still be able to find me and follow along. Have a wonderful rest-of-the-weekend everyone!

Love, Dana xo

It’s Summer! Pies, festivals….and an Update

Hi folks…. How’s your summer going? I can’t believe it’s August already. Feels like Spring was just yesterday (especially if you’re going by my last blog post on here….ha ha).

I’ve had a pretty busy summer so far with lots of events & festivals (esp early summer), launching my new biz (finally) and catching up with friends and enjoying every minute of these hot, hazy days of summer. We gotta enjoy it while it lasts here in Canada as summer is just too darn short. By October, I know I’ll be counting down the days ’til spring again.

I haven’t been travelling much at all this summer but I AM going on a short trip in September which I’m really excited about (will share more deets soon). I can’t wait to get out of dodge for a late summer adventure. 

So, yeah…part of the reason I haven’t been on here much is because I’ve been busy trying to get my new bakery biz up n’ running (plus some health news which I’ll share in a bit). Thanks to all of you who have been ordering my treats for your summer festivities etc. You guys rock!!! I really appreciate your support (xo).

Two of my close (& very business-savvy) friends have been helping me get my biz started and they told me that the first thing I need to do is to stop giving my baking away all the time. Apparently it’s hard to make a living when you’re not charging anyone (oops! haha). Now that I’m keeping better track of my costs, I’ve realized just how much I spend on ingredients. Having a menu helps too since folks can now order stuff a little easier as they have some inspiration and a price list. Hurray!

Speaking of baking, who loves this time of year for FRESH PIES?  You probably enjoy eating pies more than baking them, of course, but pies are actually my favourite thing to bake. Does that mean I’m officially crazy? (better not answer that). 

Any Star Wars fans here? How about this pie…

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Fresh blueberry garnished with Darth Vader’s head. Mnn num num..(just one piece of this and you’ll join the dark side). It’s a fresh pie but I baked the letters and Darth Vader’s head alongside with the crust. I made this for a good friend who’s a big Star Wars fan (of course). He said the force is very strong with this pie 😀

Here’s my Canada Day pie. My friends and I felt very patriotic eating it.

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Strawberry Balsamic…Super Yummy!! I usually prefer a fresh strawberry pie (not cooked), but this was fabulous. Strawberries and Balsamic are a great match, especially when they’re baked inside a delicious buttery (GF) pastry. YUM! Rest assured, I’ll be making this one again before summer is over.

So… enough about pies (darn!) and onto some rather bad/ scary health news.

As many of you know, I suffered from what may have been a mini-stroke a few years ago (I was only in my mid 30s). The neurologist didn’t really think it was one in the end, though because I was only unable to talk for 5 seconds and I had no other symptoms. Apparently there is usually a few things going on (numb limbs on one side, mouth drooping etc) when it comes to stroke. 

What I did discover, though (after a gazillion tests) was that I have a very common, and generally benign, heart defect called PFO ‘Patent Foramen Ovale (‘Hole in the Heart’).  Nearly 30% of the population has one but most never know about it because it rarely causes any problems and there aren’t many symptoms. Except for those (like me) who have a ‘bigger hole’, which can cause fatigue. 

I’ve always been active and played a lot of sports as a kid but I always wondered why I’d get more tired than other people, especially since I’m fairly fit. So I was glad to find out there was an actual reason for it. Basically if you have a PFO, your blood isn’t oxygenated properly (or as efficiently) because of the hole between the two sides of the heart. This allows blood to get circulated around both sides (and not completely filtered, either—which can increase the risk for clots escaping to other parts of body).

They’ve talked about closing mine (because of its large size) but the surgery is still  controversial as studies show that closure is very similar to medical therapy (daily aspirin). I have been thinking about doing it again recently though, just to help with my fatigue.

In any case, while having a PFO can increase your risk for stroke (slightly), fortunately I don’t have too many (other) risk factors. I had another episode a couple of years ago (a PFO diagnosis can make you pretty paranoid!), but luckily it turned out to be nothing.

Anyway, last week I had another strange, more worrisome episode. After being out in the sun for a couple of hours I suddenly felt a bit dizzy and a bit weak in legs too– though only slightly. I guess the best way to put it was that ‘I felt funny’, and it wasn’t just heat-stroke. I was also tired so that was a factor, too– but I knew something was off. I was alone at home at the time so I hadn’t realized that I couldn’t talk. I texted Cowboy who was close by (at work) and fortunately he was able to come home right away.

When he got there I tried to talk but NOTHING came out of my mouth— except for one word ‘hospital’. We took off right away. I managed a word or two en route but nothing I wanted to say was coming out of my mouth. It was very eerie, and quite scary too—as you can probably imagine.

I wasn’t slurring, like you’d see with someone having a full-on stroke, it was more like mumbling and a word here and there managed to escape my lips. When I got to the hospital I realized I couldn’t even tell the nurse why I was there (Cowboy was parking at the time). Luckily I got the most important word out– ‘Stroke’— and suddenly I was whisked away at lightening speed. Within seconds I was hooked up to an IV as well as the machines that track blood pressure & heart rate. This was in case they had to give me the meds that they give to someone having a stoke as there’s only a small window of time that they have to do this (I believe it’s 3 hours). 

