Exploring Nova Scotia’s wine country… #explorenovascotia #summer2016 @NSWineTours

(Note to readers: No, I did not fall off the face of the earth, I was just planning a wedding. Basically the same thing, right? I can assure you, I continued to enjoy food, I just was not so hot about documenting it. Now that our wedding is done and dusted, I can get back to life. Except… we decided to buy & renovate another house! So yeah, I will probably not be posting here that often, and if I do, I can’t PROMISE it will all be food related. I do a lot of DIY projects these days, so I’ll probably write about that on here too. Hope you’re cool with that. If not, well… sorry!)

So, I took a bit of vacation time during the first week of August. I didn’t have anything planned, really… between work and ongoing renovations we have on the go right now, I had plenty of projects to fill my time. So I opted for a bit of a staycation: a mixture of ticking things off my to-do list and some fun stuff. I slept a lot, spent some time outside, read a couple of books, painted some brick:


Scraped some wallpaper:


Doesn’t look like a lot of fun… Don’t worry. I also went on a wine tour! 

Yay! I’ve been promising myself to make a trip to Nova Scotia’s wine country for a few years now. I had contemplated just venturing to the Valley myself, but where’s the fun in that? 1) I have a pretty bad sense of direction, so I would probably get a bit lost; and 2) I wouldn’t really get to taste much wine if I had to drive, right?

I roped my bestie in for the adventure, and after a bit of research, we decided to book in with an organized wine tour. We looked at hopping on Wolfville’s Magic Winery Bus (because who doesn’t want to travel on a magic bus?!), but since it only included transportation around Wolfville, it wasn’t going to help us get home to the city safely if we decided to enjoy more than a sampling of wines. (I still would really like to check this tour out some day, especially if I was going to stay in Wolfville overnight… that way, I could also roll in a visit to Privet House for dinner).

Anyways, we decided to book in with Grape Escapes Nova Scotia Wine Tours. They offer a variety of tours (some include lunch or dinner, or visits to specific vineyards), but we opted for the “Afternoon Escape.”

It cost $85 per person (plus tax), and included transportation to and from the city, and to three wineries (L’Acadie, Lucketts, and Gaspereau), as well as wine samples at each (normally, you pay to sample flights at each vineyard).

L’Acadie Vineyards is a very small, family-run and certified organic. In my opinion, it was also the most interesting stop on the tour. Their resident wine guy (not really sure what his official title was?!), Ian, was very knowledgeable about the history of the region & industry, and taught us a lot about the wines we were sampling, as well as the land they are grown on and what makes their wine organic. It’s also a pretty gorgeous spot to sip on a glass of wine:



They’re apparently best known for their sparkling wines, but I didn’t end up bringing home a bottle of their sparkling. Instead, I selected their 2015 Rose.

We ventured to Luckett Vineyards next, where none other than Pete himself was on-hand to greet guests in the bustling storeroom. While our first stop at L’Acadie was a tranquil spot to start our adventure, Luckett’s was very busy, with plenty of other patrons visiting to enjoy lunch outside, while we tasted wines inside. We did, of course, venture outside to take a photo at the iconic phonebooth:


I scooped up a bottle of bold & beautiful Black Cab and their lovely Tidal Bay.

Our third and final stop was at Gaspereau Vineyards. At this point, we were all starting to get a bit hungry, so it was a good thing that this final stop included a platter of local cheeses to sample. We sat out on the patio and enjoyed some nibbles in the sunshine, while a somewhat-bored-seeming young woman who worked there told us a bit about the wines we were sampling. To be honest, she didn’t seem all that interested in what she was doing (to give her the benefit of the doubt, I believe the staff had all been at an industry event the night before, and may have been feeling the after-effects of sampling the wares), but our Grape Escapes guide, Emma, had filled us in on the winery and backstory behind the winemaker, Gina Haverstock, en route, so we knew to expect big things from their Riesling. And BOY, was she right.

Now, if you’re making a face right now, thinking Riesling = sweet, you’re wrong. Their Riesling is more of a traditional German dry-style, and it is amazing. It also happened to be the 2015 Winner of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Nova Scotia Wines. I obviously took home a bottle of that, as well.

