The Canning Kitchen // Lemon Raspberry Jamalade

It's not very often I find myself uncomfortable in the kitchen. Throw a 15lb turkey at me, I'll tackle it. Challenge me with a Lobster Roll craving, I'll crush it. Tempt me with Irish Coffee, I'm all over it. But ask me to can something... that's where I hesitate!
For whatever reason canning has always scared me. And you know what? I am not even sure where my fear of canning came from! I started to believe that I would never experience plunging a mason jar filled with rich tomato sauce into boiling water, or hearing the satisfying "pop" the lids make when sealed tightly, but then one person changed my mind; Amy Bronee, author of the new small batch canning cookbook, The Canning Kitchen!
A few months ago I met up with Amy at the Bookshelf in Guelph where she was promoting her book. After trying a sample of her ahhh-mazing chocolate raspberry jam I knew I had to throw caution to the wind and give canning a try! Amy assured me that the small batch canning techniques in her book were fool proof and if I had all the right tools I could can anything! 
Sure enough I took Amy's advice and jumped right in! I purchased a canning kit from Canadian Tire, some fresh fruits and veggies at the market, and began my canning adventure! In one day I managed to pump out raspberry jam, tomato relish, pickled garlic, and pickled asparagus. You can imagine how impressed I was! So impressed in fact I want you to share in my canning experience! I have partnered with 10 uber talented Canadian food bloggers to bring a you special giveaway!
// #TheCanningKitchen Blog Tour \\
To support our lovely friend Amy, a few of us bloggers thought it would be fun to host a Canning Blog Tour & Giveaway! This week you can tour around to the 10 blogs listed below and read all about their canning experience. Not only that, you can enter to win a $100 gift card to start your own canning adventure!

// #TheCanningKitchen Giveaway \\
Prize: A signed copy of The Canning Kitchen from Amy & a $100 gift card to Canadian Tire. Prize is valued at $128 CDN.
To Enter: Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter below. You must leave a comment in order enter. No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
Open To: Canadian residents of legal age
Giveaway Closes: Wednesday, September 2nd

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fabulous Hostess Gifts for Under $35


Let's face it, at some point this summer you are going to find yourself attending a get together. Whether it be a backyard BBQ, a friend's birthday party, or impromptu cocktails on the patio, you'll want to extend your gratitude to the hostess by thanking her with a fabulous gift. One that turns heads. One that stand out. One the hostess will actually use (like those way cool copper mugs? Yeah, I'd use those all the time!).

You can be sure this round-up of 20 fabulous hostess gifts (all for under $35 I might add) will be a stunning surprise for any hostess this summer!

To see my full line-up of fabulous hostess gifts, head on over to my "Fabulous Hostess Gifts Under $35" Ideabook on Houzz.com.
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Updating Our Kitchen with New LG Appliances

Things are about to get honest here. When John and I first moved into our house three years ago, I loved our kitchen - the dark cabinetry, the black appliances, the neutral countertop; I considered it all perfect even though I wasn't crazy about the faucet, the lack of backsplash or missing pantry. But sure enough time goes on and tastes evolve, and I quickly found myself looking for something that reflected my cooking personality... something more "gourmet."
While an entire kitchen overhaul was not in the budget, "J" & I started to prioritize cosmetic items on our list that we knew would make the biggest impact. Unfortunately that meant no sledge hammers or crowbars. No removal of cabinets. No drywall dust everywhere or piles of broken tiles. Sounds like no fun, right? ;)
As we began tackling our tiny "cosmetic fix" list, we started to realize how fixing even the tiniest imperfections can transform a space into something a little more lovable. We easily installed a new sleek and modern faucet, touched up chipped paint on the walls and ceiling, brought in light fixtures, decluttered the counterops, added some new accessories (plants always liven things up), and picked out new appliances. While purchasing new appliances may feel like a major kitchen investment, it's actually one of the easiest to do... and it makes a huge impact!
At the end of the day we had a lovely experience with the team at Leon's (which you can read more about on their blog, Hello Yellow), and would totally recommend the beautiful line of LG appliances we acquired (I mean, a door-in-door fridge? How awesome is that!?)!
Right now I am simply overjoyed with my new kitchen and super impressed with not only the many features of my new appliances (this gas range bakes like nobody's business), but the quality! Now it's time to bake, cook, and party! Cheers!
Looking for more home decor and recipe inspiration? Check out the Hello Yellow Blog!