The staff was fast, efficient, and just overall amazing. Everyone was a bit surprised because of my age, and the fact that some of them thought I was MUCH younger than I was (hehe).

My blood pressure was fine though and my blood tests were all normal. The CAT scan was clear (to check for blockages in the neck etc) so they were starting to worry less at least. The emergency doctor was incredible, I couldn’t have been in better hands! He was very efficient but also so friendly and made me relax (considering my anxiety level–I’ve hardly ever been in a hospital and sorta doctor-phobic). He was doing everything he could to make sure I was okay, and I could tell he genuinely cared as well.

I passed all the coordination tests (to check for weakness, numb limbs etc) and also all the vocabulary tests where they check to see if you can read a bunch of words out loud (I guess I had improved slightly since I got there). I got an A+ in every test. He was still thinking I had a TIA (mini-stroke) but wasn’t completely sure at that point. He later chatted with Cowboy to get a better idea of how I was when he first saw me in this state.

I was there for most of the day getting a gazillion tests and just waiting around. But at least I was taken off the machines after about an hour when the doc was confidant I wasn’t having a full stroke. Surprisingly, I still couldn’t talk very well even hours later. When I tried to tell the front desk attendant I was going outside (about 2 or 3 hours after I’d arrived), I barely got two words out and the sentence made no sense. I think she thought that I was drunk actually (I only had coffee that day).

After chatting with the neurologist, she thought that I probably didn’t have a TIA or stroke after all because it’s VERY unlikely that someone my age (and in a low-risk bracket) would have even 1 stroke, let alone 3 of them–especially without ANY other symptoms. I’ll be going for another MRI to be sure (I’d had one after my first episode in 2011) as well as an EKG. That one measures brain activity, so I guess I’d better warn them that I’ll probably blow up the machines when they attach the cables to my head from all my excessive brain power (ha ha!).

So…..the neurologist thinks what I may have had instead was a mild seizure or, possibly an aura-migraine (which is a migraine without the headache). I’ve had that before, but only a few times. Those are the ones where you get the weird zig zag lights and you have to sit in the dark for about 20 min until they go away. Interestingly, people with PFO’s are very susceptible to aura migraines and many do opt for the surgery to close their holes JUST to stop the migraines. Again, I’m fortunate that I rarely ever get them so not sure if that’s the problem.

While researching seizures, I learned that there are actually many different types and some can affect speech. The good news is that if it IS seizure related, while seizures can be dangerous (falling, driving etc) they are usually temporary at least and not AS damaging as stroke (most of the time, I believe). Hopefully they are somewhat treatable/preventable as well.

Okay, enough yattering about my scary health woes.  I’m doing much better now. Let’s talk about some of the fun festivals I’ve gone to this summer!! 

To start summer off right, we celebrated Summer Solstice with ‘Glow Fest’, a street festival in downtown Ottawa. It was a blast!

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I even helped out by working at my friend’s store, as she was one of the organizers for the festival.

Because that weekend was also Father’s Day AND my dad’s birthday, I was glad to have this event to distract me. And a couple of my very thoughtful friends took me out for dinner too because they knew it was a bit of a tough weekend for me! I’m so very blessed with wonderful friends xo.

In early June, my good friend Kat and I did our annual road trip to Merrickville for  the Medieval Fest. We’ve gone for the past few years and we always have a fabulous time. We essentially get to go back in time and watch Knights jousting and tons of other medieval fun.

Plus they let us play with swords. I’m not sure if this is really such a great idea  😀

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You’d think they’d know better as we’ve been coming to this for a few years now 😀

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I also went to the Aboriginal Summer Solstice Pow Wow after missing it the last few years. And Cowboy came with me this time, which made it even more fun.  This was his first Pow WOW and he got to try Bannock.

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That’s it for now, because if this post is any longer you may have to quit your full-time job to read it. But don’t worry, you’ve got 2 months before I post again (haha). Oh wait, too late if you’re down to this part. Mwuahahaha. I promise, though…new post coming up very soon and won’t be nearly as long (well, maybe).

Have a great rest of summer and thanks for reading, friends. Hope you’re doing great!!!

Dana xo

Tulip Festival Fun in Ottawa

Hello Spring! Well, almost summer now tomorrow…so I’ve got a few more hours to celebrate spring. (I’m a bit behind in my posts as per usual ha ha).

It’s my absolute favourite time of the year here in Ottawa. The weather is perfect and I’m constantly surrounded by these stunners…

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My hometown is always beautiful, but spring here is simply show-stopping.

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We just recently wrapped up our Tulip Festival which has taken place right here in Ottawa every spring for over a half a century! Every May, my hometown explodes in a rainbow of different colours as millions of tulips start blooming throughout the city.

