Butternut Squash and Beef Stew

I’ve been waiting for Costco to bring in their squashes because there’s no one in the city who can beat their pricing. For 3 large butternut squash, it was a mere $6! Now what to do with it… well make stew of course.

Ingredients:

1 large onion

3 garlic cloves

1 tbsp of dried Italian herbs

1 tbsp of dried rosemary

1 large roast cut into cubes (around 1.5-2 pounds)

1/4 cup of flour

2 cups of red wine

2 large butternut squash (peeled and cut into cubes)

1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes

4 cups of broth (I only had chicken but I’m sure beef would be great)

Salt and pepper to season

Steps:

1) In a large pot, combine the onion, garlic, and herbs with oil olive. Cook for around 5 minutes or until the onions begin to brown.

2) Toss the beef cubes into a bowl and coat with the flower and salt and pepper. Then add into the pot. Cook for around 5 minutes.

3) Add in the 2 cups of wine, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot. It should start to slightly thicken. Cook for around 5 minutes.

4) Finally, add in the butternut squash, sun dried tomatoes, broth, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then let it simmer for around an hour.

Voila!

I think next time, I would also add in mushrooms close to the end. The stew is nice and thick with tons of flavor. You could top with some cheese or a scoop full of sour cream.

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Cauliflower Bacon Soup

We’ve had a pretty damp and cold September in Calgary, which has forced me to start my winter cooking earlier than I wanted to. I love soups, but never really make them, so it’s been my goal this winter to change that.

This morning, I google a bunch of recipes to use up the Costco sized bag of cauliflower still lingering in our fridge. I couldn’t really find what I was looking for on google, so I decided to make my own.

The ingredients are simple and the soup itself is very easy to make.

Ingredients:

1 package of bacon

1 large onion

3 cloves of garlic

2 largish potatoes

1 container of chicken broth

Equivalent of 1 head of cauliflower

1/4 cup of cream

Directions:

1) In a pot, cook the bacon to a crispy level. Once it’s finished, remove from the pot but keep the grease inside.

2) Add in the diced onions and chopped garlic. Stir until cooked (about 5 mins).

3) Add in the two peeled and chopped potatoes, and the cauliflower. Also, pour in all of the chicken broth.

4) Simmer for 30 minutes.

5) Once finished, add almost all of the bacon you previously cooked, and blend the soup until it’s puréed. Add it back into the pot and stir in 1/4 cup of cream (I only had coffee cream to use). Don’t let the soup boil, but make sure it’s warm.

6) Serve into bowls and garnish with the leftover bacon and parmesan cheese.

This soup is hearty, yummy, and full of flavor. Enjoy!

Back to School

After summer break, comes the start of meetings and reconnecting with my school team. Besides the regular stuff, my favourite part of back to school is our family induction. It’s a chance for us to sit down individually with each family in our class and spend a short amount of time getting to know them. It’s a great way to establish rapport with your students and parents right from the start. I truly believe it takes away the angst of starting school and starts to build that classroom community that we all strive to have.

To begin this year, we made a short video to introduce our families to some changes to grade 4. Next, we complete a little questionnaire with each student to get to know them a bit better. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to see writing skills and family dynamics. After a bit of paperwork and questions/comments, and showing the students around the classroom, I always take a family photo. I conclude with giving each child a little snack to welcome them to my classroom.

To start this year, the grade 4 teachers have received new portables. They unfortunately aren’t finished yet and I’m the lucky one who gets to have my classroom in the gym! I can’t wait to explore what this will be like. Stay tuned for updates…

Home, Home on the Range

Our alarms woke us up at a nice 6am. The final alarm of our honeymoon and it couldn’t be any more bittersweet. Quickly, we had a shower, packed up, had one final look at our adorable hotel, and walked over to the metro.

The metro system is Paris is fantastic, and really trumps that of Italy. Italy seemed to rely more on buses and trains, which were great too. It made traveling between cities a breeze. The metro is Paris though is made for travelers. It’s ridiculously easy to figure out and very affordable. All you need to know is where you’re headed, and the map clearly directs you to the line you should be on. It’s crazy though because we would take at least two escalators down to the platform, which tells you how far below the ground the system runs.

Arriving at the airport, we easily went through security and waited patiently for our plane. It didn’t take us nearly as long as we had anticipated, so we were a bit earlier than we expected.

The first route of our trip home took us to Halifax. It was an easy flight, no issues. We had about an hour layover, just enough time to grab a little snack, before jumping on our next short flight to Ottawa.

