Sally’s Baking Addiction: November, 2018 Challenge: Savory Vegetable Cheese Tart🍠🍅🧀

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Once again, I am getting this done just under the wire! 😬 It’s the last day of November and Sally will be revealing the December challenge tomorrow. Perhaps I will challenge myself to get that done BEFORE December 31st😁!

Sally loves pies!! Like, really loves them. And, every year in November, she dedicates her blog to all things pie related. This time, she went with a savory tart, which is just a flat pie😂

Sally’s savory vegetable cheese tart recipe begins with a choice of crust. I went with her All butter pie crust, so glad I did! I don’t make a lot of pies, and have never had the best of luck with these types of crusts. Usually I make them too dry, because I am worried about it turning out too wet. But I went for it anyway!

The concept is pretty straightforward. Mix the flour, salt and a little sugar together. Cut in the cold butter.

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Until it is the size of peas

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Why does every recipe say that? the size of peas…? How big is that really?🧐 my “pea size” is actually quite a bit larger 😉

Then add the ice water until it is not dry, but not too wet either 😳 Whatever.

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This recipe will make two crusts, one is needed for this tart. I let it rest in the fridge overnight. The next day I rolled it out.

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This was the best roll out I have ever made, hopefully I can replicate it again!

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The dough went into the tart pan

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Then I blind baked it for 15 minutes at 350F. I don’t have pie weights, so I went with the dried beans!

While the tart was blind baking, I mixed the second element of this dish, the ricotta filling. The cheese filling went into the warm tart shell.

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Now came the creative part! We could use whatever vegetables we liked to top the tart. Sally provided lots of great ideas, and I went back and forth as to what to choose. Finally, I settled on sweet potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini. I was worried that the tomatoes might be too wet, but I cut them thin and blotted with a paper towel, just to be safe.

I tried to do something creative 😂

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This was brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and thyme.

And, baked until the veggies were tender, for about 40 minutes in my oven.

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And then we feasted!!😋

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My hubby really liked it. And what about the other crust that was left over?

I have always wanted to try a sweet potato pie recipe. I chose one from Alton Brown, and yeah, it was great!

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November was a good month at our house 👩🏻‍🍳❤️!

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Learning From a Pro: Food Photography & Food Styling Workshop 📸

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I was blessed to have such an amazing summer! So many wonderful trips and fantastic experiences 😊. Here we are in November, about a week from Thanksgiving, and I am still playing catchup with my blog!!😳

This food photography workshop, which I attended in early October,  is just one of those amazing experiences. I first learned of Clare Barboza from a friend in Seattle.  Leslie, my friend of many years, knew about my passion for baking and had seen many of my photos on Instagram. Probably why she recommended Clare’s workshop to me 🤣😂🤣! I’m kidding! Leslie has always been very supportive of my crazy Insta adventures.

When I first began researching this opportunity, Clare was splitting her time between her two studios, one in downtown Seattle and the other in Vermont. She has since chosen to focus her business at the Vermont location, which better supports her family. I instantly fell in love with her photography style and decided, rather quickly, that I wanted to attend her weekend workshop where she would educate us on lighting, composition, and use of props in food styling. I had never been to Vermont, and it would be in the fall when everyone says it is gorgeous, so I signed up!

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Brattelboro is a cute, little town that I really did not explore 😔 I did not leave myself enough time to poke around! I flew in late Friday and out early Monday, leaving two full days to absorb as much photography knowledge as possible (and hit a local climbing gym 😉, priorities you know).

Clare’s studio is beautiful, bright and full of fantastic props for her photography.

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The left side of the studio is all windows, allowing the natural light to stream in during a large portion of the day.

Clare prefers natural light and the large set of windows allows her to alter the directionality as the day progresses.

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It helps to have a fully functional kitchen when specializing in food photography

Clare’s husband helped her remodel the kitchen area, which is airy and bright. Pretty handy guy to have around!! And, check out the view from the kitchen window.🌳

She wanted to divide this large space, and used these vintage window frames. I loved the look of these, and had to snap a pic.

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The other half of the studio was full of props! I was so jealous😂. I had a ball picking out surfaces of various colors and textures.

