Monday, 28 January 2013

Simple Winter Salad

Look, we're all coming back from Christmas.   The last bits of candy have been left in the common areas of the workplace to live on someone else's hips and now it's time for something fresh.    It's still winter time, so how does one capture winter flavours in a simple salad?   The Winter elements are supported by a few main staples: pomegranate, nuts and cedar.
I am a lover of baby romaine.  It looks fancy and doesn't have a very strong favour, so it supports all your other flavours.  It's sort of like a really great black sweater that showcases your accessories.

Pomegranate is that special winter treat for times when you want your hands stained and it all over the counter.   It was only a few years ago that I learned the trick of cracking a pomegranate into water to cut down on the mess.  Slice the pomegranate  and submerge it, seeds down, into a large bowl of water.  Crack and tear the fruit.  The seeds will release and sink to the bottom, most of the membrane will float.  Drain and revel in your brilliance.

I added a generous handful of pine nuts and goat cheese to salad for a bit of crunch and cream.   The colours are gorgeous and who wouldn't want to see this in their lunch box?

The original plan for this salad was a honey dijon dressing, but I was lucky enough to have some Jellied Cedar on hand.    I  am in love with Forbes as a company.   This Toronto based company uses foragers to source wild ingredients.  They are processed as little as possible to remain true to their form.   We met them at the One of a Kind this year and got to chatting.   This is a company that's truly building something beautiful, to a point that my brain nearly melted.  Wild mushrooms foraged from all over Canada.  Bakeapple from Newfoundland for spreads.  Wild rice that is harvested by canoe.   It was like listening to a beautiful Canadiana culinary fairy tale.  I just saw someone at St Lawrence Market selling this past weekend, so it is available year round.
This is all completely made to taste, but here is the rough idea.  I took a large scoop of the Jellied cedar - about 1/4 cup.  To that I added a splash of white balsamic, a wee bit of olive oil and about a 1/2 tsp of ginger.  Adjust as necessary.   If you do get your hands on Jellied Cedar, it is very delicate, so the balsamic and ginger could over power it. 

There you go - a quick, minimally messy winter salad to pick up your day.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Changing the Monday to Friday Attitude in 30 Minutes a Week

It occurred to me recently that with all this focus on building a more beautiful life, I haven’t really taken an opportunity to find ways to bring beauty into the everyday.  In an effort to do this, I started by writing out a sketch of what a typical weekday looks like for me.  It was pretty basic.  So how could I make things better in very simple ways?  How can I inject a little pick-me-up into every day? 
In the past I’ve alluded to my need to appeal to efficiency (not laziness).  This little plan of mine doesn’t have to be labour-intensive.  I wholeheartedly believe that people (me) will give up on plans which are too complicated, or require more energy than they generally have to spare.  In the spirit of keeping this a “30 minutes or less” sort of thing, I’ve suggested a plan which will only take about 30 minutes a week.  We can all spare 5 or 6 minutes a day if it’s going to put a smile on our faces.

Make it better Mondays – I will complete a random act of kindness on Mondays – doing something nice for someone else always makes me feel better.  Need some inspiration?  Check out this book:

Tasty Tuesdays – I’m going to pick up a yummy beverage either at lunch time or on my way home from work.

Wedding Wednesdays – Yes, I’m already married.  But my guilty pleasure is where TLC and weddings collide.  I’m going to watch my PVR’d wedding shows while hubby is out for the evening.  I might even make some popcorn! 

Thoughtful Thursdays – I’m going to take an opportunity on Thursdays to reconnect with a friend or acquaintance.  Just a little email or note to let them know they’re being thought of.

Fancy Fridays – It doesn’t take much to perk me up, and by the time Friday rolls around, I sometimes need a little something.  I’m going to try not to settle for jeans and a t-shirt just because it’s Friday.  I’ll be digging through my collection of jewelry and scarves to add a little oompf to my day.

What did I tell you?  Pretty simple!!  I used to subscribe to a completely different view of my weekdays.  I would say things like “Tuesday is just a day you have to get through” or “Wednesday – well at least the week is half over!”  Sound familiar?  I had to break away from framing my days with those negative attitudes.  Now, I’m going to think, “It’s Tuesday – I get to have a latte today!” or “I get to have guilt-free tv time tonight!”

