Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Chocolate wine

Years ago my friend introduced me to this wine,Yellow Tail Shiraz Grenache. We call it chocolate wine, because it is so delicious, and so drinkable. It is soft yet a bit spicy. It's easy drinking, and stands up well to meat. Perhaps best of all, it is very affordable at only $11.95 at your local LCBO.

Before our friends came over last Saturday, my husband picked up a few bottles at the LCBO. We all had a good laugh when our friends also brought some over too. Clearly it's a crowd pleaser!

Spices, spatulas and strollers?

We were childless when we bought our house, and as a result didn't intimately understand the overwhelming amount of 'stuff' one accumulates with babies. While we have a decent amount of interior space, we have no outdoor storage for our:

- Running stroller
- Single everyday stroller
- Double everyday stroller
- Red wagon
- Umbrella stroller
- Trike
- 2 adult bikes
- Sleds
- Patio furntiure (requires winter storage)
- etcetera etcetera....

That's right...no shed, no garage, no covered deck.

So as a result my strollers live in my kitchen, and I end up washing my floors each and every time I bring the dirty snowy strollers in and out.

I know that every house has its quirks and quarks, and that this is just something I have to live with. What beef do you have with your house?

The sun beams while the moon shines

Tonight we hung the sunburst mirror that I mentioned here.

It is over our bed and I love it....though isn't that slanted roof annoying? Our bedroom is on the 3rd floor. I sleep on the left side of the bed and hit my head often getting up in the middle of the night to feed the baby. I also know that my lamps should be larger, but these will stay for now as they have sentimental value (they came from my Great Aunt and Uncle's house).

Monday, 30 January 2012

Chic or chuck-worthy?

I was inspired by the rust coloured leather and chrome chairs that Shannon of 8foot6 has in her living room.
I love how she's mixed traditional and modern pieces. This is a look I strive for, but it never seems to turn out. ...but I continue to try!!

I found these ones on Craigslist (sorry for the poor photo quality - this is the picture that the seller sent me). They were listed at $40 for the pair, and I got them for $30, which seemed a) like a steal, and b) not so much that I would have terrible guilt if they didn't work out. Definitely risk worthy. They are missing the metal rings that hold the arm straps on in a few places, but I think I can find something that will work. The leather is a beautiful caramel colour. It has some patina, but I like it. They are also deceptively comfortable.

I think I will put them in my basement....more to come once I repair them and get them in place.

What do you think? Am I crazy? ...my husband thought so (what's new!?)

Sunny days

This weekend I got a few hours to myself with the car. It was heaven. After ticking off a few items on my to-do list, (groceries, donation drop offs at Nellie's and Goodwill*) I headed to my local Homesense (Brentcliffe and Eglinton) for some 'me' time.

For years I have lusted over sunburst mirrors. I like that they sparkle, but aren't too precious and have a vintage vibe to them. But most of the ones I've liked have been hundreds of dollars, and the ones that are affordable look a bit cheapo. So wasn't I pleasantly suprised to find one that I loved at HomeSense for $39!

I think I will hang it above our bed until I am able to afford the upolstered headboard** I have been dreaming about. I will post some pictures once it's hung up, hopefully later tonight!

* My trip to Goodwill was not without a purchase. I bought my daughter an aluminum Diego lunch box for $1.10. These days she is really into carrying things in boxes. She packed it with Kuiji juice boxes. I was disappointed to see that the collector crowd was still their lurking around the Goodwill, waiting to pounce on the next dolley of goods. I gave them the dirtiest looks that I could muster...and then elbowed my way in when the next dolley came out.

** I have been dreaming about this for a long time. I have purchased the fabric (chocolate brown linen from Fabricand at 50% off! DWAI!*** and received a quote from the upolsterer, but it's just not in the budget while I'm on mat leave according to the engineer. ...really I think he just isn't as excited about the idea as I am! He loves to read in bed, so I need to convince him that it will up the comfort level of his reading marathons dramatically. Hard sell! Hard sell!

