Announcing the Winner of The Body Shop’s Tea Tree Contest!

After going through many entries received over the past week, we are pleased to announce that Brittany Goving is the winner of our latest giveaway sponsored by The Body Shop! We’re so excited for you to try out the full Tea Tree product line pictured below! Please look for our message to arrange the delivery of your prize!

We’d like to once again thank The Body Shop Canada for sponsoring a wonderful contest that lets us spoil our readers! We’d also like to thank our readers and everyone who took the time to enter the contest – we wish that everyone could win!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay in the loop with our most recent posts and contests! And once again, thanks to all for your continued support of inanutshell.

Advertisements

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Over the weekend, I was seriously channeling my domesticated side. Not only did I complete some “Pinterest Projects” that I have had flagged for a while, but I also spent some time in the kitchen trying out a few new recipes. By far, the best creation from the weekend were Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries.

New York Style Cheesecake has been a baked good that I’ve always wanted to perfect, but have been nervous to attempt. One of my all-time favourite desserts, I know that it can be a finicky recipe and it will definitely take some practice. For now, these miniature versions are a more than suitable substitute!

What you’ll need:

-Large strawberries (I used 2 pints)
-1 container of cream cheese (I used the low fat variety)
-3-4 tbsp. of Icing Sugar
-1 tsp. of Vanilla

Directions:

1. Cut the tops of strawberries and core the middles. Set aside.
2. Mix together softened Cream Cheese, Icing Sugar and Vanilla. Beat until smooth.

3. Put stuffing mixture into a ziplock bag and cut the tip off to create a piping tool.
4. Squeeze a dollop of the stuffing into each strawberry.
5. Dip the top of each strawberry in Graham Cracker Crumble.

In a nutshell, these stuffed strawberries were definitely a hit when I brought them to my bookclub on Sunday evening. A cute and simple dessert that tastes like a little bite of heaven!

Fall back into Resolutions

Well folks, it is officially September. While summer is still technically with us for two more weeks, I always find that once the September long weekend passes and school starts back up, the carefree summer attitude often fades quickly away. Instead of mourning the season, I for one, always look to September and Fall as a chance to make a fresh start. Besides, it seems silly to wait another four months just to make a resolution, doesn’t it?

Re-organize your Finances

Remember back at the start of the year when you were geared up to get your finances in check, stop throwing your cash away and start saving? Ya, me too. Wasn’t that a fun thought? Seriously though, if you’ve fallen off the wagon when it comes to moula, now is the time to get back on track. While it’s hard enough to accept that summer is fleeting, keep in mind that the holiday season is approaching. While it can be tempting to go “back-to-school shopping” even if you’ve graduated or indulge in a Spiced-Pumpkin Latte at Starbucks every day, don’t sink yourself now! Besides, how nice would it be to enter 2013 with a little nest egg?

Leave piggy in tact!

Re-organize your Closet

As we leave summer behind, we also leave behind the need for barely-there shirts, skirts and shorts. Take the time to go through your closet and bring forward those staple sweaters and jeans that have been taking a back burner during the blazing heat. Check to see what still fits, what’s still in fashion and take whatever is no longer up your alley to your local Value Village or Salvation Army. Then, once you’ve cleaned shop, take these tips from Kaylee to help you transition between the seasons with ease!

Get back to the Gym!

Summer can present us with a ton of opportunities to exercise outdoors. Summer can also present us with a ton of opportunities to laze around instead of working out. Since dieting and getting fit are the most common New Year’s Resolutions, why not get started now? If you’ve taken a bit of a gym-hiatus this summer, September offers the opportunity to get back into a regular routine. It’s never too early to start developing healthy habits. And just think, by the time January 1st rolls around you’ll be that much closer to your fitness goals!

Tackle a Bucket List

While summer presents countless opportunities to try new things, fall does that too! If you haven’t touched the bucket list you made in January, dust that bad boy off and start checking things off! Don’t count out the adventures that can still be had, just because the weather is a tad cooler. Throw on a jacket and some boots and find your latest adventure. Consult Catherine’s Fall-Bucket List here for some great ideas!

