Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Best of T.O.: Hamburger Edition

Yesterday at work (before I was afflicted with the mother of all migraines), I was reading through a list of the 50 Best Burgers in Toronto.
I love hamburgers.
I love Toronto.
I live in Toronto.
It's a list I couldn't help but get into.

I've never been to most of the places on the list but I'm inspired now to start expanding my hamburger horizons and try out some of the top picks.
Since many of you do not reside in Toronto I challenge you to find the best burger in your city.

From the pages of NOW Magazine Toronto, I present to you ...
The Top 10 Burgers (under $10) in Toronto.

1. Burger's Priest (1636 Queen St. East at Coxwell) - order The Double Double Cheeseburger
2. Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder (699 St. Clair West at Christie) - order The Butter Burger
3. Woody's Burgers (3795 Lake Shore Blvd West at Brown's Line)
4. Golden Star (7123 Yonge St. at Doncaster) - order the All-Star Burger Deluxe
5. W Burger Bar (10 College St. at Yonge)
6. European Meats (176 Baldwin, at Kensington) - order The Texas Burger
7. Gourmet Burger Company (482 Parliament at Carlton) - order The Aussie Burger
8. Chuck and Co. (672 St. Clair West, at Christie) - order the Bacon Cheddar Burger
9. Burger Shack (223 Eglinton Ave W at Oriole Pkwy) - order The Homemade Banquet Burger
10. BQM Burger (354 Queen St. at Christie) - order the BQM Banquet Burger

Having only had a burger from one of the Top Ten Under Ten list, I have to recommend the Homemade Banquet Burger from Burger Shack.
It's big and it's delicious.
And it's walking distance from my apartment.

Keep in mind this list went on to recommend 40 more burgers - including those over $10, vegetarian burgers, and more.
If you want to check out the rest of the list you can see Toronto's Best Burgers in all of their glory here.

Someone take me to Burger's Priest please.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This & That

Sorry - I've been computer-less for a few days.
I'll have a better post tomorrow with more stuff.
For today I thought I'd show you some of the stuff I've made recently.
My friend's birthday was this weekend and we hosted the pre-party.
Because he and I once created the most epic cheesecake of all time, I decided that making mini cheesecakes would be a good idea for his birthday cake. 
I took the recipe I used for my grandmother's cheesecake last weekend and made mini cakes in my muffin pan.  
You can find the recipe for these no-bake cheesecakes in this post - just make many small ones instead of a big one!

I also had a caramilk bar and in an effort to keep myself from sitting down and eating the entire thing I used it to make cookies!
The recipe for these is a Martha one and it's probably my favourite cookie recipe. The cookies are always so good.
You can find the recipe for these soft and chewy cookies in this post.

The annual Cottage Fam-Jam is rapidly approaching - this weekend!
We've got our theme picked out and most of the food decided upon...
I wonder if I'll be able to keep things a secret until I return!
Perhaps some ideas posted tomorrow....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hot Town, Summer in the City

I don't know about the weather where everyone else is but my gosh it's a stinker today.
And tomorrow is supposed to be even worse!
It's 40+ with the humidity.
But I complain about the cold and winters so I will not complain about the heat that I ask for.
I love summer. Yes, even the heat waves.

Before I forget (like there's any way I could actually forget to mention this) I finally (FINALLY!) saw Harry Potter last night!
Oh my gosh was it good.
Everything I could have asked for.
I won't bore you with my moment-by-moment playback but I laughed, I cried, and I got so excited I forgot I'm almost 26 years old.

But back to the heat.
One thing I love about summer is that certain fruits and vegetables taste better.
2 of these can be found in this recipe!
This simple summer salad requires no oven or stove so, if like me you lack central air, you won't be adding an additional heat source to your already humid home.

Martha's Stuffed Tomatoes with Peaches, Corn, Cucumbers & Basil

  • Slice off tops of 8 ripe medium beefsteak tomatoes (about 1/2 inch). Scoop out the seeds and ribs, and coarsely chop. Stir together chopped tomatoes, 2 peaches, 3 cucumbers, kernels from 2 ears of corn, 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Let stand for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust for acidity, adding up to 1 tablespoon more lime juice. Stir in 1/2 cup shredded basil.
  • Season inside of tomato shells with salt and pepper. Fill tomatoes with tomato mixture, and garnish with basil sprigs. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cottage Weekends

One of the best parts of summer is being able to spend time outside in the sun relaxing.
I was at my grandmother's cottage this weekend to celebrate her birthday and to float around in the lake and soak up as much sun as possible.
The water temperature was amazing and though the water level was pretty low, we were able to find lots of great swimming areas that weren't too weedy.

