Friday, September 30, 2011

you're welcome

It's amazing how sometimes a simple door or window can attract or welcome you to enter.  I am obsessed with beautiful doors, especially old antique solid wood ones.  It creates a sense of boundaries, yet with it's tempts you to enter and hopefully meet an equally warm greeting.

I could say the same about store shops.  Of course, I couldn't write about New York without talking about the shopping.  Ohhh, the shopping.  How my husband was amazingly very very patient, and waited while I checked out a few places.  Some piqued his interest...some, not so much.  

But I think it's all in how you're welcomed into the door.  There were many  beautiful and unique displays in and around the city, and even my husband appreciated the craftsmanship of some of the displays, and entered the store.  Like a museum, it creates a sense of respect for the art.  No large, sales-manic crowds in the stores.  No pushing or shoving.  Just a stillness to allow you to appreciate what's inside.  

Although I've visited both beautiful and some generic stores in NY, the stores my husband was least frustrated in visiting were the ones with artistic displays.  A welcome reprieve from the crowds, to enjoy the art, and to enjoy the wait. 

 And for his patience, I am forever thankful for.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

taking a bite out of the big apple

My husband and I visited many wonderful places to enjoy the culinary delights of NYC. There is no shortage of fabulous, award winning restaurants.  We walked a lot to take in all the culture, and let our noses (and stomachs) guide us.

When we arrived in New York, for lunch, we enjoyed  La Gazzetta (the cafe that's part of the famed Villa Pacri), where we enjoyed home made panini's, local beers and great conversation with a friendly New York couple who sat next to us on the patio.  It was a great time to meet the locals, providing advice on interesting off the beaten path places in New York, and they were equally intrigued with our own view as visitors.

For dinner, we had pre-reserved our seats at Gotham Bar and Grill. (it's advisable to reserve on Open Table at least a few weeks in advance). This restaurant is considered a staple to's been around for years (I'd almost equate this to the old Rainbow Room), and had elegance and incredible culinary offerings . Not as "hip and young" as other choices we were considering, however, the excellent service and the feeling of being treated very very well was something the more "hip" offerings seemed to lack.  And the food was unquestionably delicious.  In particular, the Roasted Muscovy Duck (one of their signature dishes) was spectacular! 

The next morning, we ate at The Standard Grill for a light breakfast.  This outdoor/indoor schoolhouse themed cafe (the staff wore school-like uniforms), and the interiors had beautiful old schoolhouse pendant lamps and checkered floors.  They served mostly organic fare, and their variations on anything with eggs provided lots of protein for the day.  We ate outdoors, and enjoyed our eggs with the birds in the trees surrounding us.

Before heading home, we were taking a leisurely walk in Greenwich village, where a quaint little restaurant caught our eye. We had a late brunch at  The Little Owl, a casual and quaint spot popular with the locals (the exterior of this building was used for the opening sequence of the Friends television series.).  The meatball sliders (their signature at brunch) were incredible, but what was amazing was the friendly service. Although we were visitors, we felt like locals here.

It was hard to leave without wanting to continue our gastronomical journey through the villages, the city and side streets, discovering unique little spots and enjoying all the various tastes of New York.  I think we definitely took our share of "bites" of The Big Apple.

Monday, September 26, 2011

architectural digest

This past weekend, my husband and I enjoyed a fabulous trip to New York City, an amazing birthday gift from my husband.  We stayed at a great hotel in the Meatpacking district, called The Standard, and it's anything but.

This is the view through the floor to ceiling windows of our room.
It’s been awhile since I’ve visited this great city.  What never ceases to amaze me is the scurry of activity amongst the jungle of concrete and bright lights.

And in surrounding areas, so much calm amongst the beautiful historical architecture in places like Greenwich village, Tribeca and Soho.

I’ve always inspired for my home to look like historic brownstones you see so prevalent in NYC.  The beautiful limestone.  The wrought iron details.  The grandeur and history of it all.

There is so much architecture to take in.  The details that create a sense of grandeur.  But also beautiful simplicity.  So many faces of New York.  What I found amazing was the juxtaposition of various styles, put together so seamlessly.  Old and rustic with new.  Modern details married with antique.  All so harmonious.  

I sometimes wonder (and hope) if behind those walls,  if all the differences in people's cultures and beliefs can mimic these "architectural walls of harmony" and stand together to co-exist beautifully, just like these buildings.

