Friday, December 30, 2011

Home for the Holidays

It's been a busy week at our house! My parents arrived on Christmas Eve from New Brunswick. We had our first Christmas in our house, and then headed to Chris's parents house for an amazing Christmas dinner!

The kittens enjoyed their first Christmas and all the paper and ribbon! 

My Grammy crocheted us this beautiful afgan for our living room

You know you've made too many sweet treats when there are still leftovers after all of the parties and visiting (read: not complaining)!. This year I made sugar cookies, homemade twix bars, homemade peanut butter cups, peppermint patties, ginger cookies, peppermint bark and salted caramel chocolate pretzel bark. The pretzel bark and peppermint patties were clear favourites, and I will be adding those to the annual traditions list along with the homemade twix bars. I'll share the twix recipe a little later.

We left on Wednesday afternoon for New Brunswick, as one of my good friends is getting married on Christmas Eve. It was a long drive, but we did have some eye candy along the way!

Boy was I glad to see this sign!

I hope you all had a great holiday. I'll be back in a few days to share the DIY from my friend's wedding as well as share some cooking and design resolutions as we look forward into 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Grandmothers say the Darnedest Things!

I love my Grandmother very much, we spent many a Saturday together growing up, and she has taught me many things over the years. When I visited her last month, I noticed that she still had a framed picture of me and my  old boyfriend (we're talking over 2 years now...she liked him very much) on display in her living room. Here's how the conversation went down:

Me: Grammy, you do know Chris and I are coming home for New Years, and that we're going to visit you...
Grammy: Yes, yes, that will be very exciting
Me: So maybe you want to take down that old picture before we visit.
Grammy: No- not until you replace it.

OK, fair enough, she's got a I took it upon myself to print a picture of Chris and I  and include it in her Christmas card.

Grammy received her Christmas card and immediately called my mother. She said "Well, I just received Jessica's Christmas card, and the picture of her and her hunk!".  "I hope that's not the only reason she's dating him."

When I heard this story, I laughed hysterically! I told Chris when we go home, he's going to have to give Grammy a big hug!

My parents are on their way to my house, the last presents will be wrapped tonight, and the cookie platters will be made. We're off to a party tonight- it's definitely beginning to feel like Christmas even if it doesn't look like it outside!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My editors

Have you ever tried to do anything productive with a cat in the way? This is how I write all of my blog posts. Missy usually sits on my lap up until I select photos, she loves watching the photos appear and needs to have her nose on the screen. Maybe one day she'll do a guest blog!

Rex has recently joined us, worried he's missing all the fun. If I have spelling errors, now you know why- I have help with the keyboard sometimes!

They also like to assist with unpacking groceries, cooking dinner and bathing (TMI?)!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Midnight Madness!

I went to Ikea Friday night for their Midnight Madness sale. I ended up scoring some great deals, and didn`t have to wait in line for any of them (they do a crazy deal every hour, and the lines are nuts, but I wasn`t after anything in particular).

Honourable mentions:

Three Christmas tins for $2.50

2 blue velvet pillow covers for $4/each

A large white vase for $3.50
I also had some yummy free cotton candy, I think it's been at least 15 years since I've had cotton candy!

Have you found any good deals lately?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday Morning Escapades

I'm not quite finished my holiday baking, but there is one treat I've been eyeing to make for a while now; Homemade Peppermint Patties. I love mint and chocolate, some crazy people don't, but it's one of my favourites.

This recipe is surprisingly easy to make. I adapted Alice's recipe from here


  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted (I didn't sift, but I can see that being a benefit)
  • 1 tablespoon peppermint extract
  • 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used Hershey special dark chipits)
  • 3 tablespoons shortening ( I used canola oil because I didn't have shortening on hand)

Step 1- Mix together 2 cups of the icing sugar (you can probably do 3) with the sweetened condensed milk and peppermint extract. Mix on medium speed until combined.

Step 2- Continue adding the icing sugar in 1/2 cup increments (I think I ended up using about 6 cups). You want the dough to be stiff but pliable ( coming off the edges of the bowl)

Step 3- Form into 3/4" balls and press down onto a lined plate, cutting board or tray. (I found lining with silicon mats worked best. When they were just on the plate, I had to scrape off with a knife. Freeze for up to 30 mins. If you're anything like me and don't have freezer space to accommodate all of these, I rotated between the freezer and the fridge.

Step 4- Melt the chocolate. Warning- this is a bit of rocket science. If you microwave, do it in 15 second increments, stirring well each time. You can also use a double boiler method. Once chocolate is melted, add shortening or oil to thin it out. I found keeping it in a pot of warm water worked well, and using a deep tall bowl over a larger shallow one works best. I did have to do this twice because the first time I burnt the chocolate, and once burnt it`s impossible to work with.

