St. Patrick’s Day is the one day of the year where you can drape yourself in green, over indulge in the libations and get a little loud (unless you’re lucky enough to live in Saskatchewan like I do, then you get to do it 11 times a year when you include Rider home games). But St. Paddy’s changes a bit when you have kids (or can’t find a babysitter). Somehow the idea of ingesting copious amounts of green beer loses its lustre when you have to get up at 6 AM the next morning to make waffles and be ready for an 8:30 Sunday morning soccer game. That’s right, 8:30. A.M. On a Sunday.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some food fun with the kids. And fun beyond Lucky Charms and green milk (although that would be good, too). Here are some great recipes and from around the interweb to make the most of the day, without having to force your 5 year old to eat corned beef and cabbage.
Now, usually when you read something like this, you expect the best to be saved for last.
Kiss me, I'm Alaskan - photo from MadeWithPink.com
My absolute favourite St. Patrick’s Day thing is this recipe for the Individual Chocolate Chip Mint Baked Alaska from Made With Pink. Yes I know, Baked Alaska doesn’t sound Irish, but wearing green beads, floppy green hats and drinking green beer isn’t Irish either, so back off. Besides, just look at it; it that doesn’t get your heart rate up, check your pulse.
I know I kind of made fun of Lucky Charms earlier, but they too can provide a simple Leprechaun-themed base for some fun, kid-friendly recipes. Lucky Charm Treats are a fun twist on the traditional crispy rice square, or step it up with these Lucky Charm Ice Cream Sandwiches.
Lucky ice cream - photo from thekitchn.com
You can also strike a balance between sweet and healthy with your kids. Another favourite St. Paddy’s snack for me is the Shamrock Shake. But you don’t need to hit the drive-in to indulge in this traditional treat – or have to work off the 840 calories and 24 grams of fat found in a 22oz fast-food version. Prevention.com’s Skinny Shamrock Smoothie packs all the minty goodness without the guilt.
Photo from Prevention.com
A fruit kabob rainbow is also a simple, healthy and beautifully-presented snack the kids will love.
Now that you have the kids hopped up on sugar, it’s time to burn off some of that energy. Throw on some Celtic music and enjoy a jig and reel, or hide coins (chocolate or otherwise) and have the kids search for a pot of gold. You can still enjoy the day with the family and save the hangover for when your kids go to grandma and grandpa’s for the weekend.
Every Saint Patrick’s Day since I left home more than twenty (mercy!) years ago, I have called my mother on the morning of the seventeenth of March.
(I say morning. I mean time zones permitting. It may have occasionally been some odd hour of the day when the phone finally rang.)
But on March 17th, as early as is civilized, we have an Important Family Holiday Ritual to enact.
Every family has its own little holiday traditions. Me & my mom? Not too many, surprisingly, given that we were a whole family unit unto ourselves for years, until my partner & kids came along. But holidays aren’t huge for us. We’re $20-in-a-card-and-store-bought-cupcakes birthday people. Don’t judge. Still. The one grand, consistent celebratory ritual we observe?
The Saint Patrick’s Day telephone call.
It’s simple, almost foolproof. The script goes like so:
Mom (henceforth called “Mam” in honour of the day): Hello?
Me: Top o’ the mornin’ to ye!
Mam: And the rest o’ the day to yerself!
Yep, that’s it. The whole thing. See, you can totally try this at home, kids! It’s fail-proof! Happy holiday traditions in twenty seconds or less! Just don’t forget the all-important response line: the “top o’ the mornin’” part gets a fair amount of play in mainstream culture, but only the true Saint Patrick’s Day enthusiasts get the “rest o’ the day” bit sorted. Distinguish yourself.
Did I mention we’re minimalists for ritual?
Did I mention we’re also actually, erm, Scottish?
Go figure. You never can tell which cultural celebrations are going to float your boat. Or your leprechaun.
Photo courtesy of DragonFlyCustomCakes.
I suspect the strange attachment my mother and I have to Saint Patrick’s Day comes not from any particular affinity for shamrocks or green beer or even the exile of snakes, though neither of us would speak against the latter, to be sure.
Rather, it’s the music.
Out here on the East Coast, Saint Patrick’s Day has gradually become the one grand big-tent festivity for all the varied Celtic cultures and their kin, who in these parts comprise a good 50% of the population. Out of ancient feuds and more recent sectarian discord, our clannish ties have gradually diffused and assimilated, until the lot of us mostly know ourselves through our strange and inexplicable weakness for the caterwauling of pipes and the toe-tapping ti-deedly sounds of a fiddle.
It’s one giant kitchen party out here, on St. Paddy’s Day. And my mother and I celebrate largely, I suspect, because we get to sing. And maybe do a little jig.
Oh, we sing Danny Boy, sure (we skip the high notes). And Black Velvet Band, and When Irish Eyes are Smiling, though since we’re not actually Irish and weren’t big Mulroney/Reagan fans back in the ’80s, that’s not a particular favourite.
Nope, we love the rollicking ones, the rousing jolly corkers.
Now, thanks to the marvels of YouTube, you too can hold your own personal St. Paddy’s Day kitchen party. Hoist a green beer, or far more authentically, a Guinness or a shot of uisce beatha, and join us!
Here are my Top Five Irish(ish) Ditties, for your St. Patrick’s Day enjoyment. Top o’ the morning, the afternoon, and evening, all to you!
1. Lily the Pink – The Irish Rovers
Many of you who grew up in Canada in the ’60s and ’70s may be familiar with The Irish Rovers via their relatively famous and fanciful rendition of the Noah’s Ark story, The Unicorn. With the green alligators and long-neck geese? Yeh, that one. Unless your parents happened to be either rabid fans or Maritimers, however, you may have missed the lesser-known but terribly catchy “Lily the Pink.” In its wry tone and its topic, it introduces two of the five key themes of Irish music: the underdog identity and, um, alcohol. Even the kind that comes in liver tonic form.
