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Project Food Blog Challenge #3 – Keeping It Classy: A Beer Filled Dinner Party

Three months ago, I moved from my small Atlantic Canadian hometown to the country’s largest city. My first time ever living away from my home province of New Brunswick. Apart from learning a lot about other cultures here in the self-proclaimed “multicultural capital of the world,” I’ve also learned a lot about my own Maritime culture. Or rather, people’s perception of Maritime culture.

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At first, I was taken aback to hear that the rest of Canada stereotypes Atlantic Canadians as heavy drinkers. I mean, we just love our beer as much as the next Canuck!

However, over the past three months, I have learned the stereotypes are in fact true. Us Maritimers really do love our booze more when compared to the rest of Canada. These Ontario folk have two glasses of wine on a Friday and call it a night. Meanwhile, that’s just a usual weeknight in New Brunswick!

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When reading through the third challenge of Project Food Blog, I immediately became weary…

Challenge Prompt: Celebrate! You’ve made it this far, and the next challenge is to hold a party for your friends and family (at least four guests, you can include yourself in the 4 person count). Whether you’re an experienced host or an entertaining newbie, get creative and host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes and exotic flavors. 

First things first, I still live like a college student. I have never thrown a dinner party. Any parties I have thrown have been far from “luxurious.”

Secondly, the majority of my friends in Toronto are all Maritimers such as myself. The type of people who blow through a case of Keith’s and end up gathered in the kitchen for a traditional “Maritime Kitchen Party” by the end of the night.

With this in mind, I decided to create a “luxurious” menu with a little bit of kick. Something that would take the class up a notch and yet make us still feel right at home.

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That’s right my friends, a menu where every dish features beer as an ingredient. 

Who said beer can’t be luxurious? ;)

Because I worked both Saturday & Sunday this weekend, I opted to do the majority of my food preparations Friday night. Then have everyone over after work on Saturday night. The Friday night in the kitchen was kind of fun!

I began by baking a loaf of Beer Bread with Guinness & Molasses.

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Recipe found here with a few changes.

4 cups flour (I used 1/2 all purpose, 1/2 whole wheat)

1/4 cup sugar molasses 

2 Tablespoons baking powder

12 ounces beer (NOT light beer) (I used Guinness draught)

2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs, slightly beaten

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While that puppy was in the oven, I got to work on baking project number two: Guinness Stout Brownies.

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Recipe found here.

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted room temperature butter, cut into cubes

8 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 6oz bittersweet, 2 oz semi-sweet)

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

4 large eggs, at room temperature (I used cold eggs and it didn’t explode or anything)

1 cup superfine or granulated sugar

1-1/4 cups (10 ounces) Guinness Extra Stout beer, room temperature

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/8 cup (about) confectioners’ sugar for dusting

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Adding the Guinness to the brownie batter…

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With the baked goods out of the way, I got to my cold salad that would sit in the fridge overnight: Pale Ale Cabbage Slaw.

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I was deeply disturbed when this recipe called to boil the beer right off the bat. Boiling beer feels so wrong!

1 pound red cabbage, finely shredded

1 pound green cabbage, finely shredded

1 package (1 pound) carrots, shredded I cheated and bought bagged slaw

1 sweet onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup sugar

½ tsp celery seeds

1 bottle (12 oz) Pale Ale Beer I used Bud Light Lime

1/3 cup grape seed oil canola oil

¼ cup cider vinegar rice vinegar

1 TBLS honey mustard

1 ½ tsps salt

½ tsp black pepper

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Buying the bagged slaw made the prep for this so easy! By then my bread was done, rising quite a bit thanks to the yeast in the beer. I couldn’t help myself – I had a slice right away!

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The bread powered me through the last bit of Friday night prep. I put the brownies in the oven then got started on the sauce for the Chicken & Tofu in a Peanut & Beer Sauce.

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Beer and peanut butter. Two of my favourite things!

The original recipe comes from here and is meant for chicken wings. Chicken thighs were on sale and tofu is cheap! What can I say, I’m a frugal hostess.

24 chicken wings, tips removed 5 chicken legs/thighs and 1 block tofu

1 12-oz can Lager Beer  used Brava Lager (local!)

½ cup molasses

¼ cup creamy peanut butter

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1 Tablespoon chopped parsley Forgot this step – oops!

 

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I’ll admit, it felt very odd mixing those ingredients together all in one pot as I see them being so different. But it smelled heavenly!

