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Posts Tagged ‘fun’

Hello everyone! Hope you are enjoying the definite fall weather of late. I won’t even mention the spring weather our friends from below the equator are experiencing. Yes, that’s the green in me!
I’m just going to hop right back and tell you more about our stop in Grand Rapids while traveling to Wisconsin and Illinois in late July and I wanted to share another really cool thing to do in Grand Rapids: the Frederik Meijer Gardens. The weather wasn’t great, a little unseasonably cold and rainy, but it didn’t stop us from exploring and I’m sure glad we did. I definitely recommend this little outing; the gardens are beautiful to walk through and the sculptures throughout are captivating. There are even a couple of August Rodin and Henry Moore pieces; both artists are dear to me because I have seen quite a few of their pieces (Rodin Museum in Paris and in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto). And there were several moments that I thought of my dear blogging friends: Norma from Garden to Wok (because of the frogs she collects in her garden), Celi, the Kitchen’s Garden (because of the cows and the pigs she has on her farmie), Genie, Bunny, eats, design, because she has the beautiful and mischievous Tofu the bunny rabbit. So if your ears were burning in late July, you now know that it was because of me!

The Frederik Meijer Gardens are a bit of a drive from down town and admission is a reasonable $12 for adults and $4 for 3-4 years old and $6 for 5-13 — parking is free; it’s a long walk through the gardens, so wear comfy shoes (famous last words, eh ladies?)! The weather was a bit iffy, so we did a brusque walk completing the tour in about two hours, so a gentle stroll will last at least three to four hours. They even have some lovely green houses holding some very exotic plants, in case you need a break from the chill outside. There is also an interactive kids section which we passed on.

I hope you have a chance to watch the slide show below, and to perhaps some day visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

We were not compensated for this review, it is strictly our opinion.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
1000 East Beltline NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
(616) 957-1580 | Toll-Free: 888-957-1580

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It’s not a swear word. I swear. It just sounds like one. “What the Ebelskiver were you thinking?” or “Where in the ebelskiver were you for two and half hours?” You see? But I can assure you, it’s much more delicious than a swear word. It’s actually a little spherical pancake! I know you’ve seen this over at my friend Barb’s when she posted about it last May but I just had to write about my experience because this pan was her wonderful, thoughtful Christmas present to me!

My first attempt was half of Barb’s recipe for the ebelskivers was Christmas day, a few hours after I brought it home and I kept them simple. But as you can see by my deformed little ‘balls’, it takes some skill to be able to prepare them as perfect little balls of joy. I had some practicing to do.

First attempt Christmas Morning

First attempt Christmas Morning

Still no where near perfect, my second attempt I added blue berries to the batter. Still some practicing to do before I could serve them to guests.

Second attempt when we returned from NOTL.

Second attempt when we returned from NOTL. Poor JT had to be the guinea pig for the second batch too. A very sunny day indeed!

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After practice, I was able to make more perfect little balls of joy.

Batch numbers 3, 4 and 5 were much better. In fact, most of them turned out very well. And I had the opportunity to experiment with some additional flavours. I did cruise the net to see other recipes and they varied quite a bit, but since I had some experience with Barb’s lovely recipe, I decided to stick to it, with minor modifications. I found this recipe on squidoo and the batter was much thicker (if you scroll down, there is a video of a young lady successfully making ebelskivers one Christmas Eve), so I decided to add a bit more flour to Barb’s version to thicken it up. They were much easier to flip or turn without the batter running out from the centre of the ebelskiver.

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Brown sugar, cinnamon and butter are swirled into the batter

If you pile them while they are hot, you will cause indentations. Mind you, I doubt your tummy will care either way.

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A little twist Ham, Cheese and Dijon but still breakfast food

Ebelskivers

Original recipe from Barb at Profiteroles and Ponytails

Each batch makes about 24 ebelskivers, I divided the batter into two portions for the ham, cheese and cinnamon bun versions. If you wish to make the entire batch for one flavour, double the flavour ingredients but not the basic batter.

Basic Batter Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-½ teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract (omit for savory ebelskivers)

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  • In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk, melted butter and vanilla extract (if using). Add the yolk mixture to the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well blended. The batter will be lumpy.
  • In a clean bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Using a spatula, fold about one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the rest just until no white streaks remain.
  • Use the batter right away.

Ham, Cheese and Dijon Ebelskiver Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 finely diced ham
  • 1/2 cup old cheddar, shredded

Directions:

  • For the savoury Ebelskiver, whisk in the Dijon and then gently fold in the diced Ham and cheddar cheese, cook using your lovely ebelskiver pan.