2. If I Should Fall From Grace with God – The Pogues
If you’ve never danced to this after entirely too much green beer…well, you haven’t lived. That goes for you too, my teetotalling mother. It also introduces two other key themes of Irish music: fierce, clannish defense of place, and tragic death, preferably alone and pining. Or at least at sea.
3. The Wild Rover – The Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem
This entertaining ditty – a staple of Irish pubs the world over – gets you clapping and stomping at just the right times. I have long suspected – and Wikipedia kindly confirms – that the “right up yer kilt!” refrain commonly shouted after the “No, Nay, Never” line of the chorus suggests the song may originally have been Scots, not Irish. In fact, in its Scottish incarnation, it may have been a temperance song, a redemptive story of leaving alcohol behind. The afore-mentioned tee-totalling Scottish mother? Is very pleased to learn this. And hoping I take notes.
In the ironies of cultural export, however, “The Wild Rover” has become one of the best-known Irish drinking songs. Hey, we Scots aren’t really known for our pubs. Note that either way, the narrator is that same fey underdog outsider who runs through Celtic bardic tradition. And that here, the Clancy Brothers call it “an Australian song.” Ah, those Scots and Irish sure do get around.
4. Whiskey in the Jar – The Dubliners
See theme 1, theme 2, theme 3, and a nice twist on theme 4: instead of tragic death, we have tragic betrayal. By a woman, but of course. Cultures based in masculine individualist heroism tend to render women either mothers, muses or monsters, easily bought by the baubles and power of The Establishment. Irish drinking songs – and Celtic music in general – are overwhelmingly anti-Establishment. And often slightly misogynist.
But, hey, there’s no accounting for taste: this remains one of my all-time favourites. An Irish classic from the 17th century, it’s been sung a hundred different ways over the years. I have a personal soft spot for the Grateful Dead cover, and Thin Lizzy and Metallica made it a rock-n-roll/metal staple for two consecutive generations, but for St. Paddy’s I’ve posted the more classic “Irish” stage version.
5. Over in Killarney – Oscar
And then, the topper, the ballad to mother, which me mother sang me herself in my childhood, and which I’ve sung to my own kids since their cradle days. There’s no liquor, and only a faint suggestion of tragic, lonely, impending doom: rather, this song covers the final theme of Irish music, and it covers it in spades: sentimentality.
In lieu of an, erm, professional cover, I offer my boy, a few Saint Patrick’s Days ago when he was only three, as tone-deaf as his mother and her mother before him, and couldn’t even pronounce the letter “l” in “toura-loura-loura…” Hey. It’s cute. And if a mother can’t be proud and clannish on the 17th of March, when, then, I ask you, can she be proud and clannish?
This one’s for you, Mam. Top o’ the morning to ye, and happy St. Paddy’s.
So if there is an opposite to being ‘green thumbed’ that’s me. I think that makes me red thumbed, which is better than red handed but still makes me useless in the garden.
I have never lived in a home with a garden. Growing up above a British pub, the closest I got to a veggie plot was an endless supply of potato chips (and yes you could tell by my shape). But these times they are a changing and like many people I am growing all the more conscious about what I eat, what I waste and what I want my veggies to taste like (and that by the way is veggies).
Go big or go home.
Since I’m an apartment dweller, having my own garden might still be a little way off but I am really lucky to have wrangled a couple of neighbours into starting a communal patch at their place. But I’ll be frank, despite trying to read some highly recommended gardening books, I’m still none the wiser about how to get going and produce a good crop of food. I know people say ‘it’s easy’ but I’m a townie and I need basic answers. So I turned to a pro to ask a few questions.
Val Norton is a master gardener who knows her manure. She can be found answering questions at Seedy Saturday and local garden centres in and around Victoria. (Val is also a hypnotherapist which I only found out about at the very end of our interview – here’s her website: www.rainforesthypnotherapy.com)
So here’s what I learned from Val – thanks Val!
Starting a basic veggie garden – what tools do I need to get started?
Val suggested a fork, a spade, and a hoe, “you don’t really need the hoe but it’s a good idea. You want a trowel for weeding and you might like a wheelbarrow to move heavy loads of soil. You don’t need to bother with a rake, maybe in fall for leaves but not much else.”
Val also recommended you think about how you are going to water your garden and advised against those overhead sprinklers that spray backwards and forwards because they waste water (no manure!), don’t get the roots nice and wet and can allow the plants’ leaves to burn if it’s really hot weather. She recommended a drip irrigation system i.e a hose with little holes in it which will get the water deep down into the soil. I found this drip irrigation system tutorial website that will help you make your own, www.irrigationtutorials.com
Ideally, Val says, you want your soil easy to work with and not too heavy. In the best of worlds you want to get your soil started in fall, turning it over and putting down compost. Soil that is too heavy or clay-like won`t grow much.
Val also recommended using raised beds and getting your plot nicely turned over. “Using a spade, get rid of all the grass and get some organic matter in there. If you compost, great, if not, buy some organic compost from your local supermarket or garden centre, it`s not expensive.” Apparently, if you are all set to get your plot ready in the fall, head down to the beach and gather kelp and seaweed and put that on the soil, it makes great compost.
Also, if you can get your hands on some, add aged manure 3 – 4 weeks before planting.
Do I need to pick a particular spot in the garden?
You want a plot that is level and not on a hill, not under a tree and not too windy. At least 8 hours of sun a day is ideal, so not right next to a house. If you can avoid a busy road, all the better.
Val says: “Make sure that tall plants – ie beans and peas or anything trellised are on the north side of your plot. If on the south, they will shade the other plants.“
Perfect Compact Garden. www.boyslife.org
What veggies grow the easiest in Victoria, what will it be hardest for me to kill?
“Grow what you like first of all,” says Val. “What will not do well are things like eggplant, corn, anything that needs a lot of sun or a hot climate. As for peppers, plant these in a pot on your patio or a really sunny hot deck.”
