Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Love DQ: a Sweet Gift Card Giveaway!

As you may know, I work for Dairy Queen Canada in the Marketing department and I. LOVE. MY. JOB.  I happened upon it almost four years ago and although I had no marketing or QSR (quick-service restaurant) experience, my wonderful boss was willing to take a chance on me and hired me.  It's been great ever since!

This is the first job in my adult life that I truly love and enjoy going to every day.  Sure, I've worked places before where I liked the environment, the people, the company, but I never loved the actual work.  Until now!  My job runs the gamut from administrative responsibilities (calendar management, travel arrangements, etc.) to communications (weekly e-news to our franchisees and managing our corporate Facebook page).  I also plan meetings (next stop: Disney World in September - I kid you not!) and assist with public relations and events (I was part of the team that broke the Guinness World Record for World's Largest Ice Cream Cake in 2011!!).  Pretty sweet job if you ask me - pun intended.

Before I even started working for DQ, I loved it.  It conjures up nostalgic feelings and brings me to a really happy place.  Growing up in a small town in Ontario, DQ was one of the only options for burgers, fries and ice cream.  It was such a special treat to go to DQ for a meal followed by a dipped cone, a sundae or a Mr. Misty slushy (now called Arctic Rush).  I remember when Blizzards debuted and there were only a few flavours (Smarties, Reese's Pieces, OREO) and how delicious and innovative they were.  As a teen and young adult one of my best friends and I would hit DQ for Peanut Buster Parfaits while we gossiped or lamented about our latest heartbreak.  Today, I love to indulge in a Blizzard treat when I'm happy, sad, or just anytime, really!  While I was on maternity leave I treated myself to the Blizzard of the Month without missing a single one.  There were some fabulous new flavours over the course of the year!  

The giveaway is now closed and a winner has been selected.  Thank you to everyone who participated! 
DQ has been so good to me and they'd like to be good to you - my readers - too!  You can enter to win a $25 Dairy Queen gift card* by following the simple instructions below.

Each option below is worth 1 entry into the draw.  Winners will be selected using  Draw will take place on September 12th and the winner will be notified by email and announced on Twitter by me, @pennesthoughts.  All options below are not required, however, they will increase your chances of winning by giving you multiple entries! 

1) Leave a comment on this post letting me know what your favourite DQ treat or food item is (don't forget to leave your email address so that I can contact you if you win).

2) Follow me on Twitter: @pennesthoughts and leave a comment on this post with your Twitter name.

3) Tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment on this post with a link to your tweet. See instructions below on how to find your tweet link. Suggested tweet copy: Sweet @DQCanada gift card giveaway by @pennesthoughts! Enter here:

4) Follow @DQCanada on Twitter (leave a comment on this post that you have done so along with your Twitter name). 

Good luck! 

To find your tweet link, go to your Twitter profile page, hover over the time in the right hand corner of your tweet, click on it, then copy and paste the URL from the page where that tweet resides. See image below.

*The gift card is valid at Canadian Dairy Queen and Orange Julius stores only.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Baby Photography

I would normally take the camera away from Oliver pretty fast when he gets his wet/sticky/grimy 1-year-old hands on it, but today I was impressed that he figured out how to turn it on and then took multiple photographs.  Of course, the photos aren't of anything in particular, but way to go O!  :)  

Here are some of his photos:

I have no idea what this is, we were watching the Food Network!

Yes, we have cream coloured furniture.  Purchased before baby, obviously...

cute little foot

Nice fern

another foot shot

So artistic...

looking over his shoulder

Avocado Berry Smoothie

I absolutely love avocados for many reasons, not the least of which is how nutritious they are. I have a board dedicated to my avocado love on Pinterest and have recently found myself pinning all kinds of avocado smoothies, so I decided to try one for breakfast this morning!

