Spice Drawer Makeover: Is Organization the Spice of Life?

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I’ve been meaning to get some organizing done this summer and finally got down to business. I love to organize, or more importantly love the feeling of an organized house. It’s something I got into years back, probably the same time Martha Stewart was in her heyday. It can become a bit overwhelming once you start, I felt like I needed to do everything all at once. This can definitely lead to some ‘over-organization,’ or unnecessary time spent. Taking the time to think through the best, most creative plan of attack for those untamed and unruly junk drawer pays off in the end. You need to plan to avoid overdoing it, i.e., if you find yourself labeling a clear glass mason jar that holds pencil crayons… ‘pencil crayons,’ you’ve gone too far. The bottom line is that organizing, if done right, can really make you feel happy and more comfortable in your home. It has to fit your lifestyle and usually reflects how you use objects, making your everyday life easier.

Always start with a huge purge. Recycle and donate anything you are not using or has no sentimental value. Then figure out a plan.

My most recent master plan to organize my spice drawer had me really rubbing my hands together. I could definitely justify using the label maker which got me pretty enthused. I knew the current system I had wasn’t working but it did take time to settle on a new way to organize. Now I’m going to sound like a true infomercial. “Tired of always sifting thought the dozens of little spice bags stuffed in your pantry?” That’s me. I had a system in place where I would buy those little bags, and stuff them into a large Ziploc in my cupboard and just fill up my spice containers as needed. The bags were always falling out, looked so unkempt and I ended up buying duplicate spices because I couldn’t find what I was looking for. Worse was the spices in unmarked plastic bags from the bulk store. Trying to identify those was a nightmare, I’d open the bag take in a sniff and end up with cayenne pepper in my nose for the whole day.

Let’s start. This kitchen drawer is filled with sturdy plastic containers from an organization store. To get the best fit for these I took the inside measurements of the drawer and taped together several large pieces of white paper to replicate the size. I took it into the store and laid it out on a table and started to play with different sized containers and configurations until I found the best use of space. When I got home they fit perfectly!

 

I had previously used magnetic spice tins with twist lids that dispensed in two areas. Over time, with friction, they became impossible to twist and open so I needed a better system. I don’t often shake spices, I’m either measuring or pinching so I found jars with screw tops. I found these white ones at the dollar store and liked that they were a thick sturdy glass with clear lids.

 

I went to town with my label maker and was in my glory neatly labeling all of my containers. I love my label maker, its compact and easy to use but let’s be real, the option to have a border with rounded corners is the draw of this machine.

The bags of spices never fill up my little spice containers so I got these mini mason jars for the overflow spices left in the bags.  I put thought into this step. It could easily have gone one of two ways. It could end up being brilliant or go to the other side, the overly obsessive world of organizing (two spots for the same spice?) It ended up working great, when the mason jars are empty it’s time to add the spice to the shopping list.

 

I wanted to highlight some of my favorite gadgets that I try to keep organized in this drawer, the list is below.

  1. Grams tools -these cooking and baking tools are antiques and bring back so many memories. I can’t say I use them often but making space for them reminds me of cooking with gram and makes me happy
  2. Silicone lids -I use these in the summer to cover drinks outside, I have larger ones to cover leftovers and they are a great alternative to saran wrap
  3. Measuring Spoons -Having several sets helps when cooking for a crowd and the metal set I like for baking to run a knife across for precise measuring
  4. Garlic Rocker -This is the best way to mince garlic. I remember the old ones with the box-style end that was impossible to clean, this one is so easy to clean and works so efficiently
  5. Sporks & straws -I love a good Spork and they are for more than just camping. I use them for work lunches, regular flatware always seems to get mis-placed in bagged lunches but these bright little guys always come home. Sometimes a certain drink calls for a straw, these are fun and can be used over and over again.
  6. Measuring spoons -I always break the set up and separate the tablespoons, so I can have easy access to them

 

I’m off to work on a few more summer projects, hope you are having a great summer!

Lv, Julie♥

Quick Tabouli Salad

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When the weather gets warmer I make this salad a few times a month. It’s fresh, easy and reminds me of one of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants.

The quickness comes from using a boxed salad mix and adding some fresh ingredients to liven it up. On its own the boxed salad is just pre-measured couscous with some herbs and spices so it definitely needs a helping hand. I’ve made tabouli salad from scratch before with bulgur, fresh mint and a clove of garlic which is amazing. In the summer though I like the simplicity of this quick version. This package uses couscous, not bulgur which means you don’t need to turn on the stove.

