a girl’s guide to looking fab while standing in the pouring rain, begging the tow truck driver not to tow her car…

Okay everyone, we all know of the popular proverb “when it rains, it pours” and if I’m going to be honest with all of you lovely readers, mother nature has been raining on my parade for a few months now.  Since I have already thrown myself a pity party, watched “you’ve got mail” and countless “gilmore girls” reruns it’s time to take that proverbial bull by the horns and take action, and today was a good reminder that if and when it rains and pours, just be prepared and have an umbrella, or a cute hooded anorak.

Let me start this post with a true story, it begins in Chapters where I was helplessy wandering in the self-help aisle.  On my hunt for an epiphany in the middle of Chapters, alternating between sips of my americano misto and the delicious lemon poppyseed loaf I treated myself to, I happened to run into a friend of mine, the time was 2:56 pm.  After about ten minutes of chatting I heard my car alarm, realizing that I parked at a meter I knew immediately why my car alarm was going off -  my car was about to be towed, my parking meter expired at 2:57pm.  I put down the scented candle, stuffed animals for my nieces, and valentine’s day card, and ran down the escalator and outside in the pouring rain with my worried friend behind me.  My faithful dog, Alvin, who was patiently waiting for me to hurry up and reach enlightenment in my local bookstore, was looking at us through the window tail wagging, and eyes questioning.  I ran up to the tow truck guy and said:

“Please don’t tow my car, I will cry right now, I will cry my eyes out!”

He looked a little surprised with what I said, only because (to be frank) I was sick and tired of the rain (literally and figuratively) I need a little sunshine these days.  I begged, I stomped my black sequins Toms on the pavement, and said again – I will buy you a coffee please put down my car”  With the help of my friend and a passerby who said “Bro, you can’t take her dog bro!” and after stepping back and realizing what kind of embarrassing scene I was creating, especially after the perfect comedic timing of Alvin’s tail wagging and the car alarm going off, all we could do was laugh – laugh until my eyes filled with tears, laugh LOUD the kind that comes from the pit of your stomach, laugh because of the irony of me (a grown woman) threatening to ball my eyes out if my car got towed and minutes earlier perusing the self-help aisle of Chapters, and having everyone on the street watch, yes these are problems of the privileged I know.  In the grande scheme of things no problem at all right?  Well, I’m just glad I looked cute when I stomped my foot, pouted, and wined (I got my way, thankfully).  Thanks tow truck man ;)   So ladies, when it rains (figuratively and literally) – here’s the outfit I think you should wear!!!!!!!!

1.  dot umbrella $29 | urban outfitters 2.  marc jacobs heart charm necklace $58 | piperlime  3.  high-low sweater $50 | anthropologie  4.  navy anorak $196 | abercrombie  5.  tulle lace skirt $39 | piperlime  6.  striped navy toms classics $60 | toms

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perfect pairs

Bright colours, basket weave, and espadrilles, oh spring how I love thee (maybe not as much as fall, but after a long rainy winter these shoes and bags are a good enough substitute for the sun…for now).  My must have from this list you ask?  Definitely the bright deep-sea blue Seychelles t-strap wedges!  I love them, and how cute would they be with a little sun dress or a pair of cuffed light denim?  So cute!  1.dolce vita espadrille $79 | piperlime  2. vanessa bruno handbag $153 | shopbop  3. seychelles t-strap wedges $110 | anthropologie  4.  asos handbag $64 | asos  5. vegan bag $115 | matt & nat  6. toe cap wedges $89 | modcloth

 

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i heart you

Who is Valentine’s day really for?  I have to admit that I have always thought that  romantic gestures on Valentine’s day are SO cheesy, aren’t they?  Come on folks, show the love all year, not just on Feb 14th.  With that said, I think it’s sweet to share little goodies with girlfriends, sisters, moms, coworkers…basically the females in your life.  Growing up, my sister and I always received candy and a teddy bear from our cute mom, and I like that little tradition.  Do I expect Shane to rent a limo and send a dozen roses to my workplace?  He better not, will I say no to a picnic and an afternoon walk (no, but we can do that any time right?)  So ladies, stop putting so much pressure on the men in your life (ahem or man, singular not plural) and have a romantic day with your girlfriends instead! Here are some sweet little ideas for you,.  These are my personal picks, making the stressful hunt for gifts easy.  At the end of the day, a batch of red velvet cupcakes would be perfect too….recipe for that soon ;)

Happy hunting,

Jo

1.  tarina tarantino makeup brush set $69 | sephora  2.  sleep set $30-$60 | aerie  3.  paul & joe makeup palette $36 | urban outfitters  4.  sweet almond soap with tin case $9 | lather bee rich  5.  fingerless gloves $25 | modcloth

 

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wide-leg denim

If you’re petite and you think you can’t wear wide leg denim, think again!  Just make sure you wear them with a pair of heels or wedges, and pairing them with a tailored cropped jacket adds height too.  I love this time of year because it’s still cool enough to layer, but warm enough to wear your favourite sandals.  Ring in spring with texture, and colour.  What are you favourite pair of jeans this season, are you into floral or bell-bottom, can’t seem to get away from the skinnies?  Let me know what you find, happy hunting!

