Haunted Halloween Book Recommendations

Thursday, October 30, 2014

You will never see a copy of The Shining on Sisi & Leeta’s bookshelf. We are rather sensitive, you see, and anything too scary is apt to leave us chilled, not thrilled.

This is not to say that we don’t love a little Halloween tingle, of course! If you’re the same – feeling the need for an appropriate read without the fear of being up all night – here are a couple of books and films to satisfy even the most timid witch.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke.

Ten years in the writing, this novel was a triumph with critics and readers when it debuted in 2004. Ten years on from that, we can say that this extraordinary novel is holding up well. Centered largely around the two title characters, it offers an alternative history of England, one where magic is beginning to return to its nineteenth-century setting. This is a long, solid read that will take you through November.

The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

We recently reviewed this friendly book our sister blog, Olive Reads. Here is a version of what we had
to say: 
Written in 1919 (handy because the book is now in the public domain) it features a suspenseful
little mystery that's really just a vehicle to let our hero, bookstore owner Roger Mifflin, extol
the power and wonder of books. There are plenty of warm fires to be had in this Brooklyn shop, and just
enough rustling leaves to give it a Halloween tinge.

Photos courtesy of amazon.com website

Frightful Halloween Tea Party

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Yesterday, my mother hosted a delightful Halloween tea party full of ghastly goodies! It is an annual tradition in my family to celebrate Halloween with a ghoulish party, and revel in all its spellbinding mysteries. 

We had an enchanted afternoon at the Little White House in Fort Langley, where we sipped and nibbled at devilish delights.

The Little White House had an unexpected twist that only added to the thrill of our afternoon tea: the house is haunted! Many visitors have noted feeling a female presence in the rooms. Although my sixth sense has not picked up any ghostly vibrations, my mother and sister have felt her!

Tomorrow is the last day to enjoy the Treacherous Tea that the Little White House is hosting.
The eerie nature of this house will certainly prepare you for Halloween night!

Ghoulish Halloween Cupcakes

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Enjoy these eerie cupcakes as the ghouls and goblins ensure a night of treacherous trickery at your doorstep.

These easy stencils create the illusion of hours spend toiling over your cupcakes.

Stencils available here: http://scoop-n-save.com/halloween-cupcake-cookie-tops-stencil/

halloween cupcakes decor stencils

halloween cupcakes decor stencils

Spooky Halloween Cake

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

As my favourite holiday draws near, my thoughts turn to preparation for a night of ghoulish glamour!

When the trick or treaters are in full swing knocking at your door, this eerie delight will sustain you!

Tea of the Month: Irish Breakfast Tea

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October Tea
Flavour: Irish Breakfast Black Tea
Proprietor: Adagio Teas
Origin: Sri Lanka, India

Irish Breakfast tea is a blend of Assam black teas giving it its noteworthy higher caffeine kick and malty aftertaste. This is also why many prefer to drink this as a ‘breakfast’ tea to give a kick start to the day.

Although the higher caffeine content gives meaning to why this is a breakfast tea, the Irish aspect is still somewhat unknown. It is thought that this tea grew in great popularity when the British East Indian Tea Company was producing tea in the Assam region of India.

This love of this strong, malty tea in Ireland grew in such fervor that the in 1910 the New York Times wrote an article titled “Tea is Ireland’s evil- ranks before alcohol as an enemy of public health.”
The benefits of tea are markedly more researched today and the love affair of Irish Breakfast Tea continues to dominate teapots worldwide.

As the Gaelic say, enjoy your “cupan tae”!

 Image via:

Cranberry Sauce: Two Ways

Friday, October 10, 2014

With the Canadian Thanksgiving and the Fort Langley Cranberry Festival both happening this weekend I thought it would be pertinent to post a cranberry sauce recipe.

Cranberry sauce is my favourite part of the meal, and I have been accused of ladling it on everything rather liberally.

Here are two ways to make easy at-home cranberry sauce. The first is a more classic take and the second one a slightly healthier version, with only honey as the sweetener. 

Classic Cranberry Sauce from Joy of Cooking

2 cups cranberries, washed
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 orange juice
3 teaspoons orange zest

Combine all ingredients. Transfer to pot and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the cranberries begin to pop and sauce has thickened. Usually 8-10 minutes. Cool and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

honey sweetened cranberry sauce

Honey Sweetened Cranberry Sauce from Against All Grain

Recipe link: http://againstallgrain.com/2011/11/16/scd-and-paleo-cranberry-sauce/

Hummingbird Cake

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Although no hummingbirds are involved in the cake, the name conjures up such whimsical ideas of what it might look like.

This cake originates in the 1960s in Jamaica, and gets its name from the idea that the banana and pineapple ingredients were sweet enough to attract hummingbirds.

