Over the holidays, I unleashed my inner
hippie (never far from the surface, I might add) to create a mood light with an
umbra Fotofall stand and Sylvania’s new Mosiac strips on which I clipped the strip.
Up to ten strips can be joined to create up to 20 feet
and special connectors can be used to negotiate corners. Strips can also be cut
with scissors at pre-marked spots. A remote lets the user choose from 15 colours,
including white.Personally, I don't go much for flashing, blinking lights. If I want that, I'll go to Vegas.But I do like being able to change the colour to suit moods and decor.
A kit, which comes with four two-foot strips, sells for about $50 at Home Depot. Well, what do you think? Pure genius? Or probably drunk?
to get your handy honey something really special during the just-passed gifting
season? And now, retailers are already on your back to give it up again for
Valentine’s Day, correct? Confound them by giving a bouquet of tools,
rather than flowers.
& Decker's Matrix Multi-Tool might fit the bill - and your budget. It
consists of a single base power unit that has multiple attachments, including drills,
saws and sanders.
starter kit with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery includes a drill, mouse
sander, and jigsaw – for $150. There’s also a 12V driver/drill kit for $70.
Attachments start at about $30 for a two-speed hammer dill and top out at about $40
for an impact driver attachment.
If you haven’t visited his little jewel box shop on Danforth, you should. It may
just be the Platonic Ideal or a floral shop.
If you can't get down there, you can
at least drink a few drops from the font of his floral wisdom. Here it is:
with a leaf to cover stems; Duarte likes dark brown Thai leaves.
up water, but don’t add powders — they’re mostly sugar and can cause bacteria
that contributes to rot.
Work with a
maximum of three colours.
from too much glitter (however tempting it may be).
On a dinner
table, the height of an arrangement should never be taller than the length of
your elbow to your hand. If you’re table
is long, consider three several smaller arrangements.
different and striking, cut Amaryllis, and hang them upside down. Gather the stems loosely
but firmly with a floral wire and fill the stems, which are hollow, with water.
Suspend from a hanging light fixture. (And
if you can’t figure out how to do that, call Duarte – Editor)
switch it up for New Year’s Eve? Go with white, says Duarte. “You will have
been bombarded with red and other colours. White will be fresh and clean, just
like the new year.”
Quick - if navy is the new midnight blue, what does artisanal mean? That’s a trick question — artisanal can mean whatever. Heck, I’ve squirted Srirachi hot-sauce into ketchup and called it “an artisanal blend of tomato and pepper”.
So I know, folks, that the term can tart everything from stationery with pictures of birds on it to the “limited edition” of a new line from a hip retailer, “richly inspired” by raw talent in a far-flung, picturesque spot, but mass made in China.
If you want the real thing, from Africa, for example, you have to go to Snob, a jewel box of a store tucked away in a tiny corner at 388 Carlaw, between Dundas and Gerrard.
It's tempting to take one of everything at Snob
Right now, there are amazing textiles (ethereal threads of wool and silk washed into felt, heavy cotton fabrics with detailed stitching – both geometric and organic in design — in earthy browns, yellow and pumpkin tones - I’d use it on bedding, lampshades, headboards, soft ottomans.
Also, elaborately carved poles on stands; in another life, they held up tents in a desert. Highly beaded and elongated wooden figures. And a curiosity cabinet, with artifacts such as hair picks made from ancient destructible woods. In fact, this store is a bit like the museum. Plan to stay a while.
Of all of the gorgeousness, the most beautiful thing there for me are the handmade Egyptian pendant Zenza lamps, with hammered patterns that create shadow webs on the nearest wall — to very, very pretty effect.
I know because I have one hanging in a hallway at home. Every time I look at it, I stop and marvel at the craft-work and the effect it has on light.
Recently at Snob, I saw for the first time the slim cylindrical pieces from Zenza. If I had a high ceiling and a lot of money, I’d buy 20 of them.
