Friday, July 31, 2009
Now, poutine is kind of an acquired taste. I can't say I've really acquired it -because I'm not super big on fries. Gravy and cheese I can totally get with though. And I understand that good poutine is like a religious experience. According to my husband.
Of course, he's an atheist.
Update: This place has been opened for a few weeks now (I took the photos a couple of months ago) and it's getting good reviews. I haven't had a chance to get there myself but I will keep you posted. The original post from this morning, didn't take this into account so it's been edited.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
This post is about my new Guido & Mary jeans that were so helpfully modeled recently by the 10 foot tall gorgeous woman who weighs, I estimate, 110 lbs. Here they are on a 5 foot 3 woman of rather different proportions :-)
Honestly, am I high on drugs to post photos of myself in these after showing off the studio shots of the fit model?? It's part of my "Real Women Post Photos of Themselves though Their Legs Might Not Be 6 Feet Long" campaign to encourage self acceptance. :-)
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
I love that free standing fireplace. Everytime I see one in a chic restaurant or fancy hotel, I mentally calculate how to steal it without anyone noticing. I've tried to find out who makes it and a bit about its pedigree (I mean, it is iconic) but I can't seem to figure it out. Why have I never asked anyone??
The combo of the spindly table, the voluptuous fireplace, the elegant curve of the vases, the deep richness of the colour scheme refracted by the crystal - it's just blissful. Almost makes me miss winter. Not that we're having any kind of summer, particularly.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
The guy's got talent, yes?
Saturday, July 25, 2009
My own mother, liberated creature of the sixties, did not agree. She believed that's what God created upscale bakeries for. Every school event requiring a muffin - she went to The Sweet Gallery or Patachou. Not so secretly, I always felt deprived. I mean, that's what moms do. They bake. (I still go to the Bloor West Sweet Gallery location a few times a year. It serves the best smoked meat and bean soup!)
When I was about 12 - long before the internet age democratized everything - I started to learn the skill in my own right. I read The Joy of Cooking and The Silver Palate (how de rigeur!). I talked to people who knew what they were doing (there were more of them back then). I progressed from cookies to pies to bread. I had a knack.
Might I add that, for its numerous flaws, the weather in Canada is quite conducive to baking. We have cool and the right amount of moisture. My hands are always cold!
In a great irony, after my own kid was born (once I finished with the homemade organic baby food and all the dinners one makes after coming home from work out-and-out exhausted) there wasn't a lot of energy left for baking. I did it occasionally, but not consistently. The art, the science, languished in my home. I didn't have the energy to miss it.
Fast forward to this summer. Scott says that, since I recovered those dining room chairs, I've become all DIY-chick. Maybe it's true. Maybe my creative spirit is just resurfacing. Maybe it's the distinct lack of sun and heat this summer that's propelling me into some kind of activity that one can get with while the weather sucks.
And lord help me, I decided to make croissants. C'mon - it's a hop, skip and a jump from puff pastry. Actually, it's a hybrid of puff pastry and bread. But I won't bore you with the details.
It only took 15 hours, on and off, and about 30,000 steps. Just 5 ingredients though!
At any rate, I didn't have the wherewithal to a) make croissant dough for the first time ever, b) proof it, turn it and roll it for 3 hours and c) photo-document the whole shebang.
Here's what I managed to capture:
I'll be blunt: they're pretty fine, but I will improve. I'll def add more salt the next time (this time I used salted butter in lieu of salt but it wasn't adequate IMO). I'll also have to better my shaping technique. It's not as easy as the tutorials advise (nor is it rocket science - I guess I just have to learn the trick).
As 4 of them were inhaled straight out of the oven (and peeps have burns to prove it), I think it's not a bad first try. Now on to making the wild mushroom chowder that will go with these at dinner!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I have very little use for GOOP - or Gwyneth Paltrow, The Industry, truth be told - but I thought this was a lovely cooking tutorial that can help a lot of people who don't know how to make a (relatively) quick roast chicken i.e. healthy meal that will taste awesome.
You can tell the woman knows how to cook. And I like that.
What do you think?
1. I had no idea that she is so universally unappealing (at least with this audience). I know I find her obnoxious (which is why I don't read GOOP), but I found the video via other sources (the equally obnoxious Jezebel) and it intrigued me on the basis that I love all things cuisine. Sorry to have struck a nerve!