I prepared the raw chicken and sauce so I could pop it in the oven come party time.

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Meanwhile, I MacGyvered a tofu press to work its magic overnight.

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Soon the peanut butter sauce smells were overtaken by chocolate smells indicating the stout brownies were done…

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What?? You’ve got to test this stuff before you serve it to other people ;)

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Dense, fudgy, rich. A definite stamp of approval.

 

On Saturday, I had two more people confirm they’d be coming. I started to worry that I might not have enough food. Plus, not everyone was scheduled to arrive at the same time. Thankfully, my roommie was on the ball and prepared a Cheesy Beer Dip while I was away at work.

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I’m told the dip was Cheez Whiz, cream cheese, and beer. Bam.

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Along with some Vodka Tomatoes.

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Made by poking holes in tomatoes and letting them soak in the goodness. Thank you Megan!! Both munchies were a hit!

Meanwhile, I still had one last dish to make: Cheddar and Beer Soup.

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The veggies, to offset the butter, beer and cheese of course.

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Recipe found here.

2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)

2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)

2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)

1 (12-oz) bottle ale such as Bass I used Kronenbourg – a French ale.

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 lb extra-sharp Cheddar (preferably English; rind removed if necessary), grated (4 cups)

4 bacon slices (3 1/2 oz total), cooked and crumbled

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When buying the cheese, I didn’t really clue in to the fact that I’d be adding the whole pound to the soup.

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To put it in perspective, the volume of cheese was equal to the volume of liquid in the pot!

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Before I knew it, my guests had trickled in and the dishes were ready to eat!

The Starter

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The cheddar and beer soup was very hearty. Mostly cheesy with a slight hint of beer. We briefly discussed how many servings of cheese there were in one bowl, then decided it was in our best interest not to know. I toasted the beer bread and it made for a perfect dipper! The Guinness and molasses flavours definitely shine through.

 

The Main

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The sauce for this was uh-mazing. You must make it. Sooner rather than later.

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With the coleslaw. This was a hit as well. The flavours were very subdued and it was a nice light side dish to go with the heavier dishes. I think the Bud Light Lime was a great choice for this.

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The Dessert

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The ice cream was actually a last minute thought. After trying the rich brownies, I knew they needed to be paired with cool and creamy vanilla ice cream. You can’t taste the Guinness in the brownies at all, although I dare to say it brings out the intensity in the chocolate flavour. I saw people go back for seconds on this one!

 

The Cast of Characters

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Megan, my roommie, hostess extraordinaire. Living together for three months and already our kitchen has turned into a foodie paradise.

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Amanda, the only non-Maritimer present, but adopted as one of our own.

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Billy and Jer, keeping up the “luxurious” standard.

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Tom, always ready with an inappropriate comeback.

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Colin, who says “no” to mix or ice.

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Me! After pulling off my first ever “luxurious” dinner party for my decidedly un-classy group of friends from back home. We ate, we drank, we ate what we drank. Proof that we Maritimers may like our drink, but damn it, we know how to do our drink well. Thank you to Foodbuzz for inspiring this gathering. My lush friends and I had a blast!

 

Voting for the third challenge opens Monday, October 4. Vote for my booze-infused dinner party here!! And remember to keep it classy blogland!

Cottage Country

Peek-a-boo!

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I’m baaaaaack!! :D

How was everyone’s weekend? Or, I suppose start to the work week now :) I’ve got lots of cottage pictures and tales to share so I’ll get right down to it. But first I have to thank Diane and Caitlin for wonderful contributions to my Blogger Interview Series as well as all the funny feedback on my Flashback Friday – Babies! So. Much. Fun.

So first things first, I had a stellar full-body weightlifting session on Saturday morning thanks to this magazine:

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I’m partial to designing my own workouts, but sometimes it’s fun to try out something someone else made up! I really recommend this special edition of Women’s Health. It’s got tons of great moves and recipes in it. Here’s the workout I stole:

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Except, instead of the bodyweight lunge, I did a power kick:

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Lovely.

Came home to the best breakfast sandwich I’ve had in a while.

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Egg, ham, real mayo, tomato, onion, lettuce on ezekiel. With watermelon and grapes in the back. Ohman. It hit the spot.

Then it was off to the cottage!!!

Victoria Day weekend, aka “May Two-Four Weekend” is known as the time when Canadians open up their cottages and drink copious amounts of beer. My family is no different.

