Our Road Trip Through Northern Italy

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From the windy hike along the shores of La Spezia to the breathtaking views of the Dolomite mountains, nine-days in Italy was not nearly enough time to explore everything, but we sure made the most of it. It was my first trip to Europe and boy did it open my eyes to a wonderful way of living. Some notable highlights were obviously the food, wine and brightly colorful houses. Traveling also has a way of transforming you, as soon as I stepped off the plane I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I flew into Milan on the Friday, and made my way to the other Milan airport to meet a girlfriend. From there we rented a car and drove up to Val di Sole where both our boyfriends were racing in World Master’s for Downhill. Little did we know the drive from Milan to Trentino was going to be an adventure. The roads in Italy are very narrow compared to the spacious ones we have here in Canada. It definitly made for a very interesting drive up the windy mountain roads. After about 3 hours we finally made it to Trentino and settled in for the night at this cozy but modern chalet called the Hotel Palace Ravelli.

The next day Miranda and I took the gondola up to the top of the mountain and hiked around for a few hours while the boys did their practice runs. I was truly amazed at how mountainous the northern region was. While up touring the top we constantly heard cow bells in the distance. After some time we ended up stumbling across them grazing. In Europe they call this Alpine transhumance which is a traditional practice of grazing livestock between the valleys in winter and the high mountain pastures in summer. It has helped shaped much of the landscape in the Alps, as without it, most areas below 6,600 ft would be forests.

Trentino, Italy

 

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The next day we rented some bikes and road along a valley trail between five of the little mountain towns. We searched for a little cafe before making our way back to see the boys race in the afternoon.img_0317

With the tough conditions and rough track the race was definitely quite interesting to watch. Unfortunately, Dan crashed at the top section and was set back with his time. It was hard to see all the hard work gone into training and to have one lap to determine your standing…but that’s downhill. Despite the not so great run we all enjoyed a lovely dinner in town with crunchy thin crust pizza and chocolate desserts. The next morning we grabbed a quick espresso in town before heading down to Verona.

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The Dolomites are simple incredible, for those of you living in British Columbia picture driving through cliff faces like “The Chief”. I’ve done a fair bit of road trips in my time and I will say this was the kind of drive where you want to stop every 10 minutes to take a photo. Dan being the patient guy he is obliged.

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The drive from Trentino to Verona took around 2.5 hours which included a quick pitstop at a small hotel on the side of the highway. There we grabbed lunch, had a glass of white wine and took in the view. img_0598

img_0670For a couple weeks I had been looking forward to our stay just outside of Verona at beautiful little Airbnb I found (here). Our host was wonderful, and was able to recommend a traditional Italian restaurant in the area.  We had a few hours to spare before dinner so Dan and I decided to go into the city to check out the arena.  The next morning we got up at the crack of dawn and made our way to the beautiful little town of Modena. We had both had built up an appetite from the morning drive and while walking around the city we stumbled across this vegetarian spot called Loma, where we ate some tasty panini’s.img_0752

After lunch we continued walking along the narrow side streets in town before making our way to the Ferrari exhibit.  After the exhibit we made our way to the Balsamic tasting at Acetaia Di Giorgio.

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I could have easily spent the night in Modena, but we already rented an Airbnb in Florence. So after our balsamic tasting we were on the road yet again. The weather had decided to take a turn so by the time we made it to Florence it had started to rain. Despite the down pour there was something awfully beautiful about staying in the Florence countryside. From the rolling hills, endless amount of vineyards and beautiful estates we were soaking the whole experience up. That evening our host at the bed and breakfast recommended yet another great restaurant right down the road called Tres Pini. We couldn’t have asked for a better atmosphere and the the food and the live music was the cherry on top. The next morning we woke up and headed into the city for a early breakfast. We quickly realized we didn’t have enough time to fully explore Florence so we made a decision to continue heading towards Lucca, a small town where my grandmother’s family was from to spend most of the afternoon.  img_1159

I instantly fell in love with the little town. We rented bikes for the day and got lost down the narrow windy streets. It was a small enough town that you could do that. Around lunch we found a little restaurant where I indulged in some burrata cheese and prosecco, what more could a girl want?

img_1131My grandmother wanted to visit Lucca before she passed, but wasn’t able to make the trip due to health concerns. Before we left town, I made a point to go to the cathedral and light a candle for her and my poppa. I’m so grateful I was able to spend the afternoon there with Dan, exploring and seeing that part of Italy.

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My Love for Pottery Begins

I start off every New Year by setting a yearly goal list, and like most people’s lists some of the items on it are easily checked off, while others don’t exactly make the cut.