Here’s my bounty from the trip:


Besides sampling some lovely local wines, I really did learn quite a bit about Nova Scotia’s burgeoning wine industry: I learned about what makes the Valley region well-suited to growing grapes; what grapes thrive in our climate (and as a result, what types of wine are hardest/impossible to produce here); what Nova Scotia’s appellation wine is (Tidal Bay); and that there are NINETEEN vineyards in the province (with two more on the way)… so basically, there’s a lot more of Nova Scotia’s wine country to explore. As a plus, our guide and driver, Emma & Randy, were absolutely lovely and clearly knew loads about the industry and region.

If you’re interested in learning more about Nova Scotian wines, or just trying some different wines and spending some time with friends, I would definitely recommend going on a wine tour with Grape Escapes.


Latest @Pinterest #DIY (hint: not food-related)

Okay, this may not have anything to do with food, but it’s still kind of cool…

This is one of the many Pinterest projects I have saved to do on a rainy day: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/370772981799442870/

My lovely partner in crime managed to salvage an old, five-panel solid wood door from an old job site, and it’s been sitting in the garage for, oh… probably two years now, collecting dust and waiting for me to get off my butt.


Well, Kevin is currently destroying finishing his garage/workshop, which means that there’s a whole lotta junk in there that’s gotta go… like the old door that I’ve been dreaming of turning into a headboard (as well as a few pallets, but I think he actually has plans for those).

So, on Canada Day, I finally dragged that old door out into the yard, and gave it a good cleaning. I scraped off a lot of the loose paint, and give it a really light sanding, but I didn’t bother stripping it down to the wood: I figured it would look more authentic with some texture under the paint.


After letting it dry for a while, I busted out the paint spray gun and gave it a few light coats of a pretty light yellow cabinet paint I’ve had lying around for a while (originally purchased for this desk project).

A few days later, I made a trip to the local hardware store, where I snagged some crown moulding offcuts ($1 each!) and a piece of 1×6 pine, so Kevin could add a shelf to the edge of the door/headboard for me! Then I caulked all the joints and filled the nail holes he made, and give it a light sanding.


The Pinterest link above suggested a more ornate piece of trim, but Kevin suggested the crown would look a bit more polished, and less antique-y… I agree:


A few more coats of paint, and it was done! I let it fully dry in the garage for a few days, then Kevin mounted it on the wall for me!


All told, this project probably only cost about $13 (for the crown and pine)… But that was because we had a lot of the materials we needed at home already.

God, I love Pinterest… and Kevin, of course, for helping out with all my ridiculous DIY projects!🙂

Well, hello there! I made a red curry with haddock for dinner… (version of @RealSimple recipe)

I won’t bore you with the myriad of reasons/excuses I have for not posting for months (hint: engagement, work, general life…), but I’ve been feeling rather guilty about it as of late…

I’m making more of a conscious effort to cook at home, rather than eat out at restaurants (see earlier mention of upcoming wedding to understand the need to fit into a wedding dress and save some cash). Now, I love to cook, but I’m the first to admit that I can get stuck in a culinary rut. So, I’ve resolved to try at least one new recipe each week, to try and keep things interesting!

This week, I was inspired by a recipe featured in the June issue of Real Simple magazine: Green curry with halibut and corn.

Real Simple Green Curry recipe

One slight problem: there was no green curry paste at my local grocery store. Just red. Rather than scrap the whole recipe, I decided to just substitute… I also opted for haddock rather than halibut (it was on special).

This was actually a really easy recipe to pull together: minimal prep work and cook time. I also cut the fat a bit by substituting the coconut milk with light coconut milk… The red curry added some heat to the dish, but that was balanced out nicely by the natural sweetness of the coconut milk and the corn. It also looked pretty appetizing:

IMG_20150614_172322I found it needed a bit more salt added (and I’m not someone who tends to add salt to my food), but once it’d sprinkled on a bit of extra seasoning, it was perfect! Kevin also really enjoyed it, so based on the ease of prep, I’ll definitely be adding this one to the recipe collection.🙂

We also had plenty left over for lunch (bonus!)

OH, and for anyone out there who has dietary restrictions, this recipe is also gluten-free.


