Deer + Almond Copycat ‘Beets & Oranges’ Salad

I’m so excited to share a salad recipe with you today! This Deer + Almond Copycat ‘Beets & Oranges’ Salad is so easy to make and it’s packed with nutrition. It is vegetarian friendly and is free of white refined sugar. The feta cheese can easily be omitted for a vegan option (in which case I would suggest sprinkling a little bit of sea salt on the salad).

I’ve been trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, and just fuel my body with healthier food in general. It seems a lot easier to eat salads if I change up the recipes frequently. For those of you who love salads, I hope you give this one a try and enjoy it as much as Kevin and I do.

Deer + Almond Copycat 'Beets & Oranges' Salad

Kevin and I went to a local restaurant called Deer + Almond about a month ago. His sister had given us a gift card from this place for Christmas, along with other fun date-night snack foods and movies. It’s probably pointless to mention how much I loved this gift. Seriously though! Movies + food = heaven for Erika.

I really enjoyed the food that we had at Deer + Almond. It is a slow food restaurant that serves tapas-style dishes. The food is meant to be shared with friends and family like you would at home. I would recommend all Winnipegers to check it out, if you haven’t already! I suppose, the rest of you will simply have to come up/down for a visit!

The truth is, I have never been the biggest fan of beets. However, I’m also kinda stubborn, and feel the need to like, or at least try all foods. For instance, when Kevin and I were in Thailand last summer, they were selling fried scorpions and tarantulas on the street. I simply couldn’t bring myself to try them. Now, most people probably would have been totally okay with not trying them. I, however, still can’t get over the fact that I didn’t try them. It feels like something I should have done at least once in my life!

Back to beets though. I have often “made” myself eat some (they are easier to eat than tarantulas after all!), with the hopes that one day I’ll like them. I have realized that I enjoy them more when they are steamed than if they are pickled. When we ordered the ‘Beets & Oranges’ salad at Deer + Almond, I really enjoyed it! Although, proportionally they added too many beets for my liking. If you love beets, however, you would probably disagree with me, and would have loved the salad just the way it was served. That’s the beauty of making this salad yourself! You get to choose how many beets you want to add! See, we all win!

Who knows how close my version of the ‘Beets & Oranges’ salad is to the original recipe, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s healthy and SO delicious! The ingredients that go into this salad are: green leaf lettuce, gala apples, oranges, steamed beets, crumbled feta cheese, chopped walnuts, sesame tahini, orange juice, lemon juice, and honey. That’s all! Scroll further down to see the recipe.

A few notes: 

This recipe makes two large lunch salads, or serves about four people as a side salad. If you are planning to take it to work, just layer the salad in a seal-able container in the following order: beets, lettuce, apples, oranges, feta, and walnuts. Store the dressing in a separate container. When you are ready to eat, simply drizzle the dressing over the salad, close the lid, give it a good shake, and eat it straight out of the container, or empty it out onto a plate.

To steam the beets, I used a double boiler steamer. Just add some water to the bottom pot, and place the beets in the steamer pot. Cover with a lid and steam for about 30 minutes or until the beets are tender when pierced with a fork. I didn’t peel the beets until after steaming them. Instead, I just ran them under cold water and used my fingers to rub the peel off. If the peel doesn’t want to come off, try using a sharp knife.

Substitutes: 

You could probably replace the feta cheese with “queso fresco”. Another alternative would be cottage cheese. Just make sure to rinse it off first, so that it’s not too wet, and add some sea salt, as feta cheese is a lot saltier than cottage cheese. Now, for those of you who do not have access to sesame tahini, you can either make it (video below) or try replacing it with a smooth peanuts-only peanut butter. You will still get that nutty flavor. 

Deer + Almond Copycat 'Beets & Oranges' Salad

Thank you for reading along. I really hope you enjoy eating this Deer + Almond Copycat ‘Beets & Oranges’ Salad as much as I enjoyed making, photographing, and eating it! Wishing you all a fabulous week!

Deer + Almond Copycat 'Beets & Oranges' Salad
Serves 4
A quick salad, packed with healthy nutrients!
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For the tahini dressing
  1. 1/4 cup sesame tahini
  2. 1 tbsp. liquid honey
  3. 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
  4. 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  5. water
For the salad
  1. 4-6 leaves of green leaf lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
  2. 2 oranges, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  3. 1 apple, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces
  4. 2-3 steamed beets, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  5. feta cheese, to taste
  6. chopped walnuts, to taste
Instructions
  1. Add all the tahini dressing ingredients to a small bowl. Mix well, adding water until it reaches the consistency of a creamy salad dressing.
  2. Place all the salad ingredients in a salad bowl. Drizzle the tahini dressing over the salad. Mix well using salad servers or salad tongs.
Sweet Blooming Roots http://www.sweetbloomingroots.com/

Travel Tuesday: Royal Tyrrell Museum (Drumheller, Alberta)

Ready to finish up the West Coast trip with one last post!? I sure am! That means I get to look through our Thailand pictures really soon and share them with you! 🙂 The Royal Tyrrell Museum isn’t actually in the West Coast, but I included it because it was still part of the same trip. The museum is located in Drumheller, Alberta.

