1. how do you like them apples?

    So it’s been a while. This does not mean there has been a shortage of baking in this little apartment in Hali but rather the contrary. I have been baking and working up a storm so intensely that there is no time for posts because falling asleep on your couch at 9pm trumps that.

    As many of you do (or do not know… let’s get real here) Nova Scotia has some of the finest locally grown produce around and it just so happened that I got to head out to the Annapolis Valley with my family on Thanksgiving to get my hands on some of the finest apples Canada has to offer. If you know the Smith’s you will know that my dad’s biggest concerns were a) When will the dessert I am only assumed to be making going to be ready and b) when can we start the apple fight. I don’t know about any of you but being hit with an apple hurts like a bitch, so I was not down for concern b. 

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    just some ginger smith’s enjoying Thanksgiving in the Valley 

    Anyway, do you know what a trip to get an 8LB bag of apples calls for?Everything apple. Apple sauce, apple pies (you may just hear about that one soon) and the smith girl’s own twist on an apple crisp. I love good, whole hearted, buttery desserts but when you have something so sweet and fresh as a valley apple, it is not to be toyed with. So this recipe is up for a lot of adjustments… rather customizable if you will. I decided to opt against flour for the topping and use a combination of oats, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and homemade bread crumbs from a leftover pumpkin-ginger loaf instead. If you don’t think it sounds sweet enough then hey, add some more brown sugar, I wont be offended. And if you hate it, that sucks… I guess I wont deliver you treats anytime soon.

    Anyway, this recipe will make a good-sized apple crisp. I made two in a week and I will tell you they both resulted in minimal dishes, happy stomachs, and no- Tupperware needed.

    The List

    The ‘apples”

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    ~ 6 apples, depending on how many people you are going to be feeding!
    2 TBS lemon juice
    handful of craisins & golden raisins
    1 TBS cinnamon
    1TBS of molasses (this can easily be subbed with up to 4 TBS of brown sugar, I just love the sweetness of apples when they are cooked on their own)

     the ‘crisp’
    You can use any combination of dried flour-type alternatives for the topping but here is what I used! 
    1 cup oats
    1/4 cup mixed seeds
    1/4 cup homemade gingerbread crumbs
    1 ½ TBS cinnamon
    3 TBS brown sugar
    3 TBS Margarine

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    The How-To
    cut up all your apples into small cubes (a few cm squared)
    toss the apples in a bowl with lemon juice, cinnamon, brown sugar
    spray your pan and dump those apples in!
    in a separate bowl, mix together dry topping ingredients (cinnamon, sugar, and whatever you are using for the ‘flour’ alternative)
    add in 2-4 tablespoons of butter/margarine
    roughly toss the mixture until it is crumbly in nature
    spread the topping over the apples in your baking dish.
    Et voila! You are ready to pop that sucker in the oven
    Cook for 45 minutes- 1 hour at 350 degrees or until you topping is nice and crisp and the inside of the crisp is not runny, but nice and thick!

    Enjoy with  a spoon right from the pan (this brings up the whole fork or spoon debate in which I believe a spoon ALWAYS wins… yes I’m looking at you Kraft Dinner). You WILL burn yourself because you can’t wait, and you WILL finish the whole pan no matter how many times you tell yourself you will save some for the next day. Its not worth it—the recipe is too easy and too good so a fresh apple crisp is always the right choice. 

    Enjoy friends!
    xoxo
    lain

     

  2. I’ll take S’more.

    After getting back from travels are settling down in Halifax for work I have had more time (and my own kitchen) to get back to something I love—baking. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love to cook as well but there is something calming about the science of putting together your favourite dessert or merely experimenting with something new. Stressed? Bake. Bored? Bake. There really is no a poor time to fire up the oven and experiment with some ingredients.

    Halifax has brought about a copious amount of potlucks for me. Without fail I will team up with Kristi for the generic veggie plate and some homemade hummus, but I have gotten into the groove of bringing the sweet. It was only recently that the lovely Asheley (of Asheleyeats… you should probbbbbbbably go check it out) got me on the idea of blogging about it. I toyed with the idea for a bit, seeing as I already had a nice little thing going here, and now the time has come. So here you go friends— time to share what the instagrams are REALLY all about… haha.

    So, lately I have been pulling some sort of tom foolery when it comes to my desserts. I like to play with ingredients that are not the norm (aka not much butter and sugar over here) and not telling anyone until after they consume it. Kristi is a big avocado hater and refuses to even touch the things so I got after a nice little suggestion from a friend for mousse, I figured I would take it a step up and make it into something she cannot refuse—S’mores. Quite fittingly we were having a surprise birthday for Pete Saturday night so it was the perfect excuse to whip it up.  