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casual day

It can be so easy to take a casual outfit to the next level, with the right accessories.  I bought this cute knit sweater on sale at American Eagle, $40!  Instead of jeans, I wanted to kick it up a notch with a pair of green skinny pants, from Zara also $40.  The Michael Kors boots are a few years old now, purchased at Holt Renfrew, the Theodora and Callum scarf is from Anthropologie, on sale for $80.  For me it’s all about the details, and combining texture with colour makes your look more interesting.  Casual doesn’t  need to mean baggy jeans and a hoodie, putting yourself together and looking good will make you feel good!  You can ditch the heels if you want, this outfit would be equally as cute with a pair of riding boots, or ballet flats.

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Natalie

I love Natalie’s look today.  The high-waisted jeans, the skinny belt, bright cropped blazer, and platform wedge shoes, Nat knows what’s up! I appreciate that underneath the wide pant leg and above the hot shoes, is a secret little anklet that matches the statement necklace no less.  All these pieces are affordable, the jeans and shoes are from urban outfitters, and the blazer is from H&M.  Nat’s basic black long-sleeve tee is from Plenty.  Hunt for those pieces that will make you look like a million bucks, not like you spent a million bucks!

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ready for spring

I am so ready for spring!  All items I’m wearing are from last spring, except for the butterfly blouse (jessica simpson at the Bay, $59), and the beaded necklace, which was a sale purchase recently from American Eagle.  This goes to show that a good pair of white jeans goes a long way.  I always like to go up a size with white jeans, because I feel like tight when wearing white just isn’t right! Did you like that one?! haha, and if you cuff them and wear with a pair of hot wedges, then you’re golden.

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orange and turquoise: an unexpected pair

I love my new tunic from Aritzia, originally priced at $225 – it went on sale for $75!  The burnt orange colour, with the turquoise and gold jewellery looks so regal.  The charm necklace was a purchase during my last trip to Lebanon, I actually chose all the charms myself and had the goldsmith attach them all (it’s actually a charm bracelet attached to another chain to make it into a necklace).  The gold bracelets are my favourite, they are a gift from my little mama – she’s had them for more than 20 yrs and gave two bangles to me and two to my sis.  I love them, not only because they’re beautiful, but because when I was small I always knew when my mom was home because I could hear the clinking of her gold bangles!  Thanks, Mom!  The belt is a purchase from a trade show a few years ago, and it’s handmade out of reused leather.  The cropped blazer is from Anthropologie 2009, and the wedge sandals are from Aldo for $25!    The earrings (bottom right) are used often in my outfits, so much so that one of the jewels fell out!  I still love the soft, daintiness of them, and love the colour palette – they go with everything, I bought them from Artworks in Edmonton.

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cinnamon custard tart with pomegranate and dried fig garnish

For me, the difficulty level of this recipe on a scale of 1 to 5, was about a 4.5!   Not a good idea to try and make custard while discussing the golden globe’s best and worst dressed with your sister (seriously, it caused me to waste about 4 eggs because I didn’t separate them properly, and I also over boiled the milk and vanilla).  That should teach me not to multitask while making a heavy duty tart like this one.  The recipe didn’t call for the garnish of fresh pomegranate and dried fig, but the rough texture of the figs go so well with the cushiony custard and the deep red pomegranate is the perfect jewelry.  Yes this recipe was not the easiest, but it was pretty tasty!  Even Shane enjoyed it, after he announced that he “wasn’t a huge fan of custard”, I had a split second thought of taking the custard and flinging it across the room at him! (instead I made him try a bit).  Well, how would you feel? It took hours to make this dish.   note for 2012: try to get lebanese temper under wraps.  smiley face? no? ok.

Red, I love it.  Isn’t it an exotic, attractive colour?  I LOVE breaking open pomegranate, I feel like I’ve discovered treasure, and these ruby red seeds are packed with flavour.  Be careful, they stain – I splashed my cookbook and it kinda looked like a miniature crime scene.

The fig, custard, cinnamon, and pomegranate taste so yummy together.  If this seems like too many flavours, just cut out the pomegranate – but I recommend sticking with the dried figs.  I love to accessorize everything, and the pomegranate seeds act as the perfect jewels to a great outfit.  I love the colours together, and my favourite thing is plating and adding those final touches that make the outfit ahem, I mean dish, perfecto!

This recipe came from my Cake Days cookbook.

here’s what you’ll need:

FOR THE PASTRY:

110g unsalted butter | 225g plain flour | 80g sugar | 1 large egg

FOR THE FILLING:

500 ml whole milk | 1 tsp vanilla essence | 5 large eggs separated | 100g plain flour | 100g sugar | 1/2 tsp salt | 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter | 1 tsp ground cinnamon for dusting

one tart tin

dried figs and pomegranate seeds (optional)

1.  using a freestanding electric mixer, slowly mix butter and flour until a crumb-like consistency is formed, then add the sugar, then the egg (mixing gently to incorporate)

2.  when the dough forms, take it out of the bowl and knead gently on a lightly floured work surface. wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

3.  once rested, roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of about 1/4 of an inch.