The most time consuming part is prepping the parsley. The fastest way I have found is to cut the leaves away from the stem using kitchen scissors.

 

 

Ingredients

Casbah Tabouli Garden Wheat Salad Mix (make as directed, hot water & olive oil)

2 bunches curly parsley

2 medium tomatoes

2 lemons, juiced and strained

3-4 green onions, finely sliced

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

1. Make the Tabouli Salad according to the directions on the box (mix package with 1 1/2 cups hot water & 1/4-1/3 cup olive oil and let stand covered for 1 hour).

2. Trim parsley, put in a colander and rinse very well. Let parsley air dry or wrap it up in a tea towel to remove the moisture. Finely chop parley (I use my mini chopper for this!).

3. Cut the tomatoes in half and gently squeeze them to remove the seeds and juice, then chop finely.

4. Once the Casbah salad mix has absorbed the water and oil for 1 hour fluff with a fork. Add all ingredients, stir and serve!

 

 

 

If you get a chance, try this salad out, its great this time of year and can be stored in the fridge for a few days! Hope you are having a great summer!

Lv, Julie♥

Canada Day Brunch or Lunch Tablescape

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Tomorrow Canada turns 150 years old! It’s been fun over the past few months seeing themed displays, décor and gift items in stores to commemorate this special event. I had never really decorated for Canada Day, I’ve just celebrated by going to a cottage, watching fireworks or having a simple BBQ for the long weekend. There were never any decorations beyond a few flags. This year more than anything I felt inspired to go all out and have fun and be festive.

I have a philosophy on tablescapes, decorating and planning for special occasions. The theme for my blog is to ‘enrich the everyday.’ I have always felt that setting a nice table and putting effort into special occasions makes for a more memorable experience. Simply put, living life to the fullest also means going the extra mile with creativity. The trend of minimalism looks amazing, clean and polished but you can go too far in stripping too much away. By ‘keeping it simple,’ it can also end up feeling incredibly void of personality. Placing a value on ambiance puts more importance on the event itself and always creates a fun and meaningful atmosphere.

On Canada Day it’s our 10 year anniversary. My husband and I have been married for 2 years and have known each other since we were teenagers but didn’t start dating until July 1st 2007. We’ve got some plans for that but will definitely head over to a community fireworks display for some Canada Day celebrations!

I thought it would be fun to put together a little mock tablescape as I was so inspired with all the excitement surrounding the 150th this year. I’ll use some of the elements on the day of but really just wanted to share in all of the excitement and show some ideas for a Canada Day brunch or lunch.

I’ve never bought Canada Day decorations so I checked out some party stores, grocery stores and dollar stores for inspiration. I started by finding a cute wood utensil box at Winners with a gold flag on the side which I knew could be used for years to come. I got a few more small things and decided to make my own garland. I mostly used things I already had in the right colors, putting together a table that was more what Canada was to me than all red and white.

Instead of using the plastic garlands I saw at most stores when out and about I decided to make a more sturdy paper garland that I could get multiple uses out of. I stumbled upon some Canadian flag playing cards and knew they would work. I simply glued two cards together, punched two holes and then strung them with some red and white bakers twine. I thought it was pretty inexpensive and quick for something with such a big impact.

 

The utensil container I found worked well for holding straws, water and a simple mason jar of wild flowers. When thinking of what Canada means to me, I’m reminded of my childhood cottage. Summers up in Carnarvon, Ontario on beautiful Lake Boshkung will forever be etched into my mind as the place that makes me feel most like myself and so proudly Canadian. The landscape in Ontario’s north is so unique to Canada that my mind always goes there..any cottage really… when thinking ‘Canadian.’ I always picked wildflowers for dinner every summer and still have the vase I used. It’s been glued back together but I will always treasure it for the memories. 

 

I love this Canada tray that I got last year from Indigo. You can still buy the navy version, check it out here.

 

I found a little maple leaf cookie cutter and used it to cut out some cute watermelon slices!

I also used my Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) napkins as there is not a fabric more quintessentially Canadian. They are the same stripes used on the famous HBC wool blanket used for over 200 year in homes across Canada and passed down generation by generation.

My wood chargers, place card holders and napkin rings really tied everything together for that Canadian cottage feeling.

