Another birthday… makes me miss being a 90s kid.

Ohhh birthday nostalgia, why must you get me every year?! One could argue that turning 24 is not exactly a life milestone, but the forward-thinking child that I was liked to associate this age with being entirely grown up. Whenever an elementary school teacher asked me about my future career aspirations my mind automatically translated this question to "what do you want to be when you're 24?" Considering I had decades to decide, the possibilities were endless. Silly me, I thought I was destined for marine biology or babysitting. Too bad I am deathly afraid of sea creatures and I wouldn't last a day with 12 plus children to look after. But life is for learning... As I sit here reminiscing about previous birthdays I think about a simpler time when I wished for simpler things--the 1990s. I was too small to fully remember, but there is one particular picture of me from my 4th birthday where I'm sitting on my bed surrounded by a million new toys. They were the coolest toys! Polly Pockets, Lite Brite, Etch-a-Sketch, plush balls with matching Velcro hats, scented markers, pink and purple Lego, Play-Doh, Cabbage Patch Kids, shapes that adhered to the wall during bath time... 1993 was a fantastic year to be a kid. On this day in 1997 I would have been living it up in the single digits, waiting for my party guests to arrive and wondering what Beanie Babies I might add to my collection that night. There'd be plenty of Black Forest Cake to go around and my friends and me would smile through missing teeth as we ate it. Orange Crush would surely be a staple and we'd all have pop-coloured moustaches to take home to our parents. I'd be given two Gymnast Barbies. Luckily I could exchange one for Ski Barbie and host my own Olympics. My brother would sneak into my room, hide under the bed and tape down the Record button on his Walkie-Talkie. If I tattle-taled, he'd leave kicking and screaming, but with incriminating evidence of who my girlfriends had a crush on. Those were the days when we prank-called boys (with my pretty V-Tech purple portable phone!) and pretended not to know them the minute we started "dating". Then came responsibility... and by that I mean the Giga Pet. Nothing was worse than seeing your first virtual pet die and knowing full well that it was your fault for not feeding it. My brother's Tamigotchi dinosaur survived weeks after my kitten, which for a brief moment made me doubt my future parenting skills. In later years, the Spice Girls would become cool, making Chupa Chups lollipops as essential party favour. We all wanted to collect as many stickers as possible to complete our Spice World movie sticker book. Britney Spears blew up blow-up chairs to a whole new level and I was lucky enough to host future parties in inflatable style. Toe socks, glitter gel pens, blo-pens, plastic choker necklaces, stick-on face jewels, Colour Workshop makeup palettes and Lip Smackers were all the rage. I remember playing MASH in my Lisa Frank notebook and then ripping up the page out of embarrassment. Eventually I started to break away from the toy trends and instead expressed my style in the form of fashion. Denim overalls looked especially superb paired with an over-sized Nike sweater and white Sketchers platform shoes. I was beyond jealous of my friend, Jess; she made history by purchasing platform shoes that doubled as roller skates. I couldn't get them because I lived in the country and we only had gravel for sidewalks 🙁 Sigh. That was the year I liked to use butterfly clips to pin my hair into mini buns all over my head. So pretty. I knew the 90s were over when I threw out my curly fluorescent shoe laces and every last Skip-It, Bop-It, and Yak-Bak retired to the yard sale bin. Dial-up internet was invented and suddenly my popularity depended on how I conducted myself over MSN. So much for winning over friends by giving them your most cherished Slammer Pog. If I had any words for my 90s self I'd say to live slow and enjoy every birthday. Fifty is now my new official "grown-up age" because 24 years goes by way too fast!!
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Raspberry Cream Cheese Pound Cake (Wheat Flour & Gluten-Free Recipes!)