The Gender of Wine

Like many other fields of interest, the world of wine has, for centuries, been dominated by men. How did this connection between men and wine come to fruition, consequently segregating women from the irresistible grape? It stems back to that age old story of woman as the homemaker, as the domestic being. Men were the creatures  dominating pubs,  embracing drunkenness, crushing pints and, subsequently, tainting their palates with an insatiable thirst for wine. Somehow, maleness and wine became intertwined. Men have since been the front runners in wine tastings, in wine writing and even, as wine makers. Not until the last 10 years have women truly started to stand up and speak out for a beverage that speaks equally loud to our female palates. So what is all the fuss about then?  Well, as a woman of wine and recently certified sommelier, I have noticed one more thing that, perhaps, sets women apart from men in the world of wine: the gift of the gab. It is men who hold this gift when it comes to wine. Men want to talk, passionately, about wine. They seem to find indiscernible pleasure in talking about something concrete and decoding it’s abstract components. There are women who can hold their own and talk wine up, down and sideways among themselves and with men alike, but the prominence of men’s passion to discuss wine is truly remarkable. Wine writer, Matt Kramer, describes this phenomenom with lucidity,

“Rarely have I seen a woman swoon over wine. I have seen them enjoy wine immensely. Taste wine acutely. Talk wine articulately. But when it comes to the wine passion, women are no match for men.”

As a woman who truly appreciates wine, I would like to be the one to smack down that sort of nonsense and proclaim my love, my undying passion for wine. But I’ve heard men talk about it, and it’s true. Or maybe I have yet to find multitudes of women who can talk the talk with me. Who’s to say. Does this necessarily mean that wine is masculine? Not at all.   As women are becoming more dominant figures in the world of wine, despite lacking this “male passion”, it continues to perplex me that the gender of wine has not yet had a sex change.  After all, it has been scientifically proven and discussed at length, that women are better at wine than men. I mean that women are prolifically better, more acute, astute tasters than men. So one would imagine that this upper hand would automatically render the gender of wine female; however, that simply isn’t the case. We have had to pry our way in to the world of wine, through the barricade of (yes, I’ll admit, talented) men. It hasn’t been easy and I take my hat off to those women who have made their mark in the world of wine (and to those who succeeded in doing so many years ago). Although there are too many to name, these five women are role models for a budding, female wine enthusiast like myself. Among these women, there are wine writers, wine academics and enologists, all of whom have played a role in shaping wine with the embrace of a woman’s touch:

1. Jancis Robinson: A self-admitted work-a-holic, Robinson has written multitudes of wine books and has been an active wine columnist in what is considered to be the summit of wine journalism. She is reasonable, respected and she is a Master of Wine. In the world there are only 297 Masters of Wine. Of those 297, only 87 are females and Jancis Robinson is one of them.
2. Natalie MacLean: Rendering 2nd most influential on my list of women involved with wine may come as a surprise to some readers. MacLean’s wine writing is fluffy, light and approachable. She has written two books and has, on numerous occasions, been nominated or voted as the world’s best wine writer. Although impressive, in my opinion, MacLean’s true merit is her devotion to social media. She has a brand, a goal and she has stretched that across a variety of online platforms, thus projecting a comprehensive online voice for her product (herself). She is a woman who loves wine, knows wine and also knows how to work the digital age to her advantage.

3. Heidi Peterson Barrett: Another surprise as she comes in 3rd on my list, Barrett’s claim to fame is her undeniable knack for creating some of California’s greatest cult wines. Cult wines, such as Screaming Eagle, garner dedicated groups of wine enthusiasts who will pay premium prices to get their hands on a bottle of “cult wine”. Whether I’m a cult wine enthusiast or I just appreciate her influence in wine marketing, Barrett is a woman who has her entire hand on the pulse of wine making.
4. Zelma Long: Long has worked for years as a winemaker’s consultant. Throughout the 70’s Long was Robert Mondavi’s head enologist and then re-branded Simi winery, later becoming its CEO. She’s consulted for wineries in Washington, Oregon, Israel, France, Argentina and Italy. Aside from consulting for multiple wineries, she’s also the winemaking partner of Vilafonte in South Africa and owner/winemaker of her own company, Long Vineyards, in Napa, California.

