Wednesday, May 30, 2012

saying yes to me

I overheard the other day, someone talking about boundaries.  That sometimes we are so inundated with volunteer, to help, to give opinion or to just DO...that we can get so caught up with other people's needs that we don't have time to take care of our own.

I love this quote:  "Sometimes saying 'no' to someone else means saying 'yes' to me".

I like that...although it's easier said than done.  When I hear the phrase "take care of yourself first", I often think of the speech that I listen to on the know, the one where the flight attendant explains the emergency instructions.  They always say that even if you're travelling with dependants, make sure you put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before you put it on those that depend on you.

As a mother, that honestly freaks me out!  Instinctually, I would put the mask on my kids before me.  Ensuring their safety first.  But the airline attendant's explanation is order for me to help them, I must be able to function myself (i.e put the mask on) before I can do that.  

Well, unlikely emergencies aside, I'm starting to learn to feel comfortable with saying 'no' to others.  With all the general obligations that life asks us to uphold, it's become too easy to forget to stop and enjoy the simple things.  And really savour it.  Like the smell of that first cup of coffee in the morning.  Or the sweet feeling of a cookie melt in your mouth...

I'd like to reintroduce a new definition of R&R for this summer.  Yes, it will still mean rest and relaxation, but I think it should also mean reflect and realign.  

To look back and understand the why we do the things that we do. To refresh ourselves so we can be more efficient with when we say "yes", and de-clutter our obligations so we can be healthy enough, physically and mentally to take to task, only the things that have true meaning.

I'm not exactly sure what will change after we have some R&R this summer, but one thing is for sure...I'll stop and smell the coffee, and enjoy saying yes (at least once) to my favourite shortbread cookies.

Easy Shortbread with Chocolate Chunks
Makes 4 dozen/48 cookies

  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 3 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup cornstartch
  • 1 bars (about 100g) Toberone Swiss Milk, chopped (or organic Belgium chocolate)
  • 3 tbsp, sifted icing sugar, optional
  • Preheat oven to 350degrees
  • Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  • Add cornstarch then flour and mix, beating until well blended.
  • Stir in chocolate.
  • Place 1 tbsp. balls on cookie sheet/silpat, about 1 inch apart.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes inti lightly browned.
  • Cool 5 minutes, then sprinkle with icing sugar.


Friday, May 25, 2012

coffee cake

Growing up, I remember my brother and I visiting our cousins, and my Mom and her sister would always make a particular treat for the nieces and nephews to trade.

My Mom would make a coffee cake and my aunt would make Chinese dumplings.  Both were very good, and we would eat the dumplings on the car ride home as my cousins would devour the coffee cake my Mom would make.  We were recently at one of my cousin's engagement party, and when I saw my aunt, I could almost taste the dumplings she would make.  Almost pavlovian, isn't it?

I never quite understood the name "coffee cake" doesn't necessarily have coffee in it.  But I guess the premise of having coffee cake is to have it  This isn't my Mom's recipe (I would have to give up my first born for that one!)'s a similar cake that I like to use.  It travels well, and can be served with coffee or tea...or just devoured in the backseat of the car, on your way home from visiting friends or family.

Simple Coffee Cake

  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk.

Crumble Topping (optional)
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed.

Mix the sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon, with a fork (I like using a pastry blender), until it resembles a crumb like mixture.

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
  • Mix dry ingredients together.
  • Mix the egg, milk and melted butter, then add to the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the mixture into an 8x8 baking pan.  
  • Top with the crumble mixture. (optional)
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

a place for friends

This is the location of where the exterior of the
"Central Perk" coffee house was filmed for the television series, Friends.

Almost a decade has passed when the popular show, "Friends" was on air.  It was a show that was centred around the personalities and relationships of those who frequented a coffee house...where friends would meet at a place that was almost like home to them.  It was refreshing to hear the teenaged daughter of our friends "hang out" at Starbucks...I know when I was her age, coffee shops were destinations after a night out...not a destination place in itself.