Royal Tyrrell Museum

The terrain in this area of Alberta is really unique. You will come across what is called Alberta’s badlands. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the terrain, but here is a picture that I found online to give you an idea. This is where the dinosaurs used to live 70 million years ago. 

Royal Tyrrell Museum

All that is left behind of the dinosaurs that once used to live in this region, are their bones and fossils. Thankfully they left enough behind to give us a good idea of what they might have looked like. 

The Royal Tyrrell Museum is a really neat place to visit for all you dinosaur lovers! These creatures truly were magnificent! You will get to see lots of dinosaur sculptures that have been recreated based on a lot of research and all the evidence (real bones and fossils) that they have found. The museum is very informative and I would highly recommend it! Kids that are into dinosaurs would LOVE this place! Here are a couple more pictures:

Here is the Royal Tyrrell Museum website if you would like more information on what they offer.

Well that was short and sweet. This also concludes our West Coast trip. If you would like to see all the other places that we visited on this trip, click here. Thank you so much for reading along. But, I would also love to hear from you. What are some places that you have visited in Canada that you would recommend?

Orange Poppy Seed Bath Bombs

It’s FRIDAY!!!!! Hopefully by now everyone is getting settled in for a cozy night at home, or perhaps you have a really fun outing planned. My husband and I have a date night planned, and we’re hoping to hit up a new restaurant in the city. But before I get ready for that I wanted to share a very exciting post with you. Well, at least I’m very excited about it, because I have wanted to try making bath bombs FOREVER!

I know that bath bombs are nothing new and have been around for ages. That still doesn’t change the fact that I’m really excited that I finally made my very own. I followed this recipe, with a few changes, and it turned out really well. They have yet to dry for 24 hours before I get to used them. I’m also curious to see how the orange peel will dry. It probably would’ve been better to use already-dried orange peel, but I didn’t have any. I also didn’t have the patience or the time to dry the orange peel first.

DIY Bath Bombs

These bath bombs are actually very easy to make. The recipe made about 3 1/2 bath bombs (depending on the size of the mold, it might make 4). They are a perfect way to pamper yourself, and also make excellent home-made gifts. Oh, and the smell of the coconut oil mixed with the orange essential oil is heavenly!

Instructions:

To begin, you will need:

1 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup citric acid, 1/2 cup epsom salt, 1/2 cup corn starch, 1 tbsp. poppy seeds, red and yellow food colouring, 2 1/2 tbsp. melted coconut oil (or oil of your choice), 3/4 tbsp. water, 15 drops of orange essential oil, zest of two small oranges, extra poppy seeds, bath bomb mold, and a spray bottle filled with water.

Using a glass or plastic bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients, including the poppy seeds.

In a separate bowl, melt the coconut oil in the microwave. Add the water, essential oil, and food colouring, until you reach the desired colour (I did about 25 drops of yellow and 12 drops of red). Mix well.

Very slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients (about a teaspoon at a time), whisking in a quick motion. You want to prevent the mixture from activating.The mixture should stick together like wet sand if you squeeze it in your hand. If it doesn’t, it might need a little more water. I used a spray bottle filled with water to add a little more moisture from time to time.

Add some orange zest and some poppy seeds to the bottom of the mold.

Use a spoon to fill both halves of the mold. 

You want to top them with as much of the mixture as possible.

Firmly press the two halves together, and let it sit for about a minute. Gently tap the mold with a spoon, then gently pull the mold apart. If the halves don’t want to stick together, you might need to fill them slightly more, or you might need to moisten the mixture a little more.

Orange Poppy Seed Bath Bombs

Gently place the finished bath bombs on a plate and allow them to dry for 24 hrs before adding them to your hot bath. And that my friends, is honestly how simple it is to make your own bath bombs. Wait how much do they usually sell for? Either way, you just saved yourself some money! 😉