I loved sharing this tablescape! It was so much fun to create I was on cloud nine through the whole process! I’m feeling patriotic and ready to share in the big day, I can’t wait to make decorating for Canada Day a new tradition!

Hope you have fun on Canada’s 150th birthday!

Lv, Julie♥

Maritime Beach Vacation

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As the weather warms up and everyone is making their summer plans I thought I’d share the trip we went on last year. It was planned very last minute, we wanted to go somewhere just to relax. All of our vacations have been ‘on-the go,’ trips packing in as many stops as possible to see the most we could. We had thought about going to Florida, looking forward to seeing palm trees and being at the beach. We had it roughly planned and last minute changed our mind. On a whim we decided to do a road trip ‘out east.’ Canadians always talk about ‘driving out west,’ or ‘driving out east,’ as a rite of passage.

The maritime provinces all have beautiful ocean side towns with miles of sandy beaches. There are so many experiences we’ve already had in Canada’s east coast such as visiting Green Gables, Signal Hill, Elephants Rock and visiting family. It was different and refreshing to think of going east to have a beach vacation. We only planned our hotels (since it was high season we barely found availability) and were really free to explore as we felt and have some spontaneous adventures.

I have a love for century old resorts and ‘travel history.’ I love to imagine all the people that have stayed before me, those who met in these majestic places, the weddings that have taken place and those who came back year after year as a tradition. When travelling I love to stay in these places, if just to soak in all of the architectural details and practice my photography skills. Even years ago when it wasn’t a budget-friendly option we found ways to have the experience. A particular memory was one summer years ago when we did the driving ‘out west,’ trip. I wanted to stay at the famous Banff Springs Hotel. I had already walked through it with a girlfriend on a previous trip and wanted to fully experience staying there. It was high season so I waited until the night before we left and got a great deal. To offset the cost we stayed at a camp site in Drumheller, Alberta the night before. It offered an inexpensive stay in one of their permanent teepees. This would have been great had we had any camping equipment besides a sheet set! We spent the night freezing away with little sleep under the glow of a ridiculously dim solar light. It was worth it when we rolled up the next day, groggy and out of sorts, onto the magical property of the Banff Springs Hotel.

If you want to travel somewhere or do anything there is always a way. Staying in nicer hotels and resorts can be made possible by going off-season, staying on weekdays or staying more than 2 nights to get a better rate. If it is completely out of the question take the time to walk through some of these old establishments or have lunch to take in the atmosphere. Often they have gallery walls of all of the famous people who have stayed before and photos of the property from years ago. Its fun to imagine what travelling was like years ago. Staying at any of these century old resorts have been some of the most amazing travel experiences of my life.

We started by driving to New Brunswick to stay in at the Algonquin Resort in St-Andrews-by the-Sea. Let’s face it, the hotel alone is an attraction! The town is surrounded by the Bay of Fundy and was completely picture perfect. When I got there I fell madly in love with the place. I could write an entire post about this hotel and town, it was dripping with history and absolutely gorgeous. I’ll never forget pulling up to the entrance of The Algonquin late after a day of driving and looking up at the front entrance and terrace with rows of glowing, sparkling glass french doors. You could hear crickets, soft music, and the crackling of a nearby fire pit where a group had gathered for some after dinner s’mores. We opened our car doors and a bellmen dressed in a kilt made from the New Brunswick tartan and a crisp white dress shirt swooped in to help us with our luggage. I was pretty stunned by the beauty of it and remember the moment soon after I saw our room where I turned to my husband and said ‘three days won’t be long enough, I just love it here and worry I don’t have enough time to really experience it.’ The next morning I had even more respect for the experience that is The Algonquin when they turned us down to stay an extra night. Of course they were fully booked, I’d almost be disappointed if they weren’t, that was as it should be.

 

The room…whomever was in charge of the restoration of this hotel did an amazing job. The mix of old and traditional with modern conveniences was amazing.

The view from one of the lookout towers…

 

The Algonquin has amazing views of the Bay of Fundy but isn’t right on the water. Just around the corner we had an amazing afternoon at Katy’s Cove, known for being the warmest saltwater swimming spot in the area! It had a beautiful beach area, picnic tables and beach side hiking trail.

 

Next we headed to Nova Scotia’s south shore to go to the White Point Beach Resort for a few days. We were looking forward to the 1 km long private sandy beach and getting our toes dipped into the Atlantic! The amenities were amazing with the resort also having a freshwater lake just opposite the ocean, where you could rent canoes and paddle boats! 