More than 500,000 people flock to Ottawa from all over the world every year to  check out the Canadian Tulip Festival. It’s quite a sight to behold.

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If you’re a nature photographer (or flower lover) you’ll be in your glory here. But even if you’re neither, you’ll still enjoying gawking at the beautiful tulips. I rarely meet a tourist who isn’t impressed, really. It’s hard not to be…

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 You will probably be snapping pictures like a maniac, especially if you’re camera-happy like me. I’m from here (and have been to the festival a gazillion times, of course) but I still take a gazillion pics when I see views like this around town.

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It’s easy to have Spring Mania when there’s so much colour everywhere across the city. Okay, we’re usually pretty happy at this time of year anyway because the snow is finally gone (YAY!), but the pretty flowers are definitely mood-boosters.

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Even during an impending thunderstorm, you may be still taking pictures of the tulips instead of, say, running for cover. (I may or may not have been one of those people ha ha). But since I’m partial to storms and flowers, this was a combo I definitely couldn’t resist.

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That sky looks pretty cool, albeit a wee bit scary as well. Okay, Okay, putting down the camera now and heading into the nearest building.

Believe it or not, our Tulip Festival is not just about showcasing a bunch of pretty flowers to lure tourists, there’s actually a heartwarming story about it. It all started because of the friendship between two countries: us (Canada) and the Netherlands.

During the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, the Dutch Royal Family fled for refuge to Canada and stayed right here in Ottawa. In 1943, Princess Juliana gave birth to her daughter, Princess Margriet, at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. 

To ensure her daughter was born on ‘Dutch soil’, so she could later retain the right to the throne, a part of our hospital was proclaimed Dutch Territory.

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As a gift of gratitude, the Royal family sent us 100,000 tulips, and as a result our beloved tulip festival was born.

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To this day, the Netherlands continue to give our city 20,000 tulip bulbs every year. Which, of course, we showcase along the Tulip route for locals and tourists to enjoy.

How cool is that?

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Even if you’re a local , you probably come to the Tulip Fest every year…or at least admire the tulips on your drive or bike ride across the city. It’s easy to do because they’re almost everywhere.

For a fun little throwback, here’s a couple of photos of myself as a youngin’ enjoying the Tulip Festival. This first one was taken when I was still in high school while on a date with my boyfriend at the time. Try not to laugh too hard at my incredibly teased hair (it was the late 80s so Hairspray was mandatory).

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And here’s another fun pic taken a few years later (mid 90s) while at the Festival with my girlfriends. You’ll notice my hair is much flatter —sans the 20 tonnes of hairspray (haha)

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And for some recent fun….these two photos were taken last year at the Tulip Festival with our little pooch. She got carried around a bit as it was quite hot (and she IS a Princess after all).

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Since yesterday was Father’s Day, I thought I’d share a nice photo I came across with my dad (who has since passed away) when we went to the Tulip Festival with a couple of his friends a bunch of years ago. Seeing this photo of him yesterday made me smile as it was a bit of a tough day (Father Day and then it’s his birthday today, so a double whammy of memories flowing through me). But this brought back fun memories of our wonderful day at the festival together. 

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Behind them is a gorgeous ‘Tulip themed’ painting on display at the festival about a decade ago. I haven’t seen it since, unfortunately, but it was a beautiful piece of tulip-themed artwork.

If you’re coming to Ottawa for the Tulip Festival, you’ll find a bulk of the tulips in a few areas around town in what the city refers to as the ‘Tulip Route’. The best tulip spotting is in Commissioner’s Park near Dow’s Lake. In this area alone, you’ll find over 300,000 tulips planted here. 

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Most likely, though, you’ll be staying downtown, so Dow’s Lake is actually far away enough from the city’s downtown core that you’ll probably need a car or a bike (you can rent them downtown) if you want to check out the tulips at Commissioner’s Park. 

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But I recommend the bike ride as it’s a gorgeous ride along the historic Rideau Canal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). I’d say it’s about a 20 minute bike ride from Parliament Hill to Dow’s Lake, probably longer if you stop to take photos along the way (trust me, you’ll want to).

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I also recommend stopping at our newly renovated Lansdowne Park (Ottawa’s relatively trendy and hopping ‘Glebe neighbourhood’) along the way to Dow’s Lake (it’s roughly at the halfway point) where you can check out our brand new venue for tulips, gorgeous tulip sculptures, and also live music and vendors set up within inside the iconic Aberdeen Pavillion (built in 1898).

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 The Tulip Sculpture garden inside the Pavillion is just gorgeous and it’s chock full of painted tulip sculptures from local artists.

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This one of the Royal Couple sharing a kiss is my favourite! It’s absolutely stunning…

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It’s pretty cool and definitely worth checking out if you’re here for the festival. You can also order a glass of wine or a beer afterward while enjoying some great music.

The other popular area to see lots of tulips is Major’s Hill Park, which is right downtown and close to the Parliament Buildings. Even better, you get to enjoy walking along the pathway which overlooks our beautiful Ottawa River (the province of Quebec is just on the other side). 

