Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas in Wonderland....

This is my favourite photo from Christmas Day 2011. I like it because we're all in it (thanks to some kind folks also enjoying a Christmas Day beach walk) but mostly because you can see we were all pretty darned happy! There's no faking smiles like that! Ahhh, it was indeed a very lovely Christmas. Lets back track a little....
On Christmas eve eve we tested out our very own crab pot and caught our biggest crab yet, a giant and very pretty Red Rock. We cooked him up and with the huge amount of meat made some yummy crab cakes for our Christmas eve lunch. We left the kiddies with Grandad and went down to the dock by ourselves this time which meant I could concentrate on taking a few pics instead of concentrating on preventing my children from going overboard. As we walked onto the dock the sun was just going down and the trees on the hills were literally glowing in the evening light.

While we were tinkering with our bait a huge Sea lion popped up beside us and gave us a funny look. He kept his beady eye on us and popped up again a couple of times as we were pulling in our catch but he was too quick for me and everytime I tried to catch a photo of him he would dive under. This is about the best shot I got....

Even though I didn't get a photo, my little Sea Lion encounter made my day and reminded me yet again about what a special place this is.

Christmas Eve was pretty peaceful, we put out our cookies for Santa and some carrots for the reindeer and yes they were black Bean cookies, I'm sure Santa more than most needs to start thinking more healthily! The kids went to bed with a special story book which played my Dad's voice reading "The Night Before Christmas" and boy did they love it! mostly because they got to press a button on each page and magically make Grandpa Nigel start talking. I have to say I really enjoyed it too, thank you Papa! x

This is the first year that both kids have really known what's going on and that they were going to wake up to presents galore. Their excitement was adorable and most definitely infectious! Even though I didn't have any presents under the tree this year, I couldn't wait until morning! Before I went to bed I skyped my sister, it was their Christmas morning and I was just in time to see my two cutie pie neices open their stockings

Christmas Morning was a blur of wrapping paper and excited squeals. Within about 2 minutes the place went from serene Martha Stewart Christmas to complete Christmas chaos. While the monkeys played with new toy after new toy we started on our Dinner preparations and had a very lovely day brewing and drinking pot after pot of Mulled wine. Dinner turned out to be the loveliest yet and Neil's steamed lemon pudding was to die for! After stuffing ourselves and having just a little bit more mulled wine, we dragged our happy but full bodies out to the beach. It was clear and cold and there couldn't have been a more perfect way to end our first Christmas in Tofino.

It'll take me about a week to post all the other photos from our Christmas so here's  slideshow for you instead. I hope all your Christmases were as lovely and as full of giggles as ours.

Friday, December 16, 2011

When life gives you lemons....or, in our case, sea water.......

Make Sea Salt!

Apart from my five Edmonton years I've lived close to the sea all my life but until now have never made my own Sea Salt.
It's one of those totally simple things that you just accept is someone else's job. Why? I don't know. It's as simple as boiling water. One large pot from the bucket we carried our crabs home in left us with a whole tub full of perfect, beautiful, white Sea Salt just like we bought last week in a little bag from the organic shop. I'm thinking that if Neil keeps bringing me buckets and if we leave the stove on all the time, we might be able to go into production and sell it for 10 bucks a bag!

Adventures in Crabbing.....

What could be more fun on a drizzly December afternoon than catching crabs? Not much (as long as it's the right sort of crabs you're catching of course.) We've been meaning to try our hand at crabbing for a while now and after finally nabbing a crab pot from a friend we had no more reasons not to give it a try. So, armed with a crab pot, some last minute googled tips and the vague knowledge that crabs do live round about these parts, we set out to find our dinner. After a quick stop off at the local fish shop to scrounge some fish heads for bait we were off! Now one thing we do know is that most people putting out crab pots have one key tool......a boat. We don't have a boat but we didn't want a minor disadvantage like that to deter our efforts so we decided to sling the thing off the dock nearest the pub. That way we could go for quick beer and watch our spot while we waited for 20 minutes or so for our pot to fill with crustaceans. I sound optimistic and I was. It's my new thing. Dale on the other hand was less than positive about the whole affair :)

