Monday, April 30, 2012

airing the laundry

When I was flipping through the channels on the car radio, I stopped when one local radio station had one of those "relationship" experts on the air.  Normally I think those "experts" are not truly legitimate, and normally I wouldn't have continued to listen.

However, fielding questions from callers, one woman wanted to know if her husband was cheating on her. So, the radio host proceeded to do the "rose ceremony".

I admit...I was a little intrigued.  What is the "rose ceremony"?

The radio host would call her husband under the guise of an employee at a heating company doing a satisfaction survey, and for answering a few questions, the respondent would get a dozen of long stemmed roses delivered to whomever they wanted, for free.

I assume they do this so they can find out if this man would have the roses delivered to his wife, or to someone else.  

Luckily, he did say he wanted to send them to his wife, and in the card he would write..."to the greatest woman in the world whom I love so much.  I love you".

Is this normal practise of this radio station?  What if he was going to send them to someone else?  What if he was going to send them to his mother?  What exactly did that phone call resolve or establish other than entertainment for the masses, and a potential family disaster with the caller.  Did they have children?  Was there more to the story?  How often does this rose ceremony occur on air?

Honestly, I was baffled and a little disgusted.  I'm not sure how this is ethical, and I wonder where "entertainment" has gone (on the television, I thought shows were starting to clean up their I wrote here). 

When will there be a time when we as spectators, decide that enough is enough, that what we find as "entertainment" shouldn't be a distorted and contrived reality that is set up for failure, just to get ratings.   

I believe in doing the laundry, not airing it...and maybe some things should just remain behind closed doors.  

What do you think about all these "shock/reality" shows?

Friday, April 27, 2012

no bake brownie bars

As much as I've reminisced this past week about childhood summer activities, one of the best childhood dessert that appeals no matter what age you are, is the brownie.  There are so many varieties of brownies.  White chocolate, chocolate chip, blondies, etc.  Here's an unexpected twist to the original's more like a bar , but is much easier to make...saving time to enjoy all the simple pleasures of summer.

No Bake Brownie Bars
(adapted from the  "chocolate boils"recipe
from the Company's Coming book, "150 Delicious Squares")

I used organic Camino chocolate chips.  I processed the graham crackers and used organic coconut flakes.  It made the world of difference in these bars, as it was sweet but not overly sweet.  


  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (or hard margarine)
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa, sifted if lumpy
  • 1 tbsp. milk
  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup medium unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Chocolate glaze:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp. butter (or hard margarine)


For the brownie:

  • Combine first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan.  
  • Bring to a boil on medium, stirring constantly.   Boil gently for 1 minute, without stirring.  Remove from heat.
  • Add next 4 ingredients and stir well.  
  • Press firmly into a greased 8x8 inch pan.  Let stand until set.

For the chocolate glaze: 

  • Heat chocolate chips and butter in a small, heavy saucepan on the lowest heat, stirring often, until chocolate is almost melted.  
  • Remove from heat but continuing stirring until smooth.  
  • Let stand for 5 minutes.  
  • Spread evenly over squares.  
  • Chill for about 30 minutes, until set.

Cuts to approximately 1 1/2 to 2 dozen squares.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

backyard memories

Going through the photos of old Girl Guide cookie boxes (in Monday's post), it brought me back to an age when I used to jump over the neighbours fence, and spend almost every summer day with friends, toting magnifying glasses and butterfly nets.  We'd build little tents out of bedsheets, and pretend we were explorers, camping in the outback, examining the creatures in the backyard.

It was an oasis...a place where the world was literally at my feet, and there really weren't any strict rules except making sure I wore a sun hat and washed my hands before I ate dinner. seemed so much simpler back then.  I've always loved the idea of a tree house...where little friends can gather in a little "clubhouse" and go over their treasures that they've found in the backyard.  

Although I won't be making a treehouse anytime soon (we'd need a good tree for that!), here are a few photos I've come across that have inspired me to re-create those magical days of summer...maybe with a more sophisticated twist.