Friday, September 23, 2011

turning a new leaf

Autumn is a beautiful time of year. The sun casts a warm glow, the leaves turn colour, and the weather becomes more comfortable.  You can feel the end of summer warmth greet the chill of the autumn air.
Many people think summer is the only BBQ season, but there is nothing more comforting than eating something cooked over the fire, something to take the chill out of the autumn air.  The smoky scent fills the air like a warm blanket, while your hands are warmed by hot chocolate.

or the longest time, my husband would only BBQ meat with only a little seasoning.  He's a BBQ purist.  However,  this is a tasty recipe, which doesn't require overnight marinating.  I think I've changed his mind.

Quick Marinade

This also works well with all kinds of meats...pork, chicken, and even fish.


  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small sliced red onion
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 4 pieces of meat, approx. 8oz each.

  • Mix the marinade. 
  • Place your meat in a large glass pyrex baking pan.
  • Stir in the marinade, turning to coat.
  • Cover and let sit in then fridge for approx. 30 minutes (or at least 15 minutes).  Do not marinade more than 30 minutes, as the salt from the soy sauce makes this recipe quite salty.
Grill and enjoy the first day of Autumn.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

balance and the fig prosciutto pizza

More often than I’d like to admit, it's easy to be overwhelmed with our own lives.  Working, writing, public speaking, chauffeuring, homework, volunteering, cooking, cleaning, exercising…always answering!  These on top of the little details that keep the day moving forward makes it challenging to enjoy leisurely activities with each other as a family.  

It’s difficult to lead a balanced life.  The feeling of accomplishment doesn’t factor when it feels like you’re never done, when you're finishing one task while your mind is on another.  As I approach a very busy season of birthdays, Thanksgiving and travel, I start to breathe deep, and remind myself about the reason.  The motivation behind it all. 

I’ve realized that what I really want to do in my life, is to create magical moments.  That no matter what the task is, that every moment can really be cherished as part of a positive memory.  To balance the sweet and not so sweet (Yes, even if doing the dishes, with a little music, can make the task more magical…or at least seem faster!)  And that sometimes to achieve that, I’d have to venture out of my comfort zone, to realize and admit, my strengths and weaknesses.  And to allow others (and myself), to accept both

Fig & Prosciutto Pizza

Enjoy the sweetness of the figs and honey, saltiness of the prosciutto, mellow tastes of the cheese, and the freshness of the arugula.  

  • Pre-made or homemade pizza dough
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2-3 figs, sliced in quarters 
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Thinly sliced goat cheese, blue cheese or mozzarella (to taste)
  • 6-8 thin slices of  prosciutto
  • 1 small bunch arugula
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • ½ cups shaved parmesan
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Roll out  the pizza dough as thinly as possible. Place on a large baking or pizza sheet.
  • Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. 
  • Lay slices of cheese of your choice all over the surface. 
  • Layer prosciutto and figs all over.
  • Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly.
  • Remove then turn off the oven.  
  • Layer on arugula and parmesan shavings, the drizzle with honey.
  • Place back into turned off (but still warm) oven, until parmesan melts.
  • Serve.  

Perfect balance.

{Linked to Homemaker on a Dime}

Monday, September 19, 2011

coffee, tea or me

I’ve been slowly trying to eliminate coffee from my daily routine.  My love affair with coffee began during my first pregnancy.  Although I couldn’t (wouldn’t) drink coffee while I was pregnant, I did find comfort in the smell of it.  (picture a very pregnant woman standing in front of a coffee shop, just standing, smelling, with eyes closed no less!).

After my second child was born, I started actually drinking coffee.  I felt I needed it to keep up.  To stay awake.  To be able to have the fuel to get through a day of crying (mine) and exhaustion (my husband’s).

But as much as I love coffee, it has come to a time when I should go back to my first love…tea.  I’m now not sure if if I have more energy now than I did when I ran on coffee.  Tea’s soothing power and cleansing ability has given me more strength to think clearly, with less irritability, and more calm. 

Calm is good.  

Mint Tea
·     10 sprigs fresh mint, plus extra for garnish
·     3 teaspoons green tea
·     3 tablespoons sugar ( or more to taste)
·     4 cups water

·     Boil the water and pour a small amount in the teapot, to warm the pot.
·     Combine the mint, green tea and sugar in the teapot, then fill it with the rest of the hot water.
·     Let the tea brew for three minutes.

Enjoy the tea.

Friday, September 16, 2011

one potato, two potato...

