Monthly Archives: November 2013

Home with the Parsons

A while back, we went to town on Kijiji again, and ended up getting a fantastic deal on a set of Parsons chairs.  We’ve been able to use them for a few months now, and we love them!  They were initially intended as seating around the table for eating, but we loved them so much, they’ve become our desk chairs as well!  Here’s the lovely story of how we found these beauties.

We really wanted nice comfy chairs for the dining table, so we sort of developed a crush on these gorgeous Ikea Henriksdal chairs.  We loved them in dark brown leather, aren’t they gorgeous?

But alas, at $129 before tax, the price was a little steep, and with chairs it adds up – we would need 4, so we were looking at over $500 just on chairs (yikes)!  So I decided to look around, all the while saving our pennies.  I learned that this kind of cushioned chair with a high back and no arms is called a Parsons chair.  And I also learned that buying new chairs really wouldn’t go below $50 a chair for faux leather.  Paying about $200 for a set of 4 chairs seemed more manageable.  So in the meantime, we picked up a couple more Laver chairs to fill the need for 4, since they are only $10 each and would become patio chairs afterwards.  We kept saving for the Parsons, and then I looked up Kijiji/Craigslist, and saw these beauties.

We instantly loved them even more than the Ikea ones, and I really liked the tufts!  I thought it added a nice interesting detail.  We had also thought of replacing our office chair, and more Parsons seemed like the perfect option!  We found an ad for $20 a chair (and new in the box!), and immediately contacted the seller.  That night, we rented our neighbourhood pick-up truck from Zipcar and made the 35 minute drive out to Brampton.  Within 20 minutes, we were back on the road, 6 chairs lovingly nestled in the pickup.

Soon after, we assembled the lovelies, moved out the Lavers to their new home on the balcony, and here once again is our finished setup!

The other two chairs we bought will be part of a future project, so they don’t get to sit around the dining table.  What do you guys think of the setup?  Done any fun online thrifting recently?  Share your stories and spoils with me below.(Photo of Henriksdal chair from Ikea Canada website.)

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Holiday Cheer and Peppermint Mochas

Here we are, at the end of November.  Usually here in Toronto, it’s brisk, but still very much autumn, with some colourful leaves remaining, and scarf weather, but still pleasant enough for a brisk walk.  Not so much this year – this past weekend we had our first snowfall for the season.  A few flakes started falling late last week, and Saturday morning we woke up to find a picturesque dusting on our city, with rooftops and streets dusted in winter wonderland, icing sugar snow.

Happily, this is also the season of cozy sweaters and scarves, warm fireplaces and homes, and delicious hot drinks to keep us warm.  One of my favourite spots for this is the ubiquitous Starbucks.  I find their offerings delicious all year round, but something magical and special happens when the colder weather sets in.  First, the Pumpkin Spice Latte heralds the cooling temperatures.  But then, the holiday collection rolls out.  Red cups bring joy and celebration all around the city, and the seasonal flavours cause a bit of a frenzy in downtown – I saw long lines of people waiting 20 minutes or more when the holiday collection came out again.

For some people, the festive flavours of the Gingerbread Latte (gingerbread man in a cup!) and the Caramel Brule Latte entice and warm.  This is also the season of delicious baked goods.  My personal favourite drink is the Peppermint Mocha.  I remember the first time I had one, it was when I was in high school, here in Toronto with a school trip.  I felt so grown up dressed in my business clothes (I was in town for a business competition), and walking through the Path with all the people that worked in the area.  I stopped in at a Starbucks, ordered a Peppermint Mocha, and continued my stroll through the Path, looking at pretty items in the stores, and marveling at the Christmas decorations.  Every time I have one, it takes me back to that time, and I feel giddy all over again.

Another treat I love picking up at Starbucks when Nick and I have had long days is a Snowman cookie for each of us, since they’re so tasty and soft without being too sweet, or the Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop – what can I say, I love mint and chocolate together 🙂  I also recently tried their Peppermint Mocha Via, which is basically a fancy instant coffee that you mix with hot milk, and it becomes delicious!

Anyone else getting in on the seasonal Starbucks fun?  Or other holiday items that are only available at this time of year?

Pumpkin Scones

The joys of pumpkin goodness continue!  In this post I tackled a low-fat and lower calorie version of Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins, one of the seasonal goodies that often draws me in at Starbucks.  Today, I continued with a lower calorie version of their pumpkin scones.  This recipe is delicious for breakfast or a treat, and amazing with a coffee (or pumpkin spice latte)!  The original recipe is here, but below I put my own twist on it with a few modifications, and it clocks in under 200 calories per scone.  Dig in!

