Travel Tuesday: Kelowna & Peachland, BC

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The scenery changed dramatically driving towards Kelowna, BC. The tall green mountains were replaced with flatter mountains and hills, covered in tall grass. There were lakes in the valleys, and we saw more agriculture, particularly apple orchards, corn fields, and of course, vineyards.  

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We had a difficult time finding good campgrounds in Kelowna, which is why we decided to drive back half an hour outside the town to Wood Lake Terrace RV & Campground. The view was beautiful here, overlooking a lake in the valley. There were also some cherry trees right close to our campsite. I don’t recall eating from them, as they probably planted for selling.

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Our campsite wasn’t particularly great. As you can tell our campsite was quite steep, and our car had to work really hard to get up there, haha. However, after a leftovers Alfredo and salad dinner, I got to enjoy sitting wrapped up in my blanket, looking at the flickering lights across the water, while being serenaded by the crickets. 

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The next morning, after packing up and reorganizing our food bins (which included wiping off a lot of sticky honey that had spilled in one of the bins!), we stopped at a local fruit market and bought some apricots, yellow plums, cherries, apricot jam, green peppers, and even a purple pepper! I always think the odd colored vegetables are so beautiful. The people at the market were even kind enough to give me some paper fruit baskets that I intend to use as props for food photography. 

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Some of the vegetables came from a garden that was planted right next to the market. I wish I could have fresh vegetables straight from the garden all year round! 

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One of the most popular things to do in Kelowna is to visit wineries. The first winery we visited was called House of Rose Winery. 

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We got to see their different kinds of grape vines, and then got to taste test the different kinds of wine that they make there. Our favorite wine from this winery was called “Grapes with Benefits”. We enjoyed a small picnic outside on the yard.

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The second winery we went to was called The Vibrant Vine. What made this place unique was that all the art on the walls, including the wine bottles, was 3D. We picked up 3D glasses on our way in, and got to enjoy all the colorful art!

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Our favorite wine here was called The Woops. The label on this bottle was upside-down. How this came to be was that one of their workers was put in charge of shrink wrapping a large amount of bottles, when the owners of the business left for a while. She accidentally put the label on upside-down. And here is the story of how this particular wine ended up gaining a lot of fame, and turned out to be one of their best wines.    

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After leaving Kelowna, we made a brief, but relaxing stop in Peachland. We drove down to Beach Avenue and rested under a large tree, next to the water, before driving to Summerland. More on that next time though!

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Cheers! – Erika

Papaya Face Mask

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I remember not liking the taste of papaya as a child, but somewhere down the road I must’ve learned to love it. On one of our recent grocery shopping trips, I bought a papaya. I was excited to eat it, not only cause it’s delicious, but also because it’s healthy. To my great disappointment, when I tried my first bite after all that work cutting it up, I realized that it was oddly bitter. So, for the next while it was sadly sitting in our fridge. I wasn’t eating from it, because I knew it wouldn’t taste good, but I also hate wasting food, so I couldn’t throw it out. Finally, I decided to see if there were any ways to use papaya for skin care. It turns out there are! After researching what other natural products are great for skincare, I came up with a papaya face mask recipe!    

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As you can imagine, a whole papaya made a great amount of face mask. Definitely way more than I could ever use before it spoils, unless if I want to cover my whole body in it each time!

I saw this great idea online that solved all my problems (all my problems… I wish!). Simply freeze the excess face mask in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, remove the cubes, throw them in a resealable bag, and continue freezing.

When you are ready to use a face mask, simply take one cube out, leave it to thaw, or briefly pop it in the microwave. I find that one cube is enough to last me for two applications. Store the remainder in the refrigerator.

I have used the ice cube method for freezing homemade dog food, and pureed spinach for smoothies, but I hadn’t thought about doing the same with my face mask. Don’t you just love it when you find great hacks!?

Quick tip that I believe I learned from one my great friends: line the ice cube tray with plastic wrap before filling it. This will make for an easy clean up.

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And there you have it. An orange papaya face! Isn’t it appealing!? 😉 It does have a good smell going for itself though, I promise! Plus, here and here you will find some of the health benefits that the ingredients in this face mask have to offer. 

To use the mask, apply generously directly to your skin, avoiding your eyes and mouth areas. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. Yes, you are allowed to lie down, listen to some calming music, and my favorite, light a scented candle. Everyone needs some self care once in a while. 