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My family cottage is on the Northumberland Straight in Nova Scotia overlooking New Brunswick and PEI. It’s downright beautiful.

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Wait. Do you see something in the photo?? Let’s look closer…

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I do believe that is a poodle running free!!

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Pretty sure the cottage is heaven on earth for these dogs. One of the few times we let them off the leashes and run around like the animals they are. I love seeing them so happy in that element :)

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We don’t have much of a beach, but we aren’t the type of family who goes to the beach as an excuse to wear bikinis anyways. That’s what Shediac is for ;)  (sorry, local humour)

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Beautiful Sister Sara underneath the chestnut tree.

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Et moi!

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The best thing about my cottage is the giant deck that overlooks the Baie Verte.

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Also notable, is that we don’t have full walls. Not very good for keeping secrets.

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My family has been coming out here since before I was born and then some. I’ve lived in many houses in my life, but this spot has always been the one constant. I quite literally grew up in it!

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As did many other people – it was built in the 1930s.

Another great thing about the cottage is the FOOD! We always eat well there.

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Saturday night my mom roasted a chicken. We had some more of that glorious roasted corn on the cob and steamed potatoes and butternut squash.

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Come Sunday morning I knew the leftover squash and potato would make for a perfect hash.

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Fried up after a glorious 4 mile trail run through the nearby provincial park with my big sis. Trail running is super challenging. It felt like I was running so slow because of all the obstacles, but my heart rate was super high!

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We’d picked up some thick cut bacon at the nearby country corner store. Paired with scrambled eggs and it was quite possibly the best post-run recovery breakfast I’d ever had.

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I know I’m “off” the dairy for the time-being, but I put cottage cheese in the eggs. My secret to the perfect texture and cheesiness :)

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Cribbage players will appreciate this mug. I spent many rainy days at the cottage playing crib with my Grampie in his cottage next door.

Our real reason for being out there this weekend is because my sister Sara is now the owner of my grandparent’s cottage next door! We had a lot of cleaning to do to get it habitable again. My 86-year-old grandfather made the trip to show us the ropes.

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This included a lesson in basic plumbing.

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Note: this is not what a well pump should look like :\

T’was a tough morning getting everything opened up, and my mom once again saved the day by whipping up a wonderful meal.

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Salmon sandwich and fruit.

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And while I didn’t partake in any of the above beer, that’s not to say I didn’t join in on the sweets.

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I’m sure there is a rule out there that one must indulge in warm cinnamon rolls when at the cottage. Right??

Sara and I worked our tails off cleaning up our “new” cottage this weekend!

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It’s wonderful to think that the cottage we spent so much time in as children, will get to be the place where we bring our own kids someday :)

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My Grammie fed me so much chocolate pie and ice cream on that countertop!

We also found some neat old-timey things while cleaning up. Including this copy of The Financial Post from 1959!!

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Maybe it’s the newsie in me, but I found this completely fascinating. Newspapers have oddly not changed that much in the last half century.

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I also read my fair share of up-to-date newspapers this weekend. As well as the book Skinny Bitch.

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I’m sure many of you have heard of this book, written by two former models who say eating a vegan diet can make you thin. I didn’t really care for it. Having already spent a near decade of my life as a vegetarian or vegan, I now feel like I’ve heard it all before. It was also very short, so it didn’t elaborate on anything. I found myself wanting to know exactly why these things are bad for me, instead of just being told I’m a fat moron because I eat them.

I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I eat animal carcasses. My body likes it, and the descriptions in the book didn’t phase me in the least.

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Case and point: meat pie.

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A blend of animal meats stuffed into a pastry crust. The meat filling was frozen from Christmas!

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Meat pie = love. I know some people can appreciate a savoury pie with me ;)

Mommy dearest also made a parsley and lentil salad to go with.

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There is no recipe for this as she made it up as she went along. It was delicious though – think of it as tabbouli but with lentils and sunflower seeds instead of couscous.

After a trail run and a day of hard labour on Sunday, I woke up positively wiped this morning.

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My mom, sister and I had some hope of doing an outdoor bootcamp this morning. But we all immediately agreed that our bodies were already in rough enough shape! My feet are completely wrecked. So, I put them up, read, and ate a bowl of apple cinnamon peanut butter oatmeal instead. So worth it.

However, today was another hard day of cleaning, scrubbing and moving things around. The highlights of my day today were definitely eating up the yummy leftovers.

