Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ga-ga for graphic prints

I just love the current trend of graphic prints. They make me cheery when I see them....but I am not a confident or skilled enough designer to use them on big investment pieces like sofas or rugs. I also fear that my rooms will quickly look dated when the trend passes, and I'll have to convince my husband as to why we need new curtains/sofa/rug etc. when the one we have doesn't actually have anything wrong with it.

So I've selected a few less permanent pieces to whet my appetite for this trend, without breaking the bank.

Here are some pictures of my favourite low-commitment items. The good news is that my fear of commitment hasn't negatively impacted my personal life :)

Turquoise velvet octagon pillows from Take me Home in the RBC Plaza

Brown and white throw (actually a baby blanket!!!) from Dwell Studio for Target (LOVE Tar-jay!!)

Order in the house

The kids and I are currently out in Vancouver, staying with my parents.

My parents live in the house I grew up in, and recently completed a major renovation. With a big new kitchen to revel in, my Mom has taken her obsession with organization to a whole new level. Here are a few ideas that I love (the photos are just taken with a point-and-shoot camera, so they aren't the best quality...sorry!). I only wish I had room for all these ideas in my mini-kitchen!

What keeps your kitchen humming?

Seagrass basket for recyling

IKEA placesetting organizers

IKEA accordian organizer for tops of pots and pyrex

A Jackson Pollock for Grandma and Grandpa

I have been away from the blog for a few days now, and it feels like forever! My husband has been away for work (in Vegas...don't have pitty!!) and yesterday I travelled out to Vancouver alone with my two kids to visit with my parents. Trying to pack two kids for a five hour flight that left at 8am without my partner in crime around was no small feat! I am running on minimal sleep, needless to say.

In advance of our trip to Vancouver, my daughter made a piece of art for each of Grandma and Grandpa. I started with a wooden block 'canvas', which I purchased for under $5 each at Deserres. The beauty of these is that because they are made of wood, they stand on their own and do not need to be framed or hung on the wall, but are more formal and permanent than a drawing on a tattered piece of paper. They are perfect for a ledge, shelf, or table vignette.

I started by applying gesso (an artist's primer; this is not necessary. You could instead just use white paint, or you could just paint/colour directly on the wood. I just wanted a white background) to each block. Once it was dry, my plan was to have my daughter paint each block with coloured acrylic paints....but I just couldn't muster the energy for the prep and clean up. So instead, I just handed my daughter crayons with which to create her masterpiece.

I don't think she is ready for a gallery showing yet, but nonetheless Grandma and Grandpa were very touched to have special pieces of 'art'.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

If only I had sponsors to thank....

Guess what folks....BIG NEWS! I received a Liebster award from the wonderful and talented Keira at The Bennett House blog. Check out her post about the blogs she selected for the award here.

I am most excited about this because it means I have at least 1 follower who isn't a blood relative or childhood friend. Thank you Keira! I am so honoured. This award has really renewed my steam to improve my blog. My two goals are to update my header (I guess this means I need to learn HTML!!!) into something a bit less pedestrian and to take a photography class so that my photos aren't so dark and yellow.

I was trying to describe the Liebster awards to my husband this morning over breakfast. When I told him that it's an award that bloggers give to other bloggers, he said "so it's like the SAG awards", which I thought made the Liebsters sound very impressive...after all, aren't the SAGS and Golden Globes leading indicators for the Oscars??....ok, maybe I'm reading into this a bit too much. Either way I am tickled pink!

For those of you who don't know, the Liebster Blog Award is given to bloggers who have under 200 followers to try to help increase traffic to their blog. Recipients get to give awards to five other bloggers who have under 200 followers, and tell readers five things about themselves.

So here are five things about myself:

1) I married my university sweetheart.

When I was leaving my hometown of Vancouver for Carleton University, my mom confided that was worried that I would fall in love and never come back home...well turns out her mother's intuition was spot on (though I do go back home quite often!); Brian and I have now been together about 15 years and married for almost 5 years! He is an engineer and is very scientific and logical in his approach. I, in comparison, am far more artsy, spiritual, and sentimental. This results in a beautiful tension in our relationship that keeps us both on our toes. We have wonderful, rich debates about everything from my Craigs List purchases to Rob Ford's approach to transit. Tangent story: For our first Valentine's Day together in Ottawa, Brian took me skating on the Rideau Canal. We are celebrating a belated Valentine's Day tonight and I am suprising him with a skate on the rink at Withrow Park before dinner at Libretto Pizzaria. Fun!).

2) I have two amazing kids, a 2.5 year old daughter and a 6 month old son.

My daughter was a challenging birth and a collicky infant, but is now a life-loving happy-go-lucky little girl. My son's birth was a supernatural experience with midwives, and so far he has been calm and easy. The days and nights with our kids are long but the years are short. They are the light of my life. They have taught me to be patient and to live in the moment, two virtues that do not come naturally to me. I am more inclined to mutitask and always think of what's next.

3) I grew up in groovy Vancouver.