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To make the papaya face mask, combine in a blender:

2 cups papaya

1/4 cup oats

3 tbsp. honey, preferably raw

1-2 tbsp. coconut oil

Gel of one Aloe Vera leaf

Here is a you-tube video that shows how to remove the gel from an Aloe Vera leaf in case you haven’t done it before:

Have any of you ever re-purposed food for skin or hair care diys? Please do comment below! Have a great weekend!

Dad’s Favourite Beans

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So I totally meant to post this yesterday for Mexico’s independence day, BUT I wasn’t able to finish it. I had other things to catch up on, and then in the evening Kevin took me out for a lovely supper for my birthday. We were going to go out for Tapas for the first time, but this place didn’t take any reservations, and when we got there, there was a waiting list of an hour to an hour and a half. No thanks… we were way too hungry to wait for that long. Instead we went to a place called Hermanos. The food there was amazing! You know what else is amazing? The bean recipe that I’m about to share with you. 

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I grew up eating beans as a meal. In Canada beans are usually eaten as a side dish only, but for my family it was a meal. But before I continue on, let me say that beans and tortillas simply go hand in hand. My parents would buy a fresh kilo of tortillas (sometimes still warm!), and then once at home, someone had to pick apart the stack of tortillas to let them cool off to prevent them from sticking together. This would provide us with the perfect opportunity to pick up a fresh tortilla, shake some salt on it, roll it up and eat it.

Goodness, I miss being able to buy completely fresh tortillas! One time when we were visiting my parents, my dad took me along to town and we bought some fresh tortillas from the “tortilleria”. I couldn’t help but dig right in before I even got the chance to get some salt from home.

Where was I? Right. I was talking about how we ate beans in my family. We would warm up some corn tortillas on a metal skillet, spread some butter or margarine on them, which would immediately melt, and then we’d roll them up, ready to be eaten along with the beans, and sometimes some veggies or a salad (oh, and a cup of cold milk!). We usually held a tortilla in one hand (which was usually dripping with melted margarine), and a fork in the other, and together they made the perfect team to bring the food from the plate to the mouth, while also scooping up the delicious sauce that was being left behind on the plate. There’s really nothing quite like it!

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There are different ways to eat beans. When I had them at my grandparent’s home, I remember them being accompanied by “schmont faat” (white gravy sauce) that I’m assuming was made with heavy cream and bacon drippings. At home, I followed my dad’s example and always added sugar to my beans. Over time I saw my cousins in Canada adding ketchup and cheese to their beans.

So with all the different ways of eating beans that I’ve observed over the years, this is currently my favorite way to eat them. It is also my dad’s favorite bean recipe (minus the ketchup and cheese). I can’t remember if it was my mom or dad who came up with this recipe, or a different person altogether, but whenever my dad cooks and has the choice of how to prepare them, this is the recipe he uses.

Oh and one last tip! I learned this trick from one of my lovely aunts in Mexico (you know who you are). If you really want to take things up a notch, crush a whole bag of original doritos chips and stir them into the beans just before serving. YUM!

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I should also talk about the beans that are used in this recipe. My parents use “cabra” beans. Unfortunately, I have yet to find them in Canada (so if anyone knows where to find them, let me know!). I’m slowly making my way through the bag of beans that my parents brought me from Mexico. I would say that the closest beans I found to the “cabra” beans, are pinto beans. I have tried making this recipe with pinto beans. It’s good, but honestly not quite the same. So, if you ever get your hands on “cabra” beans, never let them go! And bring me some while you’re at it! 😉

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I hope you try out this bean recipe. It makes an excellent meal for quick warm ups, when time is not your friend. Canning the beans is probably what takes the longest, but even that is actually quite easy once you get started. The most emotionally damaging part about the canning process for me, is probably how much the pressure cooker scares me every time, haha. I’m always so scared it’s going to explode on me! I mean, really, you can opt out of using a pressure cooker, but it speeds things up, which is why I keep on doing it (plus to make use of wonderful gift from my parents!).