“Cool weather crops always do great in Victoria so lettuce, kale, brussel sprouts (better bought as little plants rather than seeds), spinach, bok choy, they like it cool so you can plant any of these right now.”
When should I plant my seeds?
See above, cool weather plants can be planted right about now.
Hot weather plants you plant at the end of May, usually May 24th weekend is the perfect planting time
Top tip: “If you grow peas or bean, soak them in a cup of warm water over night – lukewarm. Leave them for 24 – 48 hours and they will germinate much quicker.“
Any good suggestions for buying seeds locally?
Val pointed out that all the garden centres and nurseries here in Victoria are worth buying from and at most of them you will find master gardeners and experts ready to help you out and answer your questions.
There’s also Seedy Saturday, Victoria’s annual seed swap and sale which usually takes place in February.
Is there anything I can grow on a balcony or windowsill?
You can grow any vegetables in pots – lettuce is great, beans and peas not so much unless you have trellasses. Peppers, herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, beets carrots, lettuce all of it!
Mason Jar Planters. www.notjustahousewife.com
Can you give me your three top gardening tips?
Good compost to amend soil. Don’t overly work soil and mess up composition, just give it a turn and smash it down, not big clods, don’t plant after a heavy rain – not squishy and too wet
Well I hope this helps you as much as it helps me. It took talking to Val to realise that planting a veggie plot might be easier that I thought. Hopefully in a few months’ time I’ll be showing off the fruits of my labour, time will only tell.
We are saving up for a trip to the East Coast this summer to visit my husband’s family and introduce them to our nine- month-old son for the first time. So, last week I combed through the house looking for items to sell on UsedVic in hopes of making some extra cash and simultaneously early spring clean our house! It amazed me what I managed to dig up.
vanity left over from reno - taking up space
left over doors from a reno - also taking up space
As well, I stumbled upon my original Nintendo system with 6 games that I remember I held on to, thinking “I will definitely play that again one day!” That was 10 years ago and I’ve been lugging this system around with me with each move since I was 18. (okay so that’s a lie…guess I’ve been lugging it for 14 years!)
These beauties are still available!!! Make me an offer...lol
I even found an old pair of rollerblades from when I was 16 that I know I will never use again; this is a very good thing as I never actually figured out how to stop in those things! They only bring back not-so-fond memories of scraped knees and the feeling of utter terror as I barrelled down hills praying that a speeding car wouldn’t meet me at the bottom. Luckily I only met with a few parked cars instead! I apologize to those people who found dents in their car hoods that looked suspiciously like a human torso.
My husband and I have the same argument every time I try to sell things…he tells me there is NO WAY I will ever get any money for some of my items and I tell him that I most certainly will. As the old saying goes, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure…for the right price.” (I added “for the right price.”)
And this is one of the main rules of my system on how to sell things quickly: Always price things cheap so they will sell quickly because people always like to buy things when they know they are getting a good deal. I see some people asking ridiculously high prices on items that maybe have sentimental value to them or they paid a lot of money for 10 years ago but these items will not sell quickly or possibly ever! I mean, I understand that the 1975 polyester suit was worn by your son to his prom and it cost you a fortune back then but this doesn’t mean you can sell it for $100 today! Do some research and find out what your item is actually worth and then price it lower.
For instance, I did a little research and it turned out that the Nintendo system and games I found are actually considered collector items these days and so they were probably worth about $80. But I knew that if I posted it for this price, I wouldn’t be giving anyone a good deal, plus I may have to deal with fanatic collectors who would spend 10 minutes scrutinizing over the Super Mario 3 box to make sure it didn’t have any rips or flaws. (I actually found out that an original Nintendo game in the box sold for over $12,000 last year….the game itself was worth $3000 but the box was worth $9000! Come on — it’s cardboard, people!) So, I posted it for $40 and sure enough, within 2 hours I had over 10 people emailing me for it and it was sold and out of my house by the end of the day.
Not actually my porch but I wish it was!
My other very important rule is “If it’s under $20, it goes on the porch!” This means that if I am selling a used item for $20 or under, I will simply email the person my address, put the item on our front porch and ask them to leave the money in our mailbox if they decide to take it. And don’t worry, I’ve done this dozens of times and people have always left the money. I think it’s human nature to generally be honest, or at least paranoid that they’ll be caught if they don’t pay up. Plus, the major advantage to this rule is that it weeds out…ummm…let’s call them the “eccentric” people! You usually can tell who these people are by their initial email or phone call and my advice is always go with your gut instinct…if they seem “eccentric,” they probably are, so send them to the porch.
I didn’t abide by my own rule last week and it bit me in the tooshie! As I mentioned earlier, I was selling four interior doors cheap and soon enough someone emailed me asking to see them. By the initial email, I was a bit wary but decided to call her to make an appointment because I really wanted these doors gone. We chatted a bit and she said she could come over right away. So, I gave her my address and asked, “So, I’ll see you in about 15-20 minutes then?” She replied, “Well, actually it will probably be about an hour as I’m taking the bus.” The bus???? How in the world was she planning on taking these 4 very heavy doors on the bus? Before I could reply, she’d hung up and was on her way.
She arrived with a friend/door consultant at her side to help figure out if the doors would work. I find out very quickly that she never actually showed my used ad to this door expert beforehand because if she had, he would have been aware that they were the wrong size and that 2 of the doors had some damage (which is why I was selling them so cheap!) I ended up being cornered in the basement, unable to escape the 10 minute fight that ensued between them over whether to buy the doors. It was like being a child trapped in a room with your two bitter divorced parents! Needless to say, they did not purchase the doors and l was left feeling confused, angry and possibly in need of therapy.
Regardless of these sometimes stressful interactions, selling your used items can be a great way of making some extra money, as well as a way to clear out your house of unwanted things. Plus, it feels good to know that these objects are being reused rather than dumped in the landfill. Just remember, if you want that item gone quickly and don’t want to find yourself stuck in a basement losing your sanity, try following my rules and hopefully you’ll make some extra cash! I know there are many of you out there with some good Used site “eccentric” stories so please feel free to share them. They may benefit other sellers out there plus they’ll just give us all a good laugh!
