Christmas

5 Days before Christmas… and all through the house!

HO HO HO… just 5 days to go!  Okay, that rhymes, but it was totally unintentional!   With less than a week before Christmas, my baking panic has set in!  I really haven’t done much this year – too busy playing with cookies!  🙂  Thank you Marian – for birthing a new obsession!

This year, my cooking list includes (I hope you are sitting down….) dinner with friends on Saturday night. Menu in progress.  Christmas Eve (menu in progress).  Christmas Day – at first I thought there would be 3 of us so I wasn’t going to cook, turns out my daughter and her hubby will be here so now there are 5 of us… yep, menu in progress.  Boxing Day – my side of the family is coming (approx 17-20 people), menu in progress.  December 27 – I AM NOT COOKING. We have tickets to The Nutcracker so that means Scott will take me out for dinner… (if you’re reading this Scott… that’s the plan!) December 28 – recovery day. December 29 Scott’s side of the family is here (menu in progress).  December 31 we will have a quiet night at home… I need it!  January 1 – Brunch with friends (menu in progress.)  So, with all that cooking to plan for (and really, what was I thinking????) I haven’t had much time for making my ‘list’.  I’m feeling the pressure now.  REALLY feeling the pressure.  Juggling a few too many menus – hope I keep them all straight!  Wonder if I could make the same thing for each meal?  Who would know?  I’m looking forward to January 2!  ha ha.

On another note:
My daughter-in-law sent me a cartoon last night.  It made me smile….  for anyone who is busy baking and cooking away for Christmas, I’m sure you can relate. (Not sure who owns the copyright on this, but I beg your forgiveness for no mention!)

stirring

Today, I’m working at home, but taking a few minutes here and there to get a few ‘stirring’ essentials done!  Last night I threw together another batch of sugar cookie dough and got it rolled out, and back in the fridge.  Yes… ALL THOSE COOKIES I made are pretty much gone!  Okay, we did give some away to friends, but seriously, the rest…. my jeans are getting tight!

With five days to go before Christmas, I thought I’d just blog about a few of my favourite sites and products out there and let you check it out yourself!  I have a few bloggers that I follow faithfully and I have a few brands that i can’t live without.  So the five day countdown to Christmas – here we go… These are a few of my favourite things:

  1. For decorating cookies – most talented decorator Marian Poirier of Sweetopia has to be my number one pick!  Not only is this sweet lady (see what I did there… sweet… sweetopia.. get it?.. ok, lame!) anyway, this sweet lady is not only talented but so down to earth and approachable.  If you have questions, she’s right there to answer for you.  Simply send her a question through her blog and she’ll respond.  She’s a big advocate for teaching you how to do the job right – she doesn’t sell her cookies so don’t even try to ask her about ordering, but she does walk you through the steps to awesome cookie decorating with ease.  Her site has many tutorials so you can actually watch step by step!
  2. For eating clean – hands down Tosca Reno of The Eat Clean Diet wins my vote.  This 50+ year old woman inspires beyond belief. Overweight at 40 Tosca turned her life around and became a New York Times best selling author of The Eat Clean Diet series, a fitness model, and most importantly an advocate for eating clean – eating for health but with a delicious twist!  The recipes are fabulous and you have to admit – she looks amazing at 50+ years old!
  3. Paula from Bell’alimento.  Her food looks so yummy, and her directions are clear and concise.  I stumbled upon this blog about a year ago – and it’s probably where I first read about “Mixed” but I’m not sure now.  Regardless, I love reading Paula’s blog – If you love Italian food – this is your blog!
  4. Chez Us.  Love this couple!  I met them at Mixed and was inspired to create ‘outside the box’.  Denise is the cook, Lenny is the devourer!  Together they make up “Chez Us”. Of course, now I have a wish list for other equipment including lighting!  Oh Lenny, what have you started???

