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teeing up for a summer weekend

My sweetheart is off doing one of the things he loves most on this gorgeous Friday evening.  Bring on the weekend and bring on summer!


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red roses, white sand and turquoise sea

This is just a taste of what I’m working on for the next few days and I don’t want to brag, but it has been a very enjoyable couple of weeks at “the office.”  This incredible setting along the Mayan Riviera couldn’t have been more perfect for the long awaited nuptials of my brother and his stunning bride.   It’s no secret that this kid has had it bad for my new sister-in-law for many, many years … I wonder why???  All biases aside, I don’t think I have ever seen a more gorgeous couple!!  There will be plenty more to share, but for now, here’s a sneak peek of for the newlyweds who are returning home from their extended vacation today.  Love you both so much!

beach wedding, gem photography, gemma, Ottawa Valley Photographer


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in the kitchen with my mom – it’s salsa time!

No matter how old you get, you can always learn something new from your parents.  My mom is an incredible cook and one thing we all love around here is her homemade salsa.  It’s like gold and she usually rations it out to my sister, brother and I as a treat when she comes to visit.  So it was high time that I learned how to make it myself and unravel the mysteries of canning from my favourite expert.  I can’t help but share the process and the recipe — this time last week, my kitchen was a fury of chopping, boiling, peeling, stewing and a whole lot of tomato-ey goodness going on.

The process is honestly quite simple and now is the perfect time to take advantage of an abundance of yummy fresh tomatoes; these are from a local farm since ours hadn’t quite ripened yet.  But now that our tiny garden of tomatoes (and my in-law’s much larger garden) are ripening faster than we can pick them, I can’t wait to make more over the weekend on my own.  To get the skins off all you need to do is immerse the tomatoes in boiling water for 20-30 seconds.

My cute mama makes easy work of the peeling stage — those skins slip right off and she gives the chunks a rough chop.

Then you need to chop up the rest of the ingredients.  These are little hot peppers from my garden that were called “Loco”… they are probably the prettiest little peppers I’ve ever seen.  Turns out they’re quite firey too.

Peppers, onions and garlic join the party.Then they all hang out in the pot for a while.  We made a double batch, of course!This was the part I was most excited about — processing all of that delicious salsa so we can enjoy it over the winter (if it lasts that long!!).The jars sit in the special canner in boiling water for 30 minutes or so to ensure they’re sealed.

There’s a lot of love poured into these jars!

She told me that recipe was from a Bernardin recipe book that my dad had bought for her years ago:

Picante Sauce

  • 5 lbs tomatoes (about 15 medium)
  • 4 mild green chillies
  • 2 to 6 hot chilies (fresh or dried)
  • 1 ½ cups chopped Spanish onion
  • 1 ½ cups chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup chopped red pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp pickling salt
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro

Blanch, peel, seed and coarsely chop tomatoes; place tomatoes in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan.

Remove cores from mild chillies.  Chop chillies. Scrape most of seeds from cores. Add chopped chillies and seed to tomatoes.

Pierce hot chillies with a toothpick and add to tomatoes.

Add remaining ingredients – except cilantro; mix well.  Stirring occasionally, bring to boil over medium heat.  Simmer uncovered 1 hour.

Fill boiling water canner with water.  Place 5 clean pint (500mL) mason jars in canner over high heat.

Add cilantro and continue cooking 15 to 30 minutes until desired consistency is reached.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Taste and remove hot chillies when sauce reaches desired ‘hot’ flavour.

Place Bernardin Snap Lids in boiling water, boil 5 minutes to activate sealing compound.

Ladle sauce into a hot jar to within ½ inch (1 cm) of top rim (head space).

** If a HOT Picante Sauce is desired, place 1 thoroughly washed, drained, dried hot chilli pepper in jar.**

Remove air bubbles by sliding rubber spatula between glass and food; re-adjust head space to ½ inch.  Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Centre snap lid on jar; apply screw band just until fingertip tight.  Place jar in canner.  Repeat for remaining sauce.

Cover canner; return water to boil; process 20 minutes at altitudes up to 1,000 ft.  Remove jars.  Cool 24 hours.  Check jar seals (sealed jar lids curve downward).  Remove screw bands.  Wipe jars, label and store in a cool, dark place.


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keeping up with little cousins

Labour Day weekend wraps up a very busy, fun-filled summer for us.  Almost as busy as keeping up with the youngest member of the family who spent time hanging out with us over the weekend.

Our little nephew K is insanely fast, so out of his three big cousins we knew exactly who had to be put on full-time running toddler duty!!

His cheeks are stuffed with cherry tomatoes from grandma’s garden… I’m such a sucker for those huge dark brown eyes and curls!

Big sister cuteness time with a little peek-a-boo.

He’ll always stop for a few kisses and hugs.

Right back at ya, bro.

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the big 0-6

The first words we heard this morning from this dude was: “I’m not five anymore!”  Somehow six years have whizzed by and my ‘baby’ will soon be finishing Kindergarten.  The little guy who always seemed to be following behind his big brothers is catching up quickly and growing into a very smart, kind boy.  We love you to bits…  Happy Birthday, buddy!

And a special Happy Father’s Day to all of the daddies out there!  Hope you’ve enjoyed lots of time with your little (or big) munchkins.

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