2. I meant to mention that I am particularly horrified that GP didn't wash her hands after touching the raw chicken and then touched all kinds of other things in the kitchen without reminding people that, while it's ok to do that in a cooking segment, it's a recipe for food poisoning in real life. Just had to say that.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Leifsdottir Cashmere Cardigan
In some strange twist, I purchased this from the same woman who bought my trench. It's like some wacky-ass clothes swap!
I really have no idea about how this is going to fit. It might be relatively "formless" on me (given my propensity for "fitted") or it might be just perfect to suit a new state of mind. I love the light grey/blue colour and it's a very interesting piece. The beautiful thing is that my vendor has had the opportunity to recycle a gorgeous piece she doesn't wear and I get to experience cashmere for $20.00.
Who appreciates cashmere more than me?
Update: It arrived and, alas, this piece isn't really ideal on me - too much fabric in the abdominal area and a bit long for my not so long torso. I have a cool plan though, to "recycle" it in the most fun way. Pls. stay tuned.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Girl reads lots of foodie books (she hates that word, btw) and feels that making homemade puff pastry seems insanely challenging. She avoids it for precisely 39 years. Whereupon she reads an amazing post at Canelle et Vanille (she can't link to it specifically because when you compare those photos to hers it will be too painful for her ego). It inspires her the way only gorgeous photos can. Plus, she has really bad PMS and any chance of a pound of butter in something one can eat in one sitting is wholly irresistible. She starts by using store bought stuff and, happily - counter intuitively, the finished product is lovely and professional. She takes no photos because the speed with which she consumes it is legendary. She feels like an impostor, using store bought crap to make beautiful pastry. She gets bold, culls 6 different recipes from 6 different chef-like books and blogs, and gets to work. 8 hours later, she produces these from scratch:
Yes, my friends, that girl is me.
OK, I can tell you exactly where I went wrong. It wasn't in the making of the dough - which BTW was much easier than I expected if just as time consuming. It was in the final roll out. If you'd like to talk about the ins and outs of pastry making, feel free to email because - seriously - I can get with that. You could also check out my 8000 tweets on this topic. Satisfying reading!
The thing is, when you make your own pate, it's much more expansive (with an "a") than the frozen, pre-made kind. It's also much less happy to roll out right after it's gone through an extensive, day long, roll and turn process. I think it would have been better to let it sit in the fridge overnight and done the baking a day later. Another possibility is that I just didn't roll it as carefully, given it's elastic / spring back texture, as I should have.
Oh, and then I overcooked it - just by moments, but that was enough to cause near disaster. Again, the store bought stuff cooks at a much higher temp before browning. Must be the vegetable oil vs. butter composition.
It is ABSOLUTELY delish though. Though entirely hideous, I think it's up there with the tastiest puff pastry I've ever had. Of course, this might be because I inhaled it, as fresh as could be, right out of the oven. Or because I'm very invested. Then again, I might just have a future as a pastry chef :-) OK, let me work on it.
PS: I started with a small volume of dough because I had no idea how it was going to go. In future, I will definitely make 3 times this amount. Because, if I'm going to spend all day rolling butter between a galette, I want enough to freeze it for later.
PPS: For a good tutorial on making the dough, check out Joe Pastry. This guy really knows what he's doing!
*My apologies to all French people. Seriously, I gotta figure out how to add the accents into my French words...
Sunday, July 19, 2009
At first, I cursed him for his meanness. Then I considered that perhaps he's learned a lesson or 2 from me, the woman who doesn't mince words when he asks how I like what he's wearing. A bad lesson. Then I had to concede he was correct - there was a slight pull over the space between the button at the waist and the first button below that. That space encompasses the entirety of my stomach lump. I'd like to tell you it's the result of childbirth but I'd be lying. It's just a feature of my proportions.
I should mention that it is not a terrible thing. When I'm naked, I actually think it's a nice curve. The top part of my stomach - from breasts to belly button - is flat, even toned. The fleshy lump, well that's just genetics. And cake. It makes me feel connected to my latin roots. Of course, in this respect I'd be just as happy to feel connected to WASPy flat stomach roots I don't have.