Recently, a friend of ours just had their first baby. Listening to stories of exhaustion, bewilderment, and their mixed feelings of love and fear while venturing into unchartered waters. Feeling totally overwhelmed but also enamored with their new bundle of joy.

Questions like how to get back their sleep.  Or how to make dinner once, that both satisfy the adults and the kid that has no teeth?
It’s amazing that while listening to this, nodding in agreement, how I remembered our own mountain of questions, and realizing that it was just the beginning of such a joyous (albeit exhausting) journey of answers.  Learning to see the forest for the trees.
What I also learned is that there really are no “right” answers.  That the answers are really about how you commit to the path.  Finding ways to adjust the plans, so everyone can move forward.

Sweet Potato Mash and Oven Fries
(serves 3-4 people)

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 tbsp. Grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • Any variety of herbs (Italian seasoning works too), to taste.
  • Preheat the oven to 400degrees
Start with the mash...
  • Wrap one potato in tin foil.  Place in oven.  
  • Bake for approximately 1 hour.  Remove, and mash with a fork immediately.  
In the meantime...
  • Slice 2 of the large sweet potatoes lengthwise, creating "wedges" or "fries"
  • Toss the sweet potatoes with the oil, until evenly coated.
  • Add herbs add toss.
  • Lay out the potatoes on a baking sheet.
  • Place in the oven with the wrapped potato.  Bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, turning occasionally.
  • Serve.  
  • Note:  You can make a big batch of sweet potato mash to freeze and save for future use... once cooled, place in ice cube trays, cover with saran wrap, and freeze.

Enjoy and eat together, as a family.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

melting hearts and chocolate

It has been commonly documented that chocolate releases endorphins that mimic the feeling of love. A popular cake for birthdays…nothing beats that moment when you take that first bite of chocolate bliss and it melts in your mouth…mmm….just heavenly.

 It gives the same feeling of when your heart is melted…you know, those moments when our hearts flutter or skip a beat? It could be from a simple smile from a loved one. Or a surprise moment when your loved one gives you a special birthday gift.

A gift of love.  A gathering of family and friends.  A glance of the past, cherishing the present and hope for the future.

My heart was melted.

Chocolate Birthday Cake


2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
5 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

·      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a bundt pan.
·      Use the first set of ingredients to make the cake. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 3 minutes with an electric mixer. Stir in the boiling water by hand. Pour into the pan.
·      Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely.
·      To make the frosting, use the second set of ingredients. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Stir in the cocoa and confectioners' sugar alternately with the milk and vanilla. Beat to a spreading consistency.
·      Frost the outside of the cake.

Enjoy it melt in your mouth.

Monday, September 12, 2011

the age of innocence and the chocolate chip cookie

When I listen to a child tell a story, it always seems like their view of the world is so pure. I often what age do children lose that innocence? Their naivety?

Is it after they begin going to school, and learning to navigate around their territorial world and learn to share? Is it when they have (and lose) their first crush?  Or is it when they begin to listen to the news about the real world outside, and start to realize that sometimes people...even countries, don't get along. Sometimes I wonder, if we as adults have lost our own sense of innocence with the way the world is now.  That sometimes stick and stones aren't the only thing that hurt...

One thing for sure, nothing evokes that feeling of childhood innocence better than biting into a good old fashioned chocolate chip cookie.  It’s simplicity…just a little cookie with little chocolate chips, is a staple in most childhoods…whether ice cream is squished between two cookies, additional ingredients like smarties or nuts are thrown in, or large versions like a “cookie” pizza are made for classroom birthdays.

The world may no longer be innocent, but while eating a simple cookie, maybe we can regain some of that childhood feeling back...even if it's for just for a few moments.

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie
(approx. 2 dozen cookies)

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds)
2. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.
3. In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet at least one inch apart. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

Friday, September 09, 2011

lazy tomato salad

Laziness, according to the Merrium Webster dictionary, means "disinclined to activity or exertion : not energetic or vigorous" .  

Photographed in Turks & Caicos

This Tomato Salad falls under that category, when I too, fall under it. (or feel "disinclined")

Tomato Salad

Vine ripened tomato,
Bocconcini or mozzarella (ball) cheese, 
Fresh basil 
Extra virgin olive oil

Slice tomatoes and arrange on plate
Slice cheese and place on top of tomatoes
Drizzle with olive oil.
Sprinkle with freshly chopped basil.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

hot lunch

Sometimes I feel a little sadness for kids today…I think they miss out on the simple things we used to do when we were little.  Play outside with neighbors without parental guidance until the streetlights came on. Coming home (and not going to a hockey or soccer game) to be “bored” doing homework or watching after school specials on television.  Or walking home from school (unescorted to boot!) at noon for a homemade lunch.

