Sunday, January 29, 2012

sunday morning mix: botd discoveries

Sunday morning music - BotD by Heather Allaby on Grooveshark
I can't believe I only discovered the Band of the Day iPhone app at Christmas. Launched in September, it was quickly added to Best Apps lists everywhere.  Elegantly designed and offering a different artist profile 365 days a year, it sent techies and music lovers swooning.  As for me, I just love getting up and discovering new music every single morning.  This is a mix of my recent faves. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

it's the weekend. blow your horn.

Tomorrow is National Kazoo Day!  (well, in the US anyway but can the kazoo really be contained by borders?)

Bedtime stories with Benedict Cumberbatch 

Someone thoughtful posted this on the Glad Girl Facebook page - how sweet are they?  really considering seeing of they'll do a custom Bee Glad.

The beautiful homes of famous authours.

Love NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts.

Is it too early for a Maple Syrup Toddy?  I didn't think so.

hockey dreams in my hometown

If you think that you are a Canadian, then my boy I will show you I am a Canadian too- if they check me from behind I will get up, if they kick and slash I will get up.  
If we play three against five for fifteen minutes I will get up.  
I too am a Canadian.  
They will not take this away from me.
David Adams Richards, Hockey Dreams

Growing up on Grand Manan, we used to skate on whatever patch of ice we could find. Winters are mild on the island so when it was cold enough that a small accumulation of water in my neighbour's field froze it was cause for celebration.  Looking back I think my "skating pond" was maybe 10 feet by 10 feet.   If we were lucky and the stars aligned and the ponds froze,  you had to navigate bumpy surfaces, branches frozen in the surface of the ice and the occasional muskrat. (As an aside: I developed a skating style that compensated for these imperfections so that when I finally hit slick, Zambonied ice for the first time at Acadia, I couldn’t actually stay on my feet for longer than 20 seconds.)  For as long as I or anyone else can remember, we talked about it all the time but having a hockey rink on the island seemed like the impossible dream.

The ritual that seemed to be playing out in every other small town in Canada parents and kids flocking to the rink in the wee hours of the mornings eluded us. Once again our island life had seemingly cut us off from the shared experiences of ‘the mainland.’ So last weekend as I watched the Grand Manan Islanders skate out to centre ice, as I watched my cousins' daughters take to the ice proudly sporting their Islanders jerseys, I'll admit it was emotional watching my hometown finally live out their hockey dreams.

In November Mars Canada made a significant investment in the island rink and they made this documentary.  It's a great look not only at our hockey story but a great introduction to my very special hometown.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

let's misbehave

I've been obsessing a little over the late '20s / early 30s lately and the Cole Porter song "Let's Misbehave" has been stuck in my head.  Have you seen Easy Virtue? Based on a Noel Coward play, it came out a few years ago. It's a lovely couple of hours of eye candy full of English manor house decor and fabulous late-20s fashion.  And Colin Firth.  It completely changed my view of Jessica Biel who is beyond delightful as the plucky heroine.  The whole film makes me want to bob my hair, slip on a pair of chic wide-legged pants and dance to Cole Porter.

australia day

Happy Australia Day!  Ok, well technically the day is nearly over for my friends Down Under but I had to give a little shout out to an amazing country.   I was never someone who put visiting Australia on her "bucket list" but when the chance came to visit Lori and Leon  in 2010, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.  Even in the middle of a Melbourne winter, Australia delighted.   From the outdoorsy: lush hill country and and temperate rainforests, koala-spotting and paddling with platypus... to the decadent: the food! the wine! the shops! the wine!  And the coffee.  Oh my, the coffee.  Even the most out of the way rest stop seemed to possess an espresso maker and a knowledgeable barista.  Australia?  Who knew?

And most of all the people.  Maybe it's because traveling is so much part of their own culture and they know what it's like to be a visitor but I found everyone I met  - from shopkeepers to Lori and Leon's besties - to be welcoming, gregarious and warm; interested in hearing about Canada and so proud to show off their country. 

So cheers Australia!  Thanks for giving me a great adventure!

Monday, January 23, 2012

sunday night at mam & bap's

Every Sunday night for as long as I can remember our family has been spending Sunday night supper at ' Mam & Bap's' (our family nickname for my grandparents  Betty & Ray).  My weekends on the island usual involve catching a ferry back to the mainland late Sunday morning.  But since I took Monday off from work today, I got to take part in this ritual that's been going on for nearly forty years.  And now there's a new generation making their own memories! 

What little rituals does your family have?

