Monday, August 31, 2009

What I Wore - New Gap Jeans

Let's cut to the chase, shall we? You want to see how these new Gap 1969 Always Skinnies make your ass look, right?

But just cuz I'm so happy with them, here are a zillion other shots...

You may recall the vintage shirt - I got it at Atomic on Queen Street (the mid-century place where I got my AGE ring). It's some kind of mystery synthetic fabric. Wouldn't surprise me if it were 70s masquerading as 40s. I think it's cute as a late summer jacket.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thinking Outside the Room

Photo Courtesy of Apartment Therapy

I'm posting this as an example of a room I wouldn't necessarily create, but which appeals to me on many levels nonetheless.

I enjoy the gorgeous vista, large windows, beautiful floors, animal touches and warm yellow walls. While the ornate element doesn't do it for me, the design isn't overwhelmed by fuss. I'd sure be thrilled to spend a week surrounded by this - or an evening at a dinner party.

Do you appreciate any particular style that isn't specifically you? When do you have the opportunity to experience it?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thing I Love

Do not hesitate for 1 second to buy this book:

The old school recipes are clear (and somehow made relevant for a 21stC audience), the photos insanely appealing. M. Roux instructs about all the basic pastries and the primary sweet and savory fillings (sauces, creams etc.).

I just finished it and it's taking all of my restraint not to go make a boeuf en croute, like, this minute.

On the menu this weekend: sable cookies (an old fave I haven't made in years) and coffee ice cream (made with a base of creme anglais). Both recipes can be found this terrific cookbook.

One day soon, you may read about my efforts to cut down on the cooking. But not today, my friends.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Slithery Good

These is one crappy ass photos of some fabulous new pants:

(I've had some challenges getting my photographer to engage with his art - hence the cell phone shots of random body parts.)

Here's what you need to know about them: They're stretch cotton "snakeskin" skinny pants from Zara. I tried them on in the spring at regular price (which was $49.99) and decided that it was a steep price for pants I might never have the nerve to wear. They would have been cheap at the cost because they are super comfortable and very wearable. Weirdly so.

I got them for $19.99.

So, yeah or nay?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Glacée Eyed

This story begins with me deciding to make toasted pistachio nougat from scratch. I know, you're waiting on the post where I tell you about how I'm going to stop cooking so much - which is to say baking a la Français - because it's rough on the waistline. And it's coming, I swear. But first I bring you this tale...

Having determined to make the nougat, I realized I would need to bite the bullet and buy a candy thermometer. It's one thing to try one's luck on sugar at 248 degrees, it's quite another to do it stably with egg whites at a lower temperature. I went to Williams Sonoma. I looked at the $56.00 gadget on offer (one I've tweeted about ad nauseum). I noticed a new one on the hook next to it. It was $25.00. I felt virtuous. Pilgrim virtuous!!

Now, my friends, all would have been simple purchase and good bye if I hadn't noticed the Cuisinart ice cream maker: the one with the extra bowl that's smaller - which is to say more storable - than the really expensive stainless steel one, the one that matches my kitchen in all its white plasticky goodness, the one that can make frozen yogurt, nay gelato, should I opt to lower the fat content. It was standing in the corner, next to the $350.00 copper pots, winking at me.

I should mention I've been keeping Baskin Robbins - not to mention Dolce and all the boutique gelateria on College Street - in business since, well, birth. My first taste of food - on the way home from the freakin' hospital after being born - was Carvel. My mother put some on her finger and fed it to me in the car to quell my newborn cries. No joke. (But let's forgive her cuz it was 1970 and she was 22.)

I estimate I spend about 400 dollars a year on ice cream. Conservatively. Now that's partially because I only buy the premium stuff. It's also because I buy it often, but let's not dwell. I've always wanted to make my own. I've tried it numerous times without a machine and it's always failed. I can't tell you how I've longed to experiment with flavours - vanilla bean and cardamom, salted caramel, booze-flavours of all description, basil and strawberry. I've given it some thought, peeps.