Another DIY project (again, completely unrelated to food)

I mentioned earlier that I haven’t felt like writing about food lately (though I promise to get back on track with that soon!)

Instead, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time doing some DIY projects around the house. I finished a string art project for my basement rec room, and I finally got around to refinishing the old secretary’s desk that we inherited from the former owners of our house.

This behemoth of a desk was living in our dank, dungeon-ey basement when we bought it three years ago. I figured the previous owners left it behind because it was in need of some serious love. Still, it was a cool piece: it’s designed to hide a typewriter under the surface of the desk! Heck, I’m a sucker for hidden compartments.

It turns out that the previous owners didn’t take the desk with them because it didn’t fit through the basement door. Ha!

So, I was faced with a decision: either refinish it (down in the basement), or demolish it and remove it from the house in pieces.

I simply couldn’t bring myself to destroy a perfectly good piece of furniture — especially one with a hidden compartment! So, I sealed off a room in the basement to try and contain the dust:


Then, I started to sand that sucker down:



Refinishing furniture in your house is less than ideal: sanding creates a huge amount of dust, and the fumes from the paint or finish can be pretty strong. I managed to contain the mess to one part of my house, and wore a respirator when I worked (which I always do: safety first!) Still, I really wish I’d been able to take this piece out to the garage to avoid the hassle.

I had originally planned to paint this piece yellow, but I was inspired by a dresser I saw on Pinterest (that cruel mistress). So, I took the drawers out to the garage for a thorough sanding before I stained them, and picked up some of my favourite furniture and cabinet paint from Kent in Dogwood Blossom (a creamy white). The beauty of this paint is that it is formulated for furniture and cabinets: “Its heavy-duty melamine finish provides excellent resistance against frequent bumps, water and moisture stains.” I’ve used this paint for a few furniture refinishing projects so far. I haven’t primed any of them, and the finish has worn fabulously on all of them:


I don’t know about you, but I think white is the hardest paint colour to select. There are SO MANY shades, and the changes are very subtle. I used my Critter spray gun (which I picked up at Lee Valley for $50) to ensure the paint coverage was even and smooth, and found it *much* easier than working with a brush to get into all of the corners and tight spots.

Here is the finished product:


It was also challenging to find hardware that I liked. I ended up going to Lee Valley Tools, where they have an incredible selection (though some are pretty pricey). These each ran me about $7.

I also lined the drawers with cork Mac-tac, which I picked up at Target.

The total cost of this project was around $90. I think the secret compartment was well-worth $90.🙂

IMG_9035 IMG_9037

Why I haven’t been writing about food…

The past few months have been busy and difficult ones for me — both professionally and personally. To be honest, I haven’t felt much like cooking, and though I’ve been eating out more than usual, it was out of necessity, not for enjoyment. Which may explain why I haven’t felt up to writing about any of my culinary experiences, recently.

So, sorry, if you look forward to my posts about delicious new recipes, or even new restaurants I’ve discovered. But my heart just hasn’t been in it.

I have, however, been keeping myself preoccupied with random Pinterest projects! First, there was the string art maps. Then, a desk refinishing project.

Hell, there’s something cathartic about smashing hundreds of nails into a board (note: I only hit my thumb once! Dad would be proud.)

The string art project was something I came across on Pinterest. I’m so fortunate to have a partner who not only tolerates my obsession with Pinterest projects, but is willing to chip in and help out with them!

We have been in desperate need of something to hang over our sofa in the basement. There’s just this big ol’ wall with nothing on it: it was kind of sad. When I saw the idea of string art maps, I decided to make three: one for B.C., where we first met; one for Quebec, where Kevin is from; and one for Nova Scotia.

We bought a sheet of wood from the hardware store, and Kevin cut me three 2-foot by 2-foot panels:


Then, I sanded them down and sprayed them with this cool white-wash water-based stain and my handy Critter spray gun:


Once the panels had dried, I laid outline maps I’d had printed at Staples on drafting paper (2-foot by 2-foot), and tacked them in place. Then, I poured myself a generous glass of wine and got to work, nailing all along the perimeter of the map:



It was a bit of a tedious project, but I spread it out over a few nights, and honestly, it didn’t take that long. I’m really pleased with the end result:

10704018_10100465985069929_1904073762138055966_n 1653826_10100459374602359_7759667280107229589_nIMG_9027


Have you tackled any Pinterest projects? Were you pleased with how it turned out?