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    Now I am a big fan of “healthier” desserts that don’t taste that way and the chocolate mousse is perfect for those of you who are not ready to jump into that world yet. The recipe can be easily adapted by adding more sugar, chocolate, or what have you to meet your needs. The pie was already sweet enough with the marshmallow and icing so a milder middle was exactly what the doctor ordered.

    So, Here goes nothing… 

    The List

    Mousse

    2 ripe Avacados
    1/3 cup cocoa
    1/3 cup cocoa nibs/ dark chocolate chips
    1 TBS Vanilla extract
    ¼ light maple syrup
    Pinch of sea salt
    2 TBS Brown Sugar
    Dates (however many you see fit)

    Frosting

    1 Cup dark brown sugar
    ½ cup Egg Whites (approximately 4 eggs worth)

    Etc.
    Skor Bits
    Mashmallow Fluff
    Extra egg whites

    Crust
    …. see below. 

    The How-To

    I may or may not have copped out an bought a ready made graham cracker crust for the pie. Time was a rather hot commodity Saturday with all the planning so store bought was the way to go. I beat a little bit of egg white to brush the crust down with and heated it in the oven at 325 C for about 8 minutes just to crisp it up a bit!

    While still warm, spread Fluff on the bottom of the crust. You can add as much/ as little as you would like depending on how marshmallow crazy you are (cough… add half the bottle) You could use real marshmallows here as well and just put the crust back in the oven to melt them a tad.

    Add skor bits—nothing like a little crunch. Lets get real—I tried to bring back the memories of the classic dairy queen cake cookie layer. Mmmmm

    Set aside to cool.. after a spoonful of fluff and bits. 

    Chocolate Mousse Filling

    Whip your avocados in your food processor. Add all of your ingredients except cocoa nibs….Microwave/ use a double broiler to melt your chocolate and dates add to avocado mixture. Depending on what consistency you want, or if you want to add a little “sweet” depth to your mousse change your date amount. I only placed 4 dates in the mousse but would definitely put more in next time as I’m on a bit of a kick. Whip up the mixture in the food processor until it is completely smooth. You may have to use a spatula to wipe down the sides so that everything gets incorporated… and to ‘test’ your mixture. Yes, you may need to ‘test’ it upwards of five times, but who is counting.

    Pour the chocolate mousse in the piecrust and put in the fridge to cool as you make the meringue topping.

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    The frosting

    Brown sugar meringue you say?….

    Take 1 cup of dark brown sugar and ½ a cup of egg whites and add to a double broiler (Which I did not have… but improvisation is encouraged. I used a glass bowl sitting in my pot above simmering water). Stir the mixture until all of the sugar is melted in the eggs and is warm to the touch.

    Now, if you are blessed enough to have a stand mixer, the next part is easy. Beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. If you are like me, take some advil now because you thumb is going to hurt after holding down the button on your hand mixer

    Every time I make this icing I get more sugar drunk than one can really believe. I had to go drive to get Kristi at work immediately after making the pie and I am pretttttty sure I legally shouldn’t have been driving, but the icing is just TOO good to resist.

    Spoon the icing on to the top of the pie, top with some more skor bits for good measure, and return it to the fridge. Mine got a little runny during transport, so it ended up in the freezer to firm it up and turned out to be a delicious improvement. As with my of my desserts, I suggest merely throwing spoons on the table and enjoying, but if you insist on being classy, or really don’t trust the person you are eating it, plate it up! 

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    So there you have it friends. The very first how-to on pretty things and everything. I hope you enjoyed and hopefully I will get back at this again some time soon, because let’s get real, mum and dad are coming for thanksgiving and I know there will be some requests for the weekend.

    xoxo

    lain

     
  3. Morning walks in the city, en route to the market. Life’s simple pleasures.

     

  4. 22, a year in review.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m getting rid of 22.
    (yeah, I’m talking to you Taylor Swift)

              My birthday this month led me to thinking about the last 365 days of my life, a year in review if you must. This is what I have come up with.

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                This time about a year ago if you were to ask me what I thought my life would look like after graduation, I am not sure I could come up with a story close to my reality. With about a month left in my undergrad I had signed a contract to start working with Target in February of the coming year, and had secured my summer job with Golf Canada. I was wrapping up 4 amazing years of my life, and with that abandoning my identity as a varsity athlete, and a McGill student. Exams passed, graduation came, I put all of my furniture in storage and I found myself on the road—literally. Piloting a Ford F150 and a 13-foot trailer for Golf Canada I set across the country for the summer.image

                Starting in Ontario, moving on to Quebec, a dub-step pow-wow DJ in Winnipeg (google a tribe called red… no typo’s there… and be warned) was just the beginning. My partner and I drove through 8 provinces with some pretty amazing stops.

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    Canada day in Banff, hiking at Lake Louise, the 100th Calgary Stampede, weekends off in Canmore, front row Avicii in Calgary while staying in the Fairmount, Montreal Grand Prix weekend, and a lot of freaking seafood and some beach time in Charlottetown is only our summer in a nutshell.