I didn't follow a recipe, per se, but I did have ingredients in mind based on recipes I had seen. This is basically what I included:

1/4 cup (approx) plain Greek yogurt
Half a ripe avocado, sliced
A handful of blueberries
5 strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup (approx) milk 
1 teaspoon (approx) vanilla extract

I threw everything into the Baby Bullet (love this little blender!) and mixed it up.  The verdict:  very thick, but very tasty!  I would add a few ice cubes and maybe a bit more milk next time.  I ended up eating it with a spoon out of a glass.  It was super filling and Baby O kept coming back for more too.  

I will definitely try this again and experiment with the ingredients. I bet a little honey and some raspberries would make yummy additions!

Have you ever made an avocado smoothie?  How did it turn out?  I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

If a Writer Writes then am I a Writer?

I've always had aspirations of being a writer and I dream of seeing my name on the cover of a book or my byline in a magazine.  Throughout my school career - from primary to post-secondary - I loved to write and was pretty good at it (or so teachers and others told me).  I wrote a lot of short stories in my younger days and even had one of my plays turned into a live production at the school Christmas pageant.  In high school I could write an essay like it was nobody's business, no matter what the topic, and have always been an avid reader. 

So why, you may ask, didn't I choose to study English at university and hone my craft? Your guess is as good as mine.  Who knows at 17 or 18 years YOUNG what they're really good at and what they'd like to spend their life doing?  Not me.  I think there are those rare exceptions who knew from a young age that they wanted to be a teacher/doctor/plumber, but I surely didn't.  I wish that a teacher or guidance counsellor had pointed me in a direction towards something I was good at, but I probably wouldn't have listened anyway. 

Although I don't have any related post-secondary credentials, I am very fortunate to have a job that I love in the marketing department at Dairy Queen Canada.  My job is challenging, busy, ever-changing and fun.  We don't have a 'slow time'; we're always working on the next project and planning a year ahead.  My responsibilities include communications, assisting with public relations, planning meetings and events, and the best part - working closely with Children's Miracle Network - a partnership that Dairy Queen has had for over 28 years.

So what does my job have to do with writing? Being in my late 30's (ouch) I know myself better and what I like to do and what I'm good at.  My current job has helped me to understand that.  I've decided to use any "spare time" (ha-ha) that I have to practice and build a portfolio of writing.  To that end, I contacted a few great, reputable Mom Bloggers and asked if I could guest post for them.  I am so excited to say that my first guest post was published yesterday on Multi-Testing Mommy!  I've been offered guest spots on two other blogs and can't wait to get started.  Ideas are swirling around in my head and I'm trying to find my groove and my niche where writing is concerned.  

If you're looking for a guest-poster for your blog, please contact me!  I like to write about food and cooking (I am a hardcore meal planner who tries at least 2-3 new recipes per week), life with a teen and a baby (yes, I have 2 sons born 15 years apart), health and beauty products (I LOVE makeup and lip gloss and will try ANY anti-aging products), books (I'll read just about anything) and baby/toddler products.

For now, I'm off to get those ideas that are swirling around in my head onto paper... well, electronic paper that is! 


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Gastropost - Food Missions for Food Lovers

As I mentioned in my July update, about a month ago I came across Gastropost, a special weekend feature in the National Post.  I was intrigued when I read the tagline, "food missions for food lovers" and decided to become a member. 

I signed up, set up a Tumblr account and anxiously awaited my first mission (delivered by e-mail on Thursdays).  Missions are simple to complete.  You just need to eat, buy, bake or cook the subject food mission, take a photo and write a short blurb about it.  Easy peasy.  It was so exciting to see my byline in the National Post for the first time on July 21st. 

The posts are abbreviated for the newspaper and include your mission photo and your very own Gastrosketch (a drawing based on a head shot you send in). You also get your own page on Gastropost's site with your bio and all of your completed missions.  How cool is that?  

I'm excited to say that I've now been in the National Post four times!  The missions are fun and inspire me to get creative in the kitchen.  This week's mission is food on a stick and I can't wait to get started on it! 

If you love food, like to take photos of it and write about it, then you can join too. New members are always welcome!  Join today at:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fifty Shades of Boring...

I admit, I fell prey to all the hype surrounding the Fifty Shades of Grey series and eagerly and excitedly ordered the trilogy post-haste.  I was keyed up to dig into this naughty piece of fiction that promised to tantalize and delight.

