November 30, 2011

Keeping Connor Out of Trouble

Keeping Connor out of trouble can sometimes be a full time job, and when my friend Tracey sent me this virtual Christmas present, I thought it sounded like the perfect thing for camera2 As I said to Tracey, 99% of the time, the camera would show Connor sleeping either on my bed or on the sofa, and 1% he’d be getting into trouble. connorx Her reponse? “Occupy Connor. The 1% is what matters…”

And if you think my Photoshop job is bad, check out the one on the website for this camera:pet camera Connor – he’s really the 99%!

November 29, 2011

This and That, Plus Something Free!

It’s been a busy week so far and we’re only at the halfway mark. I had a great meeting on Tuesday, and you’ll soon be hearing what my new adventure is going to entail!

As part of my commitment to make this a green holiday season, I thought I’d try sending cards with Paperless Post. My friend, Alice, doyenne of Summer is a Verb was the one who introduced me to this concept and I’ve been wanting to try it ever since. paperless postSo when I recently received an announcement from Paperless Post’s PR person telling me that the have a free line of informal holiday cards and invitations, I had to check them out. I had an occasion to send a little invitation, so I did it via Paperless Post and it worked like a charm. I could upload my own picture (below!),Hampden Xmas Paradeand then customize what I wanted to say in the invitation including colours and fonts. Then I uploaded addresses from my e-mail address book, and off they went! I can check to see who has opened the invitation, who’s coming and who has sent their regrets on the tracking page.  The one thing that’s a little different between the free service and the paid service is that the free card is embedded in the e-mail and doesn’t have a paperless envelope to open. paperless post2There are more than 100 cards to pick from for the holidays, including greeting cards and invitations. To choose and send cards from Paperless Post’s selection of free cards, click here. It’s a great way to be green for the holidays! In fact, in December alone, Paperless Post users will save roughly the number of trees in Central Park.

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With the holidays fast upon us, I had to decide whether I wanted a Christmas tree or not, and eventually decided against it, mainly because I don’t have any ornaments, as I got rid of them when I moved to the UK… and also because I am worried that someone, Hal Con 29might think that there’s now indoor plumbing for them!

But I love the smell of Christmas trees, especially Frasier Firs, so I went to the The House Downtown to buy a Christmas-scented candle. Frasier-Fir-Candle2I’ve been buying the Thymes Frasier Fir candles for a few years, and they are my absolute favourites for the holidays. They make the house smell so fresh and wintery. You get the great Christmas Tree scent without the pine needles throwing themselves onto your carpets and floors within five minutes of setting up the tree.

My friends at The House Downtown were kind enough to present me with one of these fabulous Thymes Frasier Fir candles, and they were even more generous in giving me another candle to give to one of you! Frasier-Fir-CandleHere’s what you need to do to win one of the 186g candles: Leave a comment with your favourite holiday memory and I will pick the one that I like the most. Deadline is Friday, December 2 at 6:00 EST, and don’t forget to leave an identifying name or blog name.  I will post the candle to you on Saturday, so you’ll have it in your home for the holidays. And to match The House Downtown’s generosity, I will add something special to the package.

I can’t wait to read about your favourite holiday memory!

November 28, 2011

Recipe for a Danish

A few people have asked me for the recipe for the Danish that I showed in yesterday’s post. Tag Sale  1

This is quite ironic, since I have literally not cooked for the past few years. The kitchen in my old house had virtually no counter space, and the place wasn’t conducive to having guests. And when your two best friends in the ‘hood are both chefs, why bother cooking?

So, now that I have a massive new kitchen, I am starting to cook again. I actually don’t mind cooking, and I am a pretty good cook – I was a caterer for a while in another lifetime.

The recipe for the Danish came via Nick Malgieri’s book, BAKE.Bake_Essential_Techniques_for_Perfect_Baking[2] I had met Nick at a cooking party at my friend Julie’s house earlier this year, and it was actually Julie who came to breakfast to “test drive” the Danish on Sunday.

But, I admit, I cheated a bit with the recipe. However, I will give it to you as I made it, not as Nick wrote it.

