Thursday, 24 January 2013

Vineland's NEWEST Place to Eat - Bistro Forty-One

"Bistro Steak and Cheese (on white, with fries)"
(photo from Bistro Forty-One Facebook page)

    "Keep it simple and do it well!"  That's the phrase that keeps running through my mind as I think on my lunch experience at Bistro Forty-One and that's exactly what Bistro Forty-One has done!  

    Conveniently located in the 'village within the Village', Bistro Forty-One celebrated their Grand Opening on Saturday, January 19 - just under a week ago.  This new Vineland bistro is front and center of the Heritage Village adult-lifestyle neighbourhood along Victoria Avenue.  With other needful businesses around it, there is an ample and well-maintained parking lot with entrances off Victoria Avenue as well as John Charles Boulevard which runs parallel to Victoria Ave., just behind the Bistro.

    When we first arrived (I was dining with my lovely sister), we were greeted by a friendly gentleman who gave a choice of a few different tables. We chose a sunny table near a window and took the opportunity to look around a little.

    Clean. Comfortable. Welcoming. All these words describe this new establishment and yet they don't seem to do it justice.  This restaurant has a great feel to it!  It seems like everyone was happy, even excited, to be here presenting all it has to offer to our neighbourhood! 

   It's all about the eating here - forks and spoons are the repeating design elements. My favourite 'art installation' is the over-sized metal spoon and fork which flank the large palladian window on the north side of the bistro - hanging there as if by magic, they echo the clean, sleek stainless steel, open-concept (diner style) kitchen.  Side note: I did not even realize it was an open-concept kitchen until I began to look around.  I mention this because one might expect with an open, diner-style kitchen that the place could feel greasy or be hazy with grilling smoke, but it's the exact opposite!  Clean and fresh describes both the seating/tables and the atmosphere.

    Now on to the ordering!  We had a lovely server who was both pleasant and attentive.  She had a good knowledge of the food they offered and was quick to offer refills and to ask how we were enjoying our meals, but I'm getting ahead of myself!  The lunch menu consists of salads, wraps, and sandwiches - simple, yet full of great choices and flavours! My sister ordered the Tuna Sliders on whole wheat and chose a salad for her side. I decided on the Bistro Steak and Cheese Wrap (pictured above) with a whole wheat wrap and had to try their fries for my side - they're shoestring fries, I couldn't pass 'em up!!

    The Tuna Sliders: Imagine if you will a perfectly balanced tuna salad, dotted with finely diced red onion, just enough to add a nice bit of crunch to the salad, sandwich this between a split and toasted bun (you have choice of white or whole wheat), toss on a leaf of tender lettuce and you've got a sandwich that rendered my sister speechless!  I kept asking her questions about it and she kept nodding 'yes' and then when she was done her first bite she simply said, "This is exactly what I wanted today!"   The mixed green side salad that my sister chose to accompany the sliders kept the meal fresh and light - very enjoyable!

    The Bistro Steak and Cheese that I ordered was delicious!  I chose whole wheat for my wrap (you can choose white, as pictured above) and it was stuffed with tender strips of steak, deliciously sauteed onions, mushrooms, and diced peppers - every bite was perfect!  I found out not too long ago that I belong to the "Perfect Last Bite" club, so you can imagine my joy in finding every bite of this wrap to be perfect!  The fries were really good, and you get a whole bowl of them, so overall this is a very filling and satisfying lunch!

    Bistro Forty-One offers dessert options as well: Biscotti, Italian Twist cookies, and pie - apple and cherry!  We don't often order dessert after a lunch but this beautiful bistro is only open for breakfast and lunch so we had to have a try... we chose a slice of apple pie to share.  Our happy surprise came when we tried our first bites - they serve the pie warm!  A nice touch! The dallop of fresh whipped cream served alongside the slice made this warm comfort food all the better!  

    Open 7:00am - 3:00pm, Tuesday through Sunday with breakfast and lunch served all day and extremely reasonable prices (our total bill was less than $23.00!) I think you need to either set your alarm and head over for breakfast or call a friend or family member to join you for a tasty lunch - you won't regret it! You will soon discover why this just may be Vineland's newest go-to place for good eats!!  

   All that being said, I highly recommend you make plans to welcome our newest neighbour - enjoy the food and the atmosphere that is Bistro Forty-One!

    ♥ Cath- 

    P.S. I can't wait to go back and try their breakfast menu!!