4.  carefully press the pastry into the base and sides of the tin.  cut away any excess. then put in the fridge again for another 20 – 30 minutes.

5.  preheat the oven to 325°F, remove the tin from fridge and cover the pastry with parchment paper and fill with baking beans.  Bake for about 12 minutes.  Remove the beans and paper and bake for another 15 minutes.  Set aside to cook while you make the filling.

6.  pour the milk into a saucepan, add the vanilla and bring to a boil.  meanwhile place the egg yolks in a bowl with the flour, sugar and salt and mix into a thick paste.  add a tbsp of milk if the mixture is still too thick.

7.  once the milk has come to a boil, remove from the heat and add 4-5 tbsp to the egg and sugar paste.  stir until it becomes a thick liquid then pour into the pan with the remaining milk and vanilla and set over low heat.

8.  stirring constantly, bring custard to a boil, for at least 2 minutes in order to fully cook the flour.  when it has thickened, add the butter, remove from heat and cool slightly.

9.  using an electric whisk, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then fold into the custard.  Pour the custard into the prepared tart case and then put in the fridge to set for a few hours.  when you’re ready to eat, dust with cinnamon and add your preferred garnish!

Enjoy!

street fashion

I found Chalitta, and her stylish self, browsing Robson street and looking oh so fab!  I just HAD to take a picture of her put-together self, down to the black stud earrings, the badass stiletto booties,  and the Balenciaga bag – she looks quite adorable indeed.  I do hope that Chalitta’s style (she’s from Calgary) will inspire our Vancouverites to wear less athletic pants, Uggs and hoodies, and more skinny chords, and heeled booties!

add some colourful sprinkles

I didn’t’ bake these.  The adorable cookies are courtesy of my sis, and the gorgeous cake was the result of D.Mervin’s baking skills!  Aren’t sprinkles the happiest baking decorations you’ve seen?  They are perfect for adding that childhood, whimsical look.

I love showing off your culinary skills, so if you want some bragging rights, just email me some photos and I would be happy to post!

floral jeans? yes, please!

Bold prints have become such a norm these days, even the most basic person owns at least one blouse with loud colours or geometric patterns.  I love these jeans, and I love that the pattern is on the bottom, instead of the blouse.  With such a bold feminine print, it’s important to balance the outfit with some masculine pieces.  The pinstripe shirt, and the grandpa cardi (both in neutral colours) help do this. I love the  La Mer watch, I own one in a tan and brown mix, but navy is the new black baby so this piece is a must.  Keep the rest of your accessories simple, wear studs for earrings, nothing that dangles, skip the scarf today, and layer with a cropped jean jacket.  How cute are you?

1. caramel grandpa cardi $60, modcloth  2. tie-front button-down $78, anthropologie  3. La Mer studded watch $122, shopbop   4. citizens of humanity floral jeans $200, shopbop  5. Vince Camuto shoulder bag $278, piper lime  6. Michael Kors wedge sandal $150, piperlime

the last 365

When you look back on 2011, what do you see?  Are you remorseful, are you proud, are you shocked at how 365 days feels more like one week?  The other day I said out loud, “2011 could have been better,”  and like a good older sibling, my sister looked at me and replied “are you serious?  look at all the amazing things you got to do this year!”  I felt a little ashamed, and then I decided to run through what I did do this year, and felt pretty grateful after I jotted it down.

My best friend’s wedding in Mexico started off 2011, in February we all got to go and watch a beautiful wedding and enjoyed the sun and beach for a whole week.

Moving to Vancouver, having it’s goods and bads of course, I always feel a loss for the folks I left behind and a job I once loved, but nothing compares to being close to my family, and waking up every morning hearing the crashing sounds of the ocean and the creaking old wood floors beneath my feet (I love our heritage apartment).  I made some amazing friends in Vancouver too, I am so grateful for that.

I got to actually do something I have always wanted to do, and out of a summer of trying to take a break – I developed hunter and hare, and I’m so happy I did!

My little Alvin (one of our two family dogs) came to live with us, and let me tell you – I would go on far less walks if my little buddy isn’t around to remind me that we need fresh air.

New York and Arizona – I always feel grateful and lucky to be able to travel.

I know we all have amazing days, we all have bad days and I sometimes need to recap an overall picture to grasp the importance of just one year.  There are hills, slopes, and valleys but all in all I would say that 2011 was one hell of a year, and 2012 I’m ready for you!

 

dahlhaus

Does this pottery look familiar to you?  Heather Dahl, a Vancouver ceramic artist was chosen by Anthropologie to sell a select number of her pieces for the Anthropologie Vancouver store opening, they must have done so well because now I see them on the Anthropologie website!  They are all such beautiful pieces, I own a couple myself and have gifted one to my best friend.  The modern and very clean look is gorgeous, and knowing they are handmade and canadian-made means a lot to me. Visit her website directly: dahlhaus — Home.

