24 April 2015

Meal Planning


I love thinking about food - any & all food is fair game. I take pleasure in sharing my knowledge of Calgary's food scene & delight in the ongoing search for delicious fare. You'd think this passion for eating would perhaps translate to my enjoyment of meal planning, but it truly does not. I don't really believe anyone who tells me they love this task. Don't get me wrong, I love thinking about new recipes & forming an unstructured plan of what we'll eat, but I don't enjoy sitting down to actually plan the week. I get much more enjoyment from flexible plans, but I personally don't find them realistic for our everyday lives. For one, I hate throwing out food. It's one of my pet peeves. Even if something I've made doesn't quite turn out, I'll usually eat it. There's also the unfortunate fact that we need to be a little bit conscious what we're spending. So every week, I sit down & make a meal plan.

I used to be quite diligent about this process, but lately I've been struggling with finding the motivation. Recipes I've pinned still look delicious, but I don't always have time (or energy) for a weekday experiment. It's just not always realistic to spend hours in the kitchen on a Tuesday night. Sometimes I just want something quick & easy, something that I already know will be delicious.

This is exactly why I'm grateful that I've been so organized with our meal plans. (Excuse me while I pat myself on the back for that one.) Thanks to my penchant for planning, I have a record of every single meal plan we ever made. Originally, I typed them up in word, printed them off, & stuck them on the fridge. At the end of the week, I put them in a binder. (How cute!)

A couple years ago, we made the switch to online recording. We use an app called Evernote. It allows you to create lists that sync to multiple phones, making tracking, organising, & editing simple.When N picks up groceries, he checks off the items in the app as he goes so we know whether we're missing anything. 

a sample Evernote plan
I really like our system, but I still found my inspiration lacking a bit. A few weeks ago, I was on instagram & noticed how often I share our meals on my feed. Why not use these for inspiration?! There's a good mix of tried & true recipes as well as some newer, exciting ones. I created a hashtag for these photos so they're easy to find (one of the greatest features of instagram!). You can find them by searching #deBoerDinners. 

Whenever I've used a recipe, I've tagged the owner or referenced it in some ways. There are some experiments & staples up there though that will not have recipes associated with them, but hopefully they all help to inspire your meal plans when you're feeling a stuck. I plan to continue to add to it as we cook more too, so it will continue to grow.

Do you ever find yourself in a cooking rut? I'd love to hear about your tactics if you do! Happy Meal Planning!

10 April 2015

Honeymoon 12 \\ Naples


If you don't travel mostly for the sake of experiencing another culture's take on food, then this is probably going to sound pretty bizarre to you. When we decided to go on a cruise as part of our honeymoon, there were two options: one that included Naples, & one that did not. While this grungy port town with a bit of a reputation certainly isn't on everyone's list of places to visit, it placed high on ours. You may be scratching your head on that one, like many of our fellow passengers, so let me explain: Naples is the birthplace of pizza.

The breathtaking Amalfi coast, a short train ride away, tempted us for less than five seconds as we watched the rest of Ventura's passengers offload. We had an important mission to complete: eat at L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele. We'd gotten general directions for this famous pizzeria, but stopped at the tourist office for a map & some more specific instruction. They weren't sure on the exact address, but we set off in the general direction with our trusty map. At this point, we'd spent most of our time either in tourist centres or cities I knew very well, so despite knowing Naples was a little rough around the edges, it was still a bit of a shock to find ourselves in a much grimier neighbourhood than we were used to.

Without an exact address or the ability to google the location, we quickly realized we had no idea where to go. The only thing we knew was that we shouldn't go past the train station. I quickly initiated to my usual backup plan when lost in a foreign country: find a hotel & ask for directions. The friendly maitre d' showed us the exact location (just around the corner) on our map & we were back on our way. We'd heard that it was important to get there before noon, so we'd headed straight there from the ship, arriving just after 11.



If we hadn't known about Pizzeria da Michele, we likely would have walked passed this unassuming little spot. It looks like any other local pizzeria in Italy. You won't find a huge staff here either. In addition to a few servers & the cashier, there were two men running the actual pizza-making operation - one in charge of dough & assembly, another manning the brick oven. They respect Grandfather Michele's memory to this day, serving the two classic types of Neapolitan pizza: Margherita or Bianca.

