Friday, November 29, 2013

Foodie Penpals

It’s been a while since I last was a Foodie Penpal, so after a break I was super excited to jump back in! It’s changed a little since my last experience. Now you are matched just once – so you buy a package for each other. I actually prefer it this way. Although you only get to connect with one person you have more opportunity to get to know each other a little better.

I was paired with Courtney in Ontario and let’s talk about the package I received! OH MY!! Courtney has set the bar very high! She sent me the most amazing package!! It was pretty exciting the moment I picked it up from the local store – for starters it was heavy and huge! We were on our way out that evening so how I managed to contain myself and have it sat there all evening unopened I don’t know!!

It was worth the wait! Courtney has mastered the act of packaging – everything was so well wrapped up and there were 4 glass bottle in the package so it was a good test! – and my pup loved all the wrapping paper I was eagerly chucking all over the kitchen floor as I delved in!

Everything Courtney sent me was local to her area. First up were 2 bottles of beers – a Pugnacious Pale Ale and a Stout from Grand River Brewery. I’m not usually a stout drinker so I wasn’t sure of this but it was so smooth I surprised myself and really loved it (the Pale Ale was just a no-brainer hit – but this one was extra tasty and hoppy it was a good one!)

Then I had asparagus corn chips, and some Asparagus, black bean and white corn salsa – a perfect pair eh?! Next up was a bottle of local Hot Sauce and some asparagus pasta which I’ve yet to try – the Asparagus goodies were all from Barrie Asparagus which sounds like an awesome local farm shop. Then I smelt it before I saw it – Garlic Spread from the Garlic King. So far I’ve spread it on toast and fried up some veggies with it – oh so good – I love garlic!!

And finally the goodies!! Courtney sent beautiful chocolates and candy and some homemade granola bites. The granola bites were devoured on our snowshoe hike last weekend – the perfect snack to boost our energy and enjoy a sweet treat and the chocolates, well needless to say they didn’t last long at all!

Courtney ROCKED! I was thoroughly spoiled and the package was a hit with the whole family – I had to fight hubby for the beer, I graciously shared the granola bites and chocolates and Meli had a ball ripping up the copious wrapping paper!

Thank you Courtney!
The Lean Green Bean

Here’s a detailed explanation of the program:
  • On the 5th of the month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
  • The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
  • You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
  • Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian residents & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. 
For complete details head on over to The Lean Green Bean blog

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A weekend in Spokane

Last weekend Chris and I took a last minute trip to Eastern Washington before the passports run out and have to be sent away to be renewed! It was destination Spokane, and we were all set to get the Christmas shopping underway!

We actually visited Spokane with my parents just over a month ago and whilst we were there on that visit discovered the gem that is the Davenport Hotel. It's the most beautiful historic hotel that has been lovingly restored to it's former glory. We enjoyed happy hour drinks in the Peacock lounge and we got so comfy there we ended up staying all evening and enjoyed a wonderful dinner whilst watching the world go outside on a rainy evening!
The Peacock Lounge with the most amazing stained glass ceiling
Hall of Doges - Spokane's oldest ballroom
You can actually pick up a brochure from the front desk of the Davenport and do a little self guided walking tour of the hotel. You'll stop by most of the main function rooms of the hotel - the Hall of Doges,  the ballrooms and others. We stuck out heads in as many of the rooms as possible!! The main hotel lobby has glass panels in the ceiling which makes it so light and airy. There's a lobby bar and upstairs off the mezzanine are most of the ballrooms and function rooms - all around on the walls are photos of the hotel in days gone by - I love this kind of stuff - it's so fun to look at the old photos and amazingly the actual structure of the Davenport very little has changed - it's completely recognizable!
The Davenport Lobby

For our visit this time around Chris and I stayed right across the street at the Hotel Lusso - sister hotel to the Davenport. It's a charming, smaller boutique hotel housed in a couple of older buildings. We actually switched rooms during our stay (after we decided last minute to stay an extra night!) so we actually stayed in a Deluxe room and then The Firenze Suite (you always know when it's going to be good when it's got a name and not just a room number right?!)

The rooms were lovely and spacious, with charming classic furnishings and the Davenport signature peanut brittle on the pillow in the evening! The bathroom was stocked with L'Occitane products, the bed was way more comfy that ours here at home (I was tempted to bring the pillows home with me - they were no more expensive than what we've paid in the past and I slept like a baby with them!) and the staff were friendly and helpful. And the Post Street Ale House was right downstairs and connected to lobby via a passageway so we didn't even need to step outside to enjoy our choice of 26 draft beers!

