Friday!

It's a glum Friday, more snow, now rain. Though my mood is less troubled by it, there was no way on God's green (or grey) earth I was going out tonight. So I stayed in and did my taxes. I think that's a new record in efficiency. I'm resolved  to save this year's rebate. I can't even remember what I spent last year's on, so it can't have been all that important.

The concept of a tax rebate is so foreign to an Irish person (inconceivable for our government to ever say you've paid enough taxes) that I'm still a bit stunned by the entire process.


Tomorrow, I've got to go and get my photograph taken for that contest I won, which I'm dreading. I loathe having my picture taken and already feel a pitiful empathy for the person who has to put up with my awkwardness the minute a camera is pointed at me.

The one redeeming part is the photographer is in a part of town that I don't get to very often, but that has nice mid-century used furniture stores, so maybe I'll find a little gem to shake myself out of my self-flagellation. This is the photographer. If a hames is made of it, I'm entirely to blame:(

On the upside, March starts tomorrow. Mum wrote me this week and said the daffodils are already up at home! I think I need to see if I can buy some this weekend. They make me so happy!

Daffodils in St Stephen's Green, Dublin from FXGeek's Flickr

Jigsaw

I've been stalking the Jigsaw site waiting for their Spring catalogue to show. Today their site flipped, but no delectable catalogue. Instead, something even better: the promise of future e-Commerce. I do love a little somethin' somethin' from Jigsaw!

Matt & Nat

I think everybody I know has at least one Matt & Nat purse. They're eminently affordable, but not tacky. They always hit it out of the park. They're also vegan. They've relaunched their website since I last visited and it's much much much better! These are some of my current faves...

Book report: The Gathering

I read this more slowly than usual and the reason wasn't my lack of interest or a lapse in my usual intensity, it was the intensity of the book itself. In fact, I'll go so far as to say this is the most unflinching story I've read since Houllebecq's Atomised (or "Elementary Particles" as it was called here).

The tale itself is quite simple: A large Irish family congregates for the funeral of the main character's brother.


Apart from the dreadful larger narrative, there was so much that was disturbingly familiar: The complexity of large Irish families, their lacksidasical and yet pious Catholicism, the acquaintance from a young age with funereal rites (I wonder is this a cultural-religious thing, or merely a function of age-expectancy and family size). And then more banal things, like the copy-books we all used at school (with a round tower depicted on the cover).

But Enright's voice is the most disturbingly familiar thing of all. She's so utterly Irish in her darkest thoughts and her savage humour. She's perceptive yet abstruse. She one moment lulls you into the quietude of middle-class mediocrity ("oatmeal, cream, sandstone, slate") and the next jars you with a thought you're shocked she has shared.

Above all, she captures the vagaries of childhood memory and how those vivid but confusing remembrances can torment and define us as adults. The Gathering won the Man Booker in 2007. If you read it, trust me, there comes a beautiful catharsis in the wake of Enright's glittering prose.

I feel...

...like doing this. It's only Tuesday and there's supposed to be another snowstorm. I'm completely ready for Spring. Over-ready. Ripe.


Image by Rebecca Belmore, at CMCP

Martha Sturdy

Remember the simple acrylic coffee table I claimed I would be happy with? Turns out I'm a liar. I saw one at Horsefeathers last weekend and it was all scuffed and scraped and cheap-looking. I think they only look great when they're pristine and I don't like things that only look good brand-spanking new. They have to age gracefully.

So, onwards and upwards. My new fantasy? A Martha Sturdy resin floating table. The pictures don't do her work justice. It's amazing, ephemeral and yet masculine and bulky. I've admired it for a long time but I had in mind a certain piece. Now I do! Available here at my beloved Hollace Cluny. The pieces can be made in many colours.


Shopbop finds

I don't even wear heels and I'm fantasizing about these heels. I also like these flats and this top. And this purse. Okay I'll stop now... (though I could go on) In case you didn't guess it's arrivals time at Shopbop.