There was a great full moon on Saturday night:

We went for a pancake breakfast on Sunday morning at Wheeler's Pancake House.
We went into the maple syrup museum they have there and I had to take a picture of the molds on the wall because there was no way I could hide them all under my shirt.

My grandmother's birthday was on Saturday so I made her a cake. In an attempt to beat the heat I found a recipe for a no-bake cheesecake so we wouldn't have to heat the cottage up by turning on the oven.
It's an easy and delicious recipe from Kraft.

No-Bake Cheesecake

  • Melt 1/4 cup butter. Mix in 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs with a fork. Press into the bottom of a springform pan or a cake pan fitted with aluminum foil. Put crust in the fridge to harden.
  • Beat together 3 packages of softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla. Whisk in 3 cups thawed Cool Whip. Pour into crust and put the cake back into the fridge for at least 4 hours.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Farewell & Thanks for the Memories

As I assume everyone knows, the final Harry Potter movie has been released.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 came out last night and while I'm extremely jealous of all of the people who got to go see it last night at midnight (and who subsequently received Harry Potter-styled 3D glasses), I am very excited to go and see it with my mom!
We've gone to see the last 3 or 4 movies together in theatre so it's become tradition.
We also spent an entire day taking turns reading chapters of the last book to each other while we waited for my pre-ordered copy to arrive.
I thought I was being smart by doing so but that sneaky woman went out early that morning and bought the book from Shoppers Drug Mart so she had her copy a full 3 hours before mine arrived.
Once the postal worker arrived with mine (I literally ran out to meet him half way up the driveway) we would silently devour one chapter at a time then stop and discuss what had just transpired.
Most Harry Potter fans are big nerds like me, right?
I'm not alone in this?

Anyway, as there are no more books or movies to anticipate it seems the saga has finally come to an end.
While I'm sad to see it end I know it's not the last time I will read or watch Harry Potter.

Goodbye, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, and friends.

Goodbye Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
I'm still waiting for my acceptance letter...

Goodbye, Weasley Family.
You've earned a special place in my heart with your red hair, your resilience in the face of adversity, your acceptance of all people (muggles included), and your genuine love for one another.

In case people haven't read/seen the final movie (disgraceful) I won't continue my goodbyes.
Instead I will give you a recipe for something all HP fans will recognize:

Butter Beer

1 cup light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
Four 12-ounce bottles cream soda
  • In a small saucepan over medium, combine the brown sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240 F on a candy thermometer.
  • Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar and 1/4 heavy cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the rum extract.
  • In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened, but not completely whipped, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • To serve, divide the brown sugar mixture between 4 tall glasses (about 1/4 cup for each glass). Add 1/4 cup of cream soda to each glass, then stir to combine. Fill each glass nearly to the top with additional cream soda, then spoon the whipped topping over each

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Serious Contender...

Planning is well underway!
We've emailed a few places about pricing and one of the places we were very interested in emailed us back almost immediately.
Point #1.
This place is beautiful - right on Lake Ontario so the ceremony overlooks the water and the reception is held in an open tent.
Point #2.
We worked out what we'd have to pay and though the number kind of takes your breath away at first, having never spent that much money in my life on anything, it's reasonable considering it's a wedding and we're going to end up spending around that much regardless. Also the package includes almost everything - a one hour guided wine tour + appetizers for the guests while we sneak away to take photos, a 3 course sit down dinner, a DJ... we even calculated the cost of doing an open bar for everyone (much to my mother's dismay) and even that is pretty reasonable!
Don't tell the venue, but they're either very generous or very naive. The price they want per person ... well let's just say they don't know our friends/family.
*Side note - Andrea, get ready for another night of bringing round after round of shots to random tables. And possibly another run in with the automatic paper towel dispenser if they have one. Nothing says 'classy bride' like having one too many fuzzy navels and competing with a towel dispenser.

Another bonus is that children under 5 are free so our friends and family with small children wouldn't necessarily be left trying to find a babysitter. Kids 6-12 are $15 a head, another bonus.
I wonder if they'd believe I was only 12...

Anyway, this place is looking really good.
In an effort to save some money we'd be looking at a Friday evening rather than a Saturday and this also secures us a free photographer.
Hopefully people would be able to get a day off or a half day and make the trek to Niagara. Or at least make it to the reception for the party!

