Sunday, May 1, 2016

Quebec City

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After traveling to Ottawa, Canada a few years ago to attend one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever attended, the decision was made to extend the trip and to Montreal for a day and then head up to Quebec City for a couple more. 

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Quebec City has to be one of the most charming cities in all of  North America.

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The architecture was just plain amazing.

Chateau Frontenac Quebec City

After arriving at the Chateau Frontenac, which looks like a giganitic European castle perch up high next to the St. Lawrence Seaway, we drove through the archway shown in the lower right half of the above photo, and we found ourselves in a courtyard where the hotel’s parking valets greeted us.

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Cobble stone was below my feet when I stepped out of the car only to look up to be greeted by this lovely bit of architecture off to the side.   Happy sigh.

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Just how many photos can one girl take of doors, windows, restaurants, cafes and flower boxes? 

Well, apparently hundreds.  I will try to showcase some of my favorites here.

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This delightful cafe was the first stop made to relax and have a quick drink after wandering happily down a side alley way filled with artists working and showing their paintings. 

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Every time I turned a corner, walked across a street, or looked out and surveyed my surroundings from the comfort of my coblestone street cafe chair, I saw something even more beautiful and charming that needed to be inspected, scrutinized, and photographed.

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And hearing people speak French….well that just makes me happy. 

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  Every direction I looked, I thought my eyes were going to expode.  I mean really….

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Sometimes I exaggerate but honestly, I could not believe how incredibly beautiful it was or how much I felt like I had stepped back in time and was happily lost in some city in Europe.  This is one of my most favorite photos from the trip.  It was a shop filled with goregeous French handbags.

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The vibrant colors and flowers…

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and the selection of restaurants was incredible.  

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hanging flower baskets everywhere…

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Street signs in French made me smile and a quaint hotel tucked away along a side street.

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The next time I visit I would love to stay in one of the smaller, quaint, and charming hotels like the one in the photo above or in  this one called Au Petit Hotel.

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Every nook and alley way had something that I just had to capture with my camera.

 

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And homes just like this one with the French Lace curtains….

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painted in the most vibrant colors.  Another happy sigh.

Have you ever taken a trip to Quebec and do you have some must see spots there that I might have missed?

I have many more photos to share of this amazing city.  See you soon!

 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Montreal, Canada

Montreal

So this post is only about three years late.  I took a trip to Canada for a friend’s daughter’s wedding about 3 years ago and was going through some photos and realized  that I never blogged or posted much about that trip. 

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My life was a bit sad and crazy at the time, my blogging took a major nose dive and I kept telling myself to save the pictures I had taken and write about it later.    So, here I am, three years later reminiscing about an amazing trip to Canada and sharing some of the photos I took. 

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Cobblestone streets, strolling, shopping, eating, and drinking.  And grabbing photos when I can.  That’s how I like to travel.

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Window boxes and flowers were everywhere.  My favorite window box flowers are those tiny purple-blue flowers called Lobelia.  I have the hardest time growing it here in North Carolina.  And believe me I have tried.   I suspect it gets a bit too hot for it to thrive here.    The cooler temperatures in Canada must be what it likes because it was everywhere I went.

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Window boxes anywhere and everywhere.

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Yep, I think I could live here and be very happy.

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Just hearing people speak French made me very happy.    And little signs of French-ness everywhere I looked like the French lace door panels . 

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I think flowers, windows and doors are some of my favorite things to photograph.  Something about flowers in a city setting I think really grab my attention.  There was no shortage of things to photograh in Montreal but OH! when I got to  Quebec City I nearly lost my mind.  : )  Stayed tuned.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Far From the Madding Crowd

Far from  the Madding Crowd Umbrella

We are officially snowed in.  And actually when you still have your electricity it’s kind of an opportunity to catch up all the little things that have been nagging at you that you have wanted to get done around the house.  Day one of Winter Storm Jonas (which was yesterday… a Friday….and an unscheduled day off  from work) : ), was spent spending way too much time on Pinterest and Facebook, cleaning out my closet and creating a nice large bag of clothes to take to Goodwill when we thaw out, TV channel surfing between the weather channel and whatever else I could find, making a giant pot of Southwest Chicken Soup, and I hate  to admit it but  finishing up the de-Christmas-ing of the house.  

