29 October 2013

Foodie Tuesday | Keeping It Real (Roasted Pumpkin Quiche)

Originally I had an amazing Roasted Pumpkin Quiche recipe lined up to share with you today, that I sourced from The Little Teochew (one of my new favourite foodie blogs).

Seriously. Isn't it pretty? Photo magic credited to The Little Teochew.

I've been meaning to bake and photograph it for three weeks now and every day, something pops up to knock it off my menu list. It's just never felt like the right night for roasting, peeling, whisking and baking. Also, fiddling with phyllo pastry makes me nervous so I think I've been (not-so-) secretly avoiding it.

Then we had an absolute catastrophe at Casa Kilfoyle wherein a plague of locusts descended upon us, the house burned down and all of our electronics spontaneously combusted.

Everything except that last part is a lie.

What actually happened is that within 16 hours of one another, our laptop broke and my phone died. I've been DAYS with limited-to-no technology.

That last bit can't be understated: NO. TECHNOLOGY.


I thought I was going to die.

And if you're thinking, Seriously? She's had all this time on her hands and still she can't get off her duff and make a pumpkin quiche? Wow. She sucks. Well... you're probably right. Sorry.

Anyway, in the interests of "keeping it real" I didn't actually make this recipe. But it looks awesome and I didn't want to skip a Tuesday, so we'll just assume together that it tastes as awesome as it looks.

And if I do ever get around to baking it, you'll be the first to know.

xo April

PS - Next week I have a real, actual, fully-cooked-in-my-own-kitchen recipe. It's a fab one, so don't miss it!


22 October 2013

Foodie Tuesday | Smoky Pumpkin & Black Bean Soup

This weather is confounding me.

When it should be soup weather (soup o'clock!) it's still sunny and mild and summery.


Stop it, Mother Nature. You're fucking with my (circadian) soupcadian rhythm and I don't appreciate it. Just knock it off.

In the meantime, I'm still making soup because I'm stubborn like that. Is it delicious and appropriate for the dead of winter? Yes. Yet still seasonal because it's all-about-pumpkin? Yes. Is it the best of both worlds? Absolutely, hands-down, YES.

Mother Nature can suck it.

YAY! Winter arrived!! It's soup season, bitches!!!

Preparation: 5 minutes | Cooking Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Serves: 8-12

  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced
  • 6 tsp minced garlic
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 (2 lb.) ham hock or smoked pork shank
  • 4 (19 fl. oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28 fl. oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (28 fl. oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sour cream
  • cilantro

Cooking Directions:
  1. In a large soup pot, melt butter and olive oil on medium high heat. Sauté onion, garlic and cumin on medium high heat for 5-8 minutes or until onions are translucent.
  2. Reduce heat to low.
  3. Add black beans, tomatoes, beef broth, salt, pumpkin, ham hock, sherry and white wine vinegar. Stir to combine. Simmer 60-80 minutes until flavours are well-combined.
  4. Remove ham hock and discard (or shred meat into the soup). Garnish with sour cream and chopped cilantro. Now knock it back like it's your job.

So here's the deal: ham hocks gross me out. It's weird and unreasonable and probably super strange that I'm admitting it while at the same time encouraging you to eat it, but the flavour is incomparable. Smoky, meaty, salty goodness gives the overall flavour an incredible robustness it otherwise wouldn't have. Even though I fish the ham hock out of the mix when it's ready to serve (and generally dump it in the garbage because I can't stand to look at it), it's worth including.

Garnish with sour cream (of course) and cilantro. A squeeze of fresh lime juice gives it a nice little kick, too.

Me? I like to eat it straight up: no garnish, no limes. Just black bean and pumpkin goodness.

That's a winner right there. Your stomach is going to high-five you into next week for making this.

Notes: one-pot-wonder | freezer-friendly | gluten free

original recipe via The Savoury Sweet Life


19 October 2013

Thrifting Finds

When I was young and stupid and living with a boy for the very first time, I hated hand-me-downs. I wanted new-everything: furniture, dishware, artwork, appliances... you name it, I wanted to buy it. Mostly at full price (because then, I didn't believe in discounts.)

Over the years I've grown to appreciate the life and soul of pre-loved items (maybe because I'm growing older and little careworn myself?) I'd give anything to turn back the clock and keep some of the one-of-a-kind and antique items I carelessly gave away in my twenties.

