So many chives, so little thyme…(ha!)

Summer is here. She snuck in overnight; hidden until today by rain, wind and booming thunderstorms. The sun is shining and my gardens are teaming with mint, basil and chives; all ready to be muddled, minced and whisked into mojitos, salads, dressings and omelettes. My potted chives are back with a vengeance this year. They are full of blooms and for about a month now I have been snipping off stalks to add to my salads and eggs.

Fun chive facts:

  • Did you know the entire plant including the bulb and flowers are edible?
  • They generally grow back every year and are so hard to kill many refer to them as the “gate-way herb” for helping people find their green thumb!?
  • Don’t have a garden? Stick some in a pot and they will be just as happy on your balcony or in a sunny window!
  • Chives like full sun, they enjoy being well watered and the more you cut them back, the more they continue to grow.
  • They have a light onion flavour that adds a fabulous summery taste to anything from potato salads to homemade salad dressings.

Last week I was touring around Instagram (as I do) and was too busy admiring a pretty flower filled mason jar to realize that it was full of chive blossoms. Honey and Butter, a local company known for their beautiful cakes, inspired jellies (like lilac and champagne!), cookies and curd had filled a jar with white wine vinegar and chive blossoms to make an infused vinegar. It was brilliant and beautiful.

Taking a page out of their book, I filled up jars with my myriad of blossoms (which I de-bugged and rinsed thoroughly), a sprig or two of thyme and I promptly drowned it all in white wine vinegar. My plan is to let the jars infuse for a week or so (it gets more purple with each passing day!) and then strain them with a cheese cloth. I figure the final product will elevate my salad dressings, roasted veggies and anything that vinegar generally tastes good on! Small jars would make beautiful and thoughtful gifts for friends and the hosts of summer BBQ’s.

Happy infusing all!

Ps. I am officially finished of the first year of grad school and work is providing a little extra downtime- expect more posts!

DSC_0055DSC_0066DSC_0071DSC_0076DSC_0077DSC_0085DSC_0098

“Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas.”- Johnny Carson

Trust me. I am not one of those people who starts Christmas just as the Halloween candy is just being discounted. I am a mid-December decorator, firmly believing that less is more and that Christmas music shouldn’t be blaring in malls country-wide until December 1st is upon us. That said, I have a tendancy to get most of my shopping done over the year, slowly picking away at it as inspiration (and sales!) comes my way.

In mid fall I try to get a little preserving done and that usually comes in the form of hot pepper jelly (find recipe here) . Every single year my stove top almost catches fire as I try my best to catch the boiling point of sugar just before it hits the “raging inferno” territory. Every single year I have delicious hand-made hostess gifts and neighbour gifts that almost cost me my stovetop. They are also a perfect stand-by for people who stop by your house unexpectedly with a gift for you (we have all been there). This year I decided to step away from the fussiness of jelly (sometimes it doesn’t set properly /sets your stove on fire) to try my hand at a holiday chutney. What inspired me were the enormous bags of cranberries that were on sale for less than two dollars after Thanksgiving and the fact that my love of a bargain left me with twelve pounds of cranberries taking up almost every square inch of freezer space.

Turns out chutney is far simpler to make than jelly, you can easily double the recipe as it relies soley on natural fruit pectins to thicken it and the flavour combinations are endless. Chutney makes an incredible addition to any charcuterie board, pairing well with a variety of cheeses and even standing up to heat when baked on a brie. Chutney is great served with pork and/or chicken and when it combines cranberries, fragrant spices and a touch of cognac, it pretty much sings out Christmas spirit.

Find the recipe below and happy holiday prepping everyone!

-M

Christmas Cranberry Chutney

Yields 12 1/2 cup mason jars

(adapted from American Heritage Cooking but some “artistic liberties” were taken)

You will need:

  • 3.5 cups of whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 3/4 cup of seedless raisins (you can omit if you hate them)
  • 1 and 1/3 cups of white, granulated sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1.5 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground all-spice
  • 6 ounces of water
  • 3 teaspoons (you can omit, use less or use more!) Grand Marnier or cognac/brandy
  • 1/2 cup of finely sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup finely diced hello onion
  • 3/4 cup of diced apples (peeled and cored)

Method:

  • Combine cranberries, raisins, water, sugar and spices in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until berries really start to pop.
  • Add celery, apples, onion and liquor. Stir well and return to simmer, simmering for at least 15 minutes or until the celery, onion and apples have broken down. I personally chopped my apples roughly so they held a bit of their shape- your call.
  • If processing and canning, pour hot chutney into sterilized/still warm jars, apply lids and process in a hot water bath for at least ten minutes. Follow other processing rules you prefer, that is just how I do mine. Jars that have sealed (lids popped) properly can be stored in a cool dark place for a year or so. Ones that did’t seal properly will be good in the fridge for a few weeks.

csc_4412dsc_4413dsc_0001

 

dsc_0009dsc_0012

“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”- C.S.Lewis

2015 has ended and I have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for friends that have grown to be family, new beginnings and evenings that lasted till the early morning. 2015 sent dozens of challenges my way beginning with a new job (unlike any job I have ever had before!) and ending with me taking control of my health and being better to my body.  2015 brought weddings and new babies to many of my close friends. I traveled, I made new acquaintances, I strengthened old bonds and was often reminded of how lucky I am to have such a strong, supportive (and sometimes loud) family. In 2015 I worked hard, that hard work usually paid off and I was reminded again and again of how much I have to be thankful for.

As for 2016; what are my wishes for myself?  I wish to continue to make my health a priority, I wish to read more, I hope to finish all of the projects that I begin and I want try my best at being a kinder person.

What are my wishes for you?  I hope you challenge yourselves, that you take opportunities when they turn up and that you don’t say “maybe” when you really want to say “no”. I hope you take the time to see the beauty in your surroundings and that you take the time to be good to someone other than yourself.

Now that the formalities are out of the way I wanted to share a little project that I was working on throughout the fall. For Christmas I refinished the cutest little hutch for my sister. I bought it off of a friend for $30 dollars and with a paint sample, some sand paper, a coat of varnish and a little elbow grease, it had a total transformation. I cleaned up the original hardware and I lined the drawers with a lovely piece of high end wrapping paper that I snagged at a paper shop for just $5. The entire project cost about $40, maybe $45 if you include the supplies I already had on hand.

Happy 2016!

-m

DSC_0624DSC_0629DSC_0639DSC_3698DSC_3700DSC_3701DSC_3706DSC_3708DSC_3712DSC_3715

 

 

 

“Life is a great big canvas, throw all the paint you can on it.”- Danny Kaye

Don’t get me wrong, I love my middle aged house, in my middle aged neighborhood, in the city that I adore. Win, win, win. I love at least 86% of what my house has to offer, which is a great statistic. It’s cozy, has a great yard and it is full of character. Sure, the kitchen is the size of a postage stamp and I am currently saving for all new windows but those are things I can change with time, money and patience. What I can’t change is the lack of storage that often comes with homes built 50+ years ago. It is an issue I grapple with on the daily. I have three closets, one of which is a “coat closet” that will fit three coats total (two if they are heavy winter ones). My hats, scarves and mitts live on a shelf that I can’t reach without a step stool, a ladder or a tall person’s assistance (I am gravitation-ally enhanced, standing a full five-foot-nothing with shoes on). I do find this just a little bit aggravating. Unfortunately I can’t easily change the footprint of my house to include better storage, nor can I go back in time (where is Doc and Marty McFly when I need them?) to convince the contractor that an extra closet and maybe a slightly bigger kitchen would be beneficial for potential re-sale value and the future owner’s mild case of OCD.

The answer to my “winter gear conundrum” came to me while I was cleaning out my bedroom closet (seriously, just a PSA, I think I may hoard clothing…I donated bags and bags!) and I noticed the little black dresser that I came to own after my sister moved to Fredericton for school. This dresser is solid wood, a little too big to be a nightstand but not quite big enough to be used for sweaters and it had been left by previous tenants in one of the old apartments my sister called home while she was in school. Knowing I would one day find a purpose for it, it was placed in my closet to be used to house bathing suits, tights and all other random apparel that didn’t quite have a place.