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    Ultimate summer job? yes… tiring? Most definitely. How many hotel room numbers can one retain, especially at 4am in Morden, Manitoba when you have to be back at the golf course in two hours?

    After four months on the road I was happy to settle into home in Aurora… for three days. With a summers worth of laundry done, I packed up my bags to jet off to France for ‘five’ months. Arriving into a family I had only skyped with and e-mailed with for a summer I was welcomed into open arms, and into a beautiful city just a 20 minute train ride from Paris. Life as an au pair cannot really be described, only lived. There are ups and a lot of downs when you are parenting children that are not your own, and when, in reality, you are not actually their parent (even though you spend more time with them than those who actually share their DNA). Where is the line drawn? Are you a member of the family or are you just Cinderella that lives in the attic? (that is not a joke either… I had a great room but it DID require me to creep up my own back narrow stairwell, which was fallen down on a few occasions.)

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    While in France I luckily had the opportunity to travel, and connect with the past a bit. I managed to see Vienna, Linz, Salzburg, and Prague during my first mini vacation. Returning back to France was tricky for me. To have a week of unbelievable travel and company, to feel loved again, and to have stimulating conversations made venturing back to piano and drum lessons and endless snacks and homework fights pretty difficult. My parents visited at Christmas, which was the greatest gift a girl could ever receive. A few days in Paris, London, Munich, and Linz were exactly what the doctor ordered in a hectic, manic household. It was so hard to see them go, but it did, however, make the decision to leave France a month early to live in Austria pretty easy. It is often hard to recognize your true emotions when you are living far from your immediate support system of friends and family as you (or at least, in this case, me) find yourself second-guessing a lot of your actions. I would like to think I am a pretty optimistic person, so I found myself questioning if I was really happy, or if I was just really good at convincing myself that I was.

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    The second week of January I packed up all my things, grabbed a fresh pain au chocolate and headed on yet another adventure. I lived in Austria for a month— breakfast, morning workouts, lunch, and relaxing afternoons with time to cook a great meal for dinner, followed by snacks and movies was heaven. No more children (because who really needs two at the age of 22?!) and time to just slow down and enjoy life a little was exactly what I needed to start kicking back into life as Lainie. A vacation to Budapest to end my time in Austria was amazing, but it all went too fast.

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    Next thing I knew I was on a 24 hour trip home that included trains, planes, and automobiles… and 5 different countries. I finally made it back to good old Aurora, Ontario for a week to catch up with friends and family and ‘prepare’ for real life in Montreal… or so I thought.

    Training with Target is quite extensive as bringing a multi-million dollar company to a new country isn’t that easy—who would have thought, right?! My first two weeks in Montreal with Target proved pretty taxing. I showed up on my first day of training to be told “oh my gosh, I’m so sorry we didn’t tell you—all of the classroom teaching is in French”. Cool. I guess that was just a minor glitch and after these two weeks I would be in the clear, right? Wrong. On my sixth day of work in Montreal I was told I was being transferred and had to decide by lunch the next day where in Canada I was moving. Let me tell you, this is not enough time to process the reality of the situation—especially for an OCD-Driver personality like myself. Push emotions aside, and start looking for apartments… good solution right? And maybe a few YEH! Runs, bottles of wine, and lots of Juliette et Chocolate with best friends.

     Despite the news of the move, the next two weeks of training sent me off to Buffalo- good thing hotel living is my forte. I think I can find the best grocery store in any city now, manage to not get lost when running in a new town, and for those of you who know me I’m pretty good at sleeping absolutely anywhere (even if it is just the bus ride from McConnell to the Concordia rink) so hotel beds aren’t too tricky.

    Two long weeks of thinking about my move while in Buffalo only prepared me for yet another flight to apartment hunt and attend ENGLISH training in Halifax (at least it was in English right? Silver lining…). I spent the next few months ‘weekending’ in Montreal, and spending weeks between Halifax and Buffalo. The reality of the move set in around Easter where I was left in a mini-life crisis. This is somewhat comical, as what can be considered as a ‘crisis’ at 22? Picking up and moving to a brand new city and being handed the opportunity to start fresh and to live in the same town as my sister hardly seems like the worst situation in the world (or so now I see)

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    Who would of thought that all this could happen in less than one year? Me? No. But here I am. A fresh start on the east coast with all the time in the world to start a fresh ‘me’. I have come to terms now that this is life and really, and what do I really have to lose? There is no point dwelling on the ‘what if?’s or the ‘poor me.’s when I have such an exciting opportunity in front of me. I have been placed in an amazing city, with an amazing sister who is becoming more and more of a best friend, and have been surrounded by a group of the most welcoming people I could ever imagine. What is next? Who knows. Will I stay in Halifax for a long time? I don’t know that either. But why waste time thinking about that—I am here now, ready to start my brand new, 23rd year, fresh. 22 was the year of the vagabond; the gypsy Lainie. Half a month into 23 has shown me only fresh, new, exciting things, so I figure the only place to go from here is up. 