Orange Poppy Seed Bath Bombs

Orange Poppy Seed Bath Bombs
Yields 4
These bath bombs are a breeze to make, and are an excellent choice for a home-made gift.
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup baking soda
  2. 1/2 cup citric acid
  3. 1/2 cup epsom salt
  4. 1/2 cup corn starch
  5. 1 tbsp. poppy seeds
  6. red and yellow food colouring
  7. 2 1/2 tbsp. melted coconut oil (or oil of your choice)
  8. 3/4 tbsp. water
  9. 15 drops orange essential oil
  10. zest of two small oranges
  11. extra poppy seeds
  12. bath bomb mold
  13. spray bottle filled with water
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients, including the poppy seeds.
  2. In a separate bowl, melt the coconut oil in the microwave. Add the water, essential oil, and food colouring, until you reach the desired colour (I did about 25 drops of yellow and 12 drops of red). Mix well.
  3. Very slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients (about a teaspoon at a time), whisking in a quick motion. You want to prevent the mixture from activating.
  4. The mixture should stick together like wet sand if you squeeze it in your hand. If it doesn't, it might need a little more water. I used a spray bottle filled with water to add a little more moisture from time to time.
  5. Add some orange zest and some poppy seeds to the bottom of the mold.
  6. Use a spoon to fill both halves of the mold. You want to top them with as much of the mixture as possible. Then firmly press the two halves together, let it sit for about a minute. Gently tap the mold with a spoon, then gently remove the mold. If the halves don't want to stick together, you might need to fill them slightly more, or you might need to moisten the mixture a little more.
  7. Lay the finished bath bombs on a plate and allow them to dry for 24 hrs before adding them to your hot bath.
Notes
  1. I used an ornament ball from Michaels as a mold.
Adapted from Inspired by Charm
Adapted from Inspired by Charm
Sweet Blooming Roots http://www.sweetbloomingroots.com/

Don’t they just make you so happy!? Maybe it’s because they are the color of the sun, or maybe because they remind you that spring is hopefully near!

Orange Poppy Seed Bath Bombs

And now I am going to go and get ready for my date night! Stop distracting me already! 😉 Wishing you all a fabulous weekend!!

Vancouver Island: Ucluelet, Pacific Rim National Park, Tofino

Hello my lovely readers! It’s been a while since I last posted something on my blog. So it’s about time I get back to it. Today’s post is the second last post of our West Coast trip (2015), and the last post of Vancouver Island. I will specifically be writing about the different places that we visited in Ucluelet, Pacific Rim National Park, and Tofino (all located on Vancouver Island).

Amphitrite Point Lighthouse

amphitrite lighthouse

The first place we visited was the Amphitrite Lighthouse in Ucluelet. This place isn’t your typical beach with luscious, soft sand, but it is absolutely beautiful nonetheless. With a dark rich gray color, the coastal rocks really stand out against the blue ocean. We spent our time exploring the little creatures that the high tide had left behind, in the remaining small pools of water. 

We found some pretty cool creatures. For instance, the above starfish was in the process of eating the little guy living between the shells. Apparently starfish use their suction cups to pry open the shell, then they push their stomach out, and get inside the clam to eat the meat. Crazy things happen in nature! 

Close to the Amphitrite Lighthouse, there is a 10 km trail, called the Wild Pacific Trail. We only walked a short distance to see the coastline. 

Wickaninnish Beach

Wickaninnish Beach

We really enjoyed the view of this beach. We took our sandals off and went for a short walk. There were many people surfing the waves. I’m most definitely not comfortable enough in the water to go surfing. I’m sure it’s really fun once you know what you’re doing, and if you’re not scared of deep water (like me!).

Florencia Bay

Florencia Bay

Florencia Bay seems like the perfect beach for an evening bonfire or a cool family photo shoot! It takes some stairs to get down to the beach, but it’s definitely a beautiful view! We didn’t spend a lot of time at most of these places. It was more of a quick sight seeing kind of thing. 

Tonquin Trail Beach & Radar Hill

Tonquin Trail Beach

On this trail you’ll walk through old-growth forest and eventually you’ll arrive at Tonquin Beach. It feels like a little hidden treasure tucked away behind the walls of the forest. This is another amazing place to reflect and enjoy nature, either by yourself, your family and friends, or your pets! I remember one of the hikers had his dog along, who thoroughly enjoyed playing fetch and running in and out of the water.

Radar Hill

Radar Hill is basically what it sounds like. It’s a hill with a radar tower on it. There is parking really close by, and it just gives you more of a birds eye view of the surrounding area. If you’re in the area, you might as well stop by.

Jacks in Tofino

We very much enjoyed the fish and chips at Jacks (in the town of Tofino). We sat out on the patio by the docks.

Long Beach

Long Beach

Long beach is a stunning place! It’s a SUPER long beach, so there’s definitely room for lots of people! We went here a couple of times. We enjoyed the sand and throwing around a disc. I was in love with the fog in the distance. I’d love to do photo shoots here in the future!

Rain-forest Trail Loop B

Rainforest Trail Loop B

There are two rain-forest trails right next to each other. Loop A and loop B. What a super green and lovely walk it was! Kevin and I did loop B together, and then he did loop A on his own yet (while I relaxed in the car). 😉 

The plants were HUGE!!

So were the trees!