If you’re thinking of coming to Ottawa for the Canadian Tulip Festival, next year (2017) will be a big celebration as our city is celebrating our 150th birthday!

The 72nd Tulip Festival will run from May 12th to the 22nd. Check out this page to get updates closer to the event if you plan to come. And let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to help! 😀

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** Note: This post is NOT sponsored by anyone (such as the City of Ottawa, Ottawa Tourism etc). It’s my own writing, research, experiences at the festival as well as photos. I did not get any compensation for this post at all. So you can be reassured it’s my own unbiased opinion on our festival. I’m from this beautiful city and many of my international friends and readers have been asking me for info on Ottawa and this event, so I thought I’d share it with you all.  

Hope you’re all doing great and happy START of summer! To properly say goodbye to our Tulips, I decided to make a pie with fun tulip-shaped pastry on top. Pie and flowers? You just can’t go wrong with that combo, right?

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Here are a few more spring pictures (mostly of flowers in bloom around town) to sign off my favourite season on the right foot. Man, I’m SO gonna miss Spring!

Thanks for reading, guys! Love, Dana xo

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Dogs, Getting older AND Double Chocolate Scones (yes, you need these!)

Hello friends….Who likes chocolate? and yummy scones? How about both in one shot?  Yes please!

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But first…I’ve got some great news! As you may have read in my last post, my little monkey just had major surgery to remove a mass (and her spleen) a few weeks ago. Well I FINALLY  heard back from the vet/surgeon and it seems the large mass–which is generally malignant 70+% of the time in older dogs–looks to be benign! As are the other nodules that were tested during surgery via biopsy. Woohoo!

She’s not 100% recovered yet, but she seems to be doing very well. I’m so relieved and hope she continues to improve.

It’s that time of year again. Yep, yesterday I turned another year older (er, I mean younger…..yeahhhhh). I’ve decided that I’m sticking with 25, if you’re wondering. Yep, even though I might be a bunch of years older than that. Shhh, don’t tell anyone. I probably shouldn’t mention that I grew up in the 80s then, hey? Womp womp womp.

I had a wonderful day and got spoiled silly. The day started with a delicious breakfast and coffee at my favourite diner and then I spent the afternoon at the park with my furry pals. Afterward I met a dear friend for coffee and then I went for dinner and drinks with some family and friends. Busy day! I’m so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life… thanks, guys—if you’re reading!

I may have had too much coffee (Surprise, surprise).

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Speaking of chocolate…(wait, wasn’t I?) you don’t need a special occasion whatsoever to make these puppies. You’ll probably want to make them every day, especially if you’re a serious chocoholic like me.

Don’t fret if you’re not a big teetotaler, you don’t have to get the gals together for High Tea to partake in these delectable scones (though that could be fun). I may be biased, as I am a big coffee addict, but these are AMAZING with a cuppa steaming hot coffee. Hopefully they will be your cup of tea, too (er, I mean coffee).

You gotta like chocolate though (duh!) because these ooze both dark and semi-sweet chocolate.  Double the Chocolate– double the fun, right?

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(Can you tell I only took one picture of these? Oops).

These scones are slightly sweet (esp. if you add the glaze) and with a delicious buttery, moist and crumbly texture. And then you drizzle ’em with a coffee glaze and dark chocolate. YUM!!

As y’all know, I’ve been experimenting over the past few years to re-create gluten-free versions of all my ol’ favourites. Scones can be tough as they always seem to be too gritty, dry, or ricey. So I’ve been playing around and finally found a good combo of ingredients that make a moist, yummy scone—even for gluten-free. Adding chocolate makes anything better, right? Some of my lovely friends, who don’t really need to eat gluten-free, couldn’t tell the difference between these and regular scones (yahoo!). If you can eat wheat, than by all means just use All-Purpose flour in this recipe instead. 

Don’t be tempted to skip the glaze. I’ve been trying to cut back on overly sweet treats, too, and one of the reasons I like scones is that they usually have less sugar (than, say–muffins or cupcakes), so I don’t feel too bad adding a bit of sugar (in the form of a glaze) here. I was inspired by one of my favourite Tim Horton’s donuts (which I can no longer eat) called Old Fashioned Chocolate (cakey donut with a milky glaze..Mnnn!). I find these quite similar.

If you like dark chocolate, melt some of your favourite and drizzle a little bit on top! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Hope you’re all doing great and enjoying Spring so far. And for my fellow Canadians, hope you all have a great long weekend! Yay for the un-official start of summer.

Love, Dana xo

Double Chocolate (Gluten-free) Scones

Inspired & adapted from:  The Brown-Eyed Baker  and  Inside Bru Crew life                                                                                                                                                                Makes 6 medium-size (or 8 small) Scones


Ingredients

1 ½ cup Gluten-free AP flour (your own mix or store-bought) + 1 tbsp extra–if needed

1/3 cup good quality cocoa (I use dark cocoa)

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional, but I love it in these)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon  espresso powder (optional,but boosts chocolate flavour)

½ cup cold butter (or, you can try coconut oil–but not liquid, though I haven’t tried this myself)

½ cup whipping cream or coconut cream (from a can of coconut milk)

1 egg, room temp

2 teaspoons vanilla bean extract or regular vanilla

½ cup chopped semi-sweet good quality chocolate (or chocolate chips will work, too). 