The recipe posted below assumes you already have homemade canned beans. If you need to know how to can them, here’s how: in a large bowl, soak the desired amount of beans overnight in hot water. Make sure to add a couple of extra inches of water, as the beans will swell quite a lot. The following day drain the water, add the beans to a strainer, run cold water over them, and rinse them thoroughly. Add beans to your pressure cooker (or other pot, which will take longer). The amount will depend on the size of your pressure cooker (my pressure cooker is medium sized, and I add about 5 cups of soaked beans to my pressure cooker). You basically want to fill most of the pot with beans, about an inch below the pot’s limit, and then fill it with room-temperature water all the way to the limit (about 1/2 to 1 inch above the beans). Add salt to taste (I add about 3/4 Tbsp. of salt), and about 3 halved cloves of garlic. Seal the pressure cooker according to the instructions. Bring to a boiling point on high until the pressure builds, then turn it to low for about 20 minutes, making sure it continues to simmer/boil. When the time is up, turn off the heat and let the pressure settle completely before opening your pressure cooker. Finally, immediately after taking off the lid, fill your preferred size of canning jars with beans, seal tightly, and let cool until all the lids have popped. Store in the refrigerator until they are ready to be used. 

I hope you are all having a lovely weekend, and even though I’m a day late, VIVA MEXICO! 

 

Dad's Favourite Beans
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Ingredients
  1. 1 L homemade canned cabra or pinto beans
  2. 2 good dollops of butter or margarine
  3. 1 large onion, diced
  4. 3 large tomatoes, diced
  5. 2 small zucchinis, sliced, and cut into small quarters
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt butter or margarine in a pan.
  2. Add the onion and fry on medium-high while cutting up the tomatoes.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes and continue frying while cutting up the zucchini.
  4. Add the zucchini, salt and pepper, and continue frying until all liquids have evaporated, and the mixture begins to brown (this adds great flavour).
  5. Add the beans, bringing them back to a boiling point, then lower the heat to medium low, and simmer for another 10 minutes to incorporate the flavours.
Notes
  1. Optional: stir in a bag of crushed doritos chips just before serving
  2. Optional toppings: ketchup, grated cheese
  3. Optional sides: warmed up and buttered corn tortillas, avocado, veggies or salad
Sweet Blooming Roots http://www.sweetbloomingroots.com/

Travel Tuesday: Mt. Revelstoke National Park, BC

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After a long break from travel posts (I know some of you have been anxiously waiting for those!), today I will be continuing with our West Coast 2015 trip. Now I’ll warn you, if flowers, trees, and nature aren’t your thing, than maybe this blog post is not for you. 😉

Today is all about Mt. Revelstoke National Park. It’s the traditional territory of the Secwepemc (anglicized name is Shuswap) people. We spent all of our time here surrounded by nothing short of breathtaking nature.

Giant Cedars Nature Trail 

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Our first stop was a walk through the Giant Cedars Nature Trail. There is no way for these pictures to do it justice!

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These trees make me feel humbled. They are so strong, have endured really harsh weather year after year, and yet they manage to stand upright, faithfully doing their job in nature (while being gracious enough to let us humans admire them in person).  

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Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk Trail

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Our second stop was at the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk Trail. This was such a bizarre place! It felt like a tropical hidden treasure, in the midst of a temperate forest. It is, in fact, the home of tropical birds in the summer, which migrate from Central and South America.  

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The skunk cabbage plants come out with yellow flowers in the Spring.

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We didn’t get to see the yellow flowers, as we were there in the summer, but we still got to see the impressively large leaves!

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They were so large, that I thought they could totally eat me, had they been carnivorous! 

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We really enjoyed our stroll along the boardwalk, encountering some new plants! For a while, I just sat on a bench, listening to the unique bird songs, trying to chirp back (leave it up to me to try to communicate with birds!).

Meadows in the Sky Parkway

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Last, we drove up the mountain and saw the town of Revelstoke from a lookout. We then took a shuttle van up to the hiking trails on Mt. Revelstoke to see the beautiful flower meadows. We were really lucky that we got to see the flowers in bloom, since they usually don’t bloom until August. However, since Spring came early that year, we got to witness this beautiful miracle. 

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What a magical hidden gem the flower meadows are! We spent so much time here! The following pictures are examples of the many different flowers growing on the mountain. They are all common alpine wildflowers.

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Mountain arnica (Arnica latifolia)

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Partridgefoot (Luetkea pectinata)

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Western anemone (Anemone occidentalis) -These were THE WEIRDEST flowers!

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White-flowered rhododendron (Rhododendron albiflorum)

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Sitka valerian (Valeriana sitchensis) – These plants attract a lot of flies!

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White mountain-heather (Cassiope mertensiana)

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Pink mountain-heather (Phyllodoce empetriformis)

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Arctic lupine (Lupinus arcticus)

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Willowherb (Chamerion latifolium) -formerly Epilobium latifolium

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Common red paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)

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I saw the above quote, and thought it was very fitting for the paintbrush-like red flowers. This quote, as well as this national park in general, remind us of times when these lands were not owned by anyone. Instead, they were protected, respected, and cared for by our indigenous brothers and sisters. They didn’t see land as something that belonged to them. Instead, they coexisted with it, and took only what they needed.