Since that's impossible (for now...), I just have to settle for collecting vintage items and giving them a new lease on life in our house.

Enter my newest pastime: thrifting.

I've been reading with my appreciation (and yes, envy) of other bloggers I know who score amazing finds at their local thrift shops. Items range from the very cool to the very collectible, with some even turning out to be hidden gems worth much more than their Value Village price tag (think Antiques Roadshow, but on a smaller scale).

I never found such attractive items at the second-hand stores in my neighbourhood, but a few weeks back it occurred to me that maybe the problem wasn't the inventory. It was the eye. I just didn't have an eye for spotting that unique, amazing, one-of-a-kind gem in the (let's face it) gigantic piles of crap that thrift stores often accumulate.

So, being on a tight budget now that I'm sabbatical for a few months, I decided to challenge myself. I needed to collect a few new dishes anyway for Recipe Tuesdays, so I set aside $20 for the task and hit the bricks in search of fabulous thrifting finds.

Here are a few of the beauties I brought home with me:

I've always wanted a little pot for French onion soup. I think they're adorable, if slightly impractical (because really, how often do I make onion soup?) There were four to choose from but I decided to purchase just one. If it turns out that I do make onion soup more than the single time I need to in order to justify the purchase, I'll search out others to make a set. Cost: $0.75.

This little bone china bowl and saucer was so pretty I couldn't turn it down, even though it was a little pricier than I would have liked at $5.00 for the set. It has a bucolic French toile pattern that I love for its daintiness. She's a bit chipped and battle-scarred, but her grace and colour won the day.

Funny story about these little Asian bowls. When I spotted them at Goodwill I was totally taken with them. I know they're everywhere and not unique at all; practically everyone I know and their grandmother has a set. But I love the depth of colour and the Japanese (?) characters, so when I stumbled across them my first thought was: These are so pretty! Who would give these up?!

I was excited to add them to our existing set, which was packed away somewhere at home in a box as yet unearthed.

Now, I think I've mentioned at one point or another how many truckloads of stuff we donated to thrift stores during our move from one Pit to the next? Right. So it turns out, our little set of bowls wasn't so much packed away as it was given away. In that, one year ago Daryn decided we no longer needed little decorative bowls we never used, and shipped them off for someone else to enjoy.

Apparently, that someone else is us. I totally owned these bowls, then donated them, then paid fifty cents each for the privilege of getting them back. Which is a very roundabout way of reminding oneself just how much I really do like these little bowls.

This little yellow casserole dish had me at hello. Was it the colour that sucked me in? For sure. Can you feel how happy it is? There was no question it had to come home with me and at four bucks, it was a total bargoon. I couldn't pass it up.

Look for it on a Foodie Tuesday in the deep winter months. I've got big plans for this little guy that involved copious amount of macaroni and cheese.

Because I'm going to cook homemade macaroni and cheese in it. Just in case that wasn't clear.

There are a ton more purchases I made ranging from $0.39 to $1.00 each, but I don't want to bore you all at once. I'm saving the others for a separate post so I can bore you over the course of several days instead!

So tell me: what's the best score you've ever found at a thrift store?


15 October 2013

Foodie Tuesday | Rotini with Creamy Pumpkin-Sage Sauce

During the school week, if dinner takes me more than 10 minutes to prepare, I want to hang myself.

I go to great lengths, in fact, to ensure that never happens. Most of our meals are pre-made on Sundays and either refrigerated (ready for almost-immediate consumption) or frozen for later in the week. The most effort I want to go to Monday through Friday is defrosting, then nuking for 10 minutes or less. I consider this an accomplishment that I can structure our nutritional lives this way.

On the weekends, though, I like to put a little more effort into dinners by making finicky, fussy recipes that there's no way in hell I'd ever undertake on a school night. Ones that have a thousand ingredients (some of which I can't pronounce), or that require 5,000 steps, or that, like this one, require to-the-minute timing in order not to burn or otherwise destroy what will a freaking delicious meal.

Because it IS delicious, and nutritious (mostly). And very, very filling.

But don't take my word for it: try it for yourself this weekend and let me know what you think!