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Since moving out to the cove, I’ve been obsessed with a small shop called the Sunnyside. For those of you who have yet to venture in there yet; it’s a get place to check out filled with cute succulents, delicious teas, my favourite cookbooks and most of all beautiful hand made ceramics.

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source: heather dahl

For the longest time I’ve wanted to get back into sculpting, it feels like ages ago but I studied Sculpture and Installation at OCAD. Even though my time there was shortly lived, the skills I learnt had a profound impact on my journey in life. After admiring the works of Heather Dahl, a very talented local Vancouver pottery artist. I decided to reach out to her and figure out where she would recommend taking classes. Turns out, it was just up the road at the Northshore Community Centre. Fast forward a couple months, I finally ended up enrolling in a 13-week Intro to Wheel Work and Hand Building class. The pottery teacher is named Liz DeBeer, a wonderful woman originally from South Africa and now a practicing pottery artist on the Sunshine Coast.

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Now before I dive into it the wonderful world of Pottery, let me begin by saying it isn’t for everyone. In fact, you truly need to have outmost attention to detail and patience if you want to succeed. The more classes I take, the more I realize that the foundational work is key.

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I have a tendency to rush through work, as I’m eager to see the end result. With pottery much of the reward is in the process as there are many steps from the building of the clay, the trimming and decorating, to the glazing. I’m learning to love the slow progression of each stage.

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I’m currently experimenting with all sorts of shapes and sizes to get a feeling for the clay. Nothing noteworthy yet, but you have to begin somewhere. Now that I’ve shared a yearly goal of mine I hope that I inspired you to get out there and cross something off your list.

 

Sunshine Coast

IMG_6420Last weekend a few of us headed over to the beautiful Sunshine coast…. It was my first time ever going to this special place and I now know why everyone talks so highly about it. For the third weekend in a row Dan and I were up at the crack of dawn (on a Saturday) getting the bikes and gear ready to be on the road for 7AM. It’s a short and sweet ferry ride but on a beautiful clear day you’re able to see all the breathtaking mountains that surround you as far as the eye can see. IMG_6428-2
Mountain biking for me is one of those things that makes me excited but nervous all at the same time. Don’t get me wrong I love the fact that I’m learning something new and challenging but the getting injured part doesn’t really do it for me. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to going more often as the weather gets warmer.  After a long day of riding in the snow and frost we all went to Persephone Brewing Company to enjoy a couple brews and to eat some well deserved food at the Farm to Feast Food Truck.IMG_6492 I can’t wait to go back and check this place out again in the summer time. Such a great hang out spot and I can only imagine how good the atmosphere is with the outdoor patio all lite up in the summer time. They even have a stone fire place out back where they cooked us up some A+ vegetarian pizzas, what more could a girl ask for?IMG_6501

Mt. Baker

3This weekend marked my first riding day of the season. Instead up heading up to Whistler for opening weekend like I would normally do; a few of us went down to check out Mt. Baker. By 630 AM on Saturday morning we were already on the road eager to get down to make it there for first chair. Despite not being able to enjoy my regular weekend sleep in– it was most certainly worth the early morning rise. We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather on Saturday, bluebird and -3.  What surprised me the most, was the lack of lift line ups and the completely affordable apres drinks post riding. I’m so excited for this winter season. Next weekend we’ll be looking to head up to Whistler or Big White. My fingers are crossed that there’s some snow in the forecast.

1Having snacks to fuel the body while riding all day is essential. That’s why these delicious little Raw Energy Bites are the perfect healthy snack option! A little sweet something to keep you going. They’re quick, easy to make and can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

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Raw Energy Bites
Recipe type: Raw, Vegan, Gluten Free Snack
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20-25
 
A little sweet something to keep you going. They’re quick, easy to make and can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (dry) oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
  • ⅔ cup toasted coconut flakes
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • ⅓ cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (the smaller the better). Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  2. Makes about 20-25 balls.

 

 

Strawberry & Rhubarb Galettes

This summer in BC is going to be one to remember, I can already feel it. This past weekend I got together with some friends and went camping at Levette Lake which is located just past Squamish. The scenery there was absolutely incredible. There’s something about sitting around the bonfire looking up at the night sky and snow capped mountains all while enjoying some vino that really does it for me. The more time I spend exploring the more I realize I need that constant adventure in my life. Before leaving for our camping trip I had some time to make some Raspberry, Rhubarb and Strawberry Galettes. I had quite a bit of extra filling left over so I also made some crumble as well. You can find the recipe for the dough here.

