Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

We put up some art on our walls!  Woohoo!  File this under simple cheap upgrades.  I’m not too sure why we had been putting this off for so long, since it really only amounted to about 20 minutes of work to hang everything thus far.

First I tried to recreate our Black & White photo setup up above our desk (this was the idea of the Chicago canvas on top, lined up with the tango couple and Eiffel Tower posters below).  Um, yeah, those posters are gorgeous, but getting a bit cumbersome.  And a little torn.  I thought I would try sticky tack since it’s touted as a much cleaner and easier way to stick up posters (and supposedly leaves no residue), but it was kind of a fail.  So, I gave up on the posters and packed them away.  But the canvases were due to go up.  So, we mounted the Chicago canvas on the opposite wall, above our cute bookcases, seen here:

And our favourite ever wedding canvas facing the sofa.  We always get compliments on this one, and it’s probably one of our favourite wedding pictures from the whole day!

We already have plans to change this up, though.  Eventually, the TV will be wall-mounted roughly where the wedding canvas is, and the wedding canvas will replace the Chicago one, which will be moved into a custom mini mudroom we’ve got planned (exciting!).

And then since we were hanging stuff up, we decided to keep going with the non-art stuff.  We hung up a nice big whiteboard just outside the kitchen.  We use that whiteboard for reminders, to-do lists, plenty of stuff, so we’re planning on making that little corner sort of a “home base”, complete with whiteboard calendar and a bulletin board!  So many plans!

And we finally got our full-length mirror up in the bedroom.  We just hung it up on the closet door that is perpetually open.  Now we can stop crazy bedhead and wacky outfits before they even leave the bedroom – excellent!

As for how, it was super simple, which is good since we’ve got the aforementioned changes on the way.  The canvases were the easiest, since the frame makes for a nice ledge that hangs easily.  Basically Nick held up the canvas while I stood across the room to figure out a rough placement.  Then I’d use the level to make it straight, and draw 2 thin pencil lines tracing the top of the canvas.  After that, Nick hammered in 2 small nails right on those lines, and we gently set the canvas on top of the nails.  Done!  Not super child proof, but unless the canvases decide to jump or otherwise defy gravity, we’ll be fine for years.  The mirror and whiteboard were a bit special.  Same process for finding the location on the wall, but these two had wires across the back, so we simply nailed in one of those small hook-like picture hangers, and hung the wire on the hook.  Voila!  Art!

I’ve always been of the opinion that art is one of the best bang-for-your-buck upgrades you can do.  It usually takes very little in terms of time, effort, and money (once you have the art), and really makes a room feel more personal and home-like, it does wonders for the atmosphere.  You can add sophistication, whimsy, and lots of other elements with some simple art that doesn’t even have to be expensive.  And it always helps when the art is meaningful.  We adore our wedding canvas so much – we made it on Shutterfly, so it was shipped right to our home.  It’s personal art, and looking at it always reminds us of our beautiful wedding day, and conjures up those bubbly in-love feelings.  I eventually want some art in every room of the apartment, including the bathroom and kitchen.  And mirrors are both beautiful and practical, so I love hanging a beautiful mirror when it makes sense.

Have you guys done any simple upgrades recently?  Or do you have a favourite piece of art hanging in your home?  Spill, we want to hear it!

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Fresh Green Bean & Tomato Salad

One of my favourite things about warmer days is the glorious fresh produce that’s available.  After a winter of seeing sad excuses for fruit and veggies lining the aisles of the grocery store, I always feel a little happier when the warm weather kicks in, and the food looks, smells, and tastes far more appetizing.

I love my salads, and often I use the tried-and-true formula that I learned growing up: sliced tomatoes + chopped lettuce + optional onion/cucumber + olive oil + salt + balsamic vinegar = yummy house salad.  Although this recipe is delicious, I like trying new recipes and mixes of salad, and this one is a new simple spin on fresh salad that goes with anything.