Now I’ll get into the top things that would be on my ‘list’ had I actually made a list and told anyone about the list.  Hmmm, I should have listened to Santa – made a list, checked it twice… and then passed it along to my hubs!  Oh well.  Next year!  Here we go, my favourite things:

StandMixerKitchenAid Stand Mixer.  Yes, I have one.  I got it just over a year ago now (November 2011) and it has been THE most used appliance in my kitchen!  Definitely the most loved.  I have the 6 QT Pro Model and it gets quite a workout in my kitchen! The motor on this model is powerful and can handle up to 13 cups of flour without getting sluggish.  You know what that means?  TONS of cookies at one time!  Baking in bulk! Lots of Bread!!!

There are smaller models on the market, and of course the larger 7 QT model (sigh) so know what you want, why you want it, what you will use it for.  Check out the specs. Talk to people who own them.  Be informed before you purchase.  For me, the 6 QT is awesome. For a newbie baker maybe the smaller 4 QT would suffice.  Then there is the space issue – where will you put it?  Mine sits proudly on my kitchen counter and because it is out all the time, it gets used all the time!  A Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer ( or any other stand mixer) is an investment, be sure it’s in a place that makes it easy for you, so that you will use it all the time.  I guarantee, once you start using one, you will not know how you ever managed without it!    My number 1 overall pick of “must haves.”

BacktoBaking.hr

Anna Olson’s “Back to Baking” is a wonderful cookbook for any level of baker.  It’s on my wish list for 2012. Not sure if “Santa” will see this before Christmas or not, but I remain hopeful.

Anna Olson has a fantastic story.  She has a degree in Political Science from Queen’s University (my alma mater) and worked in the banking world for a time.  However, her passion for cooking was strong and so she left banking to pursue a culinary career enrolling in Johnson & Wales University in Vail Colorado.  Seriously, I guess if you are going to go back to school you should do it in a place with a beautiful view!  Anna lives in Ontario and has a show on the Food Network called “Bake with Anna Olson”   I have one of her earlier  cookbooks “Fresh” and have made several yummy creations out of this… it’s also personally autographed by Anna… ’nuff said!

What I love about “Bake” is that Anna starts with a basic recipe and then takes it up a notch into something more  elaborate, then does that again.  By the end of the show you have learned how to take a simple recipe and tweak it to get something else, related but more extravagant.  Love it!  I have looked through “Back to Baking” and can really appreciate the “before you bake” section for each recipe.  This walks you through what you need, the tools, the measurements, etc. and why it’s important to have these ready before you start.  Anna inspires me – I think because she had another career and then decided to follow her real passion!  For these reasons, Back To Baking get my ‘nod’ as a must have!

fastflavors  If you haven’t learned by now, I’m a HUGE Chef  Michael Smith fan! Chef  Michael is a resident of PEI (for you non-Canadians… that’s Prince Edward Island) Canada.  This small island is packed with such rich produce, fish and seafood.  My husband and I had the pleasure of visiting the island for 10 days this past summer.  I was hooked!  I’ve been there before, but only in and around the Cavendish area.  I had no idea how truly beautiful the entire island is!

When we hit the eastern side of the island, Souris and surrounding areas, I knew we were in Chef Michael territory.  I set out to find him.  I did… but he wasn’t home!  😦  I digress… the cookbook!

I purchased my first Chef Michael cookbook “Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen” while on PEI and couldn’t wait to get cooking.  Anything else I had tried before had been from watching his show on the Food Network!  Now I was armed with the  secret!  Cooking without a recipe! That’s sort of the way I cook anyway!  I have a vague idea of how I want something to taste, and then go ahead and make it work!

In his newest cookbook, Fast Flavours, Chef Michael takes you through 110 recipes that are easy, very quick, and taste A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!  I think I got this book within a week or two of returning to Ontario.  Nobody needs to know how quick these were – just whip them up and tell your friends and family you were slaving away in the kitchen all day! Definitely part of my “must have” list – he’s pretty cute (at 6′ 7″) and VERY talented!

