Success is in Your Hands


Summers end is upon us. A new school year marks the start of new beginnings. If you’re heading away to college or university it’s hard, really hard – be prepared.

I recall many moons ago, heading off to Toronto for my first year. I was busting to start this new adventure. Nervous but bubbling with anticipation of classes, new friends, new city and the life I was creating for myself.

My parents were nervous. In fact, nervous was an understatement. Mom paced, rapidly firing out new wisdoms in those last days leading up to my departure. We’d been shopping for months. Stocking up on all the things needed to ensure I had what I needed for school and my new home. I appreciated their support. I was now armed with enough toothpaste and toilet paper for the entire campus. I suffered minor annoyance, I was so sure of myself. Why couldn’t they see it? Didn’t they believe in me?

Looking back, of course they did. But, adult foresight is a wonderful thing. If we only had it before our thirties. They needed to be sure that I was going to be ok. Had they taught me everything I needed to know? Could I look after myself?

In your late teens and early twenties you think you can conquer all life throws at you. We are full of enthusiasm and dreams and if we are lucky the drive to make these reality.  Sadly, no amount of preparation gives you the coordinates of how to navigate through. In the end success is in your hands.

I always prattle on to my daughter and my nieces that you can really screw up your life between the ages of thirteen and twenty-two. Make good choices. Choose good friends. Choose good partners. Seek out challenges and opportunities that help you grow. I have no idea if they are listening. I can only hope.

But, nothing I say will direct their future. They’re the Captain of their ship. I wish them safe shores filled with happiness and love.

I will be there to lend an ear. But, ultimately they must find the drive within themselves to get there.

The best thing my parents taught me was independence. The second best was to cook.

Lets face it. There are only so many care packages from home to get you through. Eventually you will need to cook for yourself. Students do not have a lot of money. The last thing you want to do is spend what you have on take-out.

Some universities and colleges are beginning to offer cooking classes. Teaching students to learn the basics and understand the value of nutrition.

It can be really hard. When it’s all up to you. You’re responsible to attend classes, to pay bills, balance a budget, purchase groceries and cook. No longer will someone be running after you to hand in assignments or extra money for a movie. No comforts of home where cooked meals are readily available.

Being able to cook can help set you up for success.

  1. Saves money – instead of take out food, for half the cost you can make a nutritious meal and have leftovers for the next day. Budgeting and learning to prepare food with little waste will benefit you long after school.
  1. Gain a social life – It’s important to be outgoing and make friends on campus. If only to borrow the study notes from your classmates. What better way to meet new people than throwing a party over a big bowl of pasta? You will make some of the most interesting people you will ever know in university.
  1. Fending off hard times – Tests can be worth 20-50 percent of your mark at university. Whipping up a batch of cookies can help you focus and study for those difficult tests. 
  1. Lifting your spirits – When the world around you is in chaos nothing is more satisfying than a comforting meal. Parents share those family recipes. Write them all down and pass them along to your kids. I still carry the recipe box I was given when I left for school.

Here is an easy recipe to keep new cooks happy and full. I still remember my Grandmother’s homemade mac and cheese. Delicious! Little ones at home will love this version too.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

**Adapted from my Grandma’s and the Kitchen Treaty food blog
Servings: 5 – 6


8 oz. (1/2 pound or about 1¾ cups) macaroni or other medium tubular pasta (like penne)

3 tablespoons butter

¼ cup flour

½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste

½ teaspoon dry mustard

¼ teaspoon black pepper

⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika plus more for sprinkling on top

2½ cups Table cream or 2% milk on a budget

3 cups grated cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Boil the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking, and return to the pan you boiled it in. Set aside. (Mix in a little butter to keep the noodles from sticking if it’s going to be awhile before you make the sauce)
  3. Over medium heat, melt the butter.
  4. Add the flour, salt, dry mustard, pepper, and ⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika. Stir constantly over medium heat for about three minutes.
  5. Stir in the milk.
  6. Keeping on medium heat, whisk constantly for about 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
  7. Remove from heat, and stir in 2 cups of the cheese, stirring until melted.
  8. Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and toss gently until all noodles are covered.
  9. Add half the noodles to a two-quart casserole dish.
  10. Sprinkle on half the cheese.
  11. Add the rest of the noodles.

