28 March 2008

Tales of the "traveling" redhead...

To say that I’m tired of snow would be an understatement; just the thought of it makes me cringe. I have to continually remind myself that it is Spring, although you wouldn’t know it by looking out the window. I’m still greeted with the horrible and oppressive wall of white every time I walk out my front door. For well over a month I have tried to remain positive and assure myself that the big thaw is just around the corner, but I’ve finally given up hope for a normal season. So what is a girl to do with all this snow, you ask? Hightail it the heck out of here, I say!

One month from now, I’ll be heading to sunny Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. It was a fairly impulsive decision, seeing as I never planned on heading South this year. To be perfectly honest, until a week ago I never even really considered Mexico as a place I wanted to go. I’m not one for plunking my posterior on a beach for countless days (boring!), I much rather be exploring and soaking up some local history and culture. What surprised me was that I could get all these things just south of Playa Del Carmen. Rather than the conventional apartment-style resorts crammed on one strip of beach, à la Cancun, I’ve opted for a resort that abuts a more rugged stretch of coastline and a nature reserve complete with iguanas, flamingos, macaws and variety of other cool / slightly frightening wildlife. Another hook is the proximity that I will have to awesome snorkeling and plenty of Mayan ruins.

Dan and I are totally stoked to get away and have a change of scenery. I think the trip will provide us with a good mixture of both relaxation (hubby) and adventure (me). Now I just have to find a way to contain my excitement for the next month!

26 March 2008

Another wrinkle earned...

Bring on the wrinkle cream and anti-aging serum, I’ve reluctantly turned another year older!

This past weekend, I celebrated (if you can call it that) my 27th birthday. Why is it that 27 seems so much older than 26? Perhaps it has something to do with the realization that I really have entered my late twenties and the climb towards 30 is drawing nearer. I’m certainly not old in the grand scheme of things, but it is becoming painfully obvious that I’m not getting any younger either. While I joke about the wrinkle cream, I actually do find myself relying on it this year as I’ve already been blessed with the infamous “Bisson forehead wrinkles,” a lovely gift from my mother’s side of the family - heredity at it best! Seriously, who doesn’t enjoy looking like a Sharpei every time they raise their eyebrows…or make any facial expression for that matter?!?

Despite my grumbling and aversion to aging, I really did have a lovely weekend with family and friends. I lucked out this year because my birthday fell on the Easter long weekend so I had extra days off to celebrate.

On Saturday, my mother took me to see La Traviata at the NAC. I have always enjoyed listening to Opera but this was my first time attending a full production. I had such high hopes but it turns out that I much prefer listening to the “classic” arias at home. I guess that three hours of someone whining about ill-fated love and TB just wasn’t my cup of tea…longest death EVER! I thought mom was going to stand up and yell “Halleluiah” when Violetta finally kicked the bucket. To her credit, she did have a lovely voice and I enjoyed her singing, but the overall mood was killed by a lackluster performance from the male lead; he just wasn’t credible and his voice sounded weak. I’m still glad I went, but I’m not sure that I will race out to buy tickets to another production in the future. On the plus side, I can say that I’ll gladly return to “Le Café” restaurant at the NAC. Mom took me out for a pre-performance dinner and I had what was easily the most succulent piece of beef tenderloin ever to grace this earth….trust me, I typically don’t praise beef! I’m still not sure how I managed to do it, I ate more meat in one evening than I typically consume in an entire week or two – high praise indeed!

The birthday festivities and gargantuan heaps of food continued on Sunday with a dinner at my parents house and then on Sunday, with another B-day dinner hosted by my father-in-law. I also managed to sneak in a huge breakfast at Coras with my friend and her hubby who were visiting family for Easter and for her baby shower (more eating was done there too!). All in all, a very filling and gratifying weekend in more ways than one. Ironically, I received a heap of gift certificates for my B-Day because all of my clothes are too baggy on me right now and I need to replace my entire wardrobe with smaller sizes. After eating that much, maybe I’ll end up needing to hold onto some of those ‘chubby’ pants after all - LOL

18 March 2008

My life, reclaimed

Ottawa Irish Week 2008 has officially come to a close! While I had a blast and gained a ton of media/ interview experience, I have to admit that I’m glad it’s all over. After countless evenings of writing media advisories and answering questions (all this on top of my regular day job), I pretty much reached meltdown mode over the weekend. Last night I happily hoisted a glass of Guinness at the Ambassador’s Reception, not so much in honour of St. Patrick’s Day, but more in celebration of the fact that the whole crazy week of activities was finally over!

