A New Year Means New Foodie Adventures to Look Forward To! Looking Back at 2011 and Best Wishes For 2012

6 Comments

Like I wouldn’t have a fun, sparkly, all-sorts-of-pretty-cupcake for you all on New Year’s Eve!  I’m bopping around to music coming from every corner of my house and in t-minus half an hour, I’ll be ringing in the new year from Toronto with a full tummy of pizza and a heart full of happy.  2011 has been another year full of so many highs and lows and so many changes, and I feel like I’ve come out of it more content and stronger.  I kicked my Master’s thesis in the butt and graduated, closed and moved on from the grad school chapter of my life, started a whirlwind of a journey with Le Dolci, celebrated Ate by Ate’s 1st birthday, celebrated the 2nd anniversary with my sweetheart of almost 3 years, made a Twitter account, became a member and contributor to Food Bloggers of Canada, made over 60 food scrapbook layouts, and made so many wonderful friends while watching my current close friendships grow stronger.

Just the other day, I clicked on last year’s New Year’s Eve post and read through it, only to realize I had a list of things I wanted to do and accomplish over the year up on the blog!  I completely forgot I even had such a list!  I know many people make new year’s resolutions, but I’m a much bigger fan of making lists of things to do and accomplish throughout the year because it makes it so much more fun to always have things to look forward to!  Without even remembering or realizing it, I knocked out each and every single thing on that list and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Continue Reading »

Advertisements

For the Love of Hot Cocoa, Snowflakes, and Christmas Scrapbooking – The Wintry Hot Chocolate Series Layout

4 Comments

I’m so excited to be posting this layout I’m almost jumping out of my skin!  I’ve been looking forward to scrapbooking Christmas and winter photos and layouts for ages and now that there’s actually some snow on the ground, my holiday scrapbooking mood has sky-rocketed straight through the roof!  This month has been a whirlwind with plans not panning out, my uncharacteristic unpreparedness, and Christmas coming and going faster than I had anticipated, so I really didn’t get into a scrapbooking groove until after Christmas.  I was chewing on ideas for over a month, but for whatever reason, part of me just wasn’t ready to dig into the paper and stickers.  I wanted to lose myself in it and enjoy every minute, not be distracted and moody over it. 

Even though I feel like I let precious time pass me by, I’m so much happier I scrapbooked when I did because it was SO MUCH FUN!  This is my Christmas-holiday-winter hot chocolate layout with photos of the hot chocolate I’ve featured in the Hot Chocolate Series: the nutella hot chocolate from Le Gourmand, the peppermint hot chocolate from Le Merceria, and the rich hot chocolate with blow-torched marshmallow from Bobbette & Belle.  I’ve been wanting to use a red, green, blue, and white colour scheme for some time now so I went to town with the ribbon and cardstock and paper and ended up with this!

There have been times where I’ve scrapbooked every day for a month or more and there have been other times where I’ve gone weeks without even touching my go-to scrapbook tin.  Every time I scrapbook though, it feels like no time has passed and I’m happiest when I get to surround myself with photos and memories and all my art supplies.  Out of all the themes I enjoy scrapbooking (birthdays, Valentine’s, art, and friendship among others), Christmas and winter are my absolute favourites. 

A new year means a time to reflect and a time to look forward and when I look back on my scrapbooking, I think back to when I started 8×8 scrapbooking full force over 3 years ago (prior to that I was actually doing 8.5 x 11!) and I’m reminded of the very first 8×8 scrapbook album I made which was a Christmas and winter one.  I’m reminded of how excited I was to find such a pretty album at the store (a gorgeous chocolate brown suede album with a magnetic flap that had the word “Memories” stitched across it), all the fun I had making those 20 pages, filling those plastic sleeves and making the album fat, and all the Christmas memories I got to look back on.  It was an amazing month of scrapbooking and it made me feel so free and so alive.  I’m hoping that 2012 will bring just as much happiness and inspiration. 