The choice of models will only expand, given that Snob owner Denise Zidel (or, as her intimate friends like to call her, La Snob Dynamo) is now the national distributor for these pieces. Go and visit the store. In the meantime, check out the pics below.
Love the new textiles at Snob
The Zenza lamps I love, love love.
BTW, a little birdie told me to look out for news from Snob early in the new year.
Around town, the shortest route to local talent is probably through the One of a Kind Show, which is the Platonic Ideal of Artisanal. One of the few home shows that’s worth the price of admission.Check out my Pinterest board for a sneak peak.
This holiday season, World Vision is selling scarves and jewelry to support their education and development projects. The Haitian hand-beaded necklace is attractive, with thin bands of strong colour.You need to order by Dec. 10th to get them for Christmas.
Chef Tom Filippou, executive chef for President’s Choice Cooking Schools thinks busy home cooks often need a little inspiration for putting together menus for summertime suppers with friends and family. So he and his team have come up with some easy–to-assemble suggestions using, naturally, the President’s Choice product line, which seems to be growing ever bigger, and ever better.
One zesty suggestion - pair Jalapeno cheese burgers with Corn Relish on Round Pretzel Buns, with a side salad dressed with Avocado Dressing, Lime and Jalapeno. Or top a chicken burger with the Zucchini Relish and Monterey Jack with Jalapeno Pepper mini cheese slices. I also like the Sofrito, which is, typically a mix of flavour-rich ingredients indigenous to various regions. PC’s entry is tomato-based with onions, green, red and jalapeño peppers with notes of cilantro, garlic and lemon. It makes for a great burger dressing, but also works with cheese on crusty bread for a vegetarian option, or as a zingy compliment to perfectly scrambled eggs.
I think sandwiches make great summer fare, and Chef Tom agrees. That’s why he suggests putting a little bit extra on the grill to be used for sandwiches the next day. Think about pulled pork, or hot Italian sausages, made with the new PC baguettes. Add roasted pepper or eggplant, portebello mushrooms, sliced raw red onion or caramelized onions.
I happen to like the red pepper rounds buns with almost anything, but especially with fresh LOCAL tomatoes and crisp lettuce, and Formaggio di Bufala Fresh Soft Cheese. For a fun side to a bun-less burger, try roasted beets, sliced very thin and served with toasted walnuts, goat cheese and a drizzle of flavoured olive oil. The magnificent Lucy Waverman turned me on to serving these with chive oil (combine ½ cup chives with ½ cup chives and 2 tablespoons chopped green onion. Bring to a simmer and then sit for 2 hours. Strain).
An easy way to serve an elegant dessert is to pile ice cream — say, the Loads of White Chocolately Raspberry Treats — into a waffle bowl and heap it high with fresh LOCAL raspberries. Peanut butter and jam ice cream, is pretty delish with fresh cherries, imho - I keep a bag of mixed frozen berries in the freezer for the times I run out of fresh, LOCAL (I think I've made my point, no?) seasonal fruit. You could also dress a Dulce de Leche cheesecake with fruit and/or toasted nuts which you would serve, of course, in very skinny slices.
Smoking is in. That is, as in cooking foods slowly over low heat using various types of wood, not as in inhaling toxic chemicals that lead to a slow and painful death. Experts tell me that tastes in wood chips are as subjective as tastes in wine. For example, i hate Chardonnay and I don't care who knows it. If you want to experiement with smoking on the barbie, but aren't sure which kind of chips to use, try it out, consider picking up one of Weber’s Trial smoker kits, with four trays with hickory, cherry, apple, and beech chips ($13) or a six-pack of mesquite, cherry, apple, hickory, and pecan, and beech ($18) In Toronto, you can find them at Deer Park, Dickson and Sunnybrook Home Hardware stores, www.homehardware.ca, Sobies BBQ , Ontario Gas Barbeque , The Sign of the Skier or online at Weber. Never used chips before and don't have a smoker? Here's an easy how-to from Canadian Living.
