How to Make the Best Chocolate in the Universe {RECIPE}

I still remember when I got addicted. It was 2004 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was walking down Quinpool Road to a party and my edgy, older friend Phil handed me something and said “HIT THIS“.

From the moment the 75% cocoa content hit my lips, I’ve been on the never-ending quest to get DARKER, deeper, richer chocolate.

I’ve tried it all. My gateway chocolate was Green & Blacks from the UK, and then I moved on to some artisinal bars like Tcho from San Francisco or Denman Island Chocolate here in BC, but I have now reached my chocolate climax with a homemade chocolate creation. I never would have imagined making your own chocolate would be a good idea or worthwhile, but if you are a chocolate fiend I guarantee the following info will change your life.

Courtney Furlotte, from A Life Aesthetic & Co (who you may remember took over my apartment awhile back to launch her brand), has shared the most mind-blowing recipe for chocolate. I know you are thinking why would I take the effort to make chocolate when I can just buy a really expensive bar, but it’s not only cheaper to make your own, it’s only 6 ingredients, easy, and the best f’ing chocolate in the universe.

So Happy Friday! May your weekend be filled with joy and lots of chocolate, because you know, dark chocolate is healthy.

PS. Courtney also has a great idea for marinating meats in Mason Jars you should check out, plus a recipe for the most legit lasagna.

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Property Virgins: 3 steps you must take before even walking into your first open house

Last week I shared the very personal (and emotional) story about putting our first offer on a house (and the inevitable heartbreak that came with it). So many wonderful people reached out and shared their house-hunting-war stories with me and I can’t thank those kind souls enough, but then a few friends were like, “what the hell, how did you even put an offer on a house?

I realized there are a few key steps we took between seeing our first starter home and putting an offer on a house that I have yet to share, so here we go. Here are the 3 very important steps I believe one should take before even walking into your first open house:

1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage – This step is excruciating and boring, but just do it, because if the right house does come along and you are not pre-approved, you will miss your chance. Meet with a bank or a mortgage broker. We really dragged our heels on this so it felt like it took forever, but really it just took us getting some letters of employment and tax notice of assessments and then BAM, we were told how big of a loan we can get and now know our realistic budget.

2. “Practice” paying your mortgage – The bank will allow you to spend 40% of your combined income on debt (which includes mortgage, car payments, student loan, etc). But just because the bank is comfortable with that amount, doesn’t mean YOU are. We found out we were approved for monthly mortgage payments that are FAR higher than what we currently pay for rent, so even if the bank is cool with giving us that loan, we are not. To help this issue our mortgage broker suggested we “practice” paying our mortgage to see what life would be like. So now we put away double what we’ve been paying for rent, and see what kind of sacrifices we have to make in the drinking, going out to dinner, and travel departments. It’s been surprisingly helpful, and means for now we are putting more money into savings.

3. Make a needs vs. wants list – Sit down and make a list that has a column for deal breakers, and a column for things that you would like but can live without. Things like number of bedrooms, location, patio, etc. For us I found the only deal breakers were that it be at least 2 bedrooms, have in-suite laundry and not be on a major street. This list will be invaluable to your real estate agent, but also for your own sanity. The more you know what you want, the smoother the process will be.

Once you’ve done these 3 steps, happy house hunting and best of luck with the emotional shit storm that is to follow!

Oh and just for fun (or torture), here are 4 houses in Vancouver that I constantly drool over yet will never be able to afford:

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3 Grown-Up PARTIES

To be honest, “going out” isn’t really something I do anymore. I know how lame that sounds, and it’s not totally the truth, as I still enjoy being social, having a good laugh, and getting gross and sweaty from singing and dancing, I just find those opportunities are much fewer and far between for Grown-Ups (ie. NOT in da club).

But there are 3 events coming up in Vancouver in the next week that are EXACTLY the kind of event I love. These events give me a sense of community, make me laugh, take me out of my normal routine (ie. watching Netflix every night), and are worth EVERY SINGLE PENNY. In fact, I really should pay more for the tickets as these events are exactly what I need to get me out of a lazy slump, remind me I am not 100 years old, and keep my city vibrant.