*****

Scrapbooking materials used: Periwinkle, powder blue, Christmas red, grass green, emerald green, and white cardstock (Recollections); Christmas patterned paper (Me & My Big Ideas Christmas mat paper pad); hot chocolate, cocoa, and peppermint adhesive embellishments (Jolee’s Boutique); blue ribbon with green polka dots; green satin ribbon; “Lollipop” alphabet stickers (Autumn Leaves, Creativity Inc.); brown alphabet stickers (K&Company); black alphabet stickers with white polka dots (atd); green foil leaves; duochrome and iridescent snowflakes; medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); circle paper punch; corner rounder paper punch.

Cracking My Mum’s Sweet Tooth Code – Holiday Baking and Soft, Rich Butterscotch Chip Cookies!

3 Comments

The Christmas cookie baking fun isn’t over just yet – I have another great batch of cookies for you all today!  I really hope all of you liked the Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies I posted yesterday because I’ve certainly enjoyed eating them!  I’ve never done anything with peppermint or candy canes before so I thought it was the perfect way of doing something Christmasy and something new, and I’m really happy they turned out yummy – and pretty!  Using the same cookie batter base, I made another kind of Christmas cookie over the holidays: butterscotch chip cookies. 

I made these butterscotch cookies especially for my mum because, lo and behold, I finally cracked my mum’s sweet code this month!  Let me explain: out of everyone in my family, I have the sweetest teeth.  Everyone enjoys dessert, but not quite as much as I do.  And with my mum, it’s been difficult to pin down that one sweet something-something that really makes those taste buds prance and dance.  With my dad and brother, it’s easy.  They love chocolate, no questions asked.  And me?  My sweet teeth could live off of lemon, coconut, and vanilla.  But aside from coffee, there’s never been anything that has necessarily made my mum squeal.  Then I found out this past month that she adores butterscotch!  I felt kind of foolish for not knowing this.  After all, I have been her daughter for 26 years now.  But hey, I’ll take it!  She loves the aroma, and both her and my brother love the smooth creaminess of butterscotch sauce and the rich flavour of butterscotch chips.

Recipe for Butterscotch Chip Cookies (yields 3 to 4 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter (10 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups butterscotch chips, plus 3 to 4 dozen more for adorning the tops of cookies  

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  (*Deb’s Note: My batch of cookie dough made 39 cookies so I actually ended up reusing one of the two baking sheets to bake the extras after the first batch came out of the oven.  My oven runs hot so I don’t use the bottom rack.  However, depending on how your oven is, you could definitely line 3 baking sheets and do them all in one shot)
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt using a large spoon.
  • Beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until creamy.  Add the egg followed by egg yolk and vanilla, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.
  • Slowly beat in the dry ingredient mixture, then fold the 1¾ cups of butterscotch chips into the batter. (*Deb’s Note: I like getting my hands working in the dough, so I actually just dumped all the butterscotch chips in and mixed them in using my hands.  You could use a large spoon though if you don’t prefer this method).
  • Roll mounds of cookie dough into balls, about golf ball size.  Place the cookie dough balls onto the baking sheets, 15 balls to a sheet.  Take the 3 to 4 dozen butterscotch chips and press one butterscotch chip onto the top of each cookie dough ball.  Don’t press so hard the chip sinks in or the dough ball starts to crack, but put just enough pressure on it so that it stays in place.
  • Bake 12-15 minutes, until cookies are golden brown around the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: Mine took 14 minutes in the oven).

These cookies are incredibly simple and they’re super delicious!  They’re soft, chewy, and the butterscotch flavour comes out full force.  I’m so excited to expand on this recipe and make it into a butterscotch almond cookie!  That I will probably do in the new year, so look forward to that and many more cookies to come!

*****

Recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  Sampson, Sally.  “How Baking Can Change the World.” Food & Wine November 2011: 130.

Christmas Cookie Baking Fun! Crackled Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

4 Comments

I know it’s a little overdue, but my holiday baking and Christmas cookies are finally here!  I’ve been looking forward to posting Christmas cookies and recipes for so long and I’m so excited to finally have homemade holiday baked goods to share with you all.  There were so many recipes I wanted to try, I was bookmarking and dog-earing pages like crazy, and I was also enjoying everyone else’s Christmas cookie fun via the interwebs on my friend Katrina’s blog, In Katrina’s Kitchen, where she hosted an “I’ll Bring the Cookies” cookie party all month long!  In an ideal world, I would love to bake 5 kinds of cookies and cookie desserts EVERY DAY and you’d all be able to come to my house for a cookie party!  Realistically though, I just share them with my family, boyfriend, grandparents, hair stylist, and whichever friends I happen to see during the times I bake cookies.