Famously laid-back Vancouverites are not letting a cool and rainy start to summer diminish their enthusiasm for outdoor recreation and entertaining. In fact, says Fiona Wilson, who works at one of the Home Depots in the city, portable grills that folks can easily take to the beach or the park are big sellers this year. Those include Weber’s Q series. (Shown below at right.)
Speaking of portable, Canadian Tire has a sweet little portable propane grill/oven from Coleman that looks like it would be just the thing for gourmet campers who want to eat mroe than weiners and smores (although there's nothing wrong with that menu, imho). It has two 6,000 BTU stove burners and a 3,000 BTU oven that will fit a 12-inch pizza, and which will run for about 90 minutes on high. Windscreens shield the grill from gusts.
The Quattro from Stok (shown below) is also drawing attention from folks who “like toys”, says Reid, as it has special pull-out grills in which pizza stones, veggie baskets and other accessories can be inserted. Full discolsure - I have one of these and like it a lot - mostly because I can cook the entire meal on it including, if I do say so myself, a great little appetizer pizza with tomato, goat cheese and basil-infused olive oil. Served with rose wine, natch.
Outdoor barbeques are a standard feature of the Canadian summer landscape. Their popularity is well-deserved; after all, there’s nothing quite like enjoying roasted meat or fish on the patio or by the lake on a perfect summer evening, surrounded by friends and family. But let’s face it, BBQ parties do have their drawbacks, especially for the chef, who’s often forced to stand for hours over a hot grill, trying to juggle orders for rare, medium, well-done, cheese or no-cheese, vegetarian etc., etc, etc.
Not only is this sweaty work, but it forces the cook to focus on food rather than friends. That’s why I think the summer sandwich is poised to make a come-back. Sandwiches may well be the new “it” food – they’re easy to prepare ahead, highly portable, don’t require utensils and are easy to customize for folks with various dietary restrictions.
I’ve put together an easy make-ahead Canada Day party menu that I think will delight guests, and allow the entire gang to hang out together. My “inspiration” was a line of plain and flavoured hummus from Sabra, pickled beans and olives from Matt and Steve’s Extreme Bean line and PC’s regular and multi grain baguettes.
The gelato and sorbet were a breeze to make with the DeLonghi’s Gelatto Maker. Unlike previous generations of this type of machine, you don’t have to freeze the inner vessel before preparation - just quickly mix the various ingredients into a bowl, pour it in the bowl and turn it on. For the next half hour or so, the ingredients are churned and chilled. The taste and texture of what you get is, imho, far, far beyond just about any store-bought product on the market – including many premium brands. And you can be making the sweet treat unattended, while guests are nibbling on the main event. I had such fun testing the machine with the DeLonghi recipe book, and it wasn’t long before I was coming up with my own recipes, including one for maple syrup gelato.
1 tablespoon cold espresso, or a heaping tablespoon of instant coffee dissolved in a tablespoon of cold milk
½ cup cream
½ cup sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
Pour into machine and follow manufacturer's instructions. By the way, you can make gelato without an ice-cream maker – it’s just a bit fussier. You can also dress this up by folding in a half cup of chopped toasted walnut or small chunks of dark chocolate (or both!)
A few tips for further reducing the fuss – keep serving dishes simple and practical. I’m not generally a fan of paper napkins, but cheap and cheerful napkins with a Maple Leaf are perfect for a Canada Day get-together. In some cases, they can replace plates.
I also love the unbreakable serving pieces from Urban Barn that look like slate. They pair beautifully with plain white service dishes and lovely little tea-light holders with sweet little bird motifs in glossy white – also from Urban Barn. When arranging self-serve party food, I always suggest using several smaller platters rather than one or two large, centrally located ones. It means that food is within easy reach of conversational grouping and that there’s never a crush or line up in one spot. It also tends to make people circulate, which helps any party.
