Tuesday, 21 February 2017

My New "Go To" Dessert (that is wicked simple, but seems fancy at the same time)

We visit Collingwood, Ontario a few times a year, and I always try to stop by the Collingwood Olive Oil Company. This adorable little store has over 50 different olive oils and balsamic vinegars to try!

My mom introduced me to all of these delicious oils and vinegars a few years ago. I love their basil-infused olive oil, and when I was at the Collingwood Olive Oil Co this weekend, I tasted their Neapolitan Herb Balsamic.

My absolute favourite though is their Decadence duo. This pair turns a simple bowl of ice cream into a yummy and unique dessert. The Decadence Duo is made up of a bottle of Blood Orange Olive Oil and a bottle of Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar

Begin with a bowl of regular vanilla ice cream.

Top with 1 teaspoon of blood orange olive oil first. Then add 1 teaspoon of the dark chocolate balsamic vinegar.

And voilà! The easiest, three ingredient dessert you ever did make. Fancy enough to serve at a your next dinner party and yummy enough that it also passed the 4 year old's taste test.  I'd garnish with sliced strawberries or clementine pieces.

The best way to check out the Collingwood Olive Oil Company is if you are able to visit the store and taste their products; however, they also ship within Canada. The Decadence gift set is $10 (+ shipping). 


Friday, 10 February 2017

Celebrate Valentine's Day With a Harlequin Prize Pack!

Last week my friend and I attended a romance author event at a local library. We started reading romance a few years ago (and even took a road trip to stay at Nora Roberts' actual Inn Boonsboro). We weren't sure what to expect when we went to the library event, but we ended up having so much fun!

We listened to award-winning author Molly O'Keefe talk about the role that romance books have played in her life and how she became a romance author herself. Though it was not an especially large event, there were certainly women there of all walks of life. I think Dani and I were actually the youngest people there!

Yet, instantly we felt welcomed and connected through our shared interest in the genre, and this author event ended up being a place for everyone to talk about romance in a non-judgmental environment. 

Importantly, romance has allowed women's sexuality to be talked about in a positive way and encourages optimism in how relationships work out. Whatever kind of problem or experience you are having in your life right now, you can find a romance novel with that theme and then be able to read a story of a heroine who perseveres. As readers, we want the authors to take us on an emotional journey, but reading is our way to relax and with this genre we can always trust the authors to deliver a happily ever after. Some of my favourite romance authors are Bella Andre, Nora Roberts, and Sarah Morgan.

In the spirit of love, Valentine's Day, and happily ever afters, Harlequin Books is giving away a fantastic prize pack to one of my readers! 

The prize pack includes:

  • 4 newly published paperback books 
      • Forged in Desire by Brenda Jackson
      • The Last Di Sione Claims His Prize by Maisy Yates
      • Her Secret Fortune by Stella Bagwell
      • Courting the Cowboy by Carolyne Aarsen
  • 1 newly published e-book
      • Rough & Tumble by Rhenna Morgan
  • Fringe Studio Water Studies Sunrise Square Soap
  • 1 Heart Stud Pouch

To enter fill out the Rafflecopter below. Open to residents in the U.S. and Canada (excluding Québec, unfortunately.) Contest closes February 15th.


Thursday, 9 February 2017

A Certain Age - Book Review

The bestselling author of A Hundred Summers, brings the Roaring Twenties brilliantly to life in this enchanting and compulsively readable tale of intrigue, romance, and scandal in New York Society, brimming with lush atmosphere, striking characters, and irresistible charm.

As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband. 

But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor. Engaging a longstanding family tradition, Theresa enlists the Boy to act as her brother’s cavalier, presenting the family’s diamond rose ring to Ox’s intended, Miss Sophie Fortescue—and to check into the background of the little-known Fortescue family. When Octavian meets Sophie, he falls under the spell of the pretty ingénue, even as he uncovers a shocking family secret. As the love triangle of Theresa, Octavian, and Sophie progresses, it transforms into a saga of divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists that will lead to a shocking transgression . . . and eventually force Theresa to make a bittersweet choice.