Step 5- Using a fork, dip each of the patties in chocolate, wiping off the excess each time. Warning- if you cook like me, this will get messy! Transfer the chocolate dipped patty to a tray or baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. You could sprinkle with crushed candy canes at this point if you wanted to. Transfer back to the fridge to set. They are done when the tops are dry to the touch.

In the spirit of laying it all on the table, if you`re anything like me, this will make a big mess- I got chocolate everywhere, but it was a fun morning adventure! 

Hope you enjoy them as much as I do! Alice`s version says it makes 32, but I got almost 60 out of mine (guess it all depends on how large you want `em!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

All the Trimmings

Well the Christmas tree has been trimmed, and magically enough still standing! We decorated last night , and when I came home from work this morning, there was only one ornament on the ground. I made the executive decision not to put anything breakable on the tree this year, and so far so good!

Here are some close ups of some of my favourite ornaments!

One more weekend left, my parents will be here next Saturday, still lots to do:) Are you ready for Christmas?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

O' Christmas Tree

I apologize in advance for the length of this blog post, but the experience was just too exhausting funny not to detail it in full!

So the tree is up, not once but twice and counting! Instead of going to the tree farm, we decided to go to Ikea. The lot was full of many balsam firs, tightly baled. It was a bit like goldilocks and the three bears. I would hold one up and Chris would say too skinny, he would hold one up and I would say too short. Finally we picked what we believed would be a uniform beautiful tree.

Little did we know, we had to pay for the tree inside first before we could take that bad boy home. So I left Chris (without mitts) to wait while I went inside to battle the line that is Saturday afternoon ikea. 25 minutes later, I found a freezing man that resembled Chris waiting beside 4 trees. He said, "do you still love it?", and I said "it's this one right?" pointing to the beautiful tree right beside the one we had picked out. He laughed, and we decided to go with the fuller option (still not sure if it belonged to someone else or not).

We managed to get the tree into Chris' car and home, which was a feat in itself. We then had to saw off some of the bottom branches and stump so it would drink water and fit in our stand. About an hour later, our Christmas tree was up (in a different location since we didn't measure our ceilings and realized there's a foot of overhang in our window where we wanted to place the tree).

  I was a bit worried about the stand, as it was just a cheap one I picked up on boxing day a few years ago and seemed to be wobbling a bit. The kittens were very interested, but seemed to be behaving quite well. I had just finished vacuuming up the needles, and we were about to settle into our evening when Rex (Boy-Cat as he's affectionately known) decided to climb the tree, well she (yes I realize I just changed the sex of my tree) came down much quicker than she went up. There was liters of water on the floor and thousands more needles. Towels were brought in, and the tree was told to lean in the corner until we could get a better stand. So out we  I went (someone had to stay home to guard the tree and shoo cats) to Canadian Tire to buy The Omega Stand, described as the "One Woman Stand" and "The Marriage Saver" this puppy is expected to stand it's ground and resist all urges to top over.

The new stand was applied after we treated ourselves with decadent starbucks beverages with whipped topping and a sushi dinner (reinforcements were required), and so far so good. The kittens have reinvestigated the situation and tested out the tree stand box, and all is well in the world (so far). Decorations are next, so you may be reading an "O'Christmas Tree- Volume 2" in the near future!

Here are some pictures that I believe depict the situation well (forgive me for not having one of the poor tree toppled over, I think Chris would have killed me if I grabbed the camera before the towels)!

The tree from the point of a cat, what a magical place to climb and play!

Going in for the kill

Checking it out

Thank you for buying a new stand, we needed another box to play in. 

The finished product

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday Night Baking

Last night I bought a lot of baking supplies at the grocery store on my way home from work. I typically bake a ton this time of year; I attend one cookie exchange, plenty of potlucks and this year we're hosting; that means a lot of cookies!

Last night I made Angie's sugar cookies. They made over 4 dozen, and are pretty good. I think next time I would make them with margarine because i'm pretty sure that's how my grammy did it, and lets be honest we're all looking for a taste of home!

I found a full set of old pyrex mixing bowls at an antique show last summer- I love them! I had to buy measuring cups with metal handles because I have a habit of breaking the plastic ones...guess i'm a tough baker!

I find when you're using the stand mixer for cookies, you need to leave it on the lowest setting, otherwise they get over-mixed.

The finished product! Very festive, they were packed up and put in the freezer.(Now I just need a bigger freezer)!!!

Stay tuned for more holiday baking. I've just found a recipe for homemade peppermint patties that i'm dying to try, and I still have to decide what to make for the cookie exchange! We're getting our tree this weekend and decorating the outside of the house, we'll be fully festive in no time:)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Deck the Halls

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas around these parts. We don't have a tree up yet and the lights aren't up outside, but the rest of the house is pretty much ready to go. Here are some of my favourites.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Day in the Kitchen

Yesterday I spent the majority of my afternoon in the kitchen. I am learning to bake bread, and have tried a few recipes to get me ready for my grammy's! Yesterday I used Martha Stewart's recipe, which is close to my Grammy's, except she uses butter and no egg. The neat thing about her recipe is that you can use it as a base for four types of bread.

