Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Art of Recycling: Gift Box

Anytime I reuse or recycle something old into something new, my husband sings me the "recycle cycle" song from this childhood Canadian tv show we both used to watch.

It's total nostalgia when I hear this wacky song, but perhaps it was wholesome, educational programming like this that made me more conscientious about the environment.

Anyhow, I haven't done anything spectacular lately in terms of turning trash into art, but I did repurpose an old boring white box into a pretty gift box worthy of a Chapters $15 price tag.

I was thinking of throwing this dented, boring box into the recycling bin cause it was ugly, but felt guilty about throwing a perfectly usable item away.

I also always feel bad about all the paper that is wasted on envelopes for pretty birthday cards, so I decided to cut up one of Andy's birthday card envelopes to use as a detail.

 I glued some pretty scrap paper that I had lying around to the front of the box (it hid the logo on the box quite nicely) and punched four holes into the the envelope scrap to thread leftover ribbon from my wedding through.

And voila, no card required. I'll just write a birthday greeting on the green.

Now you can go sing yourself a little do da.

Monday, 25 February 2013

House Reno: I want to build a Passive House

Wouldn't it be great to be free of the monthly burdens of gas and electricity charges? Wouldn't it feel great to know that you were reducing your carbon footprint and helping reduce consumption of our precious resources and reduce energy waste?

Well I happen to think that it would be freakin' great! And I think the solution is to rebuild our house with a Passive House design in mind.

You see, our house already faces north, so if we were to put massive Passive House windows along the back South facing wall, then we could best utilize the power of the sun to heat our home in the winter without the use of a bulky, enviro-crushing furnace! By designing and building with the guidelines of the Passive House concept, the house would become super energy efficient and worth the extra cost (about 10% more overall cost than if you were to build with a furnace in mind) to me.

Currently there are only two homes in Toronto that use this concept, but smart Europeans have been using this concept for about 20 years now. I want to join their ranks.

This architect explains the Passive House concept really well. Check him out. The picture above was swiped from his site and I give full credit to him at ecocentricdesign[dot]ca.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Endives Make Any Salad Complete, Especially with Beets!

I decided to pick up some Endives at the grocery store last week because they just look so cute... and I fell hopelessly in love with the little bitter Belgian babies. I made the salad above about a week ago, but have since made the same one everyday, even though I'm lactose intolerant and the recipe calls for blue cheese (I should have bought stocks in Lactaid years ago).

Here is the recipe for my Endive and Beets Sunshine Salad:

  • 2 medium sized beets (boiled, peeled and diced)
  • 2 Belgian endives (rinsed and separated)
  • 2 ounces fresh, blue cheese (crumbled)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Dressing - Mix the following ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • a dash of freshly ground pepper

Lay out the endives, scoop some sliced almonds into each leaf and then add the diced beets. Lightly drizzle some dressing on top before crumbling the blue cheese on top.

I really love the way the bitterness of the endives mixes with the sweetness of the beets. The blue cheese and dressing then adds some depth and tartness while the almonds give it a nice crunch.

I added some antipasto to the middle of my endive sunshine looking spread. You can choose to put more endives or just beets.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Perfect Off the Shoulder T-Shirt DIY

I plan on changing a bunch of old T-Shirts I recently bought at a thrift store into adorable off the shoulder tops for my dance class.  After ruining one top, I thought I would do some research and see if anyone in the wonderful interweb had figured out a formula for the perfect cut... and lo and behold, someone had actually figured it out, and it even turned out to be a fellow Torontonite!

Check out Lesley's (aka Ellesy of video below to learn how to cut the perfect off-the-shoulder T-Shirt. I'm going to try it out and let you know how well I fare. Good thing I have about six shirts to experiment on.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Magic Carpets: Making a Comeback!

Front entry


 Lately I've been dreaming of antique Persian rugs in faded reds and blues. Being of Persian background, lovely magic rugs and carpets were a normal staple in our home, and in every home of my friends and extended family. I recall being 3 years old and telling my little sister that she better be careful with her milk on our parents' beautiful Persian rug or else... such was the ingrained appreciation that was cultivated at a very young age for magnificent silk knots and patterns.
In university, I conformed and had the then popular look of factory made rugs in zebra print and what not that my friends all had. Thankfully, it seems that as I get older, my taste is getting a little wiser. The more I think about the craftsmanship and refined look of an intricately woven Persian rug, the more my heart races and my mind reels at all of the endless possibilities for where to place it.