Bistro Forty-One is located at:
4100 Victoria Avenue, Vineland, ON

They offer take-away too!! 
Contact: 905-980-4100



Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Another Sketchbook Sneek-A-Peek

"Take a sketchbook with you everywhere you go - 
you never know when an inspiration may strike." 

    I keep a lined notepad in my car so I can jot down story ideas, illustration ideas, and grocery lists. After the initial 'jot and sketch' in my notebook some ideas have interested me enough to make note of them in my actual sketchbook.  Here are just a few "ideas" I've had over the last few weeks:

"Reading Mice"
 "Baking Day"

"Leaf Aviation Training Camp" (Notebook)
"Leaf Aviation Training Camp" (Sketchbook)

"Snow Day" (Sketchbook)

    Some days I may only get moments to jot down an idea but everyone of these ideas have inspired me to imagine little story lines and conversations so they may yet grow into something much more than a tiny sketch in a book...

    ♥ Cath-

Monday, 21 January 2013

Remembering Grandma

   Today our family will gather to honour the life of my Grandma.  She turned 90 years old at the beginning of June and she peacefully passed from this life on Wednesday, January 16th.

I have created a short list of things I'll remember about Grandma:

1. She loved God.

2. She loved her children.

3. She & Grandpa gave me, my brothers, and my sister (and probably all their other grandchildren) new flannel pyjamas every Christmas while we were little.

4. She always knit my sister and I bright red bonnet-style hats with 2" wide ties for under the chin - perfect for the Northern climate we grew up in! 

5. Her phone seemed to ring off the hook - almost always one of her children calling to chat!

6. She loved watching Coronation Street and working on word puzzles.

7. She taught us how to use a micowave - she was the first to have one in our family. She gathered us up in her kitchen and showed us how to cook a hotdog - in its bun - wrapped in paper towelling. She was smiling at us as we stood transfixed, curious how a hot dog could be cooked without a campfire or a pan of water on the stove. I don't think any of us took our eyes off this new humming contraption that counted down the seconds until it emitted the loud beep as it reached "0 sec.".  Hands down the best hot dog I had ever eaten!

8. She always seemed to have a supply of her homemade chocolate chip cookies and a big Tupperware jug of Kool-aid - our family remembers her having the 'green' Kool-aid most often.  I gotta tell you that the combination of her delicious crisp chocolate chip cookies followed by a cup of lime Kool-aid was the BEST!

9.  She always had cool "prizes" from the Shreddies cereal boxes in her kitchen window sill but we were only allowed to look at them because they were for my Uncle Paul (only 10 years older than me), so she couldn't let us have any... I remember in particular wanting to ask for a bobble-headed buzzard or some such thing... she also had some of the spoon/bowl hangers - remember those? Disney produced a lot for Cereal Premiums in the 80's - Pinnochio, Winnie-the-Pooh, etc. They were in a seated position and had extended hands/paws so you could hang them on the edge of your cereal bowl and they also had a slot on their base so you could slide them onto the handle of your spoon.

10. She knit a lot and sat in a comfy chair near a sunny window when she lived in their old farmhouse, on the table beside her was a lamp and the phone (for when her children called!)

11. She had soft skin that reminded me of whipped cream when I gave her hugs and a kiss - I loved that!  The Lord willing, I hope I have 'whipped cream skin' when I get to be a Gramma!

12. She had hard working hands.

13. She could cook like nobody's business!! She & Grampa had 8 children - and she kept them all very well fed!! She made the most delicious "3-day Rolls"!  Between my Mom and my Grandma it's little wonder I became a Foodie!!  So many delicious recipes have surrounded me my whole life! 

14. She laughed a lot.  Her life was not always easy but when she laughed you couldn't help but laugh right along with her! My favourite memories of hearing Grandma's laughter are not based on what had caused Grandma to laugh but more in how she laughed when something really caught her fancy.  She had this way of sitting on the front edge of her chair seat and just laughing until the tears rolled down her cheeks - a trait I'm so thankful my Dad inherited from her!! It's a joy to think on those times - and to see it live on in her oldest son!

15.  She was a quiet woman but she is remembered by many for her friendliness and her kind, gentle smile.  Also for her (and Grampa's) willingness to help others at whatever needed doing.

Two Bible verses come to mind as I finish this post and prepare to attend Grandma's funeral:

"And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!"" (Revelation, chapter 14, verse 13)


"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
(1 Thessalonians, chapter 4, verses 13 through 18)

We will indeed comfort one another with these words and grow in the hope of one day being with loved ones who have gone on before!