Ingredients:

  • 375g (13oz) green beans, ends trimmed
  • 250g (9oz) grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small onion (or shallot), minced
  • 2 tbsp basil
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook green beans in boiling water for 2 minutes, until tender but still crisp.
  2. Rinse and add to a serving dish along with tomatoes, onion, and basil.
  3. Drizzle on olive oil, vinegar, sprinkle salt and pepper.
  4. Mix well.

That’s it!  Super simple recipe, and I really liked the green beans being the base flavour, it made for a more interesting texture and flavour than lettuce.  I found that the 2 minutes in boiling water really made the colour a vibrant kelly green, and had just the right amount of crunch.  

I served this salad as a side with chicken burgers, but I think it would work just as well with grilled or roasted chicken, beef burgers, even steak!  It’s really versatile, and the basil gives it a really nice flavour that’s a little bit Italian.  Bon appetit!

My Coffee & Me

Ah, coffee.  Beautiful, and at times controversial that becomes a staple somewhere between school and work.  One recent morning, as I was enjoying my first cup of the day and gazing at the milk swirling among the dark brew, I found myself thinking back to how I first came to love coffee.

As a child, my parents made Turkish coffee, like most Romanians would enjoy, made in a pot on a stovetop.  The strong aroma would fill the air, and the finished cup was rich, dark, and had the grounds settled at the bottom.  I loved the smell, but don’t remember if I ever tried it as a child.

Coming to Canada, they searched high and low for a coffeepot like it, and to no avail, so they switched to the far more well-known coffeemaker, but still enjoyed small cups of coffee, as opposed to the large mugs so many of us sip from.  But surely enough, I saw them transition into the larger mugs.

Somewhere around age 13, I remember them suggesting I try a mocha instead of my normal hot chocolate when we went to Tim Hortons on a Saturday morning, to see if I would like it.  It was basically half coffee, half hot chocolate, and I loved it.  So, at a relatively early age, that became a once a week treat for me, and I loved feeling more grownup sipping my mocha.  Of course, the mocha was a gateway.  From mocha, I graduated to flavoured cappuccinos (which is really a step back, since those are made with powdered mixes instead of real coffee).

However, as I entered my mid and late teens, two things happened.  First, I started noticing calorie and sugar intake in an effort to watch my figure – and the mochas and cappuccinos were not helping.  Second, the demands of a very full schedule began to lead to late nights and fatigue – I was regularly taking more than a full course-load at school, involved in plenty of extracurriculars, and volunteering, plus the occasional part-time job – fun!  So one day, I bit the bullet and tried a coffee, with milk and a touch of honey to sweeten it.  That first taste was almost a shock, a strength of flavour that I was not familiar with.  But by the second sip, it was like a love story.  I still wasn’t a regular coffee drinker, but enjoyed a hot cup after a particularly late night, and for 75 cents I could get a decent cup in my high school cafeteria.

By the end of high school, I had happily joined the ranks of the one cup per day club, having a coffee every morning to get me going.  This habit continued throughout university, where on very rare occasions (big projects, exams), I have had 4 or more cups in a day.

Nowadays, I require one cup in the morning, as a warm gentle way to fully awaken and be a fully functioning human being.  Besides, who doesn’t love waking up to the smells of fresh coffee?  At home, we have our beautiful Keurig coffee maker, which I like to use with either flavoured K-Cups or some delicious Lavazza in a reusable K-cup pod.  Sometimes I may have a second cup later in the day, but that one is usually sheerly for pleasure.  I’ve tried Coke, and I do enjoy Diet Coke quite a bit, as well as XS Energy Drinks, but neither of those is really a regular part of my day.  Neither of those has quite the magical touch of a nice hot (or iced!) cup of coffee.  In fact, after writing this, I think it’s time for another cup 🙂

Are you guys coffee drinkers?  Or tea, perhaps?  How did you acquire the habit?