I am looking for a super old one, and one day when we have outgrown our little house, we may actually even have some room to have one! Which is good, it gives me a chance to really search high and low for the one rug meant for me and the imaginary foyer that I had in mind when I created the collage above.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Recent Fave: Quinoa Tuna Salad

Today I made a quinoa and tuna salad that was a huge hit. I would definitely make this again as not only is it super healthy, but it was absolutely delicious.

The recipe is super simple, and only the quinoa needs cooking (unless you don't want to use chickpeas from a can, in that case you can cook those too).  

I call this my 5 step cooking (okay, a little more than 5 steps, but I promise, it's super easy).


 Cooking ingredients for the Quinoa
1/2 Cup of Red Quinoa (you can use any colour really)
1.5 Cups water
1 Tbsp. Canola oil
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 Tsp. salt

The Salad
1 Can of Tuna, drained
1 Can of chickpeas
3 Celery stalks
1 Cup spinach
1/2 Medium onion
4 Sun-dried Tomatoes
Cooked Quinoa

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/4 Tsp. Black Pepper
1/4 Tsp. Salt

Serves 4 people

Step 1:

Soak the quinoa in warm water for 5 minutes, then rinse with cold water in a fine mesh strainer for another 2 minutes.  This will wash away the filmy coating before cooking. Believe me, the first time I made quinoa the recipe didn't tell me to wash it so thoroughly, and not gonna lie, it tasted like gasoline...

Step: 2

I use a rice cooker, but you can also follow the following steps on a stove top.
Throw the quinoa in with 1.5 cups of water, the oil, garlic and salt all together and bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling, lower heat and cook covered for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes or once the majority of the water has evaporated, take the pot off the stove and let it stand covered for 5 minutes.

Step 3:

While the quinoa is cooking, chop up the celery, onion and sun-dried tomatoes into small pieces. You may decide to chop up your spinach, I didn't as I was using baby spinach.

Step 4:

Combine the last 3 ingredients (Olive oil, pepper and salt) and stir with a fork.

Step 5:

Combine the tuna, quinoa, chickpeas, spinach, celery, onion, sun-dried tomatoes and dressing. Toss well and Ta Da!

You're all done, let me know how yours turns out.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Valentine's Day Greetings

Happy Love Day!

Andy brought me Parrot Tulips and the prettiest card I've seen. I love Papyrus made cards; the details are just amazing.

I've decided that my next project should be a light box, because I would like to learn to take prettier photos. I'm going to research how to go about making such a thing, so I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Concert Wear, With a Valentine's Twist

This coming Thursday is Valentine's day and we have tickets to the Tragically Hip concert that night. I had surprised Andy with tickets for his birthday, and it just so happened that it fell on v-day. I'm going to try my best to make sure that the day feels like a special birthday for him and yet still add a little romantic touch to the occasion and our dinner date out.

I find it hard dressing for valentine's day to begin with, but it's even more difficult trying to keep it sexy and concert casual. Since I hate being uncomfortable at a concert and I just know there will be a lot of standing, I will be taking my flats with me to change into after dinner.  There is no reason you shouldn't look good and be comfortable at the same time, no matter what anyone says.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Party Prep: Food, Flowers and Fun

The hubster turned 33 last week and his party on Saturday was a blast. I had promised a mountain of food, and I am not one to disappoint.

The necessities included a variety of fresh antipasto, chips and dip, assorted veggie sticks and dip, hummus and pita bread, pine apples, star fruit, cheese and grapes, cupcakes, cake and fresh flowers.
We also picked up a hundred veggie samosas from the Samosa Sweet Factory; those didn't last very long. I chose to set out a buffet style table on our kitchen island, as everyone always seems to congregate in the kitchen anyways.

It was so much fun to have all of out friends with kids show up from around 6 - 9 and then the party animals showing up after 9pm.  It worked out perfectly with the size of our house and everyone fit with no breakage of all our tchotchkes... I can't believe how many of my friends are having babies! 

