Monday, August 18, 2014

Good Morning Monday | 7

How was everyone's weeks and weekends? I had a pretty low-key week. Mitch took me to his usual fishing spot on Wednesday evening and we had a impromptu picnic! Veggies, crackers and hummus and dips, along with a cider or two. It made for a wonderful dinner. Other than that my week was casual. A few evenings out with friends. & lots of time in the kitchen working on kitchen-type projects. Some successes. Some not-so-successes. All fun.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Window Shopping: Back to School Backpacks

It's still summer, at least for a few more weeks. And I'm having a really hard time dealing with school, and fall being just around the corner. 
I've already enrolled in courses, my textbooks are in the mail, and finding that studying mindset has been on my mind for the last few weeks. 
Because I work full time and take my courses online, I don't actually need a backpack. But really, it's the nostalgia of the whole thing! And the accessorizing. Plus online window shopping is so much fun. Who else is going back to school, and is in dire need of some back-to-school shopping to reset their brain?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Simplest of Simple: How to Build a Cheese Plate

One of my very favourite treats is a nice, full cheese plate. They are so simple to make but offer such a variety of flavours, textures, and tastes. They also are so much fun to build, and really are only limited to your imagination, and what's in your cupboard.
We have them for dinner once in a while. They make for a fantastic at-home-date-night meal! Especially once a bottle of wine is opened.

A Cheese plate is ridiculously easy to prepare but can be awfully impressive if you have the right flavours. Now, I am no expert when it comes to cheese. I can't tell you which region to purchase your gourmet swiss from (switzerland?) Which notes of this will impress you stuffy neighbours, or bites of that are going to go beautifully with that expensive bottle of chardonnay. I couldn't tell you which mouldy cheese is the best kind of mouldy, and all that stuff. I normally purchase my cheese at the regular ol' supermarket. However, going into a cheese shop once in a while can be very fun, and informative. All I know is cheese tastes good! And it's fun to pair and experiment with different flavours. In my mind there is no right or wrong way to do this thing. Okay? Alright, let's go!

Offer at least two cheeses, usually a few more if you have time/budget.
This plate used:
  • one soft/creamy cheese: a plain goat cheese. But you could also use brie, Boursin cheese, camembert, anything you like.
  • one hard cheese: smoked gouda (our favourite!). You could also use cheddar, emmental, edam, gruyere, something else fun.
I'd recommend, if your using a smaller selection, that you choose cheeses that have had no additional add-ins. This way, you can add flavours to you hearts content! Stay away from peppered, spiced, pre-sweetened choices. If your adding more cheeses try throwing a blue cheese into the mix too. It's also nice to have a representation of cow and goat cheeses.
  • you then need a vessel to get the cheese to your mouth. We prefer crackers. Other options could be fresh bread, pitas, cracker chips, or any combination of choices. 
Now the fun part! The extras! this is where additional flavours come into play and you get to become a little flavour scientist around the kitchen table. Make sure you include an array of both sweet and savoury choices. Some options include
  • A crunch: nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pecans are especially delicious. Smoked, candied, or roasted would all add depth to your bites.
  • A fresh fruit: This plate used fresh figs straight from my friend's garden. Talk about decadent! Try apple, pear, berries, cranberries, mmmmm.
  • fresh herbs: We'd never added herbs to our cheese plates before but we had them in the fridge  so on they went. I loved having them as an option! Our plate included chives, basil, and dill.
  • spreadables: you can get especially creative here! Condiments I enjoy using are honey, grainy mustards, and jams. Try chutneys, Balsamic vinegars or reductions, or pesto.
  • odds and ends: cold meats, pepperoni, sea salts and peppers, pickles, olives, there's no end to what you could have really!
These are some of the flavour combinations we discovered with this plate! SHOW & TELL TIME! (That's kind of all the time on blogs isn't it? ...Whatever)

Our cute little patio all set up for enjoying a dinner outside. Super-romantic peek into my life right here.

The cheese plate I use is this one from London Drugs. It's fantastic because it comes with cheese knives and slate boards for writing cheese names - if you choose to get that fancy, or you know, host a party and actually share your cheese.
If you don't have a legit cheese plate don't worry! a wooden cutting board works wonderfully, or a large plate or serving tray could even double as a cheese plate. Like I said before it's all in your creativity and what you have in your cupboards! 