Having lived in Mexico, and now in Canada, the story of Western people intruding and taking land for themselves remains the same. Therefore, this national park is also a reminder of the countless acts of injustice that were/continue to be committed against the First Nations people. Even though this national park is now being preserved for its beauty and being well taken care of, it is, after all, the traditional territory of the Secwepemc people, and should have never been taken away from them.

These flowers have seen it all. They have seen better times. They have seen the worse times. Hopefully these flowers can yet see the best of times, as they remind us of all the healing that has yet to happen, so that in the future we can all live in this land together, with mutual respect, seeing and treating each other as equals. May we break down walls, instead of building more and higher walls.

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Thank you for reading along and letting me share some thoughts with you!

A Twist on Fresas con Crema

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Hola amigos! Less than a week from today, on the 16th of September, Mexico will be celebrating its 206th year of independence! Here I am, watching videos on youtube of the celebration of the Grito de Independencia. Tears are flowing, and my heart is hurting with a deep love for my home country, remembering faded but unforgettable memories. 

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I am realizing that my heart will probably always be torn, while also being completed by two countries. Being, and having grown up Mennonite I never felt like I could fully identify as Mexican. This was because being a Mennonite wasn’t only a matter of faith, but also a different culture altogether. However, because I was a more progressive Mennonite and didn’t dress traditionally, many Mexican people wouldn’t believe that I was Mennonite. When I moved to Canada, I perhaps took on more of a Mexican identity, because that’s what many of my friends saw me as. In Canada, however, I’ve had to convince individuals so many times that I’m Mexican, because I don’t look Mexican. It’s kinda funny. Having grown up Mennonite in Mexico, and then moving to Canada, I have often felt like I don’t completely belong or fit in anywhere. Each place transforms and shapes who you are. However, my life has been enriched by people and experiences in both of my homes, and ultimately I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

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The Mexican Independence Day was always particularly special to me, since it happened the day after my birthday. Not only did it mean that I never had to go to school the following day (which was PERFECT for sleepovers!), but late at night on my birthday a great amount of people would gather up in Cuauhtémoc city for the Grito de Independencia. Sharing a birthday with this special event, had the effect of making me feel special, while also feeling so proud to be Mexican. I clearly remember my friend and I looking out of the bedroom window into the dark night, trying to catch sight of the fireworks far in the distance. You could always see the city lights flickering, as Cuauhtémoc is built around and partly on a mountain. When I was old enough, I got to go to the Grito de Independencia myself. The Grito, in short, is an event on the night leading up to Mexico’s Independence Day (on which there usually is a parade). It symbolizes the way Miguel Hidalgo gathered his people by ringing the church bells, declaring the beginning of the War of Independence against the Spanish colonial government. People gather to honour heroes, and to celebrate Mexico’s independence, with fireworks, music, and lots of cheering, of course. I used to always joke that the fireworks were meant for me though!

Here is an example of one of the many Mexican Gritos de Independencia:

I have to admit, I haven’t really celebrated this Mexican holiday all that much in Canada, especially not in the later years. I’ve always thought it would be cool to do something, maybe even have fireworks. Perhaps one year I’ll make it into something special and form a tradition, before I forget what it’s like! Speaking of forgetting, I have noticed my Spanish getting a little rustier, so this weekend, believe it or not, I decided to have a Spanish conversation out loud, while driving home. Clearly it ended up being a one-sided conversation! Haha! I thought to myself, hey, I should do this more often, so that my tongue remembers how to speak Spanish. 

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Can you tell I’m feeling incredibly nostalgic!? Lets move on to a new recipe! Recently, I shared a corn on the cob recipe, somewhat, but not quite similar to the Mexican street-food version. Another amazing Mexican street-food is “Fresas con Crema” (strawberries swimming in sweet cream). It is to die for!

So, continuing with the Mexican celebration vibes, today I’m sharing my own version of Fresas con Crema. This recipe was originally inspired by a recipe that I found on Pinterest, but ultimately, it reminded me of a Mexican street-food favorite. No, it doesn’t really taste the same at all, but it’s still really delicious! Find the recipe below:

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Thank you for taking the time to read my long story!