Rain-forest Trail Loop A

Rainforest Trail Loop A

Schooner Cove Trail and Beach

Schooner Cove Trail and Beach

Schooner Cove Trail and Beach is another nice nature outing! It’s a good combination of both forest and a beach. The beach here has sand, but also has plenty of rocky areas.

Leaving Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island Ferry Ride

These are just a couple of pictures of the beautiful sunset from the ferry ride, leaving Vancouver Island. It took me four travel posts to show you all the things we did on Vancouver Island! You can imagine how many more activities we didn’t even get to do. So if you ever decide to visit Vancouver Island, don’t be afraid! There will be plenty of things to do! 

Thank you for stopping by and reading along! 🙂

Travel Tuesday: More of Vancouver Island

After a break from our West Coast trip, let’s get back into it and talk a little more about Vancouver Island. Vancouver Island has so many great places to visit. So far I have posted about the Butchart Gardens and Victoria City. Today I want to show you a few of the stops that we made on our way to Pacific Rim National Park (still located on Vancouver Island). On a side note, this is the third last post about the West Coast. That means that very soon I will begin to blog about our trip to Thailand. 

The Kinsol Trestle Bridge

Kinsol Trestle Bridge

We visited the Kinsol Trestle Bridge, which is an old wooden railway bridge. It was a nice walk, and Kevin ended up exploring the surrounding area for a while, while I found a picnic table and dozed off on the bench. We were both happy.

The Kinsol Trestle (completed in 1920) crosses the Koksilah River, and measures 44 m (144 ft) high and 188 m (617 ft) long. With its large dimensions, it is one of the highest railway trestles in the world, and the largest wooden trestle in the Commonwealth of Nations. It was built to simplify the transportation of timber, when forestry became more popular on Vancouver Island.

Kinsol Trestle Bridge

A beautiful doe on Vancouver Island

We also saw a beautiful doe and her little fawn covered in little white spots.

Coombs Old Country Market

Old Country Market

The Old Country Market in Coomb was such a unique experience for me. I mean seriously people, real goats grazing on the roof of a market!? What is there not to love about that! First of all, I LOVE markets. Secondly, I LOVE animals. Now, someone really smart must’ve been like, why don’t we combine the two of them, and create a place that everyone will talk about! I definitely won’t be forgetting about this place any time soon! 

Little Qualicum Falls

Little Qualicum Falls

Little Qualicum Falls is the perfect stop for an easy, but longer hike, surrounded by so much greenery and a beautiful waterfall. I’m pretty sure this was also the place where we saw some guys jumping off of rocks into the water (not by the waterfall though). Now that is beyond my comfort zone, but I’m sure some of you might enjoy that!

Little Qualicum Falls

Little Qualicum Falls

Little Qualicum Falls

Little Qualicum Falls

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove is simply an astonishing place. This temperate rain-forest has such massive trees. It was amazing to see how resilient they are too. If a tree didn’t make it, then sometimes a new one had grown on top of what was left of the old tree.    

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

There was one tree (pictured above) called the Hollow Cedar. “All trees contain a dead central core known as the heartwood. The dried and decayed heartwood of this [particular] red cedar caught fire and smouldered for several days. Although cedar trees are not known for their resistance to fire, the living outer tissues of this tree were not severely damaged and it continues to live.”

“Native people often used fire to assist them in hollowing out large cedar trees for canoes. These dugout canoes… were capable of carrying 30 to 40 people!” (quotes taken from a sign in the park).

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

“The largest tree in the park is this giant Douglas-fir (pictured above). It is over 800 years old, 76 m tall and 9 m round. Douglas-fir is one of Canada’s oldest living tree species and can live to be over 1000 years old” (quote taken from a sign in the park). Also, to put it into perspective, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is 56 m tall. This is a fair bit shorter than this marvelous tree. Let’s face it. This tree is way cooler than any of us will ever be!

Cathedral Grove

This website contains a lot more interesting information about the history of Cathedral Grove, if you’re interested.  

Cathedral Grove

Thank you for joining us on our West Coast journey. Two more posts, and we’re done! What!? Hope your week has started off well!

At Home with Brad & Candice & Jesse

Here’s an “at home with” photo session that I shot a while ago. And I really mean a while ago. Back when I took these pictures this cute little stinker was beginning to dream about walking, but needed a lot of assistance still. Now he’s completely walking on his own! There was also no snow yet, when we took these pictures. Although, of course, we picked a super cold day, which was followed by a beautiful day! Doesn’t that always happen? All three of them were troopers though, and braved the cold weather for a couple of outdoor shots.