If there's one part of my body I'm willing to speak negatively about, it's the tummy. And that's stupid, as all the "love your body" bloggers would have you know. If this is my biggest "flaw" well then I might as well shut up because it doesn't impinge on my ability to enjoy fashion, eating or my life in ANY WAY.
Let's get back to the point of this post, shall we?
I wore the skirt to work. I fretted all day about the pull. I held file folders in front of me as I talked to co-workers. They asked why I was holding file folders strangely in front of my stomach. When I took the folders away, everyone commented on my great new skirt and then - on observing the asymmetry at the hem - said: Did you make it yourself?
I mean, WTF? Of course I didn't make it myself. It's the style peeps. Have you not looked at any fashion blogs in the last 12 months?
I don't want you to think that these brief setbacks undercut my love of the skirt in any way. I don't care what people think of asymmetry. I bought it because I think it's great. I suspect a different crowd will respond to it differently. (PS - I know without a doubt, that no one was aiming to insult me in any way...)
I knew exactly how to solve the problem of the pull, naturally, it's not like I just got off the boat with this stomach. The key - and you may know this if you have a little lump type of stomach typical of latin culture - is to put a snap (a sturdy one) - between the buttons. I didn't do this myself. My DIY skills are limited to chair reupholstery. :-)
I took the skirt to Julie, my alterations person, and she fixed the problem in 5 minutes. For $5.00. And, while I watched her, I learned a key new lesson: If you have "the tummy", put the snap towards the inside of the place where the buttons join. If you put it flush with the buttons, the pull will persist because that's the zone of "highest tug" (technical term, you realize).
I got home and tried the skirt on again. The pull was entirely gone. The denim fit smoothly (and snug-ly) around my waist and below. It was just as if the thing were made for me.
Note, I said "for me" - not "by me". Just so we're clear.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
(Doesn't look half as good in these photos as it did in real life - I swear.)
Today, I found some rather adorable things. CM is in one of its pretty (rather than edgy, minimal) phases. Of course, they're always clean (in the lines). I love that. But right now it's pretty and clean. They've also opted to drop the prices low in one dip - not bit by bit as they usually do. Which is how I found this, originally $119.00:
- I wear denim constantly.
- I love denim tremendously.
- I particularly love dark denim.
- I love asymmetrical cuts.
- It looks great.
- I recently lost one of my beloved denim skirts to old age (its, not mine).
- I have thought, on no less than 3 occasions this summer, that I really need a new denim skirt.
- I can wear it through 3 seasons - and I will.
- The cost per wearing justification is indisputable.
PS: On the same lunch hour I stopped in at Godiva to ask the SA if they'd changed the recipe on the chocolate mint "pearls". They're an afternoon snack I sometimes like to have and the last tin I bought was hideous and waxy. (I know Godiva is not the world's best chocolate, but those pearls are easy and melty in a nice way and the price is right.) Without hesitation, the guy handed me an unopened packet and said, I don't think so - try these and see if they're any better. They were. I likely got a stale batch last time because I bought them at the bookstore (don't do that). Talk about unstinting client service. I am extremely pleased to have had that experience. And I'll continue to eat the pearls for a long time to come.
Update: My new downsampled photos are absolute shit, sorry. I have to figure out a way of improving things so that you can actually see detail. I'm working on it.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
You know, a month is a long time.
Some efforts I've been making:
- Bringing certain foods from home to supplement the breakfast and lunch I buy at work. Yes, I know, it's financial suicide buying your breakfast and lunch, but it's the way I (harried working householder and mother) get out my door every morning with time to walk to work. And I do have strategies for buying v healthy and less $$ lunches. Gist is, I've cut my daily food budget in half for the foreseeable future. And while that isn't cold turkey (hahaha - get it?), it's an adequate start in my books.
- Not buying discretionary items: No checking out that new B Brown gel eyeliner till the restriction lifts, using my "no longer fave but still in the medicine cabinet" face products because the fab ones have run out recently, avoiding the cheese boutique with the awesome imported things from Italy.
- Not going out for dinners out (at least not $ ones)... Friday night restaurants with friends will be replaced by at home dining with friends. It's a lot more work but the food is generally better. And the atmosphere rocks.