A Twist on Fresas con Crema
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 8 strawberries, hulled and sliced
  2. 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (35%)
  3. 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 2 Tbsp. icing sugar
  6. 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  7. 1/8 tsp. cardamom
  8. 1/4 tsp. orange zest
  9. 4 Tbsp. cream cheese
  10. 3 Tbsp. shaved, toasted almonds
Instructions
  1. Add the cream, vanilla extract, and salt to a bowl. Whip mixture until stiff peaks form.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients (except almonds) and mix until a smooth mixture forms.
  3. Toast the almonds in a frying pan, stirring gently, but consistently.
  4. Using two small bowls, layer the dessert alternating between the cream mixture and the sliced strawberries, starting and ending with the cream. Top with roasted shaved almonds. Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator until later.
Notes
  1. You may choose to leave out the following ingredients for a simple vanilla taste: almond extract, cardamom, orange zest.
Sweet Blooming Roots http://www.sweetbloomingroots.com/

New Feature: My Home Checklist

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For the last three years or so, Kevin and I have been renovating the house that we’re renting on and off. We are now at the point where we’re SO close to being done renovating our main living area. Trust me, this whole process hasn’t always been that much fun, but we have done most of the work ourselves (and with the help of our friends and family) to keep the cost down. Even though it hasn’t been all that fun at times, it has been very rewarding to see the house slowly transform. Plus, it was a good way for Kevin and I to learn to work together, as our ideas and ways of doing things don’t always match up. 😉  

Now that we are so close to finishing our main-floor renovation project, it seems like there are many little things that need to be finished, or retouched, plus a whole lot of organizing and decorating to do. If your home is like mine, there is usually at least one VERY messy room, that stores all the things from another room while it’s being renovated/organized, or holds things that you’re not sure what to do with. In this case it was Kevin’s office. Last school year I made it a point to make my piano studio a more inspiring space for myself and my students, and I also moved my office into the same room. This meant that a lot of the things were temporarily moved into Kevin’s office. It became a very messy and dusty room that served as a huge closet, haha. As a new school year is just starting up and Kevin is going back to teaching, I wanted to make sure that he could also enjoy a cleaned up and inspiring space this year. Which brings me to my next point:

Lately, I’ve been very inspired by the following two articles on decluttering the home, and getting rid of unnecessary stuff. You can read the articles here and here. Cluttered spaces feel overwhelming, unsettling, and restless, as they are always reminders of all the work that is awaiting you. So why not declutter? Today’s post is a little different, but I hope that it will inspire some of you to declutter your home as well.

Here’s my goal, which I am hoping to complete by the beginning of next summer. I am planning to go through each room in our house with the following check list:

  • Finish renovating/retouching
  • Organize and declutter
  • Get rid of things that I don’t need, that don’t bring me joy, or that I’m holding on to for the wrong reasons
  • Finish decorating 

I will be making this into a new feature on my blog, along with before and after pictures. You can follow our renovation, organizing, decluttering, and decorating project as it unfolds. I hope that sharing my goal with you will keep me accountable, and inspire you along the way.

And just to make things clear, these posts are in no way meant to shame the messy corners in your home (trust me I have plenty of those). Along with wanting to have a decluttered and organized home, I am also challenging myself to be OK with people entering my home, even when it’s not cleaned up. I find this hard, as it seems to be so deeply ingrained, especially in women, that the home needs to be sparkling clean for it to be visitor friendly. I strongly believe that we need to stop modelling this behavior to future generations. I’d rather learn to be welcoming and have friends in a messy home, than no friends in a tidy home. I’m also not saying that it’s wrong to have a clean house (some people are naturally tidy and very organized), but it should be for the right reasons, and not out of fear for being judged. I read this article on “Scruffy Hospitality” a while ago, and it really spoke to me. Maybe some of you can relate as well.

Wow… so many words! OK. Let’s move on here before I write a whole essay! Here are some pictures of our office before being renovated, our office renovated but very messy, and our cleaned up office. I don’t have any immediate plans for decorating the room. For now, I just want it to be a tidy and non-distracting office space. I do plan on eventually painting the inside of the closet white.

For the renovation part so far we painted the walls a neutral color, painted the doors, trimming, curtain board, and ceiling white, installed a new light fixture and door knob, installed new outlet and light switch covers, and put in new laminate flooring.

From this:

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To this:

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And finally there’s nothing to trip on anymore! Haha!

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One last thing: I would LOVE to see your decluttering projects! It doesn’t matter how big or small your goals are. So here’s the deal, if you’re on instagram use the hashtag #sbrdecluttergoals to share your accomplishments. 