On a whole different note, as someone who's trying to purchase less animal products I've been experimenting with vegan cheese-making! Hopefully my next cheese plate will have some delicious vegan options!
What are some of your favourite cheeses? 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Good Morning Monday | 6

So I had pretty-much-probably the best and most anticipated weekend of my Summer! Mitch, myself, and two of my very good friends took off Thursday morning for the American Border to go see Arcade Fire perform at the Gorge Amphitheatre!!!!!! Crazy right!?
It was about a 6 hour road trip of laughs, pervy snacks and the complete Arcade Fire Discography. The Concert was Friday night which meant two awesome nights of camping on the Gorge campgrounds- which is half the fun of the whole trip! The weather was scorching hot all Friday, perfect camp-enjoying-weather (If you have a canopy shelter).
If you've never been to or heard of The Gorge Amphitheatre, it's one of the most beautiful concert venues you can imagine. First off, It's in the-middle-of-nowhere, USA. The stage is set in front of the Columbia River, in the midst of a canyon. And the seating is the luscious, sloping grassy hills looking down onto the performance. All you need is a blanket and you're set.
Imagine first watching one of the most beautiful sunsets you'll ever see, followed by the concert of a lifetime (I sound ridiculously sappy, but it was practically an emotional experience to see a performance here). Arcade Fire was amazing. They played a fantastic 2 hour set. Including a stellar 4-song dance-inducing encore. As a music junkie, I don't know if I'll see a better concert in my life.

What are the the best concerts you've ever been to? Or your favourite artists?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

DIY: How to Secure Window Boxes to Wide Balcony Railings

This post could also be called "How to Keep Planters From Falling on your Neighbours During an Evening Wind Storm". Or It could be called "You're Probably Just Paranoid, but Hey, Let's Tie This Thing Down" or even "I Don't Want to Damage my Rental Balcony, So No Screws Allowed". But whatever it's called, I'm not even sure it's a problem many people have. But I figured, I had this little problem, so why not post it, just in case.

These are the particular window boxes I have. Your average, home improvement store pick-up. They were perfect at the last apartment we lived in which had a tiny and thin wrought iron railing. The hanging device it came with just looped on the railing like it should, easy as pie! Not the case over here!
The first month my planters just sat, pathetically on the floor, full of flowers which were not getting nearly enough sun down there.
 I spent a lot of time online and scouring the local home and garden stores trying to find window boxes that would fit on the massive railings we have on our balcony. There's nothing out there! I also spent many hours online looking for a solution that used the window boxes I already have, again I came up with nothing. But I was determined to figure this thing out without damaging our rental. What made the most sense was to tie them down, but still look ascetically pleasing. I wanted them to look like they were supposed to be that way.

How to do this:

  • polypropylene cord
  • Jute
  • Scissors
  • Window Box
  • electric drill or a nail and a flame
I chose a cord in green because all our outdoor furniture is green, and Jute because it looks more outdoorsy. Then we got to work!

First, measure how long you'll need each piece - each side of the window box will have 3 equal pieces. Meaning each window box will need 6 pieces of string.
Measure from where it will be tied off to the top of the hand railing - multiple that by 2 (because you're coming down the other side), the length the cord that will run along the top of the box, and from the bottom corner of the window box to the opposite-top corner - multiply that by 2. Then add a generous amount (at least 6 - 8 inches) so you have plenty of string left to tie off at the end. Your way better off with more than less, you can cut it later.
where knot will be to where box will rest + side of box diagonally(2) + top of window box + 8 or so inches = length of each cord
don't you love my pathetic attempt at an equation? Maybe just pull out some sting and give it a go. Get crazy.

To put holes through your window box you can either drill a hole on either end that will fit the size of your 3 lengths of cord, or you can heat a nail over a flame (like a candle) and melt your way through the plastic on the window box. That's what we did. Just be careful not to burn yourself! Use pliers or something else to hold the nail if it's short. Then clean up the edges.

Now stand the window box on your balcony, decide where you want it to stay and thread the strings through all at once from the top down. (Side note! This part is much easier with a helper.) Criss cross them along side the window box. This makes the cords a bit more appealing, as well as adds much more stability. Tie it off as tight as you can at the bottom. All done! Whoo hoo, and celebrate that your balcony just gained a ton more curb appeal, AKA street cred.
I braided the extra cord at the bottom of the knot to make things a bit cuter. You could cut it short, tassel it, do whatever you like really! In spring, I'm going to plant some crawling vines to tangle around the rope so you won't really even see it!

I give you, Visuals!

Honestly, this is a very easy DIY, and the pictures will probably speak for themselves. Even better than my silly instructions! These Window boxes have been up no problem for about 3 months now, and we live near the ocean so it gets mighty windy round these parts! 
You don't need to necessarily use 3 pieces of rope - I had originally intended to braid them, bad idea. That took hours... You could use one heavier piece of cord, whatever you like!

Hopefully someone can find this little outdoor how-to helpful!
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