Nutella Cupakes

June 25, 2014

NUTELLA.Nutella Cupcakes

Need I really say more? These are silly they’re so good.

Are you a Nutella fan? I go back and forth. As a kid I loved it, but as an adult I go through phases. I certainly don’t love it for breakfast like the commercials suggest – I’d rather peanut butter.

Nutella CupcakesMy Other Half doesn’t really eat Nutella, and I had a big Costco jar of it. I was going to make Nutella cookies, but these sounded like a way better idea for book club.

They were promptly gobbled up.

Nutella CupcakesThey photograph much better un-iced, but they taste sooo much better smothered in – wait for – more Nutella. You can’t go wrong.

Chocolate and hazelnut fans, rejoice.

Nutella Cupcakes

Nutella Cupcakes
Adapted from Dinner with Julie
Makes 12 

1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1 cup Nutella

Beat the butter, oil and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt and add half to the butter mixture and beat on low speed. Add milk and the remaining flour mixture and combine. Drop the batter in 12 muffin papers. Warm half of the Nutella and drop it by the spoonful onto each, and then swirl it around. Bake at 350 degrees for about 27 minutes. Let cool (Nutella is really hot). Use the other half of the Nutella to ice the cupcakes when cool.

Nutella Cupcakes

Over a cup of tea…

June 23, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you I just had the best weekend for my cousin’s bachelorette party! We rented a beautiful lakefront home between Toronto and Ottawa and it was prefect. We made delicious food, spent a day down on the dock, and played silly games. Now I’m wishing we still there, enjoying the sunshine… so much better than working!

Cottage

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you that normally, all my blog posts are pre-written about a month in advance (with the exception of Over a cup of tea, which I typically write Sunday night or early Monday morning). That’s why they are published at exactly 8 a.m. – you can set your watch by it. Anyway, if you’re a regular follower of the blog (I just love those of you who start your Monday mornings with Over a cup of tea!) you will have noticed that over the last few weeks my posts have been super late. That’s because I’ve gotten away from my routine of pre-blogging everything! Posts have been going up after lunch when I get a chance to write them. So, today I am vowing to get back into the swing of things… and hopefully your recipes will be delivered to your inbox right on time!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you how much I love these 8 tips for entertaining. I especially love “the hostess sets the tone” and “timing is everything”. Those are two things we’re really worked on over the years. I am often still frazzled, but thank goodness for My Other Half, who always steps in to save the day, calm me down and of course, clean up.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you The Domestic Blonde was featured on BuzzFeed on Saturday!!! In 17 Super Easy Sangrias to Make This Summer, my Two-Ingredient White Sangria is #2! I was so excited and the blog traffic it’s given me has been nuts.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d be excited to have one of my oldest friends for supper on our patio tonight! I haven’t seen her since our Halifax engagement party and I can’t wait to catch up.

Over a cup of tea…

June 16, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you that lately, I am…

Bridesmaids

Eating / Mango, avocado and lots of salads. Totally unlike me.
Drinking / Cider, cider and more cider. Preferably Magners, but I’ll take what I can get.
Practicing / Taking it one day at a time, and not getting too stressed thinking about everything that’s on my plate.
Mastering / Walking with a limp. It seems I am permanently injured, whether it be my new toe injury, hamstring tendon or my hip.
Learning / How to order bridesmaids dresses online. It’s more complicated than I thought!
Trying / To throw the best bachelorette party ever for my cousin De next weekend! I’m very excited. We’re going to a wicked cottage.
Playing / Candy Crush. There – I admitted it publicly. My Other Half and I started playing it when we were bed-ridden with strep throat and now I just can’t stop.
Finishing / Assembling our wedding invitations tonight!
Reading / Orange is the New Black. And then I want to watch the show (finally).
Remembering / Five thousands things at work. Of course it’s crazy busy right now.
Wearing / Big ol’ skirts! I love them.
Cooking / Anything on the BBQ. And Buffalo Turkey Meatballs. Unreal.
Working / On finding ways to work out without doing any cardio (since I can’t run).
Travelling / A lot lately! Halifax, Toronto, the cottage, and then Calgary and Halifax again soon! I’m loving being home this week though.
Wishing / I could hold my new little nephew Camden… so bad. It’s hard to live away.
Wanting / To watch the World Cup constantly and permanently. Loving it!
Waiting / For some good news. I could use some!
Craving / Pasta! And cheese, perogies, fast food, and hot sauce. Oh and a Big Mac, please.

