Tuesday, December 22, 2009

christmas try it tuesday

I wanted to make some treats for my work friends for Christmas — and thus, a Christmas Try It Tuesday was born.

We start with 2 cups of milk chocolate chips in a microwavable glass bowl:

Then toss in some pretzels. Dunk 'em in good.

Swirl them around and pull them out. Lay out on waxed paper.

Add a few festive sprinkles. Stick them in the fridge for about 30 minutes so chocolate sets.

Mmm. Salty and sweet. Delicious.

I give this project 5 huge stars. It's super quick and easy, and they could easily be decorated for a bevy of other special occasions. Try it!

Monday, December 21, 2009

diy wreath = fail

I recently discovered the perfect alternative use for my Christmas balls on Thrifty Decor Chick. She tried it herself, and it turned out so pretty that I couldn't help but feel inspired.

Isn't it lovely? And it's a surprisingly straight-forward idea. You take wire, form it into a circle, and tread the ornaments on. TDC actually called this the hardest easiest diy wreath project, because she used a wire hanger that was ridiculously difficult to ply.

Because of her trials, I decided to use some thinner wire for my own adaptation.

It all seemed like a perfect idea, until I started to thread my ornaments.

With about 15 ornaments, all about 2 to 3 inches in size, I didn't even come close to creating a whole wreath. What I ended with was a clump of random sized ornaments on a wire. Not pretty. My inspiration is not lost though — after Christmas I'm going to be all over the Boxing Day sales and plan to pick up a huge package of the largest ball ornaments I can find.

This project may have won this round ...

To be continued.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

best of 2009

Lovely Amy at Rainy Saturday tipped me off to Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 blogger challenge — to blog each day about something great that happened in 2009.

Sounds like fun to me, but I'm clearly a bit behind.

December 1
What was your best trip in 2009?

Husband and I spent an amazing week in Florida in April. It was my first time to the sunshine state, and our first big vacation together, and we made the most of it — visited the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, sunned ourselves on Miami Beach, cheered on the Knicks at a Miami Heat game, and had a wonderful visit with Husband's Grandma.

December 2
Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

I love food and have several local favourites I can always depend on — The Wooden Monkey's veggie burgers, potato skins at Henry House, and The Foggy Goggle's mac and cheese. For my birthday this year, lovely friend A took me to brunch at The Brooklyn Warehouse, which was a delicious treat (the food and the company). Husband and I also had amazing homemade strawberry lemonade at a restaurant in Florida. The bottomless glasses and 30C heat didn't hurt either.

December 3
What's an article that you read that blew you away? That you shared with all your friends. That you Delicious'd and reference throughout the year.

I read so many articles and blog posts in the run of a day, it's hard to keep track of a year's worth. What articles stood out for you this year?

December 4
What book - fiction or non - touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

I'm enjoying re-reading some my new designed classics, like Little Women. I can, too easily, get into a rut of reading chick lit, so it's nice to read something more substantial. I love getting wrapped up in the language. Next on my list — Jane Eyre.

December 5
Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

I went to see The Rankin family in concert with a bunch of Cape Breton girlfriends back in February. It was a great time — one of the last times we all went out together before many friends moved away. A great memory.

December 6
Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

Through my job, I've had the opportunity to attend a few interesting social media seminars locally and online this year. I'm constantly learning about the advertising industry and neat to see how individuals and brands network through social media.

December 7
Blog find of the year. That gem of a blog you can't believe you didn't know about until this year.

Oh, I have too many favourites to choose just one. Lately I'm loving Down and Out Chic and m.writes. New local must-reads in my Google Reader include Things To Do For Two and Snow Loves. And I must mention my daily reads — Rainy Saturday, Bower Power, Young House Love, Laptops to Lullabies and Magchunk.

December 8
Moment of peace. An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?

Wow. This list really makes you think back. I've been doing more yoga this year than ever before. It's the perfect way to unwind and de-stress, not to mention a perfect workout.

December 9
Challenge. Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?

Though I technically started my job in late 2008, the learning curve really kicked in after the new year. This year, I've made the transition from journalism to advertising. I've stepped out of my comfort zone on many occasions and learned a lot. I'm lucky to be in a position that has evolved with me and being busy and constantly challenged is one of the favourite part of my job.

