How Ugly Cupcakes Taught Me About Data Plans

Who knew that some ugly cupcakes would give me a lesson on cell phone data plans.

Cupcake MixIt all started with a box of cupcake mix.  I know, I hate to even admit I used a mix but for whatever reason, I had this box sitting in my cupboard so I decided to make them last night while Armando was in Veracruz, Mexico for a quick weekend trip to visit family.  My girlfriends were coming over for a girls-night-in on Saturday so it seemed like the perfect time to make them so I would have help eating them.

They turned out to be ugly cupcakes.  My ability to pipe the icing on the cupcakes was not at the same level as the contestants on the Food Network‘s Cupcake Wars (Love that channel!).  How do they make it look so easy?!  Mine looked like, well, a place where a dog came along and thought it was a perfect place to do his business.  I know, gross.  But that is truly what they looked like.  They tasted okay though.  I think I would get points lost for presentation but for taste…oh, who am I kidding…they tasted like cupcakes that came from a box. But, I must say that my homemade icing wasn’t half bad.

Anyways, I decided to share my Friday night activity with Armando.  Baking on a Friday night…living on the wild side!  *sigh*  I snapped a picture of the cupcakes and sent it in a text to him.

A while later, I received an emoticon of an angry red face and a red face of the devil.  Whoa Nelly!!  I thought Armando didn’t like cupcakes.  Was he actually mad that I made cupcakes while he was away?  Nope, it was worse.

Armando added a package to his cell phone plan this weekend so we could talk and text a bit more than we are normally able to on his regular plan when he is in Mexico.  Sweet gesture, I know.  But apparently sending a photo via text when one is not on wifi, will use up a lot of their data trying to download the photo.  We just have to ignore the simple question of why one had his data plan on in the first place.  First rule of travelling out-of-country, never have your data plan on unless needed for an emergency.  And we have to ignore the fact that one sent photos via text earlier which would have me assume that it was okay for me to send photos via text as well.  But assumptions never end well.

Long story short, the attempted download of the photo used up all the data plan Armando had and was starting to charge him $10 for every MB needed to download the picture of the ugly cupcakes.  Thankfully, the phone company stopped the transmission so it wouldn’t go over $90.

So, we are now $90 poorer and the photo never did completely download for Armando to see it.  And the plan is used up so we can’t talk nor text for the rest of the weekend, unless he’s on wifi.

Lesson learned from all of this?  Buy cupcakes from the professionals.

The picture of my ugly cupcakes that cost us $90.

The picture of my ugly cupcakes that cost us $90.

Raw Beef and Swarovski Crystals At The Sparkling Hill Resort

Ahhhh….what a weekend.  Here’s a photo blog of Armando’s birthday weekend that we spent in the Okanagan at the Sparkling Hills Resort:

Always the challenge of getting Armando to “unplug”; not even an amazing view could pull him away from being on his phone when we first arrived:

Quail's Gate Winery  Kelowna, BC

Quail’s Gate Winery Kelowna, BC

Okay, so maybe the Infinity Pool and a coffee made him forget about technology for a moment:

Infinity Pool at The Sparkling Hill Resort Vernon, BC

Infinity Pool at The Sparkling Hill Resort Vernon, BC

The Sparkling Hill Resort has 3.5 million Swarovski crystals incorporated into the architecture of the resort, including this crystal light in our room:

Swarovski Crystals in our hotel room at The Sparkling Hill Resort Vernon, BC

Swarovski Crystals in our hotel room at The Sparkling Hill Resort Vernon, BC

It was truly a relaxing, de-stressing weekend spent in bath robes as we enjoyed the multitude of saunas and steam rooms that were complimentary during our stay.  We also enjoyed this indoor pool that played music underwater and has starry lights in the ceiling:

Indoor Pool at The Sparkling Hill Resort Vernon, BC

Indoor Pool at The Sparkling Hill Resort Vernon, BC

It was such a beautiful, sunny weekend that we couldn’t help but take advantage of the many hiking trails at the resort to help with the guilt of all the eating we were doing:

Hiking around The Sparkling Hill Resort

Hiking around The Sparkling Hill Resort

And to help balance all the wine we were drinking, we took some time to grab a tea and fruit water as we relaxed in the Tea Room:

