Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Creating a Fairy Garden

You might remember that one of the things I wanted to do this year was to build a fairy garden with the kids. We finished ours this past weekend and had a lot of fun doing it.  Over the past couple of months I got some inspiration on Pinterest and then set about our own version.

We got four wine boxes at our local LCBO. With a donation to their charity you can pick them up at any of the stores. We stacked them in a staggered fashion and drilled a couple of drainage holes. I wanted to add some gravel for additional drainage, but didn't have any on hand, so I just filled the boxes with soil. The top one buckled for some reason, but I think it's still fine.

At the garden store I chose a variety of smaller plants, some of them are ground covers, others are larger. I have no idea what they are, but I liked the colours, shapes of leaves and looked at the sun/shade requirements. I planted them with enough space to add our fairies and in a way that allows them to grow and drape down the side of the boxes.

We found our princess castle (now butterfly fairy castle) at Michaels as well as the horse, fairy and tiny flower pots.  Once the castle was placed I covered the different surfaces with sand, broken shells, left-over fish tank pebbles, glass pebbles and moss. I made sure to cover the soil as best I could.

We added a 'pond' with a pot I had made last year and D added his little fishing boy and dog. M decorated the castle with butterfly stickers, which is why we didn't paint it. We also have a PEZ Tinkerbell, a treasure chest, a princess bride and some pink miniature doll with purple hair - sometimes a helicopter brings in new inhabitants and often the dog goes for a swim.

I might attempt to build a small fence for part of the garden, but for now we're set. Have you ever built a fairy garden?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Step back to 1860

We visited Upper Canada Village and had a blast. This is the second time we've visited and both times we saw a few different things. Upper Canada Village is set in the 1860s with buildings built according to that time and people in costume, horse drawn wagons and a lot of British Flags.

You'll find a blacksmith, a flour and saw mill powered by water, a store, hotel, church, dress maker store, doctor's house and many more buildings. The kids love wandering around and seeing the different houses, the horses and just the whole feel of it being a little different.

I enjoy the little details, the quiet of no cars or other motors and the family walk we get out of it. It's a lovely place to visit and only an hour away from Ottawa. The weather was hot and sunny so we were glad the restaurant does not abide by 1860s standards and has AC - it was a chance to eat a quick bite and cool down.

You can visit for hours or just stay a bit - it's a beautiful place to stop by - they have events throughout the summer and fall. Next time I want to visit before Christmas for the 'Alight the Night' festival when more than half a million lights are hung in the village - I imagine it to be magical.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Food Files

What do you do with the season's first strawberries? Strawberry tarts - puff pastry tarts to be precise. This one is made with a cream cheese lemon base and no glaze - yummy, slightly sweet and a perfect afternoon treat.

How to:

  • Store bought defrosted puff pastry spread in greased tart shell. Bake for 15 minutes at 400F until golden. Take out and let cool.
  • In the meantime mix a cupful of room temperature cream cheese and mix it with 3 tablespoons of sugar (or more if you want it sweeter), add a table spoon of lemon zest and 1-2 table spoons of fresh lemon juice. Carefully spread on cool pastry.
  • Cut your strawberries and spread on cream cheese mixture. Enjoy.

*If you prefer to add a glaze, take a tablespoon of strawberry jam and dilute it with bit of apple juice. Spread over strawberries and let set.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Crawling under tables and Hello Kitty slippers

Before having kids I questioned a lot of things about how people raised children - the typical 'why can't that toddler sit still in an airplane' or 'why did that mother let her child go to the grocery store in Hello Kitty slippers'. Once we had our own children I noticed very quickly that I had no business questioning anything related to other children and I also started doing things I never thought I'd do.

  1. Crawl under the table after every meal cleaning up (this was much easier when we had a dog)
  2. Waking up without an alarm clock
  3. Scooping piles of sand out of pockets and shoes all summer long
  4. Using morning shower time to think without being interrupted
  5. Thinking of creative lunches that fit in a small box and don't need to be warmed up
  6. Picking up sippy cups all over the house
  7. Talking about the kids constantly even when out on dates
  8. Finding stickers and scotch tape on all walls of the house
  9. Reading the same books over and over again
  10. Seeing every age-appropriate animated movie and actually enjoying them
  11. Cooking any shape of pasta to guarantee a successful dinner
  12. Hiding vegetables in said pasta dishes
  13. Saying NO every day
  14. Having your heart strings pulled when you watch them sleep
  15. Having to sort through arts and crafts deciding what to keep and what to recycle
  16. Reading every note and flyer that comes from school (so much paper!)
  17. Having to write so many cheques (why do schools still use cheques?)
  18. Constantly washing little hands and faces (and feet in the summer)
  19. Taking your child to the grocery store in Hello Kitty slippers or Fairy Wings
  20. Sharing hugs and kisses all day long (I'm not a hugs and kissy kind of person)
  21. Being so proud of little things that I tear up
  22. Laughing at fart jokes as much as I do
  23. Answering the question WHY all the time

Monday, May 21, 2012

Collectible colour - May

Doesn't blue just look so summery and fresh? Makes me want to take a beach vacation.