(Photo of coffee cup from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee)

The Big Shipment

Who likes going for groceries?  Probably very few people.  I don’t mind it, but I’m not one to enjoy it really, and I pretty much never go to multiple stores.  And sadly, farmer’s markets are depressing and infuriating all in one to me.  I honestly wish I could love them, and tote a cute basket around, smelling produce and carefully selecting cheeses, but no.  So it’s pretty much always been the closest supermarket.  Unfortunately, I found myself kind of unhappy with the meat section.  Fresh meat, be it chicken, beef, etc. tends to be quite expensive in this area, and not exactly super tasty.  Plus, due to water, it shrinks when cooked.  Boo.  Luckily we found a solution.

Enter Nutrafarms.  They’re a local company here in Ontario, and the basic model is frozen quality meat in bulk.  Their meats are locally grown, and with all the good stuff you’d want – free range, hormone-free, grass-fed beef, etc.  They also have frozen vegetables, as well as some other pantry items available.  This made me feel good about having high quality, nutritional food available.  The savings comes in because you get a big shipment all at once that’s supposed to last 12-18 months.  They even include the deep freezer!

We first tasted their products when at a friend’s house for lunch, and the chicken, beef, and sausage were delicious!  You could have easily convinced me that they had gone to the farmer’s market that morning to buy it, or that the sausages were from a cutesy little European meat shoppe.  So we knew tasty meat would be on the menu.  You also get to pick what you want or don’t want from a huge selection.  Our preference, with the dishes we like, is we got loads of lean ground beef, loads of chicken breast, some steak, bacon, sausage, ground chicken and premade burgers, skipping fish, pork, and other items like wings, but that’s just our tastes.

This is our first time using Nutrafarms’ services, and thus far we’re quite happy.  We just got our delivery, check out our freezer! Also, extra prep space on top = bonus!

And here it is open, packed with delicious meats and vegetables.  Nick is super happy about this, since he loves his protein.

I’ll keep you guys updated as we go, but we’re really happy right now.  We tried grilling up the chicken with absolutely no spices to see how it tasted by itself, and it was amazing!  Flavourful, hearty, and juicy – I can’t wait to try it with seasonings and marinades, mmmm…. and I love knowing that even if I have no ideas and I’ve neglected a grocery run (or two or three, it’s happened), I have veggies and meat on hand to whip up dinner anytime.  I’m also looking forward to shorter grocery trips, really just to pick up dairy products, fruit or fresh produce we might want, and simple pasta/peanut butter/paper towels.  So, if any of you lovely readers are in Ontario, I recommend this service for sure.

I’m also planning on looking into growing some veggies or fruit if possible in our apartment, maybe even from scraps!  It makes me feel all green and organic, but really it’s from being lazy and cheap, haha.

Have any of you guys tried or found some good grocery delivery or local grocery programs?  Do share 🙂

The Poang Heist

Okay, there wasn’t really a heist.  There was however, the hurried renting of a pickup truck and driving out to Markham, so that was adventurous!  but let’s go back to the beginning of the story.

Basically, we were looking for some comfy chairs to add some more seating to our living area.  Even though when I was younger I didn’t quite understand the appeal (or the physics) of the iconic Ikea Poang chair, pretty soon we were drooling over these beauties:

So we started to save our pennies, since $180 a piece isn’t exactly cheap, and we wanted two chairs with the leather cushions.  Somewhere along the way (probably as I was reading the amazing Young House Love), I had a lightbulb moment – so many people have the classic Poang chair, wouldn’t we be able to find a good deal on Kijiji or Craigslist?  So, I started doing regular searches to see what would come up, and one day a fantastic ad came up – two chairs were available in Markham for $30 each!

What followed was a flurry of phone calls and emails to the seller and to Nick, as well as renting a pick-up truck from Zipcar.  We drove out to a Storage Mart, where all the furniture was packed up and ready to go, and 20 minutes later, we were driving home with 2 gorgeous new Poang chairs.  They’re actually the medium-brown wood finish, instead of the black-brown we had initially picked up.  However, at $60 for the pair, we were more than happy with them.  They regularly retail for $360 for the pair, so we got them at an 83% discount – yay!  We may have (definitely) given each other a nerdy high five, we’re that cool.

Here they are, chilling in our living room – aren’t they beautiful?  We love them, and may have wanted to hug them.