Since we were quite early, we snagged a table in the main room with a view of the whole process. I couldn't have hand-picked a better vantage point. Their small menu makes ordering a snap. We each chose our own regular-sized Margherita pizzas, as well as a couple beers & a large bottled water. As we waited for our meal, we took in our surroundings. The walls are dotted with photos of celebrities & signs explaining the origins of this style of pie. The staff walked around, joking with regulars or shouting jokingly at each other in Italian (the Italian gesturing was on point!). We could only guess what they were saying,  but we thoroughly enjoyed letting our imaginations run wild. The older gentleman rolling out dough was particularly animated. He was by far our favourite! (Rumour has it, he's one of Michele's four sons.)





Our pizzas arrived quickly, hot from the oven. The smell was out of this world & neither of us could wait to dive in. I'm sure you can guess how this experience was (I mean, I just wrote a four paragraph introduction). It was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best pizza I have ever eaten.

In true Italian fashion, the simplicity of the fresh ingredients blend to create the perfect balance of flavours. Buffalo mozzarella, san marzano tomatoes, the freshest basil, & a perfect dough: it's an unreal combination. You couldn't wipe the happy grin off my face. While I love prosciutto or creative toppings on my pizza just as much as anyone else, this pizza is on another level. It doesn't need those extra toppings to shine. Trust me on this one. Go to Naples. Eat the pizza at da Michele. Thank me (& all of those who have come before me) later.

-Break for drool-worthy pizza photos (& a snap with my new buddy!)-




Our great server
Starting to get busy as we head out
L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele could easily attach a hefty price tag to their fare, but I think our bill came in under twenty euros. A true steal, especially given the incredible quality. I wish I could have taken some back to the ship for later, but I'm not sure it would have held up that well in my purse all afternoon.

Honestly, we had no idea what else to see in Naples afterwards. We had a map & a lot of free time though, so we set out. (This blog is called Au fil de mes balades for good reason. I love exploring a new city without any real destination!) We started in the old quarter, with its crumbling infrastructure & graffiti everywhere. We were still getting used to seeing these incredible historic sights in such disrepair in comparison to other cities we'd visited. It was an entirely different experience from the rest of our trip & I was glad to see it. We took a break in a café at the base of the funicular, grabbing a cappuccino & catching up on Instagram, before heading up to the castle at the top. We decided to tour the castle (I know, I'm shocked too. There wasn't any food inside either), & got caught in a rain storm during our visit. We waited it out with the other tourists in every alcove we could find until we got bored & decided to just brave the elements.
















Makeshift Umbrella



Instead of taking the funicular back down, we opted to walk. This resulted in many wrong turns & us getting completely lost. In the process, we stumbled upon many beautiful hidden corners & got a peak into everyday life on the hill. It reminded me of Croix Rousse in Lyon in that respect. We ran into more than our fair share of dead ends, & there were definitely times when we felt like we'd never find out way back to the port, but we also saw a side of Naples we would have completely missed if we had simply taken the funicular back down. Vacations allow for many luxuries, namely time, so we were in no rush to find our way. Instead, we took advantage & reveled in the unusual opportunity of not having to worry that you're a little bit lost.





Storm rolling in

It began to thunder & lightning as we were almost back at the ship. We'd been watching the storm roll in, but we still managed to get completely soaked as we tried to make it back. Neither of us were prepared for rain so we threw on our bathing suits & jumped in the onboard hot tub to warm up. Once the chill wore off, we got cozy in our slippers & robes to watch the sailways from our balcony. We were first rewarded with a beautiful rainbow over the city followed by a gorgeous sunset. Naples was certainly a memorable day! 






6 April 2015

March in Instagram

We were up at the lake for Easter Weekend so I took some time to catch up on blogging & photo editing. The photo editing went well, but the combination of a slow computer, large photo files, & slower than usual internet made putting a post together a pretty slow process. Blogger has been frustrating in other ways lately too. As much as writing your own blog code can be great, I'm looking to spend the bulk of my time writing. I'd also like an easier interface for working with photos. 