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  5. Long Overdue

    Okay, so Christmas happened over a month ago- I know. I have put off this post for a while because my flickr account is full of pictures and I dont want to delete more in order to post more! Such is life, I am finally sitting down and forcing myself to get it all done. 

    On December 25th, I got the happiest Christmas present of all time— my mum and dad’s arrival in Paris. I took the horrible RER B ride out to the airport and met them at their gate with a pain au chocolat and chausson aux pommes in hand. I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole ride. Sher surprised Ricky and I with little gifts on the subway— I’m pretty sure all of the parisiens around us were confused. 

    I surprised my parents with a home-cooked Christmas dinner (… okay, with the help of Picard. Thanks France.) that night. We started with some escargot, had wine and christmas beer with a stuffed pintade, foresterie veggies, and a cheese plate with baguette. In true Smith form we had more than enough chocolate to kill a cow, so I didn’t provide dessert. 

    My dinner guests!

    We spent the 25th till the 30th in Paris in a beautiful apartment in the Marais north. It was everything we could have asked for and more. Perfect size, beautifully decorated, an unbelievable DVD collection, and a fantastic location. We spent the five days seeing everything there was to see— I think I burned mum and dad out these five days but it was worth it. We ate breakfast at the apartment every morning, would go tackle all the sights and areas i wanted to show them, and then head home for a picnic dinner and a movie. It was perfect. We hit up almost every Christmas market in Paris unintentionally, and tried everything ‘French’ that was necessary— pain au chocolate(s), street crepes, macarons, croque monsieur(s), croissants, and mum’s favourite, Chocolate Eclairs.

    I took my mum to one of the most renowned eclair makers in the city for her first— she then refused to try anything else. 

    I think i spoiled my parents too much food wise at the beginning of the trip too, because there is NOTHING like a quality (or cheap for that matter) Parisien croissant or dessert. I know they are at home right now wishing they could cover a buttery French croissant with copious amounts of peanut butter and nutella (haha.) 

    My mom told me when she was in high school in France it was free to walk to the top of the Arc de Triomphe—- HA. times have changed. 

    Other highlights included visiting Pere Lachaise cemetery (home of the grave of Jim Morrison, Collette, Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein to name a select few), locking our very own “Smith” lock on the love-lock bridge facing the Notre Dame, and walking what seemed like 100’s of kilometers. 

    After five days in Paris we hopped on the Eurostar to take a speedy ride to London. We stayed in London (or just outside) at the largest rugby stadium in the world… it was quite amazing and only a 20 minute train ride into London. The first day we were there is was miserable— raining and freezing, so we explored Harrods, had some warm fish and chips, and called it a relatively early night. It was, however, New Years… so in true Smith fashion we went to bed and watched the celebrations on TV (yes, i had to be woken up before midnight, but who is surprised?!)

    The next day was GORGEOUS and we headed into London early. We headed to buckingham palace, say the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben— all the toursity things you are supposed to see in London. At the palace the flag was up so the Queen was “in”. We walked around asking ourselves if the Queen wore PJs, if she owned a pair of jeans (or Root sweatpants), if she walks around naked, etc. Dad tried to see if he could connected to Wifi at the palace (HA), and I wondered what kind of toilet paper Elizabeth uses. All valid questions if you ask me— I think we would all enjoy and episode of MTV cribs- Buckingham Palace edition. 

    There was a huge New Years day parade in the city so we had a chance to catch part of that which was really neat. We stopped on the street to warm up and grab a quick soup. We landed at a cute little pub called “Clarence” which was a nice little stop to think about grandpa (after thinking about Grandma Smith all day because she DOES look like Queen Elizabeth after all).

    Mum and Dad outside of Buckingham Palace.

    Mum and I after she saw someone she knew on the street— she wins. 

     One of my favourite parts of the trip came next— dinner and Wicked. 

    My love for musical theater has NOT died, don’t fret. My face hurt from smiling the whole time we were at the show in London’s west end. I have always wanted to see ‘Wicked’ but have never gotten the chance, so what a better time and place to see it than in London England on New Years day?! The show (as expected) was spectacular (as were the sour patch kids and peanut M n’ M’s we enjoyed throughout the show… and for all of you that now me sour patch kids are a HUGE part of my life that has been missing for months.) 

    Sher only fell asleep for about 10 minutes of the show right before intermission— for those of you who know my mum this was HUGE NEWS.

    The next morning was an EARLY one— a quick trip out to Heathrow airport to fly to Munich for a day. A day of light sightseeing, snacking, and a German beer hall was much needed after a long week.