 

Walking the beach and taking in the stunning views of the Atlantic was relaxing. As well, there is so much to explore on the beach, which is located within the UNESCO Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve.

 

Our last stop on the trip was a unique spot called ‘Oceanstone Resort,’ in Indian Harbor, Nova Scotia. It’s just minutes away from Peggy’s Cove and is unlike anywhere we’d ever stayed. It was a small resort with a series of tiny cottages and buildings on a hill, all with views of the harbor, some being right on the water.

 

It was fun just to walk around the property. Each cottage is uniquely decorated in its own way with cute hand-painted name signs such as ‘The Pines,’ ‘Dovekey,’ ‘Grey Owl,’ and ‘Periwinkle.’ Waiting beside each cottage is a stack of chopped wood to use in either indoor wood-burning stoves or outdoor fire pits. All the cottages have their own set of brightly painted Muskoka chairs to watch the sunset.

 

Swimming in Nova Scotia is much colder In August than it is where we are from in Ontario. It becomes refreshing, you just have to jump in quick and eventually you adjust!

 

This was the view from out cottage! We spent so much time on this porch and were steps away from the beach. The sunsets at night were stunning.

 

The little restaurant on site was always packed as it’s a popular local spot. They use fresh locally-sourced ingredients and have a nice patio with spectacular views. They also offer delivery to the cottages if you didn’t feel like cooking one night. I liked that they had a little local artisan gift shop inside!

 

Visiting Peggy’s Cove, only a few minutes drive from Indian Harbor was an unforgettable experience. I had been before but hadn’t had a chance to take in the surrounding areas. We went twice just to see the many spots you can explore and hike in and around the area. As you drive along look for parked cars on the side of the road, there are lots of trails to explore, at one point I came within 20 feet of a deer! The scenery and rocks are just the same as right in Peggy’s Cove but you can really wander with fewer tourists and get some amazing photos!

 

I had never associated Eastern Canada as a spot for this style of trip but have since changed my perspective from the amazing trip we had. Next I want to check out Prince Edward Island’s beaches! For now I need to start making some plans for this summer!

Lv, Julie♥

 

DIY Personalized Floppy Beach Hat

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Last year we had a pretty hot summer. As always I slathered on my sunscreen not caring how ridiculous I looked and wore my extremely thick white-patched layer with pride. I set out to the beach and quickly realized my sunscreen just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I am a self-tanner now but sometimes you can’t protect yourself enough. I made up my mind, I needed to finally become a hat person.

Last summer I saw so many amazing personalized floppy beach hats with initials, ‘cutesy,’ expressions and color options. Most were inspired by designer Eugenia Kim’s amazing over-sized hats with sayings such as ‘Talk to the sand,’ ‘Greetings from,’ or ‘Do not Disturb.’ They were an instant trend (check them out here) and became so popular for their sequined relaxed script writing and simple black band of ribbon. Since then many versions have popped up on Etsy and have been recreated on bloggers websites.

Last fall I set out to make my own, I wanted to try making a version with a lighter colored script, something a bit less of a contrast. I got the idea to use rose gold colored sequins (they look gold in the photos) with a pink ribbon just to make it my own. I knew hand stitching on the sequins would be the most durable and long-lasting option but that method was way out of my wheelhouse. Since I decided to try gluing my first hat I didn’t want to invest too much money in an item I know won’t last too long. I ordered a floppy straw hat, sequins and ribbon all from AliExpress. Their orders take a long time to be delivered (over 3 months for these items) but in Canada it’s really hard to find unique colors and sizes of ribbon and craft supplies that are readily available in the U.S. This was definitely the way to go and I was so happy with the quality of what I received.

I decided to use a glue gun to attach my sequins, although next time I will try jewelry glue as someone suggested online. The heat of the glue changed the color of some of the sequins and there wasn’t much chance to adjust the placement of them as they dried so quickly. Here are some step by step instructions on how I made my own personalized beach hat.

Step 1: I started by printing out several photos of hats I liked online. I tried to find as many letters in the alphabet as possible in the script I wanted as a reference guide for my sequin placement.

 

Step 2: I wrote out my expression ‘Julie on holiday,’ several times on scrap paper just to get used to how I would like it to look.