Thank you for reading along! 🙂

The Best Summer Elote

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Today has been one of those days that started off with the great intention of checking a few things off my to-do list. Instead, it ended up being a day that was less productive than I had hoped for (to be fair, the goals that I set for myself are often unrealistic). I’m trying to learn that it’s OK to have some of those days, and not beat myself up over it too much. So here I am trying to push myself to get this blog post up before the day is over, and trying to remind myself of the things that I DID get done today. 😉 At least I have my true little companion (AKA my little pup Luna) beside me, keeping me company. She’s been resting all day since she got spayed two days ago, and seems to be hurting still.

On a bright note, I’m sharing my favourite way to eat corn on the cob with you tonight. Trust me, you want to stick around for this.

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This recipe brings back memories of my family eating corn on the cob on hot summer days, accompanied with a glass of cold milk. Although I don’t drink milk with my corn anymore, those two used to go hand in hand for me.

I remember attending Summer Bible School during several summers as a kid, at which we usually got corn on the cob as one of our meals. They were always served with butter and salt only. As delicious as this combo is, I remember always missing the way my family ate them, covered in delicious ingredients! I mean, of course we ate them with just butter and salt too some times. However, I will still always prefer them loaded with a medley of flavours!  

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So, next time you are in the mood for some corn on the cob (maybe a few more times before the precious summer comes to an end!?), why not try topping them with the following ingredients:

  • Start by spreading them with mayonnaise (or you could use butter if you don’t care for mayonnaise).
  • Then top with: seasoned salt, onion powder, paprika, dill (dried or fresh), and Parmesan cheese (or any other freshly grated cheese). 
  • Play around with it: you could try smoked paprika, add garlic powder/salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, etc. etc. etc.

Here is a basic method for cooking corn on the cob. There seem to be many different ways of doing it, but this is one of the ways.

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It’s really that simple. It takes longer to prepare each corn on the cob than if you’re only using butter and salt, but every bite will be a sweet reminder that it was worth it!

Oh – and if you’re day wasn’t quite as productive as you had hoped, don’t beat yourself up over it. You’re not alone in this. Plus, tomorrow is a fresh start. 🙂

Happy weekending! – Erika

Urban Photoshoot with the Hermana

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Hey peeps! I’m back, and I’m so excited to start blogging again! My brain has WAY too many ideas, so I constantly add them to my future blog post lists (yes I have a few lists), to keep my sanity.

Kevin and I have had a great summer so far. My lovely parents came for a two-week visit. We got to visit a bunch, and my dad and Kevin built a new deck in our backyard. After my parents left, we went travelling for a month to Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. We had an amazing time (it was SOOO hot there!), and I can’t wait to share pictures from the trip with you! It’ll be a while though, so just be a little patient. I’m not quite done sharing our West Coast trip with you yet…

Since we’ve been back, we have socialized a lot, catching up with our friends. I went back to my casual job, we’ve gone to the dog park, enjoyed several walks and a summer bonfire, along with some delicious s’mores. And of course, let’s not forget about the crazy jet lag I experienced coming home! Talk about messing up your internal clock!   

You might be a little confused about the pictures that I’m posting today, as they are very different from anything I ever post. So let me explain. I’ve decided that I would really like to get into photographing people more. I realize that the only way to get better at something is to study and practice it, so I have made it a goal for myself to start practicing, practicing, and practicing some more. I know these pictures are far from perfect, but I’m still proud of them for where I’m at. I decided that I would like to share my practice photoshoot sessions with you.

I shot the following pictures about a week ago. This beautiful individual is my sister-in-law. She’s an intelligent and determined person, always working for social justice and equality. Although if you ask me, I think she could do modelling as a side job. 😉

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I hope you enjoyed the pictures, and thank you for joining me on my photography adventure. Also, I would LOVE to hear about your summers. What were some highlights for you? Please comment below, don’t be shy. 🙂

One last thing. I can’t get over how much I love these two songs. I have been listening to them a lot lately. Perhaps some of you will like them too.

Life Update & Mango, Pineapple and Coconut Yogurt Popsicles

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Hello my lovely readers! I’ve been having a little too much fun trying different popsicle combos. I quickly wanted to share a flavor combination that I really enjoyed. I won’t even make a recipe card, because it’s really that easy, and doesn’t require much explaining. Using a popsicle tray, fill each slot a quarter of the way with mango juice, and two quarters with coconut flavored yogurt (I used Activia brand). Then, simply pop in a piece of freshly cut pineapple, and place it in the freezer until frozen. 

