Monday, September 15, 2014

Banff in a September Snow Storm

They're calling for 22'C and Sunny this afternoon in Calgary, much improved over the early September Blizzard we suffered through last Monday. So improved that my social media feeds have been flooded with images like this one:

I didn't get a chance to take before and after pictures myself, because I spent the during out in the mountains at a Scientific Meeting (The International Symposium on Resistance Arteries), where vascular scientists from all around the world had flown in to enjoy the tail end of Summer in the Rockies which sharing their most recent advances in the field of the resistance vasculature. While some of them came expecting Canada to be chillier than their home countries, I don't think any of us were expecting this:

Yep that's what I woke up to on Tuesday morning in Canmore before having to drive 25minutes to the Banff Center. Needless to say I was late for the 8am session. Good thing I keep my snow brush in my car all year round.

As for the driving, this was about as nice as it got heading out to the mountains Monday afternoon.

Regardless of the weather, or maybe even because of it, Banff was beautiful as always.

And with fewer deciduous trees still leaf bearing in the mountains, we didn't see nearly as many downed branches as in Calgary (where there is no considerable debate over what to do with all the downed 'firewood' on City Property being carted off to city landfills). In fact the trees in Banff looked quite beautiful.

Although all of that snow may have made easily accessible food scarce, sending this fellow to look for something green amid the hedges around the Max Bell Building.

Overall I was left feeling both annoyed and amazed by our brief September Winter, and was glad to see things warm back up over the weekend. Although the nights are still pretty chilly and smell of Autumn in the air tells me to enjoy these last days of summer while I can... because Winter is Coming.

Oooh Game of Thrones, will there ever be another book?

How did #snowtember treat you? Are you ready for, or sickened by the thought of Winter around the corner?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Messing around in Drumheller

A few weeks back, while my cousins were visiting, we drove out to Drumheller, Alberta. My first (and persisting) impression of the town? It's a a town in a hole in the ground. Driving across the prairie towards Drumheller you keep waiting to see it on the horizon. I mean out here you can see a shed from a couple kilometres off, so you'd expect you'd be able to see a town of some 8,000 people at least from the vantage of the 10km to Drumheller sign. But nope, nothing at all, until you're about 500m away and the highway takes a sudden turn, and drops down a steep hill into a hole in the prairie.

OK technically it's not a hole, it's the Red Deer River Valley, but that's the impression it left.

The town of Drumheller, as viewed from the mouth of the world's largest dinosaur. Notice the side wall of the hole in which the town is located.

That's right I said 'from the mouth of the world's largest dinosaur', note the teeth!

Later we took awesome pictures of my cousin Justin running for his life.

But don't worry, he actually has some serious dinosaur defense skills.

OK, so maybe it was already like that when we got there.

Overall the town of Drumheller, apart from being located in a hole, absolutely must have the record for most statues of dinosaurs. You could enjoy a pretty awesome day riding your bike around town trying to find them all. In fact the locals affectionately (maybe?) call the cementosaurs and you can find a walking tour of them all (plus a tonne of random facts) here.

Next up we headed to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, home to Alberta's Dinosaur collection (real fossils and not just cartoonish statues people!) This was my second visit, and I loved it just as much as my first. You can find my best shots from this visit over on my photography blog, by clicking this link.

But we also goofed around at the museum a little bit too...particularly in the gift shop. But I'll spare Justin the embarrassment of posting those photos... especially because he just started university. Instead I'll save them for his graduation or something!

We also met some Alberta wildlife in front of the museum... This adorable chubby, tourist fed Prairie Dog.

Finally, in keeping with the them/trend of the visit... Here's me doing yoga somewhere cool!

Aaaaahhhhh Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana B.... so much easier with the right leg than the left!

That's all I have to say from Drumheller for now, but I'll have to go back to visit again some time soon, and explore the nearby Horseshoe Canyon and Dinosaur Provincial Park. What exciting places did you visit this summer?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Lunch, Italian Style, and a recipe for Panino

When ever I find myself missing home, and family, the best way to feel better is to eat something that reminds me of home. In this case, fresh baked Italian Panino (bread rolls) some hard salami, cheese (of any variety) and wine. Depending on the mood, I'll eat the bread with Balsamic Vinegar, or just like my Nana used to provide for me when ever I was hungry for a snack, I'll microwave the bread and throw a little margarine on it! Yum!

I've been working towards making bread the way my nana does, which is no easy task when I'm half way across the country, and I'm pretty sure there is no recipe, just he innate knowledge of how much flour to use for just about anything. Also the batches she makes are way to large for my tiny oven. Here's my best attempt yet, which made 8 rolls.

Into my bread maker, I add, in the following order: 

2 cups warm water
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast

Then throw on the dough cycle, which takes about an hour and a half to run. I always help it out with a spatula for the first minute, to make sure there is the right balance between dry and wet (adding more water or flour as needed). Here in Calgary, I find I always need to add more water, so if you have the pleasure of living somewhere less dry, 2 cups might be too much for you.