*** Don't worry about it.

UPDATE: I was jogging down Yonge Street today on my way home from a playdate, admiring all the beautiful decor stores....I was pleasantly suprised to see a GORGEOUS sunburst mirror in the window of 12/12...and I am guessing it had a few more zeros on the price tag than mine did! Sweet, sweet, post-purchase satisfaction

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Light in her loafers....or boots

Last year my mom bought my daughter the most amazing boots, called Holeys. They are extremely lightweight, made of a material similar to Crocs, so wee ones don't have trouble walking in them. They are also warm, waterproof, and colourful! I decided to post about them since every time my daughter wears them out other Moms ask me where I got them.

They are available in Toronto at Tajo Shoes (1723 Bayview in Leaside), as well as a few other locations.

I am hoping for more puddles, and less snow!!

Bathroom reno

When we visited our home during the Open House, we were struck by the bathroom off the kitchen on the main floor. Although many similar homes lacked a mainfloor bathroom, ours was a bit strange in that it had a shower instead of a typical 2 piece powder room. In the end, this has turned out to be wildly convenient with young kids, since in the morning my husband and I can trade off showering and child watching responsibilities while the kids eat breakfast.

However, gI never liked the design of the bathroom. The walls were an unforgiving shiny bright crimsion red, while the floor was a shiny black marble that looked dirty even after being washed. The shower tiles were a livable white, but were poorly installed and were starting to feel 'soft'.

I will post some 'before' pictures later, but for the time being here are a few 'after' shots. My husband did the majority of the work himself, and I think he did a great job. It feels so fresh and clean!

Art and towel rack (I searched all over the city for towels and in the end found them at the Bay)

Shelf beside the sink (since we have a pedastal sink and don't have a counter for a soap dispenser)

"Feature wall' tiles up close..they are called "Ming Green"
Shower stall with glass door (the one element we hired professionals for).

This is the medicine cabinet ....it is clearly still in need of a re-do.

Baby, it's cold outside!

Even though it hasn't been too cold this winter so far, I still find these months difficult when I'm trying to get 2 kids out the door in the morning for activities. My husband takes our car to work, so I'm carless during the day, instead relying on my UppaBaby and 2 feet.

My favourite baby product of the moment is the 7am Enfant Revolution stroller blanket. It is essentially the best quality universal stroller sleeping bag you can find. It is windproof, down-filled, fleece-lined and cosy from your baby's toes right up to the top of their head thanks to the 'hood shape'. This bag is convertable to various sizes, so it works right up to age 3 or so.

These bags are incredibly warm. I put my kids in without shoes or a coat and they stay toasty warm.

They retail for almost $200 CDN, but once and a while pop up on Kijiji and Craigslist. I have bought 2* of them from Craig this year for $100 each.

* I had 5 stroller bags altogether. Crazy, I know. But one of them was the UppaBaby Ganoosh, which I thought was horrible so I sold it on Craigslist recently. It is way to thin for a Toronto winter. I would not recommend it. So now I have 4: 2 for my UppaBaby stoller (1 for each kid), one in my running stoller, and 1 in the stroller that our nanny uses with our daughter and her friend. I am all set for a cold spell!

Guess who's coming to dinner?

Last night we ordered Indian food with friends. In past we would have spent the day crushing curry leaves and grinding cardomon to get our own perfect spice blend, but 2 busy kids (and our nephew here for the weekend) just don't afford us the time.

So instead, we kept things simple. We went to BJ's supermarket in the heart of the Indian Bazzar on Gerrard and picked up some of their fresh pekoras and samosas. I then asked the proprietor what restaurant she would recommend, and she said Regency, also on Gerrard. If you go to the Regency website they have directions from a list of destinations including Buffalo and Detroit, which makes me think that Regency is a REAL destination restaurant! The food was delicious, and very reasonably priced. I would definitely order from there again.

Whenever we have curry my husband makes mango lassis, a traditional Indian drink that deliciously soothes the heat of curry with cooling yogurt and tangy mango purree. The recipe is below. Mango puree is available at BJs.