LeCrusetLeCruset has been on my wish list for some time now.  I am still without a single piece!  Known for their cast iron enameled cookware, LeCruset is “the” standard by which all other cast iron cookware is measured.  If you saw the movie “Julie & Julia” both J’s use it to make Julia’s iconic Boeuf Bourgonnoin.  While I had dreamed of one day owning a piece… it became an obsession after the movie!  Seriously!  I’ve entered contest after contest, and still not a single piece of LeCruset!  What am I supposed to do without it?  I did buy another brand of cast iron cookware, and to be honest it’s just fine!  No issues. But… it’s THE NAME that I want so that I can say I have a piece! sigh…    Ok, so the pros to enameled cast iron cookware – you can cook on your stove top and then transfer directly to your oven, and back to your stove top. Julia’s Boeuf Bourgonnoin is made in this.  You start the recipe on the stove, and transfer to the oven.  When I made this the first time, I didn’t own any cast iron cookware and so I started on the stove top, transferred the stew to an oven proof baking dish, then transferred back to another dish afterwards… ugh.  I seriously needed to get me some!  I did.  But not a LeCruset.  ONE DAY!  Oh, yes, I dare to dream!

5speedImersionAlso on my list for this year (or soon I hope) is the KitchenAid 5-speed immersion blender – or any immersion blender with power!

Quoting the KitchenAid.ca  site this blender has the industry’s first “Interchangeable Stainless Steel Bell Blade Assemblies and FIRST EVER Removable Pan Guards.”  I don’t even know what that means, but it excites me!  🙂  Basically I think that it means I can change the blades with ease and that it will allow me to  blend, puree (my main reason for wanting one – soup!), chop, shred, mince, froth, etc.  Imagine making smoothies with this much ease!

parchmentA must have on my list of favourite things for every kitchen is Parchment Paper.  Pictured here is the Pampered Chef brand but really any good quality brand will do. I have a gigantic roll from Costco! It’s lasted me almost a year now and I use it all the time!  I was recently asked if I preferred parchment or a silpat mat.  I have to be honest, I haven’t used silpat before but my niece (Modern Day Martha) swears by it.  I’ll have to try it.  For now, this is my “must have” in my kitchen.  It makes clean up a snap! Also, you can reuse it!! Did you know that?  If you are baking cookies or biscuits, or scones… just fold it in between uses and store (it needs to be dry first) and you can use it a second time!  I love that nothing sticks to it! Right now, I have cookie dough rolled out in between sheets of parchment in my fridge waiting for me to cut it into cute little shapes and bake!  Parchment is not very expensive. Pick up a roll and put it in your favourite baker’s stocking!

commercial

A good commercial grade cookie sheet is almost a must!  Pictured here is the Chicago Metallic Commercial II sheet. I purchased this at the Baking & Sweets show in Toronto, at the Golda’s Kitchen booth.  I bought two.  Larger than the normal sized cookie sheets that you generally see at department type stores (WalMart, Canadian Tire, etc.) the Chicago Metallic one is sturdy and heavier than the typical baking sheet.  However, it is also guaranteed not to warp!  Have you ever put something in your oven on a cookie sheet and heard that ‘pop’ – looked through the glass oven door to see your cookie sheet has warped in baking?  That is SO annoying and frustrating.  I have thrown out so many cookie sheets in my day. I am very happy with this cookie sheet – and plan to get more… hoping my husband is reading this so that he can pick me up a few more!…. it makes baking a breeze – holds more cookies or whatever you want to use it for.  On my list – need more!  Trust me, once you try a commercial grade cookie sheet, you just can’t go back to the ones you’ve been using now!  Put it on your list!

21Km8KJXiPL._AA160_A Chef’s Knife.  ABSOLUTELY an essential! I have one.  I have a (useless) knife set and block.  When I got it I thought it was great.  It’s not. The first time I used a real Chef’s knife – I was floored!  The weighted blade, the handle grip, the sharpness!  I started to LOVE cooking all over again.  I always “liked” to cook, but with a good knife it really did making everything so much easier. Can’t stress this enough!  Canadian Living magazine recently ran a feature on choosing the right Chef Knife.  The opening line in this on-line article states “A good knife can elevate dinner prep from a chore to a pleasure. It’s an investment and treasure that should – with the right care – last a lifetime.” I couldn’t agree more!  Pictured here is the Wusthof 8″ Chef’s knife.  A dream of a tool!

scoopAgain, from Pampered Chef is the scoop. Great for measuring out muffin batter! or Pancakes!  Or….  you name it!  Use the smaller one for cookies.  You will get a consistent size of muffin/cookie each time!  Inexpensive and well worth investing in.