The flight itself was easy. Once we arrived was a different story. Apparently, there were big storms in Toronto, where our plane was coming from and most planes were going, and it was an absolute mess. Every flight was delayed. Some flights were canceled. I was annoyed and irritated, and becoming a bit delusional from the lack of sleep. Then, you’d look around and see all the kiddos trying to keep it together, and instead, I felt bad for them!

Three hours later, we finally were able to board. Our plane was packed, and to boot, an old crappy Westjet plane. I tried to stay awake but my body wouldn’t allow for it. It’s such an interesting feeling when you literally have no control over how your body responds. I’d be playing a game on my phone and then would wake up who knows how long later, not even realizing I had fallen asleep.

I wouldn’t claim it to be the best way to end our honeymoon, being up 26 hours straight, but I am glad to be home. It was the perfect amount of time away. Enough time to enjoy everything around us, but also enough time to wish I had brought more than a carry on worth of clothes, and of course to start thinking and missing our family and friends.

There really is something special about coming home to two furry faces which make you feel so loved!

It will take me some time to digest everything we were able to do on our honeymoon. It really was all I could have dreamed for! It was such an incredible journey.

I’ll leave you with a final quote, something that really spoke to me:

Travelling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go: this is my station.’

~Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

Paris is Always a Good Idea

With a beautiful sleep, we awoke to a stunning breakfast in bed. It was everything you could imagine when you think of Paris: pain du chocolate, croissant, café.

We enjoyed the breakfast half in bed and half on our adorable balcony then headed out to finish our final day in Paris!

Strolling through our neighborhood, by Notre Dame, through the latin quarter, and onwards, we enjoyed the scenic views and dreamed that our trip would never end.

Being it was our final day, we of course had to visit the Iron Lady, with her strong base and flashy looks.

It was the perfect place for us to enjoy a bottle of champagne and to toast to how perfect our trip has been.

We spent some time further exploring the city, and hoping for a hot air balloon ride. However, we were disappointed with the fact that a hot air balloon ride entailed solely going up and down, stationary.

We abandoned the idea, and instead dipped our feet in the little water park, where all the kiddos were running around crazy.

Doing our research and planning for a fantastic dinner on our last night, we headed back to our neighborhood to a restaurant called Les Bourgresses. It has a deliciously sounding set menu and fantastic reviews so we jumped at the opportunity to try it out.

To start with, we each had an appetizer. Daniel ordered the fish tartar and I ordered the baked cheese bread on a salad.

For our mains, Daniel had the steak in foie gras and I had the sea bass.

We ended with two amazing desserts: creme brûlée and an apple type crumble (only way better!).

Strolling back home, we stopped to grab some drinks to toast to our final night in Paris. The beautiful scenery made our evening that much better.

We’ve been to Paris now twice in just over a year, and it really is a special city. Perhaps the nickname the city of love is an understatement. There’s no way you can’t fall in love with this place and everything it has to offer. But, if you can’t fall in love with the city, then you can at least fall more in love with the person you’re with!

J’aime Paris

The ringing of the alarm at 6am was not the most pleasant sound to hear. We both slept awful, perhaps in sadness for leaving Rome, or in anticipation of arriving in Paris. Either way, we walked to the tram, took the train to the airport, and arrived in Paris. Last year in April, Paris was where Daniel proposed and I will always have a soft spot for it in my heart. Not to mention, it’s an absolutely stunning city.

We felt at home, as we hopped on the metro and arrived at The Notre Dame station. A quick walk and we checked into our hotel. It is literally the cutest place you could set your eyes on. Plus, they gave us an adorable top floor room!

When we arrived in our room, sitting on the table was a little note and a complimentary bottle of champagne. Just add it to the list of one more reason why I love this city so much!

We popped the bubbly and sat on our balcony, admiring the view and planning our afternoon.

Once the champagne was finished, it was time to start our Paris adventure. What did we do first you ask? I hope everyone can answer this!

The Parisian essentials in my books! We walked down to the river where they had beautiful little picnic/”beach” areas set up to relax along the river. It was the perfect setting for macaron eating!

Continuing our walk, we visited our old stomping grounds, the Latin Quarter. We passed Notre Dame (where it’s accession Wednesday and the Bell Tower was going crazy!), walked through the cobbled streets, and remembered our previous abode.