I’ve known Brad and Candice since Kevin and I started dating. We have enjoyed so many fun times as well as difficult times together, and we truly value their friendship. Come along Jesse and there’s even more excitement thrown into the mix. And my goodness, our dog Luna couldn’t agree more! She adores little Jesse! But really, what’s there not to love? Here’s a little glimpse into the lives of Brad, Candice, and Jesse. Thank you for letting me practice my photo shooting on you!

At Home with Brad & Candice & Jesse At Home with Brad & Candice & Jesse

Thank you for stopping by! -Erika

DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters

I tend to have bazillions of lists of crafts, projects, or recipes that I want to create. Out of those lists some things will be created and finished. Other projects won’t get that lucky. They will become half-finished projects, waiting to receive some love, so that they can come to life! Today’s DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters is one of those projects. I told myself this year, that I would push myself to finish some of the projects that have been left hanging for months.

Now that I have basically finished this project, I’m actually really excited to share it with you! Let me also point out that these DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters would make a super cute Valentine’s Day gift for your special someone, or any of your friends! Valentine’s Day is just around the corner after all! If you’re not really into V-day, that’s OK too. This would make a cute and inexpensive gift any time of the year! What else do you want!?

DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters

Two summers ago, we removed a pine tree from our front yard. It wasn’t a very healthy looking tree, and I felt that its shadow made our home even gloomier than it already was (and trust me, I love my sunshine!). Plus, the needles that it constantly shed had a high level of acidity, preventing anything from growing underneath it.  So we decided that it had to go.

Kevin climbed up a ladder and used a chain saw to cut it down. My job was to pull as hard as I could on a rope that had been tied to the tree. Oh, this was done to encourage the tree to fall in my general direction. Obviously we did it in a way so that it wasn’t supposed to fall on me. Or was that actually the plan? Kevin!?

The sad part was that I lost all the little friends that were living in that tree. The bark on the tree was so textured and bumpy, creating shapes that I imagined to look like faces. There was a cat face that was always staring at me while working on my lap top in the living room. Yeah, sometimes I am a little strange, and I’m OK with that. 

DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters

Speaking of being hit by trees, I do actually have a story of where I was barely spared. I used to work at a day care that was in the same building as the University that I attended. On this particular day we had taken the kiddos outside to play in the playground.

I was standing with my back leaned up against the building (this part of the building was a long narrow hallway, leading to the gym), when suddenly a tree branch came swinging over the roof and landed literally right in front of me! I was SO shocked, but luckily not hurt, since I had been standing right against the building.

The maintenance guys had been cutting off some large branches on the other side of the hallway, when I guess they lost control of where the branch was heading. They immediately came running our way though, to make sure that nobody was hurt.

DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters

OK, lets actually get to the point now. When we cut down the tree in our front yard, I had asked Kevin to cut a thick branch into thin discs for me. I knew I wanted to make either these DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters, or some kind of ornaments out of them. So I left them to dry in front of our house. They were resting here for a long time, along with some hopefully friendly spiders and their spider webs.

Eventually, when I thought they were dry enough, I took the nicest looking ones inside. Some of them had cracked or the bark was no longer intact. I later talked to a lady who is really good at this kind of wood work, and she said the trick to avoid cracking, is to dry the wood slowly. I would also recommend using a saw that actually cuts the wood smoothly. We just used a chain saw, which left the wood pretty jagged. So, if you want to know how to make these rustic wood coasters, continue reading mate!

DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters

DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters

You will need:

  • a thick branch (about 3 inches in diameter, or however large you want your coasters to be)
  • a chain saw or a hand saw
  • 60 grit sand paper
  • a pencil and an eraser
  • a wood burning kit (something like this)
  • a water-based, non-yellowing, satin clear wood finish (I got this kind, except an interior one)
  • obviously a mug filled with hot chocolate, tea, or coffee!!

DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters

Instructions:

  • Begin by sawing the branch into 1/4″-1/2″ discs (or desired thickness).
  • Allow the discs to dry slowly.
  • Sand the wood until you reach the desired smoothness. 
  • The pine tree wood was very porous (perhaps because it was cut with a chain saw?), so after sanding it I took some of the saw dust, and smoothed out the little holes with it, hoping that the sealer would hold it in (I avoided blowing away the dust).
  • Using a pencil, lightly write the words or design of your choice directly on the wood. 
  • When your wood burner is hot, using the instructions, slowly trace the outlined words.
  • Using the eraser, erase any pencil markings.
  • Finish off with four coats of the satin wood finish, following the instructions on the can. You could also opt for a glossy or semi-glossy finish, if you prefer more of a shine.

DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters

And that’s it! Your DIY Rustic Tree Branch Coasters are ready to be used! I have to admit my project isn’t FULLY done, as I still need to seal my coasters with the wood finish. I’m hoping the finish will seal in the loose saw dust that I filled the holes with. If not, they will still look great, just with a little more texture than I would have prefered. The reason why I didn’t finish, is because I wanted to post this project for you peeps today, and therefore didn’t have the required time to let it dry.