So without further ado, PLEASE please please check these events out. And if you can, buy a ticket and support them. I promise you will not regret it, and I will see you there!

SATURDAY MARCH 22: Rain City Chronicle‘s DAS LEXICON
If you have never experienced Vancouver’s storytelling night Rain City Chronicles, I can’t stress enough that you are missing out on one of life’s greatest gems. And the german-themed evening this Saturday night is extra special as it will come with a delicious bratwurst dinner by BESTIE. Storytelling and sausages! Does it get any better?  TICKETS HERE.

[Here is that time I told a super embarrassing story at Rain City Chronicles:]

WEDNESDAY MARCH 26: Poetry Is Dead’s Humour Issue Variety Show
In case you don’t know, Vancouver is home to the world’s most culturally relevant and exciting poetry magazine: Poetry Is Dead (no bias, I just happen to be on the board). If you think poetry is boring and only for old people, I highly suggest you pick up an issue of Poetry Is Dead and enjoy being proven wrong. Or even better, COME TO THE VARIETY SHOW next Wednesday for a night of laughs, and you will get an entire year subscription to PID. TICKETS HERE.

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SATURDAY MARCH 29: Lip Service
Ever since watching this Jimmy Fallon lip sync battle have you secretly been wanting to partake in a similar lip-sync-off? I know I have! Well some fine folks are throwing one and the raising funds for Imagine1Day, a local Vancouver charity creating global change through their education-focused work in Ethiopia. What more could you want in a night out than to sing, dance, heckle and support a good cause! TICKETS HERE.

If you don’t live in Vancouver, I apologize for any jealousy caused by these seriously awesome events. However if these kind of events do not currently exist in your hometown, please take this as inspiration to throw your own Grown-Up Parties.

How to use your hands for something other than typing.

The workplace has changed drastically in the last 20 years (or so I am told). The majority of us now sit all day (which I’ve already explained you’re probably going to die from), but there is another bi-product of the information age worth addressing: most of us do not MAKE anything.

Sure I MAKE a lot of emails (seriously, I’m basically a professional emailer), or some friends make websites, social media campaigns, etc., but very few of us seem to make anything with our actual hands, that we can actually hold at the end of the day.

Therefore even after a 10-hour work day of getting lots done and ferociously typing away, I often feel I have accomplished nothing.

So what’s my advice to combat this feeling of un-fulfillment in work? TAKE A GROWN-UP CRAFT CLASS and learn how to make fimo beads. SERIOUSLY.

Last month I had the pleasure of attending my first Adult Craft Night at Collage Collage with some pals and it was better than I could have ever imagined. I was excited to hang with friends, be silly, and get back to my Camp roots of crafting, but the the most unforeseen benefit of the class is that I HAVE CONTINUED TO MAKE FIMO BEADS.

The weekend after the class I went out and bought a pack of sculpey for $3.00. Now when I get home and am feeling down, I roll that sculpy into a little ball, take out my sharpest knife, and make a rad geometric bead that I imagine would beautifully fit into the world of the movie HER. And you know what? I feel like I’ve really accomplished something, all while sitting on my butt and watching House of Cards.

Am I saying you need to become a fimo beader like me? No, but I do suggest finding some hobby you can do with your hands. And not one that involves outrageous investments in time or money, just something that you can easily make, hold in your hand, and then pawn off as presents to your friends for their birthdays.

So friends, watch out! I’m a little happier these days because I’M MAKING JEWELRY NOW, and you can definitely expect a fimo bead necklace for any gift-giving occasion. (And internet pals, if you want one of these necklaces, please email me and I will send you one for free as long as you cover the price of postage).

ps. Collage Collage has Adult Craft Nights the third Tuesday of every month. My class was the Polymer Clay Bead Making night, but I guarantee every single one of their classes will be amazing.

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Here are some of my fimo creations at home! Just pop those puppies into the oven for 10 minutes and you are golden:

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Oh and I’m starting to attempt these tiny pots:

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PROPERTY VIRGINS: Our first offer on a house (AKA Getting my heart broken by a house)

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Not to be over dramatic, but last week I had my heartbroken. By a house.