Full of the glamour, wit and delicious twists that are the hallmarks of Beatriz Williams’ fiction and alternating between Sophie’s spirited voice and Theresa’s vibrant timbre, A Certain Age is a beguiling reinterpretation of Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby’s New York.

Synopsis via Goodreads

As a lover of both historical fiction and Downton Abbey, I was delighted to pick up a copy of A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams. It opens with a newspaper article for a murder trial and then we are taken a few months back in time to begin the story. For me this was a very atmospheric read. Gatsby-esque with romance and a murder mystery. I particularly loved the strong female characters who had me rooting for them throughout the novel. I also enjoyed the writing style. I love it when a book speaks directly to the reader now and then, like a cheeky little secret. It adds an element of fun to the story. It did take me 40 pages or so to settle into this book, but overall if you're craving a book about the roaring 20s, this will certainly be the perfect read for you!

You can connect with Beatriz Williams on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and her website.

A Certain Age is available for purchase from Amazon and HarperCollins.


Disclaimer - I received a copy of A Certain Age courtesy of HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 30 January 2017

La boîte à bonbons

If you're one of those "new year new me" people, this may not be the post for you. But if you're like me, and think that the very best thing that goes with report card writing are fancy candies, then read on!

La boîte à bonbons is a French Canadian subscription box service. Each month you receive 1kg of candy made up of four different flavours in your box. When you select your subscription, you can choose either sour, soft, or a mix. I was happy to receive a mixed box!

I loved the gummy strawberries and sour cherries the best. Sebastian enjoyed the black and white gummy penguin candies!

Cost - $25/month with a subscription. $30 to try a single box. Shipping is free within Ontario and Quebec.

These made the perfect treat while I've been trying to write 120 report cards this week! All of the candy was delicious and very fresh. There was quite a good amount in each bag, so it's lasted us a while :)  This is the perfect treat for any candy lover.


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Help Them Heal - An Infographic of Childhood Grief and Trauma

One issue that has become close to my heart in the past month is that of childhood grief. It's not a topic we ever hope to have to learn about, but it is important information to be aware of should a tragedy happen in the life of a child we know.

Earlier this week I shared that one of my students, along his family, died unexpectedly over the holidays. My friends, colleagues, students, and I have been walking through this challenging time together, and the support of the grief counsellors available has been exceptional. In the past few weeks, my awareness about and experience with childhood grief (and adult grief for that matter) have been at the forefront of my day.

And as an example of how the universe works in mysterious ways, unaware of my own personal experiences these past few weeks, a social worker from Early Childhood Education Degrees reached out to me to ask if I'd be open to sharing this infographic with my readers. I responded with telling her how this has quickly become an issue that is very close to me, and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to share this information with as many people as I can.

Childhood grief and trauma is so hard to think about, but I hope you take a few minutes to look over the infographic or even bookmark it and should you ever need it, it's here.



Source: Early Childhood Education Degrees.com

Monday, 16 January 2017

What An Author And A Tragedy Taught Me About My To Do List

Last summer my friend and I went to hear Emma Straub speak about her new book, Modern Lovers. She gave a lovely interview at a local library, speaking easily about her books and her life. Afterwards, I purchased a copy of Modern Lovers which she signed personally with little hearts decorating the first page. While the book sits, unfortunately still unread, on my bookshelf, there is a message from that evening that I have since carried with me.

I don't remember the question she was asked exactly, but I think it had something to do with her transition to motherhood and how she felt with this new stage of life. This was her response:

"I realized I am now fully in my life. There is no more practise. No more waiting."

She said it in a very light-hearted way, but her comment has stayed with me for months.

Emma followed with,
"The idea that we will at one point 'arrive into our lives' and everything falls into place is a myth."

These two thoughts have really struck a cord in me. As someone who loves notepads, calendars, lists, and agendas I have always had this vague notion in the back of my mind that if I could just finish my to do list, if I could just get X number of things done, I would be able to begin my life and just enjoy myself. But, as Emma so clearly says, this is a total myth. There will always be something to do and something to deal with. Some of it wonderful, which is the very best part of life, and some of it not so wonderful.