I hope you get creative the next time you find the perfect tree branch. Do you folks have any other tree branch craft ideas? I would love to hear from you! Enjoy your weekend!! 🙂

 

De Cuba, con amor

Hello my lovely readers! Today I will take a little bit of a break from our West Coast trip, and share some, or should I say A LOT of pictures from a recent trip to the beautiful Cuba. My mother-in-law, Helene, took us to Cuba for Christmas as a family (thank you so much!). Let me just say, I miss it so much already, and I would go back in a heart beat! Here are some pictures of our time spent in Cuba. But first, here is some Cuban music for you to listen to while you’re looking through the pictures. Enjoy!

Starfish Varadero Resort & Beach

We spent most of our time in Cuba at the resort relaxing, reading, soaking up the sun, riding the waves, eating, watching shows, dancing, sleeping… and repeat.

Cuba definitely has one of the most beautiful beaches that I’ve ever been to. The water is so clean with a vibrant aqua color, and the light colored sand is so soft. The setting sun always gave way to the ever soothing pastel colors. It was truly beautiful.  

We were really impressed with the evening shows. The dance performers were so incredibly gifted!

And food… well, fresh ripe papaya beats them all. I ate so much of it! Some other favorite foods of mine were the breaded fried fish, burgers, sea food paella, cookies, bread, and of course the piña coladas! We also enjoyed a special Christmas dinner, as well as a Cuban and Italian a la carte. 

Another highlight, coming from an animal lover, were the cats and dogs that we kept on seeing at the resort. They were clearly well socialized, as one of the cats jumped on Kevin’s lap, and the other one eventually joined in and got comfortable on my lap, as Kevin’s lap was already taken.

Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba Starfish Varadero Resort Cuba

My cousin (through marriage) Madeline designed and made this super comfy and cute dress for me just before leaving. Madeline is an amazing model, as well as a very gifted designer and seamstress. You can follow her on Instagram here, and see what she’s up to next. 🙂

Havana Cuba

We went on a one-day trip to Havana. Someone had recommended a Taxi driver that they knew to Helene ahead of time. Lisandro Hernandez and his driver Geyder ended up picking us up in a beautiful old car. I loved this experience so much! The smell of the car somehow reminded me of the smell of my grandparents’ old car. 

We stopped at the bridge of Bacunayagua, which is the highest bridge in Cuba (110m above the valley). What a beautiful stop! From there we continued on to the city of Havana. Lisandro and Geyder took us to some iconic places, such as the John Lennon Park, the Che Guevara Revolution Square, the National Capitol building, the Great Theater of Havana, El Floridita fish restaurant and cocktail bar, the Almacenes San José artisans’ market, and La Casa del Café store.

I was absolutely smitten with the old cars and old buildings, not to mention how colorful everything was! I could photograph in this city forever! 

By the way, if anyone is planning on going to Cuba and you need a taxi driver, I would highly, highly recommend Lisandro Hernandez and his team. It was a pleasure to spend the day with them. Not only did we get a ride in an epic car, they were also very informative, and fun to hang out with. I have his contact information if you wish to contact him in advance to make plans (comment below if you’re interested in more information). 

Bacunayagua Bridge (above)

John Lennon Park (above)

Che Guevara (above)

Revolution Square Cuba (above)

The National Capital building (above)

The Great Theater of Havana (above)

Ernest Hemingway eavesdropping on the customers at El Floridita fish restaurant and cocktail bar (above)

The Almacenes San José artisans’ market (above)

La Casa del Café (above)

Lisandro Hernandez and Geyder standing in front of our awesome ride (above)

Here’s another Cuban song for you to listen to:

Ecological Reserve in Varadero

A double decker bus comes by the resort every half hour. We got on board and toured the surrounding resorts and then went to Varadero’s Ecological Reserve. We enjoyed a short hike through the jungle. The jungle was very different from what I would have imagined. First of all, there are no dangerous animals in Cuba, even though it is in a tropical climate. Secondly, never did I expect to see cacti growing in the jungle. These were no average cacti, however. They were huge, and with age they seemed to lose their needles, and grow a thicker skin, like tree bark.

The rock was very porous at this location, meaning that you had to watch where you were walking, as some holes looked pretty deep.

We also saw huge termite nests bulging out of the trees, we found some snake skin that had been shed, and we saw so many air plants, growing in their natural habitat. But perhaps the coolest experience of all was the cave that we went into. The entrance was very low to the ground, so we had to crouch quite low in order to get in. Inside we met many cute bats hanging off the rocks. They were so tiny and cute, cuddling up to their buddies. I doubt they thought the same about us, as we were disturbing their sleep.

