Jan. 31, 2009

Moving House

In my family's basement hangs a print depicting Newfoundland resettlement. The image is of a house floating across a bay to its new home - a deliberate government action to encourage urbanization. I have long thought about the logistics of floating a house across a body of water and the inevitable stress of wondering whether it would make it to its final destination in top form. While I was walking with Greg this afternoon along Whyte Avenue, I saw an event that drew my mind back to that painting and the controversial resettlement program - a house was sitting right in the middle of the street. Naturally, we took a detour down that side street into Strathcona to check out what was occurring.

The house had been removed from its foundation without even cleaning out the contents of the basement!

The house now sat on the back of a trailer ready to move to its new home.


The house was being prepared to travel down this road two blocks to its new home.


We plan to check back here in a week or so to see how the house has settled on its new foundation.

The question that remains - why would someone move a house two blocks? I cannot help but be impressed by the 'reusing' going on in this situation.

An Update from the Edmonton Journal on February 1: The trailer hauling the house broke on Friday and the movers cannot obtain another permit to move until Tuesday. Until then, the house remains mid-street.

Pommes Frites

My grandma calls them chips. There was a period in the United States when fast food retailers were pushing for the name freedom fries. Europeans might be more likely to order frites. Here's my favourite recipe for french fries.


I came across the base of this recipe from the Food Network Dot Com while planning our housewarming party this past September. Since then, these fries have been put on regular rotation in our kitchen and make for a great snack with a little ketchup or hot chili sauce. They're also a fun substitute for chips and dip or tostitos and salsa at your next party. Instead of following the original recipe, I improvised (meaning read the recipe incorrectly) and added the chili flakes to the coating of the fries rather than simply using the combination of flakes and salt for dipping. I think the extra spice from the flakes really sets these fries apart from the one's you'll be served at your local restaurant.

This recipe yields 20 servings.

8 Yukon gold potatoes or red potatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp white rock salt
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp red chili flakes
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Wash potatoes and cut into wedges. Toss the wedges in a large bowl with oil, salt, pepper, red chili flakes and rosemary.
  • Place wedges on a baking sheet in the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until tender, crisp and brown.
  • Place 3-5 wedges in small paper cups and serve with ketchup, chili sauce or mayonnaise for dipping. Another option is to serve with kosher salt and chili flakes.
Enjoy!

(Photo courtesy of Party Dish on the Food Network).

Jan. 30, 2009

Chartreuse


At this moment, I am in love with chartreuse. It is the perfect smack your lips tart colour. Not quite yellow, gold or olive, the colour has been popping up in shops all over. I love the idea of a chartreuse dress with black tights and pumps. Club Monaco has been carrying the colour all fall and now into the winter. Above is a great dress now available online at J Crew Dot Com.

Jan. 29, 2009

Millinery

In scanning through a fashion magazine at a drug store recently, I came across a beautiful feather headpiece. I had never seen anything quite like it; the whimsy of the multicoloured feathers immediately caught my eye. Leah C Couture's The Aviary is a collection of beautiful feather hats and hair pieces that combine style with the elegance of birds and butterflies. I've found some similar designs on Etsy from LoBoheme. What a fun way to dress up a tired little black dress! I am sure the British socialites profiled in Hello Magazine would approve.


Fresh Air Campaign

I am always curious about what's happening in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador. A place where I have spent the majority of my life, I find myself swooning when I catch one of the breathtaking NL tourism commercials between the usual wedge of advertisements for $10 meals at Boston Pizza and saving money by buying No Name groceries. Not surprisingly, I am not alone in my delight for these ads - Newfoundland and Labrador received a number of honours at the recent Adrian Awards in New York City. These accolades are well deserved; they capture the unique beauty I have been so lucky to grow up around.

For my favourite commercial, click here.


Every time I come across a snap of a St. John's row house, I long to live in a colourful confection like that of my own. The above photo was taken by a former radio co-worker. He is the owner and photographer of King's Photography.

Jan. 28, 2009

Bikes

Temperature and light both have a great influence on my mood. For example, Greg and I still have our Christmas tree standing in our living room. We've decided that until it is light in the morning when we leave for work and light when we return in the evening, it will remain. Beyond being a major source of light with its 800 bulbs, the tree is also sign of joy for both of us. We spent time throughout the fall collecting ornaments on weekend trips to Jasper and Banff. We hung bulbs from our families' trees together side by side; the tree was a production for both of us. For these reasons, we anticipate its deconstruction will not happen until mid-February. This tree isn't only about Christmas for us.

