Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shop: Lululemon's Hot Yoga Onesie

Ok, I LOVE Lululemon. And I love yoga. But this onesie? Not so much.

Photo by LuluLemon

I get that hot yoga is, well, hot. The least amount of clothes, the better. And that many of the lovely ladies at yoga classes have bodies that illicit enough confidence to wear such a contraption. But it just seems so attention seeking, so 'music video'. Being truthful here, I would have a hard time not gawking at someone wearing that in my class. I know, I know, it's my problem, not hers. Very un-yogi of me. What makes matters worse (or makes me a worse person, either way) is that I would end up staring at the woman because she is either so fit that the suit looks amazing or she is so not fit that I'm staring at a fashion catastrophe. Yep, I'm a bad person sometimes. It's not my fault, adults wearing onesies bring it out in me.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Shop: BR Belted Sheath at 50% off, allelujah!!

I succumbed to the 50% off sale at Banana Republic. But I was good. You know.... for me. I bought only three of the allotted five items that the coupon was good for. Two of my purchases were camisoles. We all know those aren't really fun things to buy anyhow but I have to, every now and then. I hate spending money on an extra layer of (skin toned) clothing that is never meant to be seen. But alas, see-through blouses in the office are a bit of a faux pas regardless of what the recent flock of summer student interns seem to think. Even worse than having to buy these camis is having to buy them at full price. I tried going cheaper at places like Dynamite but they fall apart so quickly and just don't feel as nice, so once or twice a year I stock up on a few of these bland little numbers:

Photo courtesy of BR
The big purchase was this dress, which I have been eyeing since it came out:

Photo courtesy of BR
Photo courtesy of BR
When it first came out I hesitated as I tend to do and just like that, my size was sold out online. Which I took as a sign that I shouldn't buy it. But then the 50% deal appeared from the heavens (ie. inbox) and I thought, if it's there in my size and it fits...well, that's a sign too, isn't it? When I showed up at the store it was available in my size AND in both the black and grey colours, well... More signs! After trying it on in grey and deciding that I did indeed like the fit/cut, I went back to see if I liked the black better but it was already gone. I then rationalized that it was a sign that the other dress was taken in the 5 minutes I was gone; that it was a dress worth having because it was so coveted! Yep, that's how my mind works; somehow I've developed superstitions related solely to shopping. I swear, I am far more rational minded in regular life....but I reserve a whole other logic (or lack thereof) for shopping.

As I was paying, I overheard the woman beside me asking if there was a sale. She didn't have a coupon and the sales people were pretty much giving her a tough luck speech, so I asked if I could cover her purchases with the rest of my coupon, which, to my surprise, they allowed. She was really grateful and I felt good about sharing, Which kinda takes the edge off the shoppers remorse (but not really).

Friday, August 24, 2012

Eat: America's Test Kitchen Blueberry & Lemon Muffins

 I was feeling inspired to make blueberry muffins after seeing all the fresh fruit at the Jean-Talon market a couple weeks back. I've made muffins from scratch a handful of times, but I use to tweak all my baked goods recipes to make them whole wheat and/or low fat, which often left me with heavy, dry results. This time I decided to reviewed a few recipes for something flavourful and not overly healthy (I'm working on this whole enjoy my food but eat less concept!). At first I considered a Barefoot Contessa recipe but it seemed so high in fat that I opted for a recipe that I found in an America's Test Kitchen cookbook instead. It was during my grocery run for ingredients where I made the most crucial mistake. The recipe called for low fat yogurt, which I selected but I decided to get all creative with it and get a Greek-style version. I figured I liked the taste and texture better than the regular, so how could it not be a better muffin? (This is what we call: foreshadowing)

When it came time to make the muffins I assembled all the ingredients and to my dismay, the mixture looked very, very dry. I could barely get my spatula through the mix. Then it dawned on me...the thick Greek style yogurt has a lot less moisture. I kept adding more yogurt until the container was empty. The mix was still too thick and now I had definitely over mixed it. I had to add water and eventually even some half & half to loosen it, but the damage was done. I ended up with 16 muffins instead of the intended 12 servings, and they cooked much faster than suggested.  But look at these photos! By appearance alone, I honestly think they look amazing. Deceivingly beautiful but unfortunately they are somehow both moist and tough all at once. The chewiness is very distracting from the taste which is actually really nice; the lemon rind and tang of the yogurt pair so well with the moist bursts of blueberry. It's a baking tragedy, sniff... easy enough to remedy next time, but I can't help but lament the loss of fantastic raw ingredients.

I really need to heed my own advice: the first time you make a recipe, avoid the temptation to modify it. Once you have a final product, its much easier to see the intended result and then make tweaks or modifications based on personal taste for the next time.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shop: At 50% off, can anyone resist??