Optional: Add cooked, chopped bacon if desired. I also sometimes include chunks of pineapple to the topping as well. 

  1. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until it starts getting a slightly dry and a tiny bit brown on top.

Hope you enjoy!  Parents share those recipes.

If you have any questions or suggestions please email me at or follow my blog at or on Facebook.

Alone Until I Unleashed the Snakes

ImageI like being on my own.  Although, I recall this one occasion my independence got the better of me.

Hubby and our daughter returned to his homeland for five weeks. This was a frightening amount of time to be away from your only child. But to have both the people that you love on the other side of the world was unimaginable.

I reluctantly let them go.

At first, I was a blithering mess, lost and unsure of what to do next. I had all of these ideas, like not making the bed for five weeks just cause. That lasted a day. Turns out I can’t walk by a bed without making it fresh and tidy.

My friends lent me loads of books. I began to read, “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert – in it the character feels overwhelmed with her daily life, leaves her husband and travels to explore devotion in India, pleasure in Italy and worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence in Bali.

Always a glass half full kind of girl, I let the words sink in. I began to see the positive with all of this time. In married life you never get this run unless like Elizabeth you leave everything behind you.  I decided to welcome the opportunity to have time to myself and still remain blissfully married.

My Mother worries. On most days she checks in on me regularly to ensure I am getting rest, the family is treating me well and that I am not too overworked. We both like to know each other are – ok.  Me, alone in a big house without my family was cause for her to worry even more.

Most days my house is like grand central station. People coming and going – I finally had the place to myself. Unlike the character in the book, I had already done my travelling in my twenties, didn’t feel the need to head off to Bali.  I was content in my current life. I just hadn’t taken any time for myself in a long while.

I decided to behave like I was on vacation too. I dined on delicious food, all my favorites basil, tomatoes, fresh pasta and an expensive bottle of red wine. The sheer pleasure of sipping a glass of wine and reading a book is the best feeling.

I said to my friends and my Mother – give me a weekend. Don’t visit. I am just going to relax in the sun, eat, read and drink wine. I was going to be rebellious and avoid housework and just sit and indulge myself.

Until one morning – being alone wasn’t such a good idea.

I got up and went to walk the dogs. (Couldn’t find it in myself to sleep in.) I cupped my coffee as we meandered though the woods – a blissful sunrise making me feel carefree and happy.

After a good walk, we arrived at the back porch. I looked down and noticed a few careless weeds growing amongst the stone; I stopped and began to pull them out. I thought to myself, look at me, up early cause I want to be, walking the dogs and now gardening. I never have time to do all of this in the mornings.

The dogs had long returned to the house and were waiting beside their bowls for breakfast. (Someone did still need me.)

Why is it? You bend down to pick one weed and there is always several hundred more that are within reach. I saw a scraggly one.  I held the rail and reached out further around the porch to snag it. The drop below was six feet, full of tiered stone garden that travelled below to the driveway. (I really shouldn’t have been reaching this far out) I stepped out on the rocks and the sand beneath the beds broke free, the rocks along with me went sliding down the embankment. I gripped the rail. My heart pounded, my leg hurt and I had a huge gash across my knees then something touched my leg – my heart skipped a beat, the snake family who lived under the porch begin to tumble out. I found the super strength to pull myself out of there as quickly as possible.

Once inside I headed for the shower. The hot water hit me and my legs began to wobble. I caught myself as things blurred and got out of the shower before I stumbled to the ground.

Not sure if it was the shock of the snakes I had just unleashed or all the exercise on no breakfast but I needed help.

