Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Food Files

It's the end of August and I wanted to share some of the tomato crop we've been harvesting this month. It seemed like tomatoes started late this year - I guess we didn't have enough rain in July for them to produce earlier. However, they are abundant now. We planted three varieties this year - a medium sized tomato which has a great heart shape and is firm and juicy. The grape variety which is larger than a cherry tomato and perfect for snacks. We also have these teeny tiny ones - they are the size of peas! I didn't realize they would be that tiny. They look cute in pasta or a grain salad, but not much to them.

Do you grow tomatoes? We also have cucumbers, beans and peppers, but the tomatoes are by far our favourite.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Yesterday, M went back to school - Kindergarten (Maternelle)! She was very anxious about going back - worried about the change. Once we arrived and she saw all her friends and the crazy activity, all fears were gone. I compared this photo to last year - she's not a little girl anymore, sniff! What a difference a year makes.

Did your kids start school yet?

Update: My husband says it's Senior Kindergarten in Ontario...whatever it is, I can't believe she's back to school already.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Alt Summit NYC and celebrity in the house!

*long post alert

Oh my, what a whirlwind trip this was! ALT NYC city was amazing! The people were very open and fun, the speakers were exceptional and experts at what they do. Especially the keynote by Tina Roth Eisenberg left such an impression. She is talented, a go-getter, positive and very kind - and Swiss, so that's a positive, right?

I took away a ton of information from all the speakers and panels - some things I'll apply to the blog, others were just great messages to take away and think about.

For those that follow me on twitter you already know this, but we had a total celebrity craze moment when THE Martha Stewart walked into the room. There was a collective gasp - I never thought I'd have such a reaction to a celebrity...but this was pretty crazy and amazing!

Martha Photo by Brooke Kiernan

The other great thing was that we were able to see the offices where all the magazine magic happens. Everyone at Martha Stewart was so kind and friendly - I'm sure we weren't making their workday very easy.

We finished the day off with a rooftop party, a great time to mingle and talk to bloggers that I only knew online. What great food, drink, company and the view - unforgettable!

Empire State photo above Sunset by Gabrielle Blair

The next day I wandered midtown a bit before it was time to head back home.  This trip was such a treat - such a positive experience. I didn't bring my good camera on this trip, so all the photos are from my phone, I never thought I'd take this many!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Food Files

A few weeks ago we visited friends that have this amazing garden - all the vegetables and herbs you can imagine. She sent us home with yellow zucchini, eggplant and a bunch of sage. I love the smell of sage, the velvet texture and the muted green colour.

I decided to use the sage as the main player in a simple ravioli dish. I bought cheese ravioli, and while the water was coming to a boil, I browned some butter in a pan and added the sage - cooking it long enough for it to turn crispy but not burnt.

Toss cooked pasta with butter/sage sauce. I love how the flavour of browned butter and crispy sage plays off the pasta. Add a bit of Parmesan and you have a family friendly meal in twenty minutes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Going to New York City

I'm heading to NYC today. I was lucky enough to score an ALT NYC ticket earlier this summer. This will be a perfect introduction to a smaller blogger conference. 200 people will be attending, so I hope the size will be less intimidating for me and that I'll have a chance to network and meet a bunch of bloggers I follow online.

What makes this trip particularly fun is that the conference is taking place at the Martha Stewart Living headquarters! I am so giddy to see the building and to get to use their space. And to top it off  one of the sessions will be Pilar Guzm├ín, Lucinda Scala Quinn, & Kevin Sharkey, sharing their creative process - I can't wait! I should get Lucinda to autograph her cookbook...

It's been seven years since my last visit to New York. I'll will stay with my uncle and will stay one day after the conference for a visit to MoMA (my uncle works there!) and a bit of walking around. Not much time, but still, I'm going to New York!!! I'm going to New York!!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pop-up dinner on the beach

Ever since seeing this dinner party that Jordan hosted on a pier, I wanted to do something similar. So finally we invited some dear friends and had our dinner party at a close-by beach. While it takes a bit of effort to get all the things to the location, it was totally worth it! We enjoyed ourselves so much, had great laughs and ate with a perfect sun set.

