Monday, July 30, 2012

6th Anniversary


Yesterday was our sixth wedding anniversary. We were lucky that my mom took the kids and we had an overnight date - a wonderful hotel room with a view, drinks and dinner (at 9 pm!), sleeping in! and a leisurely breakfast on a patio. I can't believe how time is flying and how six years ago I married the best husband anyone could imagine. Happy Anniversary to the love of my life!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Food Files and a guest post


I was over at 'a peek inside the fishbowl' blog earlier this week with this simple summer recipe. Make sure to stop by Andrea's blog for some great reading and try this lovely appetizer - your guests will love it.

Recipe below


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Blast


A week or two ago we went to the hobby store and bought a model rocket kit. The kit included materials and instructions for two model rockets - one made of balsam wood, the other made of cardboard and plastic. Hubby has been dreaming about building model rockets with the kids and re-living his teenage years.

Hubby did most of the building (it's pretty finicky at times, requires paint, glue, sanding, etc.) and got the two model rockets ready. This past weekend there was no wind and we headed  out to the soccer field and found the perfect dirt patch (we didn't want dry grass because of the fire hazard).



We set up the model rocket launcher and started with a small engine - the kids loved it! We sent up both model rockets and were lucky that they came down unharmed. This meant that they could be shot up again with a larger engine - wow, the second blast for both model rockets was really, really high! It took forever for them to come down and again we were lucky to retrieve them undamaged.

Once we sent our video to family and friends it was amazing to hear how others had done the same when they were young. We also attracted a couple neighbourhood kids that wanted to partake. This was such a fun thing to do and I know we'll be out there again soon.


video 

This is a video of  the short blast. Have you built and launched rockets? Model airplanes? Anything that flies? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pattern and blue - looking for new drapes


Remember back in March when I shared my dining room tour? I was planning on replacing some of my plain stand-in curtains with something more substantial in our dining room. Those new drapes will serve as a focal point and the smaller window to the right will be covered with a simple white shade, which we also need next to our fireplace*. 
We now have the simple shades and I'll share that in a separate post, but that means I need your help in selecting fabric for our focal window.


I ordered a bunch of samples from Tonic Living and narrowed it down to three. This very rough Photoshop job gives you an idea how the below choices affect the tone and colour of the room, the scale is a little off, but it might still help. The Ashbury Ikat on the left is a linen fabric and mostly navy. The middle Diamond Ikat is a cotton canvas and is much brighter with tones of blue and turquoise. On the right we have a more modern print with the Links cotton fabric in blue.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Food Files


We had company this past weekend and it was hot - really hot. I wanted to have a dessert that was easy to make, could be prepared in advance and was great to eat at room temperature. And because cherries are out right now, I wanted to incorporate those.

I decided  on a clafoutis and used Aran's and Helene's recipes as a guide. It turned out great and I was glad to have something on hand without having to rush before our company arrived.



You need (Adapted from Tartelette and Cannelle et Vanille):
  • 2 cups of cherries, pitted
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • Scraped vanilla bean
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour 
  •  powdered sugar (optional)
How to:
  • Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. Place all the cherries in a 8-inch round pie dish.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and honey until well combined. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, milk, cream and flour and whisk until smooth. Carefully pour over the cherries. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
  • Serve at room temperature and dust with sugar.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cake, Flowers and Hair

Large photo: Loretta Flowers via Design Sponge, top right: Roost, bottom right: Docuvitae via StyleMePretty.

My sister just got married in St.Lucia and this upcoming weekend she's having a small wedding reception. Family has arrived from Switzerland and the US and we are busy with visitors and last minute planning.

My job for this Saturday is a wedding cake. I'll create a 2-tier cake and will attempt a Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing. I'll decorate with flowers, similar to the inspiration shots above. All my inspiration photos are flowers in pink - my sister doesn't like pink - so I'll be working with shades of red and orange.