The heartbreak felt as intense as TEEN heartbreak. I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe. All I wanted to eat was pints of ice cream. And I actually felt that I didn’t want to look at other houses in fear of being hurt again.

But let me explain.

Last Sunday at 6 am, Chris flew to Toronto. A few hours later, a friend told me a house we’d seen on the market last week was having an open house. I called Chris and said “that house we saw online last week when we were in Victoria had their offer fall through, so it’s back on the market.” He said “GO LOOK AT IT!”. I didn’t really see the point, as he would be gone for 8 days and what was I going to do, put in our first ever offer on a house without him?

Which is exactly what I did.

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When I walked in, the place was perfect. It was everything we could want in our first home. I immediately called Chris and said we need to make a move on this. I gave him a FaceTime tour (thank god for technology) and he agreed.

We called our real estate agent (the amazing Gabe Bandel), and he made the arrangements to come back at 6:30 pm to view it with me. After a walk through with him and my brother (for family support), we went to a coffee shop, went over all the paperwork (comparative analysis, strata info, etc) and put in our offer THAT NIGHT.

AND SO BEGAN the negotiations. Long story short, after a few emotional back and forth offers, at the end of the day, we were out bid.

This is not a new story, but I think I realized something very important in this process that I need to share with the Grown-Up Party community.

On one hand, you are told not to fall in love with the house, but you HAVE TO in order to justify taking the leap and putting in your offer.

On the other hand, the times I tried my best to have the mentality that “there will always be another house”, I would immediately start doubting if the house we put the offer on was the right house for us, and are we willing to spend that much on that particular place?

So I found myself constantly teetering between “DOUBT” and “LOVE”, and both felt dangerous. Being the emotional person I am, “LOVE” won out in the end, and hence the heartbreak.

I’m not trying to discourage anyone, but I think this would have been helpful to know before going through this process. This was my first house heartbreak, so fingers crossed it will be my worst. And I definitely think it was compounded by the fact that Chris was out of town for the whole time so I was feeling especially vulnerable. But now I know the process. I understand the emotional roller coaster and the mind games, the ups and downs that will come with the house hunting and bidding process.

Being a grown-up is not always a party. I’ve learned a lot in the past week and although it hasn’t been easy, it’s been important. And also like teen heartbreak, the moment a cute boy (or in my case a HOUSE) walks by, I’m sure I’ll immediately fall in love with it and get ready to have my heart broken all over again.

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WE RODE IT.

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Last Saturday on a classic rainy Vancouver afternoon, 30 people got up the courage to attend Grown-Up Party’s first ever dance class. Like all the women and man that attended, I didn’t really have an idea what to expect and was a bit nervous.

I knew I was looking for an experience that I haven’t had in a long time and is not easily created on my own. I dance by myself ALL THE TIME in the kitchen, my living room, hell even on the Skytrain. But I wanted to dance and feel connected to others around me.

We all stood around hesitantly for a few minutes, but as our teacher Brittney started the class, I saw the fear melt away. The simple act of warming up in unison by putting our hands up in the air and jumping up and down and being silly immediately put giant smiles on everyone’s faces.

The next two hours were pure booty-shaking-ecstasy. So much laughter, movement, endorphins, empowerment, and some serious sexiness.

But the most surprising bi-product of the class is that when I went home and tried to show Chris my hot moves, the routine did not have the power I felt when doing it with my 29 other classmates. I missed my crew! So although I love the fact that I can bust out my routine to Ciara at any given moment on any given dance floor, the real joy came from doing it during the class with other people. Which means … there will DEFINITELY be more Grown-Up Party dance classes!

Thank you again to all the dancers that came out. For 2 hours I felt a part of something ridiculously fun and special, and I can’t wait to do it again soon.

And if you missed the first class but want to make the next one, sign up to follow Grown-Up Party via email (scroll down to the bottom of this page), or catch us on twitter, facebook or instagram!

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Practicing our signature Ciara move just for fun. Also known as "The Channing".

Practicing our signature Ciara move just for fun. Also known as “The Channing”.

I rode it hard.

I rode it hard.

Daaaaaaamn girls.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you all who came to Ride It!

From the bottom of my heart, thank you all who came to Ride It!

What smell brings you back to a time you felt joy?

