Making Memories in Michigan….

… in Frankenmuth… with Derek & Erin….

… a little wine tasting….

…. the traditional way with glasses….

…. or Derek’s way….

…. proving I was there…. with Erin…

… wanted to splash in the fountain…

…. it was hot out….

…. but thought better of it…

… Colin pulling a Captain Morgan with Derek… & the wooden guy…. at the brewery…

… pretending to be German…

… the Glockenspiel… ring, ring the bells…

… the wooden covered bridge… built by a father & son… entirely by hand… in the 1970s…

…. it took two years to build & was maneuvered into position using oxen…. no kidding….

…. the riverboat…. not nearly as exciting as it seemed…. but the guys were good sports….

… cool looking sculpture… it was for sale… for $10,000???

… we made some new friends at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland…

… looking forward to making more memories soon!

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Sparkler Magic

So, I’ve been a long time gone… I know.  May was busy…. & now it’s over.  How time flies.  May 24, Victoria Weekend, however, turned out to be pretty relaxing.  Yes, we had people over every day… Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Monday… family & friends but it was all good.  Sunday night was great fun due to fireworks & sparklers.  We had the whole gang of friends together & did the usual things that we do…  The girls chatted (about weddings & wedding dresses – there are two weddings this fall) & the guys were guys… they drank beer & acted like kids again.

My dear hubby has a supply of firecrackers… not sure where he gets them all but there is a steady supply it seems & when the boys get together (especially Colin, Jay & Gord) they like to set them off.  So, for May 24 (pronounced two-four, not twenty-four) someone decided (Colin, I think) that fireworks were a good idea…. & of course no one disagreed.  Well, around dusk the boys trotted off to the field behind our house to set up.  They did a great job of setting off the fireworks & in the midst decided they needed to do this again… so I guess we will have fireworks for Canada Day & I will have my camera ready.  I was not so prepared this last time & only managed to get my camera out for the sparklers the kids had after the fireworks…. I got some fun shots (I think!) so I’m really looking forward to the next fireworks.

And I know the guys will be ready….

Vanessa…

Everyone has at least one friend who means the world to them.  Mine is the most amazing person & most days I don’t know what I would do without her. We have been friends since 2005, although it feels like I have known her my entire life.  We met in grad school when we were both toiling our way through our Masters, both of us pursuing degrees in military history.  Would you believe there is another girl out there who likes tanks as much as I do (perhaps even more)?  Well there is… & her name is Vanessa, Nessa, or just Ness…

Ness

Vanessa is the kind of person that you can’t help but love.  She is sweet & smart & determined.  Ness has a heart of gold & would do anything for those she loves.  She’s gorgeous, classy & can pull off styles I would never be able to… she’s thrifty & creative &   an excellent listener .  She always knows exactly what to say or what not to say… or exactly what I need her to say! Ness has a great sense of humour & she makes me laugh when the Albert County in her sneaks out.  As friends go, we seem to balance each other out & are always the other person’s voice of reason.  Nessa is also a  fantastic writer (don’t let her tell you otherwise) & a complete inspiration to me in so many ways.  It is because of her that I even started rambling here.

Photo Courtesy of Symplicity Photography & Design

We were roommates briefly while in school & have spent countless hours together since plotting our futures.  We lived in the same apartment though not at the same time.  We have been silly, we have laughed & cried together, gone shopping & dancing, we’ve gone on road trips, had coffee, read each others work & drank far too much wine for our own good.  I told Ness once she wasn’t allowed to leave Ontario because I needed her too much (& then later went & left myself).  We have been through breakups together & found our true loves… We met our husbands at roughly the same time. Ness was the first of my friends to meet Colin while Colin & I were two of the first people to meet Paul.  Luckily, Ness approved of Honey & we approved of Pauly.  We were giddy with excitement when Ness got her “skating rink” & when Colin later proposed to me.  As all girls do, we dreamed of our wedding days together.  I was part of Nessa’s wedding & she was my maid of honour – I could not have done it without her by my side (or without all my girls for that matter!).

We have gone from pretending to play house to actually doing it…Colin & I bought our house before we got married…  Ness (& Paul) could not wait to visit us & she reiterated to me what Colin & I already felt, that our house completely suited us. Paul & Vanessa bought their house just recently & I can certainly say the same thing about Paul & Vanessa’s house, it suits them.  Apart from my house & my parents house, Vanessa’s house is somewhere that I feel completely at home.  Even before their house had any furniture & was still adorned with tacky wallpaper, it had Paul & Ness written all over it.  Now that Nessa has added her touch, however, it is just perfect.  From the second you walk in the door it is warm & inviting… There is no place I would rather be than at her kitchen table chatting & sharing a cup of tea with her.

And it was there that I found myself one Saturday in December, my camera in hand.  I was there to have a cup of tea & a piece of cake, but also to take photos of something special.  You see, Paul & Vanessa needed their house… there was just not room in their one bedroom apartment for a baby!  As I write this in fact, we are all patiently (or in my case impatiently) waiting for their little one to arrive… but that day in December, I was merely taking photos of Paul, Ness & their “expanding” family.

Agreeing to let me to take photos of her just shows you the kind of friend that Ness is.  I think she may have been initially hesitant to let me… I remember her saying something about how she  didn’t feel all that pretty or photogenic (which of course is in the eye of the beholder because she looked amazing as she always does).

Ness knew that I had just finished my photography course & wanted to practice taking people shots.  The photos I took with Paul & Ness was my second “photoshoot” if you can call it… I am by no means a professional photographer.  (The first “shoot” was with my brother & his family – photos to come at some point – which essentially meant chasing my niece around with my camera, something I do all the time – hardly a photoshoot!) With V & P it was essentially a ploy to visit my Nessa.