Preparation: 20 minutes | Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes | Serves: 5-7

  • 2 + 4 tbsp salted butter, separated
  • 10 large whole sage leaves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 5-10 large sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shallots, finely diced
  • 2 heaping tsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup extra smooth ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 500g rotini pasta (we use Catelli Whole Wheat)

Cooking Directions:
  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; set aside.
  2. In a small fry pan, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium high heat. Be careful not to scorch. When bubbling, lay the 10 large sage leaves into the pan, flat. Cook 2-3 minutes or until beginning to brown, then turn and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes. When crispy, remove leaves from pan with tongs and lay out on a sheet of paper towel to drain/cool. Coarsely chop.
  3. In a large fry pan, melt remaining 4 tbsp butter until sizzling. Add olive oil (to prevent burning), shallots, garlic and chopped sage. Sauté for approximately 7 minutes or until shallots are translucent.
  4. Reduce heat to medium low.
  5. Add pumpkin, then salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly to combine, and cook 3-5 minutes until fragrant.
  6. Add evaporated milk; stir until completely absorbed into the pumpkin mixture. Then, add ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. Stir until combined/melted.
  7. Add chopped fried sage and stir. Remove from heat. Scrape pumpkin sauce into pot with pasta and stir to coat. Serve piping hot!
The sauce is quite thick, which we prefer, but if you want to thin it out you can easily do so with additional evaporated milk, or by adding 1-2 cups of pasta water (which you can reserve when draining your noodles.)

Because it doesn't keep or freeze well (another anomaly to our regular meal planning philosophy), you sort of have to eat it as soon as you make it. This is not a fix-it-and-forget-it type of meal, but DAYYUM it is good. And good for you. Sort of.

Finally, if you're the type who prefers your pasta sauce smooooooth like butter, you can totally food-process this bad boy to make it completely creamy. After cooking the onion mixture, drop it into a food processor, to which you'll then add the pumpkin. Process until blended, then scrape back into the pan to cook/add the remaining ingredients. Easy-peasy.

Notes: kid-friendly 

11 October 2013

No Need to Buy Them Dinner First | Getting Rid of Fruit Flies

Daryn has a strange bump on his knuckle which may or may not be a tick bite. By our calculations the likelihood of this being an actual tick bite (as opposed to, say, an ingrown knuckle hair or a tumour) is fairly low, given how much less common the cubicle-dwelling tick is compared to its forest-dwelling cousin.

This led to a lengthy discussion on how best to protect oneself from the cubicle-dwelling variety. We developed several strategies which I would totally share with you except that we've decided to write a book called 'Country Louse, City Louse' and I don't want to ruin the ending. Needless to say we expect it to be a bestseller because cubicle ticks, you know... it's an epidemic.

In other news, a more real and present danger are these little bastards:

| via |
Yeah, that's right. Fruit flies. Ugly, annoying, incessant, creepy-crawly fruit flies.

We're a family who stores most of our fruit in bowls on the counter for easy access, and I always neglect to take preventative measures against fruit flies until its too late. Then late summer gets here and I buy boatloads of stone fruits from the local market, and within three days my house is host to the biggest insect frat party of the season, with drunken flies weaving their way around our kitchen and generally creeping everyone out.

Now, getting rid of fruit flies isn't rocket science; I think every online home magazine and blogger worth her/his/its salt has published a how-to on eliminating those little buggers sooner rather than later. Vinegar, fruit juice, sugar water... I've seen it all suggested, and tried it all too. But I've yet to see the solution that has worked the very best for us, so I thought I'd share it with you.

If you've got a fly frat party happening in your kitchen, the best way to shut it down is to get them good and drunk, the old-fashioned way.

I'm talking about wine, people. Specifically, a sweet Riesling or Gawerztraminer. The higher the sugar content, the better.

More important than the brand (our flies seem particularly drawn to Jackson Triggs; apparently they approve that I buy local) is the freshness... or lack thereof. Here's how it works:

In a small glass, pour off an inch or two of wine (I use our good crystal because why not? Also, it's a celebration of sorts: if they have to drown they might as well do so in a pretty pool, and I celebrate the crap out of every single fly I find in there.)

Cover the glass tightly with plastic wrap and secure at the base. You don't want the flies to find a loose section and get away, all Escape-from-Alcatraz style. I use hair elastics to get a tight seal but you can use whatever you have laying around.