1/3 cup dark chocolate, melted (for drizzling on scones- if desired).

For the Coffee Glaze:

1 ½ cup icing sugar

2 Teaspoons vanilla bean extract

2-3 Tablespoons coffee, cooled


Instructions                                                                                                                                                               1. Preheat Oven to 400F, Place parchment paper on a baking sheet.

2. In large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and espresso powder (if using). If you’re using gluten-free flour, I recommend whisking vigorously as I find it helps combine the mix of flours better.

3. Cut or grate butter into the flour mixture. If using coconut oil instead (again you’ll have to experiment if you’re brave, I haven’t tried coconut oil in scones yet), make sure it’s thick (like butter in texture—just place in fridge or freezer until it solidifies) and cut it into flour mix

4. In a separate (small) bowl mix together wet ingredients:  egg, cream or coconut cream and vanilla bean extract.

5. Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture and stir just until it’s mixed. If the dough looks too dry or tough, add a bit of extra cream (or milk of any kind is fine) until it comes together. If dough seems wet, add a tablespoon of flour. I find different flour mixes (especially store-bought) can vary quite a bit and some are thirstier than  others

6. Add chopped chocolate or chips.

7. Make a big ball out of the dough and then flatten into a disc. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cut the dough into 6 wedges, flattening the disc a bit if it’s too tall. If you like smaller scones, you can cut into 8 pieces instead. I usually like to pull the pieces apart a little so they cook more evenly.

8. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife comes out relatively clean (careful not to  over-bake these as they tend to dry out very quickly, especially if you’re using gluten-free flours).

Donut-like Glaze (optional): In a medium bowl, mix together icing sugar, 2 tablespoons of coffee and vanilla extract. Add another tablespoons of coffee if you’d like to thin the glaze a little. After taking scones out of oven, let them cool for about a minute and then either dunk scones in the glaze or brush it on the top (and sides) of scones. (I find the brushing easier, and way less messy).  Allow glaze to cool for a few minutes.

Chocolate Drizzle (optional) If you like dark chocolate, drizzle the top of these scones to add even more yummy chocolate flavour.

Enjoy with a cuppa coffee/tea!

Tulips, Baking for Fort Mac, and Nashville!

Hey guys, I’m a bit overdue for a post here, aren’t I? whoops. Doncha’s worry, I’ve got a few stories in the works and they’ll be up shortly–one of which is a yummy recipe (Double chocolate scones anyone?) and a post on our famous Tulip Festival– which is starting today.

The tulip is Ottawa’s flower, which symbolizes our friendship with the Netherlands. During the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, the Dutch Royal Family fled for refuge to Canada. In 1943, Princess Juliana gave birth to Princess Margriet here in Ottawa.

To ensure to her child was born on Dutch soil (so she could retain the right to the throne) a part of the hospital was proclaimed Dutch Territory. As a gift of gratitude, the Royal family sent us 10,000 Tulips–which is how our festival began. And the Netherlands continues to give Ottawa 20,000 tulip bulbs every year. It’s a wonderful story of the friendship between two counties.

I just got back from the official launch of this year’s Festival. Good times!

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I’ll post more flower pics and other fun shots of the festival next week.

In the meantime, I’m sharing some of my road trip to Nashville with you as it’s been two years since I was there during my big Deep South road trip (story just below my update). 

Firstly, I have some sad doggie news. Zoey, one of my furry friends, passed away a few weeks ago. The lil’ darling was almost 15, which is actually pretty good for a Golden Retriever. She’s missed tons already! Then about a week after her passing, my own lil’ gal (who’ve you’ve seen in many of my stories on here) fell ill, too. She just had major surgery to remove a large mass and her spleen. She did well with the surgery (considering she’s 14), at least–thankfully. The vet hasn’t called me with the results yet (from the biopsy), so cross your fingers for us.

In light of my absolutely insane vet bill (upwards of $8K—for tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, overnight stays and the surgery–yikes!), I’m going to be taking a hiatus from travelling for a bit. But this little cutie is SO worth it (that’s just mud on her face, by the way—Hello Spring!)

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 This is sweet Zoey, may she RIP. Hopefully she’s chasing lots of tennis balls and Frisbees in heaven (and possibly getting lots of yummy treats, too) 😀

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Two years ago next week, I was on a wonderful road trip to Nashville (and a few other areas in the Deep South) with Cowboy and that’s what I’m sharing with you today. Since this was the very first trip that I covered here on my blog, that also means that I’m celebrating my blog’s 2nd Anniversary!!! Woohoo!

