Rachel & Allison’s Moving Away Photo Session

I had the privilege of doing a photo session with Rachel and Allison a little while ago. They just recently moved away from good ol’ Winnipeg, and they had this cute idea to do some moving-away themed pictures. In addition, they also brought some other thoughtful props, like a picture from when they first met, letters that they had written to each other, and I believe also their wedding vows. 

I got to know Rachel at work, and I always really enjoyed her easy going, down to earth, and non-judging nature. So, naturally it was also nice to meet Allison. I appreciated her genuine effort to get to know the person behind the camera, asking questions about my background and finding connections to each other. I’m sure we could have found a lot more to talk about yet!

Rachel and Allison, you made it easy for me to capture the love you have for each other. I wanted to capture genuine moments from an outsider’s perspective, and you gave me just that! I hope you will encounter many new great adventures in your new home.

Winnipeg Photographer

Winnipeg Photographer

Photo Session

Winnipeg Photo Session

Fall Photo Session with Melinda

I have been working on this fall photo session for a while, and I’m really excited to finally share it! My friend Melinda and I went to the Kilcona Off-Leash Dog Park this past November to catch the last fall vibes. We couldn’t have hoped for better weather! Melinda is a friend that I know from Mexico (ever since Kindergarten, to be exact!). She has been living in Manitoba, so it has been really nice to have the chance to reconnect. I truly enjoyed our time together, and Melinda was a breeze to photograph!

Naturally, when we spend time together, I am reminded of lots of memories that we share. We went through a mega Britney Spears phase together, dressing up and imitating her dance moves (I know, we were SUPER cool that way!) 😉

One time we were playing that we were nurses, and we were at home all alone, when someone started knocking on our front door like there was no tomorrow, followed by desperately ringing our door bell, moving on to our garage door and testing if it was open… needles to say we were scared to death. To this day I’m not sure who it was, although I have a good idea.

Another time we had gone along with my mom in our long Mercury Grand Marquis car (which I always made fun of because it was as long as the Titanic). It had rained and suddenly our car was hydroplaning. Of course this was not a great situation to be in and thankfully my mom saved the whole situation by getting the car under control once again. What did Melinda and I do next? Yes, we just started laughing and laughing… You guessed it, my mom was surely not impressed with us.

I won’t give away the rest of our stories. But before I show you the pictures of my gorgeous friend Melinda, I have to mention how contagious her laughter is. I’m sure you could hear it from quite far away. Thank you for letting me take your pictures Melis!

 

Winnipeg Photographer

Fall Photo Session

Fall Photo Session

   Winnipeg Photographer

Winnipeg Photographer

Winnipeg Photographer

Winnipeg Photographer

Winnipeg Photographer

Fall Photo Session

  

  

  

Winnipeg Photographer

Winnipeg Photographer

Fall Photo Session

  Winnipeg Photographer

  

Winnipeg Photographer

Southeast Asia Travel Diaries: Bangkok, Thailand

Let the Southeast Asia Travel Diaries begin! You guys, I’m so excited that I finally get to tell you about our trip! Now, for those of you who might be new to this blog, I should begin by mentioning that in the summer of 2016, my husband and I traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam for a whole month. I’ve been patiently waiting to share these pictures with you!

By now, you have probably gotten quite used to Travel Tuesdays. Instead of Travel Tuesdays, I’m going to be starting a new series called Southeast Asia Travel Diaries. I will be writing these posts in a diary sort of style, recounting what we did for a whole month. I will also try to be informative for those of you who are hoping to travel to these locations in the future. I won’t be recounting exactly day by day all the time. The reason being, sometimes we came back to the same place later on. For example, because the flights made more sense, and were cheaper, we continued flying back into Bangkok. This means we were in Bangkok a few times. I will try to just write about everything we did in Bangkok once, regardless of when it happened during our trip. You get the point!

You Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand. Now what?

On July 13th, 2016 Kevin and I embarked on our biggest and craziest adventure yet. After being dropped off at the airport by my mother-in-law and saying goodbye to our dog Luna, our flights took us from Winnipeg, to Vancouver, to Shanghai, China, to Bangkok, Thailand. 33 hours (due to some delays) and swollen feet later, we finally arrived at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Aiport. By this time it was already 3:00 am Bangkok time. Kevin had booked our first night at Plai Garden Hotel, and after calling them from the airport, they picked us up with their hotel shuttle van (included). I would highly recommend booking at least the first night in advance and making sure that the hotel has a shuttle system included. You will be completely exhausted when you arrive, and you don’t want to deal with having to find a hotel. 