  • Puff pastry – you can find this in the frozen food section
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 lbs of tart apples
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of currants

Melt the butter in a sauté pan or in a large Dutch oven. Peel, halve and core the apples, and cut the apples into 1/2 inch dice. Add the apples to the butter. Add the sugar and cinnamon. Cook over high heat until the butter begins to sizzle. Decrease the heat and cover, let the apples steam in their own juice for about 5 minutes. Uncover the pan, decrease the heat and add the currants. Continue cooking until the liquid evaporates. Remove from heat and cool.

Let the puff pastry thaw a bit – you’ll need to be able to roll it out. Flour your surface and roll the pastry out into a rectangle shape. Slide the dough onto a cookie sheet or a silpat and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Cut the dough into two long pieces and brush the long ends of each piece with an egg wash (egg beaten with a pinch of salt). Spoon the filling equally down the middle of each piece. Fold the sides of the dough until they meet in the middle and press down to make a seal. Flip the strudel so the seam is on the bottom. I put them on a piece of parchment to make moving them easier and to make clean-up simple.

Put the strudels in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes, and heat the oven to 400*. Remove from the fridge and brush each piece with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Use a sharp knife to score the strudels on the diagonal, about every inch.

Bake until deep golden and the dough is firm. This should be about 20 minutes. Cool, cut into 4 inch sections and EAT!

Of course, Julie and I had to sit and eat and discuss other variations on this recipe. Maybe just a bit of lemon juice to brighten the flavour. Or some cranberries to add some tartness. You could exclude the raisins/currants. You could do this with peaches or cherries. Maybe add some almonds or pecans.

November 27, 2011

A Tasteful Tag Sale

I got a message yesterday that my long-time friends, Becky & Andrew were having a tag sale today. As Becky put it, “What we are selling is stuff that Andrew brought over from Scotland - Leather hat cases, wooden boxes, toys, train set…” How in the world could I resist that?

So this morning, after I baked this (an Apple/Currant/Raisin Danish):Tag Sale  1I hopped in the car and drove down to the waterfront neighbourhood where Becky has had her architectural practice. The building she owns is from the 1800s and was originally a stable/carriage house. Tag Sale  28She’s converted part of it for offices and uses the other part for parking and storage.  Before Becky bought the building, it was used as studio space for all of John Waters’ early films.

When I arrived to find a mannequin seated on a sofa on the sidewalk, I knew I was in the right spot. There were loads of fun items, and as soon as I spotted this, Tag Sale  15I had to call David Wiesand and tell him to come ASAP, which, of course, he did! Who can resist a top hat or a bowler hat, in their original custom leather boxes?  Here’s the bowler box empty, Tag Sale  2and with the hat in it. Tag Sale  4And the top hat box with the hat snug inside it. This is the top hat Andrew’s father wore at one of the Royal Garden Parties in the 1930’s. Tag Sale  8It still has the original invitation ticket tucked in the bottom of the box.Tag SaleI love seeing the old travel stickers on the luggage, and it’s fun to imagine all of the train trips this family took.

Tag Sale  5 Tag Sale  10
Another delightful find was the amazing linings that the old leather cases hid inside,
Tag Sale  12 Tag Sale  14

and how well these leather bags have held up over the past 60-80 years!Tag Sale  11We had fun playing with some of Andrew’s old board games, card games, and tiddlywinks!Tag Sale  31

Okay, I know you want to know what I bought… Just a few little things.tag sale 46A little china baby, a spoon with a sphinx headtag sale 44 and a tiny pencil sharpener advertising Virol, a malt and bone marrow extract for children.

I found a very interesting card game called “Contraband”, with cards and play money. Someone acts as the customs agent and the players try to sneak contraband between London and Paris. tag sale 34One of the contraband items is nylon stockings! I think it would be fun to frame the cards with the contraband showing and then one with the front of the card.

Becky and Andrew kindly gave me a huge driving map of the UK, which I will hang in my workroom, after I do a little work on it!

If you are interested in any of the items, which include lots of 78-rpm records, (look, the 99%)Tag Sale  30please e-mail Becky here.

November 25, 2011

Some Thoughts on Black Friday

I have to say that the whole idea of Black Friday shopping makes me a bit queasy. Especially when you read about a woman pepper-spraying fellow shoppers so she can have more video games, or seeing a picture on-line of a woman with a shopping cart filled with dolls and toys and reading in the caption that it’s just for one child.