Pumpkin Scones (makes 6 scones)

Ingredients

  • Scones
  • ⅓ cup butter
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • ⅓ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ⅓ cup Splenda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ⅔ cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 3 tbsp low-fat buttermilk (I used a milk and lemon juice substitute)
  • Icing
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 tsp Splenda
  • 2 tsp powdered sugar
  • 1 dash of cinnamon
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. First, make the scones.  In a large bowl, mix flour, oats, Splenda, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Mix well.
  3. Cut butter into small cubes.  With two forms, mash butter into flour mixture until well mixed.  It will resemble bread crumbs.
  4. Add pumpkin and buttermilk, stir until uniform.
  5. Shape dough into a circle on the baking sheet, ideally 6 inches across and 1 ½ inches thick.  Slice into six wedges, but do not separate.
  6. Bake for 12-14 minutes, and let cool completely.
  7. For icing, use a small microwave-safe bowl.  Mix cornstarch with 3 tsp cold water, and stir to dissolve.
  8. Add Splenda, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Mix well.
  9. Add marshmallow creme and microwave for about 7 seconds.  Stir until smooth. Set aside
  10. Once scones have fully cooled, spread icing on top, serve, and enjoy!

I found these delicious, and Nick loved them too!  They were moist, textured, not too sweet, and just a little bit spicy.  The icing provided a really nice touch and looked like a glaze almost, so that was yummy.

These scones are really versatile, they are perfect for a grab and go breakfast idea, which I’ve been really having a lot of fun with lately.  The aforementioned muffins are also great with this.  They’re also delicious as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon pick-me-up, and amazing for a coffee break!

Anyone else doing pumpkin goodies?  Please let me know, and happy pumpkin season, guys, eat up!

Because We Can

A week after seeing Josh Groban at the Air Canada Centre, we were back for another show – Bon Jovi in the Because We Can tour, back by popular demand.  Sometimes, the powers that be at Groupon are amazing!This time we were sitting in the 300s, so much farther up than for Josh Groban, but the seats were still quite good.  We had a clear view of the stage and an amazing time!  It was An Evening With Bon Jovi, which meant they had no opening act.  Instead, they took the stage with dramatic lighting and provided one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

They played lots of well-known favourites, including “You Give Love a Bad Name”, “It’s My Life”, “Born to Be My Baby”, as well as new material and some lesser known songs.  Their energy was electric, and they were fantastic the whole evening!  Of course, they also played our favourite Bon Jovi song, “Living on a Prayer”, which was during the encore.

It was amazing to see them live, and definitely felt a little bit surreal since they are such an iconic and long-standing band.  Looking around the audience, we could see all age groups, from teenagers all the way to the original fans, wearing their bandanas and fringed leather jackets straight out of the 80s.

Here are some pictures of the concert, memorable even if the pics are blurry:

And us in our seats:

This was so amazing, because seeing Bon Jovi has been a long-time dream of mine since I was in high school!  Has anyone else gone to see the Because We Can Tour, and want to share your experience?

(Concert footage photo from official tour website at http://www.bonjovi.com/en/photos/33257464/4j9gsJ/2886550903/NFb2CfB#.UoqjSOKsfIU )

Chipotle Lime Chicken & Mexican Creamy Rice

At the end of a week, or even a day that felt long, I sometimes find it hard to think up of what to make for dinner.  But usually I also want something a bit special to liven up the evening, and leftovers and basic staples can only really go so far.  Luckily, I whipped up this quick pairing that was delicious, easy, and felt special since Nick and I made dinner together (he often handles the meat and grill).  Having dinner al fresco on the balcony only makes it feel more relaxed and romantic.  Here is a simple and quick dinner we threw together back in the summer, though it’s delicious in the winter as well.  Funny enough, the side dish is a bit more work than the main, but it turned out delicious.  This is a bit of a Mexican twist on chicken & brown rice.  Let’s get started.

Chicken – use fresh or thawed chicken.  Marinate for a few hours (at least) in some chipotle lime salad dressing.  Grill.  Done!

Mexican Creamy Rice (adapted from here )

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup plain, 0% Greek yogurt
  • 4oz canned diced green chile peppers
  • 2 cups shredded Tex-Mex blend cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring the rice and chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a casserole dish.

Mix the cooked rice, yogurt, green chile peppers, 1 cup shredded cheese, corn, and cilantro together in the casserole dish.  Add salt & pepper, mix well.  Top with remaining cheese, and bake in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before you  serve it up.