Coupon Tip of the Week: Keep your eyes peeled for great deals and coupons for cleaning supplies right now. March is when everyone starts thinking of spring cleaning so there are plenty of good sales plus great coupons. Combine those two and you may end up getting your cleaing supplies for free or at least very cheap. And they don’t expire for a long time, so you can easily stock up.
And I wasn’t the only slave to my nesting instinct. The people I know
who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography, now they sit in the
bathroom with their IKEA furniture catalogue.
~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 5
There’s something about the IKEA aesthetic: it’s like a Rorschach test for North American concepts of identity.
Some think it’s lean and clean and funky. Some think it’s cheapo mass-produced crap. Some – from the comfort of their La-Z-Boy – will tell you it tries too hard, and it’s weird.
Most of us east of Montreal will just tell you we can’t get no IKEA way out here and then weep quietly. (Dear IKEA, please expand your online ordering options. Thank you).
Basically, you want to know whether somebody is your kind of people? It’s not musical tastes or reading preferences or shared activities that’ll give you the best possible read on whether somebody’s worldview aligns with yours: it’s their IKEA stance.
And now, you’ll be able to tell some folks’ IKEA stance from half-way down the block. Because those who like the look? Can now buy themselves an entire Ikea-style kit home.
IKEA homes have been available in Europe for awhile, and last week, the American company Ideabox released the first Ikea-designed kit homes in the US. The one-bedroom “Aktiv” model costs $86,500 and is delivered by flatbed.
Unlike the bookshelves, IKEA homes come mercifully pre-assembled. No Allen Keys required.
You choose your own cabinets, countertops, and flooring, all of which come pre-installed, and the home is partially furnished as well. The Aktiv is energy-efficient, with a sleek Euro-design feel.
The Aktiv isn’t sold directly through IKEA, but through Ideabox, which offers a number of options on the kit home front. Focused on efficiency and style, and for the most part on the “big living, small footprint” philosophy that Ideabox espouses, these homes are part of a new movement in pre-fab housing that takes a 180-degree turn from trailers and pre-fabs of yore.
Still. They aren’t actually a whole new thing on the North American market.
In truth, kit homes have a long genealogy in this part of the world.
From 1908 through 1940, you could order yourself up a home through the Sears Roebuck catalogue. Marketed as “Sears Modern Homes,” the kits were shipped by rail, and came complete with pre-cut lumber, nails, and fixtures: the early models were apparently fitted with gaslights, and plumbing kits could be ordered for extra.
The first Sears catalogue of kit homes offered 22 different styles, ranging in price from $650-$2500. FOR THE WHOLE KIT, not just the plans. I swoon. (According to the Wikipedia entry on Sears Modern Homes, $2500 in 1908 terms clocked in at just under $60,000 in 2008 terms…so still reasonable as compared to the mad housing market we’ve grown accustomed to over the last decade or so.)
These first-generation kit homes needed assembly, and required more than just an Allen Key. They were often put up in “bee” fashion, or good old barn-raising style, by community members working together. Many were also assembled by contractors. But their ethic? Was largely DIY: Sears Roebuck advertised that “a man of average abilities could assemble a Sears Kit Home in about 90 days.”
Given that the floor plans of some, like the Sheridan bungalow, for sale from 1925-29, are remarkably similar in style to the house we just bought – and at just $2,095, considerably cheaper! – I say bring back the kit home in all its forms!
What the Sears Modern Homes offered, a century ago, was the dream of home ownership made significantly less expensive via mass production, but with quality materials. The Sears kits had hardwood maple floors, cypress exteriors. There are many still standing today, like this charming Virginia specimen.
All in all, it seems like an idea whose time has come around again. Modular homes are slowly gaining traction, as is the tiny house movement. For those of us who may require more space, even Ideabox offers a three-bedroom family option. I’d love to see Sears get back in the game, if they could stick with the Arts & Crafts design motifs of their yesteryear offerings.
There could be something for every taste, and a wider variety of budgets than traditional housing allows.
But I think the Ideabox-IKEA partnership may be an important step.
Because what made the Sears Modern Homes work so well – an estimated 100,000 or more sold in the 22 years they were marketed in the US – was that they capitalized on the ubiquity of the Sears catalogue. Everybody already had a catalogue: by offering houses in the catalogue, Sears began to make people believe they could have a house, too.
Not everybody’s heard of shipping container houses, but everybody’s got an opinion on IKEA, good or bad.
So I say good start, Ideabox & IKEA. I just hope we can actually make these puppies ubiquitous. Like, can we get these here in Canada soon, please? And preferably east of Montreal?
So, I was mindlessly scrolling through Pinterest, as you do — feeling equally inspired and inadequate, when I came across this photo or “pin”:
Gorgeous, towering cake via Apt 2B Baking Co
This cake spoke to me. It whispered sweet, nasty nothings about being out of my league and even going so far as to suggest I return to my side of the tracks and look for a more suitable project — rustic brownies, perhaps. This cake was the “Blaine” of my Pretty in Pink and I was going to bake it.
And so I followed the links and read the recipe on the drool-inducing food blog, Apt 2 B -Baking Co. I modified it a bit because I didn’t have the cherry preserves it called for and I personally don’t let anything as wholesome as fruit get between me and buttercream. I also used 10″ spring form pans which resulted in a lower, less impressive looking cake. But other than that, I stayed on the straight and narrow.
Almond Cherry Ombre Cake (sans cherries)
(as stolen adapted from Apt 2B Baking Co.)
1 1/2 cups, 3 sticks, softened butter
9oz/ 255 grams almond paste, room temperature (I found it in the bakery section of the grocery store)
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350º and butter and flour (or use parchment paper) 2, 8”round cake pans. I used 10″ pans and reallllly wish I had used smaller pans to get the height. You’re going to be torting or cutting cake layers and the higher the cakes the easier, more impressive this is.
1. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, mix the almond paste and sugar until the almond paste is broken up into small pieces. Cut up the butter, add it in and beat until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes.
3. Add in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients.
4. Divide the batter between the two pans, shake the pans to make the batter even, smooth the tops and pop them into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. I had to bake mine a little longer, but I have a cruddy oven. I’d keep a keen eye. There’s nothing worse than burned cake. NOTHING.
Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully invert on a cooling rack and cool completely.
Now, let’s make some buttercream!
Simple Buttercream Frosting
1 lb softened butter
2 lbs sifted confectioner’s sugar (a 1kg bag)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup room temp milk
big pinch salt
In the bowl of a standing mixer or with a hand mixer cream the butter until it is well mixed, about 1 min. Gradually add in the sugar and beat until very light and fluffy, about 5 min. Add the salt and vanilla extract. Slowly stream in the milk until the frosting is soft, smooth and spreadable. If you plan on finishing the cake with an ombre design it is helpful if the frosting is very soft, but not runny at all. I wound up using a whole half cup of milk here. I’d also like to take this moment to declare my undying love for my KitchenAid Mixer. I. Love. You.
You now have mounds of gorgeous buttercream and 4 nifty golden cake layers. Time to put Blaine together!
offset spatulas – small and large
pink food dye (or whatever colour you like)
cake turntable (optional) or plate big enough to hold your cake
If you like jam or fruit in your layer cakes cherry jam is the jam of choice here. But I hear raspberry or apricot will do just as well. I’ve shared my feelings about fruit in cake earlier, so this decision is between you and your gods.
Yossy of Apt 2B Baking Co created a perfectly awesome Flickr tutorial for putting this cake together. I suggest you take a boo here.
So, now you know the correct way to do it, here’s how I did it.
1) Once cool, trim each cake flat on the top, then in half horizontally. You will have 4 layers of cake when you are finished. It’s really important that the cake is completely cooled before you do this. If you’re baking ahead, you can always chill or freeze the cakes to make this easier. I’m impatient so I didn’t bother refrigerating and the cakes cut like a dream. Like I mentioned I used 10″ pans and even with thin cakes, I was able to slice nice layers without a problem.
2) If you have a cake turntable, congratulate yourself and grab it. I highly recommend you get one. They’re cheap and make cake decorating a breeze. But, rest assured many beautiful cakes have been made without one. Anyhoo – anchor the bottom layer of cake to the turntable or your serving plate with a bit of buttercream.
3) Spread a thin layer (about 1/3 cup) of buttercream on the bottom layer. If you’re adding jam or preserves, make sure the frosting is thicker on the edges to create a dam to hold the fruit. If you’re going this route, smear a couple of tablespoons of jam on top of the buttercream.
4) Add the next layer and repeat the above process until your cake’s all put together. Reserve your flattest layer for the top.
5) Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting (crumb coat) and refrigerate for a half hour. Crumb coating creates a better surface to frost over and it holds in the crumbs — hence the name. Smart. It’s done when you can gently tap the the frosting and nothing comes off on your fingers.
While the cake chills watch one of the most awesome scenes from Pretty in Pink (optional, but highly recommended)
Now, let’s mix some frosting. To coin a phrase of a friend, “the world is really coming up ombré” lately. What’s ombré? Basically it refers to colour that is shaded or graduated in tone. From jean shorts to celebrity hair, one could soundly argue that this trend is over and done with. But for cake, I say it stands a lovely technique.
1) Split the remaining frosting into 4 bowls, tint three of the bowls dark, medium, and very light pink using food coloring. Look at the Flickr photos again to get a good idea or wing it. You can go as light or dark as you like, as long as you have a nice range from dark to light. I used Wilton’s rose gel food coloring and only had to use a teeny bit even for the darkest tint. Leave one of the bowls white for the top of the cake.
2) Starting at the bottom of the cake with the darkest color, use a small offset spatula to apply frosting to the bottom 3rd of the cake, then follow with the medium color in the center of the cake and the lightest color towards the top. This is where I lament AGAIN my short cake layers. Take it from me, it’s pretty hard to ombré with only a few inches of cake.
3) Top the cake with white frosting to finish. Using a tall spatula, smooth the frosting on the sides as much as possible. The colours will mix a bit, but that’s okay. Just try not to blend them together. Smooth the top.
4) Here’s where we get fancy. Finish the cake by holding the tip your smaller offset spatula horizontally, pressing gently on the frosting at the bottom of the cake. Smoothly spin the cake turntable while simultaneously dragging the spatula up the side of the cake, stop when you get to the top. Wipe the spatula clean, then gently press the tip of the spatula into the middle of the top of the cake and spin the turntable while simultaneously dragging the spatula towards the outside of the cake. I was kind of freaking out here, but it was surprisingly simple. The cake turntable really helped.
You can see my version below. It’s not nearly as impressive, but it has it’s own charm. And it was DELICIOUS. Honestly, I think it’s the nicest cake I’ve ever baked. The almond cake layers were so tasty with the buttercream.
Kind of like the more-fun, country cousin of the original beauty
I will say, it’s sweet. Like, really, really sweet. Maybe the jam would cut through that a bit. But for me, I didn’t mind the intensity. I just served smaller slices.
Not so much room to ombré...
I plan to make this cake again for Easter. I think the delicate pastel pink will suit the occasion perfectly. Final thoughts? This cakes seems like more work than it is. It was really quite simple and it’s a definite crowd pleaser. In the end my “Blaine” was maybe a little more “Ducky” than I intended, but I’m pretty (in pink – so, sorry) okay with that.
When I read Carly’s blog post about her house concert experience a few weeks ago, I got that frisson that you only experience at live shows, especially shows where you get up close and personal with your musical icons. Many moons ago as a teenager, I had the pleasure of singing around a hotel piano with Jerry Lee Lewis. Now wonderful things have happened in my life and a nod here goes out to my son and husband, but the feeling of being so close to that sort of talent is hard to beat.