December 10
Album of the year. What's rocking your world?

I'm enjoy Adele's 19, the Twilight and New Moon soundtracks and Dave Matthew's Band's Big Whiskey & The Groogrux King.

December 11
The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?

As cliche as this sounds, there's no place like home. It's been a busy year, but I love the moments I have to just relax with Husband, entertain friends and spread out my craft supplies to work on projects.

December 12
New food. You're now in love with Lebanese food and you didn't even know what it was in January of this year.

The newest thing on my menu is probably sushi. Sometimes I just crave it. And to my great surprise, Husband has become a sushi convert, too! Making homemade sushi is on our 2009 to do list ... eek, we're running out of time!

December 13
What's the best change you made to the place you live?

If you've been here from the beginning of this blog, you've witnessed many transformations in our little apartment. Our biggest success was probably our furniture makeover in the spring. Instead of spending hundreds on a new bedroom set, we sanded and painted our existing pieces to match.

December 14
Rush. When did you get your best rush of the year?

This is easy. The Rockin' Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios. So awesome.

December 15
Best packaging. Did your headphones come in a sweet case? See a bottle of tea in another country that stood off the shelves?

I'm alway inspired by the beautiful packages I see on Oh, Hello Friend. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to win a giveaway from this lovely blog and the pretty parcel was everything I expected it would be. Love.

December 16
Tea of the year. I can taste my favorite tea right now. What's yours?

Aside from a good, strong cup of orange pekoe, peppermint green tea is my choice.

More to come ... stay tuned!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

worth a thousand words?

I saw this cute design for a Christmas newsletter on Apartment Therapy today, and I started thinking about notes in Christmas cards. I'm working on getting my cards together to send out, and sometimes it's hard to know what to write. Do you just say hello and pass along a holiday greeting? What about for the people you haven't seen in months, or maybe years? Is the Christmas card an appropriate forum to play catch up? As a writer, I love the idea of crafting a short note — sort of a year in review.

What do you think? The Christmas newsletter — yay or nay?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

patience is a virtue

Dear Mr. Singer,

I know it's been a difficult week for us. I've been quite demanding on your time, and as a result, you've lashed out with tension issues and a broken needle.

I resisted the urge to throw you down the stairs last night, and instead called Mum and lovely friend HH for guidance. Thankfully, after a little bobbin re-threading, we came to an understanding and started making beautiful projects once again.

Don't worry, I'll give credit where credit's due and be sure to sign both of our names on the Christmas tags.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

try it tuesday

For my birthday this year, lovely friend A gave me this:

It's basically an entire book full of Try It Tuesdays!

So after a quick flip, I picked this neat idea: Clean tarnished silver with banana peel. Lucky for me, Husband had just made a special trip to the grocery for bananas (we were both having a major smoothie craving).

The tarnished items are the goblets we drank from at our wedding. They were passed down from close friends of my family, and I would like to put them on display.

Here goes nothing ...

After much rubbing on my part, lovely friend A gave it a try, and we had no luck.

The tip says, for tougher tarnishes, to puree the peels in a blender and then use the resulting paste to buff the silver.

My question to the Readers' Digest people is, have you ever actually tried to blend a banana peel? With no liquid involved? Easier said than done, my friends. I even sacrificed one of my favourite bamboo spoons in an attempt to force the peel into the blade.

The book has lots of amazing tips and tricks that I can't wait to try. This Try It Tuesday, however = total fail.

Monday, December 7, 2009

not me monday

— I did not forget to blog all weekend, and there for am not already failing at one of my most important December goals. Not a great start.

— Despite the "winter storm warning," lovely friend A and I didn't go out post-blizzard for our 12k run. We weren't the only clueless runners on the sidewalks, splashing through the slush. We didn't end the run with freezing, soaked feet and wrinkly toes.

— And this week, a special guest star: Last night, while playing a board game, lovely friend T had her own Not Me Monday moment. "$72 million?!" she asked about a trivia fact. "That can't be right. Isn't that, like, 72 and six zeroes?!"

