Monday, April 25, 2011

Oo-la-la lunch

I don't know if a meal for two qualifies as a party, but lunch today with the Tough Love Goddess certainly felt like one. After all, it was Easter Monday, she's the first guest I've had over at my new place, and we haven't seen each in other in a few months. All very good reasons to open a bottle of wine and celebrate.

While waiting for egg noodles to cook, we started off with some appies: multigrain toast points spread with goat cheese and oven-roasted tomatoes, and a dish of sundried olives.

The main course was honey mustard chicken with egg noodles and fennel, accompanied by a 2008 Siegerrebe from Domaine de Chaberton.

What do you serve the Sugar Police for dessert?
A bowl of fresh strawberries,
drizzled with just a tiny bit of white balsamic vinegar syrup.

The goddess looks pleased. I think lunch was a success!


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Scones from scratch

It's Sunday morning!!! My favourite time of the week. And to inaugurate my newly assembled and organized baker's rack, I made scones for breakfast, following the recipe of a friend of a friend. Jola, I haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting you, but I want to let you know that your scones are amazing! Thanks for sharing!

Lovely with a cup of creamy Earl Grey, a special blend from The Secret Garden.

Jola's Scones

2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven at 400 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in bowl.

Cut in butter until crumbly. You can use two knives, a fork, a pastry blender, or your fingers.

Stir in egg and buttermilk. Mix until just blended.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently pat it into a large round about 3/4 inch thick.

Cut out scones with a floured cutter.

Place on a greased baking sheet and brush with milk.

Makes about 12-14 small scones or 6-8 large ones.

Variations: Add raisins, cranberries, orange zest, lemon zest, currants, apricots or any dried fruit to the dough at the same time as the wet ingredients. Or for savoury scones, add bacon bits or sausage slices, cheese, chives, or garlic.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

A woman's home is her castle ...

... so how to decorate it if she's a paper bag princess like me?

Decorating on a budget is a fun challenge. You don't need to spend big bucks to make your home look pretty, feel welcoming, and function efficiently. For example:

Cover a homely or worn dining table with a colourful, boldly patterned tablecloth.

Brighten up a drab kitchen with accessories in your favourite colour.

Store your cooking and baking ingredients in clear glass containers.
This makes them easier to find...and look organized and attractive, too.

Pile up the couch with cushions and a soft snuggly throw. Add a good lamp and a shelf of your favourite books and voila, you have the perfect little reading nook.

Have prints made of your favourite photos, frame them in matching frames, and hang them up.

Some photos I took in Italy. I still haven't decided where to hang them all.

Dress up the bathroom with a fabric shower curtain.
Hang it from a brushed-metal rod with funky rings.
The bathroom is also a good place to hang an interesting or whimsical piece of art. And since we all need to spend some time in there sitting and staring into space, keep a few good magazines in there, too.

Things I like to keep handy, in every room, if possible:
pens, paper, scissors, and sticky tape, arranged in pretty decorative trays.

Flowers I consider a necessary luxury. Buy whatever is in season from flower carts, or grow them yourself. Potted flowers - and plants - are inexpensive and last longer than the cut ones.

Shop, shop, shop for bargains. In Vancouver, check places like Chinatown, Army & Navy, Wonderbucks and Daiso. Don't snub dollar stores - they are great for oven mitts, wooden spoons, plastic organizers, glass containers, picture frames, picture-hanging kits, drinking glasses....the list goes on and on.

Above all, try to keep everything tidy and clean. A few minutes of productive puttering in the morning and at night can make a big difference. You will be happy as a queen if you habitually wake up and come back to a neat, orderly, sweet-smelling home.

My grateful thanks to my grandmother and my mother whose decorating, organizing, and housekeeping savvy I hope I've managed to assimilate, at least in part!

By the way, if you have never read the The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, I highly recommend that you do - no matter what your age might be. Read it to all the little girls you know. It's a great antidote to the princess/diva culture that's so prevalent these days, which can have so many unhealthy consequences, especially for young girls.

I don't mean to say that we are not all special and unique - we are. But instead of expecting royal treatment all the time, demanding the fuflillment of our every whim, or using our specialness as an excuse for bad behaviour, we should try to be more like Munsch's Princess: full of initiative, resourcefulness, common sense, and unbeatable aplomb in the face of difficulties - whether our castle has been burned down by a dragon, or whether we're just trying to decorate it on a shoestring.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Celebrating my new home - and a new season!

The lovely lady who delivers fresh bouquets to our office every Monday morning says that hyacinths are her culture's New Year flower. 

If I could choose when to celebrate New Year, I'd do it in the spring time, too.  I love this season when everything starts to come alive after a long winter's sleep.

This spring my sense of renewal is particularly strong, as I am also starting life in a new place.  I moved in last week and it's really starting to feel like home.

Today I bought the first flowers for my new place - this pot of hyacinths. Just the thing to put on the empty side of my mantelpiece. And their fragrance will greet people as soon as they step in through the front door. I was tempted to buy the cut ones, but figured that the potted ones will last longer.  The flower man gave me a good tip: keep them outside in the cold when I'm out of the house or asleep - this will keep them from growing too tall for the pot.

Happy Spring!

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