I read a few chapters in my new book “ My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry”, by Fredrik Backman.  So far it’s delightful but more on that in a forthcoming post.

far from the madding crowd DVD     Book My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She is Sorry

And then I wrapped up under a blanket and watched Far From the Madding Crowd.  Click to watch the move trailer on IMDB.  I believe that it was the one and only movie I actually saw in a movie theater last year….wait, I lied.  I also saw Train Wreck with Amy Shummer.  Talk about films on the opposite ends of the spectrum! 

 

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I loved Far From the Madding Crowd so much that I picked up a copy for myself and as a Christmas gift for my friend Carrie who is and expert at Sheep Shearing.  I’ve mentioned her before I think.  She works as an Interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, dresses the part and is a walking wealth of knowledge when it comes to sheep breeds and hand shearing.  Many of the scenes include shots of the sheep on the farming estate that Carrie Mulligan’s character Bathsheba Everdeen  inherits and oversees as an independent woman back in the late 1800’s.   Hey…two Carrie’s in the same paragraph.  : )

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The movie is just lovely especially if you love watching period movies set in beautiful idyllic settings and the costumes were absolutely stunning in my ever so humble opinion.  It’s a love store of course but it also about how few options women really had back then. 

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                  Carrie Mulligan with her co-stars Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge and Matthias Schoenaerts.

She was unique because she became a woman of means and was able to forge an independent life and who had to choice to marry or not. 

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  She had three suitors.  One offered respect and additional stability, another offered passion but ultimately no respect, and the third offered both passion,respect, and a deep friendship.  He understoon her  and loved her all the more for it.    The movie tells the story of how she comes to the realization of who she is, what she is capable  of and who she really wants to share her life with. 

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Beautiful costumes from a classic Thomas Hardy novel.  I can’t say that I ever read any Thomas Hardy novels not even way back when in my school days so it is extra fun for me to discover them now when I am sure I am to better appreciate them than I did back then. 

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Today is Day Two Of Winter Storm Jonas.  So far I’ve drank and obscene amount of CafĂ© l’orange topped with whipped cream….ate two pieces of carb forbidden toast with lots of butter.  And I savored every single bite.  I actually have the time to blog today and will probably do some baking and a bit more movie watching and book reading.  Making the best of it!

How about you?  Did winter storm Jonas put a kink in your weekend too?

 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

How to Make Limoncello

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So the lemons are now 4 bottles of Limoncello! 

They’ve all been given away for Christmas gifts after keeping one for myself and I have to say they were a  BIG SUCCESS!!

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And look at how cute and perfect these little Limoncello glasses are. 

For my Christmas gifts I paired up a bottle of my Limoncello with a set of Limoncello glasses that I picked up made by Bormioli in Italy through Amazon.  Very inexpensive and so cute with the green stems.  The perfect mini size for sipping and a bargain I think at only $14.99 for a set of six!  This made an extremely nice and affordable gift this year.  

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The original recipe that I was inspired by was from TheKitchn.com. 

Following this recipe with a few tweaks of my own, I was able to make a little more than  four 8.5 ounce flask sized bottles. 

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I used my Microplane Grater to get all the yellow zest off of my lemons.  Many of the recipes showed the lemons getting peeled with a vegetable peeler warning to be careful not to get too much of the white layer just underneath the bright yellow zest.  The white part can be bitter and all of the color and the lemon oils for the flavor are in that yellow zest so it just made sense to me to zest it with the Microplane Grater.  This is how I plan to do it every time.  I had a hard time trying to peel the lemons with the vegetable peeler.  I also only had to steep my lemon zest in the vodka for one week and it was plenty of time.  The larger recipes that used the larger peels suggested steeping for up to a month which I can see as being necessary with the larger pieces of peel to extract the lemon oils and flavor.

No thanks, my method was much faster and produced wonderful results.