    The next morning we hopped on a train and headed to Linz. After a slight complication of both mum and dad falling asleep which resulted in me panicing and all of us getting off the train one stop early, we made it.  Four days in Linz proved to be rainy but just what the Doctor ordered. We wandered around and saw the city, got to veg out in Marc’s apartment, and see two great hockey games. Marc was an amazing host (but i would like to think we are pretty easy guests) and let us take over his space for four days after just having his brother and his family over for a few weeks. 

    We went out to eat an amazing meal at the very top of Linz as a nice little ‘thank you’ and a more formal christmas dinner. 

    An overnight train back to Paris and lots of hugs, kisses (and a few tears) later, my mum and dad left and i was back in France for the week. It was fairly relaxed (minus coming home to an unfinished book report, and quite literally zero food in the fridge for three days) but a good wrap up to my few month stint. I will post more about the overall experience, but I will say that it feels nice to be sitting at the kitchen table in Austria, looking out at a snowy backyard, still in my running clothes with no plans for the rest of the night besides a date with dinner and the Kardashians. 

    I can’t even express how much i enjoyed having my parents here for two weeks. Yes, it was sad not to be with my sisters and I know it was just as hard for them as it was for me to be away from them for Christmas but it makes seeing them soon even more exciting. As i get older (ha, I dont know if I can say that because I’m still only 22), I find myself getting closer and closer with my family which I didn’t think was possible (because if you know us, you know we are some of the biggest homebodies around). I spent two weeks clinged arms with my parents to the point that sometimes i had to stop to let THEM have time together too because well, they ARE married and it was a vacation for them too. 

    I will wrap it up now, but promise to post soon about Austria. I am only here for 9 more days (which is crazy) and we are headed for a quick trip to Budapest on Friday because Marc has a break in his schedule. 

    Love you all lots and LOTS and cannot wait to get back to Canada and settle down for a bit. 

    Lain

    xoxo

     

  6. Everything is Different, but Nothing has Changed. Are we going in Circles? It’s Christmas Again.

    While we were in class on Tuesday, my teacher asked what Christmas meant for us. It’s a pretty interesting question as we are all from completely different parts of the world and therefore the culture differences are rather extreme.  My answer was simple. Christmas to me is family. When I look back at past Christmas’s, what is it that I remember? Has my view on Christmas changed over the years?

    As a kid I remember driving around to see all the Christmas lights on Christmas Eve, and often falling asleep in the back of the car. I remember getting so excited to hear the phone ring on Christmas eve because if it was close enough to bed time, it was for sure Santa on the other end (yes, this was a fantastic tradition in my household that NO other kids really understood).  Those Lifesaver storybooks with at least 6 different flavors came in my stocking right on time to replenish the stock I had JUST finished from the year before. I also remember the fact that it was SO NEAT that Santa had much cooler wrapping paper than mum and dad—why couldn’t THEY find stuff like that at the store?

    When I look at more recent Christmases, it is still the little things that make up my memories. The fact that every year at Grandma and Grandpa Bandy’s we all would pick up our stockings and know exactly what was in them (Socks, undies, an orange, an apple, our favorite chocolate bar, toothpaste, and sometimes a candy cane), the puns that my sisters and cousins would pull about all the food on the table during the meal, and the ever-groaned-after Christmas picture. The walk down the street to Grandma and Grandpa Smiths, often snowy, to be welcomed by that perfect smell Grandma’s kitchen ALWAYS has. The plate of veggies, the special nut bowl, sitting in the living room on the ground because grandma and grandpa were in their respective chairs and being the youngest, I didn’t get room on the couch. The cookie plates, the PERFECT gingerbread men dipped in tea, and sometimes a card game after the dinner.

    As we grew up, little things changed here and there—the location of the dinner, which meal was eaten at which families home, who would be in attendance etc. My family started going to a movie on Christmas Eve as we got older—just something to do together. Everything that I can remember is WITH my family. The nativity scene that has lost almost all members of the ‘cast’ over the years, which now consists solely of a chipmunk in a teepee and the baby jesus together in a red canoe. The pause between opening stockings and opening gifts to eat breakfast, only to realize mom was already done her chocolate bar and a coke. Constantly having to be the ‘elf’ to pass out all the family gifts because I am, and always will be, the youngest. Fighting over who got first shower to get ready in time to go to grandma’s, and getting dressed in your new Christmas clothing… even though you were just going to hang out with your family. Falling asleep on Kristi in the back seat on the drive home from Gravenhurst, it all seems silly, but it’s what I remember most about each Christmas.