Last night was the last straw. Scott went to Baskin Robbins to get some flaves and he came home with a bevy of second choices. Jamoca almond fudge is not jamoca. Pralines and cream is not butterscotch. And I'm freakin' sick and tired of being on a sugar hangover for 3 hours after eating a scoop of that stuff. For sure, Dolce is pure delicious goodness that inflicts none of the harm of BR, but it's not transportable (they don't do lids?!?) and even they disappoint me. I want Sicilian pistachio, they only have Neapolitan pistachio. Espresso becomes Latte. Trust me, those flavours are unique. You see the dilemma.

The solution, standing in the corner by the copper pots, was right in front of me. It was set out so elegantly. I wanted it. I was gripped by lust.

There was one left in the back - the kind with the second bowl at no extra price. All taxes in it was $100.00. Now all I need is 2 cups of cream custard and the salted caramel (made 2 weeks ago for a banana tart) loitering in my fridge. Don't judge me cuz I seem to be regressing on the "create less dessert" front. Don't judge me for buying (perhaps) the most inane appliance this side of the recession.

Let's just file this one under: K is crazy. OK? And when you come over, I'll make you a cone.

Monday, August 24, 2009

In Case You Happen to Be Pregnant...

My longtime friend E, who lives in LA, is joyously awaiting the arrival of a new baby this fall. As luck would have it (and completely unbeknownst to me till she emailed on the weekend to advise), she has ordered / is wearing the Isabella Oliver maternity line.

Here's what she has to say:

The Isabella Oliver stuff I have bought has been sized 0,1,2 etc. For pregnancy they say to buy your pre-preg size and that has worked for me, so I would guess that they are pretty true to size on the non-maternity wear too. The skirt is definitely meant to be a tight fit, it's cut that way. I have found the staff to be extremely responsive by email so I'm sure if you sent them an email and included some measurements they would happily recommend the right size.

She sent me some photos of herself looking fantastic - but I fear it would not be fair to post them without her approval... E: Let us know if I can put them up on the blog.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's Not Too Late... buy me a pool.

Audrey Matlock Catskills Home courtesy of Apartment Therapy

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Shopping Like it's 1969

Oh, my Pretties, have I got a story for you...

After work, while killing an hour before meeting up with friends for dinner, I decided to walk along Queen Street and, ahem, window shop. (You know I'm being financially circumspect - and what with "back to schooling" the kid, I'm trying not to spend frivolously.)

Nonetheless, when I got to the Gap - a store which I'm much more neutral about than many who deem it "100% over" - I was lured inside by the promise of a promotional $20.00 of the new 1969 premium denim line. I've been following the line, reading the articles, and, till yesterday, I've resisted the urge to check it out. What? I think we've determined I have a bit of a habit when it comes to jeans.

I knew, before walking in, that the brand is incredibly well-priced ($80.00 CDN) on a wide variety of styles which are extremely well constructed in numerous lengths and washes. I am very pro-Patrick Robinson - I've said it before that, if anyone can dig the Gap out of the merchandising black hole it's been languishing in for the last 5 years, it's Mr. Robinson - and, a few months ago, I bought a prototype of the 1969 line (at least that's what I think it was) with my French trouser jeans. I'm still wearing them. They are durable, flattering and they work on practically all occasions from business to pleasure.

I couldn't help myself. Put me in a store with jeans and I'm compelled. I tried on practically every style from curvy to always skinny and every freakin' pair looked better than the last. To call them flattering does not do justice to this incredible product. I can tell you that many body types - from boyish to svelte to voluptuous to "challenging in jeans" - will find a friend in them. They fit like $250 jeans and you don't have to get them altered cuz they have a cut for short people.

And, just to make you feel like a million bucks: no doubt you can go down a size - or even 2 - because it's vanity sizing! I've been having a tough week on the "feeling good about me" front. It's the subject of another post that will likely be 20 pages long but I've got to reign myself in on baking like the owner of a patisserie. Feeling comfy in 6 pairs of 27s was a boon, even if it was entirely inaccurate. My psyche's too stupid not to get bound in the spell.

I settled on the skinnies in indigo. I figure a girl's got to have a signature look and mine is the skinny jean. They have some miracle pocket action happening so your ass looks perkier than a sorority sister. According to the SA's there's actually something in the fabric that assists with this. And, apparently this style is flying off the shelves on a number of different body types - though naturally the girls with stick legs prefer them.

