Monthly Archives: February 2013

Furniture makeover: the dresser

These last few weeks I’ve been busy working on my home’s decor. I have been gluing, stapling, painting and mod-podging almost non-stop. I’ll be sharing the results of these makeovers with you, because many of these are drastic and I’m quite proud of how they came out.

Let’s start with this dresser.
Dresser before white

It was given to me by a former work colleague who was moving back to France. Even though it looked quite worn out, I immediately saw it’s potential. Besides, who says no to free furniture ?

For months, I left it as is (it was a neutral brown shade). Then I put a few coats of white, thinking it would fit nicely into my decor. Alas, I was still not satisfied, finding that it lacked character and looked unfinished.

After weeks of searching for inspiration, I was just about to give up when I saw a photo of a room with a color scheme not unlike that of my living room, in which one of the pieces of furniture had been painted a pretty shade of light blue.

I haven’t been a fan of baby blue since I passed the age of 12 and stopped liking boy bands and Kangol hats, so I was quite surprised that I liked it in this context. Figuring that I had nothing to lose that another coat of paint couldn’t fix, I went out to buy a few bottles of acrylic paint, along with some easy to install handles.

Here’s the dresser in mid-makeover process:

During makeover dresser

And here’s the final result:

Dresser makeover blue

I’m really happy with how it looks. Oddly enough, I think that if I saw this dresser in a store, I’d find it too classical, but in my decor, it really fits.

The process itself was easy but I’ll recap it for you if you want to do it yourself:

– I started with a coat of white primer. Let it dry (in my case, for many weeks)

– Chose a shade of blue (I used Americana acrylic paint in Baby blue DAO42). I used 4 bottles.

– Got 3 handles at the hardware store. Installed them.

That’s it! No sanding or varnishing was required but it may be in your case depending on the texture and use you will make of the furniture. I’ll let you be the judge on that!

Sweet sundays: Spice cake french toast recipe

A few weeks ago I wrote about how much I love Sundays.

Staying in bed until 8h30 AM, chilling with my cats and my boyfriend, then preparing a hearty breakfast. That’s my idea of heaven.

Today I was prepared to make crepes. However, we had some leftover spice cake and that inspired me to try something new: Spice cake french toast.

IMG_4774

This recipe is easy and does not require tremendous cooking skills. If you can manage to do so, set the spice cake out the night before so it will dry (make sure to slice it). If not, follow the instructions as it can be done without the drying process.

You will need:
+ 1 350g spice cake (can be found at most large surface grocery stores)
+ 2 eggs
+ 1/2 cup of milk
+ 1 or 2 drops of vanilla extract

optional: 1 teaspoon sugar (for those with major sweet tooth’s, careful though because most spice cakes are already very sweet).

Spice cake sliced

Tools:

+ 1 frying pan
+ 1 wooden spoon
+ 1 bowl or tupperware type container (for the egg mix)
+ 1 spatula

Spice cake french toast recipe

Steps:

+ Cut the spice cake into 1 inch thick slices
+ IF and ONLY if you haven’t set the slices out the night before, toast them or grill them on a plaque until they are dry. (Time will depend on your toaster or oven so keep an eye on them)
+ Mix the eggs, milk and vanilla extract (plus sugar if you want some) in a bowl.
+ Heat the frying pan at medium temperature. Don’t forget to add a drop of oil or a small dollop of butter to prevent sticking if your pan is old or if the non-sticking surface is not efficient anymore.
+ Drop each slice of spice cake, one at a time, into the batter. Leave it in for approx. 30 seconds.
+ Put the slices on the frying pan and cook, turning them over often, until the sides are brown and a bit crispy.

Suggested sauces to drizzle onto the spice cake french toast: Maple butter, maple syrup, Dulce de leche, Speculoos paste.

Enjoy! My boyfriend sure did! ūüôā
Yummy face

Photos of nature from around the world

Just for fun, I rummaged through my travel pics and found these photos of elements of nature taken around the world (well, on 3 continents).

When we travel, we tend to mostly take pictures of architecture and famous landmarks. I do that a lot, but I also like to capture the natural environment of the place I’m in, whether it’s a city or the countryside.