Coffee houses and cafes have evolved to become cozy, amazingly beautiful and sophisticated spaces. The design of these spaces may not be the focal point for it's patrons, but more of a supporting role in creating a comfortable space where friends can meet and spend time together.  I like to look at the designs of public spaces to give me inspiration for the private ones.  Places that evoke a sense of warmth and friendliness that remind you of home, but designed to serve large groups of people efficiently and effortlessly.  

Below are samples of how you can incorporate elements from these public spaces and use them in your own home or cottage...a comfortable place for friends to hang out.

Retro Style
When my husband and I were in New York last autumn, we enjoyed our cafe breakfast at The Standard Grill, which was just below the hotel we were staying at.  I loved the checkerboard floors, slick black schoolhouse chairs and wood tables and countertops.  
The above pics were from our trip to New York
{above pic: source}

You can see the same mix of black, white and wood in this home, giving it a cool, retro feel.

Sophisticated Lodge Style

Here is the Wildwood Restaurant, in Portland, Oregon.  Elements of wood and grey provide a rustic, warm feeling. A cozy nook could be created in a kitchen or breakfast area.  

Or taking the colour scheme from the above restaurant, you can incorporate the grey and wood into a kitchen like here...

Casual/Beach Cafe Style
Here's the Sweetwater Cafe, in Melbourne Australia.  I love how the white subway tiles and marble counters work with the natural rattan chairs.  It's fresh looking but still comfortable.

You can see the same mix of marble and rattan in this cottage bright and inviting is this?

I love all these styles, and hopefully I can incorporate elements of all of them into my home, to create an inviting environment for friends.

Monday, May 21, 2012

let's face it

As much as I kicked and screamed, I finally did it.  A few months ago, I finally joined Facebook.

It's not that I don't see value in it...for some, it's a wonderful way to connect with friends and family.  However I had envisioned some old high school crazies (a.k.a. former boyfriends) from the past...haunting, stalking and lurking (eewww!), or people being "friends" with me for the sole notion of trying to connect with someone I may or may not know (formerly being in the film industry has allowed me to meet some very famous people).  And the people I really want to connect with, I've done so the old fashioned way...seeing them face to face.

I also had this strange fantasy of being the last person on earth (or at least in North America) to join Facebook.  To remain relatively anonymous to everyone except to those who I care and love, and be under the radar.  I even had the news segment written in my mind...Mark Zuckerberg chasing after the only person in the Northern Hemisphere who never opened a Facebook account. Who is this mysterious person?  It's like "The Amazing Race" but I'm the target.  Then, with helicopters and CNN knocking at my door, discovering that it's this little old lady who bakes, paints, decorates and writes in her little abode, who thinks the world of her family and friends.

But I guess you can say Facebook is another extension of writing a blog.  It's to share wonderful stories.  To connect with people...those I know, and those who will be a blessing to get to know.  Those with a similar purpose.  Simplicity.  Happiness.  Being In the Moment.

Ultimately, that is the appeal of Facebook.  Although they just went public this past weekend, with a fairly predictable IPO of $38/share, I think what attributed to much of the hoopla of purchasing shares of the company is the feeling (or owning) part of the magnificent story or on a grander scheme, buying into the notion continuing to connect with friends.  I didn't get shares (I think the market price will adjust to more like $20/share, but what do I know!?!)...and although I'm more of a Twitter and Pinterest kind of girl, you can now find me too, on Facebook.  There goes my appearance on CNN...

Friday, May 18, 2012

picking my food

Sometimes when we go berry picking, there is an abundance of fruit that can't be consumed before it spoils.

A great way to use up that abundance is either freeze the fruit (makes great smoothies...I have a great easy recipe here).  Or I like to make muffins.

It's an easy, healthy way to know what we're putting into our snacks, and they taste better knowing that they were made from scratch, berries picked ourselves.