My parents still live in the house I grew up in, though they have just completed a major renovation. There are a number of elements they designed into their house that I absolutely love. I am headed out there next week and plan to blog a lot about their house. ...maybe I'll even convince my mom to do a guest blog! My favourite things about Vancouver are mornings at the Granville Island market, dinners at Brix restaurant, walking in Pacific Spirit Park's Sword Fern Trail, roller blading the Stanley Park Sea Wall, and watching sunsets from my brother's balcony overlooking English Bay. Vancouver is hands down the most naturally spectacular city from my perspective.

4) The TTC wants to expropriate my house!

We live on the Danforth and our home is directly above the Bloor-Danforth subway line. In 2010 the TTC (our local transit authority) tried to partially expropriate about 10 properties on our street and fully demolish 2 homes. Over the year that followed, my neighbors and I fought this will all our might. We spent late nights doing engineering analysis and early mornings writing press releases and collecting signatures. Days were spent meeting with decision makers at City Hall. In the end, Council unanimously decided to indefinitely defer the project, so for the time being, our house is safe! This experience made us realize how much we love our house and our neighbors....a good outcome indeed.

5) I've never met a deal I didn't like!

My mom is an avid shopper of garage sales, thrift stores, and all retail sales, so I come by it naturally. We rarely pay full price for anything. Even my wedding dress came from a consignment shop in New Westminster (just outside Vancouver).

..and five blogs that I would like to give Liebster awards to:

I STILL HAVE TO DECIDE....stay tuned!!!!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

TTC love

I have always had a soft spot for the TTC, despite them trying to expropriate my house (unbelievable but true; see here). So when I saw this piece of art in Crema coffee shop on the Danforth today, I just swwwwwoooned. I want it for my living room. It is tough to tell from this photo, but the finish is super glossy. I believe that it is a list of the original street car lines.

I did some research and determined that the artist is Christine Flynn. Not only is she local, but she also has what looks like an amazing vintage shop on Queen East (just West of Danforth). A selection of her finds can be seen here; I am definitely going to have to check it out soon....maybe I'll take the Queen streetcar!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Guess who's coming to dinner...Mexican tortilla soup

I am currently loving one-pot meals that include protien, veggies, and lots of flavour in each bite.
I was craving a bit of spice, and this Mexican tortilla soup fit the bill with its rich, smokey heat.

My photo didn't turn out very well (I am always taking my photos in low light once the kiddies are sleeping...thanks Shannon for your tips on how to deal with this!!) but it really is a beautiful, colourful soup when topped with cheddar, cilantro, chips, and avacado.

One note on the chips - At the grocery store today I compared multigrain Tostitos with regular Tostitos. It turns out that the multigrain chips have a lot of sugar in them to compensate for the mutigrain I opted for the low-sodium regular chips. Doesn't it frustrate you when so-called heathier choices turn out not to be so (fruit yogurt is another example of this.....FULL of refined sugar!)!?

The original recipe for the soup is available here; as usual I made a few adjustments:

- I added minced green pepper, chick peas, and corn kernels for some extra nutrition
- I used chipotle peppers instead of anaheim pepper
- I excluded the salt and pepper
- I excluded the dried chipotle pepper and hot sauce (it was plenty hot without these additions!!!)

Even with these changes I found the soup very, very spicy. Add the peppers bit by bit to taste if you don't have an iron stomach!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Hi ho, hi ho, off to Joe we go

One of my favourite baby/kid products for summer is these SPF protecting one-piece bathing suits which protect baby skin from the sun's harsh rays. However they tend to be tough to find, and many of the ones I've seen are upwards of $50.

Joe Fresh is carrying them right now for $16...I bought one yesterday at the Eglinton East location. Joe stock never seems to last long, so go soon!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Vacuum brewing

I was at my in-laws for dinner tonight and got to try out their new vacuum coffee brewer. Theirs is a "CONA". According to various Internet sources, vacuum brewing was all the rage before paper coffee filters became widely popular. I am neither a scientist nor coffee purist, but as far as I could figure out, vacuum brewing is like a percolator without any filter. Miraculously, it is a very clean brew; compared to my Bodum coffee there is virtually no sediment, though the coffee is full of body.

I can't imagine using this contraption every day let alone storing it, but it is certainly an entertaining show for guests and the coffee was divine...I'm pretty sure I am going to up all night now thanks to the 2.5 cups I downed!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Poster framing...update

Yesterday, I blogged here about framing a poster that my husband and I bought in Quebec City a few years ago.

To get the poster mounted on foam core and a new mat cut, I headed to the framing store at Pape and Danforth (North East side). I must admit that I've had a bad experience here before. The last time I went, my item took 3 weeks because the owner said he didn't like to work hard any more, as he had worked hard his whole life and now he is focused on relaxing. I am someone who loves to support small business, but admittedly, this had me a little irritated. Nonetheless, I decided to give them another chance yesterday. This time the woman in the shop refused to order a white mat for me since it was a lot of work to order just one mat, and the only colours she had on hand to offer were yellow and green. I'm beginning to think these folks don't actually want to be in business.