 Mam & Bap cheer on their kids, grandkids & great-grandkids at the skating rink.

kindred spirits

One of the reasons I came to Grand Manan this weekend was to do some research on a couple of projects that I've had in the back of my mind for awhile now.  The first thing I needed to do was to dig into the island archives to find out if there was enough material to do pursue what I had in mind.  (There was!) So I spent most of Saturday afternoon getting acquainted with two delightful ladies, a mother and daughter, and the host of colourful characters who populated their lives in the first few decades of the 20th century.  It's kind of a thrill to pore over the old yellowed original letters - you start to get a real feel for the details of their life and their personalities.  By the time I came across the quote above (written to the mother by the daughter while she was away at college in the late 1920s) I knew I had discovered kindred spirits.  Looking forward to coming back and spending more time with them!

Friday, January 20, 2012

It's the weekend. Bundle up.

Happy weekend!  I am spending a good part of my weekend in a rink which apparently is totally normal for many, many Canadians but kind of a novelty for me. Tonight I get to watch some former NHL players in my home town (surreal, right?) and tomorrow I hope to hit the same ice with some of my family for a little skating myself (even more surreal, I imagine).  Whatever you are up to this weekend, bundle up and stay warm!

Some of my favourite things this week:

I still love classic children's books.  Check out the stories behind the most beloved stories:

An oldie but a goodie, this 20-minute skirt tutorial has me dreaming about all the pretty spring skirts I could make.

2 ingredients + 5 minutes to "the best chocolate mousse of your life?" This I've gotta try!

What I love: things that are wee.  This micro-planter how-to on Etsy will delight the tiniest green thumb. 

Seeing the beautiful people having fun and looking human on Awesome People Hanging Out Together always makes me smile

And because you just can't see it enough, Tina Fey photobombs Amy Poehler- I would love to be either of these women when I grow up.  (Especially Amy Poehler. Why? See above.)

lady sings the blues

etta james, (january 25, 1938 - january 20, 2012)
Legendary jazz and blues singer Etta James passed away today.  Like most people my first introduction to her was "At Last."  You'll get no objection from me that that's a fairly spectacular song but Etta James was so much more.  In fact, "At Last" is the least characteristic of what she did best - raw, yearning and often defiant odes to heartbreak.  That made you want to hit the dance floor.  So use this opportunity to get to know her better or to remember why you love her.

Remembering Etta by Heather Allaby on Grooveshark

Thursday, January 19, 2012

coastal living

Since our Young Company hits the road shortly and then we go into back to back productions, this could be one of my last chances to get out of town before late March.  I figured I should make the most of it.  Lucky for me I have the perfect retreat at my parents' place.  Headed to the island today with a stack of reading, writing and research.  Somehow doing work sitting by a fire or enjoying a latte at my favourite cafe doesn't exactly seem onerous! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

bloom where you're planted

Winter finally head in full force this past week:  snow, freezing rain, ice and frigid wind chill. It's sure to send you dreaming about warmer climates (and if my Facebook feed is any indication it's sending a lot of you to travel agents and airline seat sales.)   A mid-winter trip south is not in the cards for me this year but I did escape the cold at our local nursery on Saturday morning.  Outside the sun was out, the city was blanketed in snow and the temperature had dropped well below freezing.  But inside the greenhouse it was warm and bright and humid and full of tropical plants and flowers.  It's probably the warmest I'll be until June!

More than just a pleasure to look at, houseplant can improve the air quality in your home which is especially valuable when you're cooped up indoors in the winter months. I once had a friend describe my decorating style as "funky grandma" so it shouldn't be surprising that I left the nursery on Saturday with a few 'old-fashioned' plants in hand.  It's not quite a trip south but they do brighten up the winter months!

miss kitt to you

Eartha Kitt once said the public had been her fairy godmother.  Born on January 17, 1927 on a cotton plantation in South Carolina under the most abject of circumstances, she would go on to become the epitome of sophistication and glamour or as Orson Welles put it, "the most exciting woman in the world."

If your only experience with Eartha Kitt is "Santa Baby" or the final season of the Batman TV series, you must remedy this immediately.  Her distinctive singing style and clever songs ("Old-Fashioned Girl" is a particular favourite of mine) will add 67% more glamour to your day.  Guaranteed.

Monday, January 16, 2012

chicken soup

The mercury has plummeted and I'm feeling the first sniffles and scratchy throat of the cold that's whipping through my friends. Time to whip up a batch of chicken soup. Making your own homemade chicken soup takes only a few minutes longer than opening and heating up a can.  But it's so much more satisfying.