Pound Cake Mmm! Finally! I managed to bake a gluten-free dessert that actually tastes AMAZING! Usually I'm biased in the matter--anything gluten-free pleases my palette--but this recipe managed to get the seal of approval from the pickiest of critics. Roger gave me the go-ahead to make it again 🙂 Perhaps this Easter weekend... Why not add a little MORE butter, sugar, and cream cheese into the festivities? Seeing that I had a birthday man in the house yesterday, I also made a regular flour version of this cake. The only difference: I used the same amount of Brody's self-rising cake & pastry flour and NO baking powder. Ingredients:
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 package cream cheese (1 cup)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 and a half cups sifted gluten-free flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup of raspberries
Baking instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 300°F.
  • Butter a 9 x 13inch pan or bundt pan and dust it with flour (I used my new Le Creuset heart-shaped bakeware).
  • Using a standmixer of electric beater, cream together softened butter and sugar.
  • In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, cream cheese and vanilla.
  • Add egg, cream cheese, and vanilla mixture to the butter and sugar, continuing to beat.
  • Slowly sift in flour and baking powder, while beating.
  • Add raspberries--I chose to blend them in, whereas you may like to keep them whole.
  • Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
Pound cake is truly wonderful. It will last a long time if you store it in an air-tight container although I highly doubt it will make it past a few days! Enjoy 🙂 Gluten free flour * This might not be the best gluten-free baking flour out there, but it's pretty inexpensive and does the trick. The package suggests to add Xantham gum to the mix, but I never do. With a little bit of baking powder the cake seemed to rise fine without it. I would suggest a better gluten-free flour for desserts with less sugar--otherwise I find it's hard to mask the grainy texture. I will post when I find one!
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Prepped for Printemps

Spring colours Spring has arrived! With the change of season comes many exciting things: 1. Roger's birthday (TODAY!) and my birthday (on WEDNESDAY!) 2. Switching sides of the bed. (Not too happy about it, but it'll grow on me) 3. Brighter clothing choices. I was so happy to find my favourite colour in a pair of pants last year. Something about the mint-green hue just screams springtime and sunshine. In honour of March weather and birthday week, I broke out the pants again and wore my green amethyst ring--a 21st birthday gift from my nana. The Coach clutch is a recent gift from my parents. Roger and I are just about to enjoy a glass of red wine and a slice of birthday cake in our newly-furnished family room. This would be the perfect time to exchange gifts, but we're really bad at keeping presents secret from each other. I received my Le Creuset bakeware last Friday, which I absolutely adore. As for Roger, he is now the proud owner of a dog hammock for the backseat of his car. So romantic. Since moving into a new house, we're all about functionality! Baking love I've already made the most of my early birthday present and I plan to continue doing so. I made a strawberry banana oatmeal bake yesterday and a pound cake today. Well actually I made two pound cakes--one with regular flour and one gluten-free. It's amazing what a difference it makes to your baking when you use quality bakeware. Happy Spring everyone!
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Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day

IMG_4850This past weekend I crossed off the Windy City from my travel bucket list! Roger was on a business trip near Chicago and there was NO WAY I was going to miss out on the opportunity to visit. Luckily for us, another couple--newlyweds-to-be Mike and Lisa, were on board for the experience of a lifetime. I'm so thankful to them for offering to drive and for providing me with company while we crossed state lines into Illinois. We couldn't have picked a better time--all this talk about Chicago being the best city to party in on St. Patrick's Day weekend and now I can say it's true! I could rant and rave about all the architectural gems, culinary delights, and entertainment hot-spots of the city, but my words wouldn't do it justice. I tried to take as many pictures as I could to highlight my favourite parts of the trip. Let me give you some pointers first: Bundle up. Don't be deterred by long wait-times at restaurants. Keep a close eye on your wallet as mine was stolen. Thankfully the culprits were only fans of Walgreens, Dunkin Donuts, and 7-Eleven. I trust karma to catch up with them soon 😉 Friday:  Apparently attempting to order a mini fridge at the downtown Chicago Marriott on the weekend of St. Patricks Day/Big 10 Basketball Conference is an impossible feat. Mike came to the rescue with some styrofoam coolers instead. It was imperative that these drinks stayed chilled! IMG_4808 After dinner at Rockbottom Brewery on the Magnificent Mile, we went to Howl at the Moon for their duelling piano show. All of the performers played multiple instruments and accepted song requests from the audience. The bar atmosphere featured a dance floor and seating area. We could have reserved a table for $250, but no thank you! My advice is to watch from the dance floor and snag a table when people start to clear out. We met guys from Ireland (they chose Chicago over Ireland for St. Patties!) and we saw a girl puke in her hands and then proceed to make out with her boyfriend, whom might I add was wearing two cross-body purses, so that was pretty bizarre/interesting/I wanted to look away but simply couldn't.