May you all have a blessed day! Seek God. Do His will.  So even if on earth we never meet, one day we will stand shoulder to shoulder, singing praises to our glorious Father in heaven!


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

StoneHill - Vineland's Newest Destination

   After watching the outside of the building take on a new look over the last several months and anticipating a new restaurant option in town the time finally arrived to take a peek inside and discover what is StoneHill.

    First impressions: Warm, welcoming and elegant.  Stacked hewn stone (an obvious nod to the local quarry) and dark wood are in lovely contrast to the light painted walls, modern glass light fixtures and large windows - men and women alike will love the feel of this place!

    The servers are very pleasant and willing to offer suggestions as to what they have tried and enjoy - which is always a nice 'extra' when trying to make up your mind as what to have.  StoneHill is still finalizing their menu - they only opened 6 days ago - so they have a lot to offer in way of variety and it is likely that the chefs will be taking many notes on what people have ordered and found enjoyable and use that information to better the menu each time.  I have a feeling this farm to table style restaurant may develop an evolving menu with a few mainstay, signature items and other items that will alter and change with the seasons - nothing like using what is fresh and available when in a town like Vineland where fresh local produce abounds!!

    My sister and I ordered a few different things today: Baked Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos, Vik's 6 oz Burger (with a Julius salad on the side), and the Chickenini Panini (with sweet potato fries on the side).  Side note (pun intended): StoneHill offers lots of choice for casual side dishes - fries, sweet potato fries, StoneHill salad, Julius salad (their spin on a Caesar), soup of the day, or tortilla chips and salsa.

    We started out with the Baked Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos - one of my sister's favourite appetizers. The presentation was simple and clean.  The siracha sauce that it comes with should NOT be mistaken for ketchup, as it appears very like it - this stuff will cause a serious hum in your mouth - not for weak tastebuds!  As for the jalapenos themselves you receive 6 large jalapenos halved, filled with herb cream cheese and wrapped in bacon.  Initial flavour makes one believe that the bacon has been smoked.  After deconstructing the app we realized it was the flavoured cream cheese that gave its smoked flavour.  Although the bacon was nicely flavoured, the cream cheese definitely did not offset the heat of the pepper and left us gulping our water and asking for more.  We could not even imagine using the siracha sauce provided as it would have caused our tastebuds to take a lickin'!

    The Vik's 6 oz Burger definitely presents itself as a hand-formed, homemade burger.  It was cooked properly to a mid-well with crispy, caramelized edges.  One would think this had been created on a flattop but we discovered later that it was grilled.  It was served on a fresh bakery bun which was a nice touch, but it was nothing more than a basic, plain kaiser.  Maybe a onion, herb, or sun-dried tomato focaccia would have helped bring more flavour into the mix.  The Julius Salad was served with crisp Romaine, sliced fresh mushrooms, crumbled feta, croutons, and bacon.  The caesar dressing on the salad is toted as homemade and it mirrors the flavour of Renee's brand ( and we ♥ Renee's!).

    Now for the Chickenini Panini - which turned out to be not be what I thought a panini to be but rather a lovely flattop grilled style sandwich on a multi grain bread.  The overall appearance of this plate is very appetizing!  The amount of chicken you get in this sandwich is generous - at least 4-5 oz - making for a very hearty lunch option.  The avocado mayonnaise did not come through on flavour, maybe a garlic aioli or simply fresh sliced avocados would be nice in place of this somewhat redundant topping. The most prevalent flavour was the strong citrus note.  We're not sure if this was from the lemon chicken marinade because it came across as more of a lime flavour allowing for some unpleasant, bitter notes when combined with the char flavour on the grilled chicken. The chili jam did not lend as much heat and sweet as one would hope - just gave a few hints here and there of it's existence - maybe if the chili jam were served on the side allowing you to dip your sandwich in it would be a nice way to showcase the flavour it has to offer. The aged cheddar was nice but a sharper cheddar would have again added a little bit more flavour. As for the side chosen for this sandwich the sweet potato fries were simply A-MAZ-ING!!

    Our humble suggestion for making the Baked Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos better would be:
 1. Pan frying, the way bacon is meant to be cooked - crispy and chewy and perfect!
 2. Don't over complicate the cream cheese - it's there to balance the heat of the jalapeno, adding any flavour dimension to it defeats its purpose.
 3. Add a touch of sweet - either by panfrying them in a little maple butter or maybe a kiss of maple syrup after it's out of the pan just to nudge the flavour up a notch. 