It will make your time baking just a little bit shorter!  Dishwasher safe.

hero_slide1Finally, (and I say that only because I could go on and on and on…) an iPad would be nice!  I often work with my laptop on the kitchen counter –  you know what that means!   Yep, the potential for a horrific laptop accident!  I use it to refer to tutorials, to recipes, to watch movies while I cook (yes I do! It passes the time, don’t judge!)I could use it in my recipe book stand. Watch tutorials from Sweetopia or movies, and bake/cook away!  Life would be so sweet!  Okay, that’s definitely NOT an essential in my kitchen, but just a nice “if I didn’t need anything else, this is what I would like” type of thing! And I could use it to take much better pictures of my foodie creations!  Justified the expense?  Oh, I think so! Now the task of convincing you-know-who that this is an absolute kitchen essential for me!

I could go on and on… but I need to get back to work.  I have cookies to be cut out!  Menus to finish up.  Grocery shopping to plan.

And oops – still need to do some Christmas Shopping!

T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house…. everyone was sleeping except for me – I’ll be the one up late wrapping gifts and prepping food!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, celebrating with the ones you love!  May God bless you in 2013!

Happy noshing,

Heather

Christmas, Cookies

Mastering The Art of Cookie Decorating… or at least Attempting to!

Christmas tree lights. On.  Fireplace. On.  Christmas music playing softly in the background. Check!  Icing mixed and ready to go? Check…I think.

After a few frustrating starts I finally figured out how to make cookies that do not spread when you bake them.  Okay, confession – I DIDN’T figure it out, I asked an expert!  Thank you Marian Poirier from Sweetopia.  Let me back up a bit.  I have been following Sweetopia for some time, a couple of years anyway.  This past September I attended the Baking & Sweets Show in Toronto for a couple of reasons; 1) Anna Olson, 2) Duff Goldman, 3) DC Cupcake Girls, and 4) Cookies with Sweetopia. Both my sister-in-law Christine and I were both in awe of Marian’s cookies!  Seriously!  Gorgeous!  But, hey, being the naive person I am, I figured ‘how hard can it be?’ HA…. I know… I can hear you laughing!! I really can!  Sheesh… Let me know when you stop, I’m going to refill my coffee…..

Done?  Okay, I’ll carry on….

To say I’m an avid baker would be lying.  I much prefer to cook a meal than to bake! I do enjoy baking, but you get it – I prefer to cook!  Anyway, each post that Marian had I would drool more. She recently had a post with a variety of beautifully decorated Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer cookies.  I KNOW!  Unbelievable!  They were gorgeous.  So gorgeous…and again my naivety  showing through….looked so easy!  I went ahead and ordered a stand mixer cookie cutter from Ecrandal Handmade Copper Cookie Cutters. Oh it was a thing of beauty! Big, shiny, copper-y…  sigh.

I got right at baking cookies.  All gingerbread (my fave!).  To my dismay, the cookies spread in the oven.  But… I did everything Marian said!  At the Baking & Sweets show, I asked!!!  She said: chill the dough (done), roll the dough and re-chill (done), cut the shapes & re-chill (done), bake (done).  I had big blobs of what could be seen as a stand mixer cookie if you were a psychologist reading “cookie blots” instead of ink blots!  I was so disappointed.  But hey, my husband and I had awesome tasting HUGE gingerbread cookies to eat!  Wasn’t a total loss!

Then came Mixed, Again Marian was at that, and so I was determined to have a few minutes with her to really pick her brain on the errors of my way!  So, with a few minutes to sit with her at dinner the first night I asked… boldly.  Why do my cookies suck?  Okay, that’s not really what I said!  What I did ask was why they spread when I did everything right!  She asked about the type of butter I was using – the best, of course.  That’s key – you need to use a good quality butter.  Don’t use no-name stuff – the water content is too high! You need to use a good full-fat butter.  Check. Butter I know.  Butter I do – too well!