For this soup I cooked chopped onions, carrots and celery in a little olive oil until the onions were softened then added some minced garlic and finely chopped ginger and cooked for about a minute more. Then came about a litre of broth which I brought to a boil then added some shredded rotisserie chicken (a real time-saver) and herbs.  I used sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf but it's up to you - why not lemongrass for an Asian spin?  I couldn't decide between noodles or rice so I went with the best of both worlds and grabbed some orzo from the pantry.  Then it was just a matter of simmering until the pasta had cooked, the chicken was hot and the flavours blended.  Salt and pepper to season (and a few dashes of hot sauce if you want added decongestant powers!) and voila! Until they come up with a cure for the common cold it's just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, January 13, 2012

it's the weekend. kick back and relax.

The weekend is finally here.  The weather here is not great for much other than staying warm and cozy in the house.   Whatever you're doing this weekend, I hope it's a great one.  Here are some of things that made me glad this week:

I love Downton AbbeyI love lamps.  Ergo I love The Lamps of Downton Abbey.

Handwritten cards and letters would be even better with these Roald Dahl stamps from the Royal Mail.

Personalized paper dolls with movable joints? Adorable.

The ladies of Advanced Style prove great style is timeless.  Can't wait for the documentary!

Only Anthropologie could make dental hygiene look this good.

File under: 'Want' - Martha Stewart office supplies.  Hopefully they'll be available soon in Canada!

Must give a little plug to my cousin Hunter, age 12, who has started his own photography blog.  He's such a cool kid.

And finally: Ryan Gosling, Arts Administrator.This is why we have the interwebs, people.

Happy weekend!

moonrise kingdom

50 reasons to love the Moonrise Kingdom trailer
New England * bird costumes * summer camp * choirs * secret runaway plans (in manner of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler) * Futura * personalized stationary * children with personalized stationary * gingham * map & compass * TANG * Andrew Wyeth-inspired lighting * lighthouses * binoculars * meadows * plaid * folding camp cots * Edward Norton * braided rag rug * Francoise Hardy songs * portable record-players * Peter Pan collars * secret coves * seascape paintings * Frances McDormand * red clapboard with white trim * old-school fish tackle basket * Jack Russell terrier * station wagon * beaches * tree house * sailboat * striped awning * watercolours (“mostly landscapes but the occasional nude”) * Tilda Swinton… in a cape * white panelled walls * Jason Schwartsmann * red berets * church pews with doors * tortoiseshell glasses * Airstream trailers * 60s cotton floral print dresses * kids in pajamas * board games * handmade wooden picture frames * roll-top desks * Bill Murray in pajamas…with a bottle of wine…and an axe * yellow Samonsonite suitcase * plaid school satchel * a kitten in a basket

Thursday, January 12, 2012

little bit country, little bit rock 'n' roll

I've been listening to Jessie Baylin's  2008 album Firesight pretty obsessively lately - can't believe it took me so long to discover it.  As you can see above she does a great yearning, rip your heart out ballad.

And hooray, hooray, she has a new album coming out on Tuesday which sounds like it's full of roots-based and old-school goodness - predict it'll be in heavy rotation in my winter playlist.  And I'm thinking it will sound amazing and warm on vinyl

This behind-the-scenes look makes me love her even more!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the write stuff


I love a good pen:  the right feel in my hand, a nib that glides across the page and a great colour.  

As a companion to his art store, my friend Luke has an online store which is devoted solely to pens, specifically Copic, Micron and Neopiko.

With both a fine and broad tip and a wide-range of amazing colours, Copic has a nearly cult-like following among designers and illustrators.  As someone who loves to hand-write cards and letters, I'm a big fan of the Micron.  The colour selection takes you far beyond blue and black and the nib selection means scrawly writers like me aren't confined to fine tips.  This is not your run-of-the-mill Bic.

And this is not your run-of-the-mill pen store. The man behind the site is Owen Cornish, who has created characters and kooky (and deliberately incomplete) biographies for each of the Copic and Micron colours.

Illustrations by Owen Cornish,
"Orange Micron 01 was determined to throw the perfect tea-party. He assembled the finest of camomiles, picked only freshest cherry blossoms, and gathered the mintiest of leaves for the occasion, and made sure his condominium..."

This zaniness continues with the Deal of the Week this week:

Anyone who purchases any amount of product from our site between Monday and Friday will receive a personalized love letter written by site creator Owen Cornish himself. 
-Owen Cornish, himself.