Tea Room at The Sparkling Hill Resort

Tea Room at The Sparkling Hill Resort

Veal Tenderloin Tartar at Peakfine Restaurant at The Sparkling Hill Resort

Veal Tenderloin Tartar at Peakfine Restaurant at The Sparkling Hill Resort

I was on a roll with challenging myself this weekend and completed a trifecta with a little culinary challenge.  During dinner, Armando was excited to see Veal Tenderloin Tartar on the menu…AKA raw ground beef topped off with a raw quail yoke (insert gagging sound  here).   I guess I was feeling especially adventurous after conquering my fear of the Trans-Canada and hanging out in -110 degree celsius in a bathing suit so far this weekend that I thought, “Hell, why not?”  So, I took the smallest of the small pieces, took a few deep breaths, contorted my face in a predetermined look of disgust as I put the fork in my mouth as my other hand was already making its way to my water glass to drown the taste.  But my hand stopped, my face went neutral and my eyes displayed a look of confusion.  Armando asked me what I thought.  I didn’t want to answer.  I must not have taken a big enough piece to give me the confirmation that it was going to taste disgusting.  So I took a slightly larger fork-full.  Nope, I needed a larger piece, one more bite.  Argh!  What was wrong here?  This was not supposed to taste good.  But it did.  But mind won out over flavour because red meat, especially ground beef, should be cooked in my mind. Armando ate the rest.  But I tried it!

What a weekend!  Nothing better for the mind, body and spirit than a weekend away with the one you love!  Happy Birthday, Armando!!

The hotel made sure to wish Armando a Happy Birthday whenever they could!

The hotel made sure to wish Armando a Happy Birthday whenever they could!

Mexican Snack Food

I am a huge popcorn lover, as many close friends and family can attest to.  And a recent article in the Toronto Sun reported on some research that states that popcorn is good for you.  After doing my dance of joy to the Popcorn Gods, I made myself an air-popped bowl of those healthy morsels.  Yes, the butter and salt added probably canceled out the health benefits but hey, it was a day of celebration and I wanted to treat myself.  And it got me thinking of how Armando eats popcorn because it’s not with salt and butter.  In fact, Armando’s snack foods often have a bit of a Mexican spin to them and I thought I would share some of them with you here.

Although not much of a late-night snacker, he will grab some of these every now and then:

Popcorn with lime juice and hot sauce

Peanuts with lime juice and chill powder

Cut up raw hot dogs with lime juice and hot sauce (this one gets a big “EWW” from me).

Do you see a theme here?

Ham with melted cheese on it (the heart just skips a beat on that one! But, I must admit, it tastes pretty darn good; it’s like a quesadilla without the carb-filled tortilla).

Kitkat bars (I have no idea where this one come from because he doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, and fortunately he doesn’t put a Mexican spin to this one.  Imagine…lime juice with Kitkat bars?!).

Since I’ve outed him on his favourite snacks in Canada, I guess it’s only fair that I share my favourite Mexican snacks, minus a Canadian spin to them (What would a Canadian spin even be?  Add maple syrup ??):

Papitas – street vendor potato chips.  Think of potato chips in a bag but on steroids…extra large deep-fried potato slices with fresh squeezed lime juice and salt.

 

 

 

Tacos el Pastor – pork tacos with cilantro, pineapple, onion and salsa (best eaten as a late night snack from a taqueria).  In fact, I really wanted to have them at our wedding this past December and although it’s considered ‘street vendor food’, we got them and they were a hit!

 

Pays de Queso – Yes, it’s a Mexican McDonald’s secret – remember their deep-fried pies?  Well, Mexico still has them and they have one with a filling that’s kind of like a sweet cream cheese.  Unfortunately, a trip to Mexico now always requires a stop at a local McDonalds for these “heart attacks in a box”.

 

Do you have any weird or unusual snacks that you enjoy?

Valentine’s Day Disaster

I had good intentions.  But it all went terribly wrong.

After Armando gave me my amazing birthday surprise on Monday, I wanted to do a thoughtful gesture in return and what better way to do that than to make him a 5-course Valentine’s Day Dinner the next day.  He was travelling with work and would be home on the 14th around 8pm so it was perfect.

I did my research, found some recipes and went shopping for all the ingredients.  Then, for five non-stop hours, I cooked, cleaned and prepared all the dishes so they would be ready in time for his arrival.

He was excited for the meal and with each course, I could see him getting more full but was forcing himself to eat everything as he knew how much effort went into the meal.  He seemed to enjoy his Valentine’s Day surprise that is, until 2am that night.