The @HFXFoodBloggers create something sweet for #DoughBall 2014

If you were one of the lucky folks who snagged a ticket to The Coast’s inaugural Dough Ball (basically a giant bake sale, where you pay admission and get to try all the sweet samples!), you likely had quite the sugar high on Saturday afternoon.

While I wasn’t able to attend (I’m simultaneously sad and grateful that I missed out, because I’m fairly certain my pants would be feeling a bit snugger this morning), I was able to send along a treat for attendees to try out.

My peeps at Halifax Food Bloggers were invited to host a table at Dough Ball, and a few of us sent our sweet concoctions along to be sampled by the crowds (I saw photos of the event and our table on Twitter, and it looked AMAZING).

I decided to try my hand at making homemade caramels. A coworker of mine makes them every Christmas, and while I was slightly intimidated to try and make them (hers are delicious, and frankly, making caramel just seemed like a messy proposition), it was surprisingly simple.

I used a recipe/great step-by-step instructions I found on The Kitchn. You don’t really need any special equipment, aside from a candy thermometer, which I got at Bulk Barn for $4.


The real trick to making lovely caramels is making sure you get the right texture. And that’s pretty subjective (I don’t like hard, uber-chewy caramels. Soft, smooth and creamy is how I prefer mine!) To control the softness of your caramels, you need to control the amount of dairy you add in (more dairy = softer, creamier caramels) AND bring your caramels to a lower temperature. If you’re going to try your hand at making caramels, I really do recommend you read The Kitchn post I mentioned earlier to get all the details!

I followed their recipe/directions, and was very pleased with how my two versions of caramels turned out. I made sea salt and peppermint caramels:


Wrap in wax paper, twist on both ends, and package in mason jars, and behold:

IMG_20140913_100517Wouldn’t they make a nice hostess gift?

Anyhow, here’s what you’ll need if you’re going to try this at home:



  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or, if you’re making mint caramels, substitute with mint extract)


  • Square baking dish
  • Parchment paper
  • 2-quart saucepan
  • 4-quart saucepan (make sure you use a big pot!)
  • Candy thermometer
  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Wax paper

Have fun, and try not to eat too many! (you’ll end up with a bellyache, and maybe even a cavity or two!)

My #BigDayDowntown: I visit @SpiritSpaHFX, Kee-Heong Cantonese Bakery, @RousseauChoco, & @InkwellBoutique,

So, I’m feeling very spoiled: I kicked off the Labour Day long weekend with my highly anticipated (well, to me, anyways) Big Day Downtown.

The Big Day Downtown event is organized by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, and is designed to help promote businesses in the downtown Halifax core. For four weeks, starting September 15th, they will be giving out $100 Visa gift cards via Facebook and Twitter to the public (follow them on Twitter @DowntownHalifax and like them on Facebook to keep tabs on the event). But before that, some very fortunate local bloggers (like moi) are invited to participate, and were given $150 Visa gift cards to spend anywhere downtown!

This year, the theme was “People’s Choice,” which meant we had to consult with our readers and social media peeps when we were deciding how to spend the cash. I created three polls on my site, and asked people what I should do on my day downtown. The results were pretty overwhelmingly in support of visiting the spa (thanks, guys!), buying something ‘just for me,’ and eating somewhere I’ve never eaten. Sounded pretty damn good to me…

So, with my credit card practically burning a hole in my wallet, I headed downtown on Friday afternoon.

1st stop: Spirit Spa


I managed to snag a last-minute appointment with the lovely Tiffany at Spirit Spa for a Sea Scrub body treatment. While I try to go for (semi) regular massage treatments, I’ve never been for a salt scrub, and it sounded kinda refreshing. According to their website:

“This body polish uses diatomaceous earth to exfoliate your skin and stimulate circulation. The treatment ends with a silky marine based body milk that will leave your skin supple for days.”

While “diatomaceous earth” sounded a bit fancy, it really just looked like this:


It felt great, and was really quite relaxing. Plus, my skin felt SUPER smooth afterwards. It was my first trip to Spirit Spa, as well, which is a beautiful, tranquil space: plenty of natural materials, calming music and lots of pops of colour.

