Saturday, June 29, 2019

victoria sponge cake with fresh strawberries and cream

Looking for an easy dessert for your holiday weekend celebrations? This cake is perfect because it's super simple to make and assemble, but it looks pretty (and festive) as well.

The cake is a simple Victoria Sponge Cake (I used this recipe accompanying this article by Felicity Cloake, found in The Guardian).

Now, here's the thing. I didn't have self-rising flour on hand. I substituted all purpose with the appropriate amounts of added salt and baking powder, but I feel the cake, as a result, was lacking a bit in sponginess (though, not lacking in taste!). Next time I will either add more than the recommended amount of baking powder (even though it seemed like too much already), or I'll just pickup a small bag of self-rising. You'd think from reading the article that I would have just waited. But the fresh strawberries from market were at that perfect point, where waiting even just one day further would have resulted in waking up to slightly mushy berries, and a small army of fruit flies that seemed to have appeared from nowhere.

Layer sponge cakes rounds with generous amounts of whipped cream, sweetened with powdered sugar for a little extra hold, and top with fresh berries. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Also, the first of the roses have made their appearance in the garden.


Perfectly imperfect and very patriotic.

Friday, June 21, 2019

in season - peonies

Each year, once June arrives, a local grower brings cut Peonies to the farmer's market. It's my favourite time to visit. She's only there for a few weeks, and because they're in season, they're much more affordable, so I don't feel guilty bringing home and armful.

It always take me a bit of time selecting the perfect ones. You want to make sure they're open just enough that you will actually have open blooms and not just buds, but also tight enough that they will last as long as possible.

They are one of my most favourite flowers.

Because they're a favourite, I try to plant different varieties in my garden for cuttings. And by different, I mean of the pale pink and cream varieties.

So far, my Krinkled White Peonies have bloomed.

The rest are quite far behind due to the very cool spring we had. We are by the lake, so the temperature is slightly cooler here than even in other parts of town. Just a couple more warm afternoons and these will be fully opened.

I always find it fascinating watching the ants do their part.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

trip east - part two


This is the beautiful Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. The landscapes can vary so much in this province, but this particular part of it reminds us of home. The valley runs parallel to the Bay of Fundy, along the Western side, nestled between two mountains. The mountains shelter the area and have created a sort of micro climate, perfect for apple orchards and vineyards, both of which are abundant.

We spent a day driving around Grand Pre - a UNESCO world heritage site and a memorial to the Acadian people forced to leave. As early as 1605, the French settled in the valley in Port Royal (Samuel de Champlain), and made their way up the valley becoming the Acadians. They were known for their use of dikes to hold back the tidal waters, creating rich farmland. In 1755, the British forced  the Acadians to leave, but the french influence is still evident today. Then New England Planters came in, invited to occupy the farmland left vacant, and take over cultivating the area.

We packed a picnic and ate at The Lookoff (on the North mountain), which offers the most beautiful views of the Valley. And it's not just the scenery that's so charming - situated on the farms are old Colonial homes and grand barns. Classic four-square farmhouses are also prevalent and occasionally you drive past a grand Palladian home with it's large chimneys.

While the climate is very similar to ours here in the Niagara Region, they are probably about two weeks behind us. This meant that we got to enjoy the Apple orchards in blossom, and the Lilacs in full bloom.

We'd be driving down the valley on the original highway 1 (which winds through each small town), and we'd be almost giddy pointing out home after home.

This was my favourite little cottage in Nova Scotia.

At the other end of the Valley is Annapolis Royal. The little towns along the rivers in Nova Scotia remind me of a folk painting.

I didn't take near as many photos throughout this part of the trip as I usually may have. We spent a lot of time driving, and I tried to just enjoy as much of it as I could in the moment with the kids.

After spending a few days in Nova Scotia, we began our trip back home. Our first stop was in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick (deemed Saint Andrews By the Sea). It was Canada's first seaside resort community, with the grand Algonquin Hotel up on the hill overlooking town, and charming seaside cottages and inns at the water. We stayed at the Seaside Beach Resort, a collection of little cottages that reminded me of Nantucket.

Next we headed towards Woodstock, Vt. We stumbled across this little town called Wayne, ME on our way. We had to turn around and drive through it a second time because it was about as classic small-town USA as you could hope for - from the general store to the bunting flags hanging from the river bridge behind it.

Here I quickly popped into an antique shop - Bittersweet Antiques, while Ryan admired the owner's garage.

We drove past Mount Washington and by the time we made it to Woodstock, the town was asleep. It was still pretty to drive through, but we promised next time to spend a couple days there.