I have two of these little vases, my colours of choice were light blue and grey, they are currently in my bathroom!

a crisp january day

I love cold mornings when you can see your breath in the air and the weather is cold enough to wear a cozy sweater, but warm enough to not have to cover it up with a parka!  Moving from a snowy city to a rainy one has it’s ups and downs for sure, but as I said to a coworker today: when it’s not raining – Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I love that in January a jean jacket over a pretty sweater is just warm enough.  A cozy sweater doesn’t have to be worn casually, in fact I always love pairing casual with dressy, it’s a good way to create balance in your outfit.  The beautiful open-closure sweater I’m wearing below is from Plenty, the dress is an old purchase but if you like my look you can find similar dresses at modcloth.  The cropped denim jacket, necklace, and leather gloves are from Anthropologie last year, the cut out metallic corset belt was a gift (from BCBG last year), handbag is vintage, and my favourite boots are swedish hasbeens from Umeboshi on main!

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spring arrivals are here!

I get so excited for spring arrivals, especially after a rainy winter.  Look at all these beautiful bright shades!  Looks like colour blocking and stripes are still here to stay, but that’s okay – I will gladly embrace them for another season.  

chroma-kissed floppy hat $58, anthropologie | kaleidoscope earrings $5.80, forever 21 | straightaway jacquard mini dress $168, anthropologie | cropped striped tee $20, american eagle | michael antonio peep toe heels $69, piperlime | boutique 9 t-strap flat sandal $99, piperlime | marc by marc jacobs merida striped cover up dress $195, shop bop | colored sunglasses $10, urban outfitters | Opi nail polish (select stores or online at OPI | colorblock striped scarf $30, gap

tiramisu cupcakes

Leftover kahlúa from the holidays?  Make some delicious tiramisu cupcakes!  Warning: they are quite high in calories and aren’t the easiest to make, but they are a good way to get rid of some of that leftover liquor and you can always share with your neighbours and friends.  Aren’t you up for the challenge now?  After I was finished, my kitchen was a complete disaster, and I am usually the type to clean as I cook, but these cupcakes required my full attention, and I feel great to have tackled another recipe from my Cake Days cookbook by the hummingbird bakery!

Ingredients (will make 12 to 18 cupcakes)

For the sponge:

80 g unsalted butter | 280 g sugar | 240 g plain flour | 1/4 tsp salt | 1 tbsp baking powder |2 large eggs | 240 ml whole milk | 1/2 vanilla essence

For the soaking syrup:

250 ml strong coffee | 75 ml Kahlúa | 3 tbsp sugar

For the filling and frosting:

400 g mascarpone cheese | 50 ml Kahlúa | 300 ml double cream | 30 g icing sugar | cocoa powder for dusting

one muffin tin

Directions:

1.  preheat the oven to 375°, line muffin tin with muffin cases

2.  using an electric whisk, beat together the butter, sugar, flower, salt, and baking powder on low speed until incorporated.

3.  break in eggs, add the milk and vanilla and mix together.  on low speed slowly pour three quarters of the wet ingredients into the four and butter mixture.  once everything has been mixed together, scrape down the sides of the bowl to pick up any ingredients that were missed, then add the rest of the milk mixture and mic the batter again, ow on medium speed until smooth.

4.  divide the batter between the paper cases, filling them two-thirds full.

5.  bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  Let cool.

6.  meanwhile our coffee and Kahlúa into saucepan and stir in the sugar.  bring to a boil and reduce by about half.  set aside.

7.  make the frosting: using an electric whisk, beat the cheese and Kahlúa until smooth, mix the cream and icing sugar in a separate bowl until soft peaks form, then add this mixture to the mascarpone and Kahlúa mixture.

8.  when the cupcakes have cooled, use a sharp knife to cut a piece out of each sponge (about 2 cm in diameter).  pour 1 tsp full of the soaking syrup over each cut out piece and another tsp into the hollow part of the cupcake.

9.  fill each hollow to about halfway with the mascarpone cream, then place the cut out pieces of sponge back on top of the hole, covering the filling.  lastly, frost the cupcakes with the remaining mascarpone cream and dust lightly with the cocoa powder.

inspired by the adventures of tintin

Did you watch or read Tintin when you were younger?  We just watched the movie and LOVED it.  The graphics were unreal, and I was inspired by the visual set design and backdrops.  The entire movie, the colours, the attention to detail, and the realistic graphics made me want to recreate Tintin’s outfit into a modern day look for myself, and also had me wanting to create a Tintin ambience in terms of housewares.  His apartment in the movie was cozy, and the look was specific and had a library feeling to it.  Anything can be inspiring, even a childhood icon!  PS I am totally going to wear this outfit, as soon as I collect all the pieces!

1. blue jumper $79, topshop |  2.  floral trench $52, modcloth  |  3.  white chiffon shirt $57, topshop  |  4.  jbrand skinnies $179, shopbop  |

5.  lace-up oxford bootie $79, piperlime  |  6.  faux leather handbag $85, mod cloth magnifying glass $16, anthropologie | framed art (prices vary), allposters | curtains $108, anthropologie | banker’s lamp $300, inspired by light | desk $390, pottery barn | rug $349, ikea | moleskine notebook $12, amazon | arm chair $349, urbanoutfitters | chair cushion $98, anthropologie | model ship $95, silver gold buyers on etsy | doggy dish $20, four r designs on etsy

 

photo credit for image of tintin: talesofaluciddreamer (i do not endorse this site).

my NYE outfit

Have a wonderful, safe, and happy new year everyone!  This is my outfit of choice.  I was inspired by the hand crocheted vintage gloves that used to be my mom’s.  I just love them, and tonight is the perfect excuse to wear them.  The dress was a gift from S, last Christmas, and the coat is from Anthropologie.  Have the best 2012!

