Archive for April, 2009

School’s Out!

Apr
29
2009

No, I’m not referring to the Degrassi film (for you knowledgeable 20-something Canadians out there). I’m finally done teacher’s college! These eight months just flew by. Queen’s is an amazing university and I learned so much from the program and on my teaching placements. I just need to keep my fingers crossed that I get a permanent job come September. Thank goodness that I’m trained in a subject area that’s in need of teachers.

The Faculty of Education got us grad cakes after our final assembly (vanilla and chocolate… of course I had one slice of each). And now I’m back home in Toronto. Strangely enough I’m going to miss Kingston, Ontario (but not the tiny flies that seemed to have infested the lakeshore). It’s a nice town and I had the best landlords, housemate and classmates while I was there. :)

And now on to my mask that I told you I was artsing around with last week for one of my final projects. I bring you “The Mask of Teaching”, complete with a mini-scroll on my thoughts on education (thanks goes out to Stephan for the lovely hand writing ;) ).

Gettin’ Artsy…

Apr
21
2009

School is winding down for me, so of course that means that my procrastination is making its rounds.  One of my final projects include a creative way to display my professional development. Initially I chose to do a painting, but my art supplies were to big to lug back to Kingston with me from Toronto.  So as I was browsing Dollarama, I got inspired to make my own tribal mask (the “mask of teaching” if you will) after seeing some similar trinkets in the shop.  My idea was cemented (pun intended) when I noticed that Dollarama had natural modelling clay on sale for $1 (I would think they would bump up that price like they have with some other items in the store). So I picked up two packs, got some beads, paint brushes, paints and a pack of foam brushes and I was on my way.

I don’t think I ever worked with this type of clay since grade school, so my face lit up once I opened the package and got my hands in it. It was surprisingly easy to work with (as long as water was on hand), and I was able to make various shapes for all the facial features of my mask. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to dry, but it better be soon because I have to hand this project in by the beginning of next week.

I still have to decorate it of course, so once my mask is dry I’ll have loads of fun doing that. Yay for arts and crafts (and Dollarama)!

Recipe: Jamaican Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Apr
14
2009

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

So as I was leafing through a copy of Metro I ran across a recipe for a pineapple upside-down cake. And not just any pineapple upside-down cake: a Jamaican pineapple upside down cake! So natually I had to tear the recipe out of the paper. I tried out the recipe a couple weeks ago and it came out superb. I think the last time that I attempted to make a pineapple upside-down cake was when I was 8-years-old. This recipe is adapted from Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Kitchen by Lucinda Scala Quinn. I used less granulated sugar than the white cake portion of original recipe suggested (about 1/2 cup instead of 3/4 cup) and it still tasted great, with just enough sweetness (esp. because of all the brown sugar on top). Instead of vegetable oil I used Canola oil, and instead of whole milk I used 2%. I also added some maraschino cherries in the pineapple “holes” to add to the visual presentation. I used the Earth Chef‘s awesome 11″ skillet to bake this recipe in, so make sure that you have a skillet that’s oven safe. This recipe will definitely be a hit.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
14 oz (400 mL) can pineapple slices
1/2 cup pecan halves
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in 10-inch, cast-iron skillet on medium heat. Remove from burner. Sprinkle in brown sugar evenly. Arrange pineapple slices in pan (8 slices fit in my pan). Place one maraschino cherry in the middle of each pineapple ring. Arrange pecans in the remaining spaces around pineapple rings.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk and oil. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed 1 minute. Scrape bowl. Add egg, zest, juice and vanilla. Beat just until well combined.
  3. Pour batter evenly over pineapple in pan. Bake in preheated 350F oven until tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean and top of cake is golden (about 25 to 30 minutes). Remove from oven and let the pan sit for 5 minutes. Carefully invert onto circular platter. Eat warm or at room temperature.

My Hair (and my nose) Loves Herbal Essences Hydralicious

Apr
03
2009

Herbal Essences Hydrolicious SetI got a pleasant surprise in the mail last week (just one day before my birthday). It turns out that I was one of 200 women in Canada who had been selected to receive an exclusive Herbal Essences Hyralicious Kit, courtesy of Matchstick Inc.! Okay it wasn’t that much of a surprise, since I remember signing up a while ago to participate in the research/marketing survey, but I was glad I was chosen to get the full pack. :)

What did I get? One full size (300ml) bottle each of Hydralicious Featherweight, Reconditioning and Self-Targeting shampoo and conditioner. That’s 6 bottles (looks like I don’t have to go out and buy shampoo anytime soon)! But wait… there’s more! Matchstick also supplied me with 20 full value coupons for Herbal Essences Hydralicious shampoo or conditioner for me to share with family and friends (and even faithful blog readers like yourself).