Marian's cookie tutorial
Marian’s cookie tutorial

So, I asked one more question – should I be using baking powder in the cookies?  NO!  Ah, well now we’re getting somewhere!  Baking powder works with the flour to make your cookies light and fluffy and yummy to eat. So yes yummy for eating, but it also makes them fluff (and spread) and therefore not great for decorating purposes.  OK!  Now we’re cooking… er, baking!

After a cookie decorating tutorial with Marian and my first (very awful looking) cookies – and much laughing from my friend Lynne, I vowed to myself to go home, bake, and try again.

Pathetic attempt at decorating (at "Mixed")
Pathetic attempt at decorating (at “Mixed”)

Well I baked a double batch of gingerbread cookies – as per ALL instructions for decorating.  Now, of course doing it this way is a bit time-consuming, so if you want to eat cookies right away this isn’t method for you.  I did follow each step – chill dough, roll dough, chill again, cut shapes, chill again, bake.  To my utter delight they turned out PERFECT!  I was so excited!  I just wanted to stare at them, but that would make me seem a bit weird so I pretended they were just as expected and that I wasn’t the least bit surprised!  (But we all know, I was!!)

Next step after letting them completely cool was to make the royal icing.  Again I used the recipe found on Sweetopia.net and it worked beautifully!  Marian also gives tips on getting the right consistency for piping and decorating – you really need to follow that or it can be disastrous! So, here’s when it went south – yet again!  I mixed up my icing, divided it, made some pretty red and green icing (and kept some white)… and realized I only had ONE #2 icing tip!  That just wouldn’t do!  I tried though!  And failed!  You just can’t outline and flood a cookie, clean the tip and change colours and carry on with the next colour!  The original (white in this case) starts to harden making decorating very difficult!  ARGH!  I was becoming a very frustrated cookie decorating diva!
The icing got packed away in air-tight containers in my fridge (thankfully it keeps well!) and went to bed. Angry.  With myself.  Argh (in true pirate voice!)

Now, you need to know I live in a very small but beautiful little town, Uxbridge, where there is no Michael’s, and for you American’s – no Hobby Lobby either.  Thankfully, we recently got a Bulk Barn {cue excited squeals!} and it has a very good section with baking supplies with cake, cookie, and candy decorating supplies!  And I mean – LOTS of stuff!  I cleaned them out of #2 Wilton tips!  I bought 4.  Apparently that’s the most popular one they sell – who knew?  I have lots of disposable icing bags so now I was all set to get back at it again.

Finally, last night, we finished dinner (a wonderful beef stew seasoned with Herbs de Provence)  and I donned my apron again.  Loaded up the icing bags (not too full) got the cookies ready and started to experiment in hopes that anything I did would look better than the ones I did at the Mixed Conference!  I think they did!

Cookies, the sequel
Cookies, the sequel
ornament cookie
ornament cookie

Please forgive the picture quality, for some reason the flash wouldn’t work! Bah, technology!  The cookies are not perfect by any means, but they are WAY better than the one I did at Mixed.  I’m hooked Marian!  All I can think of now is baking more cookies and trying again.  I’m sure with each go at it my technique will improve.  While I don’t think I’ll ever be as amazing as Marian, and really you need to check her website and look at some of the amazing work she does, I can only hope I can decorate without some of the really nasty errors that I see now that they have dried overnight!  I think I’ve mastered ‘flooding’ now I just need to work on the actual decorating technique to make them more aesthetically pleasing and well, just plain “OH WOW HEATHER YOU ARE INCREDIBLY BRILLIANT” worthy!  Hey, I can dream!!!

Until next time,

Happy noshing!

p.s. I’ll post an update as the cookies (hopefully) improve!

on the road

Sweets, Swag, and Swayze (and a little duck!)

{cue music} I had the time of my life….