Last weekend I was in Victoria for some quality family time and my beautiful mother-in-law asked a very interesting question: What smell, touch, sight, taste or sound immediately brings you back to a time you felt joy?

At first my sister-in-laws and husband were a bit stumped, but once we started identifying instances, the weirdest and most hilarious memories came to mind. My sister-in-law Claire said burnt french fries brought her back to her childhood in Winnipeg.

As for me, the question was easy: Balsam fir brings me back to my 10 summers at Camp Laurel South in Maine, Icy Hot (or Tiger Balm) immediately makes me feel like I am back on the soccer field, and hair spray, yes HAIR SPRAY, transports me back to the dance studio.

I was quite the tomboy growing up, so I didn’t start dancing till high school. And although I had terrible form, no flexibility, and the poorest turnout known to mankind, nothing made me happier than throwing on a UNITARD and dancing my heart out on stage. (And for some odd reason with the ridiculous outfits we were forced to wear for these dance performances, copious amounts of hair spray were also required to achieve perfect ballerina buns!)

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Don’t even ask about these outfits. I have no idea what the logic behind them was. photo 3

Honestly it is a surprisingly fun exercise that I promise will brighten your mood. So go ahead and ask yourself, what sights, smells, sounds, touch or tastes instantly transport you back to a place of joy?

And if dancing is something that brings you any form of happiness, be sure to sign up for Grown-Up Party’s first ever dance class here in Vancouver: RIDE IT. It is happening this Saturday March 1 from 2 – 4pm and there are only 5 spots left, so buy your ticket now!

GROWN-UP PARTY presents … A DANCE CLASS

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HEY LAAAAADIES (and gentlemen)!

Today is one ridiculously great day, and not only because our Canadian hockey teams are absolutely killing it in the 2014 Olympic games, but also because I am balls-to-the-walls excited to announce that Grown-Up Party is hosting our first ever dance class!

I have expressed my need for regular silly, sweaty dance parties before, but in addition to having one of those every few months, I also am finding that I pine to actually learn a dance.

I want to push my body, stretch my body, learn new moves with my body, and be in sync with other bodies. And from my countless conversations with friends and strangers about dancing, I strongly believe others want this too. But when our lives are filled to the brim with commitments, signing up for a regular dance class inevitably gets pushed to the side and ultimately forgotten about.

SO, this is where Grown-Up Party comes in. Saturday March 1 we are throwing a 2 hour dance class for Grown-Ups in Vancouver to learn a routine inspired by the queen of insanely powerful and hot dance moves herself, Ciara.

Basically … we are going to learn how to RIDE IT (but like a much more do-able version for beginner body-rollers):

There are only 30 spaces available in the class, so buy your ticket NOW! Seriously, don’t wait. The class is next Saturday, March 1 from 2 pm to 4 pm at 1000 Rivers Studio (Quebec + 4th)  and spots are filling up fast.

The sad thing about this dance class is that if you do not live in Vancouver you obviously cannot attend (I know my sister would be here in a heartbeat if she didn’t live in San Francisco). BUT, if this class is a big success, I hope to organize many more dance classes – including but not limited to – Fosse, contemporary (a la Mia Michaels), Michael Jackson tributes, and any other suggestions that get thrown my way.

So again, prevent yourself from BC-BAILING on this by purchasing your ticket now, and I hope to see you next Saturday on the d-floor!

ps. I know other dance classes exist in this city, but even the drop-in beginner classes can be intimidating. This class is purely for having a good time.

Lists of Love

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My husband and I are not Valentine’s Day people. BUT, we are list people. Once every few years we write down a list of things we hope to accomplish together.

In 2004, we wrote a list after our first year of dating. To put this list in context, we were doing long distance. Chris lived in Halifax, and I lived in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. And before Chris moved to England for a year, we made our first list of adventures, experiences, goals and more we hoped to one day do together. Here are just a few items from that list:

• Go camping
• Go to the grocery store together
• Read the same book

Items on this list make me laugh so hard because we actually dreamt of doing mundane tasks like going to the grocery store together. Now when we are doing that chore for the millionth time, I try to remember this list.