What is this series about?
For the collectible colours feature I choose a specific colour per month and collect things in my house to arrange and photograph. I can't go out and buy anything to match the colour scheme though, I have to own it  - I find this a great exercise to focus on day-to-day objects and to see if they fit.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Food Files

This is the easiest recipe that you can either serve as an appetizer or a light dinner with salad. My daughter eat it, but my son didn't because of the visible vegetables.

How to:
  • Store bought frozen puff pastry
  • Tomatoes (smallish ones or cherry tomatoes)
  • Green onions
  • Cream cheese at room temperature
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

  • Defrost the puff pastry and cut into small squares if used for an appetizer or leave as one large sheet if using for your dinner. Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet and pre-heat oven to 400F.
  • Stir cream cheese to make it spreadable and season with salt and pepper. Spread carefully on puff pastry.
  • Cut tomatoes into wedges or quarters if using cherry tomatoes. Distribute on top of cream cheese.
  • Cut green onions and distribute on pastry pieces.
  • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and bake in oven until crust is crunchy and golden - about 20 minutes. Let cool a little and enjoy! This is nice warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

And now I ask you...

As this blog is celebrating it's two year anniversary this week I thought it would be timely to ask you how you feel about this little corner of the world wide web. I'd like to know what you like, what's missing or even what you don't want to see.

So I've created a short and anonymous survey for you. It shouldn't take more than five minutes and your input would be much appreciated. I know your time is valuable, so I hope you'll also put your name in for the give-away I posted this week? I'll keep the survey open until May 30, 2012 and will be sure to share the results with you shortly.

Thank you so much for visiting here, for your comments, your input and thoughts on my little diary - it really means a lot to me.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Blogaversary and a great give-away

This give-away is closed. The winner is Kimberly. Congratulations! Please contact me with your mailing address. The winning number was determined by 

Fishly News is turning two this week! Can you believe how time flies? 257 posts - who would have thought that I'd have so much to say? I am truly enjoying my time on the blog, the conversations and the connections I've made. I'm glad I have a creative outlet and am able to share our photos and adventures with family and friends.

To thank you for stopping by on a regular basis and sharing the ride, I was lucky enough to have Tonic Living join me in a great give-away! Tonic Living is a family owned operation based in Toronto, Canada and is a great resource for modern retro fabrics, with excellent customer service and custom sewing services. Have a look - you'll find a bunch of fabrics that you'll want to order! I have used them for several projects including party chairs, framed fabric in the bathroom and bow-ties.

What's the give-away?
Your choice of 2 lime green 12x17"cushions OR 2 coral 12x17"cushions.
This luxury, reversible pillow is made of 100% cotton and has a synthetic poly-fill insert. Zippered cover is sewn in Canada. All inside seams are surged/reinforced for durability.

How can you win? You have up to 3 entries.
  1. Visit Tonic Living and leave a comment specifying which pillow or fabric you'd love to have in your house.
  2. Up your chances and tweet about this contest @TonicLiving and @GiuliaDoyle and let me know (make sure to @ both of us to qualify this entry)
  3. For extra, extra credit, go to the TonicLiving Facebook page and 'like' them, because they deserve a 'like'. Again, let me know in the comment section.
By when do I have to enter for a chance to win?
Comment by no later than Friday May 18, 2012 at midnight EST.
Winners will be announced on Monday May 21, 2012 on this blog and on Twitter. I will be contacting the winner by email.

Who can participate?
Anyone (except Quebec residents - see why here)
Make sure to leave your contact in your comment(s).
The cushions will be shipped to anywhere in North America. If you live outside of North America  and are the winner, I'll figure out a way to get them to you.

A little extra bonus: Use code FISHLYNEWS for 10% off any Tonic Living order from now until June 14, 2012.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Food Files

A simple and healthy lunch. Our take on Salad Nicoise - potatoes, white kidney beans, steamed green beans, olives, hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes and tuna in olive oil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and you have a perfect make-ahead lunch that uses some of your left-overs and pantry items.

*based on Martha Stewart Living image - June 2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Peeks of Spring

I just wanted to share a glimpse of Spring that we are seeing in our yard. Amazing what a few hours of sun and a bit of rain can accomplish. Now off to those weeds that are already wanting to take over the yard!

