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!

We’re Engaged!!!

December 9, 2013

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning… I’d tell you My Other Half proposed and I said yes!!!

Julia Kent Jason Hanrahan Engagement Wedding Announcement

Even as I write this, I still can’t really believe it. We’re engaged!!! It doesn’t feel real yet. I am so incredibly happy and we are both over the moon with excitement!

We kept the engagement a secret from everyone (except our parents, who were on the cruise with us) for an entire week. That’s right – we’ve been engaged since November 24th, 2013 –  a whole 15 days ago! It was so exciting to come home from our trip and tell our family and friends.

Engagement announcement

We’ve been together for almost six years, so I suppose nothing in our day-to-day life has really changed. Except somehow I feel like it has. It’s my fiancé who put up our Christmas tree this weekend and my fiancé who I’m having dinner with tonight and my fiancé who gave me a kiss for no reason at all. There’s something different now, something special. It’s such a novelty to look at him and know he’s going to be my husband!

I’m sure many people think this was a long time coming, but for us the timing feels just right. We are so blessed. I know a lot of readers will have questions about the proposal, and I promise to blog about it soon, but for now, let’s just say he absolutely blew me away. I have a sneaky trickster on my hands! To say I was surprised is an understatement – I was speechless. Yes, me – speechless! All four of us were on cloud nine.

Engagement announcement 2

Thank you to everyone who has called, emailed, texted, tweeted, liked and commented to congratulate us. You have no idea how much we appreciate your support!

Also, a big thank-you to Ken from The Creative Department for the beautiful engagement announcement. You are so talented and awesome!

Photos: Laura Kelly Photography

Over a cup of tea…

October 28, 2013

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you I’m 26!!! I had a fabulous birthday weekend filled with my best friends, incredible wine, food and celebrations. To say I am a spoiled brat is an understatement. On Friday night, My Other Half took me to Supply & Demand in Westboro (I’ve been dying to go) and it was amazing – definitely one of the best dining experiences in Ottawa lately. I am a huge fan of anything raw and they have an entire raw menu. I hear it made enRoute magazine’s top 10 new restaurants too, which is a huge honour. We normally base our restaurant hit-list on enRoute’s recommendations. We had the kale salad (amazing), albacore tuna crudo, chicharon (francy word for pork rinds – also amazing), pepper spaghetti and pork belly. My Other Half thinks it’s the best pork belly he’s ever had, and it’s his favourite dish. Yum!

Julia's birthday

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you my friends are so awesome. My Other Half threw me a birthday wine & cheese at our place this weekend and it was a total blast, complete with delicious apps made by my girlfriends, kitchen dance parties and wayyy too many presents. You guys are more than a girl could ask for! I am very lucky to have such fantastic people in my life. Thank you!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you I spent my actual birthday (yesterday) being lazy and cozy, curled up on the couch or in the tub with a good book. Thankfully this meant I finally finished The Long Stretch (the first novel in The Bishop’s Man trilogy by CBC journalist Linden MacIntyre). I’d been reading it for almost a month, unfortunately, so I am now way behind on my reading challenge. I have exactly one week to read The God of Small Things (Erin’s pick this month) before book club on Sunday! Yikes.

Supply and Demand on Urbanspoon

Over a cup of tea…

October 21, 2013

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you that the fall is going by way too quickly. I thought it was still summer, like, a minute ago?! Now everywhere I look there are pumpkins and leaves on the group. And pretty trees. It’s freaking me out. Mostly because I’ve started thinking about Christmas (yikes), but also because it’s my 26th birthday on Sunday and I feel like it sorta came out of left field. Do I have to say I’m in my late twenties now? Or am I still mid-twenties? Maybe I should just start telling people I’m a senior citizen because that’s exactly how I act. I met the most amazing old lady (Bertie, short for Alberta – LOVE her) and I connected with her more than anyone else all weekend. Case in point – I’m actually 82, living in the body of a soon-to-be 26-year-old.

Michelle & Greg Geldart

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d announce I am definitely getting crankier in my old age. I was always such an easy-going person, but know I find myself announcing a new pet peeve each week.  For example: fake plants. I loathe them. Especially in people’s homes. All they do is collect dust. And real plants/flowers are so wonderful and easy to care for, so don’t try and tell me you don’t have a green thumb. Or, another example: people who cut their nails in inappropriate places or at inappropriate times. It makes me crazy – save the personal grooming for later. One last one: unswept floors, or, rather, realizing that I must sweep my floors a minimum of twice per day to keep them acceptably clean. I guess that’s one of the joys of cooking constantly. It is a harsh, harsh reality.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you I have suddenly and recently begun wearing and loving yellow gold. For the first time, like, ever. My Mama has always exclusively worn yellow gold, and as a child I seemingly declared myself a white gold/silver/platinum-only little lady. Well, I’ve noticed something else in my old age – I am slowly but surely morphing into my mother. Yes, I am becoming Barbara Kent before your very eyes. It’s terrifying and hilarious all at the very same time. But I have accepted it with grace and poise because that is exactly what my Mama would do. And I now love yellow gold.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you about the beautiful fall wedding we attending on Saturday in Halifax (and yeah, and if I didn’t already mention, that’s where I am now). My Other Half was standing for one of his best friends. It was a gorgeous October day – almost 20 degrees and sunny – and it couldn’t have gone any better. We are so happy for the new Mr. & Mrs. Geldart!