 

Step 3: Looking at my reference photos, I started to play with the sequin placement one letter at a time until each letter looked good (lesson learned…you will see in the photos I didn’t leave enough room for my ‘y,’ I think I got too excited! I caught it early enough to make some adjustments)

 

Step 4: I carefully traced under the strand of sequins with a thin  marker just to have a guide of where to glue (this is a very tricky step as the sequins move around so much). This needed to be done section by section. I traced a small part, glued it and laid down the sequin strip. The hat took a long time to complete but it really is better to go very slow.

 

Step 5: I removed any glue gun ‘webs,’ and took a few loose sequins and glued them over places where a sequin had been covered in glue or damaged by the heat. This step really made a huge difference in some areas

 

Step 5: Cut the ribbon to fit with some overlap. Fold under one end and glue the rough edge. Glue one end over the other (covering the remaining rough edge) and make sure it is fairly tightly fit around the hat. I first tried adding glue over the entire ribbon which led to sections buckling so just gluing in one spot at the end looked the best.   

 

Step 6: Leave the hat until it fully dries and go back and touch up any areas that didn’t fully stick. I found the first letter of my name when the glue gun wasn’t very hot, didn’t hold up so well.

I’m so happy with the results of this hat! It is delicate and is not the type of hat you can just ‘throw in a suitcase,’ or in a beach bag as I’m sure the sequins would come off. That’s why Eugenia Kim’s bags are not cost effective…hand-sewn sequins…need I say more? I’ve got plans to make another one in different colors, I hope this inspires you to make your own beach hat too!

Happy Hat Making!

Lv, Julie♥

DIY Personalized Straw Bag

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Last summer I set out to make my own personalized straw bag. I had seen so many amazing versions online. One store in particular, MISA Los Angeles had some really pretty straw bags where they would spray paint any name or word on the front, if under 6 characters. I thought since straw bags only last so long it would be fun to try to make one on my own, I also knew I could do it at a fraction of the price (especially with the Canadian dollar exchange). I will try my best to show how I put it all together but I made it before I started my blog so it’s hard to show exact step- by-step instructions. Find the link to my inspiration, the original bag here. Etsy has a lot of these bags as well with different trims and some hand-embroidered versions as well.

 

 

I found the bag on www.french-baskets.com a website that ships right from Morocco, where they are handmade. When I bought it the price was lower, I think the popularity has gone up so I suggest purchasing a plain bag and adding a pom-pom trim to the top to dress it up or find a bag locally that is more cost effective. I will say they were a fabulous company to deal with and the bag was shipped very quick, they also have a variety of beautiful options and I liked how their bags had leather handles.

I found the exact pom-pom bag charm that was on the original bag at Shopbop Canada which you can find here. I will say again, the price on these too has gone up, I didn’t pay anywhere near what they are now, it must also be the dollar. I know if you hunt online there are cheaper versions on Etsy as well as fantastic online tutorials on how to make them on your own! I really want to try this in the future!

Making Your Own Personalized Straw Bag

STEP 1: Find a simple straw bag and add a trim to the top, or find one like I did below. I really liked that this one had leather straps!

STEP 2: Find a tassel-style bag charm or make your own from one of the many tutorials online

STEP 3: I used MS Word to print out my name to use as a template. My name is only 5 letters so you would really have to play with the font size and script that best suits you name and bag size. I made sure to set my margins to ‘narrow,’ and used the ‘Vladimir Script,’ font in bold and in size 600 pt.

 

My name had to be printed on 4 sheets of paper and I just pieced it together letter by letter once it was being traced on the bag.

 

STEP 4: I used nail scissors to cut out each letter. I keep a pair with my craft supplies for jobs like this. They are not meant for cutting paper, and this will dull them but their size and curved shape make them perfect for cutting out small areas such as these script letters

 

STEP 5: I don’t have photos of this step but I just folded the bag flat and used a washable crayola pink marker to trace the letters on. The name will turn out much bigger than the cut-out when marking them and then painting them so be mindful of this when choosing the font size. The marker was pretty faint but just visible enough to make out. I had to do a bit of freestyle painting in between the letters to connect them and fill in spots that didn’t paint well. I used basic acrylic paint and mixed a few colors together to get the tone I wanted. I painted 2 coats and let it dry thoroughly for 12 hours.

I can’t wait to use this bag in the summer, I hope to make another one soon in different colors and will use the same bag charm for both.