I took it down to my entry way and it just so happened to fit the small nook next to my stairs but to be honest, it looked like crap. It had previously been painted with a high gloss black paint that was too shiny and chipped. Really though, it was nothing a little paint couldn’t fix. I bought a sample sized paint at Home Depot for $2.97 and I found some satin finish Varathane deeply discounted because it had a dent in the can (bonus!). A quick sand, two coats of paint, another quick sand (with some fine grit paper to distress it a bit) and two coats of Varathane later, I now have the perfect place to store my mail and all of my winter gear where I can easily grab it (without the use of a chair or step stool….). Total cost $11.00 taxes in, total time to complete the job, 1hr without drying time! Another example of how paint can breathe new life into almost anything! Happy up-cycling and re-finishing all!

-m

DSC_0375DSC_0377DSC_0379DSC_0385DSC_0399DSC_0393DSC_0389DSC_0391DSC_0410DSC_0409

To Improve Is To Change..

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”- Winston Churchill

Change can be hard. I recently transitioned to a new role at work and everyday I am faced with new experiences, challenges and expectations. It isn’t always easy to get into the swing of a new job when things are so vastly different to what you are used to and to what would be your comfort zone. The change has been good and I have learned a tremendous amount about myself and about my career path. I encourage everyone to mix it up every few years whether it is with a career change or even something as simple as a different hair cut or colour of paint on your walls. It often takes change to realise what you like, what you are good at and it usually takes change to continue life long learning.

I have lived in my house for over three years and the fireplace has been one of the only things I have been hesitant of changing. It is a focal point in my living room, it’s original to the house and consists of a white, pre mid-century style mantle with simple scroll work and boxy sides. It has bronze brushed black brick and it really is quite lovely.  A couple of years ago I elected to paint the inside turquoise as I felt the black that was originally there was a little black hole and didn’t allow me to showcase my little stove or my lanterns, it just kind of sucked everything into it’s darkness. Black to turquoise was a big change and I loved it! But for some reason painting the brick white, although it has been on my mind from the get-go, was too big of a change. I feared I would regret it and that it would take away from the character and charm that my little middle aged home naturally possessed.

Fast forward to last week. For some reason I got up the nerve to crack open the can of “wedding white” semi gloss paint I had painted the trim and mantel in originally. I grabbed a brush and just spontaneously “went for it”, mildly regretting it the second I started. Turns out, brick is a real b*tch to paint. The seams and creases were so deep I eventually had to revert to using a small paint brush to get into all the cracks and crevices. It took three times longer than I anticipated but boy did it ever look lovely when I stood back to inspect my handy work. The room magically seemed to open up and even appeared a little larger. Yay! I was however, faced with a predicament. My mirror was dark brown and stood out like a sore thumb. Not being emotionally attached to the mirror  (I have have had it since my very first apartment on my own), I bombed off to the shopping centre checking out my favourite haunts for a nautical, light coloured mirror to suit my needs and the room. I was in no luck. Everything was heavy and dark or far beyond the meagre budget I had set for myself. I did however pick up some great, brightly coloured throw pillows for half off, which turned out to be a great pick me up and room brightener. I also picked up two miniature lampshades to update the hideous sconces that frame the fireplace. When I got home the mirror was still irking me so I went to the basement and pulled out a small sample jar of paint that had been deeply discounted at a hardware store because it was, you guessed it, a mis-tint. It just so happened to be mint green and I very sloppily slapped it on the mirror. I didn’t hate it, I put it up lengthwise (why hadn’t I done this before?!) and turns out I had just what I was looking for all along and all it cost was a foam brush and one dollar. If that isn’t thrifty, I don’t know what is! I then decided to paint the interior of my front door with the rest of the green paint on a whim. Guess what? It is great! Change is a good thing my friends. See some poor before (it was so spontaneous I forgot to take pictures!) and some of the finished project below! Happy changing all!
-m

Before…sorry for the poor quality!
After!!
The brick was awful to paint…
Awful little sconce shades before..
Door before…well started!

I Believe in Pink…

” I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing a lot. I believe in being strong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is a new day and I believe in miracles.”- Audrey Hepburn

Pink. Every single person who knows me assumes my favourite colour in the whole, wide, world is pink. Why? Because the front door of my house would make Barbie envious. It is the pink that every little girl wishes she was allowed to paint her bedroom. It packs a punch and nearly blinded all of my neighbors when I painted it (it had always been traditional black). I have a confession, pink is not my favourite colour. I don’t really have one, I love mustard yellow, mint green and turquoise. I love black clothing, peach blush, white tulips and red shoes (…and red wine). The only time I opt for pink is when I am buying or applying lipstick. Nothing in my house is pink, it is all greys, blues and mints. I painted my door pink ’cause I wanted something modern on an otherwise traditional house. A pop of character.