The dock was slippery and I might even go so far as to say treacherous with a 2 year old, a 4 year old, and a clutz with a camera. I continued with my optimism and hoped that none of us fell into the ice cold waters of the Pacific. Here's Neil about to don his latex gloves for handling the bait...pussy! You can tell from their beaming smiles that the kids love doing things like this. I was still pretty paranoid about loosing them into the ocean but there's nothing like a bit of immanent danger to make kids smile!

We loaded the pot with bait and slung it in. Dale handily seems to know a lot about knots so we were at least able to make our pot's rope look somewhat professional from above the water. I mean I wouldn't want anyone to think we didn't have flippin' clue or anything.

Once the pot was slung we found we were immediately surrounded by billions of large and scarier than usual seagulls so we retreated to the safety of the nearby pub.

We amused ourselves with crayons and guinness and I'm pretty sure this made Dale about as happy as I've ever seen him.

The kids enjoyed Dales stories of the old days for a while and then......they realized they'd heard this one before and decided to take action......

Apparently even covering ones ears and singing "Twinkle Twinkle" as loudly as possible doesn't make him stop. MAKE HIM STOP!!!! I'm joking of course Dale, you know I love your stories, especially the one about that emerald mine in Ecuador....

Anyway, time to head back down the dock to check on our catch.

The moment of truth.....

We had a grand total of 5 crabs! WooooHooooo! 3 Dungeness and 2 Red Rock. Unfortunatley 3 were a little on the piddly size so we had to throw them back. *Ahem*, let me rephrase that.....I had to throw them back and pick them all out of the crab pot with my bare hands because "someone" is too much of a pussy to touch crabs! :)

Back in the safety of our kitchen Neil was happy to do some crab wrangling with a pair of nice long tongs. Neil and I ate our crabs for dinner and they were yummy!

Dale ate a beef pie.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Scrummy Nut Butter....

Dear Santa,
Thankyou for getting me (and Neil) my brand new "candy apple red" food processor for Christmas this year. I'm sorry I opened it early but just think of all the wonderful, yummy nosh I can make now in all those days before Christmas really arrives. I made you some delicious hazelnut butter as a thank you gift but I'm afraid it was just so good I've eaten it all myself. I do promise I'll make some more and spread it thickly on your black bean cookies that I'll leave for you and the reindeers on Christmas eve. In the meantime here's the recipe in case you or Mrs Claus has time to whip some up...

Lots of love from your good friend Sophie

Take a big bag of hazelnuts ( already shelled if you are sensible, if, like me, you are not, spend the next hour cracking them all open) spread them across a baking sheet and place in the oven at about 300F for 15-20 minutes until the husks begin to crack. Set aside and allow to cool then rub your nuts (hehe) between a tea towel to remove the husks. Whizz up in a beautiful shiny new candy apple red (optional) food processor for 1 -2 minutes until the nuts are chopped into a fine powder. Scrape down your bowl then whizz for another 2 minutes or so until you have a lovely smooth butter. If you need your nut butter a little more spreadable add a spoonful of your favourite oil. I would suggest nothing with a strong flavour that will detract from the yummy hazelnuttyness.  I then added a tablespoon full of raw cacao because I'm a chocoholic. It's like Nutella only WAAAAY better! Yum!

While I made the nut butter Neil made a loaf of Bread.....Hell Yeah!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December in Tofino....

I love Tofino in December! 
The perfect untouched sand on wild, empty beaches. Cold, crisp air (but not so cold I feel like I might loose a finger!) Big mugs of peppermint hot cha-loc-a-lat, twinkling Christmas lights, a mischievous elf making my monkeys giggle first thing in the morning.  This is surely peace on earth!

