Monthly Archives: July 2014

Cleansing the Mental Palate

Make sure you have your ginger, or sorbet.  You may wonder what in the world I’m talking about.  I have started a regular routine similar to the sorbet served between courses, or the piece of ginger I see people eating in between pieces of sushi.  Both of these foods serve the same purpose – they cleanse the palate with a deliberately different flavour in preparation for the next experience.  I think we need to do the same with our daily schedule, and not just food.

We humans are creatures of habit, and most of us already have these little routines in place as we transition from one part of the day to the next.  When we awake, we might stretch, use the washroom, clean ourselves up, get dressed and groomed for the day, and perhaps brew some coffee.  As bedtime draws near, we put on our pj’s, brush our teeth, take off our makeup, maybe read a bit, or have some calming tea.  But what about the transitions during waking hours? I recently realized this need for myself, and I have put in place a new routine, mental sorbet if you will.

I found that upon coming home, my mind was usually still racing with the day’s tasks, and it was taking me a very long time to settle into the more relaxed rhythms of being home for the evening.  I also felt far too tired in that moment to deal with the tasks at hand at home, such as cooking dinner, anything else that was planned for the evening, etc.  I love doing all those things, but it was simply too long a stretch to be mentally focused to such a degree.  So here’s my little routine, what I do once I’ve stepped in the door:

  • Take off shoes, put down bags, wash hands, etc.
  • Light a scented candle
  • Put on relaxing music
  • Change into clothes for home and relaxing
  • Make myself a light snack – properly prepared on real dishes
  • Enjoy the snack as mindfully as I can, either listening to the music or listening to some positive, inspiring messages

Once I’ve done these items, I feel like a “reset” button has been pressed, and I am ready for the next part of the day – usually dinner, something around the home, maybe plans for going out in the evening – I’m ready for it!

It’s a very simple technique, and I did something similar intuitively when I was younger without giving much thought to it, but it makes such a difference.  Not only do I feel more at ease and energized throughout the day, but it makes me a brighter and more cheerful person at home!

Chime in below, do you have daytime routines to transition?  What are some signals you’ve set up for helping your body and mind move on to the next chapter?  And hey, what’s your favourite sorbet?  I like citrusy ones like lime or pink lemonade 🙂

(Photo of sorbet from Wikipedia)

 

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Dash of Pink is Two!

Yay, we’ve had another fun year here at Dash of Pink!  It seems like time has flown by 🙂  They grow up so fast *sniff*

Thank you so much, sweet friends!  Without you, there really wouldn’t be much of a reason for this little corner of the internet to exist.  We’ve had more likes and comments, and that is so wonderful!

A bit like last year, I thought some stats would be in order, plus it’ll be fun to see how far we’ve come 🙂  So here we go, Dash of Pink by Numbers – 2014 Edition:

  • 108: number of published posts to date (34 – 2013 number)
  • 22: number of total comments (6 – 2013 number)
  • 118: most blog hits in a day (118 – 2013 number, same day is still the champ!)
  • 8,090: total blog hits to date (2,289  – 2013 number)
  • 6: average posts per month (3 – 2013 number)
  • 447: number of average words per post (495 – 2013 number)
  • 403: number of Pinterest followers (304 – 2013 number)
  • 74: number of countries we’ve had views from (What?!)

Wow, look at that growth, guys!  I am always astounded to see these numbers, and sooo grateful that so many of you choose to spend some time with me here!

And since we all love dessert, here’s the updated pie chart of how the various topics are split up, compared to last year.

Well, that looks a lot more balanced than last year!  I’m also glad that I posted a bit more about health (granted, some of those are expressly healthy recipes, but I’m still happy about it!)

You may recall that last year, I set some goals for myself and DoP.  Let’s see how the year went, and I’ve got some new goals for the next year.

Goal #1: Post more consistently – check!

New goal: Plan out posting more consistently – I really feel that readers get value from the different categories, and maybe even some that I don’t post as often, so I’d like to have it planned out a bit more in advance to offer a good selection of current posts on the various topics we like to talk about here.

Goal #2: More regular categories – hmm, kind of dropped the ball here.  Luckily there was more regularity, even if they weren’t given a label like Food Fridays.

New goal:  An extension of #1, really, since more planning in advance will help with adding a regular category or two.

Goal #3: Find balance between work, business, blog, and real life.  This one is really a constant goal, but progress has been made.  Instead of a constant feeling of imbalance, now there is generally a good baseline with occasional hectic spurts.

New goal:  Keep working on this, and actively take time to relax and refocus – balance, reflect, enjoy the moment.