I love me some fresh flowes. I chose five bunches of white tulips and half a dozen coral roses. The greens were freebies that my favourite florist Melissa of Bloor Village Flowers threw in.  I have some sort of an inner florist in me and I refuse to buy flowers that have been pre-arranged. I really love buying loose flowers and arranging them myself, I'll do a flower arranging tutorial one of these days.

The whole night went by in a whirlwhind. Andy keeps telling me that his favourite part was the Snickers cake I picked up for him. What can I say, the man likes his Snickers candy bars.

Thanks to everyone who came out, and I wish my love 80 more happy, healthy years!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Snow Day Friday!

Tomorrow we're having a small get together for Andy's birthday and having close family and friends over.

I would like to lay out a lavish table of yumminess.  It's going to be a mountain of finger foods, munchies, veggies, fruits and cheese... and I'll get started as soon as I get a chance to pick up the groceries. My shopping list is ready but I'll have wait until the day of to actually prepare anything because as you can see by the shape of our street, I am not going out to the store with roads like this.  We are so far south that we are always the last street to get the roads plowed.

Since we are also running low on groceries, it'll be a good chance for me to use up my frozen leftovers for dinner. I'll post photos of the party table tomorrow, for now, I'm putting on some cozy sweats and cleaning out the freezer.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

DIY: Housewarming Gift

On the day of our wedding, our next door neighbours started a 7 month long house reconstruction on their little post war two storey home.  What sits beside our house now, is a gigantuous (albeit lovely) monster home.

They have since moved back in to their new(ish?) home and invited us over to have a look at the new digs.  I don't like to go anywhere empty handed, and so I thought I would make a batch of my yummy candied almonds... but then got lazy and decided that I would instead just fill a mason jar with almonds (not candied, just plain) and dried cranberries for a healthy alternative.

I figured that I could decorate the mason jar and attach a little tea light to the gift so that once they are done eating the contents, they can use the jar as a candle holder.

I used a clean Unico olive jar (always reduce, reuse, recycle right!), some left over vintagey scrapbook paper, one sheet of black tissue paper, a small length of tan raffia and pinking shears. I finally got the chance to use my The Paper Studio wax sealing kit from Hobby Lobby. Boy, do I ever wish we had Hobby Lobby in Canada...

Roughly measure out the tissue paper to cover the length of the jar. You can cut the edges with pinking shears if you'd like a little more decorative detail. I also find that the tea light casts a pretty pattern with the sheared detail.

Then glue the tissue paper in place, layer the scrapbooking sheet on top and in the middle, glue that in place, and finally wrap some of the raffia around the whole thing and knot in place.
The fun part is playing with fire and the sealing wax. Drip the wax right in the centre of the knot and seal in place. I chose to do this on both sides, you can just do one if you'd like.

Provide a tealight with the package, after you've given the jar lid a coat of paint (I used an acrylic paint, just to the top side) and fill the jar with whatever contents you would like.

Next try popping a tea light in there to see how the light bounces off of the  tissue paper. Here is what this one looked like:

 To finish it off, I added the almonds and dried cranberry and put the lid back on.

I put a new tea light in a small organza bag ( you could even glue it to the raffia probably) and wrapped it around the top, then added even more raffia and a paper tag (more leftover scrapbooking paper) and... Voila!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Easiest chalkboard DIY

I finally got a chance to finish the bar area in the kitchen and know you've been dying of anticipation, so I'll quickly get to the point.

First, I masked off the edges of where I planned on putting down the chalkboard paint, and gave the border 2 coats of white paint. I used the Behr brand that has the primer and paint all in one.

After the paint dried, I of course reveled in getting to peel off the masking tape. Gosh I love doing that!

Then I got the "chalk holder" ready. To tie-in the stainless steel look of my appliances, I wanted the chalkboard to have a metal chalk holder.  I thought about using a bracket of some sort from home depot, but while I was at the Goodwill looking for a side table I could re-purpose, I saw these Dollarama door stoppers for 99 cents. I just knew I could figure out a way to use them in my chalkboard project.

 I pulled out the rubber part of the door stopper and then screwed it to my chalkboard.

I then painted the centre with chalkboard paint and finished off the look with our beer menu... note to self: Pick up some more beer this weekend, my list is looking a little weak.

Here is the final look:

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