Then, using a toothpick, poke several holes in the top. You want them large enough for the fumes to escape and for a fly to crawl into, but not crawl out of. They're not that bright so it's not very difficult to trap them, but they are small so poke accordingly. Place nearby a bowl of sweet whatevers (I usually put mine by the bananas) and then wait.

And wait some more.

Check it a few times and try to manage your frustration in the first few days when you don't capture any, then be patient. Wait even more.

On day #4 or so, the wine will begin to turn. It'll go skunky, and this is your sweet spot. Fruit flies, like frat boys, are drawn to the worst-tasting, worst-smelling liquids, and when wine goes into full-on skunk mode, it becomes a siren call to these bitty beasts. They can't stay away.

Fruit flies WANT to get drunk, you know. FRAT BOYS, ALL OF THEM. They don't believe in wagons; couldn't find one with both wings and a map. So be an enabler and give them want they want. Get them hammered; you don't even have to buy them dinner first.

Within a week we cleared out the entire herd of flies, without having to refrigerate the produce or do anything other than plug our noses when eventually dumping the wine and little fly carcasses down the drain. I won't lie: it didn't smell awesome.

But it DID work, and that's what counts.


10 October 2013

I Quit

Yesterday I quit as a parent.

I do this sometimes to prevent me from killing my children, or abandoning them on a street corner far, far from home, or selling them at the local farmer's market in exchange for sausages and some fresh asparagus. It's a survival technique, for all of us.

I love my kids to death and would throw myself in front a bus for them, but honestly? Sometimes I look at them and think: WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE AND WHY DO YOU STILL LIVE HERE?? Why do you eat all my food, and destroy my house, and rob me of my money and youth and vitality? What kind of sick karma is this that I deserve this??!

The answer? I GOT PREGNANT. Obviously.

Adorable bump, but not me
Me. Conception to delivery, both pregnancies. Good times.

So in the nearly 16 years experience I've had so far trying to raise small people into something other than serial killers, cult leaders or accountants, I've learned when to throw in the towel on the day; when it would be better for everyone involved for mommy to take a mental break and let the kids be raised by wolves or squirrels or honey bees or whatever. And mostly these realizations come after having said or done something completely ridiculous in the name of parenting, to be inevitably filed under the heading "Questionable Parenting Choices."

Case in point? The day I said to my toddler daughter, completely seriously:

"No! No! NO! We do NOT hit our brother in the face with a toilet brush!!"

Because who says that in real life? More to the point: when in real life should you ever NEED to say that?

What kind of parenting decisions was I making that led to my toddler daughter beating her brother in the face with a toilet brush??

Really makes you think about where you're at in life, you know? Makes you think about your choices.

It's not that I don't try very hard to be a good parent: I do. I make an effort; I strain myself sometimes. Once I pulled a muscle.

And it's not like I'm a bad parent, either, I don't think. At least not on a regular basis. I mean, sure, there was the one time I packed up the kid for a day's outing and it wasn't until we had driven around the corner from the house and the boy inquired from the back seat, "Um, aren't we forgetting someone?" that I realized I'd forgotten the baby at home, but that was an honest mistake. She was brand new. I was super tired. And I had been carting around one kid and all his crap for five years by that point so I really felt like I had packed everything I was supposed to have. Can I really be blamed for forgetting someone who had only lived with us for, like, 24 days? I don't think so. Also it's not like she was totally alone or in any real danger: the dog was there with her (and if I've learned anything from children's literature, it's that dog-nannies are very reliable. More so than people-nannies, sometimes. AND ... they don't shrink your blouses in the wash, either.) So really, it could happen to anyone.

The point is that I try, but when trying doesn't work, I know when to quit. Know your limits and play within it, I always say: as in alcohol consumption, so too in parenting. And when I find myself saying things like,

"The next time you do that, I'm going to let your brother sit on your face and fart. Is that what you want??"


"Don't let the dog lick you in the mouth ... she eats her own poop!"


"The front seat. It's on the front seat. The front. Front! FRONT!  WHERE. IS. THE. FRONT?!"


"You don't have cancer, dude. It's a mosquito bite."

that's a sure sign to give up, call in the wildlife substitute parents, and pack it in for the day. I'll be back on the clock tomorrow.

08 October 2013

Foodie Tuesday | Battle of the Pumpkin Pies!

Confession: our family isn't big on Thanksgiving.