So in need of some musical therapy myself and intrigued by the space, I asked Carly to hook me up with some tickets for the next Victoria House Concert B. Not only did she hook me up but double bonus, she came with me and we got to watch JP Maurice of the band Maurice
JP of Maurice at House Concert B. Singing about having love, or losing love. Either way it was beautiful.
The atmosphere was undoubtedly very special and despite being almost a bottle of wine in once we left, my vow to ‘attend every single house concert party ever for all eternity’ still stands. This was definitely one of the most unusual venues I have had the pleasure of visiting and it got me thinking about all the great gigs I’ve seen here in Victoria.
So I asked about and talked to local venues and musicians about favourite local gigs, favourite non-local gigs and dream gigs. Here’s a small selection of the answers:
First up I asked JP and although his initial response was ‘Victoria House Concert B’ to all questions (what can I say the ambience is infectious) he retracted the statement and replaced it with this:Favourite local gig – ‘The Constantines at Logan’s, around 2004. It totally changed my perception of music and a live show. I felt I was closer to God then I had ever been in my life…so magical.’ Favourite non-local gig – ‘That would have to be seeing Tom Petty at Pemberton. I realized while watching that the music he makes is a perfect mix of timeless catchy song that are supported by tremendous character and integrity.’ Dream gig; ’playing the main stage at Sasquatch would be a dream come true. It is an unworldly beautiful location.”
The Fort Street Cafe has to be one of my favourite venues in town. I’ve always liked that underground cafe style and that’s easily achieved with the Fort Street given that it’s an underground cafe. I asked Benji, one of the owners, my three questions. His favourite local gig was ’Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings at the Alix Goolden Hall, The control was amazing and the delivery inspired.’ His dream gig? ‘Wilco, Vetiver and BoneHoof live at the Fort Cafe! Everyone has a front row seat and a cheeseboard and wine/beer glass that magically replenishes.’I’ll point out that Benji is in the band BoneHoof and they WILL be playing with Vetiver on the 16th of this month at Logans, so his dreams are coming true, lucky devil!
Nadine Morency is one of my favourite singers in town, to the point that I stalked her into becoming my friend and now my neighbour mwahahahaha. Nadine plays regular gigs with Paul Laverick at The Superior and The Heron Rock Bistro and has the sultry jazz tones that every listener covets and adores. Her dream gig? ‘Miles Davis in an underground New York jazz club, with guest appearances by all my favourite leading ladies, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughn. Basically any of my favourites in an intimate setting. A small, underground club, where I can almost touch them, and talk to them on break like a normal person.’ Her local fave involved Jets Overhead, one of the finest bands here in Victoria.
Title: Victoria’s Jets Overhead, Heading For Nowhere
Next up, I talked to Jay Stirling Forbes, Assistant General Manager at Darcy’s Pub. Darcy’s has regular live music and is loved all the more for it. Jay has been playing around town for years so asking him his favourite local gig was a tall order, here’s what he said “Explosive Rage Disorder was one of my favourites back in the 90s/early 2000s but they don’t exist anymore. As far as existing local bands go The Ball Gag N’ Chain Gang is my favourite show. So dream gig? It’d be a lie to say I wouldn’t want my band involved so how about us, Danny Kilshaw, with Red Fang, Mastodon and Clutch at the Commodore. That’d be a crazy show.” Yup. Crazy awesome.
If you are a music lover, gig goer and record fiend and you live in Victoria, likelihood is you pay regular visits to Ditch Records on Fort Street. If so, one of the nicest guys in the local music scene, Geoff Howe, has probably met you at the cash desk. Geoff has an incredible knowledge of music, so I was excited to hear his answers. Best Gig Ever: ‘Flaming Lips at Stanley Park, Vancouver, 2007. A totally euphoric hippy love-In!’ Best local gig: ‘Fleet Foxes at Element Night Club, 2008. The Foxes’ harmonies were even better live than on record.’ Dream gig: The reunited Beach Boys are touring this year for their 50th Anniversary, so I hope to catch that.’
Last but not least, I asked Brian and Robin of 1073Kool FM’s morning show. These two are cards let me tell you. Robin was very sweet and chose Brian’s band Ocean Noise as her favourite local gig whilst Brian sparked my envy when he listed Coachella 2007 as his non local fave. Here he saw Amy Winehouse, hence my envyometer going into overdrive.
So tell me, what was your favourite local gig and if you could see any band or any lineup, who would it be? Did you go to any of the gigs listed above? I think my favourite gig in Victoria has to be Leonard Cohen at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. They talked about the cathedral effect on his last tour which is a truly fitting description for such a beautiful, mesmerising and uplifting gig. As for best all time, that’s a tough one, so I’ll leave you with my worst. I have never ever wanted to leave a venue as badly as when I saw Kid Rock.
This fruit bowl may look pretty but it's actually a crime waiting to happen. Read on to find out why!
This weekend I opened up my fridge and found a crime scene: the fruits and veggies I bought a few days ago had been murdered, rotten before their time and after intense investigation (not really) I figured out that the criminal is me! And the worst part of this is that I commit this crime every single week. That’s right; I am a serial veggie and fruit killer!
After each weekly trip to the grocery store, I randomly toss my tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, pears etc. into the fridge without any thought as to how long they will last just lying there on a shelf. And about a week later, I am forced to chuck these once young, nutritious and fresh grocery items into the trash.
And of course this isn’t the only crime I’m committing…I’m also guilty of throwing money away too…which is a cardinal sin in this house! With every toss of that soggy uneaten cucumber and deflated tomato into the garbage, I am literally throwing away my hard-earned cash!