Thinking of the warm weather!

Lv, Julie♥

Spring Brunch Tablescape

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Spring is here and I’ve been pretty excited about it! I’ve opened all the windows, started to use the BBQ and am keeping an eye out for buds to appear on our new backyard trees. When you live in a new subdivision, new trees are more exciting than you think-believe me! Spring has never been my favorite season though. I love the summer and fall but find spring is always so damp and dreary. It’s a great season to prepare for the few short months of warm weather we have. The term ‘spring cleaning,’ really embodies making the most of the season by planning and tidying up outside, in anticipation for the warmer and longer days ahead. More so than January I find spring is about renewal, a true fresh start and the promise of many summer adventures and memories outdoors. There’s also nothing that lifts my spirits more in the Spring than strolling around a garden center or nursery, seeing whats new and planning color schemes for my hanging baskets and urns. I just love seeing all those little plants starting out amidst a sea of color and thinking about how beautiful they will look in everyone’s garden.

With all my spring thoughts in mind I put together a little tablescape for a seasonal brunch. I love that its a time of year when pastel tones can take center stage. I’m rarely a fan of just a ‘hint of a color,’ or overly bright colors, preferring colors somewhere in the middle in milky or chalky tones. 

 

I knew I wanted to use pastel colors and combine natural and traditional elements but had no idea how it would all come together. I started to play around with it and my vision slowly came to life. I found a really beautiful card table cloth of my grandmas that was stored away. I also used an old sugar and cream set she had and a set of antique tea cups, each in a different color. Anything antique always ‘makes,’ a tablescape for me. These are one of a kind items that when mixed with readily available, trendy and traditional things, make your table so unique. Acquiring these older items whether passed down, in antique shops, or at garage sales I’m never quite sure where or how to use them in the moment. If they speak to me I make an effort over time to work them into some theme or time of year. I always feel a little sense of accomplishment when I find a use for some of these things.

 

For this tablescape it’s all about the mixing and matching. I mixed an old set of pottery plates with antique gold-rimmed lunch plates and my new white plates. I pulled out these green compote dishes that I found one year at a garage sale, I got a great deal on them because there were only seven in the set. Its amazing the things you stumble upon when you are not looking, and just grow to love. 

 

I have a few charger plates (like this wood slab) in multiples of two. I love tableware so much but keeping up with every trend can be expensive as you are usually buying everything in sets of four or six. The idea of having two of something allows me to try something new while forcing me to be creative by adding them in with other sets. I often use charger plates for table centerpiece bases like I did below. For the record, I have a bunch of ‘cute,’ salt and pepper shakers that I rarely use. They were part of a phase and  I was happy to still have this mushroom set as they fit in perfectly.

I have so many ideas saved up for future tablescapes, I can’t wait to share more! I absolutely love setting tables, I should have gone after some sort of career in event planning or designing. I am glad to be able to use my creativity on this blog as it’s such a great outlet for me!

Happy Easter & Spring,

Lv, Julie♥

Weekend Avocado English Muffins & Poaching Problems

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By now most people have tried avocado toast, a new breakfast staple. So many versions of this recipe exist online but I wanted to show my version with eggs and a bit about my struggles with poaching eggs. I’ve been making this as a weekend breakfast on and off for a few months and it really makes me think, what did people do before avocado toast?

Poaching Eggs

Story time…my first foray into poaching eggs didn’t go so well. I set out to make restaurant quality poached eggs, the kind you would see on Eggs Benedict that you might have while out for a nice brunch. They are always pure white with a velvety matte exterior, perfectly oval in shape, looking fresh as could be. They also taste better than fried or scrambled eggs as they have so much moisture from the water. ‘No problem,’ I thought. If I researched and watched a few you tube videos how hard could it be? I got out my pan, boiled my water, used vinegar in the ‘swirling method,’ and popped the egg in. What happened next could only be described as an unsavory invention-watery egg soup! I watched sadly as the egg swirled around, fell apart and decided it no longer wanted to be an egg.

All is not lost, things started to look up when I found silicone poachers at Homesense and gave them a whirl. They are not the perfect solution, if you don’t have the right level of water and temperature they too can turn into a bit of a mess and spill out. I’ve figured out how to use them and now have a great way to poach eggs. They do look a bit like flying saucers and their silhouette is no where near ‘natural,’ but I’ve grown to accept their appearance as they taste great! I will leave the perfectly poached restaurant eggs to the experts, it creates something to look forward to whenever I get a chance to ‘brunch.’