We arrived in Louisville, Kentucky on my birthday and spent the day at Churchill Downs before heading to Nashville. The best birthday gift ever (besides being in BOTH Kentucky AND Tennessee, of course) was that I got asked for ID!! Oh yeah, even though I was more than double the legal drinking age. Needless to say, I hugged the bartender in excitement whom then proceeded to give me my beer free. When you’re over 30, this is the best compliment ever (right ladies?).

Let’s just ignore the fact that the bartender probably needed glasses (ha ha).

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So without further ado, let’s head to Nashville!

****May 17th 2014

I’ve been to Tennessee before, but I only managed to get to Memphis on that trip…and just barely as I was only there for a day (I know, I am slightly crazy).

So I wasn’t gonna miss Nashville this time ’round…no sirree. Cowboy and I were both super pumped to visit Music City as neither of us have been before.

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We’re covering a lot of ground on this trip (from Ontario to New Orleans) in a very short an amount of time so we’re not staying in any one place long. As a result, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to update my blog. Which is actually a good thing when you’re on vacation, right? 

When we arrived in Nashville our first priority was to find a hotel. Since we didn’t know when we’d get here exactly, we decided not to book a hotel just in case (oops! big mistake, here anyway). Unfortunately most of the hotels were already full and we were told that it’s because it’s wedding season and Nashville is a big bachelorette spot.  No wonder it was slim pickin’s, especially downtown.

We ended up finally finding a nice hotel in Brentwood, just outside of Nashville.  The Four Points Sheraton. is a great lil’ hotel and the price was reasonable, too (hotels in Nashville tend to be very expensive). If you’re heading here and you’ll have access to a car (and don’t mind not being downtown– that is), I highly recommend staying outside Nashville in one of the suburbs. You’re still quite close but for a much cheaper rate.

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I loved the lobby. Lots of beautiful dark wood and it has a fun, casual/sporty atmosphere. Our room was also super clean and the staff here are all extremely friendly, too. They took the time to chat with us, recommend places to go, and were very helpful overall.

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The hotel has a bar too, which Cowboy was very excited about. He now had a place to hang out in while I cleaned up and got ready. He wasn’t too disappointed to learn that they had a Happy Hour with cheap pints from 5-7pm either (and it was 6:45pm when we got there–phew!).

We relaxed in the bar for a little while and I had a bubbly water while Cowboy finished his pint, and then we were ready to head into Nashville, about a 5-minute drive on the freeway. 

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We found the main strip easily, but it helped that it was starting to get dark and there are a TON of neon lights on Honkey Tonk Row. We couldn’t miss it if we tried, really. It reminded me a bit of the strip in Vegas–albeit a much smaller version of it of course.

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As we meandered down the street, we heard a lot of dance music and very little country, which surprised us both. A couple of locals told us later on that it’s mostly ‘kids’ (25ish and under– their words, not mine) hitting the strip on Saturday nights, especially during Wedding season. As a result, the bars are catering more to that age bracket (fair enough). But we were still hoping to catch some country music while we’re here. We are in Cowboy Country, after all!

Cowboy is a huge country music fan (when he’s not listening to Led Zeppelin, that is) so he kept flailing his hands around in disbelief and exclaiming “REALLY?” at every bar we walked by. It was rather amusing, actually. A couple of times he changed it up with: “Seriously?”  heh heh

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We had a good laugh at the bachelorette parties stumbling in and out of the bars (already drunk– and it wasn’t even 9pm!) . Every second person we saw had something along the lines of ‘last day of freedom’ inscribed on their shirts (or foreheads). I hadn’t realize Nashville is thee bachelor party destination of choice for many until we got here. It’s no wonder the hotels are jam-packed (it’s definitely good for business).  

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I got to meet Elvis while we roamed the main strip. He was hanging out on the street corner greeting all the tourists. I’ve always thought he was probably a nice, friendly chap. Even though he thinks he ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog…

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We were starting to get hungry since we hadn’t eaten since breakfast (very early this morning) so we made our way to Whiskey Kitchen, which was fairly close to the main strip (I’d done some important food research before we left on our trip). A couple of of the staff members at the hotel also told us the food at this place was excellent so we had even more incentive to check it out.

They were right! Everything was amazing. And, I finally got a chance to try these puppies: HELLO, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. Where have you been all my life? (Holy mother of deliciousness).

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I’ve been dreaming about these since 1991 (when the movie of the same name came out) so I was so happy to finally get the opportunity to partake in this incredibly southern specialty. They are worth the visit down south alone!  Even though they are chock full of gluten and I knew I’d pay for it dearly later (gluten intolerance, I’m not celiac) they were so worth it.

The place was pretty packed and it was starting to feel more like a club, but the patio was quiet at least. It was starting to get rather cool, but we are Canadian which means that this felt July to us (ha ha). Most people here seem to be locals, which explains why they were all inside. (laughing at us Crazy Canadians, I’m sure)

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It was the best birthday dinner, ever. Cowboy was spoiling me silly and our meals were over-the-top fabulous!

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After filling our stomachs with delicious southern grub, we finally headed back to the Strip in search of some country music. Cowboy was determined that he wasn’t going to leave Nashville without finding at least some country.