So this week I decided I would come clean with my crimes and repent my sins by figuring out ways to keep my fruits and veggies fresher longer, thereby stopping the madness of also throwing money in the garbage. I’ve always known that there are ways to do this but just never took the time to actually research and find out how. I hope these tips I found will help you cleanse you of your sins as well as fatten your wallet!
There are so many things wrong with this picture! Find out why below.
1. Put your veggies in the crisper, not on the fridge shelf: Turns out that your fridge has various temperatures which are meant to keep certain foods in certain spots. For instance, the coldest part of your fridge is the top and middle shelves while the crispers are the warmest part, with a more humid environment in order to keep your veggies with the highest water content fresher.
Here’s what you should keep in your crispers: artichokes, asparagus (after trimming the ends and placing upright in shallow cool water, then covering with plastic), beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chiles, cucumbers, eggplant, fresh herbs, green beans, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce (after washing and drying, rolling loosely in a clean kitchen towel inside an unzipped zip-lock bag), mushrooms, peppers, radishes, scallions, summer squash, turnips, zucchini. DO NOT PUT: potatoes, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, yams or squash in the fridge…store them in a dark and cool place like the pantry or basement.
You can also use these potato and onion sacs from Avon which just hang on the wall or inside a cupboard
(Funny story: years ago I actually did this and stored a large bag of potatoes on the bottom shelf of a cupboard in my old apartment. Unfortunately I completely forgot about them until about a year later when I was moving! The potatoes had actually turned into liquid and this liquid was so toxic and somehow acidic, that it had eaten a hole in my bottom wooden shelf! So my other tip is: DO NOT FORGET that you’ve put your potatoes and onions in the cupboard. Maybe put a sticky note on the pantry door to remind you.)
Wrong way to store tomatoes...
Right way to store tomatoes!
2. Keep tomatoes on the counter: Who knew? Not me, this is where I’ve been going wrong all along. Tomatoes stay fresher longer out of the fridge, stored on the counter and funny enough, you are supposed to place them upside down (I searched and searched and couldn’t find the scientific reason behind this so if someone has the answer, I’d love to know.) Also, they will taste better as tomatoes lose their flavour and can go mushy in the fridge.
3. Do not store fruit and vegetables together in the fridge: Most fruits can be stored in the fridge with the exception of apples, banana, melons and pineapples (keep them on the counter), but make sure to put fruit in one crisper and veggies in another crisper. Otherwise, the ethylene produced by vegetables will make fruit rot faster. Also, store fruit in perforated plastic bags to allow air flow, or place it in a bowl and cover it with perforated plastic wrap. You should also leave fruit that comes in packaging in the original packaging like strawberries and blueberries as it’s been designed to keep the fruiter fresher longer.
This may be a bit too much produce for one week unless you are the Dugger Family
4. Only buy what you will use in a week: This is the most important rule of thumb in order to save money and stop throwing away rotten produce. Just because cucumbers are on sale for fifty cents each doesn’t mean you should buy six of them if you know you won’t eat that much cucumber in a week.
Actually if you are able to, it’s suggested that you only purchase enough produce for 3 days and then return to the supermarket to buy more for the rest of the week. This way you always eating the freshest produce and won’t be forced to chuck out rotten veggies found at the bottom of the crisper. This is where I wish we lived in Europe where there is a farmer’s market every few blocks and people actually go grocery shopping for their meals every day. I guess the North American alternative is growing veggies in your backyard which is something I would love to do but unfortunately our dog likes veggies, so basically I would just be creating a backyard market for her!
I now promise I will no longer ignorantly chuck my produce into the fridge and will work towards giving my fruits and veggies a home in my family’s bellies rather than in the garbage bin! The crime spree ends now! Hope these tips help and please let me know if you have any other produce tips to help keep me on the straight and narrow!
Coupon Tip of the Week: Just wanted to remind everyone that you can price match anything at Walmart, including produce. Before you go out for your weekly produce shopping, search through the flyers to find the best prices on fruits and veggies and then have them price matched at Walmart. For instance, I found pineapples on special at Real Canadian Super Store for $1.98 so I just brought in the flyer to Walmart where I do my weekly shopping and they gave me the same price for their pineapples which were being sold for $3.98! It may not seem like much but it all adds up in the end with helping you stay on budget.
One of the best secondhand things we ever bought for our daughters was a vintage brown Fisher-Price “suitcase style” record player. Here it is:
Santa brought it a few years ago and we have accumulated quite a few albums of various music and stories since then. Here is a small sample of our collection (the Mary Poppins record is one of my faves):
I still have a bunch of my old records. This is how I was able to introduce my kids to my own childhood favourites such as Purple People Eater and Hello Mudda Hello Fadda. (CLASSIC.) Used records can be picked up very inexpensively. One of their favourite albums is the Sound of Music soundtrack, but I’m partial to 1950s-style storytelling.
The girls have loved having record player, and even now, when I think they’ve just about outgrown it they surprise me and give it a spin. It’s perfect for impromptu dance parties. Sometimes they like to play it fast… so instead of Bing’s Christmas we get Chipmunks on Steroids. (That’s when I go find the Tylenol and retire upstairs.)
There is a lot to be said for kids having control over their own music. I guess you could go the iPod/MP3 player route too, but it doesn’t have the same tactile charm that a record player does. Don’t you remember what it felt like to put the needle down in the right spot and wait for your song to come on? And then to flip it over when it was done? Lovely.
I spend a lot of time online. Like, a lot. Noodling through the internet is how I earn a living. It’s also what I do to relax. So, yeah… I see things. Amazing things, like painted upholstery. Yup. Painted upholstery has been cropping up in DIY blogs and on Pinterest for awhile now. I scrolled through photos of rather unbelievable before and after photos – dirty, grungy wing chairs transformed into stately jewel-toned marvels. And while I was pretty skeptical about painting fabric, there were just too many success stories to dismiss the idea outright.
Most of these success stories credited designer Kristy Swain’s step-by-step how-to posted on her blog Hypen Interiors. After reading and re-reading her post, I started to get pretty excited. Her before and after photos are impressive. The supply list is short and affordable, plus she has a list of links to successes AND failures of other people who’ve tried her tutorial. I’m a sucker for transparency.