I had so much fun making and baking these Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies (how’s that for some fancy alliteration?) because I actually got to improvise and experiment a little!  See, I didn’t actually use an entire printed recipe from a magazine or book to make these.  After realizing what an amazing, holy grail cookie batter base I had going on here, I used the basic framework of the cookie recipe, modified it just a little bit, and made the rest up on my own.  And it worked!  Sort of.  The recipe and ingredients worked out beautifully, but I was a little overzealous and put a few too many cookie dough balls on the first cookie sheet and they ended up overcrowding one another, but I learned my lesson and the rest turned out PERFECT!

I wanted to make something fun and special for my friend Lindsay for Christmas since she loves mint chocolate so much, so I figured, why not experiment with a chocolate peppermint candy cane cookie?  I wasn’t sure if I, personally, would enjoy them since I’m still warming up to peppermint things and mint chocolate, but I have to tell you, I love these cookies so much, and even my mum, who isn’t a fan of peppermint or mint chocolate, loved them too!  Not to mention I loved the way they turned out appearance-wise with the crackling and the candy cane mosaic.  Let’s share and spread the Christmas cookie love!

Recipe for Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies (yields 4 dozen medium-sized cookies or 3 dozen large cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter (10 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1½ cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup crushed candy canes

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  (*Deb’s Note: Depending on how big you make your cookie dough balls, you’ll need to line your cookie sheets a few times to bake the 3 or 4 dozen.  My oven runs hot, so I actually don’t bother putting anything on the bottom rack and only use the top rack, placing 2 baking sheets vertically side by side).
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t use the mixer for this step, I just used a large spoon to mix everything together).
  • Beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until creamy.  Add the egg followed by egg yolk and vanilla, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.
  • Melt the semisweet chocolate chips and add to wet mixture, mixing until thoroughly incorporated (*Deb’s Note: I know some people prefer to use the steam method, melting the chocolate over a pot of boiling water, but I actually do it in the microwave.  I blast it at 20 second intervals, stirring after each interval until the chocolate is smooth.  You don’t have to do this, but I added a small splash of milk to my melted chocolate).
  • Slowly beat in the dry ingredient mixture, then fold the white chocolate chips into the batter.
  • Using clean hands, roll mounds of cookie dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Roll the cookie dough balls in the crushed candy canes, coating the entire ball.  Place coated cookie dough balls onto the baking sheets, 12 balls to a sheet (*Deb’s Note: Here is where I was a little overzealous with the first batch.  Instead of 12, I placed 15 and the cookies were overcrowded.  Make sure you don’t make the balls bigger than an inch in diameter because the dough spreads.  If you want the cookies larger, I’d say only put 8 cookie balls to a sheet). 
  • Bake 12-15 minutes, until crackling forms.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: Mine took 14 minutes in the oven).

Here’s a cute gift idea: to mimic the texture and “crackled” appearance of the crushed candy canes, take the cookies and break them into smaller pieces to create cookie bark!  Place in some clear cellophane and tie the bundle up with some pretty ribbon.  Ta-da!

*****

Recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  Sampson, Sally.  “How Baking Can Change the World.” Food & Wine November 2011: 130.

Cupcakes in Scarborough! Cupcakes, Cakes, Seasonal Treats and More at Sugarbuds Bakery & Café

1 Comment

My personal obsession: nutcrackers!

My cupcake prayers in Scarborough have been answered!  Over the past two years, I’ve been hitting up as many cupcakeries and bake shops with cupcakes as possible (and going back numerous times to some because I love them so dearly!) and I’m still far from knocking ’em all off my list – and those are the ones I’m aware of!  There are plenty of other cupcake fairy lands that I probably don’t even know about and that’s where Sugarbuds Bakery & Café comes in. 