Here's some ideas...

I love the how these curtains make this space feel romantic and private...this could be easily added to our existing deck arbour....


I can imagine many lazy summer days reading on this swing chair...


 Although I'm not the biggest fan of camping, this "glamping" idea seems promising.

Maybe I can convert a garden shed into something like this...


Or maybe hang just a simple hammock between two posts...


Or...just like when I was a kid, just put a sheet over four large poles...


I hope I have enough bedsheets in our house, so whatever we choose, we will have our own little oasis, so we can re-create more summer memories in the backyard.


Monday, April 23, 2012

the brownie promise

{Girl Guide Cookie Box, circa 1978}

The other week, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner with friends of ours....with sunny weather upon us, it's so nice to spend time with friends, eating great food grilled on the BBQ and fine wine.  Towards the end of the evening (and a few glasses of red!), we had an interesting conversation about how the working world has changed, and how we work so much harder...and receive so much less.

Our friends talked about a colleague who was doing a contracted job building a hotel, and how the owner had changed some major design details and expected the contractor to make changes without the extra time and money to accommodate those changes.  But if those changes were not met within these new, unrealistic timelines and budget, they would NOT get paid for the work they've already completed.  I wonder how people can have the lack of moral or work ethics to behave this way, and wonder how they were raised, and I looked back at what I learned growing up. 

Girl Guide Cookie Box, circa 1991

As a little girl, I participated in Brownies/Girl Guides, which was hugely popular for little girls (as Scouts were to boys), nationwide.  Most vivid in my memory (other than the camping) was working to earn badges...badges that were given when you learned a new skill.  Looking back, these skills were basic life skills that I think helped with character building, and led the path to create confident, resourceful and responsible girls.  

I remember one of the first badges I had to work towards, was my "sewing" badge.  One of the tasks was to sew a button.  It was something I worked hard at to master, and with my little fingers, I finally learned sewed that button, and went further and sewed a name badge onto my sash.  When I received my first badge, it was like a badge of honour.  I worked hard, gave more than I was asked for, and rewarded accordingly. 

Girl Guide Cookie Box, circa 1996
I'm not sure if Girl Guides (or Boy Scouts) are as popular today as they were when I was growing up, but I wonder if we are now raising a generation of people who have a different loyalty and work ethic.   In such a fast paced world where we get cheap and instant gratification, are we setting up the younger generation for failure because they feel entitled and expect to receive everything, without paying or working for it.

"I will do my best to be, Honest and fair, Friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, 
Courageous and strong, Responsible for what I say and do, And to respect myself and others, 
Respect authority, Use resources wisely, Make the world a better place, And be sister to every Girl Scout." 
(Brownie/Girl Guide "Promise/Law".)

Girl Guide Cookie Box, 100th anniversary, circa 2010

{source for all images above:  HerStory, Girl Guides of Canada}

I wonder...what "promises" will be made by the next generation?

Friday, April 20, 2012

old photographs

With Facebook purchasing Instagram (although is it really worth $1 Billion dollars?), I think it proves how this iPhone app has resonated with so many millions of people.  I think the appeal is can instantly create a visual story using filters that age a photograph. It brings us back to the memory of when the photograph was taken....a story, a place in time. 

Some of the most beautiful photographs evoke or represent a feeling, like a time capsule. I still think National Geographic and Life Magazine had the most expressive photos that have inspired me to improve my own photography. I've discovered some simple techniques to create depth to an help me create stories with my own images.  

Here's a list of my favourite "photo editing" techniques that enhance the "mood" of my photos.  Three (easy!) techniques when I use my good old Canon camera, and three (FREE!) iPhone "other" camera that I use when I don't have my main camera to capture those unexpected moments.  

For photos taken with my Canon camera

1) Place your sunglasses in front of your camera lens. Yes, it's THAT simple. Doing this apparently polarizes the light, so the UV rays are filtered.

without sunglasses
Photograph with sunglasses in
front of the lens

2)  Using this free online program,, all you need to do is upload a photograph from your computer, and choose a filter.  Then save it back on your computer.