When we arrived at the hotel, I was so hungry that I insisted we get some snacks from a 7 eleven that we had seen earlier. Yes, there are 7 elevens everywhere in Thailand! We left our room (there were so many cute geckos in the hotel’s hallway!) and went for a short and warm stroll to the 7 eleven. It felt unsettling to walk in the dark in a completely new neighborhood that we didn’t know at all. I’m sure it was completely safe, but it’s always nicer to arrive somewhere new when it’s still light out. But, we got some snacks, and that’s all that matters! 

Transportation

After sleeping in a comfortable bed… let me just pause here for a second. It’s worth mentioning that it was a comfortable bed, because a lot of the beds on our trip were really hard. Mind you, we didn’t stay at expensive places. Neither would I change the experience if we were to go back. It’s just a heads up, I suppose.

Right. After sleeping in a comfortable bed and enjoying a delicious stir-fry for breakfast, we took the shuttle back to the airport. From the airport, we took the Airport Rail Link to Bangkok’s city center Phaya Thai. By now, I was so hot that I couldn’t resist getting a cold strawberry green tea before taking a Tuk-Tuk (I will explain what a Tuk-Tuk is later on) to Khao San Road.

How to Plan Your Time

When we arrived at Khao San Road, people were helpful from every angle. We ended up letting another Tuk Tuk take us to a tourist center. I would recommend this. Kevin planned most of our trip before leaving, so we already had a good idea of the things that we wanted to see and do. At the tourist center a man helped us plan our next few days, after telling him what we were interested in seeing. They had different tour packages. Although we aren’t too big into tours and prefer doing most things on our own, we found that some places were just easier to access if you joined a tour. I’m not saying that there is no way around this, but it would also mean that you have to spent more time planning and trying to find places on your own. I enjoyed doing most things on our own, and then meeting some new people along the way on tours. 

11 Things to See and Do

1. Get a Ride in a Tuk-Tuk

This is an absolute must! A Tuk-Tuk is a three-wheeled motored taxi with room for two or more people (depending on the size of the Tuk-Tuk). Not only will you love feeling a bit of a breeze, but it is also quite the adventure getting a ride in one of these. The level of craziness and adventure all depends on the driver. It’s pretty thrilling! The driving in Thailand is completely different from the driving in Canada. Vehicles, scooters, and Tuk-Tuks are all trying to squeeze their way to the front of the line. Naturally, the scooters are the smallest, so they all gather at the front of the line. You will see a whole family squeezed onto a scooter, sometimes even a dog, and everyone seems completely comfortable. The next scooter will be mounted as high as possible with supplies. Everyone is honking letting you know that they are passing you, or that you are in the way. It’s quite the frenzy! I just love seeing how things are done differently in different parts of the world!

Bangkok, Thailand
The famous colourful Tuk-Tuk

When taking a Tuk-Tuk, you want to make sure that your luggage is on the floor, or that you are holding on to your bags. You don’t want to hold them facing towards the outside, as other scooters might drive by, grab your bags, and take off. Again, this never happened to us, but there were always signs in the Tuk-Tuks warning us. Some Tuk-Tuks have a protective net, preventing people to have quick access. Here are some other great tips for taking a Tuk-Tuk. But otherwise, seriously, just enjoy the ride! Worry less! It’s a blast!

2. Democracy Monument

After getting settled in at the guest house that we were staying at, we went exploring by foot. The sun was hanging fairly low in the sky already, but we wanted to get some sight seeing done. I remember how swollen my feet were from the long flight. I didn’t wear compression socks, and that is something I’d tell my future self (and anyone planning a long flight) to do differently. Anyhow…

Bangkok, Thailand

The first place we walked to was the Democracy Monument. According to Lonely Planet, “The Democracy Monument is the focal point of the grand, European-style boulevard that is Th Ratchadamnoen Klang. As the name suggests, it was erected to commemorate Thailand’s momentous transformation from absolute to constitutional monarchy. It was designed by Thai architect Mew Aphaiwong and the relief sculptures were created by Italian Corrado Feroci.”

3. Wat Suthat

Our next stop was the Wat Suthat. The word “Wat” means temple. I remember how the temples would often glisten in the dark if light was shining on them. They were covered in mirror-like mosaics. It was so beautiful and the details were incredible!   

Bangkok, Thailand

The Wat Suthat “is one of the oldest and most impressive temples in Bangkok. It features an elegant chapel with sweeping roof, magnificent wall murals and exquisite hand-carved teakwood door panels. The temple’s construction was commissioned by King Rama I (1782-1809), to shelter the 13th Century bronze Buddha image transported by boat from Sukhotai, but it was finally completed during King Rama III’s reign (1824-51).”