That deal is too good to pass up; in part because I have a hankering for orange, fresh green and blue Microns but also because I am really, really curious what young Owen might come up with.

Even if the only thing you write is your grocery list, Pendeavours will inspire you to turn the most mundane task into a little work of art.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ice time

Clockwise from upper left: 1948 Sonja Henie Ice Skating Program  (TransferofTreasures), Ice Skating Pin (VintageStarrBeads), Vegetable Crate Label  (LABELSTONE),  Vintage 60s Ice Skating Dress (SQUARESVILLEUSA), Fruit Cake Tin by (oldnewtreasuredtrue) 1937 Collier's ad (autumnsvintagepaper),Wooden Skate Guard (offcutstudio), 1950s Valentines Cards (KentonCollectibles) 

Did you know there are 10 outdoor skating surfaces in Fredericton?  Odell and Queen Square opened a few days ago and Officer's Square opened today!  I've lived in this city almost 15 years and I've yet to skate there. And while it's been longer than I care to admit since I've been on the ice, this is the year to lace up the old skates for Skating in the Square.  Now I just need to find some partners in crime!


Monday, January 9, 2012

pasta a la Nigella

A few years ago I watched Nigella Lawson, that Brit cooking goddess, pile this meal in a big dish which she claimed she'd eat while sitting in bed watching telly.  With minimal ingredients this unbelievably simple and satisfying dish is perfect for a hurried weeknight or lazy Sunday supper.

 Since there isn't a sauce, per se, I think it's the perfect way to give the spotlight to a pound of delicious handmade pasta; in this case the sun-dried tomato and basil liguine from Nashwaak Noodles (You could easily use half a pound of dry pasta from the pantry if that's what you have on hand.)

Start off by heating the oven to 460F.  In an oven-proof pan (I used my favourite enamel cast-iron pot) combine about 150g of pancetta (available diced in the deli section) and a couple of tablespoons of garlic-infused olive oil.
 Why buy? 
Make your own garlic olive oil by gently heating three garlic cloves (halved)
in 8 tablespoons of olive oil for an hour until the garlic is soft.
Keep the extra for other dishes, dressings, etc.

To go with this pasta, I chopped up some sun-dried tomatoes left over from the root vegetable tagine.  For a vegetarian option leave out the pancetta and increase the tomatoes.  Depending on how strong the garlic flavour in the oil is, you may want to chop up a clove of garlic to toss in the pot.

Make sure everything is good and coated with oil and pop in the oven for about 10 minutes, long enough to render the fat in the pancetta and slightly brown the meat. In the meantime cook the pasta.  Before draining set aside a cup or so of the pasta water.

Remove the pot from the oven, add the cooked pasta and toss until the pasta is coated in oil.  If you need to loosen up the pasta a little, add the reserved water drop by drop.  This is a good trick for most pasta dishes.  Adding a touch of pasta water helps make any pasta and sauce slick and silky and ensures an even coating.

To finish off the dish, Nigella makes a point of saying she doesn't bother with Parmesan but pasta without a little freshly shaved Parm just isn't my thing.  A little roughly chopped or scissored parsley adds a burst of bright freshness to the dish.

Now go curl up and enjoy!

look who's 30

Talk about capping off your 20s in a triumphant fashion!  Kate Middleton didn't simply manage her transition into the royal spotlight, she embraced it with twinkling eyes, a toothy grin and a light step; an exuberant gust of fresh air that blew the cobwebs off the monarchy.  To get the full effect of the Duchess of Cambridge's charm check out the Stuff Kate Middleton is Thrilled About slide show from her Canadian tour.  Adorable.

Get ready to see the birthday girl in a different role in the year ahead. Days before her birthday St. James Palace announced that she is becoming patron of four organizations: Action on Addiction, the National Portrait Gallery,  East Anglia's Children's Hospices and The Art Room, an organization that uses art therapy to help children.  And the former Brownie will also become a volunteer with the Scouts joining privately in activities in North Wales.  No word yet on whether the Scout uniforms include a hat...
It's hard to say what I love most about this photo from the London premiere of War Horse on the eve of her birthday:  that amazing gown or Wills holding the umbrella.

Friday, January 6, 2012

this is a weekend.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!  I'm counting down to Sunday night and the premiere of series 2 of  Downton Abbey; melodrama, manor houses, one-liners and pretty frocks... and, of course, Maggie Smith.  What more could a girl want?


One of my indulgences in 2011 was the Victorian Writers Knitting Club from Wool Girl.  Every couple of months, a package would arrive with an original pattern, luxurious hand-dyed yarn and various accoutrements all in the theme of that kit's chosen book.  It was the gift to myself that kept on giving all year.   