Cinnamon Bun Ebelskiver Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 40 g chopped walnuts

Directions:

  • Mix the brown sugar, butter and cinnamon well. Fold in the walnuts into the basic ebelskiver batter, then drizzle in the brown sugar mix into the batter and fold gently. Since the batter is quite cold, it will seize the butter/sugar mixture allowing you to fold in the swirls. You don’t want to entirely incorporate the butter/sugar mixture, you want swirls throughout the batter. Continue until you have used up all of the mixture.

Ebelskiver cooking directions:

  1. Spray the ebelskiver pan with a good squirt of non-stick spray and place over medium heat. Add about 1/4 cup batter to each round as soon as the pan is quite hot. Maintain the heat at medium, you don’t want to burn the ebelskiver edges before the insides get a chance to cook.
  2. Cook until the bottoms of the pancakes are lightly browned and crisp, 3-5 minutes. Using a fork, lightly push the ebelskiver until it entirely turns around in the pan and the uncooked portion is now facing the bottom.
  3. Transfer the finished pancakes to a platter and keep warm in the oven while you repeat to finish the batter.
  4. Serving suggestions: dust the warm pancakes with the confectioners’ sugar and serve right away. Or serve with warmed maple syrup and fruit.

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Update May 22, 2012

A colleague from my KPMG days and a loyal blog follower mentioned that you can book private tours with the Toronto Preservation Society for a mere $10 per person. And because they are private, you can customize them! Now that’s a deal if I’ve ever heard one!

The month of April kicked off Heritage Toronto‘s wonderful guided walks in the Big Smoke with historical tours to commemorate the Bicentennial Anniversary of the war of 1812 (just HAD to mention that for my American friends!). JT and I have enjoyed their informative tours over the years and this past Saturday we decided to enjoy yet another through Cabbagetown North (according to the New York Times, Cabbagetown has the largest concentration of Victorian homes in North America. See Footnote #1). The weather was a bit crisp with the occasional gust of chilly wind, but the sun was shining (for the most part. Read proper shoes and coat) and dressed appropriately, it was absolutely lovely.

We started out at the corner of Wellesley Street East and Parliament Street at a corner neighbourhood park; over fifty people had the same idea, but they were very well prepared and divided the group into five troupes, each lead by one of their wonderful and informative guides. We choose Christopher, and boy are we glad we did! Christopher lives in the hood in one of the cutest cottages, but I’ll get to that shortly.

The history of Cabbagetown began in the 1800s during the potato famine in Ireland when hundreds of Irish labourers immigrated to Toronto and set up homes in the North East part as it was quite a way outside the city and rather inexpensive. It became known as Cabbagetown because the immigrant Irish discovered that our growing season was much shorter than what they were used to and had to plant vegetables that would store well in the winter; potatoes were planted close to the house, then turnip and finally cabbages were planted directly by the sidewalk/road (their gardens were at the front of their homes, the backs were commerce). As Toronto’s economy grew, a variety of middle to upper middle-class moved into the area making Cabbagetown a wonderful mix of small cottages, Grand Victorian and Edwardian home (and the odd eye sore built in the 1970’s).

In 1851, during the Great Exhibition (Crystal Palace Exhibition) in London (now known as the World’s Fare) Prince Albert (husband of Queen Victoria) who had a keen interest in affordable housing for the poor held a contest for architects to create a particular housing style that was affordable, easy to build with a relatively small footprint that could be used throughout the Commonwealth. William Hooker won the contest with his plan for the Victorian Cottage (apparently seen throughout the Commonwealth, even today!) (Source #2). The cottages were basically four 3m x 3m rooms (10′ x 10′).

After decades of neglect and various degrees of derelict, the neighbourhood started coming alive with young families began buying up the lots and rennovating (some with more taste than others) and so in 1989 the Cabbagetown Preservation Association (CPA) was born to preserve the architectural integrity and historic character of the Cabbagetown neighbourhood in Toronto. To attain a building permit in this historical area, one must not only get the City to approve the plans, but by law, the Cabbagetown Preservation Association must also approve. The CPA takes this very seriously.

A lesson on skirting the law: This hideous house is an example where the owners received approval from the CPA to build their modern home, with the caveat that they were not permitted to remove the Victorian on the property. So they connivingly built around the Victorian on the outside, and then when they were finished they dismantled the Victorian inside the walls as the CPA has no jurisdiction over the inside of the house. Go figure.