So onto my experience with the shampoo. I didn’t get a chance to wash my giant head of hair since I received the package until last night, because I didn’t take out my weave until then (boy, did my hair ever grow). Now we all should know that different types and styles of hair require different hair care techniques–Black hair in particular. Because Black “African American” hair tends to be very dry (because of it’s thickness and the inability of sebum to get to the entire surface at the end of the hair), it’s important not to shampoo too often otherwise it will dry out and break off. And keep in mind that not all Black hair is the same… it’s important to find what works best for you and your hair. A shampoo once a week seems to work best for Black hair, as well as maybe rinsing with plain water on a daily basis (check out the informative Treasured Locks website for more Black hair care tips).

So taking in these Black hair care tips, I decided to go with Herbal Essences Reconditioning shampoo and conditioner, since it’s formulated for dry/damaged hair (it’s the one in the pretty purple bottle). Let me tell you, that if I didn’t just eat dinner I probably would’ve tasted that concoction: these shampoos and conditioners smell great! The Reconditioning pair smells so fruity, and is “fused with extracts of shea, moisturizers & Hawaiian sea silk”.

Pouring the shampoo out of the bottle I noticed the pretty swirls of the mixture itself (it wasn’t just on the outside design of the bottle)! Turns out that I didn’t need to squeeze so much shampoo into my hand to lather up my hair: When I shampooed my hair a second time after rinsing completely, I noticed that all I needed was a quarter-sized dab of shampoo and it lathered up my entire head (and I have a lot of hair). So after washing twice, I used the conditioner . It felt so smooth on my hair. Usually I have to put a lot of conditioner in, but with Hydralicious I actually noticed that it covered my strands. I left it in for a couple minutes rinsed and towel-blotted my hair to dry. I didn’t experience any burning-eye or funny-taste-in-mouth sensations with either the shampoo or conditioner which is always a plus.

Now it’s hard for me to remember the difference in my hair texture after each and every shampoo since I usually have extensions/weaves/braids in so often, but my super curly (and happily nappy) hair did feel quite soft and was easy to manage when my sister went to cornrow it minutes later (it didn’t feel like steel wool at all :P). Of course I did also add a bit of Shea “All Naturals” Shea Butter Super Grown Herbal Formula to the roots.

So what did I think of the new Herbal Essences Hydralicious? If my review wasn’t clear enough I really liked it and think the Reconditioning set worked well with my hair. I’ll most likely try the Self-Targeting shampoo & conditioner set in the near future, and maybe even the Featherweight set (for hair that needs body… even though my afro probably doesn’t).

Aside from the actual product itself, I thought the curvy design of the bottles fit well in your hand while your in the shower. The little “trivia” questions that are at the back of each shampoo/conditioner duo. On the Reconditioning shampoo for example, the “?” is: What is the average number of bridesmaids at a wedding? In order to find out the answer you have to take a look at the back of the conditioner bottle (4 is the answer by the way), and vise-a-versa. A nice little way to pass the time while you’re waiting for your conditioner to penetrate your tresses. I’m in love with the swirls that are visible in each of the shampoos, as well as their vibrant colours. The latch system is well designed and makes the bottles easy to open (I remember scraping my thumb a few times on other shampoo/conditioner bottles in the past because the cap needed so much effort). And of course the smells are intoxicating! The Self-Targeting shampoo takes the cake in that department, boasting “extracts of red vanilla & whipped aloe”. The Featherweight shampoo has “extracts of water lily nectar and passion fruit”. Yummy!

So I have a stack full of free Herbal Essences Hydralicious coupons to give away. Stay tuned to my blog for details on how you can win yourself a pair, so that you can try out this licious shampoo and conditioner yourself!

Recipe: Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf with Lemon Glaze

Apr
01
2009

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf with a Lemon Glaze
This is the first time I tried making this type of cake/loaf, and let’s just say that it will now be one of my favourites. I got the base recipe from my Robin Hood Home Baking cookbook and did a few tweaks. You’ll only need one lemon for this recipe, but it sure packs quite the punch in flavour!

Ingredients:

Loaf
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice (about half a lemon)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp grated lemon zest (about one lemon)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp poppy seeds

Lemon Glaze
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice (about half a lemon)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs and lemon juice. Combine well.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, lemon zest and salt. Gradually add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, beating lightly after each addition. Stir in poppy seeds and spread into a greased 9-inch loaf pan.
  4. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan and onto a lined wire rack.
  5. While the cake is cooling, prepare the lemon glaze by mixing the juice of 1/2 lemon in aLemon Poppy Seed Loaf bowl with the vanilla, then gradually adding the confectioner’s sugar until well-dissolved (if mixture is too stiff add some more lemon juice or a drop of water).
  6. With the loaf still warm, spread the glaze mixture over the top so that it gently drips down the sides of the loaf (this is where lining your counter with paper town or parchment paper below your wire rack will come in handy).
  7. Cool completely (glaze will harden) and serve.