Top left: 79ideas, top right: Martha Stewart Weddings, bottom right: Martha Stewart Weddings, bottom left: A Simple Photograph via StyleMePretty

Because this is a backyard event we decided on very casual flowers. We collected jam and mason jars and I ordered Dahlias and Spider Mums in shades of red and orange. I'll also pick up a few green and white blooms on Friday and we'll arrange them casually in the vessels.

And then she asked me to do her hair (ahhh!). My sister has super straight and glossy black hair. She wants a simple up-do, so we've got the pins and hairspray and I'll do my best!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Collectible Colours - July


It's time for another collectible colours. This time I was inspired by the shells we collected in Cape Cod, the gems collected at a kids mining activity and painting the fireplace. The natural shades are very calm.


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, July 13, 2012

Friday Food Files


There isn't much that tastes better than Cod on Cape Cod. We got the fresh catch of the day and baked it in the oven with some lemon/herb aioli. Served with some tomato and mozzarella salad and we were in heaven on the back deck - even the kids couldn't get enough of it.

The simplest how to ever:
  • Put the fish in a buttered baking dish and slather with aioli 
  • Bake for 12 minutes in pre-heated 350 F oven
  • Check that the thickest part of the fish is cooked and serve immediately.
Lemon Herb Aioli
  • ½ Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ Tbls Lemon juice 
  • 1 Tbls each Fresh parsley, basil and thyme 
  • 1 Tbls Chives
  • Pinch pepper



*It was fun taking the photo with dishes and cutlery I found at the rental. I placed everything on the back deck for the photo, right on the cedar planks.



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Abysmal back yard

* if you have a phobia of weeds and/or crumbling decks and patio stones, please move on to another blog story.


When the weather was first getting nice in April I posted about my dream back yard.  Dream solution for the available space anyway. At the time I didn't show you my actual space - here it is in all it's abysmal glory.

Everything street facing on the other side of the fence (we are on a corner) is lovely - our plants are doing well, our lawn is maintained, the path is old, but in pretty good shape. Even the fenced in side of the yard where we have our play structure and new raised flower bed is ok, nothing fancy, but in good shape.

Then you turn the corner and see the image above. Our not to code deck with wobbly railing and oddly off stairs, the weeds that are growing like trees, the deck box that doesn't have a proper home, the old patio table that is sized wrong for such a narrow space and the horrendous pink patio stones, home to even more weeds.


While I was dreaming in the spring to tear down everything and rebuild, it was clear to us that that won't happen this summer. Budget is our first reason: we want to do a proper overhaul and use quality materials. Cedar decking is expensive and we'll also have to redo the concrete posts. Even more expensive are stone paving stones. The second reason is time: this is some time consuming tear down and rebuild.

I thought that we could pull up the stones and live with it for the summer, just so I would not have to look  at their pink horrendousness, but then we thought that a pile of mud with two kids is probably not a good idea. So we wait and are embarrassed when inviting people over for BBQ, corralling them to the lawn section of the yard which is indeed much nicer.

I might get different dining chairs that don't need cushions at the end of the season so we could sell the deck box. This past weekend we just added to the 'loveliness' by buying a larger filtered kids pool (see blue blob above). It's been so hot that we felt bad dumping the water of the kiddy pool each evening - while this thing again is not pretty, the filter allows us to keep the water in and it's deeper for more cooling fun. Hubby stated that now we just needed to add a car on blocks and we'd have a complete look going.

Is your back yard a priority or do you focus your time and money on the inside?


Monday, July 9, 2012

Boston


After a week in Cape Cod we headed to Boston for two days. The last time we had visited Boston was about 3 weeks before M was born - I was walking around all big and puffy, but man, a visit in the city was so much easier then.

I find travelling to cities harder with kids than staying at the beach or at a cottage. The crowds, the transportation and the confined space of a hotel room make things just a bit trickier. However, this time was definitely the easiest city visit we have done to date with kids.