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walnut and honey loaf

Another recipe from Cake Days for my quest to actually make everyday special (as noted by the tagline of the book).  This one was a hit with the family, and it was thoroughly enjoyed with a cup of coffee on Christmas morning.  I was very grateful for my lovely new stainless steel measuring cups, among other treasures that I was gifted with this year.  Good measuring cups to a recipe, is like having proper undergarments to your outfit…haha, it’s true!  You need a good foundation or the end result might turn out a bit sloppy.  In case you are wondering, I did very well in the analogy portion of all my exams in grade school and university.

1.  preheat oven to 325° F, grease loaf tin and lightly dust with flour.

2.  cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, using an electric whisk.  Break in eggs, one at a time, and mix well.

3.  sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then add to batter in two stages (mix on low speed).  Mix in yoghurt, vanilla, and half the honey, then stir in walnuts by hand.

4.  pour batter into prepared loaf tin, and bake for 50-60 minutes.

5.  while the cake is cooking, place the remaining honey in a small saucepan with 50ml of water, and bring to a boil, allowing the syrup to reduce by about half.  Pour the warm syrup over the cake when it comes out of the oven, then leave to cool in the tin for a while before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

6.  enjoy with family and a pot of coffee, yummy!

everyday glam

I love sparkly things, in small doses of course.  Today I chose to mix old with new, the blazer is a purchase from last winter, and I’m so happy I bought it – gold sequins on a black blazer is quite the glam look.  I think what I like most about the blazer is that it can be worn casually, and I mixed it with my favourite Levi skinnies, herringbone gloves, a subtle turquoise necklace, and my new bag and boots!

How cute are these lace ups?  I got them on sale for $56 from $110, at Little Burgundy!  Get them online, here.

The stacked heel adds extra comfort, I walked around in them all day.

The gorgeous bag from Club Monaco was a recent sale purchase (in stores only), originally retailing for $300, it was marked down to $199 with an additional 40% off, so I got it at about $120, and I love the colour combo.  This bag is the right shade for all seasons.  Sometimes I feel like my dark chocolate browns and mahoganies are only appropriate for fall/winter, but this lovely little catch will be my arm candy all year long.

Ways to relieve holiday stress.

I want to know from my lovely readers, are you boxing day shoppers?  Do you enjoy the crowds, and do you feel excited when you get a good deal?

This is all just a segway into what I’m about to say next, the second that the clock strikes midnight and christmas day turns into boxing day, I dread the frenzy that is sure to ensue.  Here’s the thing, being in the retail industry, I  worked many a boxing day and I actually don’t mind that because the energy is high and the day flies by, but from a shopping perspective I just can’t handle walking into Zara and seeing a mountain (literally) of ghosts from seasons past, all the sad and damaged apparel that didn’t make it into someone’s home.  You better believe that with the frenzy of shopping, comes angry drivers, line budding, elbowing, needless arguing, and bad manners.  This season can be hard for me, especially because shopping can sometimes be a way to relieve stress, so when the shopping itself becomes stressful, here are a few things I do.

Today wasn’t my best day, no…can you tell?  I’m a little flustered, and so the first thing I do to calm my nerves always is to call my sister, where she offers reasonable and helpful advice, and the next thing that follows is in the list below.

1.  baking:  it helps me focus on something other than the stressful day I just had, and at the end of it you have a delicious treat.

2.  a hot bath: I mean real hot, like almost uncomfortable, and adding some bath salts (lavender for a sense of calm) is a good idea!

3.  Billy Madison: I don’t need to explain this one do I?

4.  Peppermint tea:  hot, and calming…you can’t go wrong.

5.  Chocolate of course:  might sound typical, but really – some chocolate is always soothing, dark chocolate and a glass of wine, superb!

At the end of it all, if you want to relieve stress, don’t allow yourself to reach that point in the first place…remember to:

let things go | laugh it off | do better next time | don’t be hard on yourself | forget about it!

cherry cupcakes

From my last post, I had cherries in syrup that were leftover – so I decided to make some cherry cupcakes.  I’m making everyday special by enjoying the little things, including baking a delicious recipe from my new cookbook Cake Days, by the Hummingbird Bakery.  In the recipe for the cherry cupcakes, the book calls for kirsch-soaked cherries, but since I had the leftover cherries in syrup I just substituted.  Email me if you would like the modified recipe!  These cupcakes are so worth not being able to do up the zipper on your favourite skinny jeans.

Look at that rich red, I love it.

In go the cherries to make the fluffy and delicious batter.

the buttery frosting…

Be careful when you add the cherries to the frosting, try to take out as much of the syrup as you can.