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Clare’s husband made these boards, again, a handy dude!

She also had vinyl surfaces of various colors and textures to choose from for backgrounds.

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Her collection of place settings!! Anything you could think of was available to enhance our scenes. Dishes, cups, silverware, bowls ….. I was in heaven💕

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This is only a portion of the full collection

We would begin each day with a short lecture/discussion about a certain topic. If you have ever attended a photography class, you will have heard of many of these same themes.

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The class getting ready to learn

Clare mixes concepts with actual hands on practice. I loved this! We had many opportunities to hone our skills. We began with a discussion on light and how to redirect it when needed. We also talked about composition, leading lines and depth of field. Many of these are topics covered in any photography class, but Clare gave us tips and ideas specific to food. And, she shared many of her gorgeous pictures and how she set them up.

Throughout the two days, we would be given five assignments. We could take as many pictures as we wanted, but had to choose one or two, from each task, for a critique on the last day. This was harder than it sounded! Sometimes I had many pictures I liked and others I couldn’t find one😲!

Our first assignment was to shoot a drink with backlighting. She provided us with different colored drink mixes, garnishes and sent us to work! At first I was not very comfortable just grabbing her supplies, and I was overwhelmed by so many options to choose from! I took over a hundred pictures and kept only 10! A theme that I would repeat many times over the course of the weekend.

I tried to challenge myself to create two different looks with this assignment.

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This was a backlit, fresh and airy feel

 

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Here I used the same drink but went for a more holiday, evening look.

Our next assignment was to photograph a charcuterie display. Clare set out a huge array of meats, cheeses, crackers and assorted goodies. This is my heaven!🥖🧀🍎

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She demonstrated her thought process, how she would approach this shoot.

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She told us the mood, or feel she was trying to create

She arranged, and then rearranged the components until she liked the composition.

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She added props to tell the story.

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And took test shots at various angles.

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Now it was our turn, yikes!

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This is just one of my many attempts

 

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I decided to add some height by rolling the salami and placing it upright.

I don’t know if I succeeded in this assignment, but I was full, as we were encouraged to eat the cheeses 😋

Lunch was included in the price of the workshop, and I thought it was the charcuterie ingredients, but Clare made us a delicious, and much healthier option. Her soup was wonderful, and really topped me off! She also offered us a tasty dessert, chocolate!🍫

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Our afternoon assignment was pasta! Clare provided us with the makings of an excellent pasta bar: several different shapes of noodles, two different sauces (red, and white), several garnishes, even bread for the pictures.

Our task was to put together an attractive dish and shoot it from above and at a 3/4 angle. Again, I took so many shots, and chose these three for the critique.

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It was so fun to see what the class came up with! We were all very different from one another.

Day 1 had come to a close, and I know I was kinda beat. Being creative on demand is mentally taxing for this science based person 😊. We had also been rather passive all day and I was in desperate need of some physical activity!

I had researched climbing gyms nearby and found one in Hadley Massachusetts, only and hour away😳 Central Rock Climbing Gym was just what I needed that night!

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Unfortunately they did not have auto belays, so I only bouldered. But I did send an inverted V4 😁 Very happy about that!

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I will definitely spend more time here, if I get the chance!

The next day was to be the “tough” day. I didn’t really know what Clare meant by that, but found out fast! She meant that we would be photographing food that is notoriously hard to make pretty.

This second day highlighted the food styling portion of the class. We discussed choosing a mood or vibe, and how to select props that enhance, but not overshadow the food.

And, we went over the dreaded color wheel 😫 I say dreaded because I just struggle with that thing!

Our first assignment was salad photography and I decided to face my color wheel issue head on! That meant trying to figure out the complementary color thing. I have seen many green salads paired with blue backgrounds, and everyone else loves it.

So…

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And I hate it! A number of other students liked this. I did like the choice I made with the linen, as it has the red stripe that I liked with the strawberries, but the rest…. oh well, I will keep working with the wheel.

The last assignment for the workshop, Clare called “the canned soup challenge”. And this was tough! We were to take a can of soup and make it look appealing, somehow.  If you have not opened a can of soup lately, give it a go, it may shock you how horrible it looks! All the “green” vegetables (like peas and beans) are a mucky shade of brown/green 🤢 One of the students chose a lentil soup and, I am not joking, it looked like dog food!