09 March 2008

Will work for wine

I have a confession to make. My husband and I are “dealers”….

No…not “those” kind of dealers. We prefer to dabble in alcohol distribution ourselves. The system is relatively simple and seems to be catching on in the neighbourhood. Do us a favour and we’ll pay you with wine. Shovel or plow our snow-laden driveway and we’ll give you some great stuff to take off the edge of your muscle pain.

With all the snow we’ve been having, I’m quickly watching our wine rack empty. It only seems fair to give something back to the wonderful neighbours that dig us out of our home. Despite the fact that both hubby and I are strong and able-bodied, the weight of snow can still be crippling.

Today I parted with a lovely ‘award winning’ bottle of 2005 Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot…sigh. I guess you could say that yesterday’s storm was particularly awful - or fruitful for some…

08 March 2008

Snow is….fun?!?

It seems inevitable that the winter is going to stick around in Ottawa a little while longer. Rather than complaining and grumbling in my typical fashion, I’ve decided that perhaps it would be better to garner some sort of fun out of this crummy weather. Rather than hiding from the snow, I’ve taken a bold step forward and decided to embrace it. How you ask? Simple…I bought snowshoes!

My hubby and I are fortunate because our house backs onto a little forest, ravine and farmers fields; it’s basically perfect terrain to do some trekking! So rather than our customary weekend of cleaning or watching movies, we decided to grab the camera, get some exercise and enjoy the 30-50 more centimeters coming our way. Here are some photos from today’s adventure:

Yours truly, getting ready with the first of many layers:

Ready to ramble

The snowy ravine

We found a family of ducks, although they were hard to see through the snow

Could we be any more Canadian?

Fancy footwear

Taking a break

Enjoying the view

Hubby…getting a little tired me thinks

Loving the whole snowshoe thing!

Hubby posing on our front lawn. Yes that is the top of our tree!

Looking down my street

Pretty much parallel to the second story

Yup, just another regular Saturday…on my lawn

For once I feel tall

05 March 2008

Lifestyles of the not so rich and scarcely famous

You already know her through print and undoubtedly her numerous inane blogs, but now the rambling redhead is truly about to get up close and personal. Meet the woman behind the words as she bares her soul and makes an utter fool of herself on T.V. and the radio.

That’s right folks, yours truly will soon be hitting Ottawa’s air waves and television sets. I can just see the incredulous stares! Close your mouths folks…I’m nobody important, I did not find a cure for cancer and I’m not running for city council (at least not yet). The only reason I have managed to nab a small speck of the local spotlight is because I will be promoting Ottawa Irish Week and speaking on behalf of the organization that I volunteer for as Chair of Communications.

This should be an interesting turn of events seeing as my day job often has me playing the role of interviewer, but hardly ever the interviewee. Looks like I’ll have to hone in one those old University “Public Speaking 101” skills. Here’s hoping that I’ll muster to pull off something not resembling a robot or Neanderthal.

Not much time to go into the specifics right now, but be sure to watch Rogers Daytime on March 10th (Channel 22) where I’ll be “cooking” up some surprises (hint intended) and tune in to 580 CFRA on the morning of March 13th for my interview with Shelley McLean.

Wish me luck folks. If I go into hiding for a few months and return to blogging as the “bleak brunette” you’ll know why. Sure I may never be famous, but I certainly can say that I live an interesting life.

03 March 2008

Slippin' and Slidin' - snow, sleet and sorrow

It’s the first week of March and I find myself impatiently asking the question, “When will this damn winter end?”