Linked to This or That Thursday

Monday, May 7, 2012

Choosing tile for the fireplace

We took a well deserved break from our fireplace remodel and discussed our colour options. At first we considered painting the brick charcoal, but then decided to lighten things up a bit after having had dark tiles for the past few years. Once we decided on the brick colour we had to decide on the tile for the hearth.

Our first direction was to go with a light coloured natural stone or tile to complement the white brick. I got some samples for us to look at: 
  1. Honed limestone
  2. Large porcelain tile 
  3. Polished marble

Once we put them down on the hearth area something looked off. The light colour made the hearth float and the fireplace insert more prominent than we wanted it to be. 

So we went out and got some darker samples. All of them are porcelain tiles:

     4. Veined brown with a soft polished finish
     5. Black ribbed tile
     6. Grey/brown matt tile

Going dark on the hearth made all the difference. Now the fireplace insert looked grounded and the brick worked as a feature. By going dark the hearth also blends into the wood floors.

The black tile was too close in colour to the black of the fireplace, the greyish brown tile looked too boring - our winner was #4. It has a beautiful finish and a rich colour which is a bit hard to see properly on the photos.

We'll be getting this tile in a 18" x 34" format to get as little grout lines as possible.  We'll have to do a bit of cutting to get a perfect edge and symmetry, but I think we'll be happy with our choice. I know it's hard to tell how it will all turn out, but making these decisions was a big step towards a finished project.

Next steps - painting the brick and installing the tile!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Food Files

Beer cupcakes? Tasty? A novelty? Worth it? Well, they are a conversation piece and they are really good, but they don't really taste of beer. I smelled a faint whiff of beer from the glaze, but you are probably better off just replacing the cup of beer in this recipe with another liquid and drinking the beer.

However, the cupcakes are really good, so I'll share the recipe:

Corona Cupcakes (adapted from Sweet Tooth)
  • 3/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cup sugar
  • 2-1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup Corona beer, plus more for brushing on tops
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line 24 muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add eggs, beating after each addition then add the vanilla and zest.
  • Combine milk and beer and alternatively add this mixture and the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture with the mixer on low speed, starting and ending with the flour.  
  • Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for 18 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.
  • When cupcakes are done, poke holes in the tops of the cupcakes with toothpicks and brush some beer on each while still warm.  
  • 10 oz cream cheese, cold
  • 5 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

  • Cream together the cream cheese and butter in an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.  
  • Add the citrus juice and zest and gradually add the powdered sugar until well-combined.  Beat until smooth for about 2 minutes.
  • Load frosting in a piping bag fit with a large star tip and pipe cupcake tops once cooled.  
Recipe yields 24 cupcakes. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My 20 for 2012 - an update

 Photo by Aran Goyoaga, Canelle Et Vanille

Back in January, I shared my list of goals that I had for 2012 - some were biggies and some little things. Four months into the year I thought I'd have a look at where I stand.
  1. Take a big trip with the whole family.
    Booked a week in Cape Cod and 2 nights in Boston for June!
  2. Develop my food photography and food styling skills.
    Slowly working on it. I've been posting a food shot every Friday and I have Plate to Pixel and Food Photography at home to finish reading. 
    I am also really looking forward to this workshop with Aran in June! See her photo above. She is amazing!
  3. Work on my swimming and take part in the Bring on the Bay 3km swim
    We'll see about this one, I have not been in a pool since September, this is going to be a tough one. 
  4. Try to create my own e-mag (just for myself and my bloggy readers)
  5. Try 12 new recipes.
    Working on it, I've tried at least 3-4, including Sauce Hollandaise!
  6. Get my hair cut six times.
    I've gone every 8 weeks this year! This is huge for me to take the time for myself.
  7. Have at least two overnight dates away from the kids.
  8. Re-read two books I loved 12 years ago
  9. Host a party.
  10. Construct a raised veggie bed.
  11. Visit NYC or Chicago in the Spring or Fall
  12. See Demolition Derby with the kids
  13. Keep on blogging.
  14. Wear a dress to work at least six times.
    Fail up to now...this will be easier in the summer, right?
  15. Get at least three pedicures in the summer.
    Got one already thanks to the summery temperatures in March.
  16. Tackle the living room fireplace.
  17. Have a painting commissioned that includes all family members
  18. Wear my hair pulled back to work at least six times
  19. Make a fairy garden for the kids
  20. Paint all the trim and ceilings in our house.
Not too bad, right? How are your goals for 2012 panning out?

* pink means completed and italics indicate in progress