Recipe of the week: Raspberry shortcakes with basil cream

From Delicious magazine, this is perfect. There were no good passion-fruit at the grocery, so I used lemons instead. Lemons and raspberries always go together... (I snapped the picture before I drizzled over the sauce)


Makes 4
- 200g shortbread biscuits (Duchy e.g.)
- 50g unsalted butter, melted
- 2 punnets raspberries
- 1 tbs icing sugar
- 2 passionfruit
- 300ml thickened cream
- 3 tbs creme fraiche
- 2 tbs thick Greek-style yoghurt
- 6 basil leaves

Preheat oven to 170 Celsius. Grease four 10cm loose-bottomed tart pans. Crush biscuits in food processor, add melted butter and press into tart pans. Bake for 5 mins until firm, allow to cool and refrigerate.
Puree half the raspberries and icing sugar. Push through sieve discarding pulp and seeds. Refrigerate sauce.
Scoop pulp from passionfruit, beat cream to peaks. Press passionfruit through sieve into cream. Stir in creme fraiche and yoghurt. Roll up basil leaves and shred, add to mix.
Remove tarts from fridge and pans. Spread cream mixture in the tart shells. Top with berries and raspberry sauce. Garnish with basil leaves if desired.

Sunday

Today felt like the first day of Spring. Doubtless, we'll have relapses, but the sky was finally blue and the light a little more yellow than winter's ice-blue. I went for a huge walk around the cemetery (which basically functions as a park), shot some pictures of the trees gaining strength to bud and came home to clean and cook and get ready for a little Oscar party of two.


My sudden energy made the thought of exercise seem appealing (the resolution I've been struggling with) and thinking of exercise made me think about clothes. I know and envy some people who can wear their going-away outfit 20 years and two children later. I'm not one of those and sometimes keeping those old nostalgic items of clothing only serves to stop you moving on and making the best of yourself now.

So, I purged. The oldest item I have is my BA graduation dress. A lovely pinafore dress I bought at Jigsaw with my Mum. I looked at it today and realized I would never pick it out now. It truly is lovely, but not at all my flavor anymore. I'm pretty good at de-cluttering so don't have tonnes of stuff to purge. But on the flip side, what I've kept this long has been passed over many times, is hugely sentimental and well, I could just cry. But it's all nostalgia and I have photographs, so I'm going to stop being a big cry baby and maintain a wardrobe for me now.

Later, Candace came over for dinner, Oscars & dessert. I loved the Oscars this year (Daniel & Glen Hansard!) and we laughed and chatted during the boring bits. The dessert is my new recipe for the week, so I'll post separately about it!

B&W film

I have roll upon roll of B&W film that I went through when I lived in Ireland and Calgary. I used to use the darkroom at the Gallery of Photography in Dublin and print my pictures on FB-based paper. When I moved to Toronto, it was one of my top priorities to find somewhere I could do that, but there was only one wet darkroom I could find and it was way too communal.

I kindof forgot the whole endeavor. I don't shoot a lot here and my negatives sit in their carefully catalogued binder. It's been so long now that I miss the shots more than the printing process, so I was excited to take them all to Pikto for scanning and (given the # of rolls I have) happy that it would cost just $22 per roll for large tifs.


But because my rolls are cut, they want to charge me per frame ($6 per frame) which is fine for a handful, but given the volume, completely ridiculous. So, I'm shopping for high-end scanning services that don't penalize you because your film is cut. But, I'm starting to look at buying a scanner as another option.

I'm sure I'm not the only photography enthusiast who has gone through this (in fact I'm pretty sure I hung onto the darkroom longer than most), so how did the rest of you do this? Buy scanner? Pay for scanning?

I was so excited just to see some of those old shots, that I'm gutted...

Thank you

A handful of the most gorgeous bloggers have recently mentioned they like my blog too! I'm a little hesitant sometimes of listing my favourite blogs or giving awards to people. The truth is I read many (too many at times!) very different blogs and I don't like to compare them.

I love them all and couldn't possibly shortlist. On any given day, many of you thrill me with new discoveries or beautiful images or tales of adventure and misdemeanor. The bloggers whose blogs I frequent will know this because I leave comments aplenty. Beyond that I'm against awards because I have a (perhaps irrational) fear that it will change what we do and why we do it.

That said, it's rude not to say "thanks", so thank you to Ali, Phoenix & Tara.