Sometimes they are good for breakfast.  This recipe is a decadent one, but you can omit the crumble topping...if you dare.

Crumble Topped Blueberry Muffins
(makes approx. 12 muffins)

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup of organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup blueberries
Crumble Topping
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed.
  • Preheat oven to 400degrees.  
  • Line muffin tin with regular sized liners.
  • Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.  
  • In a separate bowl, mix oil, eggs and milk.  Add to dry mixture.
  • Fold in blueberries.  
  • Fill muffin cups right to the top and sprinkle with the crumb mixture (see below).
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until toothpick comes out clean.
Crumb Mixture Directions:
  • Mix the sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon, with a fork (I like using a pastry blender), until it resembles a crumb like mixture.
  • Sprinkle on muffins before baking.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

what in the world is there to eat?

There is a global crisis about food. There is lack of it in some countries.  Sustainability in others.  And horrible food practices in supposed G8 countries (poor ethical treatment or harmful pesticides and chemicals that are mislabelled in our food).  

I often find that it takes increasingly longer to  grocery shop.  Mostly because I read labels carefully to ensure I know what I'm getting.  I also re-read labels with products that I frequently purchase, especially when the packaging has changed....sometimes the ingredients change too.

This is a beautiful "formal" garden, designed with vegetables instead of flowers.  Brilliant! {source}

Sometimes I want to just live on a farm, or have better access to one, so I can ensure that the food is safe.  I don't have large backyard, so growing many fruit trees is out of the question.  However, I've started to consider container gardening as something that can be relatively easy to do, and doesn't take a world of space to grow.

These are fruit trees in containers! {source}

I've grown herbs, but I might consider growing more in my own garden.  There are  eight great edibles for just about any climate: lettuce, peppers, blueberries, strawberries, zucchini, collard greens, cucumbers, and Mediterranean herbs (oregano, sage, and thyme).  {source

Rosemary and other herbs from my garden last year

With all these beautiful examples of container gardens, I just might be inspired to do it this year!

A garden in wine crates! {source}

And I wouldn't have to travel the world to get my food.

Monday, May 14, 2012

food revolution under the berry tree

I often steam Edamame for my kids, as it's a really great, nutritious appetizer or snack after school.  It reminds me of when I was a little girl, around 7 or so, eating raw snow peas and fresh fruit off the tree at my neighbours house.

I loved visiting my childhood neighbour especially in the summer. They grew so many vegetables and fruit trees in their garden, and now I wish I had a backyard filled with various fruit trees, vegetables and of course, rows of beautiful rose trees for a beautiful summer soiree.

My dear neighbour also grew blackberry, raspberry and blueberry trees.  Usually in the summer, her daughter and I would lie under the blackberry or raspberry tree, telling each other crazy school stories (we were the same age, but went to different schools), while we would look up into the tree, plucking sweet ripe blackberries right off the branches, enjoying the fresh delictable juices.

Her mother would often yell out the window, telling us not to eat too many blackberries...we'd often respond with a "we're not!"...and she'd later find us, practically passed out with over-filled bellies.  It must have been a sight to see...two little girls with blood like blackberry juice all over their faces and white summer shirts, lying under a tree!

That was one of the many activities in the summer that shaped the way I viewed and yearned for the taste of fresh fruit.  There is something to be said about eating right off the tree.  In your own garden. It's knowing where the food came from.  It's knowing that there aren't pesticides in the food, chemicals or "pink slime".  And honestly, nothing tasted sweeter or better! 

Now I take my kids to the farmers market or local farms to pick strawberries, apples and other fresh fruit. Unfortunately because of our seasons, we can only go during the warm seasons, but we do our best to at least go once the weather warms up.  And when we don't, I try to purchase as much organic as possible.