List stolen (pretty much) from Bleubird.

Instead of my regular “Over a cup of tea” post this morning, I’m sharing the story of my first (and last!) half-marathon, which I completed yesterday. 

I am still alive – although barely – and successfully completed the Ottawa Race Weekend Scotiabank Half-Marathon!

A little bit of background information before we get into the race day story – I never wanted to run this half-marathon! I only signed up because three of my closest friends were doing it (Kacie, her mom Michele and Erin) and I thought it would be less torturous to do it together. I started training in March, which gave me three months to prepare. Before that, I had never run longer than 5 km!

After the first month of training, two of my race buddies had to drop out due to injury/moving to the States. That left Erin and myself. I was too far in my training to quit and had raised a considerable amount of money for Right to Play, the charity we chose to support. I also wanted to support Erin and her motivation for running (which you can read all about here – go to #13). Shortly after that, I pulled my hamstring tendon and had to take 10 days off, which was a big setback. I was just beginning to run longer distances (10 km+) and lost a lot of momentum.

Julia Kent running

After a few week, I got back on track and was feeling pretty good, until My Other Half and I both came down with strep throat just weeks before the race. This was another big set back and caused me to take another 10 days off. I missed two of the three planned 18 km runs in my training program. I was pretty disappointed, but a week before race day I ran 18 km in 1:53, which I was super happy with.

The race was yesterday (May 25, 2014) at 9 a.m. downtown. It was a nice, cool morning, seemingly perfect for a race. Erin and I were up at the crack of dawn and felt really good. I couldn’t believe the number of people – 15,000 in our race – and the atmosphere was electric. For the first 2 kms I was pretty frustrated because the people all around me started slower than I normally do, but I was soon able to pass them. I felt fantastic until about km 10, when my right hip seized up in one massive cramp. It was pretty bad, but I powered through. I passed the 10 km mark at 1:05, which is about five minutes slower than my normal time, but I was saving my energy for the second half. For the first 10 km was following the 2:10 pace bunny pretty comfortably.

Our cheering squad

Unfortunately the hip cramp did not get better – it got much worse. And then the hills came… endless hills. I kept thinking “well we have to go downhill sometime…” but we never really did. By this point it was incredibly hot. I was wearing SPF 85 but was sure I’d sweated or rubbed it all off. I developed a strategy where I power-walked up the hills and then resumed running. By this point (km 13), I had long lost the 2:10 pace bunny and saw the 2:20 one pass me. I decided to stick with him, and hopefully finish strong. I successfully did so for another 5 km, but then the hip cramp became too much to bear and I had to stop and try and stretch it out. Long story short, the stretching didn’t help and the 2:20 pace bunny disappeared from eyesight.

At this point I was pretty discouraged. For the last 3 km, I was desperately trying to run and not walk (I established that it actually hurt more to walk) but my energy level was at zero and I couldn’t get my breathing rhythm back. It helped when about 1 km from the finish line I saw My Other Half, my cousin and three friends cheering me on. I was able to kick it up a notch to save face, but then resorted back to walking. And then, out of nowhere, the VP of my company was running alongside me! The race went right by her house and she told me she was going to come out to cheer me on. She jogged with me for a bit told me I only had 200 yards to go. It was just what I needed to run the rest of the way and cross the finish line with a smile.

