Beginner Hygge

Beginner Hygge | Sophster-Toaster

I’ve always lamented the fact the Canada, a cold and snowy country with a long, dark winter, doesn’t have any winter culture to speak of, at least in the part of Southern Ontario I live in. We’re raised to despise winter and long for summer. We’re brought up to believe winter is something that must be endured but it’s worth it for our the summers in our beautiful country. Well, I disagree. I think winter, all 5 months of it here, can be just as charming, enjoyable and looked forward too as the other brief seasons. I don’t think there’s any point to a life spent hating half of the year.

That’s why, this year, I’m determined to embrace the concept of hygge. If you don’t know what hygge is, Alex from Hygge House puts it beautifully:

“Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special.”

I want to dress cute and cozy, cook healthy, seasonal comfort food, watch movies under soft blankets, play in the snow, drink hot chocolate, spend time with friends, drinking wine by fireplaces, and, most importantly, leave home with a smile instead of a shiver. I want to wake up on gloomy days, to the sound of the heat coming on, under layers of fluffy blankets, with thoughts of tea and a warm breakfast and be happy for another winter day.To get started on these goals, I’ve been sneaking some early hygge in ever since the weather turned cool this fall.

Beginner Hygge | Sophster-ToasterBeginner Hygge | Sophster-Toaster

I spent Thanksgiving up at the family cottage with a small and intimate party of just Pepper and my husband. It was cold and cloudy weather that most people would find unlucky for a vacation weekend, but we loved it. We walked around in the woods, made a tofurky with all the trimmings, chopped firewood, mulled cider on the wood stove, and watched movies by the fire. I wore wool socks, turtlenecks, flannel, denim, warm sweaters and thick nylons throughout the trip. We got cozy and really enjoyed each other’s company. I can’t wait for more of this.

Beginner Hygge | Sophster-Toaster

Turtleneck ModCloth
Skirt ModCloth
Nylons Joe Fresh
Accessories old
Slippers White Noise Maker

Beginner Hygge | Sophster-Toaster Beginner Hygge | Sophster-Toaster

All photos by me.

Road Trip

Road Trip | Sophster-Toaster

For the first time since our first Thanksgiving living together, when we were too poor to travel home, my husband and I spent the holiday weekend with just each other for company. We decided to road trip up to the family cottage to spend a cold and cloudy Thanksgiving cuddled up by the fire together.

We usually try to make the 5-6 hour car + boat ride as efficiently as possible, only stopping for tea, gas or bathroom breaks when we must, but we chose to do things differently this time. With Pepper in tow, and no one to meet at the marina, we decided to take our time and do a little exploring on the way to give Pepper a chance to pee and stretch her legs.

We stopped in Peterborough, ON to visit the highest lift lock in the world. We didn’t really know what to expect. We thought we would walk around and explore a National Historic Site while the weather held out and then hop back in the car once the dog got bored. However, shortly after arriving, we were told a boat would be coming through the lock in just a few minutes! We got to watch the lock work from both the bottom and the top, making for a very exciting stop on our little road trip.

Road Trip | Sophster-ToasterRoad Trip | Sophster-Toaster Road Trip | Sophster-Toaster Road Trip | Sophster-Toaster

Coat ModCloth
Pants ModCloth
Boots L.L.Bean
Bag ModCloth

T-shirt ModCloth
Cardigan Modcloth
Necklace Emery & Opal
Barrette very old
Socks Walmart
Slippers White Noise Maker

Road Trip | Sophster-Toaster

All photos by me and Matt.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

I’ve been on a bit of a peanut butter kick lately. More like nut and seed spreads that resemble peanut butter, since I’m sadly allergic to the real thing. As Halloween approaches, I start to really miss the holy grail of trick or treating candy: Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. A candy so good, you just accept the struggle of getting that smushed and half melted chocolate out of its wrapper as part of the trials you must face to earn it.  That longing for the perfect combination of peanut butter and chocolate inspired this month’s macaron recipe for a cookie with chocolate shells and an easy cashew butter filling.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons | Sophster-Toaster


for the macaron shells

(dryer version for the humid months)

  • ¾ cup ground almonds (as finely ground as you can find)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

for the filling

  • ¼-½ cup peanut butter or substitute (I’m using cashew butter)