    This Christmas will be a little different too—just like every one, but will still be based around family. It’s the first time all three of us (Carly, Kristi, and I) will be separated for Christmas but that is the beauty of Skype and a 6 hour Paris-Eastern time difference (mum and dad will be settled by the time Christmas rolls around for Deets and Car). We will all be with the people we love with all the others in our hearts and minds. I will force my mum and dad to take a Christmas picture together, even if it’s not the same as having one taken at Grandma’s, and feed them French chocolate instead of the usual Cadbury and Toblerone.

    This time of year makes me long for home just that little bit more than I have been for the past 4 months, but the memories and the hope of things to come keep me going. I am 22 and experiencing a world of new things that some people will never get to see and do. It’s hard to be sad when the people I love KNOW how much I love them without being there, and also when opening my eyes to what I have been doing the past few months. I cannot wait for the 25th to give my parents the biggest (and probably tear-iest) hugs, and to continue on an amazing Christmas vacation filled with laughs and love in every city-stop. It’s fitting that this Christmas is different as I’m at a new point in life—it’s the start of a new chapter for me. A “post-university jump into the ‘real world’ “ chapter that is rather exciting, but also pretty nerve racking. But first, Christmas and then a month of true R&R in a brand new European city.

    Lots of holiday love to all my friends and family. I hope you all have a safe, and amazing Christmas doing what truly makes you happy.

    Xoxo

    Lainie

     

  7. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… or not.

    This past weekend it was 10 degrees in Paris. It’s NOT looking like christmas. 

    Anyway. 

    I once again realized I have not posted for quite some time (and, to be fair, my dad reminded me while we were skyping yesterday that I hadn’t). Please excuse me now for how mis-matched and all over the place this post is about to be. It’s 10:15pm and for those who know me, my working mind shuts off around 8 (okay, 5pm during finals at McGill…)

    What have I been up to in France? Well, more eating (obviously). Christmas here calls for an assortment of new pastries/ simple variations of others ones that seem that much more exciting solely because a) I am in France b) It’s almost Christmas! I have perused around a few christmas markets- one large one at La Defense, the business area of Paris, and the market on the Champs Elysees. Sadly, I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the whole atmosphere was great with the Christmas hype but they were both overly crowded with, well, parisiens. I am not one to make judgement calls (too often) but we say “oh, I’m sorry!” or “excuse me!” a lot more when accidentally running into someone in Canada instead of just playing chicken with strangers in the street. There was also an abundance of repeat stalls, most of which were for non-christmas-y things. The best part of the christmas markets I would say (okay, I haven’t tried the hot wine yet…) were these little buggers… 

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    Think Viva puff with a lighter wafer bottom, much taller, and the smoothest marshmallow/mousse mixture you can find. It was pure bliss. It was ALSO the only chocolate-peppermint mix that I have really enjoyed here during the holiday season which is rather depressing. (my mint-chocolate obsession is on the same level as my pumpkin obsession…). 

    I also headed over to the Grand Magasins of Paris— Galaries Lafayette and Printemps— to obviously fill my  ”Marissa Cooper need to be in a big department store i can’t afford to put me in the Christmas mood”, need- minus the shoplifting part (sorry for all the non-OC gawkers, google the reference if you’d like). 

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    But how can this NOT make you excited for Christmas? Yes, this was taken with my cell phone— you can only imagine what it REALLY looks like. The windows of both stores were also EXCELLENT although it was tricky to see all the details through the 5-deep tourist crowd. 

    Besides christmas markets and large department stores, I have gotten the chance to actually be 22 a few times (ha. i can count them on two fingers). I got to stay in Paris one night for a friends birthday in a room with a million dollar view (I am not kidding.) 

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    Happy Birthday Sarah! 

    Wine, great food, lots of laughs, and meeting some great new girls was extremely refreshing. A little fun lesson was also confirmed at Sarah’s birthday dinner: Being in France, you aren’t always 100% sure what you are getting when choosing a meal (or at least I’m not). I often choose around certain foods I know the name of and enjoy, and it generally turns out okay. My meal for the night ended up being FANTASTIC, however I had NO idea what I ate other than it being cabbage stuffed. A friend took a picture of the menu to blog about, and informed me last week that I, indeed, ate Partridge for dinner… and then it dawned on me that I had a pear based dessert. Merry first day of Christmas, friends. 

    A late night with a good amount of vino led into the perfect “american” follow up day— a trip to Chipotle with a Starbucks holiday latte for dessert. Sometimes the best way to put you in a good mood is to make yourself feel at home— with a burrito bowl salad and an almond- hazlenut latte. 

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    You can’t get much more american than this. Thanks Paris. 

    I also experienced my first “galette de rois”, otherwise known as “kings cake”. It was a little early in the year (so I have been told) because the tradition is based around an event in early January, however friends of the family brought one over (and to be fair, they are in all the pastry shops at the moment). The gist of the tradition in France (or at least what I have been told) is the youngest child hides under the table as someone serves the cake. They name the order in which the guests will recieve their slices.  There is a little trinket baked into the cake- whoever gets the toy in their slice becomes “king” for the day- crown and all. Well, guess who got to be the ruler? Obviously yours truly. 