Original photograph

Photograph using the "Madison" filter

3)  Just the good, old fashioned "sepia" tone on photo storage programs (like Picasa or iPhoto).  I know this isn't new, but I often find when using the black and white or sepia filter, it just makes the photo seem like it lacks in colour. The trick is to use this function on photographs that have high contrast, with minimal details.  One object of focus.  

Original photograph

Sepia toned filter on Picasa

For photos taken with my phone

1)  Instagram (of course!): I love the "Rise", "Earlybird" or "Nashville" filters.

I used the "Rise" filter on this photograph.

2)  Vintage Camera:  I like the "Caffe Mocha", "Pirate" and "Dark Knight" filters.

I used the "Dark Knight" filter here.

3)  BeFunky:  I like the "Instant", "Vintage" and "Retro" filters.  There's a lot of interesting ones here. 

I used the "Vintage" filter for this photograph.

No matter what I photograph, I want it to convey a message, story or just evoke a memory...and hope these tips help you enjoy creating long lasting photographic memories too.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

curated antiques

{source: Traditional Home}

I love the term curated antiques.  It's a term that is often used by interior designers or purveyors of fine furniture...and I love the fact that antiques, like fine art, are curated.  True antiques are coveted because it's worth depends on their age.  And the older they are, the more beautiful they seem.  Every detail is admired for it's craftmanship...of a time when details were carefully carved into wood, and the time spent shows patience, love for the art, and a graceful beauty that will stand the test of time.

{Source: House Beautiful}

From an interior design perspective, there is something so calming and at the same time, orderly about classic design.  It is probably because it is orderly, that we know what to expect. That there is discipline.  However, what adds texture or character to a room are the long loved treasures...something with memories or history.  And antiques are that element that tells a story.

I love how this seemingly modern space is infused with a rustic antique this room character and dimension.
{Source: Vicente Wolfe}

Charm is created when you mix old world and modern world.  Mixing classic subway tile and marble counters with a statement piece like the antique lantern creates such a lived in, old world feeling.
{Source: Tommy Smythe}

Or sometimes all you need is just a simple antique statement place the weight of importance in this  glamourous hall.

{Source: Andreas Trauttmansdorff photography}

I think as time moves forward, I start to look for things that are not just pretty and new, but would also bring something into the home...a story to it.  Like beautiful, curated antiques.

Monday, April 16, 2012

the age of beauty

I read an interesting series of articles in the Huffington Post called "What I know About Beauty".  A select group of 5 women wrote their perspective of beauty, each at a different stage in their life.  Someone in her 20's.  30's. 40's. 50's. 60's. (I'm hoping they continue, with writers in their 70's, 80's, and 90's+)

It struck a chord with me...reading each one, I felt that I related to all of them on different levels.   Most poignant to me were the posts from those over 30 years old.  I have to be honest...I think women don't understand the concept of true beauty until they're past a certain age.  And as I get older, I feel more and more beautiful every day.

I don't think of my beauty as a physical's one that I hope is much deeper than that.  It is an amazing feeling to be very comfortable in my own skin.  Yes, I have a bit more skin.  Yes, I have a little more body to love.  But what I think is truly beautiful is the fact that my body has a purpose.  That I take care of it, that it functions well, and it PROVIDES those around me.  My hands lessen the work of others.  My smile helps comfort those who need it.  My ears ensure that others feel like they're being heard.  My eyes show how much I care and love those around me.

A former acquaintance of my husband has decided (out of the blue...we only hear from him when he has something to sell) to pander anti-wrinkle cream to me.  At first, I thought he was reaching out to us out of it was my husband's birthday.  But I quickly realized two minutes into the conversation that he thought we'd be ideal candidates for his anti-aging product because we were reaching a "certain age".  That we must want an "anti-wrinkle cream to stay beautiful" (his words, not mine).

