12/24/10

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The holidays are upon us, friends.

Which means a few things:

  1. We’re ensuring the essentials are packed for when we head home: a stack of novels and magazines, the PS3 and Buzz! QuizTV, the Baileys for our coffees and stretchy pants.
  2. We’re looking forward to catching up on sleep, relaxing with loved ones, watching lots of movies and playing outside. Some serious skiing is on the agenda.
  3. For the reasons listed in point #2, we’re bidding you adieu, but only for a short while.

We’ll be back on Monday, January 3. Till then, may you be filled with mirth, eggnog and shortbread cookies.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

~Chris and Michelle

12/23/10

Homemade Christmas Gifts

I was planning to write this morning about an odd remedy for a stomach bug. Not the cheeriest Christmas theme, I realize. But it’s a good story.

However, two nights ago, friends gave us a Christmas present that trumps stomach bugs for a Dec. 23 blog post. I love homemade gifts and this one is fantastic! It’s pretty, tasty and perfected suited to the boy and I. Homemade chocolates and alcohol — ah, these friends know us well.

First, they presented us with the bag, which made awesome clinking sounds as they passed it across the table:

Inside, there were bottles of homemade vanilla-cranberry vodka and spiced rum. The boy wanted to bust into the rum right there in the restaurant but I held him back. Note the awesome labels.

Next, we pulled out these brandied cherries. So cute, don’t you think?

And last but not least, perfect candy cane chocolate bark. I know it’s perfect because I did break into it right there in the restaurant. And, I had another piece with my coffee with morning. Because that’s what I do on Dec. 23.

Thank you so much, J&M!

~ Chris

12/22/10

Three More Sleeps

Christmas is just three sleeps away and, like a kid, I’m counting them down.

There are so many things I’m looking forward to. Here’s a handful of them:

  • Making sugar cookies with my mom while listening to Boney M.’s Christmas Album. (Mary’s Boy Child may be my favourite Christmas song ever.)
  • Cross-country skiing with my dad. It’s so much fun, great exercise and I always appreciate the refresher on how to wax my skis. Waxing is not my strong suit.
  • Sitting around the tree at my parents’ house on Christmas eve and eating mandarin oranges.
  • Waking up on Christmas morning. That’s it. Just waking. I love the first moment of the day,  knowing that fun, family and food is ahead. When I was a little girl, those first moments were awe-filled; the 24th was the only night my parents left the outdoor Christmas lights on overnight, and I thought the glow from them outside my window was actually from Santa’s sleigh. So exciting.
  • The pose my brother makes every Christmas morning. Whether it’s to feign surprise when opening socks or to pretend he’s using the cooking utensil he’s just been given, Brent’s pose makes me laugh every time.

  • Watching The Family Stone and Love Actually — my top two Christmas movies.
  • Playing Hearts with the whole family. And being prepared for when my dad inevitably goes for power; someone usually takes the bullet and keeps a heart or two to thwart his attempts.
  • Relaxing. It’s been a busy year. I’m pumped to spend plenty of time sipping hot chocolate, reading magazines and enjoying the view from my parents’ place:

Just three more sleeps. I can’t wait.

~Michelle

12/21/10

World’s Best Dark Chocolate Bark

Lovers of dark chocolate, be warned. What you are about to read could change your life. If not your life, definitely your waistline.

Several Christmases ago, I went on a mission to find the best dark chocolate bark recipe on the planet. I experimented with flavours, brands and toppings. I taste-tested myself into drawstring pants. Many recipes were pretty good (a pistachio/cherry version looked particularly Christmas-y) but one was mind-blowing. My take on this popular recipe from epicurious has become my go-to Christmas treat.

Milk chocolate and white chocolate lovers are always nonplussed by it. But to dark chocolate lovers, this stuff is the bomb. I still get chocolate requests from yoga teachers that I haven’t seen in years.

Ingredients

  • 6 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 2 cups dried chopped apricots
  • 2 cups almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried figs
  • 36 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped (I’ve always preferred Bernard Callibaut. I haven’t been able to get my hands on Bernard’s new Papa Chocolat yet.)

Preparation

  • Finely grind anise in an electric coffee/spice grinder.
  • Cover two baking sheets with apricots, figs, ginger and almonds.

  • Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a small metal bowl set over a small saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth.

  • Stir anise into chocolate. Pour over fruit mixture.
  • Chill until firm, about 30 minutes, then break into pieces.

Put on drawstring pants. Enjoy!

~Chris

12/20/10

A Calgary Christmas Miracle

“Your only option is a crane.”

These are words no one ever hopes to hear. Especially, I might add, when you’re a single girl who lives on the fourth floor of an apartment building and you’re watching delivery guys trying to squeeze a new couch through the front door.

And yet, there we were. The guys, my gorgeous new Leo sofa from EQ3 wedged between my door and the stairwell opening, and me. Before I had time to panic on a grand scale — I was already envisioning my couch sitting outside overnight, giving wild dogs a place to burrow — the delivery guy suggested I call a crane operator.

A crane?

As if, I thought. Even if the crane operator could lift the sofa to (and through) my balcony doors, what are the chances he’d be free when we called?

Pretty good, actually.

Dennis picked up on the first ring, showed up within the hour and, within 20 minutes, had lifted my sofa to my balcony doors. To me, he was Santa, performing a Christmas miracle with his crane of a sleigh.

Now, here’s what amazes me about Calgary. A few weeks ago, I tried to catch a cab from a friend’s Christmas party. It took me a full hour to reach a taxi company and another two before one even showed up.

Catching a cab in Calgary? Impossible. Having a crane show up at your door? Easy peasy.

~Michelle