One advantage here is that I do make a lot of soups and stews and have photographed them for this blog. So I have practiced a bit already. Still, this was a tough one!

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We were allowed to use some fresh garnishes like herbs or sour cream. I tied a bundle of peppers together to add some color too and chose a monochromatic palette in the hopes that the colors would appear more vibrant. At least I liked it more than my salad🤣

The last portion of the class was a group critique of the photos we selected. This is always helpful! It is also tough because it is so subjective, one person will like what another finds distasteful. My goal is to take it all in and improve as best I can💕

With that, the workshop came to an end! I loved it and would happily join another of Clare’s classes!! I learned so much and had fun. Her teaching style is so approachable, there was nothing you couldn’t ask her😊

I finally had some time to look at that legendary Vermont Fall Foliage that everyone raves about! I went for a quick walk in the town.

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And another shot in downtown

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I met up with two of the ladies from the class for one final dinner together.

 

We drank, we ate and we talked about how ugly canned soup looks!!😂😂😂

A big thank you to Clare Barboza for all the great lessons learned! 📸🥗😉

Sally’s Baking Addiction: October, 2018 Challenge: Pumpkin Spice Toffee🍬🎃

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I know, I know, EVERYTHING is pumpkin spice right now. And, people often fall into the “hate” or “love” group when it comes to pumpkin spice. I happen to love it❤️ If you do too, then this is a great, easy recipe.

Sally’s Baking Addiction Challenge this month does involve candy making. Many people are a little intimidated by this process, but as usual, Sally has some great tips to make it simple.

The essential tools will be a candy thermometer, a heavy bottom sauce pan and a wooden spoon. Sally also recommends a silicon mat to pour the candy mixture onto. I am sure that this would be helpful, but I just used parchment paper coated with non-stick cooking spray.

There are only 5 ingredients  needed to make the toffee: butter, warm water, light corn syrup, salt and sugar. All these go into the heavy bottom and pan and stirred with the wooden spoon. This does take some patience as you wait for the color to develop.

Initially, the mixture is pale and thin

 

While the sugar mixture is boiling, you will need to periodically brush down the hardened sugar crystals that collect on the sides of the pan with cool water and a pastry brush. Sally has a video showing what this looks like.

In the video below you can see the color and consistency changing as it nears the recommended 290F degrees.

This is removed from the heat and the pecans are stirred in, and you need to immediately pour the hot mix onto the prepared pan.

IMG_7388 It will be thick and requires about 5 minutes to set before adding the melted white chocolate.

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This is topped with the rest of the chopped pecans and sugar/pumpkin spice mix

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And that is it!!😊 give it some time in the fridge to set and then break into pieces. 😋

 

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This is the easiest toffee I have ever made, and the flavors can be changed to whatever YOU like💕 Give this one a try👻🎃🍬

Meeting my Blog Buddies in Montreal!🇨🇦Part Un!

 

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It has been almost one month since I went to Montreal to meet up with some of my BBBs (best blog buddies). Why has it taken me so long to blog about the trip? Is it because I had a rotten time? NO!! Is it because we didn’t do anything fun? NO!!! Is it because I took so many pictures of all the places we visited that I could not figure out how to start this post? BINGO😊

I was only there for three days, so how could I have a billion photos? I think this phenomenon has something to do with getting bloggers together. As individuals we tend to take more pics than the average human, but combine us! I can’t begin to imagine how many storage sticks Darren had to buy for his 10 day trip🤣 Not only was this my first time meeting Darren, Dominique, Linda and Bill, it was my first trip to Montreal. Another reason for my snap happy camera finger.

I decided that the best way to approach this retelling of the first annual BBB meeting, would be chronologically, and in two posts. Is my boring science background coming through loud and clear? 😂

I flew in on Tuesday, about 3 hours late (thank you Air Canada). Darren and Dominique waited to have dinner with me! I felt so bad for starving them all day. We had a lovely dinner, not that the food was scrumptious, it wasn’t. But, meeting these two wonderful souls was a blast! I could tell this was going to be a fun trip😊!  It was getting late, so we called it a night and wound are way through the maze of construction that is downtown Montreal. Seriously, every street was in some state of reconfiguration! 😳

Dominique chose the perfect hotel for our stay, the Hotel Terrasse Royale (not my photo!). As she put it, it is clean, comfortable, affordable and central to everything. She was right on all counts!