End result: Sweet, salty, chewy, crispy, smooth, umami (that sought after 5th flavour on the taste buds), heat and cool!

    We plan on returning to see the evolution of their menu and we'll keep you updated!  We suggest you give StoneHill a try and encourage our new neighbour!!

    ♥ Cath-       

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Splash of Colour

    I was feeling quite inspired last night to sit for a moment and make a quick painting/sketch of the amaryllis given to me by dear friends just before the holidays... 

    When I first received the potted plant, the amaryllis had two short stalks, only 4-5 inches tall, they were potted along with white cyclomen and a pretty little fan-shaped, fern-like evergreen. Not knowing what to expect from the amaryllis shoots and being aware of my tendency to under/over water plants I sat the pot on the kitchen table in the light of the big Southern exposure window and hoped for the best.

    I was shocked at the rate of growth over the next few days!  You could almost see the stalks growing and stretching upward. Within a week they had tripled their height and the buds looked ready to burst.  Within the next week the largest of the two buds split and revealed four flower buds each falling outward like points on a compass.  By evening that day one of the blooms had already opened to reveal the most beautiful coral orange bloom.  Within the next week all four flowers opened and the other stalk/bud followed suit and brought forth four more gorgeous blooms! 

    I took photos of the blooms but something kept nagging at me to sit and try to capture them in watercolours... So after a few moments of quick pencils strokes followed by those of a brush, I feel I captured an essence of the blooms intensity and prettiness amidst the the hasty wet-on-wet splashed and dashed brushstrokes:

(watercolour, 9x12")

    I did a brief research of the amaryllis and found that the flower represents determination and radiant beauty that comes from within and shines outwardly...  That brought to mind the bible passage in 1 Peter chapter 3, verses 3 and 4: "Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."
    My hope is that all of God's daughters will be inspired to learn from the amaryllis and be determined to grow upward and let the radiant beauty of their hearts be continually nurtured by God's Word through study and obedience that they may truly reflect God's light into the world.   

    ♥ Cath-

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A New Day!

"A New Day"

(watercolour, 9x12")

    Happy New Year!!  The sense of a new start, a new beginning can sometimes feel so completely refreshing that one is invigorated with confidence anew to stride forward into each new day wanting to make the best use of their time and abilities.  When I sat down to make an illustration to celebrate the new year I was filled with the feeling I have described and wanted to express it in picture form...

    As I sat with my sketch book I pondered, "When does the feeling of looking forward to a new day begin?"  I began to draw and came up with the idea of happily awaking and stretching - that moment when your mind peruses the possiblities of the day and how you plan on going about each task you intend to accomplish - when all feels right in your world:

New Day Idea #1
(sketchbook, graphite)

    When this idea was jotted down I felt that it did not fully epxress what I wanted and could easily be seen as ready-to-go-back-to-sleep... So on I went thinking about the feeling of a new day, a new beginning and then I thought about the idea of getting out of bed with a smile, ready to take on the day: 
New Day Idea #2
(sketchbook, graphite)

     This wasn't quite right either and so after further consideration of when one is really taking the first steps into their new day I thought of the fresh, crisp air of winter that fills your lungs and the warmth of the sun on your face when you step out the door first thing in the morning.  Whether you are heading out to your job, taking the kids to school, going to a friend's house or simply going for a walk to get the mail you begin each journey with that first step. 

    A couple of years ago I was going through a difficult time and feeling as if the days were flying by me and I couldn't grasp hold of any of them, I felt that I hadn't been using my time as well as I could have been and I felt very useless and depressed knowing I couldn't get back time that had already passed, but then a thought struck: "From wherever you are right now, BEGIN!" 

    Each day is a gift and if there is something I want to accomplish and better myself in doing, from wherever I am I BEGIN!  I no longer dwell on 'could've, should've, would've' and sit in a puddle of self-pity and sorrow - I stand up and say, "From where I am right now, I'll BEGIN!"  Whether it's becoming a better bible student, a better wife, mom, friend, a healthier, more active person I simply wake up and thank God for giving me a new day and I BEGIN!

    So from wherever you are right now, BEGIN!  Embrace each new day as a new moment in time to begin accomplishing healthy goals!  May God bless you with confidence and ability to keep striving forward!

    ♥ Cath-