 

As I have mentioned five thousand times before, during university I worked at a Mexican restaurant named Feleena’s in Ottawa.

Spinach Ricotta Enchiladas

 

The restaurant was like family to me. I have such fond memories of the people, staff and food – ESPECIALLY the food. I still crave it from time to time and don’t return to visit often enough.

 

I had many favourite dishes on  the Feleena’s menu (which you can see by visiting their Facebook page), but my all-time favourite was definitely the vegetarian enchiladas.

 

One would think vegetarian enchiladas would just be cheese enchiladas, but these were much more than that – they were stuffed with ricotta and spinach and topped with a mouth-watering cilantro cream sauce. Mind = blown.

 

I decided to try to re-create the dish. I knew I could easily phone up the chef and ask how it’s done, but that would be too easy. I wanted to figure it out myself!

 

What I came up with wasn’t exactly the same as the Feleena’s version, but it was super close and just as delicious!

Spinach & Ricotta Enchiladas with Cilantro Cream Sauce

8 tortillas
8 oz sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
¼ cup milk
1 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
1 package frozen spinach
1 tbsp chopped canned jalapenos
salt & pepper, to taste
2 cups shredded cheese (I used marble)
1.5 cups ricotta

In a saucepan, mix together sour cream, soup, milk and cilantro. Heat, stirring constantly, and set aside. Thaw spinach and squeeze to take out all liquid. Mix with ricotta, jalapenos, half the shredded cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper. Fill each tortilla with a few spoonfuls of the spinach mixture. Roll tortillas up and place seam side down in a greased cooking dish (I used 9×13). Pour the cream sauce over the enchiladas and top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until golden.  

Over a cup of tea…

October 7, 2013

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you I’m wearing boots. Like, winter boots. For the first time this season. And I’m not impressed. Although the colder weather does mean my fall vacation is getting closer… but I still hate winter.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you about how this BuzzFeed list (22 signs you’re an old person trapped in a young person’s body) is me. Well, not all of it, but most of it. I remember asking for a set of encyclopaedias for my 10th birthday or something. I also asked for books about the history of England (Tudor period to be exact, or the monarchy). I started saving for a house long before my friends showed any interest. And now, an awesome night is a having a few friends over, cooking a fabulous meal with My Other Half, and polishing off a few too many glasses of wine. And sleeping in my own bed. That is a necessity. People say I need to live a little, I shouldn’t grow up too fast etc… but I love the way things are. I love our little house. I love my routines. I can’t wait to come home from work to garden, cook and clean. I’d rather stay home on a Saturday night with a great book and a pot of herbal tea. I know – I am an 80-year-old. But I love it.

Julia Kent Age 8

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d mention something else I read last week – this blog post on “A Season of Rest”. It hit home. I come from a family who takes on too much. My mother and father are two of the busiest people I’ve ever met. I seem to have inherited this attitude – I say yes to everything, often taking on leadership roles. The problem is (like my parents), I love everything that I do. But every now and then we need to be reminded to slow down. Just a bit. My favourite part:

“No more racing from one thing to the next. No more on the computer till 3am.  No more cell phones out during dinner dates. And yes to laughter, novels, dinner parties and church friends. Yes to spontaneous weekends away, to fresh flowers once a week, to less time on the computer, to working in our garden. Yes to learning when to say no and being okay with it.”

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d also bring up this video. I wrote here about how I’ve been trying to unplug more and really live – no more celebrity gossip, no more addicting iPad games. I am still struggling with this. It’s hard to combat all the distractions that eat away valuable chunks of time. We’re all guilty of it. We can’t have a nice dinner without Intragraming our food… when really, we should focused on the person we’re with – being truly present with them. It’s an uphill battle. Technology is only going to get more awesome, more distracting and more enticing. But can we really not have an evening at home without phones, computers and tablets? Or even without TV? Whatever happened to a long walk, a good book, or a board game? My Other Half and I definitely make time for those things, so don’t think I’m saying we don’t. And I’m not saying I’ll never Instragram another picture of my food… but the video was a good reminder of what’s really important.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d apologize for the heavy subject matter. It’s just what’s on my mind!

Book Club

And if we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d also have fun, upbeat and happy things to discuss – like how my book club celebrated its third anniversary and first blogiversary! I am so thankful for my book club girls. We had an delicious dinner last week to celebrate. It’s amazing what we’ve accomplished together!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I would definitely mention the fabulous four days with spent with my Uncle Ian. He’s a paralympian in table tennis and when he was able-bodied, he was a world-class soccer player. It was wonderful to have him in our home for four days and catch up. After all he’s been through, he’s still the most impressive athlete I’ve ever met. He was always an amazing juggler and he won two gold medals in table tennis this weekend! I am super proud to say my uncle is a national champ.

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