Mom is a nurse. I called and she came over at once. (Must have been sitting beside the phone.) She patched me up and took me to afterhours for a tetanus shot. I can assure you I was only drinking coffee that morning, heaven knows if it had been wine.

Its funny, I learned that it’s good to have time for you. I relished the independence. But sometimes we all need a little help and its ok to ask for it.

When the family arrived home the leg had healed, the pile of books had a small dent as well as the bottle of wine. Turns out I’m not as rebellious as I thought.

However, I no longer weed the front garden.

My Favorite Pasta Recipe

Serves 4


400 g (14 oz.) rigatoni or penne pasta

60 g (2 oz.) butter

2 cloves of garlic – sliced

350 g (11 ½ oz.) of cherry tomatoes

1 handful of chopped fresh basil

Balsamic Vinegar

Cracked black pepper

Sea Salt

Parmesan cheese


1. Boil a pot of hot water, add pasta and cook until al dente, and then drain.

2. In a non-stick frying pan, melt butter over medium heat.

3. Add garlic and cherry tomatoes.

4. Cook stirring for 8 mins or until tomatoes are soft and golden.

5. Add the handful of chopped basil and toss through the hot pasta.

6. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, cracked pepper, sea salt and shaved or grated Parmesan to taste.

Hot or cold this is an easy delicious recipe.

If you have a restaurant or a recipe I should I try send me an email at, or follow my blog or on Facebook.

Food Lovers’ Field Days at Upper Canada Village August 17th and 18th


This weekend an eclectic collection of food artisans will be on site at Upper Canada Village as they host their inaugural Food Lover’s Field Days.

Last fall Upper Canada Village celebrated with Ontario’s top new event of the year – Pumpkinferno, which drew over 35,000 visitors during the month of October. This food event is another first, a showcase of the best of the region’s food and beverage producers from Gatineau, Kingston, Prince Edward County, Cornwall and Iroquois. What better way to represent the “100-mile Diet” and promote artisan food trends which has existed for centuries.

“We wanted to create a new innovative event and this idea seeded,” Said Jancis Sommerville, Events and Special Projects Coordinator for the St. Lawrence Parks Commission. “Everyone loves food, why not a food festival – we have a unique and ideal setting for a celebration of food.”

Upper Canada Village offers a magical experience. The village is based on an 1860’s community, complete with authentic buildings and homes. A longtime producer of good local food, the historical 19th century village is a perfect fit with its wonderful gardens filled with heirloom varieties of vegetables, operating 19th century kitchens, which use authentic recipes and methods on a daily basis.

“We further developed the idea, prepared a business case for funding from our tourism development fund, and were able to bring the event to life. Additionally, some great sponsors came on board to help in particular, Smart Serve, Foodland Ontario and South Dundas Township.”

These days our cooking trends are leaning towards healthier eating and in doing so enable us to strip down and create recipes from simple traditional methods using fresh local ingredients.

“People appreciate local foods, raw foods, slow food, organic food – we see this in research that the community wants the local authentic experience,” said Sommerville.                           

“What better way than at Upper Canada Village where we celebrate the past daily by making fresh bread, cheese, tending to the gardens, preserving and preparing foods in these traditional ways.”

The festival will be inclusive of the Upper Canada Village experience. Travel across the entrance bridge and experience life in the 19th century. You will find the food producers and farm vendors at the crossroads in the centre of the fairgrounds.

Savour from over thirty food, wine and beer artisans and producers:

World at your Doorstep features samples of food from around the world:


Indian by Aubin Farms; Thai by Toi Thai Cuisine; Ukrainian food by Natasha Fine Foods; Caterina’s Mexican Restaurant; and Mediterranean, to name a few.

Sandbanks Vineyards: taste of the county wines

Casselman Beer: boutique microbrewery featuring honey brown ale, signature brewed white fog wheat beer among others.

Palatine Hills Estate Winery with a specially produced signature 1812 chardonnay and merlot cabernet.

