September Sauerkraut

Hellloooooo. After a brief summer hiatus, I’m back. I say “summer”, but to be honest, it went by so quickly that I barely feel as though I had one. Not that I’m complaining though. We spent some quality time with our wonderful friends, had lots of family time and, of course, enjoyed the beautiful fruits (and vegetables!) of our labour from our amazing garden. Other than that, we’ve both been putting in some extra time at the office and working our asses off. Now that September is here, I feel like it’s time for me to devote some extra time back to the things I love: projects!

After an unsuccessful powder room lighting project – sad face – I’ve decided to get back in the kitchen and tackle a new food project: sauerkraut! There is a lot of buzz out there right now about how insanely good-for-you fermented foods are, especially when it comes to your gut. We’ve been incorporating sauerkraut into our diet for some time now, with a couple of tablespoons on the side of eggs and bacon being my personal favourite use. While delicious and insanely good for us, it ain’t cheap. So I’m going to try making my own! I mean, why not?

I’ll admit that I always thought sauerkraut would be a really complicated thing to make at home. After a little bit of research, I’ve since learned that it’s actually insanely simple. All you really need is cabbage and salt. We planted 3 cabbage plants in our garden in the spring that are now ready to eat. We harvested two this morning and tackled two different flavours: Classic Caraway and Garlic Dill Pickle. The process for both types is the exact same.

IMG_8369

Classic Caraway Ingredients: 1 medium cabbage, 1-2 Tbsp corse sea salt, 1-2 Tbsp caraway seeds.

Garlic Dill Pickle Ingredients: 1 medium cabbage, 1-2 Tbsp corse sea salt, 2-3 pickling cucumbers thinly sliced, 5-6 cloves of garlic finely chopped, large handful of dill.

Directions:

1. Peel the rough outer leaves off the cabbage, cut in half and chop. If, like me, you’re taking the cabbage straight out of the ground, then watch out for slugs. Bitches slugs love cabbage.

IMG_8375

2. Add the chopped cabbage to a bowl with half the sea salt. Massage the salt into the cabbage using your hands until it starts to wilt and release liquid.

IMG_8378

3. Chop the other half of cabbage, add to the bowl with the rest of the sea salt and massage again.

4. Add other ingredients if you’re making one of the above flavours, or keep it plain by moving straight on to step 5.

5. Start scooping the cabbage into a 1 litre mason jar and pack it down. Like really pack it down. I used a pestle (from one of my mortar and pestles) and it worked like a charm. As you pack it down, you’ll see more liquid – the brine – come out. Scoop and pack. Scoop and pack.

IMG_8381

6. Once it’s all in, you’re going to place a smaller jar with water in it on top to act as a weight. This will help keep the cabbage pressed down under the brine. It is imperative that the brine level stay above the cabbage to allow the fermentation process to happen, without any bad bacteria or mold forming on the cabbage.

IMG_8395

7. Lastly, top the jar with some cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber band. The cheese cloth will allow air-flow and gases to escape, and will keep dust and bugs out.

IMG_8405

Now, we wait! For the first couple of days, I’ll leave both jars on the kitchen counter to keep an eye on them and make sure that there is enough brine to keep the cabbage submerged. Then I’ll move it to a shelf down in the basement where it can ferment. From what I’ve read, you can leave it for as little as one week, or as long as 2 years. I can’t wait to try it! If it tastes as good as it looks, we may never pay $12/jar at the store again!

IMG_8412

 

I’ll keep you posted with their progress!

– C

A little paint goes a long way.

Finally, we have a few days off. Which means lazy mornings, sleep-overs with Daisy and a couple of DIYs that we’ve been putting off for the last few weeks. It feels like ages since I posted a DIY and this is one that I’m particularly proud of. One of the selling features of our house was the quaint little porch. We’ve got a table and chairs out there, some plants and in the corner a bright little plant stand. At least it used to be bright. After 2-3 seasons in the sun, the once fabulous coral red has faded badly:

IMG_0622 IMG_0623

Ugh, it looks so sad. I could have just thrown it out and bought something new. But the shape is pretty unique and other than the fading it’s in great condition. So I thought I’d try painting it instead. Let me rephrase that: I thought I’d ask Tyler if he could paint it instead.