You can see that the frosting looks a little melted, but I could NOT wait to try one – so I iced it while it was still a little warm!  I’m so impatient, but I wanted one so bad!

coffee and chocolate loaf with cherries and liquor-soaked apples

I got an early christmas gift this year, Cake Days – the newest Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, and I love it (thanks T and E!).  The tagline underneath the title is “recipes to make everyday special”, and it has inspired me to really try and make everyday special.

I decided recipe numero uno will be the cocoa coffee cake, because it’s exactly what I was craving.

After it cooled, I cut it into slices.  I decided to dust some icing sugar on top, and I served with cherries in syrup and added these amazing little liquor soaked mini apples as well.  If you serve this little concoction with a dark roast coffee, it’s seriously delicious.  It presents well too, I gave a container to my neighbour and on the side had the fix-ins with a card that said “serve with black coffee,” it’s a cute little gift.

This is what you’ll need:

190g unsalted butter, room temp | 130 g flour | 190 g soft light brown sugar | 3 large eggs | 60g cocoa powder | 1 tsp baking powder | 20 ml whole milk | 1 tbsp strong coffee (brewed and cooled) – just spare a little from your morning pot!

you’ll need one loaf tin, and if you don’t already have a scale, you should really go out and get one – it helps me keep my measurements precise.

1.  preheat the oven to 325°F

2. whisk together sugar and butter, then add eggs one at a time

3.  Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder.  Mix in a small bowl the milk with the coffee.  Add the dry ingredients to the batter in two batches, alternating with the coffee-milk.  Mix well.

4.  Once all ingredients have been incorporated, pour into the greased loaf tin.

5.  Bake for about 1 hour or until the sponge is firm.  Allow to cook for a while in the loaf tin before turning it out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Serve and accessorize with syrupy cherries or fruit and liquor, make sure you serve with a fresh pot of coffee…so soothing and yummy!

 

chewies, vancouver

While walking in our neighbourhood, we noticed a new restaurant and got super excited!  In Vancouver a good new place to eat within walking distance is awesome, and we’re lucky to live near 4th ave, but being a foodie means options are important, so off we went to try Chewies Steam and Oyster Bar.  Their full website isn’t up yet, and I found a spelling error, but I’m gonna let it slide because the service and the food was the best I’ve had in a really long time!  I know I say that a lot because I’m in the business of praising versus bashing, but seriously it was SOOOO good.  We sat at the bar facing the kitchen, so we got a great view of the chefs preparing all the amazing dishes.

I wanted to try a classic creole dish, jambalaya.

…and this was a meal on it’s own, to be honest it was a little too spicey for me, and much too large – I think I drank a quarter of it.

These delicious little treats are just fancy doughnuts called beignets, served with a chicory coffee sauce and heavily dusted with icing sugar!  Hot deep fried bread? Yes, please!

le marché st george

My friend Kylé always takes me to the best places.  Yesterday with two starbucks in tow, I visited her in her lovely little apartment, and we decided to go for a walk.  If you were in Vancouver yesterday, then you know how sunny and beautiful it was.  There’s no snow on the ground, but you can see the white-capped mountains, and your breath in the air.  We walked through a beautiful cemetery and made our way to Le Marché St.George, an extremely well curated shop and café.  With a great selection of unique foods, and accessories for the home, I couldn’t stop looking at everything.  It was all just so beautiful.

A couple of london fog’s with a hint of holiday liquid cheer (shhhh, just a touch of bailey’s).

yum, olive and cheese crostini.

…and an amazing side of risotto, we devoured it.

 Make sure you check out their website here.

new year’s eve party dresses and shoes

Sexy: Feathered and jewelled pumps are Enzo Angiolini from Piperlime $129.  Sequin party dress is by C.Luce, also Piperlime $74.

Romantic: Chiffon flower peep toes by Hoss Intropia for Anthropologie $448.  Flickering Slip Dress from Anthropologie $198.

Sweet: Bow pumps by Badgley Mischka for Piperlime $160.  In Love with Life dress from Modcloth $298.

Edgy: Studded peep toe shoes by Sam Edelman for Sole Struck $155.  Striped and strapless dress by BCBGMAXAZRIA at Nordstrom $318.

if you’re a lover of cats…

Have you seen these hilarious Jeffrey Campbell shoes?  Aren’t they cute?  Yes, they’re cats.  The motif is adorable and honestly I didn’t even realize they were cats until I took a good look at them.  A few of the lovely gals I work with are cat-obsessed, so it was quite fitting when Emma walked in with these in her shopping bag – I say good purchase!  Just don’t wear a detachable tail please, and thank you.  Oh and Jyll, if you’re reading this, I wonder if you want a pair of these? If any of my fashionista readers are interested, you can buy the Jeffrey Campbell platforms in cat tapestry at  Sole Struck (free shipping world wide), or stroll over to Little Burgundy and take a look at them in person.  How cute would they be with pinstripe skinnies?

inspired by SJP, but can’t get the Valentino and Jimmy Choos?