Erin & Julia

For the rest of the day, I could barely walk and today I am extremely sore. So I did what any sane person would do – I went home in a mad dash, packed my suitcase, and flew to Halifax for a week just hours after the race. Needless to say I am a bit of a zombie today and am sporting a nice waddle! I’m not thrilled with my finishing time (2:31), because based on my previous long runs I should have finished in under 2:15, but overall I’m just so happy it’s over… so I don’t care!

Oh, and if you’re wondering, YES, people got a huge kick out of my shirt, and Erin crushed her run in 2:06! I am extremely proud of her.

Thank you very much for your support, encouragement and listening to my rambling about running over the last three months!

Over a cup of tea…

April 28, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d have wedding news! Well, kinda. My girls have begun getting sized for their bridesmaids dresses and I am just madly in love with them. The dresses and the girls, that is. They are so gorgeous and the dresses are so elegant! It made me super excited for the big day, which is only eight months away. We also chose our invitations and are getting ready to order those, so that makes it all the more real.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d ask you if we can talk about gas prices?! What is going on, people?! I am so angry, mostly because I now spend $70 on a fill-up when I used to spend $45 in the smart car, but also because gas is so damn expensive. I remember when it was $0.75 a litre. I know it’s more expensive back home in Halifax, but here it’s almost $1.38, which is CRAZY. When I bought my smart car three years ago, it hovered just over $1.00! Grrrr.

Julia Kent

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you I’m getting better at curling my hair! Those who know me well know that I’m not exactly into putting effort into my hair… or my make-up… or my wardrobe, for that matter. I just have bigger fish to fry. Anyway, lately I’ve been bored with straight locks and started experimenting with my curling iron and rollers. It started out rocky but is slowly improving!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you I finished And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini! It was so good – definitely one of the better books I’ve ready lately. I can’t say it was as good his other two, but it definitely lived up to my expectations. Now if only he’d publish novels more often!

Kettleman's

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you about my wicked weekend. On Friday, we celebrated my cousin-to-be’s 37th birthday at The Crazy Horse. I’d never eaten there before and it was really good! Delicious steaks. On Saturday, I ran 10km (my self-proclaimed rest week) and then went to the Ottawa Gala with three girlfriends. It was such a great night. Yesterday, we got up, had breakfast bagels at Kettleman’s (best bagels in the city) and then went to Le Nordik for the day, following by a meal at Chelsea Pub. The weather was glorious. Today I’ve feeling rejuvenated, rested and happy!

Crazy Horse Stonegrill Steakhouse & Saloon on Urbanspoon

Kettleman's Bagel Co. on Urbanspoon

Chelsea Pub on Urbanspoon

Over a cup of tea…

March 17, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d say Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m not Irish (even though people often assume I am because of my strawberry-blonde hair) but you know me – I love any excuse to celebrate! I also love themed parties, so I had a few girlfriends over for a green and Irish-themed shindig on the weekend. There was Guinness chocolate cake, Guinness and bacon cheese dip, Guinness onion rings and green melon martinis (among other things). It was awesome. I’ll be posting the recipes soon (but sadly not in time for your festivities. I’m sorry!).

St. Patrick's Day

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d probably be drinking my all-time favourite tea – Lady Grey from The Tea Store in the Byward Market in Ottawa. How much I love that particular blend (they make it themselves) cannot be put into words. I save it for weekends, and it brightens my morning every. At work I only drink David’s Tea, and once again I am on a tea-buying freeze because it really got out of hand for a while there. Check my Instagram and you’ll see what I mean. I think I had 45 teas at work at one point. I’m a crazy person.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you I cannot believe my reading habits (or lack thereof) lately. I have always been a finisher, and by that I mean that I get great satisfaction by finishing things… so, for example, I wouldn’t start one book before I was finished another. Well, my friends… not only have I only read 3 books so far in 2014, but I have three on the go right now. THREE. This has never happened before. Anyway, weird, but the most interesting news is that I bought my first audiobook! I downloaded Audible (which is run by Amazon) and the first book was free. After that it’s $15 a month, and you get a free book each month. They are normally about $20 each, so I think it’s well worth it. I’m so busy with my half-marathon training (ugh… just thinking about it makes me irritated. I hate running so much!) that I think audiobooks are a great choice for me. And I can listen to them while I run!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you I finally took My Other Half to El Camino on Friday! Predictably, he loved it. We had a cocktail each and six tacos and they were UNREAL! My favourites are the fish and beef. I could eat them every day. Oh and the best part? Our bill was $49. And we were stuffed. Gotta love a great meal for that price! And don’t get me started on how much I love their Bourbon Sour cocktail. If someone presented me with one of those every day when I got home from work… well, that’s what I imagine heaven is like.