5. Karen MacNeil: In fifth place is another female wine writer, and someone who took the bull by the horns in a time that female + wine writer = confusion. MacNeil is the author of The Wine Bible, Emmy winning host of PBS series Food, Wine and Friends and founder of Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at The Culinary Institute of America. When asked about her begginings as a wine writer, MacNeil replied,

“This is an exciting time for wine. When I started writing about wine, I was the only woman doing it. Every tasting was for the 10 men in America who controlled wine writing… The landscape has changed tremendously in the last thirty-five years. In 1972, I was assigned by a magazine to write a story on Cava. I flew to Barcelona after being in touch by mail with the winery I was to visit. When I arrived at the airport, it seemed that no one was there to pick me up. I spoke no Spanish at the time. I waited for four hours. Eventually, I went up to two men and asked something about getting to the winery. With a look of shock they hollered, “You’re the wine writer from America!” It was inconceivable to them that the wine writer from America would be a woman.”

It’s 35 years later, and as a woman I still grapple with the gender of wine. With such amazing women making their mark in the world of wine, it is hard to ignore the rise of female wine enthusiasts. On the other hand, the male passion may be something slightly more difficult to harness. Or could it just be that wine, in its many forms, has been and will always be gender neutral?

Images via: 1 2 3 4 5

A blessed UNION

Describing themselves as a Canadian take on Southern hospitality, Union truly is a blessing to the Ottawa dining scene.

After the onslaught that Ottawa experienced this year in Southern dining*, (*read Fat Boys and SmoQue Shack), I was underwhelmed to have yet another “Southern style” restaurant opening in, what some would call, a saturated market. But one month after their inaugural trial run, I was still hearing an array of positive feedback from experienced and trusted diners. Naturally, I had to check it out for myself.

I should have trusted that with Chef Chris Lord behind the scenes, this Southern secret would be nothing like the aforementioned smoke houses. Although the cuisine is Southern inspired,(as is the communal seating, ambiance and soundtrack), the food is unique to Lord’s iconoclastic hand. Although I was only able to sneak in for the late night menu, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few dishes that evaded the ever so obvious jerkpulledporkbrisketribs. Inspired and refreshing, the late night menu was tasty and exciting: biscuits with rabbit gravy, deviled eggs, pickled pig ears to name a few. Perhaps not trailblazing, but definitely a teaser for what the full menu holds and certainly a different avenue of Southern cuisine explored, something that Fat Boys and SmoQue Shack ignored.

Aside from merely delivering approachable late night grub, there is a vibe that resonates throughout Union. Whether it be the dimly lit room, Julian Garner’s impressive mural or the crooning of Mississippi soul pumping through the airwaves, (or maybe I had one too many bourbon cocktails that night.  Those libations are delicious and deadly. Thank you Jeff), Union personifies “hip”. It actually might be Centretown’s key to getting its groove back. The place is constantly packed, with barely a vacant barstool in sight.

The men behind the scenes of Union have all, in very different ways, contributed significantly to the dining scene in Ottawa. It is for that reason that people want to see them succeed and will support their latest venture. The guys have put forth their mission statement as a, “…brotherhood of growers, cookers and eaters”. Though this statement unifies Centretown’s latest joint, I think the influential “union” at hand is the coming together of talent such as Lord, Gedz and Fantin. These guys know what it takes to shake our little city up a bit, while still being able to land on their feet.

So if you’re in the neighbourhood and don’t feel like jetting off to Hintonburg for a seriously groovy time, pop in to Union for a meal, a quick bite, some fantastic bourbon or a cold beer served up in a mason jar.