Line them with a bit of coconut oil so the eggs slide out easy

 

Poaching eggs using silicone poachers such as these is easy once you have the right level of water. You will get water in the eggs from the steam but you don’t want them to be completely water-logged (I’ve had to throw out a batch). Its important to cover the pan (leave lid a bit ajar) with the lid to allow them to poach properly.

Experiment with your pan to find the right water level!

 

When I can find them, I use ‘Food for Life,’ Ezekiel sprouted grain English muffins. I have been learning all about sprouted grains and love all of the health benefits. Sprouted grain breads use the whole grain that has germinated, it is in fact ‘alive,’ as you are eating it. There are so many benefits to this type of bread that it’s worth looking into the two articles I read here and here.

 

Weekend Avocado English Muffins

Ingredients

whole wheat english muffins

coconut oil

4 eggs

1 small avocado

1/2 lemon, juiced

pinch cinnamon

pinch red chili flakes

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

1.) Poach 4 eggs

2.) Mash the avocado, add lemon juice, cinnamon and a little salt and pepper

2.) Toast the English muffin

4.) Top each muffin half with the avocado mixture, add an egg to each half, sprinkle with freshly ground salt, pepper and red chili flakes

*Recipe is for 4 english muffin halves

 

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Lv, Julie♥

Entryway Gallery Wall

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A few months ago I redid a gallery wall in our front entryway and I wanted to share! The old wall had the same layout but needed a serious refresh. The original had some of my hand paintings from four years ago and although those seemed like a great idea at the time-let’s just say there are times I should have put my artists brush away!

I used a few of the existing prints and got a few new prints and frames for Christmas. I also printed a few wedding photos and used the map from my wedding invitation in a frame. I really didn’t know how it would turn out until I saw it all together and was so glad it worked out! The theme is travel and the outdoors (not planned) and I tried to keep the colors in the same palette.

In 2012 when we moved from a very old smaller house to a newly constructed much larger home I was pretty excited to decorate. In retrospect I was so excited that I may have gotten carried away stuffing every design idea I’d ever had in my life, into one space! Basically every room has a different color and there’s a lack of flow from room to room. I will never give up on color, no trend would ever make me deviate from that and I’m not a person who could feel comfortable in a stark white or all neutral space. In saying that, I have learned that with more muted tones, my pops of color can really take center stage. In 4 years my palette has calmed down (hard to believe with these shots) and through much trial and error I have a better sense of what I really like. It will take time to redo the whole house but room by room I hope to make little changes over time with my new vision in mind.

In our old house I stored a lot of acquired antique furniture in the garage knowing one day I would be able to put it into use in a larger home. That was part of the excitement, this furniture sat unused for so many years! After we had settled into our new house I looked to Pantone’s color of the year ‘emerald,’ to paint a few Muskoka chairs for our front porch and the really cool storage cabinet seen here in the front entrance way. It was a bold color then but still speaks to me now, I love a punch of color and am obsessed with green so no changes here! This cabinet came out of my cousin’s garage and was built to store nails, nuts & bolts & etc. I love all the little drawers and we use each one in the top row for a different storage use. It’s great when we need a flashlight, battery or extension cord, we know exactly where to go.

 

Once I had all the new prints, photos and frames ready I set out to redo my gallery wall. I laid a blanket on my dining room table and just stared to play with the different configurations. I kept it pretty much the same as the old layout with the circular gold mirror in the middle but really had to switch up all the frames to get the best balance of light and dark prints, size and frame color.

 

With the new layout of prints there were quite a few of the old nail holes to putty and paint. A challenge to the project began the moment it occurred to me, that on a whim I had mixed my own small batch of paint for the wall four years ago! It all came back to me that I had mixed some white primer with a touch of the emerald green to create a feature wall color. Little did I remember I had used the whole amount of mixed paint! It wasn’t fun testing small batches of paint on the wall one day until I got close to the original. At first I thought it would be a quick fix as I had the original base paints. The batches all looked close until they got on the wall and dried! I kept mixing and mixing. Wishful thinking and lesson learned! I never want to do that again!

 

To decorate I kept the existing lamp and trays. I added a cute brass deer I found at an antique shop, and a wedding photo. The large amethyst is special as it is from a memorable road trip we took across Canada. We bought it just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, an area known for it’s amethyst since the 19th century. I love buying souvenirs such as this, that I can use in my home that are unique to a certain area.