Tea Store on Urbanspoon

El Camino on Urbanspoon

When we were home for Christmas, we were so fortunate my parents threw us an engagement party at their house! We’d only been engaged a month so we were still buzzing with excitement. It was fabulous to see all the friends in Halifax we miss terribly. Thank you everyone for coming and celebrating with us!

Our Love Story

January 27, 2014

In lieu of a regular Monday “Over a cup of tea” post , I’m sharing our love story! I hope you all enjoy reading about how we met, began dating and six years later became engaged.

It was February 8th, 2008. I was 20 years old and halfway through my second year of university at Carleton. I was out on the town, at a bar called Heaven (which has since been re-named Mansion) with a group of friends from school.

I was standing at the bar with a friend when I first saw him. We locked eyes for a moment, but then I looked away. My friend, Akhil, noticed and commented on the subtle exchange. I told Akhil I thought the guy was really handsome. We collected our drinks and went to find our other friends.

A while later, I was on the dance floor, taking photos with friends and looking through them on my digital camera. (This was long before I had a smartphone, let alone a camera phone). I looked up, and the handsome guy was just a few feet from me.

He smiled, leaned in and said “Can I have a picture with you?” I smiled back, agreed, and we proceeded to take a selfie (which I still have and cherish).

Our first picture, February 2008

Our first picture, February 2008

I remember, for whatever reason, that I looked down and noticed he had really nice shoes on, so when he asked if he could buy me a drink, I said yes.

As we walked to join his friends, he told me his name and asked if it was my first time at this bar. I explained I’d lived in Ottawa for a year and half and had been many times. He responded with “Oh, it’s my first time here. I just moved here a few months ago from Nova Scotia.”

WHAT?!

“Really!? Where from?” I said.

“Cole Harbour, have you heard of it? It’s just outside of Halifax.”

My jaw must have visibly dropped.

“I’M from Cole Harbour!” I said.

We kept chatting, and figured out that his grandfather basically lived on the street where I grew up and my parents still live, and that he grew up near the street where my parents bought their first house. It’s a small, small world.

The day we met, February 2008

The day we met, February 2008

We exchanged high school stories, listed sports acquaintances, and talked about the 2008 US presidential race. We didn’t know many people in common, so I was a little worried he was too old for me, but eventually he said he was 25 and had moved to Ottawa for a promotion. At this point, I was thinking he was too good to be true.

After chatting for over an hour, my friends came by and they were leaving. Before going with them, I took his number and said I’d be in touch. He wanted to take me to dinner.

A few weeks went by because I went home to Halifax for February break. During this time, I contacted a mutual friend and asked about the guy from the bar. As a journalist, background checks were automatic for me. Thankfully, I got a glowing recommendation.

When I got back to Ottawa, I was hanging out with friends, and they asked if I’d been talking to the guy from the bar. I said no, and they encouraged me to contact him and take him up on dinner. I did, and thankfully he remembered me. We made a date to go for sushi in the ByWard Market that Friday – February 29th, 2008.

I was really nervous. I’d never done much dating – all the guys I’d dated had been a friend first. Even with the recommendation from a mutual friend, this guy was basically a stranger. All day I was thinking of things to talk about. While I waited for him to pick me up, I even mixed myself a drink, just it case it would help me relax.