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Hmmmm… my human is holding something strange… wait a minute, perhaps I recognize what that is… could it be? No… I doubt it… oh my goodness… I think it is… it DEFINITELY is! Popsicles!!! 

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As I was trying to take pictures of the popsicles, Luna must’ve seen what I was holding (she usually get’s part of my popsicle), because she got really excited and was desperate to have some! She started jumping, trying to reach for the popsicles, photobombing my pictures in the most adorable way! No worries, she definitely got some in the end! 😉

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Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, all of Luna’s hair got chopped off! She looks so different with short hair! Needless to say, we were pretty amused by her look right after her hair cut. Especially since we were only used to her cute teddy bear look. It’s definitely nice and fresh for the summer though!

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I also wanted to update you a little on what’s going on at the Kampens these days. Kevin started tearing down our old deck on Saturday. It is in pretty poor shape, and needs replacing. The reason why we’re tearing it down now, is because my parents are coming for a visit (so exciting!), and my dad wanted to help us build a new one!

My last update, which might make some of you a little sad, is that I will be taking a break from blogging (this will be my last post for a while) for two reasons. First, I want to be fully available when my parents are visiting, as I don’t get to see them that often. Second, Kevin and I are travelling to Thailand!!! What!? Yes, it’s happening! We’re really looking forward to it, and I can’t wait to show/tell you all about it!

Now you know, and don’t have to wonder why I suddenly vanished from the face of the earth! I will miss sharing posts with you, but it is also important to disconnect sometimes. Plus, this only means I will have a lot of new content to share with you. 

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I want to thank each one of you for following me, encouraging me, and reading along. It means a lot to me! May this summer make you as happy as the popsicles make Luna happy. Here’s to summer! Cheers!!!!! -Erika

A Short Canoe Getaway

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Last weekend Kevin, Luna, and I went on a short canoe trip to Manitoba’s beautiful Whiteshell. It is always so nice to get away from the city for a while, and get a break from all the noise in our lives that comes in different shapes and sizes. It’s refreshing to put away our technological devices most of the time, and not being bound by time. For the most part, we didn’t even know what time it was.     

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We had almost reached our destination when we drove past something. I looked at Kevin and asked: Was that a…? And before I could finish my question he replied: I think it was! It turns out that we had just driven past a large turtle! We stopped the car, got out, and walked towards the turtle. After observing her for a short while, Kevin noticed that she was in the process of laying eggs. He even saw some of the eggs drop! The turtle seemed slightly unsettled by our presence, but didn’t seem afraid, as she never retreated into her shell. Perhaps she doesn’t have any predators to be worried about in her natural habitat?

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The turtle had dug a hole in the ground, right on the edge of the road. After laying many perfectly round white eggs in it, the turtle started covering them with the wet soil, slowly using her strong hind legs. When her job was completed, she made her way back to the stream, fell onto the runoff pipe with a plop and then fell right into the water.

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The butterflies seemed to have found something delicious to eat, as they were all gathering at the same place on the road. We thought it was probably another turtle nest, that had likely already hatched, and had left a tasty trail behind.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of wild flowers we got to see in the Whiteshell. Some of them were familiar ones that grow in gardens everywhere, like irises, roses, lilies, and even flowers that looked a lot like cosmos. They appeared to be wild flowers though, as they looked slightly different from the same varieties planted in gardens.

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We started our canoe trip in Lone Island Lake, portaged into Malloy Lake, and camped out on an Island for the night. After our first portage we saw a lot of birds flying above us in the sky. They looked like bald eagles, but they could have also been turkey vultures or osprey.

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Luna had the time of her life exploring. I was thinking maybe we should have named her Dora the Explorer instead of her current name!  

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We are particularly fond of watching sun sets, and got lucky to see a beautiful one from the island. 

Luna had to wear her life jacket the whole time (except while sleeping in the tent) because we were surrounded by water. This gave her some freedom to explore on her own, while we knew she’d be safe if she were to fall into the water. She didn’t seem to mind it too much though. I guess it was a small price to pay for some freedom in return!

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The evening skies were so colorful and calming, birds chirping everywhere. The water was smooth, reflecting the moon like a mirror. 

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We hung up our backpacks high up on a tree branch. This kept the food out of reach in case of a bear visit. We knew that people had previously seen bears on this island, but fortunately we didn’t encounter any. Though I always have a strong desire to see bears, I preferably don’t want the encounter to be on the island that I’m sleeping on! 