We stayed at the Ames Hotel, which is right smack in the middle of Boston - turn the corner and you're at Quincy Market. The Hotel was amazing - the design is incredible. An old historic building with a complete modern design inside. The rooms are on the smallish side, but the beds are super comfortable, the bar was the most stocked I had ever seen with full 365ml bottles of all the large liquor brands (not that we'd spend that money on mini bar alcohol), the accent wall was black and the ceilings were about 15 feet tall. The bath was so deep that the kids heads went to the edge of the tub when they were sitting. Breakfast is included and is wonderful, a great selection and good quality. The staff was super friendly and the location can't be beat - except for the expensive downtown parking. The kids loved the hotel and after a hot day walking around the city we all fell asleep quite easily.


First day we walked around Quincy market and then beat the heat by jumping on a trolley tour around the city. The breeze was welcomed and we got to see a lot of the sites without having to drag the kids by foot (oh my, our kids really don't walk when in the city - they'll run all day at the water-park or the woods, but get them to the city and they just won't walk! An umbrella stroller would have been a good $20.- spent) We ate fresh fish at Legal Seafood, which  find is a bit pricey for what it is, but my crab cakes and scallops were really good and the kids ate well and we were seated right next to a huge aquarium. We then walked around the harbour and headed back to the hotel, hours past their bed time.


The next day was another scorcher in Boston, so we walked to the Boston Commons Frog Pond, which has a wonderful play area and the amazing spray pool. We then jumped on the carousel, walked past many historic sites, such as the Massachusetts State House and walked across to the other side of the park where the gardens are and the swan boats. A great ride on the subway (my kids love the subway) was a highlight.


The afternoon was spent at the New England Aquarium. This aquarium is just by the harbour and was about a 15 minute walk from our hotel. I really liked that we didn't have to take a long trek to get there, however, I would recommend that you book your tickets ahead of time to avoid the long line-up in the sun. I'm not sure if it was just that weekend, but I had to wait a least 30 minutes to get some tickets. The kids loved the penguins, the large multi storey fish-tank and all the jelly fish. We should have spent more time there, but after all the heat the kids were getting tired so we had a rest at the hotel.

We spent the evening watching some street performance shows at the market and I managed to get 30 minutes or so at Anne Taylor. Another good night of sleep and we were packing up to go home.

This part of our vacation was not easy - but I love Boston. I love the history, the buildings, the green spaces...My learning here would be that kids ages 3 and 5 need some wheels to get around, having them not walk made everything just a tad frustrating and much harder than it had to be.

Do you rent/buy a stroller when you visit a big city or are my kids just lazy? D gave up his stroller at 18 months, he wanted nothing to do with it here in Ottawa.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Food Files and a Workshop

Roasted tomatoes ready for shoot, styled by Aran
photo by me

By the of June I felt rushed - really rushed. I was getting ready for vacation, my daughter's birthday party, attending end-of-the-school-year activities and I had signed up for Aran's Food Styling and Photography workshop in Montreal.

When Aran announced the workshop earlier this year, I jumped on the opportunity to learn from her, to improve my food photos and have a little 'me' day. But everything was so rushed, and I was wondering why I had added yet another thing to my schedule on my way to Montreal the day before M's party.

Radishes sliced thinly for salad, prepping ingredients, Aran shooting tomatoes

I got to the workshop 15 minutes late (this never happens to me!) and joined Aran, 12 women and Mayssam, who had managed to get Aran to Montreal. Aran started the day by going through her process, how she sets up her shoots, where she takes her photos and a little background on how she got to where she is today. Aran is very friendly, a little reserved and seems delicate - but with an added spark that you can see in her photos. I was trying to take everything in and to hear how she gets the photos she publishes on her blog.

Once Aran started preparing her shots I saw how the details matter. A photographer friend of mine had once told me that food photos are 80% about styling and only 20% about photography. I could see that happening here. You can't rush a photo, attention needs to be given to the food arrangement, the background, the herb placement, the fact that a radish looks better sliced thin, etc. This will be my main challenge, to find the time to prepare for a great photo and not taking a couple of pictures right before serving dinner.