Banana Republic makes sure I am never lonely, they email me multiple times a week with new product info and sales online or in-store. I woke up to yet another Banana Republic email this morning, but this one was...special. Keeping in mind that I JUST splurged on an order from BR, I was already telling myself to avoid the siren song and keep some of my hard earned money. But BR must have sensed a disturbance in the force, because the email I got today was for 50% off on up to 5 regular priced items. You don't get a better deal that that!!! I'm not sure I can resist...okay maybe not 5 items, but at least one or two? Fall clothes, I mean come on, they are everyones favourites, right?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shop: The reason I'm smiling to myself for what appears like no reason at all

I have a few things to do today that I'm not looking forward to, so I decided that an extra helping of cute is in order. Let's see if it helps!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Drink: The Bootlegging continues....

Last night marked the end of the required 7 days of marinating fennel fronds & seeds in vodka to prepare the alcohol base for Finocchietto. The next step was to prepare a simple syrup; which was as easy as it sounds. Melt sugar in water, bring up to a simmer then cool to room temperature. Once it cooled, I strained the vodka directly into the simple syrup mixture, stirred and stored the sealed bottle in the refridgeator. Somewhere in the middle of all this I messed up; I forgot that I made aproximately 3/4 cup of simple syrup more than what was needed, but only remembered AFTER I strained the vodka directly into it. My only saving grace might be that I played with the syrup recipe to begin with, as many online reviews indicated that the amounts given in the recipe make more of a caramel consistancy than that of a syrup. So I cut back drastically on the sugar in the mix but added too much of the syrup to the alcohol. Sigh..... I will let the flavours meld in the fridge for a few days before having a taste but I'm hoping the end result is salvagable. I tiny taste before I put it away makes me think its quite close to what I tasted in Italy, even the colour is pretty spot on. Maybe I should start thinking of making my own moonshine labels!

Fennel seed & frond marinating in vodka
About to pour the flavoured vodka into the simple syrup
Final Product, syrup and alcohol combined

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Drink: Bootlegging, part deux

Tonight I started my second bootlegging project; this time I'm trying my hand at Limoncello. Started the base, which will marinate for about ten days before I add simple syrup. Lets see how it goes!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Shop: First thoughts on this year's September issues

I went on a quick errand last night on the way home to get two fall essentials: a slice of carrot cake at Cho'Cola and pile of September issues. I'm subscribed to InStyle and Elle Canada, and I'm lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a magazine trade that gets me Glamour and Cosmo (albeit a month behind but free, so why not?!). So I decided to pick up Vogue, Elle and Harper's Bazaar. I thought I'd park my car and take a leisurely 4-5 block stroll to the cake and magazine shop, but I didn't account for the return trip with what I think amounted to 10 pounds of magazine and a fragile piece of cake. The cake make it home with most of the icing intact but the bag for the magazines tore and I found myself schlepping the magazine on one shoulder like a sack of potatoes. It must have been a sight.

Just a quick note from my precursory scan of Elle; it looks like booties, either high heeled or wedged are in for this season. I have a pair of black high heeled leather booties that I think will work well, despite the fact I wobble precariously when wearing them. Maybe they will get dusted off for the season. Getting more use out of a pair of shoes that you thought were 'over' is fantastic! But the wedge booties....eeehhhhh....not sure yet. I wore lots of platformed and wedged boots in the 90's and I'm not terribly nostalgic for the style. When I see the pictures of myself  I think "lunar landing". I also think these shoes might look better on long lean legs rather than short, large (ahem, athletic!!) legs so I'm a bit apprehensive of adopting the style.

Image courtesy of Elle.com

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Eat: Barefoot Contessa's Cheddar Corn Chowder

It's beginning to be the time of year when we see bins of corn at grocery stores and markets all over the city. All the cooking magazines for the past month or so have features devoted to selecting and preparing corn. I am definitely a fan, although having braces inhibits me from enjoying a good ol'fashioned corn on the cob. I was thoroughly envious this past weekend to see people enjoying hot buttered corn on the cob at Marche Jean-Talon. Hopefully next summer (crossing my fingers). Despite the fact we are a household of two, we bought a baker's dozen of corn with no real plan as to how we would consume them all. I really detest throwing out food, especially really good raw ingredients so in a moment of indecision I suggested we boil up the whole lot and I would cut the kernels off the cobs we didn't eat, and save them for another purpose. Thanks to wearing braces I must brag that I have developed some pretty good knife skills!