I'm not sure exactly why I was so offended by this. Maybe it's the relentless stalking from someone so shallow and vain. (I still receive gawd-awful articles about wrinkles from's been almost a year now! STOP!).  Maybe because I feel so vibrant, optimistic and "young" in spirit, that I, I KNOW my appearance reflects how I feel.  That even implying that someone has wrinkles and should "fix" it implies that all those wonderful experiences should be erased and replaced with the superficial notion of what beauty is.

Maybe it's because I used to work in an industry that worshipped beauty that is so contrived, and deep down, I resented that because in reality, what is so much more beautiful than expensive cosmetic-created glowing skin is the knowledge behind it.  That what I find so extremely beautiful and sexy is confidence and knowledge. That the extra lines around the mouth represent years of smiling.  The extra lines around the eyes represents the world...because it has seen it.  Life experiences.

Now don't get me wrong...I love to dress up, put on makeup and do my hair...but it is a form of expressing how I FEEL.  Not trying to pretend I'm someone that I am not.  Well, no matter what the reason is...I embrace how I look.  And no nagging, offensive reminder that I need to be "fixed" will change that.

What is your definition of beauty?

Friday, April 13, 2012

beginner's roast

Let me begin by saying...I LOVE ROASTS.  Partially because it's so easy to do that any beginner cook can look like an expert, but mostly because it feels so satisfying. 

I know some people who only do roasts on special occasions...Easter, Christmas or Thanksgiving.  I do it a little more often, as it's something that is tasty, healthy, and something I can just throw into the oven, so I can do my multitasking duties of running the household. I see it as an end of week feast...sitting down together for a good hearty meal.  

To me, it's a finale...that satisfies so much that we're ready for a new beginning.  That we've nourished our bodies...and now we're ready to begin the next day, week, year....or just dessert!

So here's a great old recipe that I normally use on roasted rack of lamb...but thought I'd try it on roasted rack of pork...less rich and indulgent, but just as delicious and hearty.  Instead of searing it on the stovetop first, I just threw it together and let it roast.  So easy.  

Let the weekend begin!

Roasted Rack of Pork
(adapted from

  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (7 bone) rack of pork, trimmed and frenched
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). 
  • In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss in 2 tablespoons olive oil to moisten mixture. Set aside.
  • Season the rack of pork all over with salt and pepper, olive oil and garlic. 
  • Brush with mustard.
  • Roll in the bread crumb mixture until evenly coated. Cover the ends of the bones with foil to prevent charring.
  • Arrange the rack bone side down in a cast iron skillet. 
  • Roast in preheated oven for about an hour, (the first 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then lower the temperature to 400 degrees for the remaining 45 minutes.
  • Let it rest for 5 to 7 minutes, loosely covered, before carving between the ribs.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

simple year later

It is quite poignant for me that we just celebrated a glorious Easter with family and loved ones...a time that represents rebirth, rejuvenation...a new beginning.   

At this time of new beginnings,  yesterday was also the one year anniversary of simply beautiful now. (you can read my very first post here, "Simple Beginnings" ). 

It is quite hard to imagine that a year has gone by already. What started as something to share my thoughts and inspirations and to share what I've learned on my amazing journey of simplifying my life has introduced me to people and experiences that I have never imagined.

simply beautiful now was named "Best of the Web", featured {here}

It also has awakened a different sense of purpose for me, a personal one that for the longest time was mostly reserved for my children, husband, family and friends.

I'll admit it...sometimes it feels like this blog has turned into a full time job...meeting deadlines in my head to ensure that I have something up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I'm not sure if that schedule will continue, but for now, it has helped discipline and hone my writing skills, and has reminded me to view the world with a different (camera) lens. And I've rediscovered my passion for photography again...something I truly loved as a little girl, and seem to have passed on to my kids.  (Although to be honest, I'm not sure if it's the photography that inspires me or if it's the attempt of capturing a keep forever.)

Above all, what keeps me going with my writing, is appreciating that this as a wonderful way to document our lives.  It is a lens to view what is happening around us...observations which I hope will also help others find beauty in the simplicity of life.  This year, I've listened and learned what resonates with people around me...precious people I love so dearly, and those I haven't even met, but share a similar passion.  