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I would definitely stay here again and recommend it to everyone.

There was one more surprise when I checked in.

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As if being the best host in all of North America was not enough for her, she and Darren put together a gift basket for me❤️ This would be very important in a couple days!

The next morning, I was still on West Coast time, so I was up kinda early. I needed coffee so I ate at the hotel restaurant. Of course, being a food blogger too, I wanted to capture my gorgeous and tasty breakfast!

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This oatmeal with fresh fruit was so good, I had it the second morning as well.😋 I did my morning yoga and met Darren at the pastry shop across the street, for more coffee! ☕️☕️Montreal is so much like Paris! I couldn’t resist taking some photos of the breads and pastries.

I didn’t sample any, but did have a fantastic cappuccino (or two 😉)

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Wednesday was to be our Botanical Garden day🌳 so off we went to Le Jardin Botanique de Montreal.

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I did not take this picture, I swiped it from the internet. I like it for a couple reasons. Firstly, the garden was presenting their Chinese Lantern Exhibit, and some of that is depicted here. Secondly, see that tower in the background? I was in love with this structure! I believe Dominique told us that it was part of a venue built for the Montreal Olympic village.

We began our tour inside, with the tropical flowers and plants. You can imagine how many pictures Darren, The Arty Plantsman, took😆 He was a botanist/blogger/photographer on a mission!

As he is far more talented at plant photography, I will only share a couple of shoots and blooms that caught my eye. See Darren’s post for the real good pics!🌸

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I love these giant, prehistoric looking leaves🌿

 

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I couldn’t resist taking a pic of Dom, taking a pic of the pathway. Can we just appreciate how she is dressed right now! She always looks fabulous🤩

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This waterfall was located at the end of the pathway. I took a couple long exposure shots from the front….

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and the back.

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The ceiling of the inner building had these beautiful botanical drawings.

IMG_5172I could totally envision Darren’s artwork hanging up here one day 💕!

Eventually, we made our way outside!

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I loved the reflection in this shallow pool

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the one dark berry caught my eye

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This picture just says “fall” to me and made me think of Lisa! She could do so much with this💚

There were a few critters out too! I did my best to channel my inner Roda, who along with Lisa, we missed on this trip😞

And speaking of Roda, I can’t see a sunflower, without picturing her! Anyone else remember that post of her carrying 300 pounds of sunflower heads?🌻

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There were some structures in the garden as well.

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This little potting shed caught my attention

 

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Dominique took this picture of me, as Darren took a picture of her. I haven’t seen it yet! Dom does pretty well behind the camera too. Not just a a model my friends! 

Of course, while I am taking these pictures, Darren is capturing images of flowers the size of a pea and Dom is on her second wardrobe change! I can’t wait to see how those shots turned out😊!

We continued meandering our way through the Chinese lantern display.

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I am determined to get this Silver Chinese Grass in one of my yards, maybe both of them!

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Another view of my favorite structure in Montreal!

 

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A beautiful bench for a cup of coffee ☕️

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One of the rare moments when Darren isn’t smiling! He is deep in thought, looking for his next shot 💕

We posed in the corn for one last picture! We had a great time, but needed nutrients, well, caffeine! Darren and I opted for, yet another, cup of coffee and Dom would have passed out if she didn’t have that Diet Coke in the car 😂 it was hot and flat but she downed it like a pro!

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What a doof I am! Look at these two European gems and I am the dopey American with the white shoes on! I have got to read Dom’s blog more often🤣🤣😂

Off we went to an Indian Restaurant, my first! I have no idea what I ate that night as Darren ordered for me (thank God!). It was delicious!! Seriously, I will have to try that again, whatever it was 😋. I slept well that night, after all that walking and laughing😂 Little did we know that our trip to Mount Tremblant the next day would require even more effort 🏔.

I will save that story for the next post, but let me just warn you…..Dominique almost didn’t make it off the mountain. 😱!

