Wednesday, August 31, 2011

sitting still for s'mores

I think as a a culture, we have learned to keep moving.  That in order to succeed, you must keep doing things and getting stuff.  And in order for your children to succeed, they must be shuttled to a million activities…sports games and practices, music lessons, social activities.  But I am beginning to wonder if that kind of mentality has created a selfish culture that does what they want, without listening to others.  A society that has such short attention spans, that they must be doing something to be entertained.  That someone has to predetermine, sign them up and make the decision for the kids to make them happy and busy, instead of letting them figure out themselves, the answer to “I’m bored!”   I wonder if the children of today learned how to just sit still.

When we stay at the cottage, we usually have a bonfire and make s’mores (and not one from those pre-created kits at the store…really???).  All you can hear is the crackling of the kindling, the fire roaring and the occasional spark of the wood.  The smells of woodsy undertones mixed with the sweet marshmallows is an irreplaceable scent.  Along with this, is the act of roasting the marshmallow.  Sitting still, carefully placing the white fluff of sweetness just in the right spot…not in the fire, but just over the hot coals.  This takes patience…both waiting for the fire to create enough hot coals, as well as waiting for the marshmallow to turn a caramelized tan colour.

It is the act of the roast, the sitting and respecting the flames, feeling the heat on your skin, as you sit.  Being patient.  Being quiet.  Just listening.

I think we all need to make s'mores more often.

S'Mores Recipe
Graham crackers
Chocolate bar (Jersey Milk bars melt nicely).

Place marshmallow on stick over fire.  Put roasted goodness on graham cracker.  Put chocolate piece on top.  Sandwich between another graham cracker.  Sit still.  Eat.  Enjoy.

{This post is linked up with Centsational Girl}

Monday, August 29, 2011

lobster travels

With Hurricane Irene's arrival at the Eastern seaboard and wishing everyone there stays safe, I've been thinking about our previous trip to Prince Edward Island, a beautiful island on the east coast of Canada.  When we landed, I knew our family would be in for a real treat. The culinary offerings of seafood, specifically lobster, was everywhere, and to watch the boats come in to deliver them while we were waiting for our dinner to be made, was a wonderful experience, especially for the kids.

Climbing light houses or catching a glimpse of the world far away over magnificent red clay cliffs. In awe with the large bridge, running and listening to the “singing sands”, finding lobsters and other creatures in the ocean, and just smelling the salt air…nothing can match the experience.

And nothing can match my first time getting lobster right off the boat, scratching it’s way through a brown paper bag to the cottage we rented, where I had my first foray into lobster cooking. Finding oysters and mussels right on our beach during low tide, and eating a seafood feast from our very own pickings…now that’s fresh seafood!

Sometimes I wonder if the kids would have rather gone to Disney than to this place known as the “gentle island”, but with all the amazing experiences with the ocean and natural surroundings...

...I doubt it.

How to cook a lobster
The best way to cook a lobster is by steaming or boiling. No sauces, no spices. Just dipping the juicy crustacean in simple melted butter. Here's the proper method the lovely cottage owners left behind for us.

"Lobster should be cooked either in clean seawater or salted fresh water (add 2 tbsp./25 ml of salt to each quart/litre of fresh water). Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the lobster and bring it to a boil. Grasp the lobster firmly by the back just behind the claws and plunge it head first into the boiling water. Cover, return the water to a boil and then lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Lobster will cook in 12-20 minutes depending on the size. Canners will cook in 12-15 minutes, while large lobsters will require up to 20 minutes of cooking time. Timing should start only after the water has returned to a boil. Once cooked, the lobster should be drained immediately, They can now be served hot or chilled quickly by being dipped in cold water. It is important to cool the lobster quickly so that they do not remain in the temperature range in which bacteria multiply rapidly."
(source:  PEI Tourism)

Friday, August 26, 2011

that's amore

As you've seen this past week, my husband and I toured France, Spain and Italy for our honeymoon. It was an amazingly unforgettable experience, and it was wonderful to experience it as the beginning of our marraige together.

When we reminisce with our friends about this wonderful European experience, we are often asked, of all the places we visited, which was our favorite?

Sardinia, Italy.  

The quaint island just off the coast of Italy, both rustic with cliffs and mountains, had the most beautiful beaches in the world (crystal clear water for miles).  We always said if we ever went back, that’s where we’d go.

{source:  Sardinia Beaches}

And here's a luxurious place to stay in Sardinia.

Cheers to our anniversary…and to all the places we'll go!

Simply Beautiful Now

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

freshwater pearl

During our stay in Spain, we stayed in Palma de Mallorca (or Majorca), which is similar to Miami...posh and luxe as well as where the European youth stay during their winter break (much like Florida is to North Americans).  In abundance were fresh water pearls (both nature made and man made cultured), seafood paella (a rice dish), sangria...and in true Spanish spirit, late night music and dancing...