It added so much to have the kids with us experiencing things. It wasn't always easier, but it was an adventure! And an adventure is what we were going for.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

trip east - part one, nantucket

When given the chance, Ryan and I head East. The American East coast, the Canadian East coast - it doesn't really matter. Just East. We've tried the West coast, and while beautiful, it's just not our thing. We love being by the water. It's soothing to our souls. But we also love the small town feel and the rich history of the East. We love the architecture of the homes with their classic, timeless style. The way of life there seems to be much slower, and more relaxed. It's just where we love to be.

For the first time in our many trips to the coast, we decided to bring our children with us. We wanted to show them all the things we love. And while our boys are used to a fairly long drive to the cottage in the summer, the 21 hour drive to Nova Scotia was going to be a new adventure (for everyone).

The plan was to take two and a half days to get out to Nova Scotia, via the US. If you drove straight East from us, you'd end up near Boston. We'd then head North East through Vermont and Maine, and then back into Canada and through New Brunswick to Nova Scotia. At the last minute, we made a huge decision to spend one night on Nantucket. It seemed ridiculous at first, but honestly, I couldn't say no. Even for just one night. I'm going to highlight our time on the island first, as honestly, that's where I took the most photos (mainly because I had more time to wander about). Then I'll highlight the rest of our trip in another post.

Packing for a road trip for a family of six was a challenge! There were a couple things that made it easier. First, my husband invested in a rooftop carrier. This was huge as I wasn't limited to space, like when flying. Second, we made use of the hotel laundry machines halfway through. And third, we kept a large suitcase, but packed smaller weekend bags (one for us, one for the kids) with everything we needed for that night and next day. This was especially helpful for Nantucket as we wouldn't have our car and would need to carry our luggage on and off the ferry.

So, to optimize our time on the island, we drove to Sturbridge, MA the first evening. We literally arrived at 1:30 am and were checked out by 6:30 am the next morning. We booked an early departure on the high speed ferry. which meant we arrived on the island late morning. I find this to be a great time to go as a couple weeks later, and students arrive back home from school, and busy season starts which basically doubles the population. Sure, you miss the quintessential Hydrangeas and Roses in bloom, but it's still beautiful (and less expensive).

It was a perfectly grey ferry ride in - warm enough to sit outside, but cool enough to be thankful you threw in a sweatshirt and blanket. Our hair was windblown and our skin tasted salty by the time we docked, but the fog was lifting and the only evidence of the morning's down pour were the puddles in the cobblestone streets.

We made our way to the rental shop, where the boys rented a Jeep for the day - the perfect vehicle for making the most of the sandy back roads and beach drives. We didn't all fit in the Jeep, so George and I took the transit and we met them out in Sconset. They brought the luggage to the hotel (the scenic way, no doubt) while George and I walked about town.

We met for lunch at The Brotherhood of Thieves, where Ryan got to enjoy his favourite sandwich in the world - their Reuben.

I spent my time in town window shopping and admiring the well-kept homes.

I then grabbed an iced coffee from Handlebar Cafe, which is conveniently across from the transit waiting area, and waited for the bus to Sconset.

I got off at the rotary by Sconset Market, and found the boys waiting. They headed to the beach and the playground across from it and I walked up and down the lanes, looking at the cottages.

It's such an interesting place. These cottages are so old, some of them dating back to the mid-18th century, and yet, they're so meticulously kept. They are so charming. 


It has it's own smell - it's a mix of fresh ocean and sweet, floral from the beach roses.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon chasing waves and spotting seals.

We stayed by Surfside Beach, which isn't far from Sconset or town. We had takeout Lola Burger by the fire and walked the beach at sunset.

In the morning, I went back down to the beach and caught the end of the sunrise. The beaches are so beautiful. Our ferry would be leaving before noon as we had a long drive to the next destination, so I headed back into town for one more early walk around while the boys went back out in the Jeep.

It was so quiet in town, I felt like I had it all to myself. I picked up another iced coffee and morning bun and did some more window shopping as nothing was open. The brick sidewalks lulled George back to sleep.

Then I made my way down to the Wharf, quickly popping into the grocer to pick up some lunch supplies for the ferry ride home - namely buns and cold meet, some kettle chips, a pint of strawberries and chocolate chip cookies.

The old wharf is charming as well. It smells like the ocean with beautiful boats docked outside of tiny cottages for rent. And a few little shops to browse with souvenirs and gifts.

The boys met me here with a little time before we departed. We walked the docks, checking out the boats and watched a tall ship leave. This photo made me smile.

We knew that it might not be what we were hoping, given all that could go wrong traveling as a family. But with some planning ahead, it worked. And surprisingly, despite how short of a stay it was, we were relaxed and enjoyed ourselves! And what's more, our kids fell in love with a place that we love. Next time though, we're renting a cottage and staying for a week.