Paul, Ness & Baby Bump

Well, that is not entirely truthful… I did want to give Ness some classy photos of herself & her bump.  Not long before I made the suggestion of doing some photos she posted a photo of herself on FB & although it was alright (Paul, I am by no means criticizing your photography skills!), I wanted her to have a little more to remember her pregnancy by (beautiful baby aside of course!).

My Beautiful Friend

So there I arrived with my camera in hand & we got to work.  I had been thinking about this shoot long & hard & all the places in their house I thought we could do photos.  I have to say that there was a definite progression… in comfort level for both Ness & I, & in quality of photos.  It got to the point where I was just rambling away to Nessa (as I am doing now) & snapping photos.  We ended up with some good stuff, at least I think so… but I’ll let you be the judge.

One thing I know for certain, is that just as she is a great friend, Vanessa will also be a great mother.  This child will make his or her entrance into a loving, happy home with two wonderful parents… And I could not be happier for them!  The final photo is one of my favourites & one of Nessa’s as well…  in November, Ness made a post on her blog about time… & waiting for her little one to arrive…(http://pintsandteapots.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/tick/)

This picture, although we didn’t intend it, entirely sums it up… the waiting time is almost over… & time will reward my dear friend with a beautiful baby.  I love my Nessa dearly & will love her baby with all my heart as well…  I can’t wait for another little person to call me “Auntie B”…

A Request for Brie

For any of you who have ever lived abroad you know there is just something about it that is…. well, wonderful.  It is something I can’t quite describe or put into words, but I certainly loved all of the time I spent in Europe.  My first trip to Europe was the summer after I finished my first year of university.  My roommate & I decided we would take five weeks & backpack through Europe.  It was an enormous adventure for both of us but a great experience & one that I am now glad I did in my early twenties.  I’ve also traveled twice to Italy on battlefield tours…. yes, battlefield tours.  (Did you miss the part in my bio that says I like tanks?  Well, that stems from my love of military history & the fact I have  two degrees in military history.  The battlefield tours make a little more sense now, don’t they?)

In anycase, Italy is amazing… Sicily even more so.  I fell in love.  The trips were amazing not only for the fact we were literally tracing the steps of the Canadian Army (which really is the only way to truly understand what transpired) but also for the food & the wine.  Fresh pasta, thin crust, wood fired pizza, seafood like you wouldn’t believe…. do I need to continue?  In one word… FANTASTIC!  If you are ever uninspired by food take a trip to Europe.  I think it is almost impossible to come back without totally falling in love with food again.  But this is not about Italy or Italian food.  This is about France.

I have also spent a summer in France, living & working in Normandy (it was that military history stuff again!).  And it was during my time in France that I met Celine, who is now one of my dearest friends.

Celine & I During my Summer in France

I have known Celine for over seven years now & am thankful that we have become such good friends.  Even though we live far apart now (we are at least in the same country now) our lives seem to somehow run a parallel course & we certainly depend on each other to get through the ups & downs of life.

While living in Normandy, however, Celine & I loved to spend our evenings in her tiny shoebox apartment cooking up a storm & laughing while sipping some (usually cheap) French wine.

Our Favourite French Wine

Those were some of the best nights of the summer & ones that the two of us will cherish forever, of this I am certain.  We were constantly experimenting & coming up new recipes to try.  If you saw Celine’s tiny place (we cooked at my place occasionally but Celine did have the better kitchen) & our limited cooking implements you might be surprised by what we managed to whip up.  Our repitoire certainly increased when Celine bought an oven (which was about the size of most microwaves).  We made pizza (with rice for the crust – sounds strange, I know, but it was actually quite good), pasta with lardons (aka BACON) & creme fraiche was one of our favourites, as was Normandy Chicken (recipe to follow sometime soon).  I even managed to turn out a couple of apple pies thanks to Celine’s oven.  Plus, we even pulled off a dinner party for about 9 people in her tiny place (Celine, please forgive me for the photo!).

Our Dinner Party in the Shoebox Apartment

But cooking is what made that tiny apartment & the dreary grey days of that particular Normandy summer bearable.  As I am typing this I am thinking of so many recipes that I brought back from France that I want to share with you.  But that’s for another day…The recipe today is actually not even one from France… but it is one that I made for Celine, when we had the opportunity to cook together in Canada many years ago & one that she has requested.  I look forward to the next time that we can see each other… hopefully for longer than our last visit & hopefully we have our husbands in tow!  Whenever we do manage to get together, however, I know there will be, as always, lots of good food, good wine & laughter! For you my dear friend, I hope you (& your sister-in-law) enjoy this! 

Balsamic Glazed Pear, Pecans & Onions in Brie

1 lb Brie Cheese (one small wheel)

1 tbsp butter

1 onion, peeled & sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pear, cored & chopped

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp each salt & pepper

1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans

Slice Brie in half to make two layers.  Heat butter in skillet set over medium heat.  Add onion & garlic.  Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until softened.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add pear.  Cook, tossing for 2-3 minutes or until beginning to brown.  Sprinkle with brown sugar & cook, stirring, until well browned.  Stir in balsamic vinegar & cook for one minute.  Taste & add salt & pepper as needed.  Stir in nuts.

Place one layer of Brie on a platter, cut side up.  Spoon pear mixture over Brie & replace top of cheese.  Serve with crackers and/or thinly sliced baguette.  Recipe can easily be doubled.  Use additional filling as garnish (optional).

 

Yummy Brie