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons | Sophster-Toaster


for the macaron shells

  1. Prepare your parchment sheets by drawing 1″ circles, ½” apart across the entire sheet (or using silicon baking mats with the circles already printed on them) and placing them on a large flat surface suitable for drying your batter, like a dining table. You will need 2-3 half sheet pan size pieces.
  2. Sift ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder together, twice. Set aside.
  3. In a large stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until you have a foam with no liquid remaining.
  4. Slowly add the sugar while continuing to beat the egg whites. Beat on high speed until the egg whites reach stiff peaks. You’ve made meringue!
  5. Add vanilla and gently beat in.
  6. Fold your almond and icing sugar mixture into the meringue in two parts.
  7. Here’s the part that takes practice: it’s time for the macaronnage! With a spatula, spread the batter, with some force, against the side of the bowl. Then scoop it up by running the spatula along the side of the bowl again and try to flip it all over and sort-of lightly smack it back into the bottom of the bowl. Gather the batter up again and repeat 15 times. It takes some time to figure out the best way to do this, don’t be afraid to play around with it. When doing the macaronnage correctly, repeating more than 20 times can result in oily, blotchy macarons, but I’ve found that doing it incorrectly doesn’t count towards this limit. If you are doing it right, the batter will take on a noticeable and somewhat sudden change in consistency, this means you are about half-way to that limit. When finished, the batter should be thickened and drip slowly from the spatula. You will have to pipe it onto your baking sheets/mats and it won’t work if the batter is too runny. This is the technique that defines macarons, this is what makes mastery of them impressive.
  8. For perfectly round macarons, use a large, 0.4″ plain tip with a pastry bag, or do it the lazy way and cut a corner off a zip top bag for mostly round macarons. Twist (or don’t yet cut) the bag at the tip and place it, tip side down, in a tall glass. Fill with your batter and twist, close or clip the other end to help keep the messy batter moving in the right direction. Pipe the batter into the centre of the circles on your sheets/mats and stop before reaching the edges as the batter will spread out a bit.
  9. Once finished piping, carefully pick the sheets/mats up and drop them back on to the table from a height of a couple of inches. The theory is that this helps the cookies keep their round shape and form the little bubbles around the bottom (the pied) when you put them in the oven.
  10. Leave the cookies on the table, uncovered, for 15-30 minutes to dry (or more on a humid day). This is a good time to preheat your oven to 350°F. You will know the macarons are dry when they look smooth and are no longer sticky to the touch.
  11. Place an oven rack in the centre of your oven. Place a sheet of macarons on two stacked sheet pans (this will stop the bottoms from getting too hot, resulting in cracked macarons) and bake for about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan half way through baking. It can be hard to tell when the macaron are done. I pull them out when the kitchen smells sweet and the cookies look crisp, have just started to brown, and don’t look blotchy in the middle.
  12. As soon as the parchment sheet/baking mat is cool enough to handle, take it out of the pan with all the cookies on top and place it on a cooling rack. The macarons will be too sticky to remove from the sheet/mat now; once cooled, they should peel off easily. I usually wait a few minutes for the pans to cool a bit and for the oven to come back to a steady temperature before moving the next sheet to the pans and baking the next round.

Once everything has cooled spread your peanut butter (or substitute) onto half of your shells. Then place another similarly sized shell on top and gently press them together.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

All photos by me.

Fall Brew

Fall Brew | Sophster-Toaster

When the nights start to get cool, and it takes all morning for the house to warm up again, the husband and I like to spend our weekends cooking, baking and brewing tasty fall treats. Last weekend, we spent a clear and calm Sunday brewing an English brown ale that warmed up our kitchen and filled the house with the classic cheese cracker smell of steeped grains.

Fall Brew | Sophster-ToasterFall Brew | Sophster-Toaster Fall Brew | Sophster-Toaster

Matt knows a lot more about home brewing than I do. He threw together a recipe using the assortment of ingredients we had lying around, leftover from summer brewing. He weighs, measures, times, checks temperatures and makes careful calculations while I’m there for the beer, snacks and lending a hand (or making sure the dog doesn’t) when he needs one.

I can’t stand how much I love our fall weekend routine.

Fall Brew | Sophster-Toaster Fall Brew | Sophster-Toaster

Top Unique Vintage
Skirt Steady Clothing
Barrette very old

All photos by me.