I've learned that you love simple projects that can make a diamond in the rough, shine.
DIY Chair Transformation featured in this {post}

I've learned that sometimes the best recipes derive from tastes that evoke memories...not what's in a Martha Stewart magazine.
Pineapple Squares featured in this {post}

And although sometimes I wonder if anyone is really reading, I am often validated with a flood of emails responding to personal stories of triumph...or just simple lessons of life.

Our New York visit to Ground Zero, featured in this {post}

And when I share beautiful images of things I dream inspires the imagination, and I know it resonates as it is re-shared to so many more people who follow me on Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook.

My dream Georgian home, featured in this {post}.

I often feel a little guilty for waxing poetic about the amazing people and moments around me, so in appreciation, I give a little gift to my readers....a recipe, tip, DIY or review of the latest movie/book/ a thank you for letting me indulge. So, after a year long journey, with my new found knowledge, I'd like to think I've found an even simpler way to share my discoveries....more recipes, DIY tips or just smiles for you to take with you.

On Mondays, I will share a simple  observation...whether it's something I've read, experienced, seen or felt.  On Wednesdays, I will share beautiful  things that I've stumbled upon that reflect my observations.  And on Fridays, I will provide something a little more tangible...a recipe, craft or DIY that have been inspired by the weeks' observations, something you can

So here's a big cheers for one year.  I hope you continue with me as we continue to embark on finding the simple path to beauty.

Monday, April 09, 2012

easter monday

Wishing you a Happy Easter 

filled with rejuvenation and love!

Friday, April 06, 2012

good friday

Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life.
~S.D. Gordon

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

colour your world

Ever since we had robin's eggs hatched at our window sill a few years ago, I've looked forward to our annual tradition of painting Easter eggs, just so I can admire a few blue ones in our batch.  Every spring, I occasionally look at that window sill...wondering, if another bird will return...and use the sill as a home for it's nest.  I guess as a mother, I can appreciate and still watch in awe, how another mother or parent (human or not) is so dedicated to prepare it's offspring for the world.

It is no different than a pregnant woman, eating all the right foods, eliminating all the bad habits and taking care of herself, and therefore readying her baby to arrive in our world.   It is no different than a father, teaching his child how to stick handle a puck, so his kid can play road hockey with his friends, and beat his "world" record.  

I guess you can say I'd rather watch the journey instead of the goal.  A friend of ours told me a funny story about how they had a difficult time blowing the contents out of an egg to prepare them for painting. They wanted to use empty egg shells instead of boiled eggs, so they can admire and display the painted eggs for a longer time. Unfortunately, by the time they finished emptying all their eggs, they were too out of breath and didn't complete their original intention of painting them. (I wish they had told me this sooner).

Although I love the end result of a beautiful array of coloured eggs in our basket...I enjoy watching the process even more.  Children (of all ages!) delicately placing egg shells in dye, patiently waiting for the colour to transform.  Their eyes quickly an egg goes from basic white to beautiful shades of pink, yellow and blue.  A world of possibilities, of colour, of beautiful creativity.

With a little preparation, this can be such a simple activity with so few elements...empty egg shells, a little dye, and plastic cups.  And I find it one of the most calming things to do this time of year.

So, as a simple way to prepare eggs for painting this Easter, I'm sharing with you, my "trick of the trade"...on how to empty them without losing your breath, so you too can sit back and enjoy watching curious eyes widen, as they discover a colourful world of possibilities.

Simple, non-traditional way of emptying eggs

Using a very sharp paring knife, pierce a hole at each end of the egg.

Take a spaghetti noodle and put it through the egg,
so the yolks are no longer intact.

Take a turkey baster, and squeeze air into the egg on one end...
the liquid contents will easily come out of the other end of the egg.
Since you did not use your own breath, you can empty the contents
into a bowl, for later use (scrambled eggs or quiche, perhaps?)