I also had a rather ugly chair squatting in my front room that I ‘d recently picked up for free. I found it on Freecycle and I grabbed it because I liked the shape of it and the size. I had fantasies of recovering it until I looked into the cost/skill required. So, there it sat, in it’s scruffy beige glory, reminding me and more dangerously my family of how I sometimes fail to follow through with my creative projects. I had nothing to lose and half the supply list sitting in my basement. So, here’s my take on Kristy’s tutorial. I read all the links to other attempts on her page and kind of modified things.
Painted Upholstery DIY
Nicely organized supplies
Paint – I used 1/4 of a 887 ml can of Behr’s acrylic-latex Teal Zeal I had left over from painting my dining room wall
Spray bottle filled with water
Fabric softener (optional – but I feel it helps with softening the fabric)
Paint brush – I used a crappy old paint brush as I knew I was going to be rough on it, plus a few good-quality sponge brushes in different sizes (one small one for nooks & crannies)
Small sponge roller
Fabric medium – how much you need depends on the size of your project. I bought Americana brand fabric medium from Michaels. They only sold them in 60 ml bottles, so I bought 4 and I used them all. If you can find a big bottle, I’d grab that. Otherwise, it’s better to have too much than too little. You can always return what you don’t use or save for another project.
Here we go
1) Vacuum or even better steam clean the piece of furniture you’re going to be working on. You’re going to want your upholstery damp anyway, so you won’t have to wait for things to dry if you give it a shampoo. I’m lazy, however and I couldn’t be bothered to borrow a steam cleaner. So, I just vacuumed it within an inch of it’s life.
2) Tape off any wood you don’t want painted. Trim off any cat scratch threads, etc & so on.
Pouring & mixing equal amounts
3) Mix equal parts paint, fabric medium and water into a large Mason jar. Mix thoroughly. You want the consistency of a glaze – like homogenized milk.
Mist the area you plan to paint first
4) Mist the area you are going to paint first with the spray bottle. You want the fabric pretty damp.
Brush on a thin layer of paint
5) Using your brush lay a very thin layer of paint on the fabric. Now, how you do this will really depend on your fabric. If you’re painting a velour, you’re going to want to make sure you paint in the direction of the grain so that the fabric lays in the right direction. My fabric was as man-made as can be — textured, but with no pile. So, I really worked the paint in using circular motions. Again, keep this thin. This is your base coat. If you lay it on too thick, you’ll end up with a gross texture.
A sponge roller keeps things running smoothly
6) I spritzed a light mist of water over the painted bits and then ran over it with a damp sponge roller. I found this really evened out the coverage and removed any excess paint. Depending on how much surface you have to cover, you may want to roll on the paint, as well. I didn’t because I really wanted to work the paint into the fabric and I found a brush did a better job for me.
Don’t panic. This is part of the transformation.
7) Once you’ve got your base coat on the entire piece, let it dry completely. Depending on your fabric this could take a couple of hours or overnight. I left mine overnight as I was keeping the fabric quite wet and it was midnight by the time I finished. From start to finish, it took me about an hour to get the first base coat on.
Note: At this point your piece of furniture will look terrible. You might even feel a little sick. You’re going to want to keep any naysaying family members out of the room because you’ll be tired and you just might have an irrational over-reaction to some unwanted feedback. Or, so I imagine…
See the difference between the 2nd & 1st coats?
8 ) If the first coat is completely dry, do the above again. Keeping your layer thin and damp. The colour will start to build up. Because unlike Kristy’s tutorial, I skipped the latex layers and went straight into it using the acrylic latex paint, I almost could have stopped at 2 coats. The chair looked pretty cool, but I was committed to a deeper colour. And so, I carried on to step number…
2nd coat – I COULD have left it here. It really looked fine…
9) Time to mix up your final coat! I used just a little less water than I did for the base layers. I used equal parts paint and fabric medium and watered it down to more of a cream consistency.
Totally optional step, but I feel it helped…
10) Add a couple of cap fulls of fabric softener to your refilled spray bottle. I sprung for something that smells wonderful. Why not? I’m saving money on the chair…
I painted in circles to really work the paint in
11) Start spraying your water/fabric softener mixture and begin painting. You want to lay on a little more colour with this layer as this will reflect the final result. Again, how you do this will differ with your fabric. I kept it pretty thin because of the non-absorbency of my upholstery, but I definitely painted in on more generously than my base coats.
Keep on rolling
12) I continued to use the sponge roller to even things out.
Looks pretty even-Steven to me
13) Take a good long look at the finished product. Make sure you use a smaller brush to get into the nooks and crannies. Check that things look even – this is your last chance before things dry.
Drying in the sun
14) Let it be. I left my chair to dry in the sun (while it lasted) and for the rest of the day indoors with a fan on it.
The end result
Ta-da! The finished product. Not too shabby
I’m not going to lie, it looks pretty awesome. How does it feel? Hmmm…well, it’s not crispy or crunchy, but it’s not the kind of chair you want to snuggle up in and read for hours. Mind you, this wasn’t that kind of chair to begin with. It feels like of like a cross between pleather & painted canvas. I added another layer of paint to the arms of the chair without letting them dry completely and they feel a little more “latex-y” than the rest of the chair. I read that scrubbing the fabric with fabric softener and a little soap and water can soften things up. I’ll try it and report back.
But all in all, I’m pretty thrilled with the results. Thanks to the fabric medium, the paint doesn’t crack or peel and it won’t come off on clothing. It cost $30 and took me two days to finish the chair because I have kids and I had to start working on it at night. But you could probably do this in a day without distractions. I’m definitely going to try it again. It was a lot of fun and the end result is pretty satisfying. So, what are you waiting for? Search your local Used site for some diamonds in the rough and get creative. If any of you try this, I’d LOVE to see photos!