Alexis Bittar

I'm very much taken with his Alexis Bittar's new collections. These are some of my favourite pieces.

Chloe

I'm not an it-bag kindof gal. I really loathe monogrammed purses. And I like there to be something more going on than a whopping big logo. I also just don't think of myself as one of those women. I feel more about patina than polish, odd as that sounds. Try as I might, I always feel somewhat disheveled. And I think this is the antithesis of those It-bag looks. Of all the big brands, I most readily make an exception for Chloe. New at Net-a-Porter.

Avoca

Avoca has launched their new S/S collection. I love their trademark casual-feminine looks. Once in awhile I fantasize about living in the country and feeding chickens and, in this fantasy, I usually dress myself in Avoca.

Cake Sale

I'm hooked on Cake Sale. I love Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy. And Gemma Hayes who I saw playing at the Olympia (opening for Ron Sexsmith). And, of course, Lisa Hannigan too...

Maggie Beer

I read about Maggie Beer in the latest installment of Delicious and am in love with the look of her beautifully embroidered book! And after browsing her site, I think I'm justified judging the book by its cover. The site is chockablock full of delectable recipes, with something for every eating option. By the looks of her site, she's pretty well known in her native Australia so forgive me if I'm behind the class on this.

Nicolas Ruel

Nicolas Ruel is a Montreal photographer. His work consists of large-scale photographs printed on stainless steel. Besides the initial shot that drew me in, I love his architecture and transit series. You can view all his work here (though you might want to switch off the annoying muzak) and make purchases here.

Boomerang legs

Speaking of dining tables, I found this one on Ed Hardy @ 1stdibs and dragged it onto my desktop. Even as a tiny jpeg icon the form is eye-catching. 1950's mahogany with brass sabots. I love the boomerang-shaped legs.

Recipe of the week: Roasted Pepper Sauce

This is an easy peasy recipe and something you can make a day or more before you intend to eat it. Often a craving for pasta can take you unawares, so having a ready-made sauce handy means you don't have to settle for those store-bought jars when the mood suddenly hits.

Plus, the smell of peppers roasting in the oven is worth the entire endeavor. This recipe comes from a Moosewood cookbook I bought when I was a student. I tend to mix in some yellow peppers too. And I've used this as an ultra tasty pizza sauce, with simple goats cheese and rocket (arugula).


Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- 6 huge or 9 normal red bell peppers
- 1 onion
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped (or a can diced tomatoes)
- 2 tsps fresh basil
- salt & pepper to taste

Roast the peppers and peel their skins. (If you don't know how to do this, find instructions here.) Remove membranes, seeds etc. Set aside.
In a skillet, saute the onions in olive oil. Add garlic and saute a few mins more. When translucent, add tomatoes, basil & black pepper. Stir in the red pepper strips and cook for a few mins.
Puree 1/3 of the mxture and put back in the skillet. Pour into a sterilized jar. It will keep for a week.

CIRA award!

Since early last week, I've been playing phone tag with some guy who claimed I won a prize in some contest. I usually delete such voicemail messages, but he sounded relatively sane and I vaguely recalled entering so I decided to see it through, all the while convinced he was going to turn around and sell me a time-share or steal my identity.

He got hold of me today and after a skill-question that a checked 4 times in utter paranoia, it turns out I've won a Macbook! Just for having my .ca domain name! And I know everybody says this, but I absolutely never win anything! I'll be selling the Macbook, because I just bought one a few months back, but still it gives me some cash I wasn't expecting to throw around! 


Soma chocolate

For those of you who dislike the milkiness of regular hot chocolate, let me tell you a little more about Soma's Mayan hot chocolate. The mix comes in a roughly-ground coffee texture, is laced with spices (Australian ginger, Madagascar Vanilla, orange peel, chili) and you add one part hot water to two parts mix. It's the espresso of hot chocolate. Those who like everything a stronger, darker and with more oomph will never go back.

I bought a packet of the mix on Friday and decided to celebrate my 400th post (you know, after twisting my own arm for about 2 seconds). It worked out just as great as they make it. And like dark chocolate, it's not something you can binge on... a small bit entirely satisfies.