I was awoken to him stirring in bed.  Restless.  I asked if he was okay and he said no, that he thinks he ate too much and that he wasn’t feeling well.  It couldn’t possibly be that he ate too much as the portions were small and I ate the same amount, if not more.  He described his symptoms and it sounded like heartburn.  I googled what to do because we had no medicine for that and it said to sleep with your head raised.  As soon as he did that, he felt better.  But only for a moment.  Within a couple of minutes, he was running to the bathroom, sick!  Maybe he did eat too much?  Did I over stuff him?

That was the conclusion that we arrived at until I got sick a few hours later.  No, I didn’t over stuff him.  I poisoned him!  All the symptoms we got all day pointed to food poisoning.  I felt like I was dying and I felt so sad and guilty that my surprise gift had not quite turned out as planned and that it was my fault that my hubby was sick too.  Worst gift ever!  The only positive spin I can see out of this is that I am sure to be guaranteed to be taken out for Valentine’s Day dinner next year!

Best Birthday Surprise Ever!

I had the best birthday morning surprise yesterday…but before I tell you about it, I need to give you a play-by-play of the night before so you can totally appreciate the surprise like I did.

Sunday Feb.12

11:00 PM  Armando and I are on our computers, studying and researching, respectively.  Armando looks exhausted from his schedule of working full-time and doing his MBA.  He’s had no break in the last while and it shows.

Monday Feb.13

12:01 AM – I walk over and hover over him and his computer.  He seems confused.  I give him a look.  He thinks it’s that look of, “You’re suppose to be studying so why do I see Facebook up on your screen?”  But before he goes into his full explanation of just being temporarily distracted, I shake my head to let him know that he misread my look and I point to the clock on his computer.  He jumps up with a huge “Happy Birthday!”, a big hug, tons of kisses and his excuse that he was going to surprise me at midnight with a big birthday cheer but had gotten temporarily distracted.

12:05 AM – We are back on our computers.

12:30 AM – Armando’s fever that he’s been trying to fight over the last couple of days returns so he jumps in the shower to get refreshed so he can continue studying Corporate Finance.  He asks if I’m going to bed and I reply, “Soon”.

12:45 AM – Armando questions why I’m still up.  I explain that I’m just trying to find a legit apartment for our Paris trip.  He tells me to give it a break as I have been researching all night.  I agree and close my laptop, start walking to the bedroom and then have a change of heart as I turn back and open up my computer to check out one more option.  Armando continues to tell me that I should get some sleep as I ignore him, googling away.

1:15 AM – I finally head to bed while my sick Armando continues to study.

3:00 AM – I am briefly awoken as Armando finally joins me in bed after he’s reached his breaking point of looking at numbers and equations.

8:00 AM – I am startled awake to a very loud version of “Happy Birthday” playing in the living room. I am confused. Armando’s not in bed?  Where is he?  At that moment, he walks in with a birthday bag in hand.  As I look inside I see a birthday cake.  But not just any birthday cake.  It was a birthday cake that Armando baked for me after I went to sleep last night.  My tired, overworked, sick husband baked me a birthday cake in the middle of the night while I was sleeping!!  And, because we are trying to eat healthy, he pointed out all the healthy considerations he made when creating my cake.  He made a carrot cake.  He added fresh sliced apples.  He omitted the icing.  We won’t mention though, the less than healthy aspects of a cake mix that you get from a box :)

And as we cut into the pie-shaped cake (he had to use a pie pan because we didn’t have a cake pan) and ate it for breakfast, it was the most delicious, sweetest gift he could have ever given me!

“World’s Best” Mac & Cheese, Please!

It was a fall day in Seattle and as I left my hotel to spend the day walking and exploring downtown, it started to rain.  Where was my umbrella?  Staying nice and dry in the hotel room because I forgot to bring it with me.  Great.  So as I zipped up my jacket and threw on my hood, I continued on.  As the wind whistled by, my body started to feel the chill of it on my wet clothes with each passing block.  I contemplated heading back but I was on a mission to have the World’s Best Mac & Cheese and I wasn’t going to let the weather stop me.

I had been to Seattle a few times before.  Every time, I made sure to visit Pike Place Market.  I love it there.  The people, the cheap flowers, the crazy fish salesmen, the unique arts and crafts, the food.  On my past visits, I would always stop at this cheese shop on the corner across the street from the market and stare through their windows watching the cheesemakers at work.  I would then go in, look at all the cheeses for sale in the store, read their menu board at the front and listen to my tummy growl as my eye’s zoned in on the words “macaroni and cheese”.

I love macaroni and cheese.  I grew up on homemade macaroni and cheese.  It’s comfort food for me.  I don’t have it often anymore because it’s not necessarily the most nutrient rich dish, but boy when I do have it, it makes me so happy.