The tree has done a great job of keeping our moods up. However, recent warm spells have assisted in making our city that much more hospitable. To walk without having to wrap a scarf right up to your eyes is such a miracle. To skate on an open oval and unzip your jacket to cool off is a gift. We know there are another 6 weeks left of winter (hence why the tree remains) but we're also beginning to see the end of the bluster, the end of the freeze. We're looking to spring and summer.

Edmonton is beautiful in the summer. The days are ever so long as the sun never seems to set. The grey streets come alive with the newfound shade of trees in full bloom. The river valley beacons you to walk along her paths.

As I think forward to summer, I'm looking into buying a bike. I've had this somewhat romantic notion since the end of last summer, but as the frost is less prevalent on my windows, it seems time to revive that thought. Though we're a long way from any shoreline, I'd like to own a beach cruiser.

Pixel Girl

Over the past few days, I have been informed that as part of an employee benefit plan to promote learning and wellness I am able to receive a rebate on the purchase of a new desktop computer. Here's what I am thinking of buying:


In thinking about new computers, I am reminded of my favourite desktop art site - Pixel Girl Presents Dot Com. Pixel Girl is an award winning site that offers Mac OS X, XP and Icontainer iconsets and desktop images to visitors for free. I came across it a number of years ago and regularly change the background on my computer to match the site's recent posts. Pixel Girl also has a fun shop to help support their ventures. Browsing their offerings is sure to point you in the direction of some of today's most talented IT graphic artists.

Jan. 27, 2009

Coffee Table Books

On our coffee table sits 'A Modern Life: art and design in British Columbia 1945-1960'. If I could find a book of Newfoundland/English artist Peter Bell's 'Studio Views', I would lay it out for perusal as well. I'm also inclined to think The 48 Laws of Power and Stuff White People Like are interesting books to lay around during a house party (of course, deciding which of those two to set out depends on the company you keep).

I've occasionally thought about how coffee table books are good devices to subtly shape a party. These books also reveal a lot about the owner of the coffee table in the same way as peeking in a medicine cabinet or seeing the contents of a person's purse is telling.

My recent web find sets you free from choosing only from the coffee table books available at your local book shop or gift store - it allows you to make your own! Surf on over to Blurb dot com. What a fun and modern alternative to scrapbooking or placing polaroids in a photo album. I think making a photo book would be a great way to spend a snowy afternoon.

Smart Cookie

I've sat on the floor at Chapters and leafed through guides on how to organize your finances, create (and stick to) a budget and plan for the future. Though I feel these types of self-help books are a great resource, my limited knowledge and understanding of the financial world often leaves me scratching my head as I attempt to absorb their advice. I budget using excel and I file utility and grocery bills to keep a handle on how much living in 2009 costs. However, I do have a desire to bone up on my knowledge of investing. The turbulence in the markets these days has made the reality that smart investing is very important hit home.



Every few mornings, I leaf through the Metro on the subway to work. I've taken to reading the column by Vancouver's Smart Cookies. These five women changed their financial futures by opening up to each other about their credit card statements, their student loans, their limited salaries. As a result, they've created an empire of dispelling advice on how to remain on a stable financial footing.

Check out their calculators to find out how much of a mortgage you can afford or to compare credit card rates.

A few tips I've gathered from my reading include:

1. Save money on gas by avoiding the drivethru and parking in the first spot you see at the mall.

2. Open a new tax-free savings account

3. Get a part time job at a retailer whose items you would normally buy or would like to save up to purchase to maximize the employee discount.

*Photo courtesy of the National Post.

Jan. 26, 2009

Goop

I remember reading an 'In Style' magazine article about five years ago that profiled an amazing New York apartment with only three rooms - a tiny bathroom, a kitchen/living room combo and a bedroom. While its layout was enough to make any everyday pack rat panic, the streamlined way its occupants lived made me envious. The condo owners, who also owned a furniture store, had only 1 metal rod to hang clothes upon in their bedroom. Their 'closet' was more display rack in a downtown boutique shop than walk-in wonderland. In the article, the lady of the house described her scientific way of dressing - a formula of black basics and accessories - that seemed very much a necessity when one has limited space AND when all of one's clothes are on display as art.

The lists of the 'ten pieces of clothing every woman should own' that have been promoted and revised by fashionistas and stylists have always intrigued me as well. These lists tend to read something like this: (1) a black or grey neutral suit, (2) a pair of black pumps, (3) a little black dress, (4) a crisp white button down shirt, (5) a colourful scarf, (6) a bathing suit you feel great in, (7) dark wash jeans, (8) a trench coat, (9) sweater set and (10) wide leg black pants. To this list, I would add my personal must-haves - turtlenecks in a variety of colours, striped shirts of all shapes, full A-line skirts in bright colours and patterns, and a chunky necklace.