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The following day we woke up and made a big breakfast on the campfire.  We had planned to go and do a local hike but the water looked more inviting. I was actually surprised of how warm the lake temperature was. A half hour later we were swimming to this island in the middle of the lake to jump off a rock and a giant log. We were all tempted to stay another night but the weather wasn’t looking too great so we started to head back to the city, stopping off in Squamish at Howe Sound Brewery for some eats. The sunday I had a long overdue lady dinner date were I made some delicious Homemade Lentil Soup and Fresh Spring Salad. All-in-all a great weekend.1

Rhubarb, Raspberry and Strawberry Galettes
 
Ingredients
  • Pie dough
  • 1½ pounds trimmed rhubarb, cut into ¼-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
  • 1½ cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • Coarse sanding sugar, for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, toss to combine rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries, cornstarch, and granulated sugar.
  2. Roll out dough rounds and cover with a heaping ½ cup rhubarb mixture, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold edges over rhubarb filling, leaving an opening in center; gently brush water between folds, and press gently so that folds adhere. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush edges of dough with water, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake until crusts are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees, and bake until juices bubble and start to run out from center of each galette, 15 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely before serving.

 

 

Salmon Sliders with Dill Sauce

A low-key weekend was welcomed after a good stretch of holiday mode with the family. It was definitely time to get reacquainted with the beautiful city of Vancouver. I ended up doing some yoga, went for a beautiful hike to check out Lighthouse Park, ran the Lynn Valley Loop up to Rice lake and tested out Strange Fellows Brewery and Bandidas Taqueria a vegetarian and vegan Mexican joint with killer cocktails.

IMG_0147No matter how long I’ve been here, I still feel like a newbie in the city and the fact that were so close to summer makes me pretty excited to spend even more time outside doing the fun activities I love!dan This sunday I was craving my favourite burger from Mile One Restaurant in Pemberton. Not having wheels or time I decided to attempt my own version of the Salmon Slider. I ended up making a Yogurt-Dill Sauce, but next time I may switch it up with some spicy mayo to give it more kick.IMG_0162

Salmon Slider with Yogurt-Dill Sauce
 
Ingredients
  • For the Salmon:
  • 1½ pounds salmon fillets
  • lemon pepper to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • salt to taste
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • For the Yogurt-Dill Sauce:
  • 1 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup diced seedless cucumber
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Feel free to add any other toppings you like! I used avocados, tomatoes, red onion, spinach and gluten free buns.
Instructions
  1. For the Salmon:
  2. Season salmon fillets with lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and vegetable oil until sugar is dissolved. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag with the soy sauce mixture, seal, and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Preheat grill for medium heat. Lightly oil grill grate. Place salmon on the preheated grill, and discard marinade. Cook salmon for 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  4. For the Yogurt-Dill Sauce:
  5. In a medium bowl, combine Greek yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, and dill. Stir until well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If you have time, chill before serving.

 

Mexican Chocolate Brownies

The past two weeks have absolutely flown by for me. On April 8th, I welcomed my twin sister Carly, and my mom to the west coast for our first ever ladies only trip. I can’t count on one hand the amount of times I belly laughed so hard it hurt through out the trip.

IMG_9855I guess you know you really had a good trip when you can look back and only dream of reliving each moment we had again and again.  From the amateur tours of Vancouver, the spa day on the island to Whistler Telus Fest I would do it all over again in a heart beat. FullSizeRenderI ended up making these brownies as a little pick me up on Friday signifying my first week back at work, which felt like a long while. If you’re looking for a little spicy time in your life in the form of a chocolate fix, I would make these Mexican Chocolate Brownies.IMG_0121

Mexican Chocolate Brownies
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a square pan.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt ½ cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in ⅓ cup cocoa, ½ cup flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

 

Blackened Cod Tacos

Spending the weekends exploring new places and fun outdoor activities is quickly becoming the norm since moving to the west coast. This long weekend I went up to Pemberton for the Friday-Saturday to check out two delicious local restaurants Solfeggio Foods and Mile One Eating House, I also successfully managed to cross the Joffre Lake hike off the bucket list!

1 Just when I thought spring was finally here to stay, we ended up having a small snow fall the friday night. It definitely made for a snowy/ slippery adventure up to the lake. Note to self …It’s time to invest in some decent trail hiking shoes.

