Jazz Fest New Orleans

One of my favourite trips to take is to New Orleans for Jazz Fest. Good weather, amazing food, friendly people, and great music – it has it all.

I’m already looking forward to this year’s trip and so I thought I would share some photos with you from years past.

We always start the day with bloody marys from Liuzza’s by the Track. They’re stuffed full with olives, pickled green beans and pickled onions. Delicious.

The food at the fairgrounds is good and varied, unusual for most music fests. Above, the famous cochon de lait po’ boy, the first stall I head to.

After the fest everyone sets up their chairs in the streets outside Liuzza’s to hang out and grab a drink. It’s also not unusual for musicians (even some performers from the festival) to set up here and start playing.

Clubs and bars all over the city have amazing shows every night throughout the fest. It’s a great time in a great place and if you ever have the chance to go, you should!

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Beauty: Mario Badescu

I think we can all relate to the feeling of despair when trying to deal with breakouts and the willingness to try absolutely anything we think might help. Well, I was lucky enough to find something that helped.

A few years ago I discovered the wonders of Mario Badescu. A new co-worker was going on and on about how great their facials were, so I decided to tag along one day and see what it was all about.

It was amazing – not painful, which I was very nervous about – and I left with a bag full of goodies. They gave me some great advice on what kinds of things to use on my skin and how often, but were never pushy about selling products. I suppose they knew the samples would speak for themselves. Well, that was almost 3 years ago, my skin has changed almost beyond recognition, and I’m still using their products.

Here are some of my favourites.

The Glycolic Foaming Cleanser had the most dramatic effect for me. Cleansing with this a few times a week made a huge difference in my skin. It exfoliates without being harsh or drying.

As soon as I got the slightest hint of a pimple I dabbed on a little Buffering Lotion at night and within a couple of days it was gone. Getting to them with this stuff before they had a chance to fully erupt saved me from so much scarring.

The Drying Lotion does for those annoying little whiteheads what the buffering lotion did for my cystic breakouts. A little pink dot before I go to bed and I’m clear in the morning.

Silver powder – I don’t use this very often, as it’s mostly for blackheads, but it works really well and is good at controlling oiliness.

This is a very, very small selection of the products they offer; they have every kind of lotion, mask, toner and serum you can imagine. Though the focus is on acne they have solutions for most common skin issues. And one of the best parts is how affordable it all is!

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Recipe: Spicy Mayo

I was in Toronto a few weeks ago, and of course any trip to Toronto means a sushi date with my Canadian twin Claudia. The location always different, but the scene the same – a big pile of pickled ginger next to my plate, and extra spicy mayo for C.

When I told her I often make it at home she insisted that I post the recipe. So here it is.

It’s so simple, all you need is:

Mayonnaise, preferably Kewpie
Sriracha
Sesame oil
Scallions – green part only – finely chopped
Chili oil, optional
Tobiko (flying fish roe), optional

If you use standard mayonnaise the resulting sauce will be thicker than it will be with the Kewpie. I recommend using Kewpie as it is much creamier, more tangy, has less egg flavour than traditional mayonnaise, and marries well with the other ingredients here.

You’ll notice I haven’t listed any quantities for the ingredients above. This recipe is really about taste and the amount of heat that you prefer.

Begin with equal parts mayo and sriracha and adjust from there. You only need a small amount of the sesame oil as it is fairly strong and can quickly overwhelm the other flavours if you add too much – I’d estimate about a quarter teaspoon per half cup of sauce. The chili oil has a really intense heat and I use it to add an extra punch without watering down the sauce, which the sriracha can do. Sprinkle in the green onion and a heaping spoonful of tobiko at the end to finish. The pearls of roe add a little fishiness and pops of crunch.

This sauce isn’t just for sushi, in fact I probably use it much more with other foods, adjusting the ingredients – adding lime juice, omitting the tobiko – depending on the application. It’s great with french fries, on fish tacos, dressing for coleslaw, the list goes on.

Chocolate: Teuscher Champagne Truffles

A lovely surprise arrived at my door last week. This gorgeous little box of champagne truffles from Teuscher – my favourite chocolates by far. Now, that’s no easy achievement. Of course, the fact that I love champagne definitely gives them a leg up.

Teuscher makes some of the smoothest chocolate in the world, and these truffles are no exception. The chocolate shell is filled with a chocolate ganache and a champagne cream centre, and then dusted with powdered sugar.