In scanning the blog world, I've come across Goop: Gwenyth Paltrow's blog. She makes me long to be a mother of two living in London and jet-setting around the globe. While I'm not quite ready to take on her detox regimes, her clothing 'uniform' is delightful. She combines the simplicity of the NYC furniture saleswoman, with the principles of revolving an entire wardrobe around a few key pieces.

Gwenyth recommends starting each day in a pair of black leggings and a grey tank.
She goes on to describe how these basics can be layered to create different looks. Some of her recommendations:




I'd love to try her black and grey scheme with a great red cord coat I purchased last fall. To check out all the photos and read her full newsletter see here.

20 x 200

As I take my lunch break, last night's post has piqued my interest to once again look for a perfect piece of art to hang next to the desk in our apartment. I feel like the 'study' needs a burst of yellow to add cheer and to pick up on the colours in a lamp shade and throw pillows nearby. I had considered painting something myself. Something abstract and colourful. However, while I haven't ruled out this possibility (made feasible not by my creative skills, but rather by the workroom in the basement of our building), I have pursued the option of purchasing a design poster. Here are some of the contenders:

a. A Jennifer Sanchez poster entitled 'ny.08.#06' from 20x200. 20x200 is a website that brings together up-and-coming artists and photographers with individuals who have a love for interesting artwork, but a limited budget. The internet makes this creative, affordable exchange possible.

b. An ISO50 Shop print entitled 'Avian'.

Blocks As Art


I enjoy making plans in advance. As I look across this busy, political week and on to next weekend, this exhibit seems well worth its weight in admission fees. Nathan Sawaya certainly has quite the lego collection.

Jan. 25, 2009

Beauty In the Everyday

In moving into a small space, I've quickly learned two design lessons:

1. Make room only for things you love.
2. Combine beauty and function by choosing attractive appliances and gadgets.

Square footage has partially lead me to come to the above conclusions, but our lease has also had its own influence. The contract dictates that we can only make two holes in each wall. As a result, colour and interest have to come from more than just artwork and photos. This reality combined with limited display space means that I'm drawn to cooking aides and other household gadgets that serve as art and have practical functions.

My first favourite marriage of style and function is this 1930s German watering can. A Christmas present from Greg, he found this treasure at an antique mall in Strathcona that was unfortunately shut down this January. The flow of water from the arched spout is quite beautiful.

My second favourite piece is our stainless steel utensil holder (which everyone in Alberta seems to own!) filled with colourful kitchen gadgets. This past summer, Greg and I decided to keep our kitchen colourful by purchasing our spoons and such in every colour available at La Gnome. I think the turquoise garlic press is my favourite purchase, though the striped salad spoons are a close second. The best part is that the placement of the utensils changes the shape of the 'sculpture' continually. With an otherwise beige kitchen, I'll take my colour where I can get it.

Jan. 23, 2009

Simple

If there's one sure fire way to help simplify your life, and gain comfort in the fact that there are people everywhere trying to do the same, it is in the glossy pages of Real Simple. A favourite magazine of mine for the past few years, Greg's mum graciously gave me a subscription for Christmas. The February edition arrived in the post yesterday. Receiving mail always excites me, but this delivery was doubly exciting as the February edition is not yet available in stores. Click on the photo above to check out Real Simple's website (the picture is the January magazine cover). There you'll find countless ways to help organize and plan your own life. For someone who loves 'to do' lists, this magazine is my popular culture 'how to live well' guide.

Jan. 22, 2009

Ebay Lust

There was a time when I saw online auctions only as a way to purchase coloured Chuck Taylor's below retail value. Today, for me, ebay is a treasure trove of beautiful furniture. You'll pay a fraction of the price as in a department or speciality store and often pieces are pre-loved, which is great for the environment. If only you didn't have to worry about hefty shipping and customs costs...
Here are some very lust-worthy pieces currently up for auction:












Jan. 21, 2009

Said The Whale

Always a sucker for a good jingle, I am as likely to discover a new band from a tv commercial or movie soundtrack as I am from a list of Wednesday newly released albums.
Said the Whale is the brainchild of Vancouverites Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft. I discovered their catchy tune, The Light Is You, on a Sun Ripe commercial. Give the song a listen on YouTube! I promise you'll think it's the most romantic ditty. What a wonderful serenade song.
The lyrics go like this:
Teddy Bear, Honey Bee
Don't forget that you love me
More than the stars over your head
It's just that your love shines like the moon
Full and bright and blinding through
Into my heart, into my head
When it's so dark I can't see the light
I close my eyes and I think of you
My little love, my only girl
I wouldn't leave you for all the world
I'll just sit here and wait for your moon to rise
When it's so dark I can't see the light
Well I close my eyes and I think of you
When it's so dark I can't see the light
Well I think of you
When it's so dark I can see the light
Shining through you