Now this place looked promising. It’s called Honkey Tonk and it’s got 3 floors so they’ve got to have some good country music, right? Nope. All hip- hop coming through the speakers (ugh!)

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A few nice folks we chatted with told us to try Tootsies, one of the oldest bars in Nashville (and throughout the country, even). Although they were playing more rock than country, it was better than most of the stuff we’ve heard so far. It was a pretty neat place, although we were packed like sardines.

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We had a drink, stayed for a few songs and enjoyed the tunes. Since the band was playing my kinda music (Bon Jovi,  ACDC…etc) I was quite happy here.

But it started to get even busier shortly after so we soon decided to move on. We found another fun little bar called ‘The Whiskey Bent Saloon’ that had some awesome live music–and it wasn’t too crazy busy, either.

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After enjoying a bit of music here we decided to call it a night as we were both up really early this morning (remember, I’m an extreme night owl, which means I only slept a couple of hours last night–haha!). Plus we have a full day tomorrow as we’ll be checking out the Grand Ole Opry, Johnny Cash Museum, and a plantation as well. Stay tuned for more adventures in Nashville ya’ll.

Love, Dana xo

Snow-Capped Mountains, Gold Rush & Brothels…Oh my!

 This is part 2 of my Yukon/Alaska road trip. If you missed it, take a peek at Part 1 of the incredible drive from Whitehorse to Skagway.

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We arrived in Alaska after an extremely whiplash-inducing drive from Whitehorse. Every. single. turn along the Klondike highway, which winds from the Yukon into Southeastern Alaska, is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It’s no wonder this drive is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in North America.

It’s definitely up there.

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All we could see for miles in any direction were craggy mountain peaks, sparkling glacial lakes, lush alpine trees and spectacular waterfalls.  I was speechless which, as many of you know, rarely happens (and I’m almost certain my travel buddy Al enjoyed it! ha ha).

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Since it was early Spring, many of the mountains were still covered in snow. As you can imagine, Spring thaw comes a wee bit later up here. Surprisingly, though, it was really warm: 25 degrees, baby! (77 F). It was much warmer up here than it was in Ontario at the time even. Not bad considering I was expecting sub-zero temps and that I’d have to wear long johns the whole time I was here.

Although it felt like summer, the contrast of the snow-capped peaks against the brilliant blue sky offered us a spectacular view we wouldn’t get in the middle of July. Just stunning…

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Since it was early in the season, we had the entire highway to ourselves. I think we passed 10 cars on the 2-hour drive from Whitehorse. It was eerily quiet, but a nice change from the insanely jam-packed freeways back home.

Not much traffic up here whatsoever.

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If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you might recall that my friend Al is from the Yukon so I’ve been fortunate to have joined him on his visits back home a few times. On my first trip here, in the late 90’s, we did a camping trip to Skagway and I’d fallen completely in love with this gorgeous little town.

A return trip here has been long overdue.

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Skagway is so well-preserved that you might feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine and went back in time a hundred years while you’re here. Since my first visit was in 1998, going back in time a century would have put me smack-dab in the middle of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898!!!! Cool beans…

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Since the town was celebrating the centennial of the Gold Rush on that visit, there were tons of gold-rush themed events, costumes, and activities taking place around town.  It sure felt like I’d been transported to the late 1800s. No DeLorean required!

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When gold was discovered in the Yukon in 1896, thousands of folks flocked north–practically overnight– to chase the ‘promise of gold’ in the Yukon. Skagway became the “Gateway to the Gold Rush” mostly due to its proximity to the Chilkoot Trail, where prospectors started their arduous hike to Dawson.

In just a year, Skagway went from being a tiny village to a full-fledged town with over 10,000 people! Houses were rapidly built, and shortly after a bunch of shops, gambling houses and bars followed suit. With that, of course, brought a few rather ‘unsavoury’ elements to the town including alcohol (gasp!), prostitution and crime.

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It was basically a lawless town where anything goes, really. Members of the Northwest Mounted Police (apparently) referred to Skagway as ‘A little better than hell on earth‘.

Um…..I think it’s better that I’m here 100 years later, after all then 😀

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To say alcohol was a big part of this boom town would be an understatement. At the height of the Gold Rush, there were close to 80 bars in operation here! Considering it was still a pretty small town (there’s only 900 people living here today), there was no shortage of places to grab a pint back then at all.

If you were a bartender during those days, you probably would have made more money working here than if you’d gone further north panning for gold.

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The Red Onion Saloon was the most popular bar in town, though I strongly suspect that might have had something to do with the fact that it operated as a brothel as well.

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And it’s still open today! For only $10 you can still get 20 minutes—- the same price as it was in 1898. But, before ya’ll get too excited, that only gets you a tour of the upstairs these days (sorry guys). The bar no longer offers any ‘extra entertainment’ to go with your beer.

Al wasn’t too sad though, mostly because he was excited to try a ‘Smoked Porter’ from a local brewery. While I do love me a porter, this one was way too smokey for my liking (eek!)