So let’s get to the good stuff.

Our first stop was a grand Victorian built by Thomas Harris in the Queen Ann style. Thomas Harris owned a stone cutting firm and decorated his home with the splendor of his business as a kind of billboard. This used to be a rooming house and was recently painstakingly and with considerable expense renovated back to its glory as a single family home.

#314 Wellesley Street East, Home of Thomas Harris, stone cutter. Grand Queen Ann Style. (Source #1)

Even in those days there were builders buying up plots of land and speculating with residential properties. The row houses on Wellesley Cottage Lane are labourers’ cottages “built in 1886-1887 by William Hooker from the plans that won him the architectural award in 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London” (Source #1). What’s interesting about this street is that it is a private street (one of three in this area, if memory serves), not owned by the City of Toronto, but by the residents of that street. They are responsible for the maintenance and care from sewage backups to snow shoveling services in the winter (I had no idea we had private streets in Toronto, and I’ve lived here all my life).

The labourers’ cottages are in the middle, flanked by the stand alone supervisor cottages.

The cottages have all been significantly renovated, with enormous additions in the back.

This is Christopher’s house. It is 914 square metres (3,000 square feet). The CPA approved this design because you are unable to see its vastness from the front. It backs onto private lanes and backyards so it doesn’t change the overall look and feel of the neighbourhood.

This home used to be two homes, but the owners recently converted it to a single family home. The bay window is not original but was approved by the CPA because it maintained the look and feel of the hood.

Just another pretty face that was recently sold for over a million dollars. It doesn’t even have parking!

Examples of row housing with Christopher’s new addition at the end.

Examples of cooperation between neighbours to maintain the look and feel of the historical context on the street. There were actually four houses that refaced with cedar shakes (can you agree with four neighbours on your street? What if your house was attached to their’s?)

There’s my artsy fartsy side showing up again. Just look away, if it offends you!

Way cool old MG tucked away in a back alley.

Another example of row housing. Please take note of the fountain at the end of the street.

The neighbours built this fountain as a memorial to one of the past neighbours on the street. The land behind the fountain is a cemetery which is actually three metres (10 feet) above this road. The city rebuilt these retaining wall after Huricane Hazel passed through Toronto in 1954 and littered the bones of the cemetery inhabitants throughout these little roads. Talk about GROSS.

Owl House (because of the Owl motif on the side of the house) is situated behind modern built homes from the 1970’s. The modern builds are not offensive to the neighbourhood mainly because they cannot be seen from the Street. Owl House used to be three stories but fell derelict until the present owners scooped it up and lopped off the third floor (too many unwanted tennants – squirrels and racoons!)

Another example of how the new owners of this typical Victorian Cottage renovated but maintained the exceptional style of the neighbourhood. This home plus the two others that you can’t see belonged to the Lepper family for three generations. All three homes have extensive extensions on the back, that are unseen from the front of the house.They were sold in the 1980’s.

These cottages are interesting because a builder bought the land and was going to level them (this happened before the CPA). The neighbourhood stepped in and through much negotiation the builder agreed to remove the facade and preserve them, then build new homes in behind the facades and replace the facade to maintain the street harmony. Nicely done.

Photo Source: http://www.tobuilt.ca/php/tobuildings_more.php?search_fd3=8059
21 Winchester street (1858) was owned by Archdeacon Boddy of the Anglican parish of St. Peter’s. Archdeacon Boddy is important because he attended a conference in Chicago and discovered that most of their streets were paved and that the congregations didn’t mind going to Church on less pleasant days because their clothes stayed clean (remember, these are the horse and buggy days). So he came home and paved all the streets around his Church. His Church had the largest congregation of that time in Toronto.
I’d go if they served martini’s or white wine instead of grape juice ;-)!

I couldn’t end the tour without a picture of this road sign. There was no story behind it, but I’m sure at the time there was lots to be said. Now let’s find a pub and have a pint.

I do hope you enjoyed your tour of North Cabbagetown Toronto. I would encourage you to seek out your own Historical or Heritage Societies within your own cities. Often these tours are free, or simply what you can afford and they are always exceptional (no disgruntled students just hammering out the details in a monotone voice). The guides are often retired school teachers, professors or just people with a real passion for their neighbourhoods.

Now I must ask you, have you ever been on an historical tour of your own city? And if so, what did you enjoy most about it?
Source #1: Heritage Toronto Walks Cabbagetown North pamphlet.
Source #2: Christopher, our Heritage Toronto Walks guide.

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