Either way, it's a delicious, yet easy cake that is not talked about often enough.
hummingbird cake jamie oliver comfort food
hummingbird cake jamie oliver comfort food
hummingbird cake jamie oliver comfort food
Recipe: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/recipe/hummingbird-cake

An autumnal picnic

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

fall fort langley campbell valley picnic
fort langley campbell valley picnic
fort langley campbell valley picnic
fort langley campbell valley picnic
fort langley campbell valley picnic
A warm autumn afternoon spent picnicking at Fort Langley's Derby Reach and Edgewater Bar and then off on a brisk walk around the beautiful Campbell Valley Park.

Moon Cakes and Mid-Autumn Festival

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

This year I went to the Moon Festival held at White Rock beach, and spent a lovely evening walking along the pier with the beautiful red lanterns yielding to the sea breeze.

This festival was to celebrate the widely popular mid-autumn festival, which is celebrated throughout many Asian countries, but perhaps most notably in China. Ever since my dear friend, Ava, who is from Beijing, presented me with the intricate and symbolic mooncake I was fascinated to learn more. This celebration falls on the 15th day of the 8th month, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest of the year.

Much like Thanksgiving, this festival is a time to reflect on the harvest of crops and the coming together of family. The mooncakes are the hallmark of this holiday and symbolize completeness and unity.

moon festival moon cakes white rock beach

moon festival moon cakes white rock beach
moon festival moon cakes white rock beach

Salmon Fishing Trip

Sunday, September 7, 2014

harrison mills hot springs salmon fishing

harrison mills hot springs salmon fishing

A spur of the moment trip to enjoy the long weekend and attempt to catch some salmon. Stayed in a lovely cabin in Harrison Mills, and although no fish were caught, the peace and tranquility of the surrounding nature filled my soul for the impending quickened pace that Fall brings.

Be sure to do the Circle Farm Tour through Agassiz and Harrison Mills. We spent one afternoon popping into each stop and thoroughly enjoyed it!

Weekend Adventures: Vintage Finds And Trolley Rides

Friday, August 29, 2014

A wonderful weekend spent perusing vintage finds at the Red Door Farm summer's end sale and stopping by Flowers from a Country Garden to pick up a dainty bouquet filled with seasonal flowers.

Another inspiring addition to the weekend was a much anticipated ride on the restored interurban train run by the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway. Once a frequented means of transport from Chilliwack to New Westminister, this stunning trolley has been brought back to life through a 7-year restoration from the many voluteers at this society. It is a testament to the pride in craftsmanship and quality manufacturing that has been much diluted today.

Zucchini Bread and Gluten-free Chocolate zucchini brownies

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

While at the farmers' market the other day, I spotted a crate full of zucchinis marked 4 for $1. I could hardly pass up such a bargain! I scooped up the largest 4 I could find and satisfyingly made the journey home. 

I seem to have underestimated how difficult it would be to use up 4 massive zucchinis. I have made two loaves, as well as brownies, but yet have not even used a full zucchini up! I think the solution for my overzealous purchase is to cut them up and freeze cubes so I can enjoy them during the winter.

After stumbling across a very popular recipe on Allrecipes for Zucchini bread with nearly 5,000 positive reviews I thought I'd better try it. I made a few substitutions of my own. I lowered the sugar to 2 cups and added a 1/4 cup of chocolate chips instead of walnuts.

zucchini bread with chocolate chips

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (not drained)
1/4 chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place parchment in two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans. 
Place flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl and whisk together.
Beat together eggs, vanilla and sugar in a bowl then added the dry mixture to the wet and stir well. Blend in the zucchini and chocolate chips until combined. Don't over-beat. Pour into loaf pans.
Bake for 40-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes and remove to cool completely.  

 gluten free zucchini brownies elana's pantry

Gluten-Free Zucchini Brownies Inspired by Elana's Pantry
11/4 cups almond flour
1/4 cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 baking soda
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup grated zucchini, not drained
1/4 chocolate chips

Combine almond flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda in food processor. Pulse to blend. Place eggs, oil, honey, vanilla and zucchini in and pulse until blended. Pour batter in 8x8 baking dish and bake at 350 degree F for 25-30 minutes.

A Case Of Too Much Tea

Monday, August 18, 2014

Although not a case for the ingenious minds of Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie, I found myself in a quandary as I was organizing my pantry. I seemed to have collected a rather large collection of tea, alarmingly large. I have organized my tea in neat and tidy stacks in my basement pantry, but as I approach the kitchen and adjoining cupboards, these orderly stacks are slightly more helter-skelter, and routinely land on my toes. I wish I could say that this inordinate amount of tea is due to the obligatory birthday and Christmas gifts from friends and family, but this is not the case. Perhaps an odd box or two a year from friends, but this collection is solely due to my quest – lust, rather – to find the “best tea of the world.” My resolution this January was not to floss more or even lose 15 pounds; no, it was to find the world’s best tea. It is a menial quest compared to many others, but important to me nonetheless. I grew weary of the sub-par bag teas served at most coffee shops that tasted reminiscent of dish washing liquid.

black tea nelson's a portrait of earl grey

After much researching and nearly halfway through my yearlong quest, I believe I have found one winner thus far. I am not on a simple quest for just one great tea, but rather one or two superb teas in each of the popular categories, black tea, green tea, rooibos tea, and the like. I believe I have found one for black teas: Nelson’s Tea - A Portrait of Earl Grey. My tea tasting consists of a checklist that each tea must pass in order to obtain a high standing in my prestigious quest.