Here are some pictures of the venue - Legends Estate Winery - for your browsing pleasure.
(All pictures taken from the website)

 There's something about all white decor that makes me happy...
Plus I can ask about putting in globe lanterns!

I promise I have some post ideas that don't involve anything wedding related!
I'm just excited.
I do have a Fam-Jam 2012 dinner to plan for (preparations are well under way and our theme is evolving nicely) so I'll post some food ideas soon!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Flower Dilemma

And so begins the planning!
Besides looking at venues (we may have found one!), last night John and I started to give some thought to how much we're going to need to budget for specific things.
We want to DIY as much as we can (obviously) because it is fun and because it'll help to keep costs down (so long as I can keep myself from going craft crazy).
We were looking at flowers last night, trying to figure out what we would need (centerpieces, bouquets, boutonnieres, etc), which flowers are on the lower end of the cost spectrum, and whether or not we could DIY our own centerpieces.
We've got some really cute ideas for centerpieces that wouldn't be too costly but it really all depends on the flower situation.
I may also look into fake flowers for the centerpieces for cost comparisons...though I do likethe thought of having the smell of real flowers on the tables.

In terms of flowers here's what we're thinking:

I saw this picture of a bouquet made of viburnum and Queen Anne's lace and love it:

I really like the look of hydrangeas:

And then if I were to have an unlimited budget I would want beautiful white orchids

And the calla lillies that I originally always wanted to have

 And some dhalias. They've got that wonderful poofy look like the hydrangeas that I love.

I've asked my cousin's good friend who knows a lot about flowers for her input and her expert advice. 
C'mon cheap flowers! 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Getting in Touch with my Inner Warrior...

Despite wanting to do nothing more than image search wedding themed items and add pictures and lists to the protective pages in my wedding binder (more on that in a second), I am going to take you in a totally different direction with this post. 


But first let me get some wedding-related stuff out there first.
I took my ring in yesterday to be re-sized.
What a horrible feeling handing back your engagement ring is. The woman could obviously see the hesitation on my face when she asked for it because she apologized as I put it in her hand.
Robin and I then wandered around the store trying on rings to find the one she wants when her time comes. 
As for my wedding binder, it now consists of a mostly empty binder with the exception of a (very) rough first draft of a guest list. 
We're over the number I was hoping for by about 30 people....
I'm dreading the day when it comes time to get mean and break out the red pen.
The plan is to divide the binder into sections so I can organize everything from flowers to the venue to contact information for guests to favours and invites.

But that's enough wedding talk for one day.
As the week's pass there will be more and more wedding stuff so I'll try and spare you.

Later this afternoon I'm participating in a little something called the Warrior Dash in Barrie, Ontario.
Essentially it is a 5K run but the course is peppered with obstacles. 
While I don't know exactly what I will find myself up against, I think these things can be considered likely:

 Lots of mud.


Climbing nets.

I'm pretty excited to get down and dirty. To feel that old familiar muscle ache from over exertion. To earn my viking helmet and feel a new sense of accomplishment.

Then I can come home to a bubble bath and my bridal magazines.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Good Things: S'mores Edition

One thing I love about summer is spending time outdoors at cottages. One thing I love about cottages is a good campfire. One thing I love about campfires is making s'mores.
S'mores are just such a perfect, messy combination of flavours.
My cousin Mike (who's blog you should follow here if you like fun, witty stories both factual and fictional) sent me a link to numerous s'mores recipes courtesy of Canadian Parent.
I will very likely make every single one of these. Especially the last one which I might make for parties.
There are more recipes available on the Canadian Parent website but these are the ones that caught my eye.

1. S'more Cookies

 For the full recipe click here

2. S'mores Cake in a Jar

 Click here for the full recipe.

3. S'mores Cupcakes

 For the full recipe click here.

4. S'mores Cookie Bars

 For the full recipe click here.

5. S'mores Pops

For the full (and super easy/straightforward) recipe click here.

I'm definitely making these at some point in the near future.
And also very likely eating every single one before any guests arrive to sample them.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Save the Date Ideas

After agreeing that we would not begin planning anything right away and just enjoy being engaged, I have done nothing BUT plan.
It's a sickness, really.
I just love having parties to plan and this is the ultimate party. I can't help it so I've been doing my planning in secret.
I bought some bridal magazines which I've stashed at work and have already seen a number of great ideas I want to try and incorporate into my wedding.