Isn't she pretty? Definitely a bonus when making bread!

The bread turned out alright, although next time I am going to try the instant yeast (grammy's trick)!

We had a leftover chicken that Chris roasted earlier in the week, so I decided homemade chicken noodle soup was the perfect companion to my fresh bread. I used Michael Smith's recipe for the broth and the soup! I adapted it a bit by adding a chicken bouillon cube for some extra flavour! I've just ordered his Chef at Home cookbook online, so very much looking forward to trying out more of his recipes.

These are the veggies and herbs to make the broth- good trick for colour; leave the onion skins on!

I also started working on my Christmas decorations yesterday (everything but the tree), but will post more on that later. As a sneak peak- you can see that the kittens also enjoyed discovering the Christmas decorations for the first time!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What I'm Reading

I was first introduced to this book and Ree's blog through Emma's Food Coma blog. I recently ordered this through Chapters, and was so excited when it arrived last Friday. I am about 3 chapters in so far, and I have a feeling it's going to be a great read. Ree first introduced retelling her personal love story on her blog when she had writers block one day, her readers loved it, so she's retelling her blog chapters as well as "the rest of the story" in this new book.

Can't beat a good cowboy country love story...and you have to love that it's true!

Have you found any good books lately?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Goodbye Harvest

This weekend I took down my fall decorations. I am excited to decorate for Christmas, as it will be the first one in this house, and although I will miss knowing exactly where everything should go; it will be fun to start over!

Hope you had a great weekend. Have you started putting up your Christmas decorations?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thrifted Corner

This is one of my favourite little places of our house. Almost everything in this corner was treasure hunted or "rescued" and refinished or refined. Since moving, the treasures at the end of the roads haven't been as rich (probably a good thing, as I really have no space left for new pieces), but I do miss those days!

My desk is a drop leaf table I picked up at an estate sale for $5! I stripped the top of it for the natural wood, but the legs have a chipped gorgeous alligator patina thing going on that I just couldn't remove!

The chair was bought from a friend of a friend, and is one of the only ones remaining in that gorgeous green (I painted the press-backs black)

The ladder was found walking home from the bus one day. A retirement community centre was throwing it away. In true Jessica fashion, I picked that puppy up and walked it the rest of the way to my house! I must have looked nuts to the passer-bys!It is an extension ladder and has another piece that is stored in my garage. I love it as a magazine rack!

The FYI letters came from value village, and the idea is the picture frame (grabbed at an antique show) will be turned into a cork board, so I can leave FYI messages for Chris and myself!

Have you found any good treasures lately? Do you have a favourite part of your house that just makes you smile?

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's Starting!

I have a habit of buying Christmas presents all year round, but I put a major dent in my Christmas list last weekend. This was the first year I could wrap them right away too, as I will be hosting this year and my parents are coming to me!

Although I can't officially start decorating until after American Thanksgiving (a promise I made to Caitlin my bestest American friend many moons ago), I can start thinking about my baking! Chatelaine magazine just put out their best 57 holiday cookie recipes, and I can't wait to pick out some of my favourites. Every year I attend a Christmas Cookie Club with Dixie Anne, so I always love coming up with the recipe i'll make for that!

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? Do you have any holiday traditions or recipes you rely on every year?

PS- I made the curtains from the bed sheet when I was home last week, here's a picture of how they turned out! I think they need tie-backs, but i'm pretty happy with them!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Taste of Home (literally)

When I was home last week, my grammy gave me a recipe for her favourite brownies. I tried them out last Thursday, and they are super fudgey goodness! I usually don't like nuts in my brownies, but they work well in this recipe. I will never buy a boxed brownie mix again:)

1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup white sugar
2 well beaten eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla

Grease an 8" square pan
Mix butter & sugar, add eggs.
Add dry ingredients and pour mixture into the pan.
Bake @ 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes


Friday, November 18, 2011


I was "back in the Sack" as they say in the Maritimes on Tuesday recruiting students at my Alma Mater Mount Allison University. Sackville is a gorgeous small town that I adore. It's also a great  central point of all three Maritime capital cities; you can get to Fredericton, Halifax and Charlottetown from Sackville in under 2.5 hours. Here are some of my favourite shots; I didn't make it to the marshes this trip, which is another must do, but there's always next time!

 Mel's Tea Room is legendary, serving milkshakes and breakfast to MTA students for a very long time

 The Vogue Theatre is a cute one screen theatre that had midnight toonie movies when I was in school. There were a few great girls nights held at the Vogue!

 Bridge Street is a wonderful little coffee shop, they have lots of yummy tea options and their breakfast bagels are delicious!

I loved the architecture of this old church, so beautiful!

Have a great weekend!

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