Varadero Town Centre

We very briefly went to the town of Varadero. We mainly went to the market, and explored the streets a little. I’m sure there are great restaurants to eat at, and other fun things to do here as well.

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading along!! 🙂

 

Credits: The cute green dress (pictured further above) was made my Madeline

Photo credits: If I’m in the picture, it was taken either by Kevin or Melanie

Travel Tuesday: Victoria City, British Columbia

Good evening my lovely readers! Today I’d like to show you the rest of our pictures from Victoria City, British Columbia. For those of you who might be new to this blog, I try to post a new travel post once a week. Currently, I’m sharing about our 2015 Canadian West Coast travels. If you are interested in seeing more travel posts like this one, click here

Victoria City, British Columbia

 

The Bug Z00

One of our memorable stops in Victoria City was the Bug Zoo. I should also warn you to not look at the next few pictures if you’re not a fan of spiders or bugs. I have to say though, I’m super proud of myself for actually pulling myself together enough to hold a living scorpion in my hands!

Another favorite was their large ant colony. It’s amazing to see how hard working ants are. Ants have a designated area where they bring all the dead ants. The healthy ants that bring them there, won’t return, in case they should now also carry a disease. This is to protect the colony.

The following pictures show some of the creatures that we saw at the Bug Zoo. 

The Bug Zoo in Victoria City
Tarantula
The Bug Zoo in Victoria City
Scorpion
The Bug Zoo in Victoria City
Black Widow
The Bug Zoo in Victoria City
Ant Colony
The Bug Zoo in Victoria City
Butterfly collection at Victoria’s Bug Zoo

The Bug Zoo in Victoria City

The Bug Zoo in Victoria City

The Bug Zoo in Victoria City

The Bug Zoo in Victoria City

The Bug Zoo in Victoria City

 

About Victoria City

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City is a charming city with a combination of old and new buildings, beautiful gardens, a harbor filled with small boats, and many local shops and restaurants to visit. Here are some more facts about the city (taken from Wikipedia):

  • Victoria City was named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.
  • The British started settling in 1843, making it one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Many historic buildings remain, of which two of the most popular ones are the Legislative Building and the Empress Hotel.
  • Victoria city’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America.
  • The Coast Salish First Nations peoples were established in this region possibly a few thousand years before the British started settling.
  • Victoria is nicknamed “The Garden City”
  • Population in 2011 was 80,032

The following pictures were taken on our stroll around the inner harbor. We saw the old Empress Hotel, the Legislative Building, some cool sculptures, and of course some beautifully planted gardens.

Victoria City, British Columbia
Inner Harbor of Victoria City
Victoria City, British Columbia
The Empress Hotel
Victoria City, British Columbia
The Legislative Building
Victoria City, British Columbia
The Empress Hotel

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia
Queen Victoria
Victoria City, British Columbia
The Legislative Building

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

 

Beacon Hill Park

Victoria City, British Columbia

Beacon Hill Park is the perfect stop after a lot of driving. It gives you the opportunity to stretch out your legs while being surrounded by greenery, flowers, and wildlife. It is also a great location for a picnic. 

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia
Wildlife at Beacon Hill Park

Victoria City, British Columbia

 

Fiamo Italian Kitchen

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Victoria City, British Columbia

We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Fiamo Italian Kitchen. I would highly recommend this place. I absolutely loved the design of this restaurant. It was so cozy, yet edgy. Oh, and the Chicken Parmesan is to die for!

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

To end the day, we briefly drove to the Craigdarroch Castle. We also saw some churches, but from the outside only, as they were already closed for the day. We then returned to the Legislative Building and the Inner Harbor to see all the buildings lit up at night.

Victoria City, British Columbia
The Legislative Building lit-up at night.
Victoria City, British Columbia
The Empress Hotel lit-up at night.
Victoria City, British Columbia
The Inner Harbor lit-up at night.

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

 

Unsuccessful Whale Watching

Victoria City, British Columbia
Bald Eagle

Early the following day, we drove into the city to do some whale watching with Orca Spirit Adventures. We were on the restless ocean for nearly three hours, bouncing along in the Zodiac boat. It got so bumpy at times that landing kind of hurt. On this excursion we saw a bald eagle and its nest, as well as some sea lions. To our great disappointment the tour ended without seeing any killer whales. The great news is, Orca Spirit Adventures offered a free tour if we ever were to return in the future.

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

After being super bummed about not getting to see any killer whales, we enjoyed some macarons from Bon Macaron Patisserie. It was our first time trying this french delicacy, and we definitely enjoyed them!

 

Hatley Castle

Victoria City, British Columbia

We continued on to Hatley Castle, and prepared a quick lunch in the parking lot. Now what makes this castle super cool, is the fact that it was used in the X-men series. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the inside, because of ongoing classes. Yeah, it seemed to be our bad luck day. We did, however, get to see a beautiful peacock on the castle grounds, as well as some gorgeous gardening, and of course the castle from the outside.