Friday, December 4, 2009

december goals

Whoa. I really hate it when I check in with Blogger and realize that I've neglected to blog for days. Not to mention the fact that we're four days in, and I have yet to establish any goals.

December tends to be a busy month, no matter what. I'm looking at my calendar wondering how it's possible that there isn't one free weekend until the new year. With that in mind, I'm going to attempt to be productive ... startinggg ... now.

— Blog more frequently. And more interestingly. I've got so many projects up my sleeves that I look like a body builder. This month, I will do at least 3 of said projects and write fascinating posts about each one.

— Get up early enough to make nice weekday breakfasts with Husband. Today, we got up in time to make smoothies. It was the perfect start to the day. I'm going to try really hard to remember this feeling when the alarm goes off on Monday.

— Every few months, things start to feel cluttered in our itty bitty apartment. So, I plan to deep clean two rooms. This includes sorting and organizing misc drawers and closets, purging as many unnecessary items as possible, washing windows and the works.

— Have all Christmas cards sent out by Dec. 11.

— Have all gifts bought, organized, wrapped and sorted for their appropriate destinations by Dec. 18.

— Plan for, cook for, buy for, attend and enjoy several potlucks, Christmas parties and holiday dates between now and 2010.

What are your must-dos this month?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

try it tuesday

You know when you're craving chocolate and you don't have any in the house? Except for maybe a jar of cocoa among your baking supplies, but who wants to make brownies from scratch at 9 p.m.?

Work friend A recently forwarded along this tasty-looking recipe that she found on Soap Queen. And it might change your life.

Individual Microwave Chocolate Cakes

2 T flour
1.5 T sugar (just eyeball the 1/2 T using a tablespoon)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
A pinch of salt
2 T milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp oil

Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl (like a cereal bowl). Scrape batter into a mug sprayed with cooking spray. Microwave on full power for 1 minute. Marvel at your creation. Loosen with a knife and tip onto plate.

This is Soap Queen's photo, since my computer and my camera are still not on speaking terms.

We ate ours out of the dishes I cooked (can you say "cooked" about something that spent one minute in the microwave?) them in, with a scoop of cookie dough ice cream on top (lovey friend A had hers without ice cream). And the verdict? A gave hers a 5 out of 10. It was a bit dry. Maybe I have a hotter than average microwave? Next time I might cook them for 55 seconds.

Husband and lovely friend T really all liked theirs, so I think the ice cream helped. I also thought it was dry, but when it comes down to it, beggars can't be choosers, and if I'm having a chocolate craving, this is about as easy as it gets. Total time, including preparation, cooking and eating = 10 minutes.

Monday, November 30, 2009

not me monday

— I did not completely forget about my November to do list. It wasn't just pure luck that I happened to complete most of the items. I am organized and follow my lists to the letter.

— I did not miss the bus on Friday and it was not pouring rain. I was definitely wearing appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather, not a cotton dress with tights and flats. I'm not foolish enough to think that I can outrun the bus, and therefore did not run for. six. stops. to catch it. I was perfectly dry, pleasant and fresh looking when I arrived to work. (OK, but at least I was on time!)

— I did not start a batch of chocolate chip cookies and then decide I was just too lazy to cook them. I always finish what I start. I didn't stick the uncooked dough into the fridge and hope for the best. (This entry is to be continued ... does anyone know if this is actually going to work?)

November to dos: the recap

Wow. November flew. I know, I say that every month. But especially on months that I have lengthy to do lists. Let's see what got done.
  • Craft like crazy in preparation for the FemFest Craft Fair, which is taking place on Nov. 29. At the fair, my lovely crafty friend HH and I will have our first table as Magenta Revolution. The fair was on Sunday and went really well. Together, we sold about $100 worth of crafty items and we learned a lot about the whole craft fair culture. We've already got some great ideas cooked up for next time!
  • Run at least 100 km. I know that sounds like a lot, but it really isn't when you're training five days a week. Hmm. I didn't do a very good job of calculating this, but if I'm right, I think we ran about 95 km this month. I'm pretty pleased with that.