Bangkok, Thailand

4. The Giant Swing at Wat Suthat

Bangkok, Thailand

The Giant Swing is located next to the Wat Suthat, and stands at 21.15 meters tall. “In the past, during the Brahmin ‘thanksgiving’ ceremony celebrated every year after the main rice harvest in mid-December, young men would ride the swing high in the air, suspended 24 meters from the ground when in full swing, and try to grab a bag of silver coins with their teeth. Some fairly severe injuries and a few deaths led to the dangerous swing ceremony’s discontinuation in 1932.”

5. Take a Stroll Down Khao San Road at Night

Khao San Road comes to life at night. Your senses will surely be awakened. Colliding smells of delicious food, incense, sewage, and perfumes, along with loud music, shops, bright lit up signs, loud crowds, and massage places everywhere! Need I say more? You wouldn’t believe how different it looks from the day-time Khao San Road. When our tour van stopped in this same street the very next day, I remember arguing with Kevin about it being a different street. I could hardly believe that it could be the same street. All the kiosks had closed down, all the doors were shut, and it was dead silent.

Khao San Road is the perfect place to do some shopping. We bought some temple pants, and I bought a watch. We also made sure to try some of the fresh fruit. If you don’t buy anything here, that’s totally fine. You will find that you will see countless shops on this trip, and all of them sell basically the same things! If you find something that you adore, however, you might not want to pass the opportunity.

6. Wat Ratchabophit

Bangkok, Thailand

“The [Ratchabophit] temple was commissioned by Rama V late in the nineteenth century. The temple’s unique design has the large wiharn (prayer hall) and ubosot (ordination hall) linked by a circular courtyard. In most Thai temples, the ubosot sits on its own in a square courtyard. In the center of Wat Ratchabophit’s courtyard, between the ubosot and the wiharn, is a large gilded chedi (pagoda) containing a seated Lopburi-style Buddha image. The outside of the buildings are decorated with hand-painted glazed tiles similar to Thai benjarong enamels. The door and window frames are elaborately decorated with gold and mirrors” (quoted from this website).

All the details in this temple were simply astonishing. I can’t even begin to imagine how many hours of work went into it! I mean think about it! Hand painted tiles!?

7. Wat Ratchapradit

“Located to the north of Suan Saranrom and built by King Rama IV in 1864, Wat Ratchapradit is a relatively small Buddhist temple covering a total area of approximately 2 rai. Also known as Wat Rajapradit, this temple was built for the monks of the Dhammayutika sect.” 

The inside of this temple had dark and rich colours, with detailed paintings all over its walls. The chandeliers complimented the dark red ceiling with its golden rosettes. 

8. Wat Pho

Bangkok, Thailand

From far away this temple looks amazing! It looks textured, colourful, and has really fun shapes. You only come to fully appreciate it though, when you see it from close up. The picture below shows how detailed the tile work really is! It is covered in beautiful flowers that actually pop out!

You can probably spend a few hours at this location! It is huge and there are so many things to see! Here is a very informative website about the Wat Pho, if you are interested in more details.

The mirror tile mosaics were incredibly shimmery in the bright sunlight. Some parts had been redone recently, and they were particularly shiny!

The top part of the Scripture Hall

A group of four tall pagodas

Each one of these pagodas is 42 meters high!

Buddha image in the hall for sermons

The Scripture Hall

Close up details of the tiles

Phuang Malai

These floral garlands were everywhere! Some were very simple, and others had amazing designs, but they were all made out of real flowers. In Thailand they are known as Phuang Malai. “They are placed as offerings on shrines, temples or are given to special guests as a sign of respect.”

This Buddha image (Phra Buddha Theva Patimakorn) is found in the Assembly Hall. 

Assembly Hall

The Reclining Buddha

The Reclining or Sleeping Buddha was definitely a highlight! The image of this Buddha is actually named Phra Phuttha Saiyat, and was built in 1832 during the reign of King Rama III. It is 46 meters long and 15 meters high. In this image the Buddha is passing into final Nirvana after death.

In many temples you will be asked to take your shoes off, wear long pants, and have your shoulders covered before entering. I would suggest either bringing a shawl from home, or simply buying one once you arrive in Thailand. Some temples, like this one, actually provided coverings (that is not the case in most temples though). I also bought some temple pants along the way.