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Leftover falafel from a long time ago, with the last of the parsley and lentil salad on top of a much larger salad.

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I added a little extra dressing made up of mustard, canola oil and white wine. Mygosh it was good. White wine is almost better than vinegar!

Other leftovers included a verrry yummy soup my mom made with the leftover roast chicken.

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She taught me how to save the juices on the bottom of the roasting pan, scrape the fat off, then make soup with it. I am so doing this next time.

Well, that pretty much brings us up to speed! Believe it or not, I have another busy week of unemployment ahead of me. How does that happen?? I’ve made some new travel/moving plans which I’ll mention tomorrow. Right now, I’m ready to go pass out on the couch with the dogs. See ya tomorrow!! xo

 

Question of the Day: Do you have a cottage? What’s it like? If not, what sort of cottage would you like? Our cottages our out in the middle of nowhere away from any form of civilization. There aren’t many people there. It’s quiet and positively beautiful. I think it’s the real reason why I’m a country girl at heart!

My Favourite Restaurant + An Early Flashback

Tough day.

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Watching cars drive by all day.

Barking at the occasional dog passing by.

I only joined him for part of it ;)

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I dunno you guys, but I’ve been waking up every morning dreaming of runny eggs on toast.

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I tend to go through phases with breakfasts, where I’ll eat the same thing everyday for a couple weeks.

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Except for that period in high school – when I got up and made myself french toast every day for a couple of years. Seriously. I think it lasted over 700 days.

I met up with my dad today for a noon hour spin class! My dad is what I call an “h-core cyclist.” He’s been road and mountain biking for as long as I can remember, and bikes to work everyday only to change into a suit after.

His office building has a gym in the basement with a spin set-up. It was kinda cool – the instructor set one of those light-up disco balls on the floor and shut off the lights. At first it was off-putting, but ended up being fun because no one could see me dying on the spin bike! 40-minute class, and got my heart pumping. Lots of low hovers over the seat which kills my glutes.

Afterward, my dad and I hit up my fave restaurant in town, Calactus. It’s vegetarian/vegan, which works out well now that I’m off the dairy!

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I opted for the special, which started with a squash and lentil soup.

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The main dish was a hummus and olive flute with a side of their amazing tabbouleh. The “flute” is essentially a wrap in their homemade (and to die for) lavash bread.

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Dad got their burrito which I ordered here.

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And his favourite chocolate banana soy smoothie. I had a sip. It’s dang good.

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Me and the old man! I think he may have kicked my butt at spin today ;)

Came home to a message from a gym in Toronto who want to set up an interview for a personal training job when I get there! Yayyy! Even if nothing happens from it, it’s at least nice to finally get a callback from all those resumes I sent out :D

Took the puppers for a walk in my new hiking shoes, and my feet were happy campers. So weird that my feet are fine running, but I get shooting pain after long walks. No picture of that walk though – my hands were full with the two leashes ;)

Supper was a smattering of leftovers.

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Leftover egg noodes, eggplant chicken tomato soup, and spicy buffalo buffalo meatballs. 

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Had to make up for that vegan lunch somehow!!

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Lots of carrot snacking on the side. Will be orange by 2011.

My mother keeps (and has always kept) healthy food in the house. 

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Except, I keep finding boxes of specialty chocolate in the back of her fridge. Dangerous for a person like me!

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I always say that I like dark chocolate, but sometimes a melt-in-your-mouth milk chocolate can’t be beat.

After dinner, I went up to my old middle school to see my step-brother in a school play. Walking in, I realized it’s been ten years since I last walked through those doors. I was only there for Grade 8, but it will always stand out in my memory as a fun and formative year.

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Mind the blurry cell phone photo. I tracked down my class on the wall and had to snap a pic. We don’t own these school photos, so it was fun to see my 14-year-old self immortalized on the wall :)

 

That’s all for this fine Thursday – I have to go get some guest posts ready! I’m going to Halifax this weekend to visit my Best Friend Forever (BFF). This weekend will be the start of a Blogger Interview Series that I’ll be posting during all the moving and travel madness over the next month. Y’all are in for some great stuff – so many fun bloggies to feature!

See ya with a trip recap and goal check-in on Sunday!

 

Question of the Day: What was you favourite age/school grade growing up? Grade 8 was definitely fun for me because I made some new and great friends. Grade 6 will always stand out too – my friends and I used to take off on our bikes for hours, and then always end up at the local ice cream shop :)

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