Sometimes, depending on the local climate, the flora is similar to that of Montreal. Other times, it is different and exotic (to me). I’m also very bad at identifying types of plants and trees so if any of you can tell me what some of these are, I’d be really happy to learn!

Here are a few examples of images I’ve taken while wandering around:

North-America

2008_0224straotherandmontreal0028

This first image was taken in the far, exotic land called Hochelaga Maissonneuve ūüėČ (that’s in Montreal, the neighborhood where I used to live).

Flowers at Battery Park, New York City

Flowers at Battery Park, New York City

Europe

The Villa Borghese park in Rome

The Villa Borghese park in Rome

Fallen leaves in Rome

A peaceful road in Père-Lachaise cemetary, Paris

A peaceful road in Père-Lachaise cemetary, Paris

The wild beauty of Ile Sainte-Marguerite, near Cannes in the South of France

The wild beauty of Ile Sainte-Marguerite, near Cannes in the South of France

A flowery field in beautiful Britanny, France

A flowery field in beautiful Britanny, France

Buckingham palace, as seen across a pond in St-James Park, London, England

Buckingham palace, as seen across a pond in St-James Park, London, England

Flowers at the Barcelona municipal plant deposit (which is not open to the public but we ended up there when we got lost trying to find something else).

Flowers at the Barcelona municipal plant deposit (which is not open to the public but we ended up there when we got lost trying to find something else).

Asia 

A Rose in Istanbul, Turkey

A Rose in Istanbul, Turkey (probably taken on the European side of Istanbul but I don’t remember so I decided to put it under Asia since most of the country is considered as being on that continent).¬†

An art installation at Sapporo Art Park

An art installation at Sapporo Art Park

Flower fields in Nakafurano, Farm Tomita, Hokkaido, Japan

Flower fields in Nakafurano, Farm Tomita, Hokkaido, Japan

Tree roots at Iwatayama Monkey park, Kyoto, Japan

Tree roots at Iwatayama Monkey park, Kyoto, Japan

Kinkakui temple, Kyoto, Japan

Kinkakuji temple, Kyoto, Japan

Flowers in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Japan

Flowers in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Japan

If you enjoy this type of photography post, check out the following articles: pictures of water, pictures of winter.

The quirky buildings of Montreal: Expo 67

This week, Untapped Cities published a piece I wrote about the quirky buildings of Montreal. It will become a series and in this first installment, I wrote about the installations that were built for Expo 67 (the 1967 World Fair). To read it, click here.

Here are a few photos that I took in the same¬†photo-shoot¬†but that didn’t fit in the article:

Biosphere detail Montreal

The Montreal Biosphere

Saint-Lawrence river between Saint-Helen Island and Notre-Dame Island

The Saint-Lawrence river, passing between Saint-Helen Island and Notre-Dame island.

Notre-Dame Island

Winter at Park Jean-Drapeau.

Park Jean-Drapeau

Park Jean-Drapeau.

Montreal Casino

The Montreal Casino.

Park Jean-Drapeau

Park Jean-Drapeau.

Pont de la Concorde vue de Montréal

The view of Montreal from the Concorde Bridge.

Ice Saint-Lawrence river Montreal

Ice on the Saint-Lawrence river.

View of Montreal Saint-Lawrence river

A view of downtown Montreal taken near Habitat 67.

All in a day’s work: planning dinner recipes in advance

Each week, I try to prepare creative, healthy meals that will provide to my boyfriend and I the energy that we need in order to get through our long workdays.
Since food is one of my tasks on the common chore list, I need to find ways to be able to cook my dinners in advance because when the work week starts, I don’t have the time to do it. Currently, I try to cook 3 or 4 dinners at a time, usually on Wednesday afternoons. This way, dinners are ready until Saturday.

This is how I usually function:

On Tuesday evenings, I map out the list of recipes I’m going to make. My criteria is: healthy ingredients, flavor and accessibility of ingredients (I need to be able to buy them at the store where I work or at another grocery store that is near my house). I also try to prioritize recipes that I can cook at the same time (so they share ovens and don’t require too many stove elements).

The thing with me is that I don’t like to repeat myself in terms of cooking. I’m always challenging myself to try something new. This means that we’ve rarely eaten the same dinner twice in the past year and a half. It’s not easy, but I have a blast doing it (most of the time).