  • Paint the candle holder that I blogged about last week and then forgot about. You may have already read the post (click here). This did not turn out so well, but yes, it did get done.
  • Go see New Moon in the theatre. That's right. I said it. Don't judge. Lovely friend A treated me to the movie for my birthday and I really liked it. I won't say I loved it, since I almost always like books better than movie adaptations. Luckily, there won't be another year-long wait, since Eclipse comes out in June!
  • Celebrate my birthday with Husband and lovely friends. I had a very relaxing birthday this year. I'm very grateful for all the fun and generous gifts.
  • Shower sister-in-law A with lots of love at the baby shower that I am co-hosting with sister-in-law C. This was also over the weekend and was a great success. Lots of friends came, lots of pressies were received and it all went off without a hitch. As an added bonus, C and I got to feel our new niece/nephew moving around Saturday night. We're so excited to meet him/her!
  • Take some time to relax and enjoy at least one pumpkin spice latte. I'm not sure I had another pumpkin spice latte in November, but I definitely had several peppermint lattes! Mmmm. I could go for one right now, actually.
  • Take inventory of all Christmas decorations and plan accordingly. Done and done. I have more Christmas decorations this year than ever before. Things are looking very festive .. though not really feeling so festive yet, since it's still 15+ degrees (Celsius) outside.
  • Start working on some handmade holiday gifts. I'd say I earn a 50/50 on this task. I did some knitting, but haven't started any of my bigger projects, which shall remain nameless because of certain individuals who read this blog .. cough .. Mum and Grammie .. cough.
  • Finalize Christmas card list and continue to work on handmade cards. Have all cards ready to mail by the end of the month. Nope. Total fail.
I am genuinely surprised! Without consulting the list once during November, I still managed to get quite a bit completed. Admittedly, things like celebrating my birthday aren't terribly taxing, so I plan to step up my game with tomorrow's to dos for December.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

date night with a twist

Lovely Amy at Rainy Saturday has a great tradition with her new hubby. Once a week, they alternate a special dinner date. On their assigned night, one of them cooks up a new recipe for dinner. It's such a fun idea — combining date night, new homemade recipes and a little quality time during the busy work week.

It's tough sometimes to find the time to sit down to dinner together. Husband and I often eat at separate times due to busy schedules, or we rush through dinner because we have busy evenings ahead. I love it when, on weekends, we have time to sit down at the table together and actually talk while we eat.

So, starting after the holidays (since our schedules are fairly hectic until then), we're going to try this too. One night a week, we'll trade off kitchen duty and have a leisurely meal together.

Consider this our first, official new year's resolution.

Friday, November 27, 2009

i'm dreaming of ...

... a living room big enough for a lovely sectional sofaaa!

Doesn't have the same ring to it as White Christmas, I know, but you wouldn't want me to sing it out loud anyway. Trust me.

When we get to the point when we're actively house shopping, I hope to find one with a living room big enough for a cozy sectional where we could curl up as a family (me, Husband, Ellie and Scarley, that is).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

colour me festive

When it comes to Christmas decor, I'm a purist — it's red and green, gold and silver the whole way.

This is last year's tree. See why I wasn't in love with it? A little sparse.

I've never been able to stray from the traditional colours. In our home, we also celebrate the Baha'i holiday Ayyam-i-ha in February, so we use blue and silver as our primary colours for that time of year.

Blue I can handle. What about pink? I think my lovely friend HH would like some of these ...

Or maybe you use a no holds barred approach when it comes to festive decor?

When it comes to Christmas decor, are you a traditionalist or does anything go?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

try it tuesday: birthday edition

I have always had a strict no-Christmas-before-my-birthday policy. If I start gearing up for Christmas and decorating before November 24th, my celebrations get all mixed up. One thing at a time, people.

That said, today is my birthday and I am turning 25.

So, to celebrate, Husband and I planned to break out a little bit of Christmas early to savour some delicious candy cane hot chocolate.

But then, work friend JH noted that if, in fact, Husband was supposed to wait on me hand and foot for my birthday, then he should also be responsible for Try It Tuesday, right? What a great idea!