I took them to the cash. They were $80.00 minus $20.00 plus tax. I whipped out my Visa like a shopping ninja. The cashier said: You know, we've got a promotion going on so when you pay with Visa you get an extra $10.00 off. I said: You mean 10%? No, she responded, 10 dollars.


They cost $55.00 all in. So run, why don't you? Don't walk. These 1969 prices can't last forever.

PS: Photos of these and my new Zara snakeskin skinny pants (I know, I know) to follow soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guess I Should Count Myself Lucky...

Photo Courtesy of Blog TO

This storm hit around 7 pm and seemed to last a freakishly long time (though it moved insanely quickly). It's responsible for a leak in the back room of the second floor (the "yoga room"). Never mind that I'm agitated to know how much that's going to cost to fix, it's really disturbing when everything around you floods, tornadoes touch down all over the place and people (or at least person, so far) die.

Our roof was recently redone. The water didn't come in from the ceiling, rather from a hairline crack in the parging of the exterior wall. 8 years it's been there without causing trouble. But tonight the rain literally drove itself through. Pretty scary shit.

Back to School Hair

M just got her back to school 'do:

Notice the indigo stripe on the left side?

Update: Photo is now lightened.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oliver Twist

I seem to have made friends with the people at Isabella Oliver (though still waiting for when they send me that red billowy dress for blog accuracy :-)) I've never seen the brand here in Toronto (or anywhere in Canada actually) but I'm intrigued by the website which is home to the "regular" line (365) and the maternity line. It's amazing how chic those pregnant models look. I suspect my ass would not have fit in one of those body con items during 2/3 of my pregnancy, but to each her own. Mind you, I was pregnant so long ago that the Gap didn't even have a maternity line! Back then big pregnancy asses were de rigeur. You young 'uns these days have all the options!

The idea behind 365 is that a few of their multitasking, stylish pieces form the "wise investment" portion of your wardrobe. They come in lovely colours, neutrals, blouson, fitted and asymmetric styles. And while the line is not inexpensive, if it fits well and lasts, why should it be? I for one would be happy to sample a variety of items I've seen on the website - if only there were a Toronto store where I could try on before purchase.

The line reminds me somewhat of Donna Karan's "7 easy pieces" collection - though 365 stocks lots of items. There's an emphasis of jersey, flattering fit and elegant drape.

Has anyone had any personal experience of the brand? What can you tell me?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This Gives Guest Post a Whole New Meaning

I was beyond myself with excitement when Bel invited me to join in on a great post series "Home is where the guest blogger post is". For the last couple of weeks various phenomenal writers have been sharing the secrets of their personal relatedness to "home" and defining what, exactly, that term means to them.

It is a particular joy to me, that I have been given the opportunity to participate, not only because the subject is very near and dear to my heart, but because La Belette Rouge is an incomparable blogger, and the protagonist of a fantastic blog. I mean, really, how cool am !??

The blog matrix is one in which each of our minisites is a true home and each of our friends (to whom we link) a comfort and part of the community chain. Who would have thought that the vast space between us could be nothing more than brief inconvenience?

I'd love it if you'd stop by today and check out my piece - and please leave a comment there if you do!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dog Day Afternoon

Hopefully no one will get hurt. Although some kid is definitely holding some mom hostage with whiny, bored antics. You'd think this were the worst place ever, what with it's back garden and fridge stocked with food and toys, computers and TV. Did I mention books??

Anyway, we've decided - 40 celsius weather notwithstanding - to make an apple pie and tempered chocolate shells (I really don't know how these add to the pie but it doesn't much matter - the child will not let it go.)

I guess we can fill them with whipped cream?

Having never made chocolate shells, I've got to find some recipe to work with now. Interweb, je t'aime.

FYI - right now, I'd be happy with a white vermouth, some cheese and pretzels, a good magazine and a sun hat. Alas, I suppose I may have time for that later.