You may be asking “where was Linda and Bill”? They won’t be in Montreal for another day, but they should have started driving by now😉💕

Sally’s Baking Addiction: September, 2018 Challenge: Choux Pastry

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I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to complete the September challenge this month! The last two months of the summer have been a whirlwind! In a good way!

I have not made pate a choux since culinary school, and am not a big fan of cream puffs, or eclairs (and neither are my family members) so my first thought was, “should I try to fit this in?” But, I have not missed one of Sally’s challenges yet, so I had to try. It turns out, my hubby’s coworkers did like them, so it was worth it.

Sally provided us with the basic recipe and then presented us with our many, many options. I had a tough time deciding between cream puffs and eclairs, so I opted to make some of each.

Then the flavor combinations: Oh my! So many to choose from. I kept it simple and went with the classic chocolate and peanut butter duo. So….

First I made her peanut butter cream cheese mousse, to fill both the eclairs and puffs.

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Then the choux dough. Sally has a great video to help with this if you are intimidated by the process. Honestly, it takes very few ingredients, and is not that hard.

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Both of these went into the fridge for later, I had to go for a run! When I got back I piped the shapes onto parchment lined baking sheets. A word of caution here!! If you refridgerate the choux dough, let it come to room temp before piping, your life will be easier, I promise.  Also, I did not have the tips that Sally recommended, so my final products were “mini” eclairs and cream puffs!

 

Into the oven they went…

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Even though they were small, they puffed up nicely. While they were cooling, I decided to pipe some chocolate decorations from a little melting chocolate, that I always have around for just such an occasion!

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I made a few pans of different designs, just for fun

Once the pasteries had cooled, I set about filling them with the peanut butter mousse mixture. For the cream puffs, I just sliced the top 1/3 off and piped in the filling. The eclairs were “injected” using a number 2 Wilton piping tip.

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The eclairs were filled and dipped into some chocolate ganache.

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The eclairs were so bright and shiny that I decided to not decorate them further.

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They were small, but tasty! The perfect two bites with a cup of coffee!!

I am glad that I took the time to fit this one in, I kept my Sally streak going and some people really enjoyed them, what more can I ask!!

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Sally’s Baking Addiction: August, 2018 Challenge: Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer Cake 🍪 🍰

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Oh My! It is August 31st and the last day for me to get this challenge completed 😬. Nothing like waiting to the last minute😉

I got incredibly lucky this month, because Sally chose an easy challenge for our August installment. If you have ever baked a cookie, and made frosting, then this is a fun and simple project! In fact, the hardest part of this challenge was choosing which of Sally’s flavor combinations to make. 😊

My hubby’s birthday is also in August, so I chose flavors that I knew he would like. I made Sally’s Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, as written in the link above. The only difference was that I included white chocolate chips, along with the semi sweet ones, and made mine a 9 inch, 3 layer cake.

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I also made her Chocolate Peanut Butter frosting, yum 😋

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After that, which was very little work, all I had to do was assembled and decorate!

I kept the decorations simple, as this was for my husband (who does not like sprinkles😳)

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This flavor combo was a hit with the whole family, and it was a fun alternative to the standard ice cream cake he usually requests for his birthday.

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Next month’s challenge involves choux pastry! So I will have to be on top of my game in  September! 👩🏻‍🍳

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Adventure Travel and an Apology💕

I am a terrible blog buddy! 😞 I am so sorry that I have not been paying attention to all your amazing and wonderful posts. I do have a feeble, but credible defense.

My adult children are both between jobs and done with college. Which means that when they call me up and say “mom, do you want to climb/paddle board/go on a hike/see a movie…” I say “YES!” You see, I know that this is a rare opportunity for me. Next summer, they will be working, and/or in graduate school, in other states. I am milking this for all I can while they are nearby! 😉

The hubby and I have also been traveling quite a bit too. We recently went on an OARS trip for our anniversary in July. I have mentioned the OARS company when I wrote about adventure traveling. They organize and partner with local groups to set up adventures all over the world. This time we headed up to Bear Camp, at Chilko Lake in Northern Canada. This beautiful and remote property is owned and operated by Brian and Ashley, a married couple that hosts adventures all over the world! You can find out more about them at Iroamtheworld.com.