Did I mention I love my beer served in mason jars?

Unionlocal613

@Unionlocal613

315 Somerset Street West

(613) 231-1010

Images via

Colours of Communication

I was recently fortunate enough to take part in a training program through my work which focused on the various styles of communication and types of communicators. My colleagues and I were asked to fill out a questionnaire, that generated colour coordinated profiles based on your responses. Each colour was representative of a different type of person, including those who were detail oriented vs. goal oriented vs. emotionally driven …and the list goes on. The four colours that were introduced represented the four types of people that we generally interact with, whether it be at work or in our personal lives.

At the beginning of the day, we discussed the various colours and identified positive and negative attributes for each. We also looked at where conflicts could arise between colours and their specific communication styles.

This isn’t working.

In a series of activities, we were first asked to choose the colours that best represented our way of interacting and communicating. Next, we were given ‘coloured’ attributes and asked to distribute them to our colleagues. Finally, we were given the results of a quiz that we answered in advance, which identified which colours we strongly identified with and what style of person/communicator we were.

I have to say that there were vast differences between how I originally perceived myself and how my answers reflected my true ‘colours’. Furthermore, the way that my colleagues perceived me were different from how I thought I came across, leading me to reflect on both my successes and areas where I have room to improve.

Where do you think you fall?

The biggest lesson that I learned was that we have to stop focusing solely on our own way of communicating and interacting and embrace and adapt to the communication style of our counterparts. Whether this is with our superiors and colleagues in the office, with our family members or with our significant others – it’s not all about us. While I may be the type to assert my ideas or opinions, that type of outgoing communication may overwhelm or alienate the person I’m speaking with. If this type of interaction is continuous, I may (unknowingly) cause a riff in the relationship.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that while someone’s approaches may be vastly different from our own, that does not make them less valuable. As young adults who are slowly forging our way into the working world and building and maintaining relationships in our personal lives, it’s important to keep valuable lessons like these in mind. What I learned is that the different types of people, and their corresponding communication styles, bring a different, and necessary, element to our interactions. After all, how boring would the world be if we were all the same?

Interested in learning about yourself? Take this short quiz!
(While not the same as the in-depth program I was a part of, it highlights four different styles of communication and breaks down their pro’s and con’s!)

Announcing the Winner of The Body Shop’s Cruelty-Free Make-Up Contest

We are pleased to announce that Sheralee Huot was drawn as the winner of our contest for $100 of  The Body Shop’s new cruelty-free make-up line! Congratulations! We’re so excited for you to fall in love with these gorgeous products! Please check your e-mail to arrange the delivery of your prize!

We’re Jealous! Enjoy!

We’d like to thank The Body Shop Canada for coming out with a beautiful range of cruelty-free products and sponsoring this contest. We’d also like to thank everyone who entered our contest by commenting on our posts and interacting with us on Facebook and Twitter! We hope that you enjoy our contests and we’re looking forward to bringing you more in the future. Besides, Movember is just around the corner…

Until next time nuts, thank you for your participation & continued support of inanutshell!

Chef’s Night: great expections, poor execution

The corner of Richmond and Churchill Avenue. Somerset and O’connor. Bronson and Gladstone. These are the intersections of the up and coming dining scene in Ottawa. And when I say up and coming, I should truly rephrase and say: these are the intersections that will see Ottawa’s foodies through to the next wave of exceptional dining. The nation’s capital has been knocked down, teased, bullied for its lack luster dining culture. But when you really think about what the city has to offer, it doesn’t fall short of amazing, at least in the gustatory field. Exceptional dining is available at our fingertips and with places like Union and gezellig prepared to uphold the precedent, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. For that reason, whenever I attend chef’s night at Oz Kafe, I expect to be treated to the truly exceptional, exemplary displays of cuisine that Ottawa has to offer. I’ve written about Chef’s night many times before, simply because the experience is such a unique one. It’s not often that you are treated to the city’s creme de la creme, course apres course, for $25. It’s a steal and usually, something that each diner leaves raving about.