My challenge to you – plan 5 minute activities you can look forward to and implement at least one of those each day of the week.  You might find a whole new meaning to the phrase “a case of the Mondays”!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

13 in 2013

I'm a girl who loves lists, at all times and in all forms.  I know these are more goals than resolutions, but resolutions are generally broken early on and these are achievable goals that can be carried through the year at a manageable pace.
1.  Take a Photography Course:  I have a beautiful little camera with beautiful little buttons, some of which I know what they do.  Most I do not.  Step one:  Take a photography course and actively work on taking better photographs.
2. Volunteer:  It's been a few years since I've volunteered with any regularity.  I've done a few single days here and there, but this year I want to find something regular.
3. Plan a secret trip for Fras: In the last few months, we've been like two ships in the night.   When we do go anywhere, he's the man who researches and plans.   The secret part will be tough since the poor fellow has to book his time off carefully.  The idea is a worry free weekend for him.
4. Handmade, more often:  Let me whine for a moment; I have been crunched for time lately.  The lack of time was compounded by Christmas and for the first time in years, I was one of those people in the malls Christmas Eve looking to finish shopping for gifts.  Standing in line, searching for 'stuff' to give people, I had a hard time reconciling the need to show people I loved them through purchasing something/anything.  My goal is to make more of the gifts I give people.
5. Speak more French: I feel like such an asshole when my family visits and I cannot keep up with them in French.  I can understand French, but just can't confidently conjugate verbs to respond quickly enough.  I am going to start back at beginners and practice with Mum while we're home alone.
6. Weekly cooking challenge:   Cooking is truly one of my favourite things.  I want to challenge myself to something new every week.  Think about it:  one new recipe a week and that's 52 new skills by 2014.
7. Explore the Hamilton Art Gallery:  This has been on our list for YEARS.  We are dedicated to the AGO, but I hear amazing things about the Hamilton Art Gallery.
8. Read more than I watch TV: I have no recollection of the books I read in 2012.  I know I started many, but completed few.  Small goal:  at least 13 books in 2013.
9. Be Kind: to myself and others
10. Write Letters: I am terrible at staying in touch with people and letters have such purpose.  13 letters in 2013.
11.  Be a tourist in Montreal:  Bear with me, but this is about to sound incredibly stupid.   It was only a few years ago that I actually went out and enjoyed my hometown.  When we go back to Montreal, we generally spend it with family and otherwise, I would be shopping with my cousin.  Don't get me wrong  - these are all enjoyable! It wasn't until we were standing in the Montreal Museum of Fine Art at the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit, marvelling at how gorgeous it all is and it struck me....why would I dedicate my time to galleries and museums in Toronto and not Montreal?
12. Master the ukulele:  I have a terrible understanding of music and so for my birthday last September I asked for a ukulele.  A ukulele is small and unintimidating.  It only has 4 strings!  I haven't dedicated any time to it and so in order to help understand structure and notes, I am going to try to pick up the ukulele.
13: Let go:   This is more of a quest for being mindful of letting stuff go.  So much of past experience informs how I act and expect to be treated. Bit by bit, I hope to let stuff go in 2013.

- Jess

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Getting Organized: Family Planner

Well, I haven’t yet abandoned my New Year’s resolution to get organized.  What’s that you say?  It’s only the 8th of January?  I know – I’m doing really well this year!

I thought maybe I should take a bit of time to consider the big picture.  In an effort to manage all of the small 30 minute projects, the inevitable pile-up of paper, dates and appointments to track, and so on, I thought a larger planning tool might be in order.  

There are tons of tools online to help you design and create your own planning binder.  And as you’re probably realizing – I LOVE organizational tools!   So I created my own.

I used some of the planers I found online as inspiration. I used some of the free printables from The Organized Home and modified others in order to suit our family’s needs.  Once I decided which pages I wanted to include, and broke it down into sections:

Family Planner Outline
*Items highlighted in red indicate templates used from
Section 1: Contact info
Emergency info, phone numbers, restaurant and take-out info (including menus)
Section 2: Chores
Daily, weekly, monthly checklists and schedules, seasonal lists
Section 3: Menus and Shopping
Monthly and weekly menu planners, shopping list, coupon section, and a list of product prices so I know when things are on sale
Section 4: Finances
List of bills to be paid monthly with dates each come due, monthly budget, budgets for special projects (not complete)
Section 5: Important Dates
A pocket for cards, a list of birthdays and anniversaries broken down by month
Section 6: Travel
Pre-travel checklist, road trip packing list, a pocket for printouts of hotel/camping confirmations and an itinerary
The page I was most pleased with was the grocery list.  I went through and organized it according to the geography of my favourite store – life is short, I don’t want to spend more time than necessary buying groceries!

Each section got its own binder divider, and each page got a page protector – I know, I spared no expense!

If you’re interested in having a look at the pages I used, and modifying them to suit your needs, just download from HERE and use them as templates.

I’ll keep you posted as to the success of the binder in keeping me organized.  I’m sure there will be pages I have to add (for example, the monthly budget we haven’t yet completed), and maybe some I decide to remove.

~ Shannon