Originally we were supposed to be six people, but at the last minute it turned into a party of four. This was to our advantage though, as we got to use our own smaller table and didn't have to rent a larger one. We rented some fold-up chairs, brought our own dishes, glasses, cutlery and linens and set up the full table right on the sand.

We did feel odd setting up a full dinner table in the midsts of beach dwellers, and we did get a few stares and questions - but once you get over the initial odd situation, we were fine.

Our menu:

If you want to do this, here a few pointers that might help you out:
  • Have a back-up plan, either a covered spot or a dinner reservation at a close-by restaurant in case of rain.
  • Find a spot where you can get your car pretty close. The beach we used is a bit removed from the parking area, so we had to drag all our stuff quite some distance. Even dishes for four get quite heavy.
  • Bring a lantern or flashlight for when you pack things up at the end of the dinner. You don't want to trip and fall on the way out.
  • Wrap your dishes, glasses and cutlery in plastic wrap like caterers do, it keeps them clean and they stay put in your car.
  • Have a little prep station for your beverages and different courses.
  • Bring votives and/or solar lights for when the sun sets.
  • Prepare foods that you can eat cold or at room temperature.
  • Bring nice, but not expensive dishes and glasses. You want it to feel fancy without worrying if a plate breaks.
  • Rent chairs and/or tables and even linens - it's very inexpensive.
  • Don't forget the little things, such as bottle openers, a lighter or music.

last two photos by Bruno Doyle

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Food Files

When we went camping last week we had to roast marshmallows. Once you have the roasted marshmallows, making Smores is an obvious choice. However, I'm not a fan of a 'classic' Smore - I usually don't like the chocolate or the graham cracker. So I changed things a bit.
  • Version one was made with Ginger Spice Cookies and malted Ovaltine chocolate. The ginger spice plays off the marshmallow and malted chocolate really nicely.
  • Version two was Ginger Spice Cookies, Marshmallow and grilled peaches. Oh my - these were soooo good! Messy but good.

Do you ever switch up a 'classic' and make it your own?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Collectible Colours - August

This collectible colour is going dark. Have you noticed how many of your everyday things are black? Items like keys, remotes and scissors? While everyone I'm sure consciously buys clothing or decor items in black, it's the other trivial things where we often don't have a choice - unless you asked Steve Jobs.

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.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The fireplace - yes, again and still

Yes, we are still working on our fireplace, or better said, we have not been working consistently on our fireplace and therefore we are still not finished. After our initial failure, mess and clean-up, all we could muster was to choose tile for the hearth. The tile was ordered and is now sitting in our basement.

What have we done in the past two months?  We removed all the grout between each brick (that took about half a day and this time we made sure to prep accordingly and the clean-up was much easier.  Then I painted all the brick with a roller and all the grout lines with a brush, this took two coats and about 5 hours of work. Next we repaired the damaged walls on each side and painted it with the wall colour. I am quite pleased with how the painted brick looks like. We also removed the curtains and added a simple blind on the window next to the fireplace, this really cleans up the space and is visually more pleasing.

What's next? The next big job is the tiling. The tricky thing is actually getting the insert out - it's heavy and bulky and we don't want to damage our floors, backs or brick. After that, there's a bit of painting to be done - once you brighten up one colour it becomes more obvious that other paint needs serious attention, i.e. ceiling and trim. Our last project is not directly part of the fireplace reno, but the corner will get a small built in bookshelf. There you have it - fireplace project still not done, but much improved and we've been enjoying our summer outside! As long as we get it done before we start making fires, I'm happy.

PS: I chose and ordered our drapes for the dining room. I chose the Diamond Ikat and I'll show you the results once the curtains get delivered.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Food Files

This is my favourite side this summer. A simple Quinoa salad - easy to make, perfect for a BBQ or lunch at work.

I make my Quinoa in our rice cooker following the package instructions. I then let it cool to room temperature. I add sliced cucumber, tomatoes, green onion, crumbled feta, chopped parsley and a bit of salt and pepper. A generous glugg of olive  oil and balsamic vinegar and it's done. I like it best when it has time to sit a bit, it absorbs the flavours nicely.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gone Camping - 2012 edition

Last year we did some 'luxury' camping with the kids, so this year we decided to up the 'roughing it' and go tent camping. I still had the same concerns as I always have, which is uncomfortable sleeping arrangements and mosquitoes. But I was willing to give it a try.