Another tip – rather than having a set meal-time, consider an open-house format, in which you invite guests to drop in anytime between, say, 2 and 7 p.m. It makes it easier for families of different types (young couple with babies, empty-nesters, busy teen-agers) to get to the event, and staggering the arrival of folks also often means that you get more face-time with each.
Since music adds to the atmosphere of any party, you’ll want to crank some tunes outside. For that, I love the teeny iHome stereo speaker system that I found at HMV. It works with MP3 players, iPhones and iPads, delivering remarkably good sound from a small base. Also great on the dock at the cottage. You can pick one up for about $20 from HMV, where I also found a few new must-have Canadian releases; Rufus Wainwright’s Out of the Game, the Cowboy Junkies' The Wilderness and Neil Young’s Americana, which includes a cover version of God Save the Queen.
Here are my food suggestions. Hope they inspire you.
Spicy hummus served with sliced radishes, baby carrots and baguette slices (for an elegant presentation, slice baguette into rounds, brush with olive oil and place in a 400˚F oven for 10 minutes.)
Pickled green beans wrapped in prosciutto
Cherry tomatoes with bocconcini, drizzled with basil flavoured olive oil
Red pepper hummus with sliced red onion, roasted beets, goat cheese and red leafy lettuce on a plain baguette, garnished with a pickled bean
Roasted garlic hummus with Brie, sliced radishes and curly lettuce on multigrain baguette, garnished with a pickled olive (use a Canadian flag toothpick for a fun touch)
Devilled eggs made with black olive hummus (So simple. Slice a dozen hard boiled eggs in half. Carefully remove yolks with a small spoon and place in bowl. Add about a half-cup of Sabra Greek Olive hummus and few tablespoons of mayonnaise or thick plain yogurt. Mix together and spoon into eggs. Garnish with chopped onion. )
Mocha maple syrup gelatto served in a chocolate Victoria cup and garnished with a chocolate wafer
Strawberry sorbet served with mashed strawberries and garnished with a lemon wafer
Need more great gift ideas for Dad? Happy to oblige.
Is Dad an aging hippie, or just an aficionado of amazing harmonies? He might like The Beach Boys new album, That’s Why God Made the Radio. Available at HMV for $17. If his taste runs to something with a slightly harder edge, Rush's Clockwork Angels, also at HMV for $15.
You love Dad, but not his habit of wearing his old running shoes with short socks — even in public. We feel your pain. Kick up Daddy-O’s cool quotient with Sebago’s Triton Three-Eye (about $140) at The Dock Shoppe; Town Shoes; Little Burgundy; Locale; Browns or online atSebago.
Also worth a look are Wolverine’s Fulcrum GTX ($300) line. These boots have more than rugged good looks going for them. Waterproof leather uppers with a mesh lining, and a GoreTex membrane make them comfy and breathable. But here’s the kicker — there’s a removable insole that sits atop a special disc that allows the wearer to customize support. Clever, no?
Does Dad love his coffee? Go all out with De’Longhi’s Gran Dama Avant Espresso Make, which makes perfect latte, cappuccino, Italian macchiato, espresso or plain ole coffee. It’s got touch-screen operation, an on-board grinder, and a plastic jug that stores netaly away in the fridge delivers milk directly into the cup (no fussing with steamer wands). If the SRP of $3500 is a little too steep, remember that De Longhi has great lower price-point models the one I have does coffee and espresso (space saving) and comes in closer to $250.
Is Father Dear always running late? And do you have a healthy wad of cash burning a hole in your pocket? Tissot’s gorgeous T-Touch II ($950.00) is a stylish solution. Other models from the same line start at $695.Just the watch to get if Dad’s taste runs to a touch-screen, Swiss-made watch that gives 13 functions, including an altimeter, compass, thermometer and alarm and is water resistant up to 100 metres.Plus, you can get it a funky orange silicone strap, if Dad happens to be a style-meister. Available at Birks across Canada.
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