Keep an eye out for what I think will be some positive blog changes. In the meantime, here's what we got up to last month according to Instagram!


1. We took advantage of the mild weather & borrowed N's brother dog, Korra, for a hike up Sulphur Mountain. It's a quick little hike up & in the winter you can ride the Gondola back down for free!
2. We celebrated our friend's birthday with a centurion & an epic dance party.
3. I chopped a big chunk of hair off & for the first time ever, it's shorter than D's.
4. N & I had a beautiful lamb dish at Wine-Ohs for Big Taste this year.
5. Long runs are back! I also scored these wicked lululemon leggings & a cute top when my number was drawn during an evening of spin! The awesome pattern is a new favourite!
6. We joined a bunch of friends at Grape Escape again this year. We tried a lot of beer & wine, while checking out a bunch of food trucks!
7. Enjoying a Flames game thanks to my parents. Even though we lost to Dallas in overtime, I have no complaints about watching live hockey.
8. We took advantage of a very warm early spring day to sit outside at Container Bar. We're pretty sure they ran out of beer, thanks mostly to our large table of friends.
9. Celebrating a friend's 30th Birthday with a hike up Mount Lady MacDonald. She's merciless, but the views are incredible. I'm excited to have checked another summit off our list so early in the year even if my legs have only just forgiven me.

Hope you got to spend some time with family & friends for the long weekend. Happy Easter!

4 April 2015

Honeymoon 11 \\ Sea Day One



Our first sea day, we really took advantage of the resort-feel of the ship. We spent a slow morning on our balcony enjoying coffee & breakfast, as had already become a routine for us. There was nothing but water for miles in every direction so even though we were technically surrounded by a few thousand people, it felt pretty secluded.





Eventually we decided to get moving for the day. Changing into bathing suits, we went in search of some lounge chairs near one of the numerous pools. Little did we know, these chairs are highly coveted. Any chair within view of a pool had been claimed early that morning. Rookie mistake. Luckily we arrived to the main pool just in time to watch the crew do the ice bucket challenge. We'd figure out our sun tanning situation later.

Our cabin
Main Pool
Ice Bucket Challenge
Husband vs Wife



The different ships in the P&O line were all raising money for their respective charities & decided to use the Ice Bucket Challenge to help raise funds. Department after department went up for their turn to be doused in icy water. Having just done the challenge ourselves the day after our wedding, we enjoyed it a little more as spectators. Judging from their reactions, I think their water may have been a bit colder than ours though.

Since we couldn't find prime lounge chairs around the pool, we decided to grab a table near one of the bars. It seemed like a good time for some Pims anyway & it was quickly turning into the perfect pool day. Neither of us had much Pims before - turns out it goes down pretty easy, so we decided to switch to beer after our pitcher quickly disappeared.

The main pool had a pretty good set up, with a very shallow outer section before dropping off significantly. It was perfect for cooling off with a drink in the summer heat so we took full advantage of the opportunity to relax, sun tan, & keep cool. It was the first day of true relaxation since our wedding so we were understandably excited.


Drinks by the pool


Poolside beers
When we'd had our fill of the pool, we headed back to our balcony for a glass of wine before our massage. We don't generally splurge unless it's on food, drinks, & travel so I'd included a massage as a gift option on our honeyfund account. Thanks to a few generous friends, we were able to take advantage of the onboard spa & book a couples' hot stone massage. I've had a few sports massages, but this was my first experience with a relaxing massage. I really enjoyed it (& in true Alanna fashion, I fell asleep at the end. I think I may have even started snoring. Signs of a truly relaxing day?).

Balcony Wine Time
Classy 


Post Massage Sunset 

That evening was the formal dinner & Captain's Reception so we quickly got dressed in our best & headed over to the atrium. There were a few drinks followed by a speech & introductions of the senior staff by the captain. N had worn his suit from our wedding & I wore a sparkly little black dress. Leaving our cabin, we thought we were quite dressed up, but N was one of the few men not wearing a tux. Some of the ladies were even in ball gowns! At dinner, we sat with a group of six Scottish ladies. They were hilarious & completely enamoured with N (especially as he was the only male at the table!). They were probably my favourite seating assignment of the whole cruise!

Captain's Reception

End of the night Formal wear