I have to say the staying at Hotel Lusso absolutely MADE our weekend away. It wasn't so much a 'shopping trip' anymore, more a luxurious mini-vacation treat! We had some successful purchases when we were out and about during the day - I'd say more than half the Christmas list has been checked off, and come the evening we were found down in pub enjoying a huge range of draft beers and snacking on chicken fingers and bread pudding!! And the bonus was an extra hour in bed on Sunday morning in our gorgeous room!

I majorly impressed myself by getting up on Sunday morning and heading out for a run. (especially with that uber-comfy bed I was saying about!) All too often on trips I take my gear and don't use it. Yet when I do I love that getting out there for a run is a fabulous way to explore the city a little more! I had no idea where I was going but I knew I wanted to head out along the river! I made a couple of wrong turns and ended up dead-ending down at the river bank, yet 10 minutes later I was on the other side of the river running high up on the bluffs! I spied a couple of great looking coffee houses and bars - we'll have to save those for another time! I was just planning on a 5k to shake off the cobwebs, but at the 2.5mile point I remembered that I needed to squeeze in a 5 miler for Laura's 5 by the 5th! So I explored just that little bit further than planned! of course my pace was lousy with all the exploring, dead-ends and stopping for photos but it was great to be out on a very quiet Sunday morning. I got back just in time for the complimentary morning coffee cakes and herbal tea served in the lobby!

As we were leaving Spokane on Sunday lunchtime we made on final stop - Chipotle for lunch. We've heard so much about this fast-food restaurant, petty much all of it good - but we'd never made it to one. They seem dedicated to sourcing ethically & sustainably raised meats and wholesome fresh produce (and come 2014 a commitment to no-GMOs). It's a simple menu, but it was great! We both had soft tacos - I had barbacoa and Chris had Chicken, piled with fresh veggies and lots of delicious fresh salsa. Messy (Chris and I have always joked that tacos are definitely not first date food!), delicious and cheap! And kudos to Chipotle for making the effort towards offering healthy food - fast food doesn't have to be crap! (And I love this cute cartoon mini-film they have)

Travellers Tip: The local Spokane Costco had Davenport Hotel $100 giftcards for just $79.99 - saving 20% and could be used against our bill for room, food, parking etc. I'm wondering now if Costco often connects with the fancier local independant hotels in their area to do this kind of deal because our local Costco does the same deal for our local high-end resort too!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Four Simple Goals

I'm joining in with Elsie over at the A Beautiful Mess blog and setting myself 4 simple goals before 2014. I am buzzed and motivated by lists and the simple act of 'crossing off' as items are accomplished. I did my first yearly manifesto in 2011 (with enormous success) and again in 2012 (with slightly less success!). This year I didn't have one, and honestly as the year draws to a close I really don't feel like I've done as much, acheived as much and yet I've felt busier than ever, but I fear there's a lot of busy doing nothing in there. It's not the best feeling and I feel somewhat dissatisfied.

So this is the perfect way to redeem myself just a little and end this year on an Goal Accomplishment High! Here are my 4 simple goals;
  1. Make time to read
  2. Try 3 new recipes that I've previously pinned on Pinterest
  3. Create a habit to take my daily supplements
  4. Make something for the house
I love everything about this idea so I'm going to copy and paste Elsie's 'rules' for this little mini challenge if you wanted to join in too - head over to her original post to see all the deets.
Its purpose is to challenge and remind you to create healthy, life-enriching habits during the busiest time of the year. If you're game, here are the "rules":
  1. Choose simple goals that will make your life richer and happier on a daily basis. Choose things you may not otherwise get done but are not difficult to accomplish. 
  2. Do not choose result oriented goals. Choose activity oriented goals. For example, instead of "lose 10 pounds", choose something like "eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day". Get what I'm saying? Positive actions instead of just the end result!
  3. Choose personal goals you believe will truly make your life richer just by doing them! They can be daily, weekly or one time experiences.
  4. Choose a reward for each goal as it is accomplished! It can be a small or large reward—it's up to you. 
  5. Blog about your goals, each one as you achieve it and a big post when they are all finished before the new year! Be sure to leave us a link to your blog in the comments section. I'll be sure to share my experiences in a follow-up post before the new year.
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