Apparently Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones have a villa getaway here...and I can see why.  If you're in the area, here's a lovely place to stay...all that beautiful white decor glistens like a freshwater pearl...

The sangrias were wonderful in Spain...imagine enjoying one here...

Monday, August 22, 2011

you are my roc

Entrance to Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc
When we visited France, we were in awe with all the rustic sophistication that we saw. Contrasts in old world luxury with new comforts. One thing for sure…if you head south to the Cannes area (and next door neighbor, Monaco), you'll automatically feel the sense of aristocracy.

Here’s the famed Eden Roc hotel in Cannes, a popular spot for celebrities…apparently they come up in their yachts to have a quick $100 drink.  My husband actually returned to Cannes for work, and visited this magnificent place... here's his photos...

Can you imagine relaxing at a place like this?

Friday, August 19, 2011

living on water

As our wedding anniversary approaches, I start to think of our honeymoon and the incredible travelling experience my husband and I had.  We toured Italy, France and Spain (the southern regions, which also included Monaco and Cannes), and since neither of us had been to Europe we wanted to see as much as we could in the three short weeks we had to visit 3 countries (technically four countries, as Monaco is considered a country on it's own...oh, how my mind wanders....)

So, we thought that the best way to discover the Mediterranean was to tour it on a cruise.  Although we don't really consider ourselves "guided tour" people, it was a great way to see highlights of these countries and to note where we'd like to re-visit, enjoying fine dining and be pampered at night, without much worry.

And they certainly make travelling on a cruise ship luxurious...
who wouldn't mind staying on a ship like this:

{source:  Crystal Cruises }

In the next week, I will show some lovely places to stay in Italy, France, and Spain, ending with our favourite spot that we'd definitely go back to someday.

Bon Voyage,

Simply Beautiful Now

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

the apples of my eye

Caramel Apples
During the summer, there are plenty of country fairs, fairgrounds and festivals to visit.  Cotton candy, caramel apples, sweet popcorn are standard culinary fare.  

My son read about a fun and tasty treat that’s easy to make and thought it would be fun if we made them together.  Since I had 2 great sous chefs eager to make this, and there were only 4 steps to this recipe, I thought…why not?

Caramel Apples

6 Apples (I used organic ones)
Bag of 50 caramels
2 tablespoons of milk
Various toppings of your choice (like chocolate chips, smarties, etc.)
Wax paper & butter
Popsicle sticks


Remove the stem from each apple and press a craft stick into the top. Butter a baking sheet.

Unwrap caramels and place, with milk in a microwave safe bowl, 
and microwave 2 minutes, stirring once. Allow to cool briefly.

Roll each apple quickly in caramel sauce until well coated.

Place toppings in separate bowls, and dip or decorate the apples.

Place on prepared baking sheet lined with wax paper (slightly brush some butter on the wax paper...the caramel is really sticky!), and set in the fridge (approximately 30 minutes or overnight)

Mmmm…the sweet caramel smell brings back memories of carousels and merry-go-rounds.


Simply Beautiful Now

Friday, August 12, 2011

bench pressed

I've finally mustered the courage to replace the fabric on the bed bench in our master bedroom.  It was originally green, which didn't go with our grey colour scheme. We spent significantly more money on it this bench (it's an antique) so I was apprehensive.

Now that I've discovered recovering fabric is quite easy (I used my chair transformation as my trial and error test) I am ready to tackle the next step...the bench (at some point, I will gain the courage to recover all 8 of my antique dining chairs!) .  I was looking for a dark grey fabric (top photo), with a delicate detailed stripe (bottom photo)...the Kravet fabrics below range from $80-400/yard!

Calvin Klein's Satillo Graphite for Kravet Fabrics

Barbara Barry's Lucky Knots Quartzite for Kravet Fabrics

I found a great fabric that worked with the room, and reminiscent of the two fabrics combined above (believe it or not, it is a table cloth I found in the clearance section at Winners for $10).
This is actually a tablecloth found in the clearance section of
Winners (same as Marshalls in the US) for a mere $10.

So I took a chance with this beautiful and simply detailed tablecloth, and re-covered the's what I did..

Removed the cushioned seat top
by unscrewing it from the bottom

Cut the fabric approximately 1-2 inches larger than the cushion.

With the patterned side down, using a staple gun 
(and upholstery staples), staple the centre of the 
fabric on each four sides. Work your way 
from the centre towards the corners.

Tuck the corners, like you're gift wrapping.

Re-attach the cushion top to the bench.

Here's the before and after:

Green fabric

Silvery Grey fabric works with the Trellis bedding

Now it look like it belongs in the room.