It might have been a simple lunch.  But it always tasted like pure goodness.  Straight from Mom’s hands, to our plates.  Maybe it tasted so good because it tasted…comforting. A break from “a hard day” at school, to talk with someone who understands, or at least just listens.
Although it’s now logistically difficult to have children eat a homemade lunch at home, who says they can’t have a little bit of "home" at school?

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese


3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 3/4 cups elbow macaroni

1 1/3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/4 cups low-fat milk

1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil

1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 tsp water
6 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp. dijon mustard


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the macaroni until tender but firm, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. While the macaroni is cooking, whisk the flour, stock and milk in a saucepan until smooth. Place over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes or until hot and thickened.
3. Stir in the cheddar cheese, 3 Tbsp of the Parmesan cheese and the mustard. Cook until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

4. Toss the macaroni with the cheese sauce.
5. Place in thermos according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Keeps hot for up to 5 hours for a nice hot lunch.

Monday, September 05, 2011

the countdown

We often begin the summer with a countdown.  How many more days before school is out?   How many more workdays before time off to venture as a family…to the cottage, to the beach, to see family, to the zoo…or just time off to rejuvenate.

Little things are counted too…how many clouds do you see in the sky?  How many ice cream scoops? How many bites does it really take to eat those "two bite" brownies?

Then you feel the turn in the weather.  Things start to get a little cooler in the morning.  There is a different stillness in the air as we start to shift back to preparing for schedules.  It’s another countdown…usually a mixed feeling of anticipation for a new season, but also wanting just one more week, one more day to not have to plan…a more sentimental feeling.

When dusk sets in, and I feel the air get cooler…I know I will once again, have that jittery butterfly feeling as I simultaneously think about the path ahead of us, while reminiscing  about all the quiet (and not so quiet) magical moments spent with loved ones....

…and count my blessings.

Two Bite Brownie Smiles


• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 pinch salt
• 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup icing sugar (for coating)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
2. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth.
3. Combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt, and slowly mix into the creamed butter mixture.
4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or place in the freezer for 1 hour to firm up the brownie.
5. Spread the icing sugar on a plate. Shape the dough in approx. 1 tablespoon sized balls and coat with icing sugar, shaking to remove any excess sugar. Place on the baking sheet.
6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The cracks in the brownies will appear like smiles, from the icing sugar! 

Let cool or serve warm.  Smile.

{This post is linked to Homemaker on a Dime}

Friday, September 02, 2011

sunsets and late night pasta

There's something to be said about sunsets.  The warm glow, the stillness of the air. It is as if the world is slowing down, getting ready to settle in.  It's a time to reflect.  Reflect upon the day you just had.  Or the day that will be.  A time to clear your mind, and just feel the glow.

I often reminisce about the past travels or plan future ones. I yearn to have our children discover the world, learning about cultures, people, and even politics, but yet maintain their innocence, the purity of appreciating all the beauty the world has to offer.

When my husband and I travelled to Europe, it opened our eyes to sights, scents, sounds and tastes that changed our views of how the simple things can be so beautiful.  Late night gatherings while enjoying light fare and wine was popular, and showed us how the day doesn't end just because the sun sets.  

A quintessential Roman dish, usually consumed late at night, called  "Pasta aglio e olio" (or pasta with garlic and oil), was something I learned to make, and is now part of my recipe repertoire.  It's good for lunch or a late night supper with wine.  This recipe is a nod to enjoying both the day and the night.

Simple Pasta with Garlic and Oil

       1 -500g box of long thin pasta, like linguine.
       1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
       1/4 cup of butter
       6-8 cloves garlic, minced
       1/4 cup pasta cooking water
       1 teaspoon salt
       1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
       1 plum tomato, chopped
       1/4 cup of parmesan
       1/4 cup of lemon juice
       Meat or vegetables of choice (chicken, crab, peppers, zucchini...anything goes!)

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. 
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, then add butter, until the garlic browns.
  3. Add parmesan, parsley, and tomato. Heat slightly, then remove from heat.
  4. Toss with the cooked pasta.
  5. Top with parmesan to taste, and serve.