1 large tub of yogurt (low fat yogurt works fine)
1 can of mango purree (same sized can as diced tomatoes)
~500mLs of milk (low fat milk works fine)

Mix together with an emersion blender.

Drink and enjoy!

Dirty dishes

My mom recently introduced  me to Raingoose Textiles, a Vancouver company which sells the most beautiful 100% linen tea towels in an assortment of whimsical patterns. These towels transform the mundane task of drying dishes. The linen makes them incredibly absorbant and beautiful to the touch, while the patterns are like kitchen eye candy hanging on your towel rack or oven handle.

It is very difficult to find tea towels that are 100% linen. Most stores sells cotton tea towels, and the tea towelling fabric you buy at fabric stores is only part linen, and not nearly as attractive. I bought myself a set of Raingoose towels at the One of a Kind show. Check the Raingoose website for other opportunities to buy your own, and start drying dishes in style!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Dare to share

When I was about 9 weeks pregnant with my first child, I confided my news to a friend. After congratulating me, her first question was what daycares I was on the waitlist for.

My first response was that she was insane, given that I was barely pregnant.

My next response was to call all the daycares in my area and get on waitlists (turns out I was the insane one!).

But as I thought more about it, I realized that daycare wasn't going to work for us once I was back at work. My work hours were long and unpredictable, while my husband's work is outside the city and he is constantly held hostage by traffic.

So we started thinking about getting a nanny. But when we looked at the economics, it was going to be almost double the cost of putting our daughter in daycare....so then we thought about a nanny share, which turned out to be the perfect solution for us.

We share our nanny with another family, which has worked brilliantly. Our daughter now has a "BFF" and the cost is comparable with daycare.

If you are considering a nanny share, please get in touch, as we have thought through and been through all of the issues that arise from taxes and T4s to how to deal with family vacations, sick kids, food, and cost splitting.

Isn't it funny how child care is something almost every parent has to figure out, yet it feels like we're all figuring it out for the first time?

Goodwill for babies

While pregnant with my first born, I dutifully visited trendy baby stores around the city, purchasing all the things I *needed* for the baby. Well needless to say, I quickly realized that A) the things I thought I needed didn't stop the baby from crying or from being up all night and B) that buying baby stuff new was just plain silly.

This being said, baby #2 has been living under the 'buy as much used stuff as possible' mantra.

So while I was doing one of my regular drop-offs at Goodwill* the other day, I saw this amazing baby entertainment centre for $6.06 and quickly scooped it up. It is originally from Ikea, in excellent condition, and is quite modern looking with the bentwood frame and brightly painted dangling parts. So far it's a hit with the babe!

* Two notes on the Goodwill:
1) I have visited many Goodwills across the city, and the best one I have found is the one on Overlea Blvd across from the East York Town Centre. ...however it seems that the secret is out. The last time few times I've visited, there were folks that were obviously collectors loitering at the door where new items are brought out. Do you have a favourite locaiton?
2) I purge like crazy....it seems like every week I have boxes of treasures to donate. Most of my stuff goes to the Goodwill, but if I have new or very gently used items for women or babies, I donate to Nellie's which is a women's shelter in Toronto.

Friday, 27 January 2012

In praise of pillows

I have always lusted over the exquisite pillows that Sarah Richardson uses in her designs. So when we built a window bench in my daughter's 'big girl' room, I decided to make some of my own. I am not an expert sewer by any means, but I do have a sewing machine (a very inexpensive Shark brand machine that my Mom bought be at Canadian Tire) and once and a while the spirit moves me to make stuff.

I headed to Designer Fabrics on Queen West to purchase some fabric, pom pom trim, piping, and ribbon. The extra sentimental part of these pillows is the vintage buttons that came from my Grandmother's sewing kit, as my daughter has Grandma's middle name as her first name.

I trike the Danforth

Check out the wicked awesome T-shirt I bought my daughter at Silly Goose on the Danforth (just West of Woodbine on the North side). They have onzies as well, which I bought for my son (who ironically can't trike yet, let alone walk).