But since we have been engaged for all of 6 days we have no idea where we will be getting married or when.
We know ideally we want to do it on a vineyard somewhere in the Niagra region so later on this summer we'll be heading in that direction to check out some of the possible venues.
The one's currently that I know do weddings include Chateau des charmes, Reif, East Dell (though I can't find a direct website for the winery for some reason), and I forget now what the others were.
Oh well.
Once we find a venue we can set a date and then I can get started on these save the date cards!

I had to check the etiquette but save the date cards usually go out about 4-6 months prior to the wedding.
And since we're looking at likely August or September 2012.... I won't be able to send them out until February at the earliest.
It'll give me time to perfect them!

So I found some cool ideas and I think I've choosen which one I want but here are my faves:

1. Photo Booth

 It looks hard to see but in the first picture they're holding a "SAVE" card, in the second a "THE", the third a "DATE" and in the last they're holding a card with the date on it. Very cute.


This is because I am a bookophile. Is that a new word? Possibly. I don't understand people who don't love getting lost in a good book.

3. Scratch and Reveal

This one is the winner. I think it'll take a few tries to perfect it as the reviews said sometimes when scratching the date comes off with it....hmmm. But I want to make these. They are cute and whimsical and fun AND on top of all of that they are an arts & crafts project!  
I've already saved the template and have my Michael's shopping list ready to go.

Now all I need is a date to put in!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I'm Getting Married!

Obviously not for a little while yet but John proposed and we are engaged!

 That picture was taken by my best friend Tracy (who is also planning her wedding) who came over on Thursday night with her fiance Tyler.
Fiance. What a word. I feel somewhat pretentious calling John my fiance but I'm sure I'll end up doing it a lot.

Tuesday is our 5 year anniversary so John took me out for dinner on Thursday night to celebrate. I start back to work on Monday and will be working til 8:45 Mon-Fri so we won't have a chance to go out for dinner on the actual day. We went to La Vecchia which is conveniently right around the corner and is arguably my favourite restaurant in the city. Definitely my favourite for Italian food. Afterwards we popped over to Metro to grab some groceries for the long weekend cottage trip and then we came home. John told me he had gotten me some anniversary gifts and that we would have some champagne on the balcony to celebrate. He told me to wait in the kitchen until he had it all set up so I stayed in there trying to kill time. Did the dishes.
When I went out he had set the balcony up with candles and had his laptop open. We popped the champagne and toasted to 5 years together. He told me he had created a photo album for our anniversary but because of the postal strike it hadn't arrived but luckily there was the online preview. I started tearing up at the first page! Little did I know...
The photo album was beautiful and had pictures from the places we had been and all of the things we had done together.
Then the last few pages said "Where shall we go next?" There was a slide of Peru, and a slide of Egypt.
The final slide said, "It won't matter where we go as long as you'll wear this..."
At which point he turned to me and I started bawling my eyes out only to stop myself quickly, having a panicky thought that maybe this wasn't what I assumed. Perhaps it was a travel backpack I'd be wearing.

He did the pre-ring talk, none of which I remember because my inner voice was saying "ohmygodohmygodmohmygodthisishappeningohmygodohmygod".
Then he got down on one knee, opened the ring box and asked me to marry him.
I didn't even look at the ring before saying yes and jumping into his arms! He had to ask me if I wanted to look at it haha.
It's beautiful, by the way:

Exactly what I wanted.
He and my sister did a fantastic job!
I've been starring at it all weekend.
The cottage was a blast and John's good friend brought up champagne for a toast.
A very thoughtful and wonderful friend.

I am bursting with happiness. I've known since roughly a month into our relationship that he was the person I was meant to spend my life with.
I love you, John, with every inch of my being and I cannot wait to marry you <3

So expect wedding stuff to start popping up on this blog!
I'm excited to go buy some bridal magazines to keep at work now!
Work can be a bit of a bore so I can start brainstorming!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!
There are too many wonderful things about this country to properly celebrate all of them. I love this country (though I still have yet to see more of it than select cities in Ontario and Quebec - sad, I know). 
Since I can't sum it all up properly, let this classic video say it for me.

This weekend I will be gone to a cottage to do some of this:

Mixed with a little of this:

And mostly a lot of this:

To the greatest country in the world, I say
Happy Birthday Canada.
Let's go enjoy the long weekend.