So, there you have it.  A look back at Year Two, and my goals for the next year at Dash of Pink!  And of course, I want to express a heartfelt thanks to you, the readers.  You are really the reason for Dash of Pink to even exist, this little corner of the web,  and my life is so much better for it.  Year Two has already been much better than expected, here’s to a Year Three filled with even more life, love, beauty, and PINK!

(Picture of birthday cake from Clker.com)

 

 

Greek Pan-Cooked Chicken and Roasted Fennel

This was a fun little dinner I threw together not too long ago.  Between our meat from our Nutrafarms shipment and the fresh produce from our Fresh City Farms membership, I’ve been having fun experimenting with new recipes.  Fennel is one of those things I wouldn’t usually buy, but found it in my produce bag 🙂

First we’ll cook up the fennel, adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe.

Roasted Fennel with Thyme

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • thyme (I used dried since it’s what I had on hand
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Toss together fennel, olive oil, a generous sprinkling of thyme, a tiny bit of sea salt, and a little bit of pepper.
  3. Spread the seasoned fennel onto a rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper if you prefer to avoid messiness.
  4. Roast in oven for about 45-50 minutes, rotating every so often so it cooks evenly.
  5. Let cool slightly before serving, drizzle with lemon juice, and sprinkle with a bit more sea salt, and serve.  Enjoy!

This was a delicious side dish, with a hint of a licorice flavour from the fennel, and that blended with the thyme, olive, and lemon flavours was an unexpected but oh so tasty result.

Now to make the Greek marinated chicken, which pairs perfectly with the fennel, since they both play with similar flavours.  I almost devised this by accident, since I had prepped and marinated the chicken for the grill, and then at the last second we couldn’t use it, so we switched to the pan method.  This recipe is adapted from the one at The Black Peppercorn.

Ingredients (enough for 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts)

  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Mix together all the above ingredients, and pour marinate over prepped (cut) chicken breasts.
  2. Allow to marinate for at least a few hours, or overnight.
  3. Preheat a frying pan on med-high heat.
  4. Place the chicken in the pan in a single layer.
  5. Carefully pour the remaining marinade over the chicken.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook thoroughly, about 10-12 minutes.

This will give you some delicious tender, juicy chicken that bursts with Mediterranean flavours.

It’s a pretty low-effort, relaxed summer dinner that feels satisfying and fancy, but also light.

What have you been cooking up this summer?

What I’ve Been Wearing – Summer Fashion Update

Hello sweet friends!  I hope you are having a fantastic summer, full of warmth, sunshine, and fun 🙂  We’ve been having a great summer thus far, both enjoying the way Toronto blooms in the warm weather, and also heading out a bit farther on weekends.  This summer, we’ve been going to the beach for at least one day each weekend to relax, splash around, and work on our tans.  It’s been fabulous!

Summer is also my very favourite season in terms of style!  While it’s true that the heat prevents fun layering and limits choice if you want to be comfortable, I adore the simplicity of dresses, no need for stockings, and the bounty of both light breezy looks and bold bright colours.  Here are a few outfits I’ve enjoyed wearing the past little while:

This beachy looking date night outfit was great for a Saturday evening in the city, going to one of our favourite Thai restaurants, and having dinner on their patio.

  • White maxi dress (H&M)
  • Silver & turquoise necklace (souvenir from Mexico)
  • White wedges (Aldo)

Pretty in Pink, out running errands – I think we were looking for a bike for Nick on that day.

  • Bright pink dress (Venus)
  • Hot pink clutch (Aldo)
  • Silver flip flops (I think these were an emergency drugstore purchase)

Animal prints for the Office, a cute dress I bought back in the winter, but it works all year, and for both night and day 🙂  I am not usually the animal print type, but this one has been a fun foray into fashion risks!

  • Sleeveless leopard print dress (Suzy Shier)
  • Floral purse (Brand is Miche, gift)
  • Nude patent pumps (Nine West)
  • Silver & turquoise necklace (same piece as in outfit #1)
  • Silver & crystal bracelet (gift)

Another fun date night, celebrating 5 years since we met with dinner at Copacabana!

  • Black paillette dress (Venus)
  • Hot pink clutch (Aldo)
  • Black patent pumps (thrift store find)
  • Silver & crystal bracelet (gift)

A small snapshot of my summer wardrobe, peppered with brights, whites, and even a bit of animal print!  What have you been wearing this summer? Are you trying out new outfits and looks, or going back to old favourites?