After visiting and finding out about cupcake shops downtown, uptown, in the west end, in North York, and in Markham, I wondered to myself, “are there any cupcake shops in Scarborough?”  Some people might write off the suburbs and not give downtown’s surrounding areas a second thought (or any thought at all), but there is some darn good food in these neighbourhoods.  After living in the suburbs all my life with the exception of my first year and half, I know particular areas so well I could easily walk around blindfolded and find my way out and about without a problem.  There are always hidden pockets though, or in my case, unchartered territorities.  When I’m referring to Scarborough here, I’m talking about “outskirts-almost-bordering-Port Union” Scarborough.  And yes, there are cupcakes.

Christmas cookies!

Introducing Sugarbuds Bakery & Café on Old Kingston Road!  I have Groupon to thank for this one.  Even though I didn’t end up purchasing this particular deal, I was so taken aback and delighted by it that I saved it in my inbox.  It was too good of a finding to pass up!  Finally, I found out about a cupcake place and bake shop in Scarborough!  I couldn’t wait to go.  I was so excited I actually called them to make sure they would have cupcakes available in the shop.  I didn’t want to take any chances.  For all I knew, cupcakes might have been sold on a “by order only” basis.  I was in luck though: cupcakes were available every day in different flavours and ready to be devoured by me.

After jotting down directions from a map, I made my way over with my beloved boyfriend and prepared myself for some holiday sweet sights and treats.  Were we ever treated to a show!  This bakery and café is fabulous!  Not only is it accessible by bus (always a plus in my book), but there are tables and chairs for you to sit down and enjoy your treats, and there are tons of dessert options and savoury options!  You could realistically sit down for some lunch and dessert here as they serve meat pies, soups, savoury pastries, coffee drinks, and more.

The bakery is split up into two parts and you’ll find the seating, savoury food, and giant class display cases with many of their desserts in the larger portion of the shop in the back, while the front end takes care of some of the retail goodies that the shop sells, such as gift baskets, as well as another assortment of baked goods including decorated cookies.

Sugarbuds specializes in customized cakes for special occasions (think wedding cakes, giant birthday cakes, cakes for showers, themed parties, and more) and has the celebrity seal of approval on their website from hosting and catering special events!  In addition, they make beautiful gingerbread houses, and sell everything from eclairs to pumpkin pie squares to cupcakes to sugar cookies to RAINBOW CAKE!  Yes, that’s right, you can get rainbow cake here!  Remember the famous rainbow cake from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky?  Sugarbuds has an amazing version that you just have to get your hands and sweet teeth on!  I need to get my sweet teeth in it.  This fabulousity that I speak of comes straight from my boyfriend who told me he regretted not getting FIVE slices because the one he ate was all sorts of awesome.  I know, FIVE!  I think he threw that number out there just to make a point, but I’ll take his word for it because I really don’t want to see him eat five slices!  As much as we hate to, we need to set limits.

Their seasonal selection of goodies was absolutely adorable.  They had beautifully iced and decorated gingerbread house cookies, Christmas and winter sugar cookies, Scottish shortbread, and mini PLUM PUDDINGS!  I was in conniptions over them!  They were so dainty and cute and come on, plum puddings!  I don’t know any other bakery that sells them!  You can imagine what a difficult time I had trying to decide what I wanted to try.  

A cupcake ($2.99) was a no brainer (they had 4 available: vanilla bean cream cheese, chocolate fudge, red velvet, and bananas foster, along with some Christmas cupcakes), but I wanted to take away something else.  I hemmed and hawwed so long I let another lady go in front of me to order first.  I finally settled on a bananas foster cupcake, a pumpkin pie square with the dollop of whipped cream, and a pink, red, white, and green iced and decorated gingerbread house cookie.

