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We did it!

I think on October 3, 2009, I made a bet with Berry’s husband, who said we won’t make it 3 months. In fact, it’s the first of October, and we’ve gotten the entire year under our belt. Not without some drama, but gosh darn it we did it.

However, it must MUST be said that we could never have done it without the help of our talented, dedicated, creative and all around fabulous guest bloggers:

Veronica & Bill
Ian & Kristin
Michelle & Teddy

Some of you were with us for the long haul, some of you just stopped in once to share your particular sparkle. But I’m so so very thankful that you joined us on this little adventure.

I can’t speak for Berry or Eva, but one of the the things I’ve enjoyed the most about blogging this year has been the ever growing network of people that have been drawn into the project. We’re from all across the country, we’re 20something to 70something years old. We’ve blogged from campsites, mexican hacienda’s, coffee shops and the kitchen counter. We’ve had illustrated posts, great photography, original recipes, travelogues, rants (yes, Eva, I’m looking at you) and sometimes just really inspired ideas of what to have for dinner. Along the way, we definitely entertained others – we’ve had 35,000+ visits to the site and 1,400+ comments.

I don’t know what’s next. I know that I need a rest from blogging for a while. I think that Eva may feel the same. (Berry is raring to go again!) I’m tossing around ideas along the lines of writing about west coast food, or trying to learn more about food photography. If you have some ideas about what you’d like to read, we’re all ears.

With my gratitude and thanks,


Hot mulled cider has been a fall/winter staple for Chelsea and me since our first year at McGill.  While we were living in university residence, Chelsea’s mom used to send her care packs nearly twice a month. One of the care packs in November had a box of RW Knudsen “mulling spices” in little single serving tea bags. So simple. So yummy and homey. All we had to do was heat up some apple juice and steep the tea bag for bit and we had hot mulled cider to go with our homework.

In second year, the cold weather started and we started making cider again and it didn’t take long for us to use up all of our mulling spice tea bags! Chels said her mum could send us some more, but I wasn’t willing to wait for that. I looked at the ingredients of the Knudsen spice bags, and then began looking into recipes for mulled cider. The result: A very rough, thrown-together recipe for hot mulled cider. It never comes out exactly the same. It is always delicious and delivers the same warm, happy holiday feelings that I want from my cider.

Hot Mulled Cider, roughly, thrown-together, always good:

2 litres of apple juice (eye ball half of the 4 litre jug if you go through as much cider as we do)
Not the super sweet sunripe kind, but the kind that has some sediment, is probably organic, and maybe not pasteurized. It has a more rich apply flavour. It’s less like candy, and more like juice.

A 1 inch hunk of fresh ginger
Sliced very thin, or grated even. The idea to maximize the surface area and get that ginger juice in there.

A navel orange
Again, sliced thin, and put in the pot with the juice and ginger

2 cinnamon sticks

Some cloves
To taste! I like my cider really clovey and put at least 10 whole cloves. Some people don’t really like cloves. It’s a personal preference thing.

A few dried bay leaves
Broken up and put in the pot.

And brandy!
I put a shot of brandy in my mug before filling it up with cider. I got mixed reviews on how strong the cider was at last year’s Christmas party, so of course this is another “to taste” item.

I think that’s it. Put everything, minus the brandy, in a big pot and heat it up just to a simmer, but don’t boil it. Take it off heat and serve with some brandy. You can garnish the glass with a cinnamon stick and an orange. In my experience, it just gets taken out, but it does look nice!


If you like mulled cider and you like red wine, I strongly suggest you make mulled wine. It’s basically the same stuff, but with some cranberry juice and maybe a little sugar.

What I have learned about these hot holiday drinks is that they are always tasty, but rarely a precise recipe. Experiment and find your personal favourite way of doing things!

Happy Cider Season!


I’m really happy to say that I am blessed with an abundance of great coffee in my life. While I don’t drink a lot of it (1-4 cups a week) when I do I want it to be really really good (duh. I’m a food snob after all!). The nearest place to get a proper espresso near my office is Street Level Espresso. It’s a tiny shop (and I do mean tiny – this photo shows pretty much the whole place… no starbucks arm chairs here).

Photo courtesy Ken Gordon

Owner Ken Gordon’s girl-friday is the lovely Mal. Just this weekend Mal went to Toronto to represent Street Level, Victoria, and BC in the National Barista Championships (this was Mal’s first year competing!). In the competition, each barista must prepare and serve 12 coffee beverages – four espresso, four cappuccino, and four signature drinks for the judges. I went into the shop this morning to ask her how it went, and she offered to make me her signature drink, and we chatted about coffee a little.

Mal said that she loves the complexity of coffee–both the beans and the brewing. She pointed out that coffee beans come from far more places in the world than wine, and carry with them far more flavor profiles. If being a wine expert is tough, being a well versed bean lover is even a more daunting task. Mal also loves the science and nerdy goodness of learning how to extracting a perfect espresso. She also said that she loves that coffee brings people together – Street Level is always hopping with people chatting and connecting.

Mal’s signature drink is a shot of espresso supported by a little chia tea to bring out the flavours in the coffee. The espresso is a blend of beans and each brings it’s own flavours to the drink: Columbia (cocoa), Panama (spice and dried fruit) and Costa Rica (citrus). Mal brewed a black chia tea with cardamon, ginger and cinnamon, and put a small amount (1 tbls?) into the espresso cup. She also rimmed the cup with frehs lime. The tea and the lime helps bring out the notes of spice and citrus in the coffee, and makes the flavours pop. I’ve never tasted anything like it, and it was a real pleasure to drink. It was like a great wine – the flavours changed with every sip, inhale and exhale. I’ve suggested she name this drink the “Malacano”. 🙂

So my friends, go forth caffeinated, and have a wonderful day.


ps – By the way, Ken and Mal make the BEST MOCHA IN TOWN. (read this testimonial. Really. Trust me).

pps – if you are in Vic and want to learn a lot about coffee (i.e. why does a Kenyan taste different than a Colombian bean?) head over to Habit Coffee and Culture for one of their free weekly coffee cuppings.