Don't get me wrong: we love a three-day weekend as much as the next guy. We just don't celebrate like most people do, which is to say: at all. It's a good excuse to go apple picking in the local orchard, and to hike a conservation trail, but for us, that's about the extent of it. We save our turkey time for Christmas.

However, I know that many of you out there DO celebrate and since October is all-about-pumpkin month, what's better than a pumpkin pie recipe just in time for you to cook dinner for 20?



That's right: it's a BAKE-OFF, because two pies are always better than one.

The premise is this:

tinned pumpkin or fresh?

Do you know the answer? Neither did I, so naturally I got my Stinson on: Challenge Accepted!

Preparation: (5 +) 15 + 10 minutes | Cooking Time: (40 +) 15 + 60-70 minutes | Serves: 8

  • 1 sugar (pie) pumpkin
  • cooking spray
  • 1 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin (fresh or tinned)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I used 18% table cream)
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used skim)
  • frozen or freshly made pie crust, pre-baked

Cooking Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice the stem from the pumpkin, then slice pumpkin in half. Scoop out the pulp and seeds.
  3. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the pumpkin halves cut-side down on the pan, and bake for 10-15 minutes. Turn the pumpkins cut-side up (skin-side down) and continue baking another 30-40 minutes or until flesh is very, very tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Scoop pumpkin flesh from skins. Puree in a food processor until smooth if the cooked pumpkin feels or appears very stringy. Set aside until completely cooled.
  5. If using fresh pumpkin, lower oven heat to 375 degrees.
    If using tinned pumpkin, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    Bake the pie crust for 15 minutes.
    This recipe produces way more filling than your standard 9-inch prepared pie crust can handle, even the deep dish variety. Because I'm not really a baker, I have no confidence in my ability to make pastry, so I cheat:

    I defrost both Tenderflake deep dish pie shells in a box. Flour the counter, then remove one pie crust from the tin and lay it out flat. Cut it in four and separate the pieces by one inch or so.

    Lay the second pie shell in the centre of the first. Then, flour a rolling pin [or, if you're like me and don't own a rolling pin, flour a smooth, clean bottle; I used a new bottle of balsamic vinegar] and roll it across the pastry to blend the two shells/spread it out to a larger diameter. If it breaks, don't worry. Simply piece it together where you have holes and roll again gently. (The pastry, I mean. If the bottles breaks, you have a bigger problem. And probably need to start over.)

    Lift the expanded crust from the counter and place it in a deep 10-inch pie plate. Mould the crust along the edges with your fingers and close any breaks or holes, and Bob's your uncle! Perfectly sized pie crust.

  6. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients (brown sugar through cloves). Whisk to combine.
  7. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining four ingredients (pumpkin through milk). Whisk to combine, then pour into the dry mixture. Whisk thoroughly.
  8. Remove pie shells from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Pour mixture into shell.
  9. Bake at 375 degrees for 60-75 minutes, until the centre is set. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Pumpkin pie is my absolute favourite kind of pie, so I've eaten a lot of it over the years. Like, a LOT. I consider myself to be not just a connoisseur, but sort of an expert (self-appointed, sure, but an expert nonetheless.)

And after all those holidays with all those pies, I can confidently say this Williams-Sonoma recipe is one of the best I've ever come across. Sweet but not cloying, spicy but not overpowering, this pie is 'classic' in every sense of the word, and it's a permanent fixture on our holiday menus.

But the BAKE-OFF! Was the question of which makes a better pie, tinned pumpkin or fresh, ever answered?
Yeah, that's right: two photos. Showing off the awsmazing burnt crust of one pie that got slopped on in an "incident". Otherwise, it was freaking delicious.

In this house it sure was. While both pies were tasty (because let's be real: much like pizza, no pie is ever really a bad pie), the votes are in. Interestingly, the votes were split along gender lines, with fresh pumpkin pulling out the win 3-2! Woot!!

For those of you playing along at home, did you guess the winner? There's a prize if you did! (note: Just kidding. There's no prize. But I am very impressed!)

So tell me, what's your all-time favourite holiday dessert recipe?

Notes: vegetarian | desserts

Original recipe from Williams-Sonoma

07 October 2013

It's All in the Details | Princess Margaret Lottery Show Home

When I first posted the photo tour of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre 'Welcome Home' Sweepstakes show home, I promised to share more of the details that made the home so special.