Morning traditions

Every morning after I drag myself downstairs I take a few glorious minutes to myself and lovingly prepare a skim latte in a large bone china Wedgewood mug (Eternity pattern, which is now discontinued...but still available on Replacements.com). It feels so indulgent. CBC Radio One's Metro Morning with Matt Galloway plays from my IPad in the background. I press the espresso down with all my might and am forever trying to create the perfect topping of rich milk foam.

Recently my daughter has started asking for her own 'coffee'. So with any extra milk I steam, I prepare her a special 'coffee' --- steamed milk with a touch of PC hot chocoate powder in it, served in one of the bone china demi-tasse mugs that came with my dish set* (otherwise these mugs rarely get used, since they aren't a practical size).

This is a tradition with my daughter that I cherish. Hopefully when she is old enough to drink real coffee, she will still think I'm cool enough to hang out with.

* I registered for Duchess White china - it is a class pattern carried at William Ashley, and about half the price of most of the Wedgewood bone china white sets. ...the problem was that I lusted over the Wedgewood Eternity mugs...so I ordered a set of them in additon to my set. No regrets on the Duchess White though - it is simple, elegant, and an equally worthy vessel for mac and cheese as beef wellington.

Post-nap activities

I am always looking for fun activities to do with my daughter after she wakes up from her nap. It gives her incentive to take a good sleep (yes, I shamelessly bribe!). Today the weather was cold and wet, so instead of heading outside, I dug out some gingerbread cookies that I had frozen over Christmas and my daughter decorated them...she is still too young to realize that this is typically a Christmas activity.

I would highly recommend buying the tubes of icing instead of trying to make your own/apply it with a piper; this way there is little prep or mess. Horray for that!

In praise of turquoise

Does your house have a colour theme?

Mine started years ago when I inherited a series of vintage turquoise canisters from my Grandma. Ever since then, I have been adding pieces of turquoise to my colleciton.

(I had been collecting vintage turquoise Pyrex for years and had it hidden away in my cupboards...unitl I saw Shanon's display on 8foot6 and I was inspired to show it off....love it!)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Living large in a small kitchen

Our house is one of those typical 3 story brick "bowling alleys"....it's deep and narrow, with the kitchen at the back of the house. We also have a bathroom at the back of the house as well as a door to our backyard, so our kitchen is small and busy. With limited cupboard space and lots of dishes and collectables, I really needed to make my space work efficiently.

Although they are not the prettiest, these Rubbermaid cupboard stackers are strong and efficient, essentially doubling your storage space. I was suprised at the price - they are about $8 each (I was hoping they would be cheaper). When we moved into our house, I shopped around from Home Hardware to Canadian Tire, WalMart, and some big box stores, and the price didn't fluctuate meaningfully, so buy them at the location that's most convenient for you!

What are your tricks for making your kitchen work?

Guess who's coming for dinner!...food share

One of the biggest challenges I face is getting a healthy dinner on the table every night...and my daughter is a picky eater, so most nights I'm making multiple meals to suit everyone's tastes!!

For this reason, I got together with two girlfriends and started a 'food share' supper club. Each Wednesday when we meet at music class, one of us is responsible for providing the other two with a meal for that evening. The meals are not intended to be haute cuisine nor expensive to prepare, but nonetheless they are always delicious and nutritious. The result is that I only cook every third Wednesday; the other two weeks I get a meal cooked for me!! I just love the idea of busy moms helping other busy moms.

So far our meals have included ...
beef stew
turkey chili
pulled pork
roasted vegetable frittata
southwestern quinoa salad
meal pies
sausage soup
veggie pasta
sweet potato sheppard's pie
mac and cheese
chicken curry with basmati rice

....the list goes on!

Tonight Kate made cashew chicken lettuce wraps and barley/butternut squash/broccoli salad

This is the perfect 'package' of goodies that Kate gave me when I saw her today.

....and this is the delicious meal on our plates at dinner time! What a treat!


Do you have any good recipes that I should cook for a future food share? I think next week I am going to buy a whole chicken and make soup the way my mom does after a big turkey dinner.