Perhaps I’ve gone soft because our last few winters were relatively calm, but this year seems to be the worst that I can recall. In December Ottawa was slammed with countless snow storms, yielding more snow in a single month than we typically get in an entire season. Shoveling the dive quickly became an issue, as we started running out of places to put the snow. We could only build the mountain upwards…not an easy feat when you’re 5’2” tall and the snow banks are easily double your height.

January and February proved to be equally miserable with more dumpings of snow, accompanied by deep-freeze weather that chills you to the bones. Can you tell I’m not a fan of winter?

I originally had high hopes for the month of March. With the start of Spring only 19 days away, it only seems fair that we should start to see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. I guess I’ll have to keep waiting because it snowed again on the weekend and this morning I woke to the lovely sound of freezing rain...yuck! Looks like the February 2nd prediction of Punxsutawney Phil outweighed that of his Canadian contender, Wiarton Willie…damn confusing rodents!

I guess I’ll just have to wait it out like the rest of my fellow Ottawans and continue to participate in that age-old Canadian pastime, whining about the weather and dreaming of better days to come.

01 March 2008

Tales and treats from the stressed redhead...

Just popping in to say hi and let readers know that I’m still alive…just barely. I have been putting in lots of overtime at work and using any spare moments to work on communications and promotions for Ottawa’s upcoming Irish Week. It has been all-consuming to say the least and I’ll be glad when March is over. Wedding aside, this has truly been one of the most hectic periods in my young life. I’m sure we’ve all heard the old adage, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Let’s just say that I’m testing the theory out.

Despite the mad schedule, I do always seem to manage to find the time to slip in a little entertaining. A weekend without family or friends in the house seems like such a waste. I’m far happier when I have a crowd to cook for and a group of people crammed around the dining room table munching happily and enjoying some wine. While I’ve been a homeowner for almost two years now, I still revel in the fact that I can entertain in my own space and finally give something back to the people who have treated me for so many years – it’s a point of pride.

Tomorrow I will be hosting Sunday family supper with my parents, my brother and my future sister-in-law. It has been a while since all six of us have managed to get together, so I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone and cooking a nice meal. Because I want to spend more time enjoying my guests and less time slaving in the kitchen, I’m opting for a handy slow cooker meal. Nothing too racy this time, just a nice mild “Sweet and Sour Chicken Curry,” a garden salad, and some homemade pecan coffee cake. There’s enough flavour to make it interesting, but not overwhelming. Give it a try at your next family dinner; it’s a safe bet.

Sweet & Sour Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
(adapted from Weight Watchers)

1 pound boneless/skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large vidalia onion
14 1/2 oz stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup mango chutney
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp curry powder


  • Place chicken, peppers and onion in slow cooker; top with tomatoes.
  • Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over chicken mixture.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 4 hours.

    Yields approx. 4 servings (11/2 to 2 cups per person)

    Note: Try doubling the recipe for a larger crowd. Feel free to add in extra veggies: carrots, peas, etc. I tend to add more curry powder too. Experiment and make it your own, however the recipe tastes great as is if you’re feeling less daring. Serve over brown basmati rice with some Naan bread or homemade chapati.

    Pecan Coffee Cake
    (altered from All Recipes.com)

    2 cups all purpose flour
    ¼ tsp. salt
    1 Tbsp. baking powder
    1 cup butter, softened
    1 cup sour cream
    1 ½ cups white sugar
    2 eggs
    1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

    1 cup brown sugar
    2 cups chopped pecans
    2 tsp. ground cinnamon
    4 Tbsp. butter, melted

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease and flour a bundt pan.
  • Sift together flour, salt, baking powder.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sour cream and sugar. Beats in eggs one by one, then stir in vanilla extract. By hand, fold in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Spread half of the batter into prepared pan.
  • To make pecan filling: In a medium bowl, mix together brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon. Stir in melted butter and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle over the batter already in the bundt pan. Add reserved half of batter on top of the filling.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes, then turn out onto serving platter.

    Note: Batter will be slightly thicker than regular cake batter. You may have to smooth it out a little in the bundt pan. Once the cake has cooled completely, just before serving, I like to dust the top with some powdered sugar or drizzle with some icing sugar.