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    Can you tell I need a vacation? What 22 year old should have bags under their eyes like that?

    So here I am now. There have been other stops in between to great american cake shops, a ‘Salon de The’ that was older than Canada (yes, the entire country), homework fights, lots of rain, and of course lots of walking (thats the only answer to the question I keep getting asked at home— how are you not 300lbs right now with all these food pictures?). 

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    Sugarplum Cake shop— owned by Americans in Paris and a GREAT provider of a much needed rice crispie and peanut butter cookie fix. 

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    Eiffel Tower candies? My type of bar. 

    In other, FANTASTIC, news, my mum and dad are arriving the morning of the 25th for TWO WHOLE WEEKS and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I am counting down the days (and have been for the past two months…). I had such a quick turnover from travelling/working around the country all summer to coming to France that I haven’t gotten to spend good quality time with them in months. It’s a little sad not to be home with the entire family for Christmas, but I know that the 25th will be spent with lots of skype dates, and if Ricky has any say, lots of croissants. 

    So I will leave you for now with lots of HAPPY HOLIDAYS, MERRY CHRISTMAS, and lots and lots of love. I probably wont post until the new year, but hey— that means I will have a month in Austria without picking up kids from school to blog about the holidays, and give the final round up of au pair life. 

    miss you all like crazy, 

    xo

    Lain

     

  8. Well overdue.

    So it has been a while since my last post, I just haven’t found the courage to sit down and commit to writing something (because there has been so much to write about, it seemed like quite the task). And now here I am, November 23rd (Happy birthday to my oldest sister Carly!!!!!) with about a month to recap… annnnnnnnnd I’m probably not going to speak to most of the events. 

    At the end of October/ beginning of November the kids got TWO FULL WEEKS off school. Absurd if you ask me. Anyway, I was a full day baby sitter for the first week and then got the second week off for a paid vacation (or just compensation for doing double the work i usually have to the week before… potatoe, potato.) On November 2 i headed out to an airport hotel as I had an EARLY morning flight to Austria and the trains are not running at that time. I settled in to my typical euro hotel room (bed basically touching all the walls) for a short nap of sorts because I was anxious about making my flgiht on time, and honestly… TOO EXCITED TO SLEEP. Come on, a week off without kids… who wouldn’t be. I got to the airport on time, carefree, and to my surprise, onto my flight without showing a SINGLE piece of ID. Not once, I’m not even sure anyone actually READ my plane ticket (and at my layover, no one checked it, i scanned it myself on a computer). My first flight was from Paris to Frankfurt on which our in flight snack (yes, free snacks for once) was a nice fluffy croissant. I wish I would get stuck longer in the Frankfurt airport because it is AMAZING— the restaurants  the shopping… but I had another plane to catch! My second flight brought me from Frankfurt to Vienna (also another beautiful airport… simple and clean lines, modern, areas to take naps…). On this flight we had probably one of the best yogurts and muslei I have ever had— I almost just wanted to ride the planes my whole vacation and try out all their meals. 

    After catching a bus at the airport to the Vienna train station I boarded the train to make my way to Linz— sans ticket. The train was clean, fast, and had free (fast) wifi and all I had to do was buy my ticket on board… tres simple! I finally made it to Linz to be greeted by a GORGEOUS, sunny, warm day and a kid in a bright red McGill hat!

    HI MARC!

    It was such a relief to see a familiar face after a few months of trying to integrate into a family and meet an over whleming amount of people. We went and dropped my bags off and headed to check out Linz— Highlights of the first day included an unbelievable sushi lunch, walking around downtown, eating lots of chocolate (not a surprise if you know either of us), and an AMAZING meal with an AMAZING view of Linz. 

    The river running through Linz

    The view from the restaurant…

    The next day was a game day for Marc so it was pretty similar to a lazy-game day back at McGill. Breakfast, walk into town to get me coffee (obviously), wander the city again, pre-game nap (obviously I indulged in a nap too… a girl needs sleep on her week off!) and a pre-game meal. Marc headed off to the rink, and i headed later with a wife of one of the players (Who are both incredibly sweet AND from the aurora/newmarket area… yes I spent part of my vacation halfway around the world hanging out with people from home! haha). The only way to describe the crowd at the game is to say it was comparable to a small scale european soccer crowd— but in a rink. Chants, drums, scarves, and banners were all in full force. We were seated next to the visiting team’s fans who were pretty rowdy. It was actually so nice to be in a rink again watching a game, and I instantly found myself getting way to into it (in my own world, no time for chatting… i was watching). 