For some reason though, each time I visited this store, I never tried their Mac & Cheese.  There was always other eating plans for that day, either a restaurant up the block, a cafe around the corner, you know…Seattle…it has so many options that you can’t even touch the surface of it.  But this day, I was on my own.  Armando was busy at a business meeting so I planned in advance that I was going to give this pasta dish a try.

I couldn’t remember the name of the place but I remembered the location.  As I briskly walked, unsuccessfully trying to avoid the raindrops as I swerved back and forth down the sidewalk, I saw the store ahead…Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. Beecher's Sign Seattle, WA I rushed in and matter-of-factly walked up to the counter to place my order as water started dripping from my jacket, pooling at my feet.  I ordered the Mariachi version of the Mac & Cheese that had veggies and chili’s in it to add that extra kick.  After paying, I took my paper cup-like bowl over to the metal counter top overlooking the cheesemaking kitchen, sat down and took my first bite.World's Best Mac & Cheese, Seattle, WA

Yum!!  Another bite.  Mmmmm!  With each bite, the cold shivers from the damp coldness on my body slowly started to subside.  Ahhhhhh.  Comfort food.  Warms your body and your soul.  Just what I needed that day.  It was so worth the walk in the miserable weather and I think the weather actually made me appreciate it more.  And I wasn’t the only one.

Two ladies sat down next to me along the counter top.  They were conversing between each other, flipping from English to French as they spoke.  I barely remember my French from school but I suddenly picked up on a word.

Froid…Cold.

And immediately after that, she reverted to English and said “comfort food”.  Yes indeed.  I couldn’t agree more!  And neither could Oprah.

The frozen version of Beecher’s “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese was on Oprah’s list of Ultimate Favorite Things 2010 http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Oprahs-Ultimate-Favorite-Things-2010/24.

Now the only problem I have is that I had the Mariachi Mac & Cheese which is technically not the “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese version.  So, I think that calls for another visit to Beecher’s to try Oprah’s favorite one.  Don’t You?  And if it’s anything like the Mariachi one, I am in for some good soul food to warm up my body on a rainy fall Seattle day.

Hot Dogs on a Fine China Plate

This weekend is Thanksgiving.  Family.  Turkey.  The good china.

Why does the good china only come out during special occasions?   It sits in the china cabinet collecting dust for most of the year, only to be enjoyed a handful of times.

And same goes with that special dress hanging in the back of the closet waiting for the next wedding invite to be worn.  If you love how you feel in the dress, why not wear it more?

I want to be able to put on that dress of mine that I feel spectacular in and walk to the grocery store to pick up my groceries.  In the middle of the week.  No special occasion.  And I want to come home and cook hot dogs and Kraft dinner and serve them on fine china plates.  With the silver cutlery.  And the cloth napkins.  Maybe light those pretty candles that are sitting there that I never want to burn.  Pop the cork of that $75 bottle of wine that we have been saving for a “special occasion”.  I don’t want to save things for a rainy day or that next family gathering.  What tomorrow will bring, I don’t know, so I want to enjoy things today.

All things should be enjoyed, appreciated and not taken for granted.  So promise me that next week you will enjoy your leftover turkey sandwich on a fine china plate because life is too short to not enjoy it that way.

Be thankful and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Dance Me Back to Another Time

Make up…Done.  Hair…Done.  Slip on Dress.  Strap on heels.  Ready to head back to another place.  Another time.  Another era.

As we walk into the grand room, we are surrounded with an endless sea of tables covered in white linen and sparkling silverware.  In the middle is an empty dance floor, and at the end of it is an array of instruments, microphones and lighting sitting silently, patiently waiting to be used.

Around the dance floor are small, round cocktail tables with a lamp on each, giving a romantic glow to the place settings set for two.  Larger tables fill the rest of the room but it’s these romantic tables for two that set the mood.

We are led and seated at one of these round tables.  Our chairs are facing the dance floor.  It’s like our own little world with the other couples sitting at the other cocktail tables looking in, onto the dance floor.  We have THE seats of the house as each person snuggles in close to their significant other, sipping wine and sharing desserts.

And then the band starts to play.

We are taken back into time.  Couples waltzing, twirling, gliding past our table on the dance floor.  These couples just leave their meals and get up and dance.  Their food, taking second place as the music pulls them in.  As the song ends, they head back to their table to take another fork full of their dinner, only to be called away again by the next song.  Romantic songs.  Songs from years past.  Taking everyone back to their younger years.