Granville Island, Vancouver

The first part of this adventure required us to drive up to Vancouver, BC. Having lived most of our lives in Seattle, we have been to Vancouver many times. But this was the first time we have ever stayed at Granville Island. What a treat!!! We were sad that we only had one night there.

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The island has running paths, ferry rides, paddle boarding… So many activities and in the heart of this amazing skyline.

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Check out these silos! The art work is vibrant and impressive.

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I found this building to be so unique.

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This pirate ship cruises around the island to the delight of many squealing kids!

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The local street market reminded me of Pike Place in Seattle. It is full of fresh foods, unique gifts and specialty foods. I took way to many pictures, but will spare you!

 

Getting to Bear Camp

Did I mention that this is remote?😳 We boarded a small plane in Vancouver, and flew to Williams Lake. The plane held 18 passengers, with the pilots that makes 20 people total.

 

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Once at Williams Lake, we then pilled into a van and drove for another 4 hours to the camp. Many of us cited this bus ride as the low point of the trip. Still worth it to get there! But, a long dusty ride!

Arrival Time!

The main lodge, where we have our meals and meet for our activities, had our tent assignments and morning coffee drink orders! Yes, this is glamping!!

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This is tent #8, our home for the next 5 days 😊 as seen from the lake.

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And, inside the tent…a king bed with lamps, heated blanket and beautiful wooden furniture.

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Some of you may be wondering about the facilities. Well, check out this gorgeous shower (one of three available for the guests). Each is hand crafted with the stones from the lake.

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And check out our view from the deck! The water is clear, clean (no filtration needed) and COLD 😬. Canadian mountain water, all the way!

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The Activities

We only had three full days and wanted to spend as much time on the water as possible. We decided to brave the class I and class II rapids in the inflatable Kayaks on the first day.

It was actually raining a bit for most of the day. But we were supplied with full wet suits and were never cold!

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I was not good at this! And did find myself in a tree (or two!) but it was a blast!

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The second day we decided to attack one of the hardest hikes we have ever been on!

This is Mount Tuillan, it is 12 miles round trip, so that is 6 miles with 3000 ft gain, and back again!

 

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Finally, the views were starting to pay off about half way up!

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And then the top!

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We are smiling here, but actually suffering. So sore and the mosquitoes were the worst part!! 😫

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The biting bugs were so bad in fact, that we jumped on some paddle boards to get out onto the lake once we returned from this hike. Our theory was that there would be no bugs out there!

Look how clear this water is!!

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We really enjoyed the calm water, and the peaceful, relaxing time on the lake. Unfortunately, Dennis still managed to get a large bite while in the middle of the lake!

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After killing my upper body kayaking in the trees, and my lower body hiking the mountiain, I wanted something fun and simple for the last day. Fishing!! 🎣

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We landed 8 fish between the three of us! We released them, but it was so fun watching the trout hit the lures. The water was that clear!

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The one activity that we did not do was horse back riding, but this is also available on this trip.

Now for something important, the food!

Of course we have to talk about the food! One of the hallmarks of an OARS trip is that they provide all the meals. And, they don’t skimp on that!

Our first dinner was served right on butcher paper, down the center of the table! I love this idea, and plan to steal it😊

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Another dinner!

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Desserts were delicious too! 🍫

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Dennis loved this vegan fudge.

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And, eggs Benedict anyone? Don’t you always make that when you go camping💕

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All great things must come to an end, and it was time to make our long, long way back to civilization. Fortunately, we were spared the four hour bus ride this time! We took a float plane back to Vancouver. This was my first time on an amphibian aircraft and I was so excited!

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This time it was a family of 4 and us! 7 whole people on this flight, counting the all important pilot😊

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Gorgeous views!

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And back to Vancouver

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From here is was just a simple 4 hour drive back to Seattle (thank you border control 😬)

 

This was our second OARS trip and we enjoyed it just as much as our first, a decade ago!

When is the next one you ask? In 5 days!!!! Yep, our entire family -including a boyfriend and grandparents, are heading to Moab to raft a segment of the Colorado!

Thank you for hanging in there with me this summer!💕