Victoria City, British Columbia
Hatley Castle, used in the X-men series

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia

 

Successful Whale Watching

To leave you on a positive note, after visiting some other places, we planned it into our schedule to return to Victoria. We knew that if we didn’t return on this trip, it would be a long time before we would ever go back. Of course, we also desperately wanted to see some killer whales. So, naturally the following pictures are actually from a later time of our trip, but I decided to include them now, as they are related to Victoria.

Victoria City, British Columbia

Victoria City, British Columbia
Killer Whale or Orca

We were lucky this time and definitely got to see some killer whales. There were very strict regulations in place, which didn’t allow us to get very close to the whales, unless if they came our way. This was for their protection. We were pretty excited to find out that our tour guide was mentored by the man that trained and also released Free Willy.

Victoria City, British Columbia
Victoria City from the distance.

Thank you for reading along! Wishing you all a fabulous week!! 🙂

Sweet Potato Breakfast Pie

This Sweet Potato Breakfast Pie recipe that I have for you today, makes for a perfect brunch on a cold fall/winter day. It takes a little longer to make, but will be well worth it when you sit down, wrapped up in a cozy blanket, and eat while watching your favorite TV-show.

Now look at what I’ve done! All I’m craving now is a lazy Saturday morning, where I can do just that. Actually, that’s not true at all. I’m definitely also craving pizza, tacos, tortas ahogadas, that delicious layered Mexican-dip that my friend served today…   

Sweet Potato Breakfast Pie

The ingredients that are paired in this Sweet Potato Breakfast Pie recipe, might sounds like a strange combination, but I think they work really well together. Bacon tastes great with syrup, eggs taste really good with sweet potatoes and bacon, and sweet potatoes taste so good with coconut oil, bacon and cinnamon! So, why the heck not throw all these ingredients together, and make a pie out of them while we’re at it!?

Sweet Potato Breakfast Pie

I have grown to absolutely love sweet potatoes over the last years! Whenever my mom makes a meal with baked potatoes at home, she always adds one or two sweet potatoes to the mix. These are always for herself. Of course, she is more than happy to share them, but the rest of us usually go for the regular potatoes. I think I am now beginning to follow in my mom’s footsteps with loving the rich flavor and texture of sweet potatoes (and my puppy loves them too!). I’m also enjoying exploring the different possible flavors that pair well with sweet potatoes. 

Sweet Potato Breakfast Pie

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I hope you make a cozy brunch this weekend, and stay warm, as it is getting colder in Winnipeg. At the very least, may your weekend be filled with the warmth of love and friendship. Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog posts. It means the world to me. I would also love to hear from you some times! What are some of your favorite sweet potato dishes?

Sweet Potato Breakfast Pie
Serves 4
This sweet potato pie makes a filling and nutritious fall brunch, and is incredibly delicious!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 medium-sized sweet potato
  2. 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  3. 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  4. 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  5. 2 Tbsp. bacon bits
  6. Sea salt and pepper to taste
  7. 1/4 cup candied-cashews, crushed
  8. 4 eggs
  9. 6 oz. flour
  10. 3-4 oz. tenderflake lard (frozen)
  11. 1-2 oz. ice water
  12. 1/4 tsp. salt
  13. Sriracha sauce
  14. Fresh basil leaves
Crust
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and the lard, using a pastry blender. You want to achieve a chunky mixture.
  2. Add the ice water gradually and mix gently, just until combined. The trick is to not over-mix the dough.
  3. Form the dough into a round disc, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it sit in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes.
Filling
  1. While the dough is sitting in the refrigerator, prepare the pie filling.
  2. Peel and cut the sweet potato in quarters (lengthwise), then slice thinly.
  3. Melt the coconut oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Add the sliced sweet potatos and fry until slightly browned, but not too soft. Turn down the heat to medium-low.
  4. Add the pure maple syrup, cinnamon, bacon bits, sea salt, and the pepper. Fry for an additional minute, then set aside.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a 13-14 inch circle.
  3. Gently lift and place the rolled out dough into a seasoned 9-inch cast-iron pan (or any pie plate). Trim overhanging dough (you may use the extra dough to create decorative toppers for the pie).
  4. Sprinkle the pie crust with the crushed candied-cashews, then add the sweet potato pie filling.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes.
  6. Lower the heat to 350° F.
  7. Take out the pie and create 4 caves in the pie filling. Crack an egg into each cave.
  8. Place it back into the oven, and bake for an additional 15-17 minutes, or until eggs are done to your liking.
  9. Garnish with sriracha sauce and fresh basil leaves.
Sweet Blooming Roots http://www.sweetbloomingroots.com/