Introducing Benjamin

Benjamin Alexander
December 26, 2011 at 2339h 
7lb 8oz, 19.75in

We're healthy, happy and back at home now. Couldn't be more pleased with our Boxing Day baby.


Caramel Shortbread (with Chocolate Drizzle & Nuts)!

I'm always a little hesitant to make new recipes when I know company is coming but seem to find myself doing it all the time. Then, to add more stress to the scenario, I often modify the recipe as I go. Crazy right? I won't blame you if you decline my next dinner party invite. Nevertheless, I didn't have much baking done left for my guests so I figured it was time to supplement the dwindling stash.

Warning: These are definitely resolution makers. Trust me, there's nothing healthy about these uber-rich squares. But they're oh-so-delicious. Not bad for my first try.

Caramel Shortbread Squares (with modifications*, of course)


- 2/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (or more as needed)

- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

- 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup half&half creme*
- 1 cup crushed nuts, divided (I used honey coated peanuts)*

1. Preheat oven to 350'F (175'C).
2. In a medium bowl, combine base ingredients to create a crumbly mixture. Press firmly into a 9x9 baking pan and bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely.
3. In a heavy bottom saucepan, combine caramel ingredients and slowly bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and beat vigorously for about 3 minutes to thicken. Pour over shortbread crust and let cool until firm to the touch.
4. Sprinkle about half of the crushed nuts over caramel, pressing down gently.
5. Melt chocolate in medium saucepan, stirring constantly. Blend in half&half creme to create a smooth mixture. Pour into a piping bag (or plastic bag) and drizzle over the caramel.
6. Top with remaining crushed nuts and let cool in refrigerator until set (approx. 20 min).
7. Cut into squares and enjoy!

*Originally the recipe called for a smooth chocolate top but I wanted to add some texture so I added the half&half creme to thin out the chocolate for drizzling (opposed to spreading on a thick layer) and added the crushed nuts for a bit of a crunch/hint of saltiness. Fortunately for me (and our company) they turned out really well!


Seasonal Touches

The holidays are going to be pretty low key for us this year for fairly obvious reasons but I still wanted to add a few festive additions wherever I could. Most of my 'pretty' decorations are in storage back in Calgary and it didn't make much sense to purchase a whole new set for our one year in TO so I embraced simplicity and tried to be creative wherever possible.

Our Christmas tree was literally brought in from the balcony. I was a little concerned I would 'shock' it with the drastic temperature change but with frequent watering and a watchful eye it has been holding up pretty well. Fingers crossed it lasts.

We bought a string of twinkling lights for the balcony and another small set of indoor lights which I wrapped around the tree branches. I just love the warm glow they create and hope the neighbours don't find them too annoying.

I wasn't even planning on decorating the tree but then came across a really good promotion at the Bay -- an entire box of silver, pewter and bronze ornaments for $20. I hung some on the tree, used some as accents for gifts and distributed the rest in various glass vases around the condo.

Plenty of ornaments to go around. I especially like the different shapes and textures that add some depth and dimension to an otherwise basic arrangement.

Gift wrapping was kept to a minimum. I bought some kraft paper and scrounged up a few ribbons that I had previously purchased for other various occasions. Apart from a few runaway sparkles scattered on the floor I think it turned out pretty well.

I also added some copper wire lights to a bunch of branches we have clustered near another window. They're really versatile, flexible and can be wrapped around pretty much anything. I may leave these up for a while as they add a little extra sparkle when looking out at the city lights.

We've got a few other festive additions (creamy white poinsettia adorning our dining room table and some lovely Christmas cards we received in the mail) but unfortunately it was getting too dark to photograph them properly. Perhaps another day!

I just love the way a home feels during this time of year and didn't want to let the fact that we're only here for one year discourage me from decorating for the holidays. I know we're probably going to be very busy with other distractions soon but it's still nice to acknowledge the season and participate wherever possible. Plus, who knows if we'll ever get a chance to celebrate in a downtown condo again?


The Bump

A few weeks ago I had maternity photos taken to document the growing baby bump. I was lucky to track down Heather Bunt, a friend from university who was in the same design program as me at the UofA. She also moved to Toronto (although a few years ago now) and has been establishing her photography business ever since. Although she specializes predominantly in wedding coverage, we were lucky enough to have her come to our place, on her one-day-off I might add, and capture a few images for us.

We did a series of intimate indoor shots at home before heading up to our building's rooftop terrace to do a few more urban shots. I was incredibly windy up there but you'd never know it. Overall I was really pleased with the results. Here are a few of my favs from the outdoor series.

I've been feeling pretty good lately, apart from the expected aches and discomforts that accompany the last couple weeks of pregnancy. Dare I jinx it and say that the nausea is finally letting up too? Danny is on call this week so we're crossing our fingers that the little one stays put for a few more days but no matter what happens we're ready and excited!


Mmm... I Love Brunch

A few days ago we took the car into the dealership to get the winter tires put on. While we were waiting, we decided to peruse the surrounding neighbourhood and grab some brunch. There were so many different options and most places were full but we managed to get into a place called 'Lil Baci'.

The room was cozy and the food was so good. I ordered french toast on egg bread with fresh fruit compote and Danny had a hearty Italian meatball sandwich with an arugula salad. I nearly licked my plate clean.

Brunch is most definitely my favourite meal of the week!


December is Finally Here!


The Holiday Countdown can officially begin! And this year there is more than one countdown going on. So much squirming I can barely wait.

24 more days (hopefully less) peeps!