So, I've been going along like this for a while - a few days now - and it's good. I'm one of those people who likes to spend up to a delicate tipping point (until she feels like she's losing sight of the financial picture) and then pulls it back from the edge. I think of myself as someone who spends hard and then saves hard (oh, who are we kidding, maintains the accounts as they must be maintained hard) but when I look at some of my blog friends (Enc, Sal) I recognize that my hallmark is not doing anything particularly extreme. In as much as I will retreat from the spend, I don't like to give it all up.
Intriguingly, that's my approach to eating too...
Soon, you're going to see a post in which I show you a great lunch I bought (fear not, it's a take out salad) and a new item of clothing. I'm not on a ban, as I've advised, though even if I were, it wouldn't make me an evil failure to buy when I'm trying not to. I carefully weighed the implications of each purchase, and I am entirely comfortable with the cost to benefit ratio. I paid cash and I will consider foregoing something else for the pleasure of having purchased these things.
I mention this, in part, because I've been stunned to learn that my blog friends who have undertaken the "long term ban" methodology - a worthy and challenging one indeed - have been occasionally harangued in commentary for having "admitted to" their lapses.
That blows my mind. I mean, I love hearing about the exploits of others - the fun challenges to which they subject themselves, the lessons they learn, the wisdom they can impart. It's how I live a whole bunch of experiences without having to go there myself! I like to think a couple of you may do the same when hearing about my trip to Mtl or cooking a new meal. (And might I say that I am blessed in that, to date, my every commenter has been lovely and positive.)
What I can't imagine is anyone offering up judgment and criticism to someone who's been open enough to share his or her methodology. It's pissing me off.
I suspect that hundreds of people have found subtle (if not gross) ways to reconsider and amend their acquisition habits for having read the "shopping ban bloggers". That's a public service peeps. These are real people with real lives, not paper doll role models.
That's the problem with being good. People judge you every time.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
This year provided some show-stopping locations, locations that, in truth, made me want to recoil fetally out of gut-wrenching status anxiety. Let's just say they would have changed the colour of my eyes were they not already green. Seriously, I felt like I'd got trapped in an issue of House & Garden and I could not get out.
Isn't it great when immersing oneself in nature brings out the low-brow emotions?
I asked Nicole, at one point, at the apex of the gorgeousness, how she was managing. Did she, as she inhaled the fragrance of the outdoors and observed the happy flora and fauna nestling amidst greenery, want to poke her eyes out in sympathy? Did she too feel less-than?
Whereupon she told me the most fascinating thing: Apparently, in B.C. - on Vancouver Island where she was raised - that isn't the inculturated social lesson.
See, in TO all we know from birth is how to work hard to get ahead to acquire stuff to show off - in print if we're lucky. (We never enjoy it because we're either working more - to maintain - or we're at the lakefront cottage, taking care of another property designed to make people anxious about what they haven't yet accomplished.) Probably Unnecessary Note to Reader: I'm not one of those... But before any of my metropolitan neighbours sends me hate mail. I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about the people in Lawrence Park.
I looked at N with true admiration. Here she was, I surmised, able to enjoy a level of beauty she might never attain personally. Then she followed up with: In B.C. we don't have status anxiety. We just feel envy.
Good to know.
Let's see what you think...
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I know, it's giving Marie Antoinette a run for her money. It's fattening. It's absurd. It's unconscionable.
But I really love chocolate. Like in a daily, shoot it in your veins kind of way. And Montreal's Suite 88 has the best choc ever. OK, it has some competition, but it stands up.
After a lovely dinner at L'Express (lobster risotto!) we walked a couple of stores north to sample the thick, salty hot chocolate beverage for which the place is famous - at least as far as I'm concerned. It was a drug trip.
Needless to say I bought one of everything in the store (and then another for M), as did Scott and Nicole, and when the bills were tallied we'd gone super nova.
I seriously - seriously - tried to make it last longer than the 2 days it usually lasts. (Fine, 8 hours, whatever.) I made it to 3. Ah, to be moderate...
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Oooh, that title sucked you in, yes? The DIY in question is the recovering of my dining room chairs. Brief history:
- They were first purchased, with matching table in 2000.
- 2 of the 6 chairs have arms (they're the fancy ones).
- I do love the wood - and the modern but traditional feeling of the set, but the bland, cream seat covers were in really bad shape and they were soooooo 2000.