Once it's done, turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and beat some of the air out of it. Then cut it into eight equal parts, and shape them into rolls. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for another 30 or so minutes (or until they've doubled in size). Then slice the tops with a knife if you want... I'm not sure that this step was necessary, might not do it next time. Now at this point you could egg wash the rolls... but I'm pretty sure Nana doesn't do that, so right into the oven (pre-heated to 375') they go.

Bake for 30 minutes and then pull them out and slide them off your baking try so they can cool. Resist the temptation to eat them right away...I promise you you'll burn your mouth on hot bread. Instead pour a glass of wine and enjoy the fact that your whole apartment smells like wonderful bread baking.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Throwback Thursday with the Bruni Family

Today I scanned copies of some old photos, some of which we found in my grandparents old house in Italy, and some which I stole from my mom's photo albums. I've got a plan for a bit of an art project to do with print outs of these, but in the mean time, I thought I'd share the photos with you.

They span from my Nana and Grandpa Bruni's wedding in Italy, through to the late 90s, and really capture the most important aspect of growing up Italian: Familia!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

DIY: Loyalty Card Holder

Tonight I was cleaning my apartment, like deep cleaning, in preparation for the arrival of some of my cousins this weekend. I hate cleaning up, and will often look for any opportunity to distract me from actual cleaning. Bonus points if I can pretend that it is helping me to be more organized. So when I came across a stack of random store loyalty cards that I do use, but not frequently enough to keep in my main wallet, I thought to myself the following:

I should get a second card wallet for those.
Wait, I have a bag of awesome fabrics.
And a sewing machine.
And I'm good at making stuff up as I go.
I should make a card wallet for those.

And so I did.

DIY Loyalty Card Holder

Cut 2 pieces (5.5 by 3.5 inches) of your main colour, 1 (6 by 4.75in) and 1 (6 by 2.5in) of your contrasting colour. You'll also need 2 pieces of craft paper (thicker than printer paper, thinner than  card stock) cut to 6 by 4.5in, and a snap.

Start by sewing the main colour pieces into a pocket. Then insert the first of the paper pieces.

Once it's snug inside you can sew it in place, I sewed a quarter inch boarder all around the card (right through all three layers on my sewing machine no problem). Then sewed a mid line before inserting the second piece of paper, and repeating the process while tucking in the open ends of the fabric pocket.

This is the base for your card holder/wallet thing. Now to make the pockets for the cards. Take the larger piece of the contrast fabric, and roll  and sew a hem on each of the short ends.

Then sew it in place by machine sewing right through all of the layers of your wallet (be sure to tuck the unfinished ends under, pin it in place and test to make sure a card fits before you sew). Then sew two lines to set how deep the cards will sit in the pocket. You can see that I am not good at sewing straight in the picture below.

Next up is the strap for a closure, take you last piece of fabric and sew it into a long tube, flip it right side out tuck the ends in and sew it to the back of your wallet. 

Add the snap to the front, I choose to hand sew it on, right through both layers of the strap, being careful to make sure the stitches made a neat 'X' on the side you would see. Then trim all your hanging bits of thread (because you sew like a slob) and you're good to go!

It's a great way to keep all your extra cards neat and tidy in your purse (I can't wait to use that Keg gift card!) And it kept me busy and not cleaning my apartment for about half an hour!

Does anyone else hate house work as much as me? What diversions do you come up with when you should be cleaning?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Low Cal High Fiber Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispy Squares

I'm taking a cake decorating class at Micheals, and for this week's lesson we were asked to bring in rice crispy treats. However, I wanted rice crispy treats that I felt good about eating, so here's a recipe for

Low Cal High Fibre Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispy Squares

In a bowl, mix:

2 Cups brown rice crispies (240cals)
60 grams (or two single serving packets) of Quakers Quick Oats (240cals)
1 Cup of All Bran Buds (70cals)
1/4 Cup of mini chocolate chips (100cals)

In a sauce pan, on low heat, mix:

6 tbsp Kraft Light Peanut Butter (480cals)
4 tbsp Honey (240cals)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract (12cals)

Stirring as it melts, when smooth remove from heat and pour over the dry ingredients. Make sure to get it all out of the pan using a spatula. Then mix thoroughly. Line medium sized baking dish with tin foil, pour in mix and press flat. Refrigerate for 30min to an hour before cutting into squares.

Makes 12 squares, each at 115 calories, and they taste great, fill you up and pack a tonne of fiber!

Cake Decorating at Michaels Lesson 3

 Tonight I had my third lesson at Michaels in decorating cakes, we mainly focused on making flowers and boarders.

 Zig-zag and ribbon boarders.

 Green leaves and grass.

 Scrapping off the used icing and mixing it together for some large flowers.

 Large flowers with the extra large flower tip!

And complex flowers, daisies and sunflowers.

So putting some of my skills together I decorated these Healthy Rice Crispy Squares with some pretty flowers.

You can find the recipe by clicking here for these 115 calorie (no icing of course), high fiber, chocolate peanut butter squares. squares.

Week 1- cupcakes
Week 2- layer cake
Week 3 - decorate with flowers
Week 4 - ???