Wish me luck.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lilies Take 2

Our lilies have struggled this summer - at the front and back. For some reason (maybe they don't like constant precipitation?) many just haven't popped up. These, in their second summer, were the only ones we got in the back garden. They smell like Hawaii at night. Seriously.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

She Who Would Valiant Be, Gainst All Disaster*

A blog I read lately, the topic of which is caramel (I know, I know), suggested that (s)he who attempts candy without a thermometer is either very talented, very brave or very foolish.

I like to think of myself as brave.

Here's the thing: On deciding last week that my lifelong fantasy was to make my very own toffees, I did go out and survey my candy thermometer options. They ranged in price from $10 to $56. Presupposing that Williams Sonoma was trying to rip me off, I opted for the cheapie one from U-Deal. And then, while making my candy for the first time - I mean, in the midst of - the thermometer revealed itself to be an inaccurate dud. (Ha! Get that pun??) It didn't actually rise above 150 degrees - and caramel sets at 248 degrees. Maybe not my smartest save. But now I'm too cheap - and too stubborn - to go back for a better one.

To make matters more absurd, my very first candy-making experience - wherein I discovered the thermometer's inadequacy - turned out textbook perfect. So maybe I got a little chuffed.

Not sure how many of you follow Twitter, but Bel and I have created a new hashtag: #pilgrimcandymaker. Its etymology: I have this glib habit of justifying my questionable culinary practices by proclaiming that "the pilgrims wouldn't have used ____ (insert practical cooking instrument here)". So Bel decided we needed a category to contain the relevant tweets and there you go.

Tonight I tweeted my latest (second) exciting caramel-making venture. I forewent the thermometer, having not forked out for the $$ (though presumably functional) one, the one I own being a hunk of stupid. It was all going well. I thought I'd managed to recreate the last experience till, having let the paste cool for 2 hours, I went to carve it up. Um, it was not entirely solid. I find it difficult to express what state it was in - but I don't think I've ever seen anything else in the world that approximates it. Viscous would describe it. Stretchy like bubblegum? Semi-solid?

Point is, I would have lost a bake-off.

Julia Child, in her memoir, suggests that it's pointless - nay, contemptuous - to decry your work as failure. And trust me, the woman knows of what she speaks. M and I watched an ancient episode of The French Chef in which she positively murdered a tarte tatin. And, God love her, Ms. Child then had the balls to suggest powdered sugar would redeem it. Note to reader: It did not, though her attitude was awesome.

In all truth, when I sampled my toffee-gobs, they were small morsels of mushy heaven. OMG I could have scarfed the entire pan in one go, if only I hadn't wasted 30 minutes corralling them into wax paper wrappers. And, moreover, next week I have another great chance to get it right. (That's how long it takes to eat a pan of these if I'm prudent and not overly generous with the kid.) I don't know how they will adapt to refrigeration. They may become real candies (though probably not). That's why the wrappers are so useful.

I'm likely to forgo the thermometer again - at least until I've given myself an opportunity to figure it out "Mayflower style". After all, pilgrims didn't have candy thermometers. It was elbow grease with those ladies. I guess I'm going all Protestant on your asses. Minus the God-fear and head-gear. A girl does have to draw the line somewhere...

* Opening line of "The Pilgrim Hymn" - my old school song...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Gift of ReGifting

You know that cashmere sweater I bought at Laws of General Economy? You know how I mentioned it wasn't quite right on me, what with its emphasis on the stomach zone? Well look at this gorgeous woman wearing it:

Her name is Caley and she has her own great blog. And, the most fun part, she's a friend and colleague of my girl Sal! Let me tell you those Minnesota ladies are fashionable and fine!

The simple story is that I offered the sweater to Sally, on the proviso that I'd found it "challenging". Happily she was game to give it a go. I suggested that, if it didn't work on her, she might regift it to someone else on whom it might be just the thing. And 5 minutes after discovering it wasn't right on her, Sally knew it would be excellent on her work pal Caley (a woman who needed a sartorial pick-me-up that day), and the rest is history!

Don't you love this happy system??