Pleasance was the shawlette designed by Susannah I.C. for Alice in Wonderland in June. The name comes from Alice Pleasance Liddell, the inspiration behind the classic children's novel.  It's knit in Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Silk, a blend of merino, cashmere and silk, in the colorway Wonderland.   If you check out Susannah I.C.'s Ravelry page, you'll see that she blocked out the points far more aggressively than I did.  I prefer a softer edge to my lace work especially since this was eventually going to be given to my sister-in-law and I couldn't really picture her in a pointy shawl.   I also used beads in place of the nupps, partly for aesthetics but also because I absolutely cannot stand knitting nupps! 

A knitting club is not in this year's budget but thankfully I still have three of my Victorian Writer kits to finish:  Anne Hanson's Frillibet shawl, Susannah I.C.'s Dracula wrap and (just arrived this week!) Sublime Expectations, a cowl and wristlet combo from Sivia Harding, who was also responsible for Jo's Pride, the Little Women-inspired hooded shawl which may be my most treasured knitted item. (and made me want to work beads into everything!)

All right, who's in for a knitting night?

... ..

Thursday, January 5, 2012

... ..

bird is the word

Did you know that January 5 is National Bird Day? When I get home I'll have to put out a little extra seed for the chickadees in my backyard in honour of their special day (and hope Harold doesn't get into it).

What's the gift giving policy for National Bird Day?  Because I'd love this fun bureau from Savour Decor in recognition of our fine feathered friends but it's a little out of my budget.   Instead I opted for this wee little porcelain cardinal (who cost less than a soy latte!).  Technically he's a Christmas ornament but I think he'd be cute hanging around all year long.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

know your onion

Back when I was setting up my first apartment many years ago, my mother gave me her French onion soup bowls.  Earth brown ceramic with handles and covers, I'd always admired them whenever I saw them which was usually when I helped mom empty the kitchen cupboards for spring cleaning.   And as much as I loved them and as much as I love French onion soup, they didn't get much more use in my house (although they did find new life holding baked dips for cozy winter board game evenings). 

Making a French onion soup requires a certain level of commitment; not because there are any particularly complex techniques or ingredients involved but if you plan to reduce an overflowing pot of raw onions to golden caramelized deliciousness, you'd better clear your schedule for a bit.  There's no rushing it but it's worth the wait.

Monday came like a bonus holiday tacked on the end of the Christmas vacation, all the decorations had been put away, all the visits paid, many of the shops were closed and most of the city was wandering around in an end-of-vacation haze.   So what better time to lock myself away in the kitchen for an hour or two working away on a fragrant pot of soup?

White pepper, thyme and bay leaves - a savoury winter combo.
I was eager to try this recipe from I found recently from The Hot Knives Vegetarian Cookbook: Salad Daze  (how have I had an iPhone for 8 months and only just downloaded the Epicurious app?!).   Traditional French onion soups rely very heavily on hearty beef broth which means my vegetarian friends have previously been out of luck.   This recipe replaces the beef stock with a combination of veg stock and beer.
I cannot lie, the dog kind of sold me on it.
They recommended using Chimay Blue from Belgium. Coincidentally Jennifer had brought back a few bottles from Halifax for her gentleman friend.  While she gallantly offered to sacrifice a bottle in the name of culinary experimentation, I opted for a porter from local brewery Picaroons.  I have to say as a substitute for beef broth it actually worked really well and topped with crusty sour bread, gooey Gruyere and sprigs of fresh thyme it was a perfect winter supper to cap off the holidays.

Monday, January 2, 2012

holiday album

Wow. That went fast.  Hard to believe Christmas vacation has come and gone for another year and I head back to the routine tomorrow.  As quickly as it sped by, I had a wonderful time with family and friends and lots of delicious eating.  Hope you had a great holiday and made lots of memories!

Clockwise from top left:
Christmas lights at St. Mary's; Christmas dinner on new dishes from my grandparents; gorgeous white Christmas; Christmas Eve visiting with Luke; Mom's lobster stew - butter, cream, lobster - yum!; spontaneous shopping trip with Jennifer at Made You Blush; Christmas Eve panna cotta with raspberry coulis; gifts with Denis; Finn's first Christmas with mama Lori and papa Leon; champagne and sparkles on New Year's Eve; Boxing Day breakfast in Rothesay with my brother, sister-in-law and our families; ringing in the New Year with Pretty in Pink at the Boyce Farmer's Market.