These are the only champagne truffles I’ve had (and trust me, I’ve had a lot) that have a clean, strong champagne flavour. With others the finish tends to be a little bitter, but in these the taste is pure to the end.

Every once in a while I make a trip to the shop and pick up a little box of two truffles. The perfect treat no matter the day.

A Real Winter

It’s cold in New York tonight. The kind of cold that has you pulling your hat over your eyes and your scarf up to meet it. The kind of cold that stings your eyes and burns your cheeks. The kind of cold that makes you wish you were at home snuggled under a blanket.

12 degrees, but feeling much colder. The streets fast becoming wind tunnels pushing me forward at once and forcing me to push at the next turn. Every person seemingly a smoker, wisps of white blowing out with every breath.

It’s been a while since we’ve had weather like this and I quickly realised I’m not prepared. Luckily Uniqlo is on the way home and I was able to stock up on some HeatTech. The stuff is amazing.

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Now to see if I can survive the rest of the week. I look forward to a weekend being filled with bowls of soup and endless mugs of hot chocolate.

Oh Christmas Tree…

My favourite part of the holiday season is definitely the Christmas tree.

Going to pick out the perfect (or sometimes, not so perfect) one. Inhaling the rich, sweet scent. Getting lost in the tangled strings of lights. Unwrapping ornaments. Drinking lots of wine. I love it.

This year, my sister and brother-in-law are going to his parents’ for the holidays so we all got together this weekend for a little early celebration.

Here it is getting wrapped and trimmed. Normally we’d make a morning of it, spend and hour or so walking around the farm, sipping hot chocolate. But this year we went with the quick, commercial option…

All lit up. We need a lot more, but all just would not be right in the world if all of the lights worked properly.

Some of the ornaments.

I love the way the crystal sparkles.

Finished! All that’s left is to start putting presents under it.

White House Garden Tour

Our First Lady made a pledge to open up the White House to the public more frequently during her husband’s tenure. One of the ways they have done this is with tours of the gardens.

We were lucky to have gorgeous weather. Plenty of sunshine and barely a cloud in the sky.

As you can see in the picture above there were quite a few people there, but it never really felt crowded.

We approached from the east and first came upon the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden.

The White House is quite unusual in that it looks a lot larger from a distance, which is the opposite of what you would expect. I was surprised by how small it is up close. I first thought that this was one of the sides of the house, not the front.

There he is, the man of the hour, Bo Obama!! I turned around and there he was walking up behind me. My sister was quick enough to get this photo before he went inside.

The Washington Monument to the left and the Jefferson Memorial straight ahead in the distance.

The Rose Garden just outside the Oval Office.

The Oval Office.

The hive where the White House honey comes from. Now famous for being included in the White House honey ale and honey porter.

It was really an amazing experience, not everybody gets to do something like this and I’m so glad I was able to. Now I just have to wait for my brother-in-law to call about the next event…

A Relaxing Thanksgiving

This year Thanksgiving was at my uncle’s house which is about 4 hours north of the city. He has a huge, gorgeous house up in the hills where you don’t have to see another soul  if you don’t want to. It’s perfect.

We left here early on Thursday morning and arrived just in time for this:

There was more colour, I swear, it just wouldn’t all fit on my plate at once.

Then we were off outside for playtime with the cutest puppy in the world.

This little miss is the sweetest. She’s a rescue who was found roaming the streets and was adopted by my cousin. So glad to have her in the family.

The property extends so far that we’re able to take long hikes in the back garden, we even go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing there in winter. Our own private trails.

The rest of the weekend was spent being lazy mostly – napping, reading, eating, playing cards, eating, napping. And, of course, lots of wine.

All too soon, it was time to head back home.

One Year!

This blog is officially a year old!

(Actually I’m a couple of days late, but really what’s new?)

So, I started this blog mainly because I’ve never been one to keep a journal and this seemed a good way to have a record of the things I’ve done and the places I’ve been as well as getting me to organize my photographs (another thing I’ve never been good about).

But it’s been so much more than that. I find myself documenting the day-to-day things just as often as the big events and trips, and it’s so great to be able to look back through photographs and enjoy everything all over again. And something I never thought I’d hear myself say – I like writing again, something I haven’t done since I left university.

And, of course, all of the people who have read, commented and followed. I didn’t think that would matter so much, that I would just write for me and be happy with it.  Which I am, but it does put a smile on my face to know that someone has enjoyed what I’ve done here.

Now, let’s see if next year I can make it without disappearing for almost four months…

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