We enjoyed this delicious dinner out on our balcony back in the summer, and it was a great way to cap off the day.  I really like that this is an easy way to add a new twist on classic dishes, I’d recommend pairing with a Corona or a margarita to really make the experience!  Yummy!

Anyone else out there doing some Mexican-inspired cooking?  Or found some other tasty, easy to throw together recipes you’re loving for a quick dinner?

Josh Groban: In the Round

Recently Nick and I had a more romantic date night than usual.  It didn’t consist of a fancy dinner, and we didn’t even really dress up.  We did, however, go to a concert.  Not just any concert, Josh Groban at the Air Canada Centre.

It was magical.  I saw tickets in a Groupon email earlier in the week, emailed him about it, and with a few clicks, we had amazing plans for a fantastic Friday evening!  I knew subscribing to all those deal emails would pay off 🙂

After a relaxed, simple dinner at home, we leisurely made our way downtown on the subway, and then walked over the venue.  When we arrived, Judith Hill had just taken the stage as the opening act, and her performance was beautiful.

And then of course, there was the main event.  Josh Groban himself took the stage and played a breathtaking show, full of well-known hits as well as some new material.  We had so much fun!  Also, he is really funny when talking in between songs.  One highlight of the evening was when he decided to answer some pre-submitted audience questions, which culminated in a proposal – the whole audience was all applause and aww-s…..  It was a wonderful impromptu night out!  He sang some beautiful new material as well as old classics just as “To Where You Are”, “The Prayer”, “Vincent”, and of course, the encore number was “You Raise Me Up”.  Here are some pictures of the event (classic blurred camera phone shots, but still full of memories):

And here is a picture of us in our seats, which were really good!

What concerts or shows have you guys seen, or want to see?  Any last-minute date night planners out there? 🙂

(Concert promo image from EnergySolutions Arena website at http://www.energysolutionsarena.com/events/11 )

Artistry Galaxy Collection – Product Review

With summer going away slowly, I’ve held on as long as I could to summer fashion and makeup, but sure enough autumn came, and with it a fresh moody makeup collection!  My beloved brand Artistry released their Fall 2013 Galaxy Trend Collection, a stunning palette of ethereal and celestial colours that add magic to your everyday look.  The shades are beautifully crafted to be universally flattering and look amazing on all skin tones and colourings.

First up, the softly beautiful Aurora Illuminating Powder.  This is a lovely compact with a gorgeous textured finish.  There is a pink shade, and a beige shade, and both have a soft hint of shimmer.  I really love that it’s a subtle shimmer instead of full-on sparkle, which makes it very versatile.  It’s soft enough that it can be used all over the face to illuminate, but I tend to use the beige shade to contour, and the pink shade as a soft blush.  It’s available here for $57.45.

Next, the phenomenal eye makeup.  I adore the Eye Shadow Quad.  It has four shades, a pale beige highlighting shade, a deep brown, a rich purple, and a shimmering black.  These colours look amazing on every eye colour, so much so that I could easily use these four shades every day for a perfect look.  I found that the colours didn’t look quite as deep when I applied it dry, but wetting my sponge applicator just a bit made the colours bold and gave it lots of staying power.  I especially love the black shadow, since it is meant to be used as a liner, and helps create the perfect smokey eye.  The quad is available here for $63.45, which is a pretty good price if you consider that you’ll be able to get a lot of wear out of it.  I’ve been using this and the blush compact every single day for almost two months, and I’ve barely even made a dent in them.  I also have fallen in love with the Platinum highlight eyeliner.  I use it on the inner corners of my eyes to brighten them, and it really does look like a touch of magic!  Plus, using it just there will make one pencil last a long time.  It’s available here for $23.

Much like their Enchanted Garden Collection in the Spring, this line of makeup is really nice and perfect for the season!  I’ve been using it every day as my go-to.  Usually I’ll use the beige, either the purple OR brown, and then black eyeshadow to match the cool or warm colours in my outfit.

However, for the picture below, I basically followed the instructions to create this look. I used all four shades, the eyeliner, and blush, as well as the Automatic Eyeliner in Ebony, the Length & Definition Mascara, and my favourite Light Up Lip Gloss in Glitz.  I’m usually not too adventurous with lip makeup, so I tend to stick to my favourites.

Has anyone else tried this makeup line?  Let me know what you think!  Or if you’re interested in trying it, let me know, I can likely help with that too 🙂

(Photo of Galaxy Collection from Artistry US’ Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/artistryus )