Last Wednesday, I prepared three meals.

I started out by placing all the ingredients I needed for those three recipes on top of my small buffet, and grouping them together by separate meals.

Brocoli eggplant carrots

sausage green beans

Spinach potato

I started out by preheating the oven at 400F(205C). Then I got ready for the recipe that requires the most time:

Roast chicken with baby potatoes, garlic and spinach

What you’ll need (for 2 people)
+2 chicken thighs
+Light olive oil or grapeseed oil
+5 or 6 cloves of garlic
+100g of spinach
+200g Baby potatoes
+1 tbsp lemon juice
+Herbes de provence or Court Bouillon spices

spinach in the oven

How to prepare it:
+In a rectangular pan, spread out the spinach and splash it with either of the oils you’ve chosen (as shown in the picture)
+Add the garlic cloves (bared beforehand of their skin)
+Pat down the chicken thighs with a bit of oil, lemon juice and spices
+Put the chicken over the spinach
+Add the baby potatoes
+When the oven has reached 400F, put the dish in and cook for 1 hour. After 1 hour, check to make sure the chicken is well cooked. Depending on your oven, it may take another 20 minutes.

Serve with some brown rice noodles.

In my 3 meal plan, I had another dish that required cooking in the oven:

Brocoli, tomato, eggplant, sausage and cheese casserole

What you’ll need (for two people)
+2 sausages (choose your own type. mild italian, tomato and basil or honey dijon are all good for this recipe)
+250 grams of mild cheddar cheese
+1 good sized Broccoli
+1 medium sized eggplant
+1 can whole tomatoes (fresh is good too)
+ 4 cloves of garlic

brocoli eggplant tomato sausage cheese

Directions:

+Start out by thoroughly cleaning the broccoli and skinning the eggplant
+Cut them into bite sized pieces
+In a large pan (of any shape, I used a medium sized round one and a small rectangular one), set the broccoli, eggplant, garlic and tomatoes (with the juice)
+Cook for thirty minutes before checking to see if the vegetables are ready
+During that time, cook the sausage, at low heat, in a pan. This should take approx. 15-20 minutes if you bought them uncooked, 5-10 if they were precooked, but do keep an eye on them at all times and remember to turn them often.
+Grate the cheese
+Check the broccoli. Once you find that it is close to being ready (still crispy but manageable under the teeth)  take the pan out of the oven, cover everything in cheese and put it back in. Leave it to cook for 5 minutes.
+ When the cheese has melted, remove the pans from the oven and add the sausage to the vegetables.

Brown rice noodles with shrimp, Bok choy, green beans and chili sauce

What you’ll need: (for 2 people)
+1/2 package of Brown Rice Noodles
+3 baby Bok choys
+Green beans (10 per person is good)
+30-40 small precooked shrimp or 20 big ones
+1 carrot
+Sweet chili Eggroll sauce (I use it on EVERYTHING)
+1 tsp Light olive oil or Grapeseed oil

shrimp bok choy green bean noodles

Directions:
+Start out by heating the olive oil in a large pot(medium heat)
+Add the green beans, still cooking at low to medium heat (if the oil spits at you, turn it down)
+Cut the Bok Choy into bite sized pieces (including the leaves), add it to the pot
+Grate the carrot into the pot, stirring all the ingredients so they don’t stick to the bottom.
+When the green beans start softening, add the shrimp
+Start boiling some water for the noodles
+Once the water is boiling, follow the instructions on the package in order to know how long to leave the noodles in (2-3 minutes is pretty frequent)
+When the noodles are soft and ready, drain them in a colander
+Mix everything together and add some sweet chili eggroll sauce (1 tbsp per person should do the trick)

Dinner on the stove

Tips on how to cook multiple meals at the same time:

Calculate how to use your downtime on one meal: The roasted chicken took less than 10 minutes to prepare but cooking it is long, so I had 1 hour to work on the other food.

Know what is done and what needs to be done. I’m still able to manage with just my head most of the time, but written lists can help a lot too.

Make meals that share common ingredients. We ate brown rice noodles with both the chicken and the stir fry. Nutritious and time-saving!

All told, this took me 1.5 hours in one afternoon and I had food ready for the rest of the week (including a couple of leftovers that we used for lunch)