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Some of the other recipes online also called for Everclear instead of vodka.   I’ve never had Everclear but I believe it is a grain alcohol made from corn and it’s powerful stuff.  A lot like Moonshine and a lot like drinking lighter fluid I’ve been told : )

Again, no thanks. 

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The vodka I decided to use was Smirnoff.  I picked it  mostly because I liked the price.  I didn’t want to spend too much on my first attempt at making it but really I should have had more faith.  It was awesome! 

  I’ve had store bought Limoncello from the liquor store and I have to say it was hard for me to drink and enjoy.  It was rather harsh.  My batch from the recipe I used was VERY drinkable. 

I think the sugar syrup to the lemon flavored vodka ratio that I used made for a not too sweet but not so strong that it makes you wince, close your eyes, shake your head and shiver.  I hate when that happens!

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Here is how I made it!!

Limoncello

Ingredients:

10 organically grown lemons, washed.  You don’t want lemons that have a pesticide residue so I suggest organic.

1 fifth  (750ml)  of vodka.  I used Smirnoff

3 cups water

3 cups sugar

Tools: 

MicroPlane Grater or vegetable peeler

Large glass container with a lid that the lemon peels and vodka can steep in.    I used a very large half gallon sized wide mouth Ball Canning Jar that  holds 8 cups.

fine mesh strainer fit over a bowl.

coffee filters

Measuring Cup

Small Funnel

Five  8.5oz reusable bottles with stoppers.

Labels (I used Avery #22816 square labels and found a template I liked for free on their Avery.com website.)

Directions: 

Zest all of the lemons   And be careful to get only the bright yellow part and not the white underneath. 

  • Place all of the zest in your glass jar.

  • Pour the pint of vodka into the jar over all of the lemon zest.  Place the lid on top and shake it well.

  • Leave the lemon zest and vodka in the jar and let steep for at least one week occasionally giving it a shake and opening the lid to let any gasses out and letting it breath for a minute before placing the lid back on.

  • After your lemon zest and vodka has steep for a week you are ready strain it.

  • Now you will need to strain out the lemon zest and so you will need to do this with a fine metal mesh strainer suspended over a bowl.  Pour the content of the jar slowly into the strainer.  This takes a while to strain out all of the zest.  You will need to stir to allow the liquid to strain through into the bowl below. 

  •   I strained a second time through some coffee filters to make sure I got all of the zest and the result was a beautiful clear yellow. 

Make the Simple Syrup and Combine with the Lemon Vodka

  • Take the 3 cups of sugar and 3 cups of water  and combine them in a pot on your stove over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Stir to make sure all of the sugar dissolves in the water.  It will thicken up a bit as it comes to a boil.  Do this slowly. 

  • Let the simple syrup cool for a bit and then using a  one cup measure, add three cups of the simple syrup to the jar of lemon zest and vodka.  I had a lot of simple syrup left over after taking 3 cups, one at a time, and adding them to the lemon flavored vodka.  I didn’t want  the final result to be too sweet.  But definately taste and add more it you think it needs it. 

  • Add syrup and taste as you go.  You can always add more simple syrup if you like but I found the 3 cup mark was just perfect for mine.  I don’t like things that are too sweet and this seemed perfect to me. 

Place a small funnel into the mouth of your  washed bottle and with a measuring cup pour your limoncello into your bottles. 

Secure the stoppers and there you are.   Delicious and perfect for gift giving!

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I love the flask sized bottles that I got from Sur La Table. I think I paid $4.95 for each bottle but I think they are well worth it especially if you are giving them away as gifts. 

I also found some great reusable bottles with the attached stoppers at Hobby Lobby that were normally $2.99 each but lucky me they were 50% off so a bargain at $1.50 each.  They also have the same bottles with a chalkboard label.  

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Time to label your bottles.  I used Avery #22816 square labels and found a template I liked for free on their Avery.com website.

Limoncello Glasses

I will be increasing my production substantially for the holidays next year.

But in the meantime, it was seriously so good that I am going to try to keep a bottle in my freezer at all times.  I can see spreading the Limoncello cheer around the bonfire in the summertime as well in the colder months.   That means I’ll be shopping for more organic lemons very soon.

Bottoms Up!!