Fresh produce and healthy foods include: Upper Canada bread and cheese; Roth Child Farms with a variety of rubs, spreads and preserves; Perth Pepper and Pestle; Harvest Honey featuring cinnamon honey butter, beeswax lip balms and unpasteurized honey; Love Love Foods; Naturally Delicious, berry love crumble, morning glory muffins and a selection of gluten free products; Kricklewood Farms with Ontario’s finest cold press sunflower oil; Schnitzel Restaurant will be onsite making wood fire pizza in the village garden shed oven using fresh ingredients such as; Upper Canada Village cheese, flour and heirloom tomatoes.

Sweet Street

A sweet array of handmade Upper Canada Village fudge, kettle corn, Chrysler Bush maple syrup, maple soda along with Olivia Chocolatiers with their fine artisan and raw fair trade chocolates, and “the worlds first” peanut free and gluten and dairy free hemp milk chocolate and many others.

Village staff will be providing garden tours led by head gardener Brain Henderson. Special features include: growing and preparing horseradish, a wandering minstrel and the travelling Tiltons.  Cook’s Tavern, Tenant Farm and Louck’s Farm will also be hosting special food demonstrations and samples.

In addition, two key food experts will offer cooking sessions throughout the day.

Dwight Saunders, a raw food gourmet chef, teacher and wellness consultant from Aura Culinary Arts of Iroquois will host workshops: “Pumpkins Impossible”, “Preserving Today for Tomorrow”, “Wild Edibles and “Non-Diary Cheese Making at Home.”

Lynda Turner, a Scientist with Health Canada and owner of Zenagrry Vegetarian Cuisine, will present workshops called “All About Greens and Cooking With Kids.”

The event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday August 17th and Sunday August 18th.  The special event cost for an adult is $17; youth and senior $14; and children under 5 free. Purchase your tickets ahead by visiting to buy online.

Why not make a weekend of it?

Bring the family along and stay at one of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission campground areas nearby. Pay your camping admission fee and get two free regular adult-priced admissions to Upper Canada Village. At the event you will only be charged the special event cost of $2 to the festival.

Also, if you purchase admission to Upper Canada Village you will receive a free pass to Old Fort Henry in Kingston to enjoy during the summer. It’s a great way not to miss these amazing historical communities.

Don’t forget a cooler bag to take home all the delicious food you’ll find at the first  Food Lovers Field Days. For more information and a full list of festival activities and vendors visit

If you have a recipe or a restaurant for me to try contact me at, follow my blog or on Facebook.

Homemade Designs – Made with Butter and Love

EMC Metroland Newspapers – Lifestyle

A visit to Ellena’s café and Vignettes at 16 Dundas Street in Napanee, is an experience as warm and comforting as freshly baked cookies – friendly, good food and unique handmade designs.

Ellena Fleury, Owner Ellena’s Cafe (Bottom)
Helen Kosmopoulos-Rogina, Owner of Vignette’s (Top)

I visit for long lunches, shopping for unique gifts or when I need dessert for a dinner party. Individuals can tell it’s from Ellena’s. The signature recipes are one of a kind and cannot be recreated.

“Our customers are from all over,” said Ellena Fluery, owner of Ellena’s. “Not just the Napanee region, as far as Kingston, Toronto, Montreal.”

On my last visit, I chatted with a customer at the counter choosing one of Ellena’s legendary coconut cream pies to take home.

When asked where she hailed from she explained, “We live in Toronto but have a cottage in Picton. We visit often during the summer and occasionally in the winter months. When we head to Belleville we stop at Ellena’s for lunch and pick up some tasty treats for later.”

I noted that it was a little out of the way to come to Napanee when going to Belleville. She looked at me puzzled and proclaimed, “Well if we went a different way we would miss out on coming to Ellena’s café.” Fair enough, I smiled.

The café opened as part of a cooperative for potential brides to meet and discuss wedding cakes.