The back of the Reclining Buddha’s head
The Reclining Buddha’s feet

I wish you could see the Reclining Buddha’s feet from up close! They shimmer like the colours of the rainbow. This is because they are inlaid with mother of pearl. They did this in exactly 108 segments, showing the 108 characteristics of the Buddha.  

Phuang Malai

9. Wat Arun

“The Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. Despite the name, the most spectacular view of the glittering monument can be seen from the east side of the river at sunset, when the spires of Wat Arun make an impressive silhouette against the skyline. This Wat or Buddhist temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. In the mythology of Tibetan Buddhism, Mount Meru is a place that simultaneously represents the center of the universe and the single-pointedness of mind sought by adepts. Thousands of miles in height, Meru is located somewhere beyond the physical plane of reality, in a realm of perfection and transcendence. The four-corner prang of Wat Arun, which house images of the guardian gods of the four directions, reinforces this mystical symbolism.”

Unfortunately the main pagoda at the Wat Arun was under construction when we visited. I was quite disappointed about this, simply because it is beautiful and enormous and we were looking forward to seeing it! However, I understand that these old structures need to be maintained for them to be enjoyed by future generations. Here and here are some better pictures that I found on google images.

Even though the main temple didn’t look the way we had imagined, we still really enjoyed seeing the rest of the charming yard. I should also mention that we had to cross the Chao Phraya River by boat to get here.

This cat looks healthy and well fed. The reality though is that there were SO many cats and kittens not far away from this specific cat that were incredibly thin and hungry. A lady was feeding the tiniest one, and all the other cats were gathering around. I was completely moved to tears, because I love animals so much. It killed me to know that I couldn’t help or save any of them. There was one little kitten in particular that was so thin, and yet it was playful, just the way kittens always are! 

10. The Pink Elephants Statue

These pink cheerful elephants are located right next to the Grand Palace. Make sure you snap a few pictures of them!

11. The Grand Palace and the Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

“For just about 150 years, Bangkok’s Grand Palace was not only the home of the King and his court, but also the entire administrative seat of government. Within the crenelated walls were the country’s war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Thai Kings stopped living in the palace full time around the turn of the twentieth century, but the complex remains the seat of power and spiritual heart of the Thai kingdom.”

The first time that we wanted to visit the Grand Palace we weren’t allowed in as tourists, because it was the King’s birthday. We returned later on in our trip, because we really wanted to see it. This time we had luck.

There is a lot to see here, so make sure you set aside a good amount of time. Here is a website that shows the layout of the palace complex, for those of you interested.

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. Located in the historic centre of Bangkok, within the grounds of the Grand Palace, it enshrines Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), the highly revered Buddha image meticulously carved from a single block of jade. The Emerald Buddha (Phra Putta Maha Mani Ratana Patimakorn) is a Buddha image in the meditating position in the style of the Lanna school of the north, dating from the 15th century AD. Raised high on a series of platforms, no one is allowed near the Emerald Buddha except HM the King. A seasonal cloak, changed three times a year to correspond to the summer, winter, and rainy season covers the statue. A very important ritual, the changing of the robes is performed only by the King to bring good fortune to the country during each season. The temple of  Emerald Buddha is beautifully decorated and has a great sense of peace about it.”

Here is a picture and some more information on the Emerald Buddha found in the temple. 

Funny story, and something to be aware of. Don’t buy anything from the people right outside of the Grand Palace, if they claim you have to have your shoulders covered and won’t be allowed in otherwise. It is absolutely true that you have to be dressed very modestly if you want to enter. However, make sure you check at the entrance first, as to whether or not they provide coverings. On this given day I hadn’t brought anything along to cover my shoulders, and so I fell for it, and ended up buying a shirt I probably wouldn’t have bought otherwise. As we were approaching the Grand Palace entrance point, there were loud speakers warning tourists of exactly what had just happened to me, but at that point it was just a little too late. Oh well. I do actually still have this shirt. 😉

A most beautiful and detailed mural in the Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

WATCH OUT FOR SCAM TOURS!!

As frustrating as this incident was, it kinda makes for a funny story to tell. Our plan was to visit the Grand Palace. We were told that only Thai people were allowed in on that specific day, since it was the King’s birthday. We were disappointed, but eventually decided we were going to come back at a later time during our trip (which as you see above, we ended up doing). 

We met a man on the street, standing behind a booth, who told us he had another cheap Tuk-Tuk tour that he could offer us, since the Grand Palace was closed to tourists. Kevin didn’t feel convinced about it, but I suppose I trusted him. Before we knew it we had hopped into a colorful Tuk-Tuk and were taken to some location that was supposed to be special. It really didn’t look very impressive. We even got to pose with a Buddha backdrop, ha ha.