2While up in Pemberton I met Evan, one of the owners of Pemberton Taco Co. I spent a great deal of time sifting through his cookbook collection and talking about tacos.  All of which inspired this new blog post. 3

Blackened Cod Tacos
Serves: 3
 
Ingredients
  • For the cod fish:
  • 1 lb cod fish (cut into 2 inch long fillets)
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¾ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp salt & ½ tsp black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • Cabbage slaw:
  • ½ cup shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cups shredded red cabbage
  • ½ matchstick carrots
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Other toppings:
  • 1 ripe avocados sliced
  • ½ cup grape tomatoes
  • ½ jalapeño pepper chopped into small pieces (optional)
  • lime wedges (halves) and cilantro for serving
  • 6 flour tortillas
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl combine smoked paprika, garlic powder, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne. Mix and then sprinkle over fish fillets, rub to evenly coat .
  2. Heat grape seed oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook fish until browned and firm or for around 4 minutes per side.
  3. In a large bowl combine salt, olive oil and apple cider vinegar and stir. Add cabbage and toss, so it is evenly coated with dressing.
  4. To assemble tacos: Warm tortillas in a skillet. Break cod fish into pieces. Distribute fish evenly between 6 tortillas, add cabbage slaw, avocado, and tomatoes
  5. Optional: you can top with some chopped cilantro, jalapeño pepper and any other toppings you prefer.

 

Seattle

It’s interesting how life unfolds and when the person you’ve always dreamed of becoming slowly starts coming to fruition. If I look back at only a year ago, I would have never imagined I would be taking a solo road trip down to Seattle. I mean, of course it‘s always something I’ve wanted to do but making it happen was another story. The urge to explore the outdoors, new cities and meet new people continue to build. Before leaving to head down the coast, I ended up picking up this girl named Miia, a backpacker, from Finland who had been travelling the world for the last year or so. It made the drive super interesting, especially when I figured out she was actual chef. Needless to say we spoke a lot about food and her unique travel experiences. She even ended up sharing with me some great traditional Finnish recipes that I hope to test out soon on the blog. After our three hour drive down I dropped her off in Fremont; a part of Seattle which is known for it’s quirky art community. While there I stumbled across this tasty vegan bakery called Flying Apron Bakery, where I grabbed a hot beverage and a small chocolate chip muffin. After that I continued to walk around and ended up finding this great Vintage shop and ended up picking up this small beautiful necklace and a couple vintage postcards.

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From Fremont, I headed straight to the iconic Pike Place Market. Parking was a bit tricky, but I managed to find some and ended up walking around for a good hour and a half. IMG_9158The weather was on point, so despite being a friday afternoon the market was packed. I made the most of my time and wandered around soaking up the beautiful view of the ocean, fresh market fish, flowers, and of course baked treats. IMG_9154Looking back, I definitely wish I had planned more time at the market, so that I was able to pick up some fresh goods to bring back for dinner. Next trip will have to be at least two nights.
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From the market, I drove to check into the Airbnb place I had booked. The last time I had used the service was while I was in Israel and the experience was equally as great. I checked into this beautiful bedroom, and met Caitlin and Chais who are a wonderful couple who made me feel right at home. Caitlin and I sat down and chatted for and she got me to try some of her homemade kombucha.  She also provided some awesome recommendations on restaurants and spots to check out while in town. That evening I went to go check out Ballard, a neighbourhood in northwest Seattle. I had a couple places in mind that I wanted to check out so I started the night out first at Walrus and the Carpenter where I ended up finding a seat up at the bar and enjoyed a few oysters and a small salad. From there I went to Ocho a spanish inspired tapas bar where I ordered a few different platers and topped it off with a deadly sweet dessert at Hot Cakes, a molton chocolate cakery.  That morning I woke up and went to a great brunch spot called Talluah’s in the Capitol Hill area. I absolutely fell in love with the decor of this spot. My tummy rather enjoyed the avocado toasts & mimosa combo too before hitting the road. Once again, it was an absolute beautiful day outside, and I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy at the thought of having to drive back to Vancouver already. But before reaching the border, I decided to stop in Bellingham to visit a friend.  While there he suggested we hike Oyster Dome, a classic trail that takes you from sea level to a stunning lookout 2,075 feet above with a 180 degree view of the Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, and Olympic Mountains. FullSizeRenderIt was one of those hikes that I will most certainly be doing again. I could have easily just stayed up there the rest of the day basking in the sun, highs of 17 degrees while enjoying a cold beverage.
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Before I finish the post about my trip, I wanted to mention that this adventure wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for my good friend Tyler, who not only lent me his truck but also his GPS. Without both, this trip wouldn’t have ever happened. Cheers to the PNW as it continues to amazes me. I can’t wait to discover more of the beautiful coast. 

Superbowl Snacks

FullSizeRenderNo football party is complete without a solid spread of touchdown-worthy snacks. These clean, whole food recipes will give you the energy you need to root for your team. Read the full post on the lululemon blog.