So that’s the story of the Poang non-heist.  Do you guys love Ikea Poang chairs?  Any good Craigslist or Kijiji adventures to share?  Do tell.

(Photo at top from Ikea Canada website at http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/ )

White Wedges, the Second Coming

This is another post about shoes, a bit like my black patent heels post here .  This post is about my beloved white Aldo wedges, which have experienced a rebirth twice now.

I first acquired these lovely white leather wedges when I was about 15 years old, I think.   Tough to remember that far back.  Anyways, they were gorgeous, and once again remarkably comfortable at a 4 inch heel height.  I wasn’t always too crazy about the winding straps with a belt buckle closure, but it added edge and style to the shoes, so I loved that.

Over time, they remained a favourite shoe, worn repeatedly every summer as a staple.  And over time, those straps became frayed, and it became increasingly difficult to close them.  So one day I decided to simply snip off the straps and have them as slip-on wedges.  It worked perfectly!  Clouds parted, choirs sang (okay, not really), and my shoes had a second life as casual cool slip-on wedges.  All was well in the shoe world.

Until, the unthinkable.  Walking down the street nonchalantly one day, I feel a strange loosening sensation in my right shoe.  Within moments, the strap pops out.  Not only that, but the sole is gaping away from the wedge itself.  I rush to Joe Fresh in search of emergency flip flops, and lament my lovely white wedges.  There may have been loving stroking and whispers of “I’ll never forget you”.  *sniffle*

Why all this fuss over a pair of shoes, you ask?  Well, because they feel as if I’m walking on a cloud.  Because although they provide all the flattering benefits of 4 inch heels, they have the stability of a wedge.  And because they’ve been a staple in my closet for at least 8 years at best guess.  And unlike many ladies, I’m not big on shoe shopping, so I really hadn’t planned on shelling out $80-100 for another pair of summer shoes anytime soon.  So, I prepare to give these beloved shoes a proper burial (in the garbage), when an idea strikes me.  I remember my father repairing my shoes as a little girl, using a C-clamp and contact cement.  I pull out the same supplies, and carefully run a thin layer of contact cement along the fallen strap.  Gingerly, I place it in its place, and clamp down the sides together.  I let the fallen shoe rest for two days, allowing the cement to cure fully.  With bated breath, I remove the clamp, and try on the shoes again.  Good as new!  Well, good as second form new 🙂

So there you have it, another shoe love letter, and also how to fix straps that have fallen out (and save yourself the $100 for new leather wedges in my case).  Anyone else playing cobbler these days?  Just me?  Okay 🙂

Super Simple Strawberry Crisp

Do you have a favourite fruit?  For many people, it’s strawberries.  Delicious, ripe red berries, bursting with sweetness and just the right hint of tartness, memories of berry picking and eating your fill as you find the sweet red treasures among the leaves, the luscious and distinct taste of summer.

This summer we’ve been enjoying simpler pleasures, easy recipes, homemade wine, and eating out on the balcony, soaking up sun and warmth while basking in the romance of the season.

With that in mind, I found and tried a delicious recipe for the simplest strawberry crisp I’ve ever had or made.  The original recipe is found here  at Playing House Full Time, one of my all-time favourite blogs.  I did a tiny bit of modifications, since I think my version has more berries in it.  I think it’s the perfect way to make the most of the last lingering days of summer, since it’s not fall until the 21st!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs whole fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 1.5 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1.5 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • extra drizzle of honey

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Toss berries with corn starch in an ungreased 8 x 8 baking dish.
  • Mix together oats, honey, and butter until uniform.
  • Spread oat mixture evenly over berries, and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Drizzle with honey once out of the oven.

I would have used coconut oil instead of the butter, but Nick doesn’t quite share my love for it.  We’ve also enjoyed it with some Greek yogurt on top, or I like to add a little bit of coconut oil for flavouring.

Have you tried this awesome(ly simple) recipe?  Or do you have any other favourite strawberry recipes?  Please do share, they’re in season for a bit longer so we might as well really enjoy them!