The desserts here are fantastic.  My boyfriend, who is one of the pickiest eaters I know, loved his desserts to death (his rainbow cake slice and his gingerbread house cookie) and I gorged on my bananas foster cupcake like there was no tomorrow.  It was the strangest thing because the cake itself wasn’t dense (the way you’d envision fruit cake to be), but the flavour was deliciously dense.  I loved the texture and flavour of the cake.  It was like a power punch of banana with an almost fudgy sort of texture.  The cake wasn’t crumby or pillowy.  If I had to compare it to something, I’d say the cake was like a banana brownie!  It was delicous and different and OH SO GOOD.  The frosting was pure, straight up vanilla (and quite like vanilla ice cream in flavour, much like an actual bananas foster dessert) and the cupcake was adorned with caramel butterscotch curls.

I’m so happy I found out about Sugarbuds.  Now that I know they exist, I can make future visits and enjoy other seasonal delectables (Valentine’s, anyone?) in the future.  I know not everyone sees the value in web enterprises such as Groupon or even agrees with the premise of it, but for me, it really has helped me find out about businesses I never would have known about and for that I’m grateful.  Here’s to cupcakes in Scarborough!

*****

Sugarbuds Bakery & Café is located at 360 Old Kingston Road, right at the corner of Old Kingston and Morrish Rd. by the eastern boundary of Scarborough in Highland Creek.  The 38 TTC bus will take you right there as it travels east from Scarborough Town Centre to Rouge Hill GO station.  If you’re driving, the easiest way to get there, in my opinion, is to drive south on Morningside, swing east when you get to Ellesmere, and go south on Morrish Rd. until you get to Old Kingston Rd.

Cooking Classes, Kitchen Adventures & Frittata Sandwiches With Black Bean Soup – Foodscapes at Depanneur, Part II

1 Comment

I love all the various food options in the city and the myriad of ways I can whet my appetite for food exploration, but there are few places like The Depanneur that are as all-encompassing.  Themed supper club and dinner party events, hands-on cooking classes and foodie workshops, cooking, business, and career opportunities for enthusiastic foodies, and weekly breakfast and lunch menus full of healthy, homemade food are all part of the mix.  Now that you’re up to speed on the fabulous supper clubs The Depanneur hosts multiple times a month from yesterday’s Part I post, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty cooking classes and delicious daily food!

The Depanneur holds regular cooking and baking workshops and classes taught by independent business owners, chefs, and passionate, knowledgable folks who love and excel at their food craft.  Prices vary depending on the cost of ingredients and the type of food involved, but generally speaking, you could totally find reasonably priced classes for as little as $30!  Classes and workshops in recent past include Italian panforte, vegan rougelach, World of Truffles mushroom workshops, and Mai Ha’s I Love Puffy Love marshmallow making!  These classes and workshops are open spaces meant for anyone and everyone with any level of experience and knowledge, and they encourage thoughtful, open discussion, questions, and of course, FUN!  It’s about learning from one another, learning about where our ingredients and food comes from, opening yourself up to new experiences, tastes, and techniques, and enjoying the wonderful world of food amongst other excited and eager foodies.

Sara of Nice Buns making fresh bread!

Speaking of cooking, The Depanneur also rents out their commercial kitchen space!  If you love to cook and bake and want and need an outlet for your creativity and food products, this could be the space for you!  Independent food entrepreneurs can use the kitchen to make food and sell it in the cafe on a consignment basis.  Rental rates will depend on how long you intend to use the kitchen, but if it’s definitely worth a look-see so just shoot them an e-mail and the staff would be happy to answer questions and work out an arrangement. 

Sara of Nice Buns is a frequent Depanneur crew member who uses the kitchen to bake her famous bread for the CSI markets and other market events, and Lisa of A Food Gypsy creates homemade soup for The Depanneur’s lunch menu.  This is such a great arrangement because chefs and foodies can use this space and outlet to showcase their love embodied in food and expand their business and clientele, and at the same time foodies like myself can get to know about independent food businesses around the city.

Their breakfast and lunch cafe menu is one that changes every week in terms of ingredients.  The one thing that is constant is the format of the menu and the type of food you can expect.  The weekly menu will always include a breakfast item (for example, a frittata sandwich), two kinds of grilled cheese for lunch with a side of coleslaw or salad, and a homemade soup.  Their menu also includes a number of drinks (hot or cold apple cider, hot or cold chocolate or maple milk, coffee, teas, soy lattes, flavoured sodas, and more) and homemade desserts lovingly made by bakers and chefs who use the kitchen and/or who are part of The Depanneur crew and staff.  Sara of Nice Buns has been selling her cinnamon buns and biscotti here!