 

It was fun to start my redecorating in such a small area that was manageable and had a big impact. My favorite time to look at this space is on a weekend morning, coming downstairs for my coffee. The light is usually pouring in and it just looks so alive and happy!

Lv, Julie♥

Avocado Chicken Salad on a Salad

2 comments already!

 

Avocado Chicken Salad on a Salad

This is a recipe that I often make on the weekend for lunch. You can change the type of salad base and/or salad dressing. For the chicken salad topping you can add, change or replace pretty much anything in it as well. If I whip it up unplanned (usually because I have a sad avocado staring at me that’s on its last legs) I’ve even used dried basil in a pinch. This is primarily why I love this recipe, it is a great way to use up a ripe avocado! I could imagine swapping the walnuts for other nuts or seeds (I want to try pumpkin or sunflower seeds), using a different dried or fresh fruit (dried currants or cranberries) and even trying a lime instead of lemon. Anything goes with this recipe! The mashed avocado replaces the typical mayonnaise you would find in a tuna or regular chicken salad.

A word on avocados…the past few years I have been into avocados but always know it is so hard to have them perfectly ripe on the exact day I am using one. We (try to) grocery shop once a week so if available I buy avocados in different stages of ripeness to use one every 3 days or so. On average one goes to waste every few weeks but this method is usually great if the grocery store has variety. If the grocery store has hard green avocados I skip using them until the end of the week and just let them ripen. This avoids the dark spots that come with people squeezing and testing them out at the grocery store. If they are bought hardened you almost never will find them bruised inside so it is definitely the way to go. I leave them out in a bowl on my counter to ripen.

 

Avocado Chicken Salad Recipe

Ingredients

1 ripe avocado

1/2 lemon (use more depending on ripeness)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 cups cooked chopped chicken (season however you would like)

handful chopped dates

small handful cup chopped walnuts

few pinches of garlic salt

ground black pepper

 Directions

  1. Season & grill chicken either on an indoor grill or BBQ. Make sure chicken has cooled down before adding to the avocado mixture.
  2. Mash avocado in a mixing bowl. Squeeze lemon on top. Add basil, chicken, dates, walnuts, garlic salt & pepper and mix well.

Makes 2-3 servings, add extra lemon to store in the fridge for a day

 

Basic Caesar Salad

This salad is so basic it’s almost silly to even list, but I have a few tips & ideas for it so I wanted to share! I didn’t go over the quantities of each ingredient because it really is to each person’s taste.

My best tip is to ‘water down,’ a dressing. Whether it be a creamy dressing or a vinaigrette I do the same for both. This is so the salad mixes easier without having to use more dressing all the while keeping the calories down. I always bust out a measuring spoon and use a tablespoon of dressing and then ‘water it down,’ using freshly squeezed lemon or balsamic vinegar. Years ago I started doing this and just got so used to it that I can’t have it any other way. A freshly squeezed lemon is the most amazing addition to any salad! I am lemon obsessed and it’s a bit of a problem when they get expensive to buy in the winter. I use them in cold and hot water to drink, salads, marinades you name it. I got my first Costco card this year and pretty much go there for the lemons, they are a great price point and are usually superior in quality!

I’ve also gotten into buying aged parmesan (usually 30 months). It completely changes a typical caesar salad into a restaurant quality salad by adding so much more flavor. I used to use a rotary grater but found mine has gotten dull over time. I just started using my electric mini chopper and you can do quite a bit at once, store it in the fridge, and it still has the ‘freshly grated,’ smell and taste for several weeks.

I really like Newman’s Own Parmesan & Roasted Garlic Dressing. It’s a vinaigrette and when you add lemon or balsamic it comes alive, but in the spirit of keeping it real I like it because it is caesar in nature, sans the anchovies.

 

Basic Caesar Salad Recipe

Ingredients

romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces

Newman’s Own Parmesan & Roasted Garlic Dressing

fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar

freshly grated aged parmesan

freshly ground pepper

Directions

Of course just toss all together! I do want to add that I count my tosses and do about 25 to make sure everything is mixed really well (a little Martha tip from years ago)!

 

Hope you enjoy this recipe, let me know of any twists you put on it, I’m interested in how many ways this dish can be changed!

Lv, Julie♥