We drove to a campground only 40 minutes away from the city, this would allow us to bail easily if all went south. The  forecast was not looking too good, so we were glad about that option. Our campsite was right behind a lovely creek and because our summer has been really dry, the creek was low enough to make it safe for the kiddos to play in. We managed to get the tent up before the rain started and went swimming in the river (just a few roads over) during the downpour.

Once the rain subsided we were glad to discover that our tent was dry! We spent the rest of the evening around the camp site, prepping food and getting dirty. Dinner was a great haddock with potatoes, onions, corn and lemon - it cooked wonderfully in an aluminum packet. Smores for dessert was the obvious choice and really fun for the kids. Because of the fire ban we were not allowed to build a wood fire, but we were allowed briquets, so that gave as the true camping experience. 

And then it was time to go to sleep - and it all went south!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Long Weekend

This Monday I'm sleeping in - or better said, I'm sleeping past 5:40 am. It's a long weekend here in Canada, which means that my Masters Swim Program is cancelled today. Three times a week in the summer (June - August) I swim outdoors - and because I have kids that need to go to daycare, school and/or camp, I need to take the 6 am slot. I'm not the only one and once I get over the early rise it's great. This is the second year I'm doing the Masters Swim Program and I love it. It's pretty tough, but relaxing at the same time - having your head under water will do that. I also need someone to tell me what to do and push me further - on my own I'd probably quit after 15 minutes of leisurely swimming. Once I'm done at 7 am I'm glad I got a good workout and don't have to worry about it for the rest of the day.

Last year I stopped after the summer session, this year I want to continue in winter. Not sure if I'll be able to get up that early on a cold winter morning, so I might sign up for the late evening session.

Did your workout schedule change once you had kids? Do you have to force yourself out of bed or off the couch? Hubby goes running on the days I don't swim and he's out the door at 6:15 as well!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Food Files

My sister had her wedding reception two weeks ago and I was tasked in creating the cake. I found my inspiration online and used this Martha Stewart yellow cake recipe. It was my first time making Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing and I loved it! It wasn't too hard to make and it's much easier to spread than other icings I've made in the past.

The bottom section was filled with a Peach and Passionfruit Curd and I decorated the cake with fresh flowers that matched the centre pieces. I got my main inspiration for the decor from Coco and her anniversary cake. We even cut a piece of wood from our wood stump to create the wooden platter.

Everything turned out wonderfully - the party was a success. The flowers came together, her hair turned out pretty, the food was good and the weather was sunny, warm and not too humid. I won't be posting any photos of the event to maintain people's privacy, but I'll share a couple of photos the photographer took of our kids in a couple of days.

* The lighting on these photos isn't ideal, but I didn't have much time and could not wait for the sun to move to a more indirect setting. The blue tinge is really annoying me above.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Metallic and Neon Confetti Tray

I've had a melamine tray for a while that I liked, but that was limited in pattern - the red and white felt too Christmassy and therefore I would not use it in the summer. I decided to use some painter's tape and spray paint to update it a bit and get some more use out of it.

1. I spray painted a a few thin coats of metallic silver and waited 24 hours for the paint to fully dry.
2. The next day I took my painter's tape and punched random holes in it. The random pattern creates the confetti look.
3. I then carefully placed each strip of tape on the tray making sure the tape overlapped and was pressed down firmly around all the holes.
4. After that I covered the tray with a few thin coats of neon pink spray paint and removed the tape very carefully *. Tataaaa an easy project to update an old tray!

I like the fun confetti pattern, the metallic and neon colour and now I can use it all the time to serve food and drinks outside. After the summer I can use it in the office, to corral books or boxes or any place that needs a bit of fun colour and pattern.

*When I removed the painter's tape it did leave some marks on the metalic paint - I'm not sure if it's glue from the tape or paint that got removed. Next time I try this I might let the base paint dry even longer. So it's not perfect, but for the price of two cans of spray paint I now have something fun.