So instead I headed to Frame Maker at Jones and Queen E. The gentleman that I worked with was extremely helpful and provided a very fair quote. Done and done. I will pick up my poster and new mat in a few days!

Gallery wall

My vision for the art work that I gave my husband for Valentine's Day (blogged about here) was that it would be one of the central pieces of a gallery wall in our bedroom. I have long admired gallery walls with a mish mash of art and photos that all somehow work together, but I've always been too timid to try.

Instead I have typically gone for simple and balanced repititon, as in these photos:

In the nursery

In the living room

In the nursery

In the office

But I figured that the wall along this cosy reading nook at the back end of our bedroom would be the perfect place to take the plunge with a gallery wall of family photos.

I have my first pieces all ready to hang....I think we're going to do it on Monday...Family day! I'll let you know how it the meantime let me know if you think my plan has any fatal flaws!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Poster panache


There is something about posters that bring me back to my university years. At the beginning of every year my roommates and I would go to the poster sale on campus, pick up a few new pieces for our apartment, and proudly put them up on our walls with tacks.

I feel like my taste has matured at least a little bit since then, but I still have a soft spot for posters. My husband and I bought a vintage CP Hotels poster in Quebec City while we were there for our 'babymoon' a few years ago, and we bought two really vivid posters from the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. I am sentimental about all of these posters as they remind me of special times in our lives.

I framed the Olympic posters a few months ago (they are going up this weekend in my daughter's room, finally!) and I am in the midst of framing the Quebec City one now.

For all of them, I am using Ikea Ribba frames, which are nice and cheap. My only warning with the Ribba frames is that they are often sloppily sized, so even if you measure impecibly, they can look a little asymetrical and unbalanced if you are doing a gallery wall. I hung 2 pictures in our office and couldn't figure out why they didn't look even....turns out the frames are a quarter of an inch different in height.

My biggest tip for framing posters is to go to your local frame store and get them to mount the poster on foam core. This is inexpensive, and ensures that the poster lies flat against the glass even if it's been rolled for years. You may also have to get custom mats cut if your poster is an odd size (which mine appears to be).

I will upload some photos once the posters are up on the wall! It makes me want to go buy a Breakfast Club movie poster for my dining room and put it up with tacks!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Controlling kid clothing chaos

When my daughter was born, I couldn't beleive how quickly she grew out of clothes. I was resistent to get rid of the clothing, but was at a loss for how to corral the growing mountain of clothing that was too big or too small.

In the end I decided to use canvas sweater bags. They have a clear top allowing you to see the contents of the bag and are the perfect size for small clothes - you'd be amazed at how many onzies you can fit in one sweater bag! I have mine sorted by the standard sizes (e.g. 0-3mos, 3-6mos, 6-12mos, etc) and labelled using a folded piece of paper on top of the clothing.

I originally was buying the sweater bags at IQ Living on the Danforth, but they no longer carry them. I am sure they are avilable at home organization stores, but I don't have any close to me, so I am now buying these ones on Amazon. Let me know if you know of where I can buy these in Toronto!

I know that this is a bit geeky, like a dewey decimal system for kids clothes, but it works! When my son was born and I wanted to quickly find some gender neutral newborn onzies, it was eaaasy peasy!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's gifts for a foodie father

My husband and I tend not to buy expensive Valentine's gifts. Instead, we like to give gifts that are personal and sentimental. So here is what we gave my husband:

1) A framed piece of art: kids' handprint/footprint.

To make this, I used a piece of canvas paper (available at any art store, like Deserres on the Danforth), and two different colours of acrylic paints. To finish it off, I wrote each of the kids' names and age with a silver pen. I still need to take a picture of the final product in the turned out quite well. The kids loved doing this, though it was obviously a bit messy!

Note- I initialy tried using finger paints since I thought the clean-up would be easier, but they don't have enough pigment to make the prints stand out.

2) My husband is an avid cook. He had admired this cookbook in the window of Circus books (a great used bookstore at Jones and Danforth) so my daughter and I snuck back and got it for him. The cheese cloth is to age his own beef...apparently you can buy unaged beef and age it yourself in the fridge quite easily with a zip lock container and some cheese cloth. Who knew?...I'll let you know how it turns out!

What did you give your sweetheart? Did you receive anything special?

'Hearty' cooking...a Valentine's salad

Tonight I tried to make a special Valentine's dinner (as special as it can be with two young kids around!) For a side dish I made this quinoa salad with beets and feta. The beets turn the entire salad a rich beautiful hue of ruby pink, which was Valentine's appropriate. It's stuning! This salad is delicious, full of flavourful mint, parsley, and feta...and it's nutritious to boot!

Here is the recipe. As usual, I adjusted the recipe based on the ingredients I had on hand:

- I added chickpeas for extra nutrition
- I used roasted almonds instead of pine nuts
- I added cucumbers
- I used golden beets as well as red beets

What did you make your sweetheart?