Disclosure: The appliances in my kitchen were so kindly provided to me by Leon's & LG in exchange for delicious recipes, which will be posted on their blog, Hello Yellow, throughout 2015 and 2016! 
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Last Minute, Dog-Friendly, Long Weekend Vacation

There are some things I can't live without... coffee, a car, my iphone, my niece and nephew, blush, mascara, and vacations. And you know what? One of these things I have not been able to experience in the last year (care to guess which one!?). I mentioned on my blog a few weeks ago how excited I was to head to my cottage for a weekend... but neglected to tell you we didn't end up going. "J" had a nasty bought of the flu that Friday so we cancelled that trip. Sigh.
So these past 2 weeks I have been bugging "J" to go on a mini vacation... but things kept coming up and we couldn't make it work... until this past long weekend. I put my foot down. We were going to get away. Even if I had to kidnap him, we were going to pack up the car, drive north, and escape.
The ever present problem with being spontaneous like that these days is Maddy. Spontaneity goes right out the window the moment you get a dog. And while we aren't totally opposed to sending her to a kennel, we would much rather bring her with us.
So with very low expectations, last Tuesday night I began searching for pet-friendly accommodations in Algonquin Park. A handful of results showed promise however they were all booked. I mean, of course they were booked!! Was I crazy to think I could find a cabin to rent for three days on a long weekend!? A little. But I still had a glimmer of hope. So I tried the last resort on my list: Adventure Lodge. Why were they last on my list? Well, their website is not so great, they are not on any form of social media, and their package seemed slightly unbelievable (an all-inclusive weekend with two meals a day, and Algonquin park pass, free canoe rentals, on an undeveloped lake, and pet-friendly cabins with king beds and a wood burning fireplace... whaa??). But at this point I could feel the need for escape setting in... So I checked the availability. Imagine the shocked look on my face when I discovered it was available.... for three nights... on a long weekend... and we could bring a dog!!! In total disbelief I went through the reservation process again.. maybe I had made an error and searched for July 31-Aug 3 2016? Sure enough the site came back saying there was a cabin available. Without any further hesitation we booked it (with fingers crossed).
I must have finished my work in record time on Friday in anticipation for our upcoming adventure. As soon as "J" got home we packed up the car and hit the road. After close to 5.5 hours in the car, being stuck in mind-numbing stop-and-go traffic twice, and one black bear sighting, we checked into Adventure Lodge. It's slightly frightening to be told to watch out for wolves and bears as you unpack your belongings... so with Maddy safely stowed away in the cabin, "J" and I quickly unloaded the car. Totally overcome by the need to sleep we barely unpacked before crawling into bed.
Saturday morning we were awaken by faint sunlight streaming through our curtains, a light breeze rustling the leaves on the trees, and birds chirping. There is nothing like waking up in the middle of nature.
To start the day we met Ken (the lodge's manager) in the dining room where he prepared our breakfast to order. "J" and I decided over breakfast that it was shaping up to be a perfect day to go for a hike. Besides the lodge being pet-friendly, most of Algonquin Parks' hiking trails are dog-friendly as well. Since we wanted something pretty scenic we opted to hike the Track & Tower Trail. At 7.7km and rated "difficult" we figured we'd spend a half a day there.
The trail didn't disappoint. The challenging landscape made for an interesting hike. Not once did the piles of rocks, fallen logs, or mounds of exposed tree roots make Maddy stop; she went full steam ahead the entire way. The hike to the lookout point was an option we encountered at the halfway point, and it was most definitely worth the additional 2km! I will openly admit the hike back was a little more challenging, and at one point I started to question whether or not we made a wrong turn! But we stuck it out, and sure enough the parking lot appeared just in the nick-of-time. Not 5 minutes into our drive back to our cabin it started to pour!
Once back at our cabin we relaxed with a few beers and a slightly over competitive game of Uno. By the time dinner rolled around at 7:30pm "J" and I were famished. Ken & Penny prepared fresh Pickerel with roasted potatoes and tri-colour cauliflower. The Adventure Lodge prides themselves on serving "comfort food" style dinners and this one fit the bill. It filled up our empty bellies and was completely satisfying. It wasn't fancy or over the top, it was simply a plate of delicious food. Full & tired we retreated to our cabin where we turned in for the night; we had big plans for the day ahead.
Sunday morning started much like Saturday's; a slow and leisurely roll out of bed, followed by breakfast in the dining room. Knowing a huge storm was going to be rolling into the park around 4pm, "J" and I decided we would take advantage of the morning sunshine and go canoeing. While both "J" and I have been canoeing before, a new unknown factor needed to be considered; Maddy. So we packed light (no electronics, a small backpack, and a towel) and attempted to get Maddy in the canoe. It took a bit of coaxing, but before we knew it we had her sitting quietly in the middle. We spent two hours out on the lake and managed to stay upright and in the canoe the entire time!
The morning sun and constant paddling into the wind took a toll on us, so as soon as we got back to the cabin we took a nap. You know, I think that's what I love most about unscheduled days... you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. By the time we woke up it was late afternoon and the storm clouds were rolling in. We thought it would be best not to brave another hike (no one likes getting caught in a thunderstorm while in the middle of a 5KM hike!), so we grabbed a pizza, cracked open some beers and played some more Uno. The storm that rolled through that night was not as bad as initially thought... just a few cracks of thunder here and there.
The next morning reality started to set in... it was time to head home. "J" and I enjoyed our last breakfast prepared by Ken, cleaned up the cabin, packed up the car, and headed home. Despite traffic being a bit of a nightmare (all you avid cottage-goers know what hell that is) we made it home in good time.
Needless to say we had a phenomenal weekend!! It was such a fun and relaxing adventure, and being able to take Maddy with us was the icing on the cake!

How did you enjoy the long weekend?
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