Thankfully, the date was effortless and fun. We had so much in common, and conversation was easy and interesting. At the end of the night, we agreed that on a scale of 1-10, the date had definitely been a 10. We had our first kiss, and I got in a cab to go home.

We dated for two months, and for the first time, I really got to see Ottawa. Since he, too, was new to the city, and had a car, we did the touristy things I’d wanted to do for a while, like visit the Museum of Civilization and Mackenzie King Estate. At the end of April, we took a trip to Montreal for the weekend (I’d never been, and was really excited), and that’s when he officially asked me to be his girlfriend.

The funny thing is that another five months later, we wound up in Montreal again, visiting a friend who was in town for work. On a sunny Saturday morning, while shopping on Saint Catherine Street, he told me he loved me for the first time. Montreal is still pretty special to us.

Fast-forward about three years, and we were still as happy as ever. I’d been out of university for almost a year, and we felt like we were finally ready to move in together. We got a real estate agent and on February 1st, 2011, we bought our first house.

Outside our first house

Outside our first house

By the time we got engaged, on November 24th, 2013, we’d been together almost six years and had been through a lot together. We’d been through lots of tough stuff, but we’d also had amazing experiences and celebrations, including two trips to Europe. We knew we couldn’t know each other any better, or love each other any more!

Looking back, I can’t believe we met in a bar called Heaven at the ages of 20 and 25. And I really can’t believe I found my husband in Ottawa, when we’re both from Nova Scotia. We just have to believe it was part of God’s plan all along.

And that’s our little fairy tale!

Our Engagement Story

January 6, 2014

If you hadn’t already heard, we’re getting married!

Engaged!

Most of you know that writing normally comes naturally to me, but it’s taken a pretty long time to muster up the strength to write about the biggest day of my life. It has taken a lot of courage to share it with the world! I hope you’ll all enjoy reading about the proposal.

First of all, I need to give a little bit of back story. I have always wanted to do a vacation with My Other Half and my parents – particularly a cruise. My parents are cruise addicts and after my third cruise in May (with Mama), I was fully on the bandwagon too. I not only wanted My Other Half to fall in love with cruising, but I really wanted the four of us to get away together. We get along really well and, and I’ve said a million times, my parents are truly my best friends. (I know, I know… I’m a walking cliché.)

Mama and I started researching potential dates and itineraries and in July, My Other Half and I booked a seven-day cruise with my parents (they were going for 14 days, the lucky ducks, but whatever). We would set sail on the Celebrity Summit on November 23rd, 2013, from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The four of us!

I can honestly say I have never been more excited for a vacation in my life – I was bouncing off the walls for the four months leading up to our trip. My Other Half thought I was nuts, but to me, it was my dream vacation – sunshine, relaxation, great food, delicious drinks, and amazing ports with the three most important people in the world to me. I just prayed My Other Half would love cruising as much as we did!

In the weeks leading up to the cruise, my friends starting asking if I thought he would propose on the trip. A lot of them were certain he would. After all, we’d been together almost six years. If I’m being totally honest, I hoped he would too – the timing was definitely right and I’d always said I wanted to be able to see my parents right away after getting engaged. But I really didn’t think he would. He’d given me no signs, and normally he’s pretty transparent. I was sure I would be able to tell if he was planning something.

In fact, the week right before the cruise, he successfully convinced he was absolutely NOT proposing on the trip. A few times I brought up weddings (other people’s) or marriage and he was dismissive and seemed exasperated with the topic. I was a bit taken back, but dropped the subject right away – it was clearly was not something he wanted to discuss. So I resigned myself to the fact that he was not going to propose on the cruise after all, but that was totally okay – it was going to be an amazing trip anyway!

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Fast forward to the morning of November 24th, 2013. It was our second day of vacation, and we were strolling around the port of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. My Other Half has loved cruising so far and we were having a total blast. At this point, I was sure I have never been happier.