We debated painting it a nice bright white, but opted instead to go with a softer almond colour to match the railings and trim on the porch and a ceramic stool that we have out there as well. We used this brand, which is a primer and paint all-in-one. Then to add a little whimsy I decided to tape off the bottom third and spray it with some left over metallic gold – I mean, why not right? The result is just fabulous!

IMG_8363

I love love love it! Here’s a closer look at the gold:

IMG_8366

I easily could have gone out and dropped $20-$40 on something new to fill that space. Instead, I spent $6 on a can of spray paint and wound up with something that LOOKS like it cost a fortune! That’s a win, if you ask me.

Happy DIY-ing!

– C

 

Garden Madness

Finally, today, I was able to get out in the sunshine and snap some picks of our blooming garden to share with you. We planted this year’s vegetables and herbs just two weeks ago, thanks to some unexpected, late-season frost. I hated waiting so long, because growing my own food has quickly become one of my favourite things about the summer.

A quick recap for you – three years ago we planted our first garden in the backyard. One 4’x12′ simple, raised bed filled with delicious produce from our friends at L & D Ferragina in the Holland Marsh. It was meant to only be a trial to see how we did, but we very quickly got hooked and last year, we built two additional beds and raised the original to make it twice as deep. Following last year’s tremendous success – thanks in large part to the huge amount of rain we got and the rain barrel we installed to catch it all – we decided to once again add on this year. We raised the two other beds so that now all three gardens are 20″ deep. In total we have 136 square feet of growing space filled with beautiful, rich Marsh soil from Bradford Greenhouses. And we have literally filled all of it, jam packed, with what is sure to be enough veg to feed the entire neighbourhood. We have 10 varieties of tomatoes, 12 varieties of hot peppers, including jalapeños which I’m super stoked about, 6 varieties of lettuce, kale, cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, cucumber, pickling cucumber, beets, golden beets, kohlrabi (new this year), peas, green beans (new this year), brussels sprouts, spinach, 2 varieties of eggplant, bunching onions, red onions, white sweet onions, yellow sweet onions, vidalia onions, red peppers, green pepper, and probably more that I’ve forgotten already. I shit you not, that’s all in there. On the berry front we added two haskap bushes to our arsenal along with last year’s blueberries, raspberries and black berries, which thank god that adorable bunny didn’t completely destroy in the winter. As well as two beautiful fig trees gifted to us by some friends! And let’s not forget the herbs: 3 types of beautiful, fragrant lavender, chives, garlic chives, thyme, rosemary, basil galore, camomile, oregano and a pig planter full of mint to keep the rodents away. Overwhelmed yet? Me too. But I’m also super excited to see what works and what doesn’t. Plus, look how beautiful it all is!

IMG_8242 IMG_8244 IMG_8249 IMG_8251 IMG_8255 IMG_8258 IMG_8259 IMG_8271 IMG_8273IMG_8274IMG_8277IMG_8282IMG_8287IMG_8289IMG_8294IMG_8295

IMG_8299It’s so fun and completely rewarding to watch it all grow. And there’s nothing quite like the feeling of harvesting from your own crop, preparing it and serving it up to family and friends.

Happy gardening everyone!

-C

Library Makeover

FINALLY. Our library (aka front spare bedroom) makeover is complete! Well, complete enough for me to share it with you. I mean, let’s be honest, nothing in this house will ever be truly complete. As I write this, I’m already working through the next project in my mind. But, I digress. Back to the library.

If you’ll recall – this is what it looked like before. Those shelves – yikes! We went from dark, brown and heavy to white, bright and airy. Here’s what the room look likes now:

IMG_8198

So fresh. The bookcase, of course, is the real showstopper:

IMG_8203I colour-coded the books like a crazy-person and then layered in some of our favourite things: photos of all our gorgeous nieces and nephews, mementos from our travels together, framed accomplishments and family heirlooms.

IMG_8215 IMG_8222 IMG_8224 IMG_8225 IMG_8227 IMG_8229 IMG_8230

I’m beyond thrilled with the result. Everything just seems to work together so much better now. The chairs. The antique tool box -come-side-table. The sewing-table-turned-desk. The basket of to-be-read books on the floor. Even my $5 pineapple lamp with brand new gold sequin shade looks fab.