I made it a point to avoid shopping today because I don’t subscribe into the idea of buying things in a frenzy. It’s very unappealing and certainly very unbecoming. My siblings and I have initiated a scheme where we pick names. Certainly none of us needs anything else. We each only buy one present, and then something for our mother.  Now we have added a twist and said all the gifts have to start with the same letter – this year’s letter is P. Ohhhh, some lucky family member’s getting a puppy!!!cute-white-puppyToday, on Black Friday, the outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, ran a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, extolling people NOT to buy their jackets.  The gist of the ad is that every piece of clothing they make costs more in resources and energy than they can sell it for. Click on the ad below to see a full-size PDF. patagonia adThis year, I have made the commitment to do the following:

  • Buy locally – 62% of the money spent in local businesses stays in the community. There are so many great local stores whose owners are working hard to make them a viable concern. trohv28
  • Buy from small businesses – Saturday is Small Business Saturday, and if we all don’t support these businesses, they will cease to locally
  • Taking a page from an excellent post by Empress of the Eye, I am not going to buy products from giant Asian factories if I can help it. As Jane suggests, get gift certificates for a car wash, a hair cut, an oil change, a house-cleaning or a manicure – things that can’t be outsourced off-shore. Do I really need hundreds of white lights adorning my front porch, or is it a better option to use fresh greens and garlands.Magnolia-Garland
  • Not go into debt shopping for the holidays. Nothing goes on the credit card. It’s not to anyone’s benefit to go into debt over the holidays. Spend within your means. That woman I mentioned in the first paragraph… do you think her child’s going to remember that this was the Christmas that she got ten games and four dolls? It’s more meaningful to give a child an experience than an object – especially one that’s been advertised to death.

Rant over… 

For the next few weeks, I am going to offer suggestions that fit in with this philosophy. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Going to the Dogs!

Connor’s best friend, Halas, spent Thanksgiving with us, and along with lots of walks, romps in the back yard and general snuffling around, there was the obligatory wrestling match.

It’s so funny to see Connor and Halas wrestling, because it mainly consists of Halas beating up on Connor and Connor sneezing on Halas. We think that sneezing on the opponent is Connor’s main defensive mechanism. It’s pretty funny to see.

But when the wrestling’s over, it’s nap time. The boys are used to curling up together and so they hopped on the sofa and started to nap. Hal Con 4

They start out on opposite ends of the sofa,
Hal Con 7 Hal Con 9

and then gradually move closer,Hal Con 13until one of them lands on top of the other – generally Connor’s on the bottom.Hal Con 19But then it all sorts itself out again, and they’re happy.Hal Con 28And they go back to snoozing.Hal Con 32I love how much Connor and Halas love each other.

November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

In the run up to Thanksgiving, there is a lot to be done, and one of the chores on my list was to finally finish painting and re-seating some folding chairs I’d gotten earlier this year. They have a great lyre-back shape and fold up nicely, standing on their own.

First, I painted all of the chairs in a gloss black.chair1The chairs were a reddish-brown when I bought them, and they had a lot of nicks and chips on them, so paint was a good solution.

Next, I checked my fabric stash to see what I had, and found two pieces of an interesting fabric, in two colourways. There wasn’t enough to do all four chairs in one colour, so I did two in each. chair7After I’d put the seats back on, I decided the chairs needed something else, so taking a page from Megan’s book, I whipped out my Sharpie paint pen in gold and filled in all of the incised parts of the chairs. chair8 I think it brought out the details in the chair a bit. It took all of my willpower not to continue drawing on the chair.

The chairs will head over to my friend Julie’s house, where she’s hosting dinner for 24 people. Me? I am going to my sister’s house. Connor? connor3He’s staying home with his best friend Halas.

happy thanksgiving

November 22, 2011

Halcyon Farm for the Holidays

I had the great good fortune to start 2011 in the most wonderful manner – having breakfast at one of the area’s most extraordinary homes. It was a lovely country breakfast made even better by the company and the gorgeous surroundings. The hosts have been decorating the house in this over the top manner for years, but they’d also just had a photographer come in to shoot a spread for Style Magazine, a local publication.

dec_11_halcyon3I love the balls in the big silver bowl. dec_11_halcyon2






dec_11_halcyon9I can attest that this is also a stunning setting for a start of the New Year Breakfast!

Read the entire article here.

Photographed by Erik Kvalsvik