This Saturday, May 19th is Food Revolution Day. Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver has invited hundreds of thousands of people to take a stand on the foods we eat, and ensure that the food that we and our children consume are as natural and healthy as possible.  And as much as we love to indulge in all kinds of desserts and foods, the one common denominator is it's made of whole ingredients.  That the ingredients used are in as pure of a form as possible.  At least no additional colour, flavour or preservatives.

Join the conversation...and eat well!

Friday, May 11, 2012

chocolate and flowers

While going through Easter pictures on Pinterest a few weeks back, I saw many beautiful Easter eggs and thought that since the egg represents birth (as written in my post here), it would naturally be pretty dessert for Mother's Day. 

When my children opened up their Kinder chocolate eggs, I liked how the eggs were the "wrapping" for the gift inside. 

Inspired by the egg cups as mini flower vases (as seen in my last post), I thought it would be perfect to create the flower vase that's both pretty...and edible. (I love to eat!).

Below is a really simple way to make chocolate eggs as "vases".  Fill with whatever you would like...I thought I'd just fill mine with ice cream (use ice cream that doesn't melt so fast...I used a mango sherbet that melted faster than I can place them!) and heart shaped candies that, when you put four of them together (like a clover), with another on top, they look like flowers.  Chocolate?  Check.  Ice Cream?  Check.  Candy? Check.  So simple!  

Happy Mother's Day!

Easy Chocolate Egg Vases.
These eggs can be made 2-3 days in advance, keep eggs in the fridge in an airtight container.

1 cup of chocolate chips
2 tbsp. of butter.

Melt the chocolate chips and butter slowly in a saucepan.  Remove from heat.  The chocolate should be thick, not watery. Let cool and stir so it has the consistency of icing.

Grease the egg cups with butter.

Using an icing spreader (or the back of a small spoon), coat the inside of the egg cups, making a thick "wall".

Chill overnight, then using a sharp knife gently push out the chocolate.  

Remove eggs from the fridge about 10 minutes before serving. Fill with desired contents.  


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

may flowers


Mother's Day is synonymous with flowers.  The giving and receiving of them.  Here are some beautiful flower arrangements using every day household items as vases.  They make the flowers seem so much more personal...and easy to create for Mother's Day.

Here's a floral arrangement using a 3 tiered serving tray (with floral foam).


Simple votive candles hold little flower tops, or single roses with the stems removed.


Here's a simple candlestick holder, topped with floral foam and carnations.


Here's a very very easy arrangement I used one year for Mother's Day...just use pretty colour coordinated gift bags.


April showers definitely brought May flowers.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 07, 2012

What is The ROI of Your Mom?

What is The ROI of Your Mom?

Priceless.  For all you Moms out there, I hope this week leads up to a...

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 04, 2012

a sign of cleanliness

One would think that I would embrace doing laundry.  Theoretically, it's a quiet activity that involves taking care of my family's beloved wardrobe (and if anyone knows about our indulgences, our wardrobe is high up there).

After looking at inspirational photos of laundry rooms, it's given me ideas to revamp our current one.  It will be a huge undertaking, but I've already begun sourcing out some plans. 

In the meantime, I thought I'd create some easy decorative elements...nothing too fancy, but a sign to remind me to continue working on trying to create a little haven in the laundry room.

Simple Laundry Room Sign

I found this little framed mirror and loved the shape of the frame. I thought this would be perfect for hanging single socks looking for mates or towels in the laundry room.  You can use good old picture frames too. 

I first removed the back plate and mirror.  I reused the back plate as the sign itself, and painted it with Olympic's "Delicate White".

Lightly made holes where my hooks will go, then I primed and painted the frame in Olympic's "Secret Passage".

Added two cast iron hooks that I bought at a second hand store.  Then painted the words "laundry". (I tinkered with "drop your drawers here" or "self serve laundry" but stuck with something simple...for now.)

Hopefully this is a sign of more changes that will be done to the laundry room.  I'll keep you posted.