Valentine's Day

For me the most romantic ideas and moments have something sad about them. Maybe it's about mortality, maybe my deep angst gets in the way. My Valentine's post is dedicated to those who are single and happy, those who are in unrequited love, those who just don't know what they want from love, those who are broken-hearted. This is Yeats.

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

Toast

The new Toast catalogue is out! And it's full of fabulous toasty goodness.

Heart you

Isn't this adorable? I found the link to Cox & Cox on the marvelous Frolic (a daily read of mine) and happened upon this lovely treat. 

Wallpaper samples

I ordered about 10 wallpaper samples from Graham & Brown this weekend. I'm still searching for the perfect paper for my little project. I keep coming back to Farrow & Ball's fabulous vermicelli.

Freezing rain & sleep

Nothing strikes fear into my heart quite as much as the words "freezing rain". My ice-walking skills are next to nothing, so I basically stay indoors if I can on those days when the pathways are turned into skating rinks.

The good news is that since I switched the orientation of my bedroom, I'm sleeping like an angel! I'm sure the feng shui people have some theories that account for this, but I think it's all about being against two walls instead of one. It makes me feel snug and more grounded. I cozy up like this image, from Toast (one of the sites I'm stalking for their new S/S collection).


Linda Penwarden

Jewelery-maker extraordinaire, horse-owner (3 of them! I'm dying with envy) and one of my favourite retailers in Toronto, Linda Penwarden gifted me these gorgeous earrings. She didn't know this, but the Flanagan family crest is a big oak tree, so these oak leaves are perfect for me, without being annoyingly twee. Every item I've bought from Linda has been a perfect purchase and the glow doesn't seem to diminish over time. 

Loeffler Randall

I started this post with the dress, then added the boots, then the other top. Basically, I completely love Loeffler Randall. See them at Shopbop.

Beautiful Skellig

Skellig Michael (Sceilig MhichĂ­l) is a rock rising out of the Atlantic, just off the west coast of County Kerry in Ireland. In 588AD monks built a monastery on this rock and for 600 years it was an important monastic site in Europe. About 12 monks would live there at a time and in the 12th century they abandoned the island and moved back to mainland Ireland.

Today, the island is an UNESCO heritage site and because of high tides, is difficult to get to except on the calmest days during summer months. I've tried and failed to get out there and it's become a bit of an obsession for BFF and me. When I feel homesick, it's generally the west coast of Ireland I miss, in particular the county of Clare. And I want to go back and take another stab at setting foot on the Skellig. Hopefully on a day when nobody else deigns to so I can have it all to myself.


Hayden

This isn't new, but I love singing the la-la-la-la-la bit and then the horns. He's got a new CD out too!

Flocks

I happened upon this website last night and love this pouf and sweater in particular. Flocks (great name eh?) is the brainchild of Christien Meindertsma, who lives and works in Rotterdam.

Three words: Alice Olive Etsy

I've been an avid fan of Alice Olive for months and months. Alice and I share the fact that we're emigrants, and I think it gives us both an on-the-outside-looking-in standpoint. But Alice doesn't just look in, she looks down and around and, perhaps most of all, up. And she frames this wonderful perspective on her world in the most amazing shots.

The good news, for you and me, is that Alice has just opened an Etsy store. I could gush on and on, but check out the pictures and you won't need to me to. I would happily put my money where my mouth is, 'cept the wee wench is not shipping outside the US. C'mon now Alice, you've taunted me quite long enough...


Bedroom

Turns out my "to do" list was wildly optimistic. I spent most of the weekend painting. But the painting is done! And it looks great. I've also rearranged the furniture in my bedroom pushing the bed in against a wall and leaving the other half of the room for dressing and dance parties.


Before, the bed used to float in the middle of the room, taking up most of the space and rather awkwardly carving the room in half. It's an arrangement that would work for a couple better, but since I mostly use the one bedside table, reading lamp etc. it was wasted on me.


The yellow items are the missing objects. The big one against the wall is the armoire I think would be a perfect addition except I can't find anything anywhere I like. Hm. Also, the rug (Madeline, naturally) and bench (something simple) and the stool... I'm really dying for an Eames stool. I want a new bed too... I'm obsessed with the Ochre one.