Brian Gluckstein and his team pulled off the unimaginable in just five months time; truly, no detail was overlooked.

A horse sculpture adds interest to a foxed mirrored coffee table.

Obsessed -- O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D, I tell you -- with the gorgeous flower arrangements in every room.

A glass insert in the floor of the butler's pantry offers a peek inside the wine cellar, located directly below. I was too scared to walk on it and basically did the crab-walk around it. Very classy in a dress, let me tell you.

The custom carpet in the media room drew my attention -- and my hands! It was not only a stunning pearl-grey and white (which my photo doesn't do justice) but it felt fantastic under foot and under finger (when I ran my hands all over it like a fool.)

Tile mosaic floor of the master bath. Simple, elegant and gorgeous.

This orchid was the centrepiece of the long hall table in the second floor gallery. So pretty and striking.

It's the chalkboard application on this white canister, which lives in the laundry room. I admire small touches that make every day, glamour-less tasks a little more special, and this is a great example.

The sparkle and shine of the wet bar back splash, along with the polished accessories, really brought light and glamour to the basement level. I can't imagine those tiles would be easy to clean but in a light-wearing area like this mini-kitchen, they're just perfect. Not hard-working, but dead sexy.

My favourite vignette shot of the formal living room. The colour combination is to die for; I'm a sucker for grey, cream and yellow every time.

I have more (yes, more!) shots of the lighting in the house, with which I was totally and completely enamored. They're so pretty they totally deserve their own post, which is exactly what I'm going to give them! Tune in Thanksgiving week for a dedicated tour.

And if you haven't got yours yet, click here to purchase your ticket (or two!). Good luck!!

04 October 2013

Treasure Hunting | Gadsden's Antique Market

Gadsden's Antique Market is held twice a year in Milton. It's like Christie's (which we were torrentially rained out of this year) but much more compact. "Petite," you might call it. (I wouldn't, but you might. If you want to be all "like that.")

Despite its size, there are still tons of pretty amazing-slash-interesting finds (yet ANOTHER coffin [the first was at Christie], which I didn't take a photo of but should have, proves that you really can find anything and everything you would ever want or need at an antique market.)

I was on the hunt for the perfect milk glass chicken-shaped butter dish but so far, no luck. Along the way, however, I was tempted by a few other fab finds...

I was MOST tempted by a cow skull in virtually perfect condition. The vendor offered to negotiate the price to $50, which was a steal. I wasn't sure how Daryn would feel about a real cow head in our house. He still hasn't fully embraced the idea of antlers so a full face might have been a tough sell. I'm sorry now I didn't go for it, but live and learn!

Old photographs are a mixture of inspiring and sad for me. How do photos wind up at market, where no one knows them and strangers sift through them? Are there no loved ones remaining to care for those images?

At the same time, old snapshots can be really inspiring for writers. Making a connection with a real person -- a real face -- while being free to invent a life for that person is a creative goldmine.

What can I say? It's a 5-gallon glass pig jug. Daryn suggested we could fill it with pink lemonade, which I couldn't deny would be awesome. Though I'd rather have it filled with dollah bills, yo.

These vintage glasses were in great condition and would look perfect perched on top of a pile of antique books.

Yertl is an indoor/outdoor planter who hails from sunny Arizona. I loved his sculptural quality and his mottled colouring. If I didn't own three outdoor planters already (that are sitting empty because I have an unfortunately black thumb), Yertl would be living with me right now.

Aside from the coffin, which obviously took the creepy cake, Evil Elf was my freakiest find. Seriously, how terrifying is he?? More than your standard lawn ornament, this little guy is clearly a Guard Gnome, designed to ward off undesirables of every stripe (any kind of visitor, for example; also luck, joy and happiness.)

This gorgeous pair of lamps were created by a Quebec artisan in the '60's whose inspiration was the new frontiers of the space age. I was deeply tempted: they were perfectly round, and my photo doesn't do their colour justice. With squat white shades they would be have perfect for our two alcoves in the media room, and at 50% off the asking price (which originally was a steal at $175/pair), they were awfully hard to resist.

Apparently I'm a bit of a Christmas hoarder (you've seen our "Christmas corner" in the basement, right?) so I'm drawn to antique decorations like a moth to flame.