Just over a week ago I attended the funeral of a family I knew. A whole family. One of my students and their family died in a cottage fire on Christmas Eve. Listening to the eulogies for four gentle, kind, and generous people in a row who had all died unexpectedly was profoundly heartbreaking. I am certain that there was not a single person who left the church that day unmoved and without some sense of the preciousness of time which we have been given.

In the days that have followed, I have shed tears for this family for so many different reasons. I am so sad for this loss in not just in my life, but in the lives of so many other people I know who were close with this family, most of them children. I have been reminded just how much energy it takes to be strong for the ones we care about and how scary it feels when we fall apart. Practically, I am terrified that trauma could happen within my own family. I have asked myself what exactly brings me joy in my life and how I can make sure to fill my life as much as possible with those things. My priorities have been realigned.

Just so we're on the same page, this is not a carpe diem post. We all have days where things are hard and we'd rather close the book on the day rather than seize it. This is okay. As Glennon Doyle Melton says, "I can't even carpe fifteen minutes in a row, so a whole diem is out of the question."

We must give ourselves permission to have these hard days. But, we do need to recognize that if we're living in the mindset of simply "what's next?" we'll never stop to enjoy what is. Our to do lists will never really end, so we need to carpe the wonderful moments when they come to us. Even, and maybe especially, amidst the chaos. These moments of joy will not appear on our to do lists, and they cannot be goals attained only when "everything else" is finished. They almost always appear organically.

So I encourage you, and have tried doing this more myself, to see more of the good moments within the business of the day. Have an extra cup of coffee in the morning or glass of wine in the evening. Read your book now and not later. Stop and look at your children. Like really see them. What are they saying? Spread kindness around like confetti and make someone's day when you can. Travel. Smile. Because this is it. This is the good part. We are now fully in our lives. And even on the bad days, the heavy days, however many or few they may be, let's allow ourselves to feel what we are feeling with no guilt. And then get up the next day and try again.


PS - Anyone looking for resources to help with childhood grief and trauma can start here.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Hunted by Meagan Spooner - Book Review

I'm so excited today to tell you about one of the books I read over the holiday break!

Hunted, by Meagan Spooner, is a dark and twisty retelling of Beauty and the Beast. After her family loses their estate, Yeva, whose childhood nickname was Beauty, her sisters and her father are forced to move into a hunting cottage at the edge of town. Her father tries to hunt for them, but after he fails to return one day, Yeva sets out to search for him. Unfortunately, she is captured by the Beast who is certain that Yeva is the key to releasing him from his curse.

When it comes to books that are fairy tale retellings, I have high expectations. Classics are classics for a reason. Especially one like Beauty and the Beast that is in the spotlight this year because of the upcoming movie.

In Hunted, I think that the author did an excellent job of retelling a story we all know well and adding in other elements to make it unique and captivating. Interwoven into this Beauty and the Beast story is also the Russian fairy tale "Tsarevitch Ivan, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf."

Yeva is a strong character, and her connection to the Beast is not Disney-fairy-tale-like in any way, which I really appreciated as a reader. I think it's important to acknowledge that your readership knows a complicated relationship when they see one, and that making love overly simple will be a turn off.

Most of this book is told from Yeva's point of view. Then, after each chapter, we read these beautiful, short, haunting pages told from the Beast's perspective. You see his character's evolution and struggle as both man and beast throughout the novel.

And don't be concerned like I was when you see Hunted #1 as a title online. I was worried there would be a cliffhanger ending, but that's not the case. I am curious where the story will go next though if a Hunted #2 coming our way in the future!

The parallel themes of being taken to an unfamiliar, predatory world, as well as a heroine's inner struggle to both provide for her family and forge her own path will ensure that fans of Sarah J Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses enjoy this book. Yet, the worlds created by Maas and Spooner are also different enough that they are certainly each their own story.

Hunted is available here on Amazon.

You can also connect with Meagan Spooner on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, and her website.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did! I think fantasy YA is going to be my preferred genre of 2017 :)


PS - My beautiful Beauty and the Beast bookmark is from Lexy Olivia.

Disclaimer - I received a copy of Hunted courtesy of HarperCollinsCanada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.