IMG_8207 IMG_8216 IMG_8218 IMG_8233 IMG_8240

I can’t wait to curl up in here and read, or even – dare I say it – work. Maybe this new room will even help me get through The Girl on the Train. Anyone else struggling with this read? At least when I’m done with it I’ll be able to add it to the appropriately coloured shelf!

- C

The Day I Met Sarah

Today was a good day. Sure, I worked ten hours straight and spent so much time staring at the computer that I began to hallucinate boxes on top of photos that weren’t really there… BUT my spectacular lunch break more than made up for it. And guys, it didn’t even involve food. I know, crazy right?

Today I got to meet someone that I very much admire and who has inspired and continues to inspire me in my designs and decor endeavours. That someone is the wonderful Sarah Richardson. She was signing copies of her aptly-named book Sarah Style at Costco. I sent my mum to line up for me at 11am and thank goodness I did because when I got there just before noon it was snaking through the insanely huge club-pack sized aisles.

When it was our turn in front of Sarah, she was every bit as lovely as I had expected her to be. We made casual conversation – my mum embarrassed me by saying “Oh, you’re her idol! She left work today to come see you” and I whispered awkwardly “My boss is actually at the back of the line!” (which incidentally, she was – ha!). She signed my book and even took a photo with me:

IMG_0213

^Look at my face. What a dorky fan-girl smile. But I was excited!

I have admired Sarah’s work for a very long time. Her “Sarah Style” speaks to my “Claire Style” in it’s simplicity – neutral backdrops with pops of colour, mixes of old and new, high style paired with vintage bargains. I wish there had been more time today. She’s the kind of designer – no, the kind of person – you want to sit in a quaint bistro with, sipping a cup of tea and chatting about how much you love mixing stripes with florals on a neutral sofa sitting atop an antique persian rug, ya know? Maybe one day. In the meantime I will pour over her book and watch her new show: “Sarah’s Rental Cottage” on HGTV and see what new tips and tricks I can pick up. And of course I’ll read and re-read the inscription in my book which so perfectly sums up the happiness that I get out of decorating (and redecorating) my home.

IMG_0214

 

– C

Pho-nomenal yum.

Ab-Pho-lutley Pho-bulous, Pho-nomenal, Pho-king, Pho real Pho.

There’s just no other way to say it. This Vietnamese beef rice noodle soup is insanely popular right now and it’s really no wonder. It’s super tasty and full of flavour and, as I found out this weekend, it’s also super easy to make yourself. Follow this recipe (that I modified from one my friend sent me), invite over your favourite friends and wow them with a Pho that rivals even the best restaurant in town.

*I’ll warn you – while this is a really easy dish to make, it does take some prep. You can’t just decide on a whim to whip it up. I started on Saturday with the broth, to make the soup for dinner on Sunday. Don’t worry though – it is 100% worth it.

Ingredients:

  • 3-4lbs of beef bones
  • 1 large onion halved, then quartered
  • 12-14 cups of water
  • 1-2 pods whole anise seed
  • 5 large slices ginger
  • 1 Tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • dry rice noodles
  • 1/2 – 1lb top sirloin beef
  • chopped green onion (to taste)
  • chopped cilantro (to taste)
  • basil
  • lime wedges
  • bean sprouts
  • hoisin sauce (to taste)
  • sriracha (to taste)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Place bones on baking sheet and roast for 60 minutes until golden brown.

IMG_7319

2. Place onion on second baking sheet and roast in the same oven for 45 minutes until onions begin to blacken.

3. Place bones, onion, star anise, ginger, salt and fish sauce into slow cooker and cover with 12-14 cups of water (or whatever you can fit!). Set it and forget it for 12-20 hours – the longer the better.

IMG_7338 IMG_7340

4. Strain stock into a large saucepan so that you’re left with only the liquid.

IMG_7345 IMG_7356

^look at that colour! Definitely the richest broth I’ve ever made. I added more salt at this point because I like a salty broth. Use your judgement and salt to taste if you think it needs it.

5. One hour before you plan on eating, place the rice noodles in a bowl of water and let soak for 45-60 minutes.

6. While you’re waiting, prep your other ingredients. Grab your sharpest knife (it needs to be like seriously sharp) and slice very very thin strips off your sirloin steak (against the grain to keep it super tender). Chop up your green onion and cilantro. Set aside. Prep garnish by putting a bowl of bean sprouts and a plate of basil and lime wedges on the table.