This time last week I headed out for my long drive to Pembroke, Va. Knowing it was an insane drive (why didn’t I fly??) I thought I should get an early start. My plan was to drive as far as Pittsburgh, stop for the night, and continue on in the morning. The first part of my drive was relatively uneventful! The U.S./Canada Border crossing was quiet and I zoomed through – after explaining to the U.S. Customs agent where I was going and why. He was intrigued. I think he was a closet foodie! First stop – Lackawana. I always loved those town names in the Western New York area… Lackawana, Tonawanda, Gowanda. I can’t tell you how happy I was that there was a Tim Horton’s in Lackawana. I got my coffee/bagel fix!! Back in the car… and back on the I90. Quick tolls (ugh) and then the turn on to I79 as the trip headed a bit south… in more ways than one! I drove past Grove City outlet mall and made a mental note to stop there on my way home! Dusk was closing in and the lights were all sooooo pretty! I79 was busy with lots of transport trucks and cars. and I was out in front! 🙂 I wish I hadn’t been!

About 1/2 hour north of Pittsburgh I saw in the glow of my headlights two ducks waddling across the highway! Mr. Duck and his Mrs. were out for a quick stroll across the road. Everything happened in the blink of an eye! Checked my rear view mirror… trucks behind me. Checked my side mirror… cars all around me. I had no option – keep going! I braced myself and was hoping that the ducks would miss my tires! Maybe they would go under the car and be safe! Maybe I was dreaming! Well, like a moment out of a slow motion cartoon movie… Mr. Duck looked at me and decided he needed to fly away, and he took to flight… but not soon enough! I hit him! Big time. I knew I had killed him! Mrs. is no doubt very pissed off with me right about now! It wasn’t until I stopped at a motel for the night, in Pittsburgh, that I saw the full impact of what happened! I hit the duck at 120 km/h mid air… he was imbedded in my bumper! I had a hole and a duck! Donning some plastic bags on my hands, I pulled him out. He was in a few pieces. Duck Dynasty has nothing on me!

The Duck!
The Duck!

The next day, I decided to be a bit more leisurely in my drive… stopping several times to stretch and eat, and browse! Of course browsing meant shopping, and shopping meant I only stopped at one or two places. 1. WalMart (I forgot to pack shampoo/conditioner) and 2. Cracker Barrell. Post Black Friday sales – scored some sweet new Christmas decorations!

Back on the road… It seemed once I left Pennsylvania I had zero cell service! All through West Virginia – nada, nothing, zero, zilch! Not happy! I paid to have a U.S. roaming package put on my phone for the trip ($50) only to find out it was worthless to me! Thank you Bell Canada! I had hoped that once I hit Virginia and maybe the mountain that I would again have service – nope! Nothing! One word – argh!

The trip on Friday was pretty much uneventful – the sun shone, and the road was beautiful. I could only imagine what it must have looked like mid-summer in its lushness or even early fall! Now, it was all brown! Nothing green! But, still, beautiful!! After a few more road changes I finally turned off the highway and onto the road leading up (way up) to Mountain Lake Hotel. This was a steep, twisty-turny narrow road that led up the mountain. I certainly wouldn’t want to do that road in the dark! Ever. Period. One final turn and one final umph up the hill and there in front of me was THE hotel! Kellerman’s (Mountain Lake) – home to the movie set of Dirty Dancing. I fully expected to see Baby and the rest of the Houseman’s running out to greet me! After all, I had just driven over 12 hours to be there!! Hmmm, no Baby! In fact no cute Bell Boy came running out like he did in the movie! Oh well, I was still at KELLERMAN’S!!!!

Beautiful Mountain Lake (AKA Kellerman's!)
Beautiful Mountain Lake (AKA Kellerman’s!)

Check in. Up to my room (no elevator so I dragged my suitcase up the stairs complete with my laptop bag, etc.). Opened the door. And a squeal of delight met me! My bestie, Lynne, jumped off her bed and gave me a huge welcome hug! We were both there attending Mixed. And THAT’S when the fun began! Lynne and I have been friends for over 30 years…. I’m sure most other bloggers there thought we were snobs, not so! We just had some catching up to do! Lynne is a brilliant cook! For those who have read my post Amigos, it’s breakfast again! you will recognize Lynne’s name from that! She’s the inspiration and creator of that amazing and spicy breakfast strata.

The beds were both covered in chocolate from Hershey, healthy snacks from Way Better Snacks, and… after dumping out our first bag of ‘stuff’ we had presents from KitchenAid, Duff Goldman, OXO, Herhsey, (yes I said it again!!!! – Swweeet!) and Dreamfields Pasta, just to name a few! For a foodie and a blogger… SWEET SWAG is so very extra SWEET!!!