Next, they took us to a cashmere store. We walked in, and knew we didn’t want a suit or shirt made for Kevin, so we left soon after. When we walked back to our driver, he was really frustrated with us. He told us we had to shop for at least 15-20 minutes, or else he wasn’t going to receive his gas coupon. He then said we’d give it another try. He dropped us off at another cashmere store, reminding us to shop longer. Kevin and I walk in, sat down, and since we had no other choice, we pretended to be interested in the fabrics. We tried to stall time by taking a while to pick the right color, etc. When we finally thought that we had “shopped” long enough, we left. To this day we’re not sure if he got his gas coupon, but at that point all we wanted was to be dropped off back at the Grand Palace, which he then agreed to do. So yeah, beware of scam tours. But if worst comes to worst, you have a funny story to tell. 

What to Eat

Since it was SO hot and humid, I found that most of the time I was more thirsty than hungry. Fruity, cold, and sweet things were more appealing than hot and savory dishes for the same reason. Obviously you’ll need something more filling at times, and the savory food is so delicious that you wouldn’t want to miss out on it!

There is plenty of food to pick from on Khao San Road. Everything from fruit, snacks, and savory dishes, to fried scorpions and tarantulas! I never pulled myself together enough to try the latter. I wish I had though! I hate feeling defeated after really wishing I would have the nerve to do something out of the ordinary, and ultimately deciding that I simply can’t. So if any of you ever go to Khao San Road, perhaps you can eat a scorpion or two for me! 😉

Ultimately, we decided to find a small sit-down restaurant. Unfortunately, I forget the name of it. Something that I loved about the restaurants on our trip in general, was that they always had a menu at the entrance. This way you were able to see what kind of food different restaurants offered before committing to one.

Kevin’s dinner came in a huge pineapple!

We were surrounded by the chatter and laughter of lots of people, waving flags, interesting trees, neon lights, loud music, and delicious food!

Since I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, try finding the deep-fried chicken with orange sauce on one of the menus. It was delicious!  

You don’t really have to worry about finding a place to eat in Bangkok. There is food everywhere! Some of the food is quite spicy, but it’s so delicious! I realized that overall Kevin was more willing to explore different foods than I was. Once I knew that I loved a certain thing, I wanted to eat it again, and again. Some of the Thai foods that we tried and enjoyed in Bangkok were mango and sticky rice, passion fruit juice, fresh watermelon, mango, and pineapple, Lod Chong (green noodle dessert drink), chicken, spring rolls, etc. 

Where to Stay

If you are arriving at the Suvarnabhumi Aiport late at night, I would recommend staying at a hotel close to the airport. As mentioned above, we stayed at Plai Garden Guesthouse. I was very happy with the stay. It was very simple, but the bed was soft, and the room had air conditioning. They picked us up and brought us back to the airport in their shuttle (included). They also had a food menu (not included), which we took advantage of before going on the next day.

In Bangkok we stayed at Boworn BB Guest House. This hotel is really close to many sight-seeing places. Quoting my journal, “the bed was hard like a brick!”, but I would still recommend this place. I think it’s part of the experience, and it was in a good location, plus it was cheap!

If you are sightseeing in the northern part of Bangkok city or have a layover at Don Mueang International Airport, Phoom House is in close proximity. It is about a 10 minute walk away and is an affordable alternative to the hotel that is attached to the airport. We stayed here a couple of times when we would fly to different locations. Again, it was a simple place, but I’m pretty sure the beds were soft. However, make sure to ask for a room far away from the little bar that is close to it. It will be loud there till late. Also, make sure your bathroom has a sink. Some of the rooms at this hotel didn’t have a sink, only a shower and a toilet. Oh, and there was no food included.

What appears to be someone’s home right next to the Boworn BB Guest House.

A building next to the Boworn BB Guest House. All the buildings were in close proximity to each other.

What to Drink

You are going to want to drink a lot of bottled water (I was soaked in sweat almost every day, and that is coming from someone who doesn’t sweat a lot). The unfortunate thing about this is that it creates a lot of plastic waste. I should also mention that most hotel rooms on our trip included clean bottled water. We had read somewhere online that we should be careful and make sure that the water bottles that we received/bought were sealed, since sometimes tap water is bottled and sold. This could result in getting sick, since our systems are not used to the tap water. Not once did we have this issue, however. We often bought water at 7 elevens or other grocery type stores. 

Also make sure that you take advantage of the delicious fresh fruit and fruit juice that is sold everywhere on the streets. I especially LOVED the passion fruit juice!

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!! 🙂