    The starting lineup… hey, i know you

    The next few days Marc was gone for a trip so I hung around Linz for a day to explore the downtown, run, shop, and have some ‘me’ time and the second day I ventured off by myself for a day in Salzburg (yes, home of the sound of music).

    View from Salzburg Castle

    What a beautiful city (despite the crappy weather). a ton of walking, some Pho Soup, and mozart chocolates all led me to an early bed time. The next day I ventured to Vienna with the same family that I had attended the game with (see, I told you they were sweet!) and got a super speed tour of the town. The boys were flying into Vienna that afternoon so we met them for dinner instead of waiting for them back in Linz. A traditional eastern european meal, followed by an amazing apple strudel was a fantastic way to end the day— and get me excited for the next two days of adventure—- Prague. 

    Dinner at the famous “Cafe Central” in Vienna


    Apple Strudel with Vanilla cream

    Lights in St. Stephens Cathedral at night in Vienna

    A three hour drive was all it took to get to Prague. We checked into our hotel and ventured off into the city. We walked all day— stopping for lunch (classy falafel and kebobs!) and snacks- marc basically ate a whole pig (old prague ham), and i had the prague version of a beavertail in the old town square.

    just roastin’ on the street 

    Pastry dough cooked over hot coals with toffee, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. (aka my heaven… crunchy on the outside and barely cooked soft dough on the inside) 

    Old Town square (i spy with my little eye a ginger.)

    We saw basically all the sights we wanted to see during the day and stopped for an amazing dinner in the old town square that night. We sat on a heated out door patio, and AMAZING food, had great wine and desserts, and to top it all off had this as a view…

    We made it back to the hotel for the night and as Marc planned the next day i dozed off (a girl gets tired, okay! This WAS my vacation time). We woke up at dawn to walk over to the Charles bridge in time to see the sunrise (okay, it was cloudy… we didn’t see anything) but Prague was amazing at this hour. 7am on a Saturday— no one in the streets, fresh air— VERY different from what we experienced the day before.

    Charles Bridge

    A quick nap back at the hotel and an unbelievable free buffet breakfast (im talking gourmet breads, pastries, eggs, coffee, cereals, yogurt  juices— probably the closest thing i’ve had to a decent brunch in europe) Then a quick half day and back to Linz. (Not without trying the famous caramel ice cream/ nut dessert from Cukrana Mysak which was a favourite of many famous individuals in history— including the Czech President who was said to have ordered it to his house on many occasions). 

    starting of the Movember ‘stache. 

    we split it and i HONESTLY think I couldnt have had one to myself… pure bliss. 

    My final day was spent at the Haribo factory

    (more importantly the Haribo factory STORE), that Marc was unaware was in his town let alone down the street from the rink (Linz is becoming my heaven…), some good asian soups, and some wandering. It was a struggle to put myself back on that train/plane combination to come back to Paris (I know, I sound a bit like a spoiled brat). 

    It is crazy how you can live in one place for 3 months and have it feel kind of like your new dwelling, only to go somewhere COMPLETELY new for just a week and have it feel like home within the first few hours of being there. It was so nice to get away, and even nicer to be in amazing and comforting company. I couldn’t have asked for a better vacation. 

    And now here we are… November 23rd and… GASP nearing the end of my time in France. My mum and dad will be coming on the 25th (YAAAAYYYYY) and we will be spending some time in Paris, heading over to London, a brief <24hr stint in Munich, and a few days in Linz. I will mosey on back to Paris with them on the 7th of January but only until the 12th when I will leave the city for good (… or just until I get enough money to travel back here one day). A little change of plans here. I won’t be making my way back to the good old Canada on the 12th of January but rather head back to Austria for just under a month! I’m going to live the life of an unemployed 22 year old for just short of a month before I make my way back to Montreal to start ‘real girl life’ with a ‘real girl job’. 

    I’m counting down the days until I get to start my NEW adventure but in the mean time get the most out of Paris that I can… aka. eat as many of the sweets that I havent gotten around to yet before I leave the land of butter and carbs. 

    well.. I hope this was enough of an update for all of you! I miss everyone from home a lot, especially as we get closer to the Christmas season. 

    lots and lots of love, 

    Lain

    xo

     
  9. Refining my baking skills! Vanilla/ coffee sour cream bundt cake, middle and top layer of cinnamon streusel with a maple and vanilla glaze to top it all off! (Made for Muriel while she was out at her birthday dinner, post pumpkin carving).

    Emily (a friend of mine and Au pair of family friends) came over to help/ do all the pumpkin carving with the kids as hers are already away for the holiday. We topped off the night with a “traditional” American breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and breakfast potatoes! Great company and great food to start the kids (two week) holiday off right!

     
  10. Finally my pumpkin fix— pumpkin cupcake with maple cream cheese frosting at Cupcake Camp 3 Paris. I forgot how filling and SWEET North American desserts are… But it was all worth the sugar headaches after.