Aran's computer for photo analysis, water and ingredients around the kitchen

While watching Aran, my head was going through my to-do list and I was getting a tad impatient with people asking about camera settings, software settings and so on -  that was unfair of me. Everyone was taking this day to learn and take away something, and I was forgetting to do the same.

While I was flustered and didn't really have the head in the game, I do see 3 weeks later - relaxed after my vacation - that I picked up a lot of pointers for myself. Be it the importance of careful styling or a few details on lighting that I tend to rush, or even ignore. There is no magic formula to take a good photo, it's good preparation, the details, light and lot's of practice.

I want to use this post to thank Aran for her time, her knowledge, her wonderful talent in food photography and I want to apologize for not bringing my all when she was. I'll never look at a cut tomato quite the same way and there's always a pretty way to present a strawberry.

***

After lunch it was our turn to style and photograph. You can see my flustered attempts below. 


Top photos: Photo by me, styling by Chrystelle and me
Middle photos: Trifle styling by Aran, table styling and photo by me
Bottom photo: Photo and styling by me

Both photos styled by Aran, photo taken with my iPhone



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Vacation on the Cape


We just got back from a wonderful week in Cape Cod and two days in Boston. It was truly the best vacation we've had since having kids. We are not quite sure if the wonderful location was the factor or because our kids are older now, but whatever it was it really worked this time. I went through 500+ photos today and chose quite a few to share with you here on the blog. I'll share Boston in a separate post.

We rented a house in Chatham, a little less than 1km walk from a small beach. The house had a large well maintained yard and all the things we needed, making cooking and laundry a breeze and much easier than staying at a hotel. I also find that renting gives you a lot more space for less money.



Day one we went around the charming town and hit two beaches. The weather was hot and sunny and we enjoyed the full summer experience. I loved that Chatham had no Mc Donald's and that Starbucks was miles away at the grocery store. The only real chain I saw there was Dunkin Donuts. The houses in Chatham and the Cape in general are beautifully maintained, Chatham itself catering to the wealthier with Harry Connick Jr supposedly owning a property - some of the sprawling houses right by the beach were just amazing.


Day two was rainy and we headed north to Provincetown. We walked the colourful streets, dug through a few of the curiosity shops and had great clams and lobster for lunch. Once the rainstorm came thundering in we hoped back in the car and headed back to the cottage for a quiet afternoon and an evening spent at the beach. Provincetown would be a great town to visit art galleries and party all night long.



The next day we decided to visit Nantucket. We took the speed ferry, which the kids loved and got there in an hour. The weather turned out to be beautiful on the island, while it was raining all day on the mainland. Nantucket is expensive and I felt quite underdressed amongst the Louis Vuitton clad ladies. However, we rented bikes and tackled the bumpy cobblestone roads of town toward the bike paths to the beaches. The kids were a bit whiny about the bumpy roads, but once we hit the beach all bets were off. The island is picturesque and the people are friendly, but I think to fully enjoy it you'd have to stay more than a day.


The kids loved the South Beach which is about 5km bike ride from the town and has washrooms and food for sale. All of Nantucket also offers a lot of bike parking and great scoops of ice cream at the Juice Bar.


The rest of the days we visited a Lavender Farm, went on a kids geared Catch n' Release Fishing tour and visited the Natural History Museum. Those are just a few of the things you can do while there - unless you just want to eat ice cream and dig your toes in the sand.



What a wonderful stay - I think all the stars aligned on this trip - the kids were in a great mood, the location was beautiful, friendly and had a lot to offer, the weather was outstanding and there are so many beaches to discover that you never get bored. Hubby and I actually got to sit back and talk to each other on a couple of occasions and we felt relaxed and in true vacation spirit.  We'll be back for sure, and if I win that lottery I'll be buying right next to Harry.




Monday, July 2, 2012

Vacation Heaven


We had the best week ever on Cape Cod and are now hanging out in Boston for a fun couple of days. I'll be back soon with a detailed report of the best vacation we've had since having kids!