Did you watch Live! With Kelly today?  If you did, you got to see Jonah Hill co-host and SJP as a guest.  I could not get over her dress!  I LOVE, LOVE it, but folks it’s Valentino and though one day I know I will have a Valentino piece in my closet, for now I have to find things that look similar, with a reasonable price.  I loved her look from head to toe, and the tights are amazing, so here it is – I’ve concocted the outfit for you, with pieces that have much better price tags.  I always say that you absolutely do not need to spend a fortune to get the look you want, and everything below can be paired with many other pieces that you have in your closet right now.  The only trendy item would be the tights, and that’s why you’re only spending $15 on them, the dress is classic and can be worn even 5 yrs down the road, so be smart when you buy things and you won’t feel like you’re spending money needlessly.

Photo credit for Sarah Jessica Parker: JustJared

Necklace – from Piperlime, by Tinley Road – $38

Even Flurry Dress – from Anthropologie – $168

Hobo bag – from Shopbop by Rebecca Minkoff – $495

Swing Coat – from Topshop - $145

Turquoise tights – from Topshop – $15

Platform heels – from Piperlime by Sabine – $40

Perforated belt – from Piperlime by Vince Camuto – $60

Jackie O sunglasses – from Urban Outfitters by Ray-Ban – $139

chive and cream cheese biscuits

Are you invited to a potluck this holiday season?  If so, these biscuits are so easy and are great to bring to a potluck!  I made them for dinner today to go with my hungarian goulash (see previous post).  Now that I’ve made the goulash many times, I don’t need to follow a recipe as thoroughly, therefore I can focus on baking or making delicious treats to complement the goulash.  Cooking involves some planning and organization, especially for someone like myself who still needs recipes (I’m not the kind of person to throw a bunch of things in a pot and come up with a gourmet dish).  I need measurements, and steps.  I clean the entire kitchen, sanitize my work surfaces, prep my ingredients, tie on my apron, hair in a pony tail, wash hands, and off I go.

I had fresh chives in my fridge, and I only needed to pick up some cream cheese, everything else was in my fridge or cupboard.  The recipe comes from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, which was a gift from my sister (thanks, B!)  See my progress below!

Fresh, beautiful chives – look at that beautiful green.

This part is important, folding the dough in thirds and rolling it out and repeating a few times.  Then it goes in the fridge for half an hour, which allowed me to clean up the kitchen and get started on the goulash – organization and preparation makes the world go round.

The finished product, they are as good as they look, flaky and SO delicious!

Present them on your prettiest serving dish, with parsley and dried apricots for colour, or pack them up and take them to your potluck, they travel well and won’t dry out.

Here’s the recipe:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, and some for dusting

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

1/4 chives

1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces

4 ounces cream cheese, cold

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1.  whisk together all dry ingredients, and chives.

2.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter and cream cheese until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.

3.  Pour in the buttermilk, using a fork, mix until incorporated and the dough comes together.  It will be slightly sticky, do not over mix.

4.  Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface, and gently knead out about four times.  With a lightly floured rolling pin, gently roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick.  Then fold the rectangle into thirds (like a business letter).  Roll out the dough and fold into thirds again.  Do this one more time, then wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

5.  Return the dough to the floured work surface.  Roll out and repeat the folding process two more times.  Roll out into a rectangle for the last time, divide the dough into 12 equal squares, out on a baking sheet with parchment paper (about 1 1/2 inches apart from each other).

6.  Put in the refrigerator for another hour.

7.  Pull out of refirigator and bake in a 425° preheated oven, for 15 to 18b minutes.

8.  Cool, and serve on your favourite serving dish with a pretty garnish.

 

my first real christmas tree

I really wanted a real tree this year, I love the smell and they are just so pretty.  We went to a nursery outside of Vancouver and chose the perfect fir tree to bring home.

How pretty is this holly?  It’s beautiful for decorating for the holiday season.

Here it is, my lovely little tree with all my favourite ornaments – including the gorgeous vintage ones my mom bought me from the antique store last year.

gifts for guys

Guys can be hard to shop for.  Every year I have to try and top what I bought the year before, and it can be hard.  This year, I got a few questions as to what to get for a guy that’s thoughtful, and dear lord PLEASE don’t give him “coupons”  that is SO cheesy, seriously ladies we’re better than that.

The first thing you need to remember is that guys are simple, ohhhh yes they are, and don’t tell yourself otherwise.

I love the iCade!  I want one myself!  If you got him an iPad last year, then this is a good little gift for this year.

I always find that my bf likes experiences far more than things, so concert tickets, or tickets to a comedy club are a good idea for someone like him, and that’s also a great gift for someone that you’ve just recently started dating, it’s something you can do together, and is not hard on the wallet.

Swiss army knife: your initial thought is “typical” but actually it’s a great gift, my dad loves his and it comes in handy, really!

For the hipsters in your life, the turntable is a good one, as well as the USB amp speaker (both from Urban Outfitters).

The Fossil watch is hot and it’s less than $150, which is a great price for a men’s watch that looks like this – this is for a serious bf ladies, do not spend this amount if you’ve gone on three dates.

The vintage Nintendo – I would want one too (we already have one), but how fun is that?

The bag is Swiss Army too, and I think it’s cool and practical – good for a male friend, brother, etc.

Lastly, we all know the way to a man’s heart – and it involves cooking, chocolate chip cookies are always a good idea, for boyfriends, friends, or family.

Here is the list of products and prices, happy holiday hunting!