I love finding baubles I already own, at market, since our boxes and boxes of ornaments include a number of antiques from my grandparent's childhoods. My emotional response is always to pick up one or two to add to our collection, but given that we'll be paring DOWN our collection when we pull everything out for the holidays, I left them behind this time around. There'll be enough time to back-fill everything we give away at the upcoming spring shows!

So despite the fact that I didn't bring anything home with me, it was a very successful trip overall. And next time I'm presented with an opportunity to bring a whole cow head home for fifty bucks, I'm taking it!


02 October 2013

House Stalking | Ellen DeGeneres & Portia de Rossi

Design experts say that vintage items bring heart and soul to any room, but getting the mix just right is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult elements of decorating. On the spectrum of bland-and-boring to Aunt-Muriel's-attic, finding the perfect balance requires a deft eye.

One couple who's got it right? Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi.

Nestled against the Santa Monica mountains in Hidden Valley, California, Ellen and Portia purchased their 26-acre ranch back in 2009. It took just one year for Ellen and her design team to fully rehabilitate and renovate all eight buildings on the property. One year! Unbelievable.

What I love best about Ellen and Portia's property is how approachable it feels; not precious or stuffy. On the flip side, you're not overwhelmed by dusty, musty country-kitsch, either, which can easily happen when decorating with rustic elements.

This ranch is simple, sexy and full of character (just like it's owners!)

Featured in in the May 2013 print-edition issue of Elle Decor, click here for the full 17-photo online tour.

So tell me, could you live here? How do you incorporate antiques into your decor?

All photos by William Abranowicz for Elle Decor


01 October 2013

Foodie Tuesday | Pumpkin Muffins

People, I am no baker. Not even a little bit.

I admire folks who are at home with flour and baking powder and chocolate and "wet" and "dry" ingredients. I am not. In fact, those terms -- wet and dry -- are the actual extent of my baking knowledge. That's it! I've got nothing else. I'm hopeless.

But I sooooo want to be like those folks. I want to make magic in the kitchen.

I want to make baking my bitch.

So when hunting around for some really super-awesome pumpkin recipes that would blow your mind throughout the month of October (because, FYI, October is all-about-pumpkin month), I came across this recipe for pumpkin muffins. From scratch pumpkin muffins. That looked.... deceptively easy. And delicious.

That looked like a deceptively easy, delicious little trap, designed to make me feel like a faker baker. Again.

But then I thought: what the hell? If I bake 'em and they stink, who needs to know? If they get all, We can't even believe you tried to make us. How sad are you, faker baker? You suck, then I can just throw them out and share a one-pot-wonder dinner recipe with you instead.

It's true: muffins can be surprisingly rude and aggressive. You have to eat 'em quick to show them who's boss.

So I sucked up my misgivings and took the plunge. Mixed wet and dry. Followed the instructions to the letter (with very few exceptions, except I only made 12 muffins with a bit leftover. I think my muffins are bigger than the average bear.)

And you guys?

They turned out beautifully! Woot woot!!


Preparation: 20 minutes | Cooking Time: 25-35 minutes | Serves: 12-18 muffins

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup tinned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • cooking spray
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar

Cooking Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Once combined, make a well in the centre of the mixture.
  3. In a separate, medium-sized bowl. combine pumpkin and next 6 ingredients (pumpkin through egg white.) Whisk together.
  4. Add wet mixture to dry, stirring just until all ingredients are moist.
  5. Spray muffin tins thoroughly with cooking spray. Spoon batter batter into the cups, filling until level. Don't overflow the cups.
  6. Combine the remaining granulated sugar with brown sugar; mix together with a fork. Sprinkle over muffins.
  7. Bake 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of each muffin comes out clean. Remove muffins from the pan immediately; cool on a wire rack.

Go ahead: Eat 'em up! They're scrumdiddlyumptious. The Girl inhaled her first in about 2.3 nanoseconds and asked for more. And you know how "selective" she is about food, so that's saying something.

BONUS TIP! If you're like me and you like a little extra goodness on your muffin, skip the butter or jam and try cream cheese instead. Just trust me.

Plus, BONUS PHOTO! Here's a snapshot of the muffins just before they went into the oven, because I liked it and because they even look delicious when they're raw.

Notes: vegetarian | kid-friendly | nut-free (safe for school!) | freezer-friendly | seasonal

Original recipe from Cooking Light, via Health.com