 

Easiest Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Hello, darlings!  I’ve got a fun little recipe for you all today, but first let’s chat a bit about food – a topic I like far more than I should.  You see, recently Nick and I signed up for a food box program – Fresh City Farms to be specific, here in Toronto.  The basic idea is that we pay a fee, and they drop off fresh, organic, mostly locally grown produce.  So far, we’ve been loving it!  We’re just dipping our toes in as we tried the smallest sized bag and the bi-weekly plan instead of the weekly, but we’ll see how it goes!

Well, in our first delivery, we received some tasty sweet potatoes (along with lettuce, baby spinach, tomatoes, radishes, green onions, nectarines, pears, rhubarb – it’s a good variety).  So in the efforts to cook and eat healthier, I’m trying to not plan menus until I see what we get, and then plan accordingly based on what the Produce Fairy brought us (and of course using our Nutrafarms chest freezer for delicious protein!).  When I saw the sweet potatoes, I got excited.  Not only are they full of nutrients, but they are tasty!  So I was very happy to find a simple recipe for Baked Sweet Potato Fries.  Personally, I don’t really see myself making actual fries very often (like in a fryer/deep frying), and I’ve accepted the fact that the signature burger joint crunch just won’t be there when they’re baked.  I really like the way the flavours come out when baked though, since they seem a bit more caramelized and concentrated.  So I found a good recipe, put my spin on it, and surprised Nick with a side dish to burgers that he loved!  It’s so easy and simple, all you need to make sure you have is sweet potatoes, everything else is likely already in your kitchen!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries (adapted from Food.com)

You’ll need: sweet potatoes (1 medium-large one is enough for 2 servings as a side), sea salt, pepper, olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450.  Grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.

Chop the sweet potatoes into thin strips that resemble fries.  Feel free to leave the skin on, I did.

Arrange potatoes in a single layer on baking sheet.

Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and very lightly drizzle with olive oil.  Give it a shake to toss a bit.  Alternatively, drop them into a zip bag along with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and shake it all up for a fuss-free method. Then empty the bag onto the baking sheet, and arrange into a single layer.

Bake for 10 minutes, shake again to distribute seasonings, and then bake for another 10 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes, and then enjoy!

I served these with a tasty garlic mayonnaise for dipping.  Ketchup or any other favourite dip would work well, but I love the way the garlic mayo plays with the natural spice and sweetness of the potatoes.

We enjoyed these fries along with homemade burgers and a garden salad, which was also fully made from our Fresh City bag ingredients.

What have you guys been cooking up with all the deliciousness summer brings?  Anyone else making sweet potatoes?  And have you ever tried a food box/CSA program?  Chime in, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Double Feature: His and Hers Concerts

Nick and I agree and see eye to eye on many things, but in some areas our tastes are very different.  One example – our taste in music.  Happily, we both really enjoy well-written, well-played competently executed music, so we both quite enjoy the other’s preferences, and of course our shared love of 80s hair metal is a nice common ground!

However, he gravitates towards heavier, more technical music with mindblowing solos, crazy time signature changes, and a huge focus on amazing instrumentalists.  I think this is partly because of learning how to play the drums, which he is fantastic at.  No wonder then, that one of his favourite bands is Dream Theater.  I really like them as well, even if they’re not the first thing I’d put on if I had the choice.

So we went to a Dream Theater concert when they were last in town, and it was amazing!  This was part of their Along For The Ride Tour, a super fun evening that was packed with truly astounding music.  We both had a great time, and I like their sound much more with Mike Mangini drumming  (Cue the onslaught of angry fanboys, if by some strange accident progressive metal fanboys ended up here on this girly blog).

I’ll admit, I find their music a bit too much for, say, doing housework, but to simply sit and focus on the music was amazing, and I was completely captivated by the astonishing mastery these gentlemen have in their music.  Here are some pictures from the event, which was here in town at Massey Hall.

As for myself, I come from a different school of musical thought.  I grew up pretty much with light music around the house (there was a lot of Abba and Boney M), and mainly did singing, being in choirs and in vocal class at school.  I adore soft romantic ballads, soaring love songs, and musical theatre.  One of my all-time favourite musical acts is Il Divo, and I’ve been enamoured with their music since they first came onto the scene 10 years ago.  So naturally, we went to their concert as part of their A Musical Affair Tour.  In a completely different way, it was an enchanting evening of amazing music, almost entirely made up of musical theatre songs performed to perfection, and with Lea Salonga as a special guest (the movie singing voice of Princess Jasmine!).  This was a romantic evening at the Sony Centre, full of lush orchestrations and the group’s angelic voices.  We got some pictures too 🙂

What music do you guys like?  Been to any good shows lately?  And for those of you in relationships, do you and your significant other have similar tastes in music, or worlds apart? 🙂