IMG_7379 IMG_7384

IMG_7361 IMG_7365

7. Bring a pot of water to boil, transfer noodles and boil for 1-2 minutes. Bring stock to a boil.

8. Place noodles in a bowl, top with strips of sirloin, green onion and cilantro.

IMG_7387

9. Pour piping hot broth into bowl. Let stand for 1-2 minutes until all the pink is gone from the beef.

IMG_7390

10. Top with bean sprouts, ripped-up basil, lime juice, hoisin sauce and sriracha. Stir and devour.

IMG_7394

Enjoy!

– C

 

#30 Axe-travaganza

Today is my love’s birthday. Like the good Irish lad that he is, he was born on St. Patrick’s Day. Every year is a party, but this year is particularly epic in that he (finally!*) turns 30.

How did we celebrate? With a surprise axe-throwing throw-down with some of our best friends – natch. For the past month, I have been planning this birthday axe-travaganza and my lovely, adorable Tyler had NO. CLUE. The surprise couldn’t have gone any better. We hit up BATL (North York location) with 9 of our of dearest. If you haven’t checked this out before, I highly recommend it.

After about an hour of practice and instruction from our two coaches, we entered into a round robin tournament where they pit us against each other as we BATL-ed for points into a final show-down to crown a winner. There were bullseyes, clutch shots and cake. Here are some of the highlights:

IMG_7200

The man of the hour loving every minute of it.

When we were eventually pit against each other in the tournament, it was destined to only end the way it did, in a dead-heat tie. The tie-breaker: THE BIG AXE. Here we are in a heated battle of Rock-Paper-Scissors to determine who would throw first:

IMG_7224

 

Sidebar: this photo perfectly sums up our relationship. Look at our faces. Ridiculous.

IMG_7229

Ty mid-big-axe-toss. He nailed it for 3 points.

Thanks to our buddy Rich, I have this bad-ass video of my big-axe toss:

Boom! All those years of baseball really paid off. I’m actually quite proud.

Everyone had a total blast.

IMG_7175 IMG_7185 IMG_7189 IMG_7211 IMG_7238 IMG_7250 IMG_7266 IMG_7270

^This is the “Irish Car Bomb” cake from the fabulous Sweet B’sChocolate stout cake filled with whiskey caramel sauce topped with Irish Cream icing. Are you drooling on your keyboard? It’s ok, it was unbelievably good.

It all came down to these two beauties in the final:

IMG_7281

And then the unthinkable happened and my girl Vanessa nailed the most perfect clutch shot to take the whole tournament.

IMG_7283

Here we are, all axed out:

IMG_7287

The day was a complete success and I can’t thank everyone enough for coming out to celebrate the wonderfulness that is Ty.

It was tough to follow this up with a good birthday gift, but I think I succeeded. I opted for something meaningful. With the help of the amazing MofE shop on Etsy (check out her stuff – it’s gorg!), I had custom artwork made with the lyrics from the theme song of our absolute favourite TV show: Psych. If you haven’t watched it – you must. We have watched the entire series 10 times – easily. The artwork looks even better than I had envisioned, and looks amazing hanging on the wall in our great room. And he loves it.

IMG_7297

IMG_7296

When I turned 30 I couldn’t even bring myself to say it – I spent the entire year telling people I was “twenty-ten”. When I asked Ty how he feels about turning the big 3-0, he said “I don’t know…I guess it’s time to grow up!” – guys are so weird.

Enjoy your St. Paddy’s Day today and raise a Guinness to the one-and-only Ty Wachna on his special day.

- C

*I hit this milestone 3 years ago, so when I say “finally!”, what I really mean is FINALLY.

Always seize the deal, my friends

Fate. Destiny. Serendipity. Whatever you call it, this was truly meant to be.

Let’s take a little journey back in time, shall we. November 2014. Me, in my element, weaving through the aisles of my local HomeSense. I stop. There it is. A totally awesome piece of artwork that I knew right away would be PERFECT for our bedroom. Did I grab it and sprint directly to the checkout like I should have done? Nope. I committed the cardinal sin of HomeSense shopping – I balked. With a price tag of $150, I knew I had to walk away. Over the next couple of months, I watched it get dinged and scratched and broken as no one else bought it. With the glass broken out of it, it slowly got marked down – $100, $75, $50. By the time it got within my price range, I balked again at how beat up it was. And then, one day…

It was gone.