Except this time.

The last chef’s  featured Twitch (Michael Portigal) from Whalesbone Oyster House who has upheld an incredible reputation in the Ottawa dining scene. A few month’s ago, Chef’s night was graced with Twitch’s presence  and included a full blown decadence of the odds and ends of an animal (Spare Parts); it was a night that took every foodie for mouthwatering ride. This time, however, the meal fell short for most of the foodies that attended. The first course set each diner up for disaster. Because to start a four course meal with the best dish and progressively allow deteriorated dishes to hit the tables made each palette cringe.

I’m really sad to tear down a meal that had so much potential, but when push comes to shove, sometimes a tough critic provides perspective. It was evident that the meal was thoughtful and aimed to take a stab at creativity, but 3 of the 4 dishes sadly missed the mark.

         {Mushu Pork tongue with buckwheat pancakes, seaweed and watermelon}

Course #1: This was the stand out of the night, setting up the experience with a reasonably high standard. Although the buckwheat pancake was slightly dry, the hoisin allowed this minor fault to be pushed to the sidelines and the course was well received.

{Cured Mackerel, kimchi, taro gnocchi, oyster sauce}

Course #2: Mackerel dish was tasty, colourful and well executed although the stodgy gnocchi did not lend a helping hand to the dish. The kimchi kept the dish zippy, especially with an extremely oily poisson like mackerel.

 

{Chamomile, lamb, mint, strawberries and pistachio}

Course #3: Unfortunately this is where we hit rock bottom, with a dish that required far better integration of sweetness and acid. The lamb, despite this cut usually being well cooked, was cooked beyond repair. Scattered strawberries for that punch of sweetness was uninspiring.

{Sesame crostini, semi-fredo, beets, honey}

Course#4: I appreciate the innovation of this dish and understand what was meant to be accomplished. The charred flavour of the  sesame crostini paired with a savoury puree of beets had the intention of creating the perception of sweetness while integrating a smokiness to the dish. Without cloying on the palette by integrating this smokey element, the dish still was poorly executed due to the severe flavour of the not-quite-ripe-enough beets.

In a nutshell, a let down for most, but many will turn a blind eye to this disappointment and continue, rightfully, to praise one of Ottawa’s most revered chefs.

 

Beauty on a Budget

Alright readers, I’m just going to throw this out there – being on a budget is NOT fun. Whether you’re paying back student loans, starting out at a new job with a tiny salary or trying to save for your first home (or all of the above!), being in your twenties is a time where money matters. For women, cosmetics and beauty products can be so frustrating; not only are they huge money-suckers, but half the time you feel like they don’t give you the results that you anticipated. I’ve put together a list of some great products that are inexpensive and will cover most elements of your beauty regime – in fact, you can purchase everything on this list for under $100!

1. Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse Foundation ($14.99)
Used by multiple nuts, Maybelline’s Dream Matte Mousse Foundation is creamy and leaves a nice matte finish on your skin.

2. Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strips ($19.99)
These shimmer strips are great because they are multi-purpose. Use each shade individually as eye-shadows and then use them together for a great, shimmery bronzer or blush

3. MAC Fluid Line ($18)
This gel is by far the best and longest lasting eye-liner I’ve ever used. Once you get used to applying it with a thin-angled brush, it will change your life. Perfect for creating a dramatic cat eye or a simple every-day look, this eye-liner is great on both upper and lower lids and is definitely a staple of mine. (Plus, it doesn’t smudge constantly like some pencils do!)

4. L’Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black Mascara ($10.49)
This mascara is a fan-favourite. Kate mentioned it in the past and I have since converted to it after trying it once. Use one sweep for a simple look or load it on for dramatic lashes.

5. Rimmel Vinyl Lip Gloss ($6.49)
One of inanutshell’s #1 supporters, Kelly, went on a quest for lip gloss and after trying multiple expensive brands, decided to give this a shot. After trying it over the weekend, we’re glad she did – it’s awesome and a great value!