Tea Checklist
·      Be able to uphold vibrant flavor with or without milk
·      Be able to possess a bold flavor without overpowering amounts of caffeine
·      No artificial flavorings
·      No bitter aftertaste

I will continue this quest and hopefully be able to fulfill my dream of finding the world’s best teas!

black tea nelson's a portrait of earl grey

Live the Revelry

Saturday, August 16, 2014

 Perhaps it started with that marvelous classic of children’s literature, The Once and Future King. Ever since reading the Arthurian fantasy as a little girl, Sisi has always had a little Guinevere in her. But when, aside from October 31st, can you indulge in this secret yearning for knights and chivalry, squires and mead?

Today and tomorrow, that's when! Be like Sisi and Leeta and get ye to the BC Renaissance Festival before all the barbequed turkey legs are gone! Oh yes, dear readers, there are deliciously messy turkey legs, lords and ladies (and not a few wenches) and jousting! You may even be lucky enough to catch sight of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon (wife number one, if you’re historically inclined). Do remember to bow respectfully...

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The popular phrase “a thorn in my side” was quite apt during my early morning blackberry picking session. The thicket of bushes visible from my house had been tempting me each time I glanced out the window, and despite being pricked and poked during my zeal to pluck to best berries I managed to fill 3 large buckets. 

I hope to bake a pie or tarts later in the week with the berries, but seeing as the mercury has again exceeded the 30 degree mark, I don’t feel that myself or the pastry would hold up too well. 

I did, however, find a simpler dessert to satisfy me: chocolate chia pudding topped with blackberries.

Chocolate Chia Pudding
1 cup milk (regular, almond or coconut)
¼ cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Stir all ingredients together and let sit for a few minutes until the chia seeds start to absorb the liquid. Stir again, cover and place in refrigerator for 2 hours until pudding is thick. You may want to drizzle honey or maple syrup on the top at the time of serving depending on how sweet you like it.

chocolate chia pudding with blackberries and peaches

chocolate chia pudding with blackberries and peaches

Snowbirds At The Beach

Sunday, August 10, 2014

snowbirds planes at the beach

snowbirds planes
 A lovely evening at White Rock Beach enjoying the spectacular show by the snowbirds. I hadn't see this magnificent show in 9 years and I am wondering why I waited so long.
A wonderful summer night!

Fireworks and Farmer's Markets

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I often describe myself as a “country mouse” rather than a “city mouse” as I find the heightened pace of a metropolitan populous rather overwhelming. Motivated by my desire to have a short weekend away, I thought I would push myself to explore my own city. The murmurings of fireworks, dinner, and a few unexplored farmer’s markets were also a motivation. 

My other half and I spent the afternoon strolling along Vanier Park and Kitsilano beach, scoping out the best place to watch the fireworks from. A rather hot day at 30 degrees, I was thankful to be close to the water to enjoy the sea breeze.

After working up an appetite from our walk, we enjoyed a lovely gluten-free pizza from the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company and made our way back to Vanier Park to await the fireworks. It was the final night of the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks show and Japan was anticipated to win. As my other half is Japanese and I have heard for many years how Canadian fireworks paled in comparison to those of Japan, I was anxious to finally see if he was correct in his findings.

Ten p.m. arrived and the first boom of the fireworks had me riveted in my seat already. I don’t remember ever hearing fireworks quite so loud. Throughout the 25 minute show I was oohing and aahing enough to realize that indeed the Japanese fireworks seemed to rather outdo those of Canada.

After enjoying such a lovely evening of fireworks, Sunday dawned and two farmer’s market which I had never been to were ripe for exploring. We visited the Kitsliano and Ambleside farmer’s markets, both of which satiated my need for a touch of “country living” whilst in the city.

A relaxing weekend away to explore my own city and appreciate that sometimes I need to push myself a little out of my comfortable zone.

Lavender Lemonade

Monday, August 4, 2014

It’s hot.

It’s so hot we’re tempted to try the ol’ fry an egg on the pavement trick. But that would mean moving off the shaded porch and that is not happening, no sir.

What is happening is Lavender Lemonade: ice cold, just tart enough to wake you up, but with a sweetness underneath that is all summer languor.

We recommend doing this in the morning before the heat makes squeezing a lemon near to impossible. When the afternoon makes its heavy, undulating arrival, pour yourself a large glass and throw in a straw. It goes down nicely with a paperback novel, nothing too weighty. Perhaps Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. The Provencal people seem adept with lavender and heat, after all. 

Lavender lemonade recipe: http://againstallgrain.com/2013/05/07/lavender-lemonade/