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I got up earlier the next morning, because I really wanted to see and shoot the sunrise. It turns out I couldn’t actually see the sunrise from our campsite because the direction that it was rising from, was being covered by trees. After taking some videos and pictures I returned to the tent in the hopes of getting some more sleep. Before leaving the tent I had tucked Luna in with my sleeping bag. When I came back she was still enjoying the coziness, so I tucked her back in right beside me after crawling back into the sleeping bag myself. We ended up falling back asleep and were greeted by a warm tent when we woke up. 

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Cooking is always different when we go back-country camping. You have to think about how much stuff you can carry, or how many portage trips you are willing to make. Generally you try to pack fairly light. That means cooking food on a fire, or using a small camping stove, which is what we used. The pots that we use are thin and light, which means they get really hot, really quickly. It’s definitely more difficult to control the heat. While frying our bacon I realized that the fork I was using was melting, so I had to resource to using sticks that were lying on the ground to continue my frying job.  

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In the end we got to eat our breakfast burritos with bacon, which did their job of fueling us for the day ahead. Plus, I had the privilege of cooking in the most beautiful and open concept kitchen EVER! 

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Quick tip: if you want a nice picture of your pet, bribe them with some bacon. Hey look, we even got a smile! Haha! 😉

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After eating, resting, and packing up our stuff, we continued canoeing. We canoed by some people that gave us directions to the portage that crosses over into Jessica lake. This portage was a long one. It was over 1 km long, which seems quite long when you’re carrying heavy things. We had to make two trips because we couldn’t carry everything at once. Let me tell you how thankful I was for mosquito repellent spray, as much as I hate wearing that stuff! They probably would’ve eaten us alive if only we would have let them!

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It was raining softly for the first while, but then stopped soon after JUST having put on all of our rain gear! We were thankful that it stopped though, and wearing my rain pants was actually quite nice for walking through the grassy areas on the portage. It probably made it hard for tics to hold on to me, because my pants were slippery.

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It turned out to be a beautiful day! Once we were in Jessica Lake we had to find our way to the Whiteshell River (which after about 10 km brought us back to the parking lot). It was a little complicated to find at first, because the marshy areas jutted in and out, appearing as potential openings to the river. When we did find the mouth of the river, I would have to say it was hands down my favorite part of our time spent canoeing. Both sides of the river were covered in reeds, and wild growing irises. The water was so calm, and we really took our time, slowly canoeing down the river, just enjoying our surroundings.   

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We saw a fair amount of wildlife on the river. We saw a mama duck with her ducklings. She quickly notified them that they were in danger when she saw us, as the little ones quickly tried to make their way to the reeds. She then tried to distract us from them, as she was playing a lame duck, attracting attention onto herself.

We encountered another duck with the same behavior, and to our surprise Luna’s instinct made her jump out of the canoe, into the water, for the first time. She seemed to regret her decision as soon as she hit the cold water, as she usually isn’t a big fan of water, and started swimming after us. I was slightly scared, but also SO proud of her for being so daring! Luckily she was wearing her life jacket. Did you know that not all dogs can swim and that a lot of dogs actually drown?

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We also saw a lot of turtles along the way that were sitting on rocks or logs, soaking up the afternoon sun. Most of the time they slid into the water one by one, as they saw our canoe approaching.

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We saw this old 1950’s truck that has been sitting in this marshy river for years. I can’t help but wonder how in the world it got there! It looked like the engine had sunken under the water. So mysterious! 

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We made it back to the parking lot with aching muscles, but feeling very accomplished, and refreshed by nature. We ate a quick snack-like supper and spent a couple of minutes fishing and then felt ready to go home. We had originally intended to stay for two nights, but the weather forecast did not look promising at all, so we decided that going home and sleeping in our own bed would be more enjoyable.

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Now let me inform you of the not so fun part of this trip. Tics. Tics everywhere! Ticks on Kevin, tics on Luna, and tics on me (I even had one crawling on my face in the morning in the tent!). Before driving home we checked ourselves and Luna for tics. We found SO many on her! When we got home, I gave her a bath and we found SO many more! We found at least ten or more just on her face! Imagine how paranoid I felt after! The following day, she got a really short hair cut, because her hair was terribly matted, and they didn’t find any more tics on her. What a relief! On the bright side, at least now I feel pretty educated on what tics look like!  

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Finally, I decided to play around with making a short video of our paddle trip as a keepsake for later, and of course to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it! Here it is:

Happy weekend!! 🙂 – Erika