6. Treseme Volumizing Dry Shampoo ($5.49)
I’ve blogged about dry shampoos in the past and at the time I wasn’t impressed. But, after trying Tresseme’s Volumizing Dry Shampoo, I can say that it’s now a staple in my beauty regime. Not only useful if you sleep in and have to skip a full wash, but also a great tool for creating a bit more volume if your hair falls flat.

7. Mini Body Shop Almond Hand & Nail Cream ($10)
This hand cream has been a staple in my purse/home/office for as long as I can remember. A light moisturizer with a sweet fragrance, this product not only targets dry hands, but moisturizes your nails as well! The mini size is perfect for taking on the go.

8. Essie ‘Fiji’ Nail Polish ($10.99)
It’s no secret that we nuts LOVE Essie nail polish. And now, you can get the look that Emily Maynard rocked all season as The Bachelorette by sporting the shade ‘Fiji’. It’s a light pink that’s great for everyday because it goes well with just about anything!

And there you have it nuts, some great bargains that will keep you looking great on a budget. Happy shopping & happy saving!

El Camion

“The more you travel, the more you realize how little you’ve seen”

-Anonymous

I learned from a young age that travel opens the mind, heart and soul to new experiences. For this reason, travel has always been a passion of mine. As I mentioned in my last post about travel, I haven’t had much opportunity to pursue this passion, so I made sure that every last second of my most recent 10 day stint in England counted.

Aside from the motley crew of people you can meet while journeying through a different continent, my favourite things to discover are, in no particular order: new drink, new food and new tunes. I remember as an 18 year old exploring Europe for the first time ever, alone, I met an extremely well traveled fellow who had a 16G device set aside for all of the music he had gained and shared over his many years of travelling. Those moments where you taste something unforgettable, share a bottle of something pretty and peculiar or turn your ear toward an unfamiliar sound are some of the illuminating and awe inspiring moments of travel. And so, without further ado, an experience that is tailored for a blog where each of the contributors have a particular affinity for tequila…. a tequila bar in Soho London,  with some seriously electric soul.

EL CAMION

If you urbanspoon this baby, you will more than likely be directed to reviews of a cheap and cheerful Mexican restaurant. And when you walk in to El Camion, that’s exactly what you’ll find.

Unless you take a sharp right and wander downstairs. . .

So how did we come upon a seemingly underground tequila bar? We were grabbing a late night bite and struck up conversation with our waitress who appeared to have a handle on the local nightlife. She told us to head up to Brewer Street in Soho, to El Camion.

“It’s usually members only, but because it’s a Tuesday, you may have some luck.”

Off we went, a couple of hopeful tourists, to find a tall, dark and intimidating bouncer at the door of a completely empty Mexican restaurant. After a few minutes of surprisingly friendly banter, the bouncer said we seemed alright and let us into the restaurant. He quickly tuned in to our disorientation and guided us to the staircase, chuckling at our North American expense. We came to a set of closed doors that were bursting with energy, music and  leading us to some seriously good tequila inside. With a collection of over 300 bottles of Mexico’s finest  and most exclusive tequilas, we truly hit the jackpot and managed to steer clear of the tired path of tourists.

The menu boasted a rainbow of cocktails that all sounded delicious and tempted us once or twice, but sticking to their shtick we opted for more than our fair share of tequila.

Adopting house policy (top left) of avoiding salt and lime with any tequila shot, we shot the cheap stuff and chased with a red “sangrita”: a concoction of red wine, tomato juice and hot sauce. From brandy snifters, we sipped the “Pechuga” known for the chicken breast suspended inside the still in a basket of fruit during the third distillation (bottom left).

Perfectly in my element, I had one of those aforementioned moments where I couldn’t help but turn my ear toward the electric soul sound of Milez Benjamin twisting around the dj’s deck.  That, paired with some ominous art and a few more slams of 100% agave made for a traveler’s night to remember in the grungy, funky basement somewhere in the middle of London.