A few chapters in, I was already disappointed.  Maybe it’s my “advanced” age of 38 but a story about a couple of twenty-somethings didn’t appeal to me.  At the tender age of 27, Christian Grey is barely what I would call a man.  I was hoping for characters with more depth and life experience.  A somewhat older man in his late 30’s or early 40’s, sexy in that rugged Matthew McConaghey way with the charm and talent of Hugh Jackman mixed with the bad boy in Colin Farrell would have really piqued my interest.  While I was reading I kept picturing Christian Grey as a “pretty boy”, almost child-like, too perfect.  Just not my type. 

I don’t profess to be a great writer nor do I have any editorial qualifications, but even more disappointing than the characters was the sub-standard writing.  By book three I was begging for the story to end so that I didn’t have to read the same things over and over and over again.  Anastasia’s sub-conscious and inner goddess grated on my nerves and added nothing to the story.  The glaring editing mistakes really irked me and it was all I could do not to get out my red pen and mark up the books and mail them to the publisher! 

I won’t ruin the story and if these books got your motor running then good for you!  Maybe it’s my age and where I’m at in my life, but I found these books to be trashy, and not in a good way. 

What other steamy reads do you recommend?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Dad and Oliver - the last time we saw him.
I've been feeling really sad and missing my Dad this week and I'm not sure what's prompted it. Maybe this is normal.  What's making me the saddest is thinking of how unfair it is that he died so young and all of the things that he's missing. 

It wouldn't have been unusual not to see him for a couple of months so now that he's been gone almost four months maybe I'm finally realizing that I'm NOT going to see him again.  He's NOT there whenever I want to invite him for a visit or send him an email.  He's NOT going to comment on the pictures I post on Facebook.  EVER again.

He really would have gotten a kick out of the little character Oliver is becoming.  I bounced him on my knee doing Dad's signature "boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom-chicka-whoops!" move the other day and Oliver laughed and squealed.  Dad would have loved to see that and do it himself.  Whenever I pick up a Dr. Seuss book to read to Oliver I think about how much Dad would have loved to read them to Oliver.


Brayden is so tall and would have towered over Dad by about four inches now.  That would have been funny to see.  I can imagine Dad's witty comments about Brayden's height and his own lack of.  He would have been so proud of Brayden for being part of the crew on Les Miserables this past spring and if and when Brayden is in the school musical this year, Dad would have loved to see it.  He really liked theatre and was fiercely proud of his kids and grandkids.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - losing your parent is weird.  Just plain weird.  There are things that I never thought I'd feel or do or be OK with before this.  I kissed him goodbye and wanted to just hug him and stay with him as he lay there cold and empty.  I couldn't even approach the open caskets when my Grandmothers died.  I carried Dad's ashes on my lap from Hamilton to North Bay when we travelled for his funeral.  That would have freaked me out before, but it was my Dad.  I was comforted having him on my lap.  I have a small urn of his ashes that I still keep in my bedroom.  I'm not quite ready to scatter them yet, because having them there keeps him close to me.  If you had said I'd be comfortable with that 6 months ago, I would have said you're nuts.

Once in awhile one of Oliver's toys will go off all on its own.  Toys that need to be turned on, or a button pushed to make noise.  Whenever this happens (which has ONLY started happening since Dad died), I say "Hi Dad!".  I think he comes by to check in once in awhile.  Call me crazy, but this also comforts me. I really believe it to be true.  

There isn't really a "point" to this post other than getting these things out of my heart and head.  Bear with me as I continue to grieve.  It's new to me and I'm muddling my way through.  

Father's Day 2011 - Bev, Brayden, Dad and Me (with Oliver in my belly!)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What do Jelly Rolls and Daytime TV have in Common? Read on!