Here's my suggestion: Why not find something in your closet that just doesn't quite work - but is nonetheless fabulous - and offer it to one of your blogger pals. If it's not perfect on her, she can pass it along, and you may just get the chance (in a very small way) to enrich the life of someone you don't even know!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Everything Old Is New Again

When the friendly people at Isabella Oliver - a brand about which I know pitifully little - sent me some photos from the look book, I had a moment of deja vu. In fact, I emailed back to find out if this dress:

was a variant of this one I'd seen on Cate recently from Kate's blog (photo courtesy of Make Do Style):

Turns out that Cate's dress is vintage Ossie Clark - something I realized when I went back to MDS and re-read the post.

It's like dress twins, yes? Strikes me that, if you love the billowy look and you don't have access to vintage royalty, this might just be your alternative.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Real Women Make Quiche

When I decided to make a quiche Lorraine from scratch this weekend - on the heels of opting not to cook a cheese souffle, as I couldn't convince anyone else to eat it with me - I had a strange affinity for the recipe. I couldn't figure it out exactly, though I do remember eating quiche regularly in the 70s (like every other North American on the planet). It wasn't until, midway through its preparation, while speaking with my mother on the phone, that she reminded me it was her "special dish" from days gone by.

My mother, a modern woman who eschewed baking in its myriad forms, actually scratched up pâte brisée routinely for her butterlicious crust. The things we forget! (Of course, somehow I haven't forgot her ill-fated savoury rutabaga experiment that was amongst the top 10 most repulsive culinary experiences of my life, but there you go. Call me glass half empty.)

I found the recipe in Julia Child's French Chef Cookbook, a fine archive of her PBS TV work in the 60s and 70s. You know how top of mind she is these days... What I love particularly about the woman is the way, utterly uncomedically, she advises about the light qualities of a dish made exclusively with butter, heavy cream and bacon! Oh, and she suggests that it's "quick and easy" - which apparently means it takes nominally less long than crossing the Bering Strait on a sunny day in June.

In fact, when I told my mother I was in the middle of baking the quiche, the first thing she said was: "that's not an fast meal". And that's how we got on the topic of her quiche expertise.

Here are a couple of shots of the finished product:

Scott and M were out for the day so I got to enjoy it solitary-style - with UK Harper's Bazaar!

My review: While not the best quiche I've ever eaten, it was certainly a success I'll build on in the future. I feel I could have salted the eggs more and cooked it 5 minutes longer, but you live, you learn. I certainly noted the absence of subtlety and that something, hallmarks of my mother's quiche. Funny how visceral memory works. Gives you something to strive for.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fait A-Cassis

You know I've been rather conservative in my spending habits of late. It's good. The bills are easing off - which is to say "being paid". So yesterday I decided - having truly run out of all my beauty staples - it was time to have a smidge of fun.

After work I hightailed it to Holt Renfrew - to the Bobbi Brown counter - with visions of gel eyeliner dancing in my head. I seem to be preoccupied with it. I had a practical mandate as well: the latest tube of my fave BB lipstick (Cassis) just came to an end and, as it's the only kind I wear (yes, boring I realize) I needed to replace it stat. Cuz I don't leave the house without lipstick - and flicking out the last bits with my finger and smearing it on is just trashy. Though strangely effective.

At any rate, at the BB counter I learned some shocking truths:

The gel eyeliner, it of massive fame, is a very reasonable $25.00. Alas that doesn't include the brush you need to purchase to apply it - that's another $25.00. And then you have to clean the freakin' brush after every use?! I don't know about you but high maintenance make up just isn't going to fly. As I've said at least a hundred times, I'm a working mother homeowner. I don't have time to clean brushes. (Note that when I expressed this to my husband he suggested that somehow I have no time to clean brushes but I can find 7 hours to make a tart. Whatever.) Why didn't anyone mention this when talking up this product?

Now I had eyeliner on the brain. I'd been thinking about it for weeks. So I was destined to walk out of there with something. My very helpful SA suggested a liquid Lancome product - not a brand I know anything about - that comes in a little tube in smoke colour. Hello? What a terrific idea. It would be great for redheads. I have very green eyes and it looks terrific on me. It's not as severe as black so maybe blonds would appreciate it? Anyway, that was a no-brainer purchase. I'm very satisfied. Esp. since it is much easier to apply than the free L'oreal stuff I got a while back. Not cheap though at $36.00.