While at work the next day I remembered that Barefoot Contessa had posted an older recipe on Facebook for Cheddar Corn Chowder. I had attempted it years ago, but I was vegetarian and after modifications I found the recipe lacking a bit in flavour. But with a Tupperware full of leftover corn, and most of the ingredients already on hand, I decided to give it another go. This time, I would add the bacon, bacon fat, half & half, and cheddar (shudder!!). And this time, the chowder was fantastic. (Lots of bragging in this post!). The Contessa does not hold back, so I would not call this recipe light, but I feel less bad knowing that the recipe was based on fabulous raw ingredients. I really encourage people to try this recipe; I will most certainly make it again, especially when I have fresh corn. I followed the recipe except for two modifications; 1. I re purposed the water that I used to boil the corn in as the base for my broth (using a chicken flavoured liquid bullion) which added extra corn flavour, and 2. I divided the recipe in half exactly, making 4-6 servings, which still seem very generous. I served it with sliced ciabatta, warmed in the oven and covered with a garlic infused, fresh rosemary butter and grated cheddar. Wine is not a must (unless you're in my house) but it pairs nicely.

Barefoot Contessa's Cheddar Corn Chowder

Shop: Gap Ponte Academy Blazer

This past Saturday was rainy and gray; a far cry from the intensely sunny and hot weather we have been having for weeks in Montreal. So what better way is there to spend a rainy day than having a  massage followed by coffee and shopping with a girlfriend?
I'm usually a solo shopper, mostly due to the fact that I tend to flit about quickly and touch everything in my path (tactile shopper, that's me), but I find myself extremely compatible with this particular friend. Not only is she good company but she pushes me to try items I would normally shy away from (bold colours & shapes I don't think will work for me, etc.) Perhaps we are shopping-compatible because we are both such What Not to Wear fan-girls.
In any case, I was thrilled when we passed by the display window of the GAP and I saw the Ponte Academy blazer in purple. It's been sold out online for a couple weeks now. Not only did they have my size but they were also having their friends & family 30% sale. Needless to say, I went home with this bold little sucker; and yes, it brightened my day! I'd like to think that my friend approved of my colour choice.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Drink: Bootlegging for beginners (sort of)

My recent trip to the Amalfi Coast left me with a taste for Italian digestives, specifically Limoncello and Finocchietto.

Limoncello is probably a more recognizable product in North American liquor/wine stores. I remember being offered it after a meal here in Montreal and not being terribly impressed with the sweet syrupy taste. But the lovely elixir that was offered to us in Amalfi, Positano, Maiori and Ravello was something else altogether; it completely changed my perception. It was sweet, to be sure, but the taste of alcohol was present and when served in a frozen glass, the flavour was perfectly balanced. I know it has to do with the Amafi lemons being the unique, sweet beauties that they are. In any case, a majority of meals in Amafi were followed by the ubiquitous chilled limoncello digestive; between that and the bottles we enjoyed in the hotel room, I was hooked. Luckily I am able to find Limoncello in stores here at home, and even though the taste is not a perfect match to what we had in Italy, I have grown to really love it. Maybe its the nostalgia that makes it more palatable that it once was.

Limoncello Shop in Ravello, Italy

Finoccheitto, however, seems to be an undiscovered treat in North America and darn impossible to find. Which has lead to near panic on my part; what will I do once I have imbibed the only bottle that we brought back with us? How will I get my fix then?? Finoccheitto is a digestive made from fennel (both seed and fronds). It may sound disconcerting but the flavour is actually nothing like one would expect. It's sweet and mildly anise flavoured, it really lacks the slap in the face quality of say, sambucca. While searching online for places to buy more, I quickly realized my search would not be fruitful. I did, however, find a couple recipes to make fennel digestive. After a brief hesitation, I realized that the most I could lose by trying the recipe is 2 cups of vodka. So, yesterday I stuffed an empty one litre milk bottle with fennel fronds (from an organic local fennel bulb), a table spoon of fennel seeds and and 2 cups of vodka. After a week or so of soaking, I will make and add simple syrup to the mix and hope it tastes nearly as good as the one we found in Ravello a couple months back. If it does, I may have to start up a mini 'bootlegging' business in my dining room so I can get all my friends hooked on it; whenever I'm feeling generous enough to share, that is!

Shop: The return of the double breasted blazer

Within a few days of seeing this blazer on Banana Republic Online, I noticed the return of the double breasted blazer in stores all over the city. Some are slightly redesigned and are not quite true double breasted (as in the case with this one pictured) but there's no doubt this style is here for the 2012 Fall/Winter season. I was never a huge fan of the style, I was a kid in the 80's and remember the look all too well. The boxy, angular look, often with shoulder pads...still makes me cringe a little. Men looked like linebackers and women looked like, well, men. I was not exempt, I had one or two junior versions of the look, complete with gaudy enamel coated earrings, micro mini and sockettes over my sheer nylons. I have the photos to prove it. But I think this is one trend I will not be splurging on, despite my penchant for blazers. You never know, the look could grow on me if it lasts more than a season or two (like skinny jeans, I was plenty adverse to those in the beginning), but my bet is that it will go the way of last year's boxy crop tops. Any thoughts?

Courtesy of BR Online