After spending a year on maternity leave I’ve come to the conclusion that daytime TV generally sucks.  I know, a real shocker, huh?  There are so many garbage “reality” shows and a plethora of sub-standard talk shows that I have to wonder what the network execs are thinking when they give the go-ahead to producers.  Anyway, there is one show I really like – The Chew.  It’s probably my crush on Clinton Kelly from TLC’s What Not to Wear (I know, he’s gay, but I can still crush on him) and my love of food and cooking that make this show not just tolerable but enjoyable.  So, I was watching it the other day while Baby O napped and saw this seemingly super easy summer dessert recipe, Carla Hall’s Summer Berry Pudding, and decided to give it a go for our inaugural dinner on Sunday at my Mom’s new place (which is just 450 metres away from our house, I might add.  Yay!). 

The ingredients are simple – berries (or any summer fruit), lemon juice, sugar, white bread and jam.  I tend to experiment and put my own twists on recipes, so instead of white bread and jam I grabbed a jelly roll while at the grocery store today. 
The method is simple too but you need to use a glass bowl.  Gulp.  Glass bowls are for grown ups and serious bakers, aren’t they?  I have a set of stainless steel bowls and a really cute set of pink plastic mixing bowls (and matching measuring spoons!), but a good glass bowl?  Nope.  

I’m… ahem… 38-years-young, but there are times when I feel like I’m not completely grown up.  When I go to my Mom’s or to my mother-in-law’s house they just seem more grown up than me, for lack of a better term.  Of course they are, you say, they are 25 or 30 years older than me, but it’s a funny feeling that as I’m staring 40 down the nose, I still feel like a kid.  I’m just not quite there in the house furnishing and kitchen equipment department.  Don’t get me wrong, our house is lovely, we are very comfortable and have everything we need, but I don’t have a gravy boat (why would I?  I’ve never cooked a turkey dinner for a crowd), I don’t have proper serving bowls and utensils and if I can find 4 forks and knives that match, I’m lucky.  

Anyway, back to the dessert.  I do have a glass dish that has a lid (that my Mom gave to me out of her kitchen, of course!) so I used that. I combined blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and two very ripe peaches in a saucepan with the required two tablespoons each of lemon juice and sugar and let it cook down.  While that was happening I lined the bowl with slices of jelly roll, careful to fill in all the holes.  Once the berries and peaches were ready, I poured the mixture into the jelly roll lined dish and then covered it with more slices.  The dish then went into the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, where it will sit overnight. 

Fast forward to the next day…

It’s looking good.  The berry juice has seeped into the jelly roll like I had hoped it would – at least on the bottom.  I think my bowl was too wide.  But when I flipped it over it did look great.  

Gravity did its magic and it plopped out of the bowl onto the plate.  Still looking good.  I removed the bowl and it started to flatten and spread.  Boo hoo.  It was not a perfectly shaped dome like I had seen on TV.  Ah well, I bet it tastes good.  

I whipped up some real cream with my bad wrist, which is now aching (note to self: purchase another ten dollar mixer next time I’m at Walmart), to go on top.  Man, I’ll be glad to have this cyst removed from my wrist in September.  I feel like my right hand is 100 years old with the lack of strength and grip I have in it.  Sheesh.  

After Baby O went to bed tonight (before 7:00 p.m. because after four failed nap attempts today he fell asleep in his high chair at dinner!) the hubs and I gave the dessert a try.  Yum!  Berries and peaches and real whipped cream, what’s not to love?  Combine it with a jelly roll and I’d say you have a dessert fit to serve…your own family.  It’s not pretty but it’s tasty!  Next time I’ll splurge for a better glass bowl (I bet the “buck store” – that’s for you Mom – has some) and will use white bread as per the recipe.  Don’t let my experience discourage you from trying this, it was really yummy and easy!

P.S. I know at the beginning I said this was to take to my Mom's for dinner tonight, but she came down with a stomach bug, so we'll be supping there tomorrow instead - with leftover berry dessert in tow!  Feel better, Mama!

P.P.S. I hope to migrate my blog over to WordPress very soon so that I can have more control over formatting, etc.  Blogger stinks, so excuse any wonky spacing or what-not.

P.P.P.S.  This pic of Baby O asleep in his high chair is too cute not to include.