But not forgotten.

I was full of regret – of course. Why didn’t I just grab it? I’m not afraid of some “as is” damage. After all, our dining table has a huge chunk missing off of one corner, that we’ve been saying for 4 years that we are going to glue back in place one day – and because of that it was a cash & carry steal at 80 bucks. I can often be found in the “scratch and dent” section of any store looking for a deal, a mark that can be turned towards the wall or a chip that can be filled in. But alas, I had paused a moment too long and now the perfect piece of artwork was gone forever.

Or was it?

Fast forward to last week when scrolling through my Facebook news feed I see on the Bradford Buy & Sell group THAT VERY PIECE! Whomever had purchased it from HomeSense in the new year was now re-selling it for – wait for it – $15. Come on. I’ve never jumped at something so quickly. I arranged pick-up that night. It was as dinged and broken as I remembered. The woman who bought it had halfheartedly tried (and failed) to paint over a couple of the marks – bless. And there’s still no glass in it. But I don’t care. Sometimes the more  imperfect something is, the more I like it. It was meant to be mine.

Today, we hung that beauty up in it’s rightful place at my bedside to forever remind to “Wake up. Seize the day. Go to bed. Repeat.”

IMG_7102

 

Fundraising Fitness

Today, I vow not to move. AT. ALL.

It has been a fitness-full couple of weekends. Last Saturday, we both participated in an in-house competition at CrossFit Bradford. It was an absolute blast. Sure, I finished the day with a panic attack after many unsuccessful attempts at a wall-walk (the control-freak in me simply CANNOT handle being upside-down) – but 3 WODs in one day with one of my favourite girlfriends as my partner was still one of the funnest ways I can think of to spend a day. Look at these post WOD #1 smiles:

IMG_9923

This weekend our fitness took a philanthropic spin as we participated in the 2nd Annual Move Your Paws for the Polar Bear Cause at the Toronto Zoo. Fact: we love the zoo. And any opportunity there is for us to participate in their programs, or help support their research and conservation efforts, we’re there. They truly do amazing work. All the proceeds from yesterday’s event went to their Polar Bear program. We opted to run the 5K, which seemed like a great idea until the temperature decided to drop to unparalleled lows. That being said, we weren’t going to let the cold stop us from the fun. Here I am, frozen to the bone, with my participant medal:

IMG_9912

 

So fun. So cold.

This week, I’ve also got the Inside Ride on the docket. Proceeds from this awesome event go to the Paediatric Oncology Clinic at our local hospital – I can’t even imagine being or having a child with cancer, and having to travel to Toronto every few days for treatment. Having those services readily available in our community is phenomenal and makes a terrible and trying situation just a little bit easier for everyone involved. It’ll be my first time on a stationary bike in more than a year, which I am pumped about. As Team Captain it’s my job to help keep my team motivated as each one of us takes our turn at 5 minutes on the bike to go as far as we possibly can. If you would like to support us, you can RIGHT HERE.

Combining fitness and fundraising is really a win-win for everyone. Though my body is taking a bit of a beating, my soul feels all warm and fuzzy seeing so many people rally behind such great causes.

Keep the kindness coming world.

– C

 

I’m celebrating!

I’m celebrating. All day. It’s a big day.

Today marks one year of being back in the world of the working. After 13 months of unemployment in 2013-14, this is truly a special milestone for me.

To celebrate, I brought some AMAZING mini cupcakes into the office to share with my wonderful co-workers/friends:

IMG_9766

 

Did you just lick your screen? It’s ok. No judgement. If you are looking for cakes/cupcakes, I highly recommend Sweet B’s – her stuff is to die for. And she’s pretty lovely too.

I’m also celebrating by wearing my awesome new hunter green faux-leather skirt from Zara – THAT I GOT FOR $12!! “End-of-season clearance sale” = the most wonderful time of the year.

IMG_9758

 

Skirt: Zara | TIghts: Zara | Blouse: Old Navy | Booties: The Bay | Earings: Kate Spade

Smile: free

– C