I rolled out feeling radiant, relaxed, and ready to eat!

TOTAL: $85.96 (including tax & tip)

2nd stop: Kee-Heong Cantonese Bakery

Just up around the corner is a tiny little Cantonese bakery I’ve been swearing to visit ever since I noticed it there:


It was around 1 p.m. when I entered the dining room, ready for some dim sum. The lovely lady working behind the counter brought me a menu and informed me, when asked, that they had actually been open for 1 year and 10 months. Seriously?! I need to get out of Dartmouth more often.

I was the only person in the dining room, which made me a bit nervous at first, but I figured that it was likely because I was having a bit of a late lunch, so I settled in to review the menu. As it turns out, I was correct: plenty of others came in to place orders to take away, and eat in, after I placed my order.


Typically, my eyes were bigger than my belly: I settled on a 3-piece order of pan-fried crispy shrimp dumplings ($3.50), a 6-piece order of pork with cilantro dumplings ($3.50) and a 2-piece order of steamed barbecue pork buns ($3.50).



The cilantro pork dumplings were savory and packed with fresh cilantro flavour. I’m a big cilantro fan, but for anyone who doesn’t enjoy this distinct flavour, I’d definitely recommend ordering seconds (or thirds) of the pan-fried shrimp dumplings, which are phenomenal. These are like crispy little presents, loaded with shrimp, green onion, and garlic:


I saved my steamed barbecue pork bun for last…  a slightly sweet, sticky, soft, doughy cloud enveloping a savory pork centre:


This definitely isn’t a fancy place to go for lunch — the dining room is almost completely unadorned, and there isn’t much in the way of music to create much ambiance, but Kee-Heong offers authentic fare that is fresh and fairly priced.

The display of pastries was very tempting, but I managed to resist the urge to order one (or two) to go, because I was heading to another sweet spot….


TOTAL: $13.89 (including tax & tip)

3rd stop: Rousseau Chocolatier

Rousseau Chocolatier tweeted at me when I was asking people for recommendations on where to go for my Big Day Downtown. And when I saw photos of their chocolates on their Facebook page, I was sold. They opened up shop on Hollis Street earlier this year, and have been getting lots of attention.


And for good reason: they know their chocolate! Owned by a husband and wife team — Julien and Nathalie (who was working when I popped in on Friday) — they produce an impressive selection of handmade chocolates, using locally-sourced ingredients as much as possible. Incidentally, they ALSO make a KILLER coconut macaron. Fer reals:


Plus, you can actually watch the chocolate being made in the adjoining space (which reminded me of when I visited a Swiss chocolatier many years ago). After staring at the chocolate display in awe for a couple of minutes, I finally settled on an assorted box to take home, along with a bag of chocolate dipped meringues.


To my credit, I shared these with my boyfriend, which I think officially qualifies me as a the nicest girlfriend ever. My favourite chocolate was the feuilletine, which basically has thin crispy flakes in a creamy smooth milk chocolate:


TOTAL: $29.90 (including tax)

4th stop: Inkwell Boutique

I meandered up to Market Street as a nibbled on the aforementioned coconut macaron, mentally totalling up my purchases en route. With just $20 left to spend, I knew selecting just one thing at Inkwell was going to be tough. I mean, come on:


This is stationary geek heaven. I lapped the store probably five times before I caved and busted out my own debit card to use in conjunction with my prepaid Visa. I had to have the infamous “seven year pen” (which has an ink supply that’s supposed to last seven years). I’ve been in a need of a good “purse pen” (aka a pen that lives in my purse), and this totally fit the bill. Plus, there’s a strip of cartoon bacon on the clip. Sweet, right? I also snagged a birthday card that predominantly featured a unicorn, and a great print for my basement office area:


TOTAL: $40.82 (including tax)

So, the grand total for my Big Day Downtown was *drum roll please*:$170.57. For that price, I was scrubbed, buffed and moisturized, well-fed, treated to sweets and even managed to pick up some local art. Plus, I discovered a few hidden gems and supported some great local businesses in the process!

All-in-all, a successful Big Day Downtown, if I do say so myself!🙂