1.  iCade from ThinkGeek – $80  |  2. Show tickets – ticketmaster (prices vary)

3. Vintage nintendo from Ebay (prices vary)

4.  USB amp speaker from Urban Outfitters – $24

5.  Swiss army knife from Victorinox Swiss Army - $30

6.  Stainless steel black watch from Fossil – $145

7. Standard backpack from Swiss Army - $50

8.  Portable turntable from Urban Outfitters – $160

9. Chocolate chip cookies! – $10 for ingredients

 

stop stressing before you travel!

Travelling can really make you feel anxious and a little stressed.  The airport line ups, the stern security guards, the piles of people looking lost – I used to be this way, I was nervous anytime I had to go anywhere.  After a while you stop seeing airports in this light, every time I’m in an airpot now i find it exciting, the line ups actually go quite fast, the stern security guards are just doing their jobs and are usually quite nice, and the piles of people looking lost usually look that way because they’re looking for their family, loved ones, or whatever.  Part of the travel stress that some people experience comes from what to pack in your carry on.

Are you someone who checks your bag or carries on?  I guess it depends on the length of the trip, but even if I’m not taking much – I’ll check my bag because I don’t want to have it with me while in the airport, and it allows me to zip through security, and be able to explore the airport without an annoying bag on wheels!  I always get the “what if it’s delayed?” question of concern.  The one time I had a mix up with luggage was (funny enough) the one time I chose to carry on.  We were in the Newark airport and the overhead bins in the plane were FULL so they had to take our carry-ons and check them anyway – which of course made them delayed.  Also, that’s were my handy little VISA platinum comes in.  I pay a fee annually for this card, but it comes with automatic travel insurance (including an allowance for you to use to buy necessities if your bag is delayed).

I see so many people that have loads of things in their carry on, and it looks so uncomfortable and disorganized – airports are like shopping malls, therefore if you are ever in NEED of anything, chances are, you can get it there.  With all that said,  I try to keep it light and simple so I can enjoy my airport experience, sipping on an americano misto, people watching, and blogging about it to you, my lovely readers.  Note:  I might do a “what to wear while traveling” post because it surely won’t include flannel pajama pants and an oversized Arizona State University t-shirt.  Let’s save the world one carry on and one outfit at a time!

xoxo

Jo

My passport, visa, iphone, and macbook are all my NEEDS when I travel.  I bring with me: baby lips lipgloss, a roll on perfume (I use Poppy by Royal Apothic), and the latest issue of Marie Claire (it has good articles that will pass the time), and don’t forget a pen, you need it if you travel internationally to fill out your customs card on the airplane!

 

Sprinkles, Scottsdale AZ

We went to Sprinkles in Scottsdale and I had an amazing red velvet cupcake.  For me, a properly made red velvet cupcake indicates a great cupcake shop.  Anna had vanilla with sprinkles, of course and we were both so happy with our little afternoon sweet treat.  It’s no wonder that Sprinkles was voted America’s Best Cupcakes!  I read recently that the cupcake trend is “out”, which I think is so funny because I didn’t really think that good food can go out of style, if I ever hear someone say “I don’t want that cupcake because cupcakes are so 2008″, I think I’ll seriously start to be concerned about mankind.  I can understand that maybe they were overdone in terms of weddings, but who doesn’t love a delicious cupcake?  Anyway, I had a great time exploring Scottsdale and I am happy I was able to indulge at Sprinkles.

I love the minimal decor inside of the shop, it was very clean and well-represented.  The gals working there were just as sweet as the cupcakes we ordered, and informed us that they get one free cupcake every day, so cute! Surprisingly, all of them were tiny little things – I would instantly gain 5 to 10 lbs if I worked at a place like this!

I love these!  They are cupcake mixes in every popular flavour.  What a great gift idea, you can add a cute apron or a funky cupcake tray or pan, and there you have it – a sweetly themed present for the bakers in your circle.

Who wouldn’t want to receive one of these packages, so cute!

 

pizzeria bianco

Anna took me to a lovely not-so-little pizzeria in Phoenix.  Would you believe me if I told you we happily waited 2 hours to get seats?  It was fine, since we snacked on appetizers at the “waiting” restaurant next door, (in affiliation with the pizzeria).  I had the Sonny Boy, a salty mix of salami and olives, Anna had the Wise Guy which included fennel sausage and wood-roasted onion, and Anna’s friend Collin had the Biancoverde, which was the best of all and included arugula, and ricotta.  I don’t know why I chose the one with salami, I think I was trying to be different, because normally I would have chosen the arugula concoction.  Let’s just say that the night before involved certain activities where you want anything but healthy greens, and salami sounded pretty darn good at that moment.  Not the kind of pizza that can be reheated and enjoyed later – and mine was just too salty for me, but Anna’s was delicious, and we had a caprese salad which was mouth-watering to say the least.  I normally would have enjoyed a glass of wine with this, but again that was the last thing I wanted after last night’s shenanigans.  Oh well, that’s what traveling is about – doing stupid things (don’t worry mom, not that stupid) with your amazing friends.

photo credit for outdoor shot of restaurant: The Fresh Loaf

photo credit for indoor shot of restaurant: Pirate Heart Studios