Being in Paris, we had to relive our previous last day here, so we walked over to Luxembourg Gardens to see it’s glory. The memories, the surprise, the happiness, everything came pouring back. We had an amazing picnic, reminisced, and just enjoyed each other’s company, now as husband and wife.

Stuffed from our picnic and people watching, we slowly made our way back to our hotel, wine in hand to enjoy the sunset.

We wandered the streets, checking out a few places. By the time 11pm came we were quite starved and stopped at a place in the latin quarter. It definitely wasn’t the best meal we had here by it made due when you’re in a crunch. The escargot to start with was pretty fantastic.

Then, we had the duck confit and muscles.

Our way home, we again walked by Notre Dame for a nighttime pic. This place is just something else!

When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

First day for a sleep in and did it ever feel lovely! We started our morning off with a simple espresso and treat, and then were pleasantly fueled for the day.

We hopped on the bus across the river and headed south to check out the Pyramid of Cestius. It’s an ancient pyramid circa B.C 12 and is one of Rome’s best preserved ancient buildings. It was built as a tomb for Gaius Cestius. Unfortunately, it had very limited hours so we weren’t able to go inside, but the structure was pretty fantastic to see.

Across from the museum is a small monument dedicated to the victims of racism and fascism. It reads “tutti potenziali bersagli” and shows five people with their hands tied behind their backs, each with a triangle that reminds everyone how individuals were treated during WWII by the Nazis: pink for homosexuals, blue for immigrants, brown for gypsies, red for anti-fascists, and the yellow Star of David for the Jewish.

After seeing these two moving sites, we hopped back on the bus and headed up to the Campo de’Fiori area for a little shopping and lunch. As we were walking, the rain started to fall and it was such a relief from the heat. Much needed and we loved it!

For lunch, we stopped at a place that was deemed for having one of the best carbonara in town. When in Rome! We began our lunch with an appetizer sampler. It included whipped cod fish, meatball with an Italian version of salsa verde (very different and very good!), zucchini ball, bruschetta topping, and burrata cheese and anchovy on a pastry.

Then, of course, we ordered the carbonara and cacio e pepe. They were both so creamy and heavenly!

We ended with a delicious espresso, and then boarded the bus again to go north to the Borghese Gardens.

The Borghese Gardens occupy three square miles and contain numerous fountains, statues, Rome’s zoo, and endless pathways. We walked around it for an hour or so, enjoying the nature and peacefulness that it brings.

At 5pm, we had a reserved time for the Borghese Gallery, which has a collection of world class sculptures and art. You’re only allowed an allotted two hours to tour the place so we needed to be sure to start on time.

The main entry hall shows numerous Greek sculptures and stunning ceiling architecture.

As you enter the first room, you are immediately drawn to the statue of Pauline Borghese as Venus. This was created in the mid 18th century, where Napoleon’s sister posed nude for the sculpture Canova, creating quite the scandal in Europe.

In the second room, is a statue of David, created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, said to be the David that “acts” compared to Michelangelo’s David who “thinks”.

In another room, is Bernini’s statue to represent the story of Pluto (Hades) and Persephone, from 1622. The myth tells us that Hades was from the underworld, but occasionally ventured above, and one day fell in love with Persephone. Hades confided in his brother Zeus, who together came up with a plan. They caused the ground to split underneath her, and he kidnapped her and made her his wife. The three headed dog is the animal that guarded the underworld. The statue created by Bernini depicts the action as Persephone was being kidnapped. Stories like this were usually shown through paintings, not statues, because of the difficulty in portraying action and feelings. Quite a masterpiece!

These were the main highlights for me, but of course there were numerous other statues.

Upstairs, in the Pinacoteca, there were impressive paintings by Bernini, Raphael and many others.

One thing that I found particularly fascinating about this gallery was the 3D illusion of the ceiling art work. Somehow the artist made it appear as though the people were sitting on ledges or standing and popping out at you. I was amazed by the technique, especially for occurring so long ago.

Once our time was up in the gallery, we jumped back on the bus and returned to our neighborhood for dinner. Being as it was our final night in Rome, and as we had been doing all day, we had to eat as the Romans do. We order a beautiful bottle of red and two classic pizzas.

We ended our meal with an espresso and our final tiramisù.

As a farewell to Rome, we even had our final gelato.

It hard to describe in words how I feel about this city. You could spend hours walking around and still not be able to see every little piece of history that’s here. It’s inspired me to be more appreciative of the past and to truly learn about the things that make our world so unique and special. I look forward to returning again one day!