Duff Goldman and Moi
Duff Goldman and Moi

We were treated to a wonderful wine & cheese party, courtesy of Way Better Snacks and Wisconsin Cheese! Oh my goodness! I am completely in love with Wisconsin Cheese!!! Dinner followed….

Later that evening, after dinner, we headed to the barn (yes THE barn where Baby and Johnny, aka Patrick Swayze) did their famous scenes! Imagine a group of (mostly women) bloggers and sponsors all quoting lines from Dirty Dancing! True say! Following the Mixer at the barn, there was a midnight Mac & Cheese party. Unfortunately, after driving forever and being traumatized by a duck, I was pretty tired. I called it a night! I did however take home some fantastic Dreamfields pasta and tried out the winning recipe, among others,  at home….very yummy!

Saturday was full day! Cake decorating with Duff Goldman. Cookie decorating and tutorial with Marion from Sweetopia, seminars/workshops in photography, video editing, food styling, and ebook publishing – it was a very full but exciting day!

Cookie decorating Tutorial with @sweetopia
Cookie decorating Tutorial with @sweetopia

Another dinner… and another party! This time it was the closing party. So many prizes to be given away! SO many! SO SO SO many. I didn’t win a thing. Sadly! My big “wish” was to win the 7 QT KitchenAid Stand Mixer! Sigh. It was not to be! My other super big wish was to win one of the ranges also from KitchenAid. My dream is to one day own an induction cook top! Sigh. Can I say that again? Sigh!!! I did get to spend some time with lots of fabulous people though, and of course that made it all worthwhile! What an amazing group of talent and expertise in that small resort!!! Lynne and I got to spend some one-on-one time with two of Duff’s Decorating Staff from Charm City Bakery – Elena Fox and Mary Smith – two very delightful and fun ladies. After the closing party, there was another mid-night screening of a movie – this time the iconic “Dirty Dancing”. Seriously, you can’t go to Kellerman’s Mountain Lake and not have a screening! As much as I really wanted to stay awake for that, it had been a long day and I knew I had to drive straight through the next day. I bid my fellow bloggers good night and headed to bed. I think I was asleep in minutes!

Elena Fox and Mary Smith from Charm City Cakes
Elena Fox and Mary Smith from Charm City Cakes

The next morning I was up and out very early. Car packed up by 6:30. A quick cup of coffee, some goodbyes to the (very) few who were up and about, and I hit the road before 7 a.m. Bye Lynne… it was worth the drive just to spend the time with you! SO much fun catching up!!!!

Sunrise on my way down the mountain
Sunrise on my way down the mountain

Final thoughts: This was the first ever conference organized by Susan and Paula. Not being conference planners, they did a good job organizing amazing sponsorship, sessions, training, and fun. It was a long drive for, essentially, one day. A session on the Friday – some type of keynote perhaps would have been good. There was a sense from other bloggers we spoke to about a lack of communication (i.e. the Kitchen Aid Mixer was just a ‘party’ as the advertised ‘lots of prizes’ was moved to the Saturday night, but nobody knew that.) However all those wonderful KirchenAid prizes were won by some fantastic ladies and one gentleman! But fun – yes!!  But with each ticket number called, my heart sank a little deeper!  Maybe next year I can will a 7qt mixer or an induction range! I allowed to do a little dreaming!!!!  I mean, it seems logical, right?  Dreaming of a new KitchenAid Range?  I can use it to cook DREAMfields pasta… see what I did there?  lol.  If the event is repeated next year, and is at the same location, I will go prepared and most likely fly down! I won’t buy the ‘U.S. roaming package’ from Bell Canada – waste of money – and I will know going in that the WiFi service was pathetic! Now, having said that, it’s probably fine under normal circumstances, but a conference of 100 bloggers all wanting to get online at the same time… well, you get it – the internet service was terrible!

Overall, it was a fun event with very few glitches. For the first time out of the “conference” gate it was well done. Congratulations ladies! I really did have the time of my life… even if I never carried a watermelon, or put baby in a corner!