So Husband and lovely friend A took on this recipe, while I sat back and watched tried really hard not to get in the way.

Here is the homemade recipe, courtesy of Martha Stewart.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

10 ounces best-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 quarts milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine chocolate and milk in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until chocolate is melted and milk is very hot and frothy, about 20 minutes.

They chopped that chocolate like pros.

Remove from heat. Add vanilla; pour into a blender, filling halfway.

But this is where things got really interesting ...

Blend, holding lid in place (the hot liquid will expand), until frothy. Serve immediately. Blend remaining milk-and-chocolate mixture.

They snapped the lid on tight and pressed blend — and then they both screamed out words that cannot be repeated on this G rated blog ...

Holy hot chocolate! The hot mixture heated up and softened the plastic of the blender lid, which meant that, even with Husbands hand on top, it didn't exactly stay in place as expected.

Gotta give them credit — they cleaned it up and tried again.

Second time's a charm!

The special twist — add a candy cane for some festive flavour!

Thank for the lovely birthday treat!

But in the name of Try It Tuesday, would we make it again? No. For the cost of the ingredients, the hassle of making it, the time it takes to clean the kitchen when the hot chocolate explodes out of the blender, and the overall taste ... next time, we're going to Starbucks!

Monday, November 23, 2009

romance with novels

Remember these lovely designed Penguin Classics that I blogged about once upon a time?
Well, guess what?! There aren't just 10! There are 20!

I am in love with them!

I may not have mentioned that Husband bought me three of these (Jane Eyre, Great Expectations and Crime and Punishment) for our anniversary — since the traditional first anniversary gift is paper.

And for my birthday, I just ordered these:

I can't wait for them to arrive!

Update: Incase you're interested, these books are available through Chapters online for $14.99 each.

not me monday: birthday eve edition

— I am not now, and have never been, ridiculously excited for my birthday (tomorrow!). I, like all other adults, am completely laid back about it.

— I did not give Husband a list of movies and snacks that I would like to have on hand for my birthday. I did not tell him, in no uncertain terms, that I expect to be waited on hand and foot for the full 24 hours.

— I am not starting to consider anti-aging cream for my face. I am fully aware that age is simply a number.

For more Not Me Monday posts by other bloggers, click here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

25 (almost)

One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get a paid day off for my birthday. One of the wonderful things about my Husband is that he traded his shift so that we could spend the whole day together.

On the agenda — lots of relaxing. In my world, that means movies, board games, delicious food and maybe some crafting.

That means, I have to provide Husband with a list of movies — because the birthday girl gets to pick ALL of the movies!

I'm looking for some suggestions, friends. What are your fave relaxing-around-the-house-on-your-birthday movies?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

try it tuesday

Aren't these cute?

Style Me Pretty recently posted this little pinwheel tutorial for brides-to-be. And I thought, why not for moms-to-be?

Lovely sister-in-law C and I are planning a baby shower for our sister-in-law A, and I thought these would be super cute, and affordable, to add to the decor.

I started this project last night. Folding, folding, folding, while watching Gossip Girl.
The tutorial isn't an exact science — it tells you to "cut 2 strips of paper, equal lengths and equal widths, depending on the size of the pinwheel you want (thicker strips = larger pinwheel)."

So, that's what I did. In retrospect, I should have tried this out on plain paper, rather than risking the pretty paper I had chosen for the finished product. I used scrapbooking paper and cut two strips of equal width. End-to-end the strip measured about 24 inches. My fold were about 1/2 inch each. It all seemed to be working fine, but as I tried to lay them flat .. rippppp. (In my frustration, I failed to take a picture at this interval).

So I put the project aside and gave it a second chance when I got home from work today. I re-read the tutorial instructions as well.

This time, I used cardstock to help prevent rips. I also made the strip longer by combining more lengths of cardstock (= about 36 inches).

Mix of paper = not nearly as cute.

So I decided to give the first one another try. I trimmed off the ripped edges and stuck it together again with extra adhesive.

Et voila:

This Try it Tuesday is a work in progress, but overall, a pretty satisfying project if you can make it work. I'm going to get more paper and try again!