But wait, there's more.

I asked for my Cassis and I was told it has been discontinued. What?!?!? It is my only shade. It is a perfect shade - kind of plum meets red with almost silent undertones of brown. I've been wearing it for decades. Seriously. How could they have cancelled it? The SA commiserated. It was her fave flave as well. Apparently, it's everyone's fave. No one can understand what kind of corrupt corporate politics could have resulted in this cold discontinuation.

Of course, it was time - through my haze of trauma - to move on. A girl can only bitch about the loss of lipstick options for so long. So I reviewed the other 8000 BB shades for a suitable replacement.

OK, is it just me or does Bobbi Brown sell 8000 shades of lipstick that are basically all the same colour? Which is brown, by the way.

She should be calling her line Bobbi Tawny Brown and just be done with it.

I couldn't distinguish one taupe from another. Eventually, I went with the plumiest brown there was (trust me it's a stretch) and when I turned over the tube to see what it was called, discovered I had actually bought it a couple of times before - during my occasional "branch out" phases. It's called Raisin. But don't let that fool you, it's brown. And it seems even browner now than it did when I bought it a few years ago. Although, that could be in my imagination.

Without question the Bobbi Brown lipstick is a superior product, colour notwithstanding. I can't give up on the brand yet, though I am considering waging a grass roots campaign called "No More Nude" (nude being the ridiculous industry term to describe pale and not an accurate reflection of the colour of many actual nude people).

Care to join me?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Long Weekend BBQ

Y'all may know that I spent most of the Toronto long weekend in my house. Without abatement. At first, I was too tired to go out. Then I had "cooking obligations" aka I was compelled to make 2 tarts, some dinners and a batch of caramel candies. Fortunately, the weather was awesome so we were able to have a delightful dinner party in the garden - finalement. In August!

Here are a few photos of the table:

Um, notice a little something called SUN??!!

Seriously, my gratitude for beautiful weather could not be more sincere.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Food Porn

Truly, Friday's raspberry custard tart might be the most beautiful thing I've ever made. Which I suppose is not unreasonable since it took me 7 freakin' hours.

It ain't quick making pastry cream for the first time (remember that kick I'm on with the custards? Well this is my latest cream-based experiment) and then making tart crust for the first time (I'm hard core with the pie crust) and then putting it together with raspberries.

There are a LOT of steps in this recipe - which is really a mash-up of a number of recipes. Seriously, props go to my FAVE pastry guy with a great blog that makes everything challenging infinitely explicable. He gave me moral support and a number of tips via email along the way.

Some sexy shots of the work in progress...

Field of Berries: You have to wash every one by hand and delicately set it out to dry. Any mushy rasps gotta go. So you have to buy 3 times as many as you need.

Pastry Cream: This really worked out fantastically. I tried it again a couple of days later and it really didn't work out fantastically. But that's another post. Without photos. (BTW, my husband calls this the money shot because he thinks it really has porn-like characteristics. He wishes.)

Tart Shell:

Tart Shell with Filling:

The real money shots:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Brief Administrative Intrusion

Hey y'all - I've been tremendously delinquent in responding to comments. You know I do respond to them all, just lately you could renovate your entire backyard in the time it's taking! Today's the day though, I swear...

And I may be a bit slow with the posts for the next week - or not, I never can figure myself out. I've been on a long weekend here in TO and the weather finally got nice (Universe, please keep it up) and I've been communing with flowers and eating dessert compulsively.

Wow, how's that for a wishy-washy laundry list of mea culpas?! :-)

While You're Buying Me Pools...

Check out the full, fabulous post at desiretoinspire

...I like modern, almost outside hot-tub slash bath things too. :-)

(Doesn't this landscape enthrall?)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Food for Thought

Cost of 20 croissants at generic bakery (i.e. Cob's): $50.00 before tax.

Cost of 20 croissants made at home: $5.00 all in.

OK, I know it took a long time to make 'em - I imagine, though, it gets easy after you get used to the recipe. Let me point out that the home made ones are 1/10 the price. And you get to tell everyone you made them.

Just sayin'...