And guess who arrived shortly after our elf ........

Yes, after a bit of a mega-journey, Grandad Dale has made it to Tofino.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Choco-Chai Christmas Cookies....

Here's another sweet and delicious recipe for all my fellow Chocoholics Anonymous friends. I hope you're ready because I'm about to blow your minds.............these cookies are gooey, choclatey, totally scrummy and.....MADE FROM BLACK BEANS!!!!! KAPOW!

Yes, black beans my friends. High in fiber, iron, folate, protein and antioxidants, great for your digestive tract, blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular health, health of your nervous system and (here comes a biggy.....) cancer prevention thanks to their 8 different flavonoids and enormous antioxidant potential. Beats the average lump of fat and sugar we usually call a cookie by a million miles!

Here's the how to.....

1 1/2 cups black beans, very soft (or 1 x 15oz can)
2 Tbsp coconut oil (or ghee)
1/3 cup organic cocoa powder
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt, plus some for sprinkles
contents of one chai teabag

1/3 cup maple syrup or honey or agave.
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds (or two eggs)
1tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate (80% cocoa or higher)
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts

- Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

- Mix ground flax, maple syrup and vanilla in a bowl and set aside.

- Place well drained and well-rinsed beans, coconut oil, cocoa, salt and contents of chai teabag in a food processor and blend until well combined. Add maple syrup and flax mix and pulse to incorporate. Remove the blade from the food processor and add chopped chocolate and nuts. Fold to incorporate.

- Spoon cookie dough onto lined baking sheet. Use the back of the spoon to flatten the top of the cookies slightly as they will not spread when baking. Tip - make the cookies no larger than 2 1/2 to 3 inches across. Once cooked they'll be quite soft and larger cookies might break easily. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges are browning. Cool. EAT!!

This recipe was adapted form Sarah's stunning recipe for Chilli Chocolate cookie on My New Roots. I tried and loved the chilli cookies but Neil and the kids were not too keen on the funky chilli chocolate combo so my version is aimed at all those who prefer their cookies without a kick. 

Friday, December 02, 2011

Jingle Bells and little elves....

So we got a lovely real tree and it smells delicious!  She's a bushy one that's for sure! I'm quite glad that our artificial tree is still locked in a basement in Edmonton, I'm a little less glad that all our decorations are locked away with it though. We went out and purchased a couple of boxes of baubles, some ribbon and two stockings for the kiddies and have had to improvise with whatever else I could find laying around to make things feel festive. I made a temporary piece of Christmassy Art (if you could call it that) by covering the wooden sign we had hanging over the fireplace with wrapping paper and some cut out card letters. I hung a few mini baubles on it for a bit more sparkle and hey's Christmas! I used a pair of my comfy fleecy socks as mine and Neil's stockings and actually think they look pretty cute strung up on the mantle. I'm gonna have to find another festive sock for Granddad Dale though or perhaps he'll be happy with a grey M & S one ;)

In the hallway Seb helped me create some snowflakes from plain white printer paper and I love the subtle winter touch they create.

Oh and no, that's not a fur rug I have on the floor it's just Sully.

Picture the fire crackling (it doesn't it's gas and the tank is empty but we do have a good fireplace app on the laptop), some snuggly blankies, piping hot cha-loc-a-lat, some Buble's Christmas songs playing in the background and I'd have to's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

And this..... is Alf.......

He's visiting from the North Pole for a few weeks on a special mission from Mr Claus himself. He keeps his beady eyes on my kids and then every night fly's back to the North Pole to give a behaviour  update directly to Santa. Each morning he returns to a different spot in the house and the kids run about like mad things looking for him.

So far we've found him snacking on some cheerios.....

And facebook chatting.....

The cheeky chappy was on Neil's account so apologies for any elf-like comments left on his behalf. I'll be keeping you updated on Alf's activities until he leaves us on Christmas Eve. In the mean time I'm off to sing some carols....Happy December everyone!