As we walked back to the ship, my dad said he’d like to be on deck as we sail out of picturesque St. Croix. We all agreed and planned to go back to our rooms, get cleaned up (it was a formal night), and then meet in my parents’ room for drinks and a game of cards. I did my hair but decided I’ll wait to do makeup (it was 5pm and dinner wasn’t until 8:30pm) and threw on an old rag of a beach dress.

We played a few hands and then I noticed the ship was moving! We’d set sail from St. Croix. I reminded Daddy that he wanted to be up on deck. As we looked outside, we saw the most spectacular sunset, so we abandoned the cards, grabed our cameras and went on up to the top deck at the back of the ship.

Sunset as we set sail from St. Croix

The sunset was breathtaking. It was a bright orange with wispy pale blue clouds. My parents were snapping pictures and my mom and I got one together (above). It was the prettiest sunset I had ever seen. I only wished I wasn’t makeup-less, wearing such an ugly outfit and Birkenstocks, of all things.

While my parents were playing with their camera, My Other Half lead me away and began telling me how happy he was and how life couldn’t possibly get any better than it was right now. I nonchalantly agreed – “yeah, the sunset is amazing babe!” – wanting to return to my parents and take more pictures, but it seemed like he’s getting a little choked up, so I turned to face him and payed a bit more attention. He told me from the moment we met, he knew I was an incredibly special person, and he couldn’t imagine his life without me.

After the proposal

At this point, I was listening intently, but I was wondering why he’d chosen this exact moment to have a heart-to-heart. I told him I loved him and gave him a kiss, thinking his little “moment” would pass. But then he took a deep breath, reached into his pocket and got down on one knee… and all of a sudden I knew exactly what was happening.

“Julia, I love you so much, and I want to be with you forever. Will you marry me?”

I will never forget those words. An enthusiastic “Yes!” was all I could manage – I was speechless. I immediately threw my arms around him and squeezed him with all my might. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening!

Right after the proposal

When we eventually released each other from the world’s best hug, we kissed and I remembered – there’s a ring! I had barely glanced at it when he’d pulled it out. As he slid it onto my finger, it took my breath away. I hugged and kissed him again and savoured every second. Later, he told me he’s designed it himself.

I was so wrapped up in the moment that I completely forgot my parents were watching us from a distance. Far enough away to be able to see us but not hear us, my dad, camera in hand, had tears running down his cheeks. Mama was freaking out and ran right towards us, squealing and hugging us both.

It took quite a while for it all to set in. I kept repeating, over and over, “I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!” There were endless kisses, hugs, tears (none on my part though, surprisingly!) and countless photos with the beautiful sunset. It was perfect.

I later found out that my dad had been in on the plan all along. That morning, as the four of us lounged by the pool, My Other Half had gotten him alone and asked for his blessing. My dad was thrilled, and they immediately starting plotting. My dad’s whole “I want to be on deck when we set sail tonight” was part of the plan!

Dinner the night of the proposal

The best part was that the proposal was at the beginning of the cruise, so we had an entire week to celebrate. It was wonderful and everyone made such a fuss of us. The cruise director even announced it before one of the shows (which was then broadcast on all stateroom TVs for the next few days), so everyone on board knew.

Soon after the proposal, we decided not to tell anyone at home – not even my sister Jessica, who was texting my dad every day. We wanted to take the week to celebrate just the four of us and let it sink in. As soon as we got home, on December 1st, we began calling our family and friends… and we’d already been engaged for a week!

As of posting this, we’ve been engaged for 44 days and I still can’t believe it. We’re starting to compile a guest list, book our venues, talk about our wedding party and how we want the day to take shape. There’s all sorts of details, and it can already feel overwhelming at times, but we keep reminding each other that it’s just about the two of us and our vows.

St. Croix sunset

And that’s our engagement story! I am so happy and excited to be marrying the love of my life. Thank you for all your support and encouragement!

From our home to yours…

The Domestic Blonde Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

I hope you’re enjoying friends, family and food as much as I am today. Lots of love!

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