House vs. Condo

As I settle into my lunch break today, I'm inclined to surf my daily web haunts before taking a little walk to ensure some pitiful amount of daily exercise. This leads me to Realtor dot ca. To be clear, Greg and I are not exactly on the market to purchase property in Edmonton, but we're not exactly oblivious to the low interest rates and declining property prices all across the country either. This sort of economic situation begs one to at least consider the possibility of climbing on the property ladder. The process of even considering buying real estate is complicated by my inability to know exactly what I want. Here is what I do know:

I have spent the majority of my life living in houses. I am used to space. I enjoy having a backyard. Backyards are great for gardening vegetables and growing peonies - two things I think help build quality of life. I think of houses as family places, places to make memories, places to grow into, places to make your own. This appeals to me. However, I also think of houses as maintenance-intensive and expensive. I think of weekends spent slaving over cleaning eaves troughs, mowing lawns and shoveling snow.

I do enjoy apartment living. Housework is kept to a minimum, though so are possessions. Living in an apartment makes me consider everything I buy because those things have to be placed somewhere, and with only 900 sq feet and two adults, this is a real consideration. I enjoy having to be cautious about how much I accumulate. I think it is important to love everything you use to fill a small space. However, I think resale values on condos are less certain than houses. Condos seem more appropriate to certain phases of life than others. Condos seem less of places to grow into.

I also know I want to live in a livable neighbourhood where I'm not tied to my car to fetch a carton of milk. I'd like to have nice areas to walk around. I'd like to be able to walk to catch a bite to eat. Thankfully Greg and I agree on this. We will not be buying in Leduc or St. Albert.

My search of MLS postings today reveals two distinct properties that each appeal to me in so many ways. They're polar opposites and the exact reason I find trying to make up my mind about buying real estate impossible. Which one would you choose?

Contender #1: a two storey in the architectural heritage area of Westmount with three bedrooms that is close to friends and only a short bus ride to the downtown

Contender #2: a newly renovated one bedroom condo in Strathcona with modern fixtures just minutes from Whyte Avenue and with easy access to public transit and the local farmer's market

1000 Words

Like many, I have been a daily user of social networking websites for the past four or five years. Photo sharing is one of my favourite aspects of these online worlds. In looking back at the hundreds of photos I have been tagged in and uploaded, a smile appears on my face in thinking of all the fantastic memories these pictures capture.
Here are some photos of my travels to Western Europe in 2004. I was studying politics, history and discourse analysis at my university's campus in Old Harlow, England. On weekend trips and midterm break, my classmates and I jetted across the continent on RyanAir. Upon arrival, we continually found excitement and energy in the creativity and history of our various stops. This blog is about thinking about how I want to live my life. I believe part of that process is reflecting on the joyous experiences of my past.

Powerscourt Gardens, Enniskerry, Ireland.
Nice, France.

Rome, Italy.

Stockholm, Sweden.

Jan. 20, 2009

Cream Cheese

Cream cheese and bagels have become a lunchtime staple for me. As someone always on the hunt for a new recipe, I took the time to check out the recipe website advertised on the label of my herb and onion cream cheese a few days ago. While navigating Cooking with Philly, I came and came across a fun quiz for dessert lovers. This cheesecake customizer allows you to choose between baked and no-bake concoctions, and a variety of pan sizes, crusts, cream cheeses and flavours. The result of my preferences? Citrus Cheesecake Cupcakes!

To try them yourself, see the recipe below.

Prep Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 5 hours (including refrigeration) Makes: 16 servings

Ingredients

Crust: 1 cup graham cracker crumbs, 3 tbsp margarine

Batter: 500 g softened light cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sour cream (optional), 2 tbsp grated orange peel and 2 tbsp orange juice

Instructions

Crust:

Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix graham cracker crumbs and margarine. Press evenly into the bottoms of 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake for 7 minutes.

Batter:

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well blended. Mix in orange peel and orange juice. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Spoon batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full.

Baking:

Bake for 25 minutes or until centres are almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate for at lease 4 hours before serving. Top with a piece of mandarin orange before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

If you happen to be tempted by the quiz, I'd love to hear all about your personalized cheesecake.

McKernan Belgravia

Last night, while meandering the narrow roads of Allendale, Parkallen and McKernan back to our own neighbourhood, Garneau, Greg and I mused about the status of the McKernan Belgravia LRT station. Its existence opens up a whole new range of residential living opportunities for those who love their proximity to Whyte Avenue, but would also like to have a (somewhat) affordable backyard.