I love sandwich and soup meals so I had me their breakfast frittata sandwich and a bowl of their weekly soup which happened to be southwest black bean with sweet corn.  Each item was $4 and the nice thing about the breakfast and lunch food at The Depanneur is the nice rounded price.  Simply put, whatever price you see is the price you pay.  NO TAX TACKED ON.  This part deserves a nice shiny star!  Their frittata sandwich was made with fresh baked sourbread bread from St. John’s Bakery (which The Depanneur also sells!), peameal bacon, herbs, and chipotle mayo, while the black bean soup was a hearty mix of corn, red kidney beans, black beans, diced pepper, and a dollop of delicious sour cream with cilantro with crunch bread crisps on the side!

I loved my meal, especially the warmth and crunchiness from the egg and peameal bacon frittata and the creamy deliciousness of the mayo, but if I had to choose a knockout, it had to be the black bean and corn soup.  This was SO DAMN GOOD.  I was thisclose to ordering a 2nd bowl!  I could have eaten all of it too.  I might be a little person, but I can pack in the food!  The soup was just so well-balanced in flavour.  It wasn’t too acidic from the tomato base, it was too runny or too thick and goopy, and I LOVE the fact that I got sour cream with it!  I can’t wait to try their other soups and I’m so looking forward to chomping on some grilled cheese.  Oh, and maybe some maple milk.  I can eat and watch people cook at the same time.  It’s a lovely thing.      

*****

The Depannuer is located at 1033 College Street between Dovercourt Rd. and Dufferin Street.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays) and they are currently closed for the holidays but will be back with yummy food in the new year on January 10th!  You can view The Depannuer’s Facebook page here.

Have a Sweet, Happy Christmas

6 Comments

In just a little under an hour and a half, Christmas (my time) will be over and another year of Christmas get-togethers, songs, meals, and gift-giving will have gone by.  For so many years I was always prepared and always on top of things, and this year, I let things slip by me.  I had every intention of doing everything I wanted to do before Christmas but it didn’t happen and by the time I knew it, Christmas was a week away and I was panicking and feeling disappointed.  Disappointed in myself, with my current situation (this is the first Christmas in 7 years that I have been unemployed), with timing in general.  I was missing out on some fantastic markets due to timing and weather, I didn’t get the chance to do a whirlwind Christmas cupcake tour, and I was feeling so frustrated about not being able to spend lavishingly on gifts for the people that meant the most to me. 

I was in a funk and I didn’t know how to get out of it.  “It’s Christmas,” I thought.  “I’m supposed to be happy.”  I really shouldn’t have given up hope so soon.  I should have known things would be okay.  Not having all the money in the world doesn’t necessarily make for a miserable Christmas by default.  Am I sad certain things didn’t go the way I had planned?  Sure.  But I’m sitting here in my living room with Home Alone on tv feeling happy, inspired, and with a refreshing sense of optimism looking forward as I look back.

This Christmas didn’t turn out too shabby after all.  I spent a fun day out with my best friend doing brunch and gift shopping, two amazing days with my boyfriend, a beautiful morning at my favourite indoor garden in the city taking photos of poinsettias, winter water fountains, kalanchoe Christmas trees, and glittery pine cones hanging from my favourite weeping willow tree.  I spent some much needed time reading, got some of the sweetest, thoughtful gifts from the people I love most, enjoyed some delicious Christmas treats from a wonderful bakery and cafe I had never been to before (banana foster cupcakes!  Gingerbread house cookies!  Pumpkin pie squares!), and proclaimed Christmas Day as Cooking Baking Day!  I’ve started planning new scrapbook layouts, I have some fun outing plans coming up within the next two weeks, I’m looking forward to so many things on the blog, and I’m just feeling happy about all the love I’ve been given.

It wasn’t the Christmas I was planning and hoping for, but it was a different, happy Christmas nevertheless.  Merry Christmas, everyone.