Chicago

Saturday: We woke up early to see the Chicago River dyed bright green for the festivities. The process is a really neat one: 40 pounds of powdered vegetable dye are distributed into the water by speedboats. Hundreds of green-clad spectators gather on and around the bridge to watch the privately-funded procedure. We chose to watch from above, but you can also board a boat tour for a river view.

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TripAdvisor informed me Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe was the #1 rated restaurant in all of Chicago. We were determined to try it out despite the recommended 1.5 hour wait time. We were starving, but managed to pass the time meandering through Millennium Park. Sadly, Cloud Gate was closed for the St. Patrick's Day festivities, so we'll have to go back one day for our photo op under "the Bean". Best breakfast EVER! Needless to say we were full until our 8 o'clock dinner reservation.

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IMG_7790 The boys wore green today and in hindsight, Lisa and I wished we did too. As it turns out, more people celebrate St. Patrick's Day on the Saturday than the Sunday. Mobs of people in green lined the streets and many were quite tipsy on emerald beer. We enjoyed two hours of improv comedy at Second City. So glad we did!! It was neat to see where many comedians got their roots. I say with confidence that everyone should see a comedy show in Chicago. Mid-day mimosas are always a good idea too. By nightfall we found ourselves in the mood for an intimate dining experience. The Melting Pot fondue restaurant looked a tad on the pricey side but the menu perfectly accommodated our tastes. Beer-based cheddar jalapeno fondue finished with dark chocolate raspberry marshmallow fondue drizzled on an array of fruit and fresh-made confections. Cook-your-own assorted meats and vegetables for the main course. Our waiter comped our California Zinfandel, making our already amazing experience even better. Also, we had by far the best table in the house. Call us knights and princesses--we definitely felt like it that night. IMG_7794 I spent the rest of the evening on the phone with my credit card company. Stupid thieving jerks! At least they didn't steal my passport... there's always, always a silver lining. Sunday:   Top of the morning to ya! St. Patrick's Day isn't St. Patrick's Day if you don't start it with a drink in hand. Hehe. We indulged in gin & pineapples as we outfitted ourselves in our Irish best. I love our Chicago shirts! IMG_7816 Brunch at California Pizza Kitchen was lovely. We needed to fuel up for our marathon walk around the city. We visited the John Hancock Centre (but didn't go up it because I'm a scaredy-cat) and endured a self-guided tour of the West end. We settled on Timothy O'Tools for pitchers of green beer and made friends with two brothers from Minnesota on account of them smuggling in awesome popcorn. I later called their dad to congratulate him on the raising of two exemplary sons. Crazy straws We might have stumbled into Rockbottom Brewery again for our last dinner... This time our waiter was TERRIBLE. Like actually terrible. Lisa and I have been waitresses so we know how crucial it is to tip 15% regardless of the service, but we purposely only left him 10%. He had been grumpy all evening, but he sealed the deal for a bad tip when he slammed down our dessert menus without bothering to acknowledge our questions. I left him some words of wisdom on the check. Something along the lines of "smiling makes the world a better place". He needed the encouragement! Overall, the trip was one definitely one for the history books. Not only did I get to see Roger after a week of being apart, we got to spend time with Mike and Lisa before they get busy with wedding plans. As sad as it was to leave the Windy City, no feeling compares to the happiness I felt being greeted by a manically ecstatic puppy at home.
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