I'd caught rumours about town that the station is fully functional but will not become operational for another few months as a cost saving measure for the city. Instead of blindly believing the rumours, I've done a little digging on the municipal website. According to a December 18, 2008 construction update, the only remaining work is clean up, installation of shelter glass and landscaping. McKernan Belgravia will be operational on April 26, 2009!

For more information click here.

I am looking forward to being able to take the LRT into a residential neighbourhood to support a cute coffee shop and bookstore that sit on 76th Avenue. It would make a great after work stop followed by a walk back to Garneau.

Grande PliƩ

In recent months, I have begun having vivid dreams. At least a few mornings a week, I awaken with the recollection that I have pieced conscious and unconscious thoughts from the day prior together into a theatrical production.

In November I dreamt of ballet and dancing. It is important that I be clear here; I have no rhythm and my only experience in ballet is from classes taken in kindergarten and first grade. This experience is twenty years stale now. All the next day, I kept thinking of ballet and how I'd like to try my hand at dance lessons once again.

A scan of the yellow pages, a snowy visit to Etoile Dance Shoppe (a wonderful ballet store just northwest of the Gallery District at 10990 124 Street), assistance from my mother in sewing the shoe straps on correctly, and I was prepared to embark on my new hobby - ballet.



Earlier this month, I began taking adult beginner lessons at a non-profit dance studio in Edmonton called Dance Alberta. I wear a leotard and pink tights. I pile my hair high on my head. I look as much like a ballerina as one could reasonably expect. That is until I start moving. Ballet is a difficult art form! I am not as flexible as my yoga classes led me to believe. I have limited arm/feet coordination. I seldom point the correct foot forward. I have difficulty remembering all the positions.

In spite of all of these challenges, I am thoroughly enjoying learning something new and having an opportunity to meet new people in my new city.

Jan. 19, 2009

Janvier

Have you ever stumbled upon a treasure that has unexpectedly become the envy of those around you?

When I started a new job in August, the walls of my office were a prefab grey. It was as if they were begging for colour. Noticing the starkness of my newly constructed office, a colleague recommended I scour a pile of discarded artwork down the hall. An abandoned office was strewn with paintings, prints and photographs that had been removed in recent renovations and had yet to find new homes.

In addition to two fruit and wine still life pictures with great colour but narrow appeal, I selected a cartoon-esque poppy print and the most wonderful graphic spill of colour on a white page. I was immediately drawn to the latter, but the origins of the painting were then unknown to me.

The artist, as I would come to be told, was Alex Janvier. Janvier is an Aboriginal artist of Dene Suline and Sautleaux descent from Alberta, a graduate of the Alberta College of Art in Calgary and a former lecturer in fine art at the University of Alberta. For those of you interested in comparisons, he cites his influences as Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. His work is a reflection of the challenges and celebrations of life.


This painting has been the launching pad for many conversations at my office. Apparently many had wondered where "the Janvier" had disappeared. I feel grateful to say it sits adjacent to my monitor and provides endless enjoyment as I go about my day.

You Are Where You Eat

Since Greg and I began living in Edmonton together this past summer, we've been scouting restaurants with a penchant for good food and a warm atmosphere. Notable finds include (not surprisingly) Culina, Delux Burger, Sugar Bowl, Leva and Blue Plate Diner. While ordering spring rolls for lunch a few weeks ago at the Wild Tangerine Mobile Cuisine shop in Manulife downtown, I noticed a pamphlet for Original Fare Dot Com. Original Fare is a collection of independent restaurants committed to culinary diversity. A number of my favourite haunts are members. As a result, the remaining membership has been added to our list of must visit restaurants.

If you too are in search of a similar dining experience, one with originality and local flavour, the next two weeks are a great time to check out the Edmonton food scene. Between January 19-22 and 26-29, Fork Fest will be held. Patrons of a number of local restaurants can dine on multi-course creations for $20 or $35. For a full list of participating independents and their kitchen's offerings, click here.

To me, Fork Fest seems to be a great way to support local business in a time of economic decline, while keeping the midweek doldrums at bay with a delicious meal out.

Bonjour Tout Le Monde

I prefer to wear horizontal stripes over anything else.

My new found playground is the flat prairie of Western Canada, where the terrain mirrors the clean lines I adore in my Saturday striped t-shirts.

This blog is the journey into crafting a stylish, sustainable, sunny and simple life. I find myself in Edmonton, but this journey could begin anywhere. I hope you'll join me for all the truck stops, family diners and lookouts along this roadtrip.