Then in 2010, after many years of dating, traveling across the country to be with Chris and building a new life on the best coast, we moved in together. And of course this next phase in our relationship called for a new list, which included:

• Go to Italy
• Throw an official dinner party
• Hold a Chris Kelly solo-project CD in my hand

The items on this list don’t make me laugh quite as hard, but they do make me incredibly proud. We have managed to go to Italy, thrown countless successful grown-up dinner parties, and Chris debuted his solo project Chris Kelly: Company Man this year.

And now that it’s 2014 and we’ve taken that other big plunge (with these words exactly!), it’s time again to make another list. What we put on that list is a secret just for us, but I can tell you it will have some big ticket items. And I absolutely can’t wait to look back on the list and laugh, and perhaps cry, about the silly and beautiful life goals we have, and have not, accomplished.

So, happy List Day to my love, and to every other person and/or couple out there that may not be into Valentine’s Day, but does appreciate celebrating the wonderful things in life and love you manage to pull-off.

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Photo credit: The Compost Cook

Chicken Soup for the Grown-Up Soul {Recipe}

Last Friday Chris and I had a hot double date with some pals, and I made soup. Sounds kind of boring for company right? But oh no, it was a serious party in a pot.

Our friend Ross (who you may remember from this cool video) lost his shit over how flavourful the soup was. When I eventually told him what is actually in it, he freaked.

This soup is so insanely tasty, yet so insanely easy (and not easy like when people say “this recipe is so easy! First, roast a chicken”. WTF!? Roasting a chicken is not easy!), that I absolutely feel compelled to share the magic.

Courtney from A Life Aesthetic first introduced me to the soup, and she swears the secret is having the chicken on the bone. Nothing fancy – no intensive roasting method or rare spices – just plain old chicken on the bone.

So without any further ado, I am thrilled to share the world’s best healing, winter-y, comforting scrumptious hug-in-a-bowl: Chicken Noodle Soup for the Grown-Up Soul. Also, Michael Pollan would approve.

Ingredients:

– 1.5 – 2 lbs of chicken on the bone (breast, legs, whatever you prefer) – or to make vegetarian, replace the chicken with matzo balls!
– a few onions
– a few cloves of garlic
– a few carrots
– a few celery sticks
– a few potatoes
– herbs (I prefer rosemary, but Courtney says you can throw anything in – sage, thyme, whatever you got)
– water (or stock – Courtney cooks it for long enough that she just uses water, but sometimes I don’t have enough patience so I use a “better than bouillon” stock)
– orzo (or any kind of small pasta, if you’d like it)
– green onion (just for toppings)

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Missing from this photo: garlic and herbs


Step 1: Throw in your onions with some olive oil for 4 or 5 minutes, then your chicken and garlic (salt the chicken now if you haven’t done so previously). Let this mixture juice and cook without stirring for 15 minutes (or till your chicken is browned).

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Step 2: Add chopped celery and herbs, then cover chicken with water. Let cook for 1 hour (this is mainly to get the chicken to the point where it is falling off the bone. If you want to cook for more time, feel free. If you have less time, you can use stock instead of water and cook the chicken for less time, but just a warning that it won’t be falling off the bone).

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Step 3: Add carrots and potatoes. Cover again with more water. Go nuts on adding herbs, dried or fresh, again. Let cook till carrots and potatoes are close to tender.

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Step 4: Remove chicken on the bone from pot, and take meat off the bone (and discard the chicken skin). Put chicken back in soup, and at this time add the orzo (if you’d like!). Warning with the orzo, it expands a LOT and will soak up lots of your liquid, so if you want it super soupy, don’t add too much! Cook for another 10 minutes.

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Step 5: Turn the heat off and let the soup rest for a few minutes and taste to make sure there is enough salt (if you didn’t use any stock, you most definitely need to salt heavily). Top with green onion, curl up on the couch or with loved ones and ENJOY!

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Sorry this isn’t the best photo, I was really more concerned with eating this tastiness!

PS. This recipe is purposely “loose” so you can add your own interpretations to it. Use these guidelines as a base, but spice it up! Every time it will be different, and that is part of it’s charm.

Do you have a recipe that is so simple and delicious it blows peoples minds? Please share below!