These couples have danced together for years.  You can tell.  One couple is singled out as they are celebrating their 64th wedding anniversary.  They slowly make their way up to the dance floor.  And everyone is lost in the romance of it all as they watch this couple dance and share smiling glances at each other.  I’m sure these songs they’ve danced to a hundred times over.  But the ambiance of the room, the dance floor, the band, the music and the small cocktail tables with glowing lights take them back to another time, another era.  I’m sure many memories were flowing through the room that night.

And as Armando and I got on the dance floor, we danced these songs for the first time together.  Missing a beat here and there. Stepping on feet.  Counting.  One-One.  One-Two-One. Until we started to fall in sync. Not like the couples with years of experience twirling around us so effortlessly, but like a couple who’s just starting to embark on their journey.

Maybe years from now, we will head back to The Copper Room at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort where we spent this great evening this past weekend.  And with experience and memories under our belts, we too will glide across the dance floor together.

Nagging for a Date Night

Lupo RestaurantArmando planned a date night the other night.  Before all the         “Awwwwws” start and the “He’s so sweet” fills the room, he doesn’t get full credit for it (but I will give him most of it).

Lately, I’d been feeling neglected. Everything else had seemed to become a priority but me.  This of course, was me just having a pity-party for the most part but I also know that it’s easy to put your significant other on the backburner because they’re the ones who will understand your hectic days.  I get that.  He works hard.  Full time job with tons of travelling.  He’s also doing his MBA.  But summer break was coming up and I was excited because we were going to get some quality couple time back for the summer!

But then with summer also comes BBQs with friends, trips to see family, group camping trips, weddings, etc, etc.  And with only a few weeks left before his MBA started up again, I was still waiting for our one-on-one time.  Just the two of us.  Reconnecting…with no smartphones, iPads, laptops, TV or people to distract us.  I needed that.  All couples need that.

After a few not-so-subtle hints, he figured it out and the other night, he drove me around, jutting in and out of streets to both surprise and confuse me of where we were going until we finally arrived at a quaint Italian restaurant in a converted house called Lupo, near Yaletown.  He even planned ahead and made reservations! Dinner @LupoWe enjoyed an absolutely delicious meal, just him and I.  No phones.  No people.  Just the two of us.  And it was great.  Just what the soul needed.

That’s why I love him.  Not because he took me out to a cozy, romantic tableside but because I love spending time with such a thoughtful, charming man.  Date nights remind people of why and how they fell in love in the first place.  And as we sat next to each other, sipping wine and sharing stories and lingering glances, this date night did just that.

Do you think it’s too soon to start nagging for another date night? In love

Where’s the Bacon?

Armando’s a breakfast guy.  He usually has eggs omelette-style with ham, veggies and lots of cheese.  Either that, or his Mexican breakfast of quesadillas with cheese, ham and hot sauce.  I got lucky because Armando has assumed the role of Breakfast Cook, really, by default as I don’t do breakfast.  I will usually have my protein bars or a healthy, homemade cereal mix of nuts, seeds, grains and fruit as I am suppose to limit my egg consumption.  But, I will occasionally treat myself to Armando’s breakfasts.

While shopping at Planet Organic one day, I came across bacon that contained no nitrates so I thought it would be a great treat.  I love bacon!!  But it’s not the healthiest of choices so we had never really bought it before.  Armando decided to make breakfast sandwiches for us with it and said that he was going to have 2 sandwiches and asked me how many I wanted.

“Just one breakfast sandwich, please.” (Notice my politeness?  Don’t want to take chances on losing my wonderful Breakfast Cook)  :)

A while later, I went into the kitchen to see how breakfast was going when I saw 3 piece of bacon on a plate.  I asked Armando where the rest of the bacon was.

“What do you mean?  I thought you wanted one sandwich…one bacon for your sandwich and one piece for each of my sandwiches.”

What?!?!!?!!  Did Armando actually just cook 3 pieces of bacon?!?!  Who does that??  He thought I was insane when I explained to him that you cook the entire package.  But upon consultation with others, he realized that it is not uncommon to cook the whole package and if you’re heart allows it, to open up a second.

I guess when he was growing up in Mexico, they had bacon but it was very expensive.  So they would only eat one or two pieces each…it was unheard of to cook the whole package.  Makes sense.  And with that, he never really acquired the love of bacon that myself and almost every other Canadian has.  But in being open to new things, he decided to embrace the bacon and recently bought another package to try out this past weekend.

This time, he cooked half a package…he still has a ways to go.

Embrace the bacon Armando!