“My son Ben makes beautiful cakes under the name of ‘Ben’s Cakes n’ Bakes’,” Said Ellena, eyes beaming and full of pride.

“Designing and making cakes became a passion we both shared. It seemed like a logical next step to open the retail shop to assist with demand.”

With experience in catering and her years in hospitality and food industries, it was always a goal to have her own place. Ellena decided to take the leap of faith. She soon realized that this was going to be more than just a cake shop. Customers came for the café and all its delights.

Ellena’s has a full lunch menu with daily features: soup of the day, quiche, sandwiches and sweet things made (where possible) from good local ingredients. They’re open daily from Monday through Saturday.

“It surprised me. I honestly didn’t expect this. The café has evolved and grown. I enjoy our many loyal customers and my staff who make coming to work so much fun. I want this café to be a second home to each one of them.”

“We like to make each guest feel welcome. Living in a small town you really get to know your customers. My staff and I try new things. It could be peanut butter pie or raspberry coconut squares but something new is always coming out of the oven.”

No time to muster up dinner? No problem. Drop by Ellena’s and pick up a tasty meal, enough for the whole family from the take out fridge. Or call ahead to pre-order a special request.

Catering is also available – no event is too small or big.

“We do lunch for weekly book clubs, executive meetings, staff parties and weddings – on site in our event room or we can come to you,” Said Ellena “Each menu is tailored to fit the nature of the event and budget. We can do casual or fresh contemporized ideas.”

Advanced orders are preferred. Most are ready and available for pick up same day.

Her laugh is infectious, eyes dancing as she talks.  Wife of Dan Fleury (whose family own long time Napanee business Paul’s Pizzeria), mom to Ben (16 yrs) and Nick (11 yrs) You will also discover the original Ellena, (Ellena’s mother) helping out and greeting customers – this cafe is definitely an extension of her family.

Customers drop by to talk, share their stories and latest news.

When you are unable to cook those favorite family recipes, give them to Ellena to recreate them for you. Your secrets are safe. She would be happy in the knowledge that your family has not missed out. Traditions and family is what matters.

In April 2013, the café expanded and welcomed a new addition to their cooperative, Vignettes Home Décor and Vintage Finds.

Helen Kosmopolous-Rogina has over 17 years in home furnishing and design experience as Manager of Pier One and Urban Barn stores in Toronto. Helen is a new Mom to Nicholas and an artist in her own right through her commissioned paintings and unique designs. Helen’s family owns La Pizzeria, (the other best pizza in town).

“It’s long been my dream to have my own store,” said Helen.  “Upon returning to my hometown of Napanee, I had a vision of Vignettes, a home décor and vintage store. When Ellena approached me with the opportunity to see this become a reality I was thrilled.”

Vignettes is filled with happy discoveries of old and new -visit Ellena’s cafe and shop for food and unique looks and gifts for the home.

The shelves are filled with handmade pillows, recycled vintage items among the new latest trends. Each corner is a different vignette showcasing how you can transform a room. Best part is if you are unsure you can ask the expert. Helen is available in-store for consultations and advice.

Helen has a unique way of creating something interesting and fresh. Walk through the store and notice the detail and placement of items.

Recently, I needed a room in my home updated.  With only a picture and some color themes she sourced fabrics for pillows and enhanced the space in ways I could never of imagined.

Vignettes supports local artists showcasing an individual each month. It’s worth a drop in as things change all the time. New seasons bring new trends.

“I am really excited. The summer has offered a chance for people to shop for the cottage, “ said Helen. “With Fall approaching we have stock arriving with new colors and ideas for the home. I like natural authentic designs and sourcing product you can’t find anywhere else.”

Ellena’s Café and Vignettes is a warm friendly place to experience fresh ideas for the home and delicious food.