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At the height of the Gold Rush, 10 women worked here under ‘Madam Diamond Lil’, who charged customers $100 an hour or $1,000 a night. (this was back in the late 1800s, price-y!).

Each of the women had their own doll sitting on the bar that matched their hair and clothing. A potential customer would just point to the doll of their choice, pay the bartender and then—after a little bit of ‘liquid courage’– he could wander upstairs to say hello. The bartender then would lay the doll down so new customers would know that particular girl was ‘occupied’ at the time. 

The bar’s slogan today is: “Our Business is Your Pleasure.” Ha ha! Cute. I thought that was a nice little tribute to its very colourful past.

Did I mention I got a new job? Yep, I got to meet one of the sweet Gold Rush ‘Goodtime Girls’ and she told me they were hiring!

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As a tour guide, of course.

Don’t worry, this place really is just a bar and tourist attraction now. If you’re curious to see what a real brothel looks like, you can get a tour of the upstairs after your meal. As I expected, the tour really is a ‘quickie’ (ha ha sorry-had to). It basically consists of: “Here’s a bedroom…oh and here’s another bedroom…etc”

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It’s pretty neat to see though, and I highly recommend it if you’re visiting Skagway. There are 10 small rooms (called ‘cribs’) in the upstairs bordello and each has an escape room as well (probably a good idea). There are also lots of cool antiques on display throughout the upstairs too. I have to say for my first bordello viewing, I was rather impressed.

You can’t visit Skagway without learning about Soapy Smith, one of the most notorious ‘characters’ of the Gold Rush. He was a swindler who considered himself kind and generous because he gave money to the needy while at the same time running the biggest crime organization in town.

And he ran a few good scams, too. The most famous one of all was probably his ‘telegraph scam’ where he charged $5 to those who wanted to send a message back home to their loved ones. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Unbeknownst to these poor folks, the telegraph hadn’t even been invented yet (this was in 1898, the telegraph wasn’t invented until 1901) so none of their messages went anywhere.  Not a very nice chap, indeed.

Soapy also operated many of the town’s saloons from this building, which he called ‘Soapy’s Parlor’.  It still stands today.

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Many folks called this place the ‘real city hall’ (even though the town already had a city hall). Looks a bit dodgy, if you ask me. I wasn’t overly surprised to learn that Soapy died from a gunshot wound on July 8,1898. I’ll bet he wasn’t overly missed here in town.

Skagway is quite touristy, of course, since many cruise ships stop here all summer long.  But if tourist shops or historic places/museums aren’t your thing, Skagway is also an outdoor lover’s playground. If you love camping, hiking, water sports etc, you’ll be in your glory here.

On my two visits here, I went on a quite a few amazing hikes in the area.

This is Al on our waterfall hike in May ’98.  He was pretty happy to be wearing a t-shirt and shorts…. in May!!!…up North!! (can you tell I/we were excited about this?)

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Here he is 12 years later on a different hike in Skagway.

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He hasn’t aged much in nearly 15 years (and his ego hasn’t changed at all either–ha ha).

And here is a photo of me during our first visit here in ’98. (Do I ever look young here, holy cow!)

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And… a decade or so later. Different waterfall, same pose 😀

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There are so many gorgeous waterfalls ’round these parts that you’d be hard-pressed to not come across one whilst exploring the area. If you’re here via a cruise, there are so many hikes around the town, you won’t have to rent a car at all either.

This is one of the coolest buildings in Skagway. And also one of the most photographed ones as well.

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Built in 1899, the Arctic Brotherhood Hall was constructed with over 9,000 small pieces of driftwood. It’s got such a unique, rustic look, I’ve never seen another building like it.

This hall was built for the men who organized a fraternity while en route from Seattle to Skagway during the Gold Rush. The brotherhood provided assistance, social interaction and support for those visiting the northern communities.

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A visit to Skagway isn’t complete without a trip to the Gold Rush Cemetery. It’s a bit heartbreaking though as you learn about all the poor folks who lost everything (including their lives) in their attempts to strike it rich. So sad…

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But the area and hiking trails are quite beautiful…it’s definitely worth a visit.  

Especially since this is where you’ll find the World’s Largest Gold Nugget!

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While I was taking photos, Al was trying to figure out how to sneak it out of there and put it in the camper van (just kidding!). 

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After a great hike, we headed back downtown to grab a bite to eat as we were starving. While meandering around the waterfront, where we parked, we came across this in the middle of the campground/park. Yep, it’s an outdoor toilet. Skagway’s version of an outhouse….I think???.

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Um…yeah, I think I can wait ’til we get to the restaurant (ha ha).

While there is so much more I could share about Skagway, this is already getting too long (surprisingly….. right?) so I’ll wrap it up with just a few more pics of the area.

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Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope you get a chance to head to Alaska in the near future. If you haven’t already, hopefully this post will convince you that it’s a really good idea!!!!

 Happy Spring!

Love, Dana  xo

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