The problem with painting your door pink (and really, it’s the only problem) is that you then have to decorate the exterior with complimenting colours. Traditional red and green Christmas wreaths clash, flower choices look best when they are pink and white. This year I opted for the first time to not buy hanging baskets. My front step is breezy and they just dry out so fast, it is almost impossible to keep up with their thirst. Instead I filled my flower pots with begonias, impatiens and dusty miller and I filled my window boxes with corn flowers and sweet peas. It looks lovely, but without the hanging baskets, a little something is missing.

As a rule I hate fake flowers. No offense to anyone, but they never look authentic and they are dust magnets. The only time fake flowers are acceptable is if and when you live in the Arctic tundra, or somewhere fresh flowers don’t grow and aren’t readily available (I swear, I am not opinionated). They are also OK in flower crowns because let’s face it, flower crowns are gloriously fun. Today I broke my rule. I bought a grapevine wreath for six dollars at a craft store and half a dozen bright pink silk (gah!) flowers to affix to it. I don’t know what possessed me. But with a little hot glue and some strategic placement of the fake (sigh…) flowers, I ended up with a pretty cute little focal point for my bright pink door. The wreath cost a total of eight dollars taxes in and you can find pictures of my adventure to the dark side of fake flowers below!
Happy crafting/beautifying !
ps. first time not using my iphone and using my fancy camera, hence the kitty at the end!
-m

My Fake Plants Died….

“My fake plants died because I didn’t pretend to water them.”-Mitch Hedberg

So lets talk succulents. The often soft, waxy cacti that have quickly become one of the biggest trends indoor gardening has seen in years. Modern design shows, pinterest and hipster-esque terrariums are practically teeming with succulents of every shape, size and color. Most succulents are drought resistant, storing water in their leaves and stems. There are hundreds of different varieties but the most commonly found ones include jade, aloe and Christmas cactus’s.

Being trendy, these little green jewels can be hard to find and when you do they can be greatly over-priced. I found an air-plant at a local market for over twenty dollars and little non-potted varieties for as much as thirteen bucks a plant in local flower shops (!!!!). I have also found succulent workshops which look amazing but the price tag of seventy odd dollars is a little daunting to make a centrepiece. You can imagine my surprise when I found just what I had been looking for all along at the Superstore this weekend. In the floral department they had oodles of succulents in adorable lime green and white pots for only $3.99! I picked up three and took them home. When I got home I hunted in my pantry and found a small, oblong plate I had purchased at the dollar store that just so happened to fit all three tiny pots. What resulted was an adorable little centrepiece that is modern, on point with trends and that takes up the empty space where my tulips usually sit during tulip season (which sadly, has just ended). This cute little display cost about $17 dollars and I couldn’t be happier with it!

Now that I am the mother of some new plants, I had to do a little research on how to keep them happy and healthy. Here are some tips to keep your succulents alive….

  • Don’t over water them, they don’t like the TLC we are used to giving to many of our other house plants. Only water them when the soil is completely dry. Over watering can cause the roots to rot and your lovely, plump succulents to shrivel and die.
  • Don’t place them in extremes. Extreme sun, extreme heat, extreme darkness and extreme cold can be damaging to the little guys. Reasonable temps and light is what these guys want, you may have to move them around to help achieve this. General rule is a foot or two away from a window that gets good light (not on the window sill), they can sunburn!
  • Feed ’em. This one surprised me a bit in my research. They love a little extra nutrition and succulent food is cheap at flower markets and on line.
  • If your little plant isn’t growing, it may be pot bound. They need a little room to expand and grow, sizing up a pot may be exactly what they need. If you do re-pot, try to make sure the new soil is damp before you transplant. This will allow all of the roots to have access to moisture from the beginning.
  • Lastly succulents require pots that have good drainage. Whether it is a pot with a drainage hole or a good, thick layer of gravel before the dirt goes in, they really do hate saturated soil. Remember many of these little gems are desert plants, they get a soaking from the rain and then they dry out and the cycle continues. They won’t dry out efficiently if there is no drainage.

Happy planting all!
-m