Contact Information:
Ellena’s  – Café and Catering

Vignettes – Home Décor and Vintage Finds

Located at 16 Dundas Street, Napanee:

Open Daily
Monday 10 am – 3 pm
Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 10 am – 3 pm

Any restaurant suggestions or recipes I should try please email me at, follow my blog or on Facebook.

Summertime at the Cottage_August 1

ImageI love cottage life. Those lazy days of summer, lounging on the deck with a good book.  Long evenings noshing on delectable nibbles made even better by keeping good company.

We all have our favorite cottage life memories.  It’s a different world, a place all its own where real-time collides with past and present.

Some of my best childhood moments have been at the cottage. Friends were cousins or the kids from down the way. It’s a place for all the rules to go out the door, other than the “water rules”. You bathed in the lake and everything you ate had a healthy dose of sunscreen and bug spray for extra flavor.

Today, we live in the country and minutes from the lake. We are blessed to have cottage life so close to home.

What are your favorite cottage memories?

Was it the moment your wobbly legs held you up on water skis until you fist pumped, plummeted and were left gulping up half the lake? Perhaps it was the boy who asked you to go “steady” all summer long? Let’s face it, when you are young, life after summer really doesn’t exist. My favorite was the loon’s lullaby as it sang me to sleep and the heat of the fire as I toasted marshmallows.

I recall a particular cottage I would often visit in my youth. Recently, I stumbled upon a creative writing piece that I wrote about this special place. I am not sure if it is because this week is my birthday and I am feeling old, but when I discovered it the memories came flooding back. I thought I would share it with you. I can only hope that my daughter spends her summer time making memories that will last her a lifetime.

The Cottage
By Me (Circa 1985)

 Near a storybook town, at the bottom of a hill, hidden by a forest, sits a cottage.

A clean tidy cottage surrounded by trees, filling each visitor with memorable impressions of summertime. It has its own special civilization touched only by the changing seasons.

During the day, the sun shines rewarding the faithful bathers basking in the sun.

Skipping across the lake, water-skiers race by as swimmers plunge towards the shore to avoid an accident. The olive green water laps onto the shoreline, splashing the bathers.

A man in a small rowboat tosses a line to persuade a fish to nibble. The days are long and blissful until the sun goes down and night approaches.

All is still.

The fire burns and the hazy smoke climbs high into the trees. Orange glows appear in the darkness as the cottagers settle down at their sites to socialize by the fire. Nearby the lake waits while the stars dance on its surface. The flushed red moon glows in the east casting a veil of shimmering beams and the ebony sky encircles the smoldering fire. Occasionally interrupting this crisp clean scene are crickets and perhaps a loon echoing a familiar tune. Here the night is a mystical display of nature, the sky a splendid arrangement of everything pure and fresh.

I remember this cottage fondly as it sits at the bottom of its hill and awaits our return.

The cottage, from the cute boy down the way to toasted s’mores dripping with melted chocolate. Pack a bag, don’t look back and soak up all the summer offerings.

Given we live by the lake, summertime gets busy at our little cottage. Visiting friends and family pour in. So I often need to quickly whip something together with very little notice.

Lets face it: salsa is everyone’s favorite summer condiment. I found these perfect salsa recipes for you to devour.

There are so many ways to enjoy it. I’ve included a few different options to spice up this basic salsa.

Basic Salsa Recipe


1 Tablespoon finely chopped white onion

1 Tablespoon of finely chopped red onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper (to taste)

1 Tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

1 Tablespoon of fresh juice of one lime

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Additional options:

Peach Salsa

Same as above Basic Salsa recipe

Add 4 small peaches, peeled and diced

2 tsp. of honey

Watermelon Salsa

Same as above Basic Salsa Recipe

Add 3 cups of finely chopped diced seedless watermelon (about 2 ½ pounds)

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until serving time. The flavors are best when refrigerated for a min of four hours or overnight.

Serve any of these with tortilla chips, crackers or with fish or chicken as a condiment.


If you have a recipe or a restaurant I should try please email at or follow my blog or on Facebook.