- My goal was to spend no money. (I realize that this goal, while laudable, was stupid. And I'm firmly against figuring out how much it would have cost to outsource the job, because if it isn't $1000.00, I'm going to feel like it would have been a good deal.)
It is technically inaccurate for me to suggest that I am displaying my own skill. This is more about showing the ripe, luscious fruits of team work. Because all of the expertise, such as it was, came from my friend Nicole (frequent blog presence) who is a) so detail oriented it's insane and b) taking actual sewing courses. Very good features in a DIY partner, might I add.
Just so we're clear, that I too have certain talents, the fabric choice was mine (it's no great departure, I realize) and I was the one who intimated it couldn't possibly be that hard to reupholster 6 chair seats. I mean, what's better than saving money while being creative and getting together with a friend all to improve the beauty of your home and gain blog fodder?
Note to reader: Do not try this at home. Just don't. However much it costs to outsource reupholstery to professionals with hydraulic staple guns and ergonomic workspace, call it a bargain. (FYI, this is analagous to my frequent and sage advice - as a woman who just barely survived a home birth - to take the freakin' drugs.) Of course, if you are a princess of home handiness - much like if you are an earth mother with a cervix that just loves to efface easily - then, by all means ignore me.
Now, I'm going to walk you through this process but this is NOT a tutorial. If you want one of those, go to Apartment Therapy or one of the 8 zillion posts that will give you the step-by-step. And, though very helpful, when you trust them with the chairs on which you eat your dinner, note that they will not advise you about the mysterious (and complicated) technique for folding the new fabric around the corners so that they are a) beautiful/tight and b) thin enough so you can rescrew the seat cover down on the chair frame.
Yes, I know this because we had to redo 4 of the 6 chairs. Largely using our imagination.
Also, please note that while I didn't love the process, I value it for having taught me new things and for giving me an opportunity to work incredibly functionally with someone else who shares my work style (something that rarely happens with me and home projects). Also, the final result is entirely, 100% excellent. So it's hard for me to be hateful of the experience. I'm just trying to give you the real story so that when your neck freezes up and you can't move your arms for 2 day, you won't come back to this blog suggesting I made it seem like puppies and flowers.
Here's the original product (one of the fancy chairs with the arms). I know, it's far too bland to be my chair:
First, we removed the seats from the frame:
Then we made a paper pattern of the seat which provided for 3 inches of extra folding fabric on each side... Yes, for the notetakers, that is zebra pattern:
Next we took the pattern and laid it on the fabric. We used the floor as a set square. The most key thing was to make sure the predominant stripe would lie perfectly centred and move towards the front of the chair:
Here's a closeup of the fabric with the sewing chalk lines. That's how we traced the pattern prior to cutting the fabric to the appropriate size...
The part whose difficulty you can't possibly appreciate, unless you've done this for yourself, is the staple and folding part. This took approximately 40 minutes per chair. Hundreds of staples were sacrificed in the making of this seat cover...
Closeup of the re-done corners. See how the fabric pulls diagonally from the corner towards the centre of the chair? (Email me if you ever decide to do this. I can explain in detail.):
And voila - pretty final product:
Fabric - $100.00
Staple gun - $60.00
Staples - $5.00
Scotchguard - $15.00
Time: 4 people hours to get the fabric / 16 people hours to do the work = 20 hours
What do you think??
Lawrence, the owner and curator, is actually trained in gemmology. So it isn't surprising that he's collected a small and sexy cache of modernist Scandi silver jewelry:
Photo courtesy of a really great TO design blog KitkaI purchased a ring that just called to me with the song of the siren (it's the one circled above). Foolishly, I didn't find out anything about the designer, though I did learn that the piece was Norwegian, from the late 50's and that it was typical of its generation.
Yesterday I was chatting with Trish at Ewanika and, when I showed her my ring (I wear it constantly) she told me she'd seen it online. Five minutes later I learned that Anna Greta Eker was the designer and that she had produced a number of similar rings, to wit:
Ms. Eker was apparently Finnish by birth but she designed in Norway in the 50's and 60's. I didn't realize, till I did some digging around, that the initials AGE stamped on the inside of my ring along with the Norwegian flag and 925 sterling signature is the brand - Anna Greta Eker's initials! I LOVE knowing this. I imagine that, one day, the peeps'll be looking up timeless WendyB jewels in just this way.
What a joyful piece of wearable art.