Summertime, Summertime Sadness

I appreciate fall, I really do. It has a lot to offer, like layered sweaters on brisk sunny days and guilt-free trash TV the rest of the time.

Since I’ve fallen behind on the design portion of my blog I thought it fitting to post homage to Summer.

We have a 250 square ft balcony on our Toronto condo, the rarity of which compels me to keep it in tip top shape. I have to consciously avoid the  mindset of more space = more things that will fit = more spending. We splurged on an outdoor sectional when we moved in, but afterwards the man put me on a strict “hide your crazy, start acting like a lady” budget.

In the next few posts I’ll show you some things I did to spruce up our concrete backyard that didn’t leave me staring at my feet while apologizing.

outdoor sectional

Insert book and coffee here.

The original ottoman that came with this sectional looked as though the manufacturer ran out of materials and tried to pull this off as an alternative.  Suction cups held a black glass sheet over the top half of the ottoman. The other half couldn’t support anything, nor could I store things underneath like blankets or magazines. The real kicker was putting your feet up on the glass portion and having it slide off because…well suction cups.

original ottoman

I decided to refit this ottoman with a cushion top.  The best part about a sectional is that it doubles as a daybed when connecting the middle portion, meaning full starfish zombie accommodation.

First I removed the glass and flipped the base. The boys at Home Hardware cut me a sheet of plywood to my measurements, which were slightly less the dimensions of the base as I didn’t want the wood to show.

ottoman repurpose

The idea to attach plywood directly to the base arose when I noticed preexisting screws and drill holes on the bottom support bars. The screw heads were plastic and acted as miniature feet when the base stood upright.  I painted a yellow circle around each drill hole and placed the plywood on top to make an imprint of where to drill through the plywood.

ottoman repurpose

I’d like to say that this bout of brilliance worked out perfectly, but in reality there was only one perfect imprint while the rest were yellow smudges. The good news is I only had to re-drill once.

ottoman repurpose

I am not skilled in the art of sewing so I enlisted the help of the man’s Grammy to help me make a cushion cover.  NOTE for anyone who is thinking of re purposing furniture: fabric is expensive, and so is foam. Not as expensive as a brand new piece but disappointingly costly.

Fabricland cut me 4″ square foam on which I placed some batting to soften the edge. I intended to use a modern patterned fabric, but I happened to find an almost perfect match for my current colour. I can’t see my addiction for patterned throw pillows diminishing so I decided a flat base colour was probably the better option.

refinished ottoman

To keep the cushion in place yet allow it to be removable, simple velcro strips were sewn onto the underside of the cushion with the male side attached to the plywood.

ottoman repurpose

Behold the final cozy product:

outdoor sectional throw pillows

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Flourless Banana Muffins and the Devil’s Grain

My body doesn’t welcome wheat. I know this much. Even before I paid Rexall Drugs $400 to take a pinprick of blood and reveal “wheat” in bold print under “Severely Intolerant” (covered by benefits of course).

My immediate reaction was victory, as in I caught this little bugger red handed and I have it written in ink to prove it. Shortly after the tragedy of truth set it- I love wheat. Wheat has been a cherished buddy my whole life. Now it has become that addictive, loose moraled friend who I know is a poor influence, yet I find myself sneaking out the bedroom window to meet up with.

If you read Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D, you might be shocked to learn that among other things, wheat contains an appetite stimulant resembling drug opiates like heroin. For those of you who have insatiably craved a pizza while flipping out at the dog, you already knew this. The reality of it is the processing of the grain has been so dramatically altered over the years that the present day version isn’t even a shadow of its former self. Hence, my belly’s rejection.

You won’t find countless gluten + wheat free recipes on this blog- I still cheat with wheat all the time. However, on occasion I find a good substitute for something I love to eat and is normally made with the devil’s grain. The below is a recipe I found on Pinterest by Debbie Reichert Fitness .

couplemuff

I bake these all the time and really appreciate having them around the house. They are a great impulse curb when I am craving an immediate “wheat” fix.

Flourless Banana Muffins

Ingredients:

2.5 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt

2 eggs

1/2 cup honey

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tbsp. ground flax seed

1 tsp. vanilla

2 or 3 ripe bananas, mashed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400° and line a muffin tray with cupcake liners.

Pulse oats in a food processor for a few seconds or until lightly ground. Add mashed bananas and remaining ingredients, pulse to combine.

Pour batter into liners and top with extras of your choice- I like dollops of peanut butter in the centre for added protein.

muffinsraw

Bake for 15-18 minutes until springy when touched. Be careful not to overcook as you want to preserve all the moisture possible.

Let cool and enjoy with a piping hot cappuccino from the espresso machine which you feel the need to prove to your boyfriend that you use everyday.

muffincoffee

-S

Balsamic Glazed Carrots

Balsamic Glazed Carrots

Balsamic Glazed Carrots

Carrots are these wonderfully bright, colourful vegetables that I love to walk right past in the grocery store. I haven’t entirely opened my mind to the possibilities of cooking them. My creative autonomy is still bound by the lifeless, soft boiled version from childhood.

A big factor in throwing a bushel of these babies into the cart is having an idea of what ingredients will bring out the natural tastiness in all that orange. I want this to be easy. I’m not reinventing the wheel for carrots.

A few simple things I always keep at home did the trick.

Ingredients:

1 bushel of carrots

1 1/2 tbsp. Olive Oil

2 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

1 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar

1 dollop of honey

Directions:

Wash and scrub carrots, peel if you choose. Whisk ingredients together and slather on carrots. Marinade in the fridge for 1/2 hour.

carrotsglazed

BBQ or bake carrots at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until charred on the outside but still slightly crisp on the inside.

I served with marinated chicken skewers from St. Lawrence Market, Jasmine rice and grilled asparagus. The best part? All done on the BBQ, no mess, no clean up. Boom.

Amsterdam

house boats

Not what you’re thinking. Yes, Amsterdam offers many tourist-frequented festivities outlawed in Canada and most parts of the world, but I didn’t partake this time around. Family trip, give me a break.

A total of five days travelling through the Netherlands allowed me only two days in Amsterdam, which left little time for anything other than daytime strolling, frequent café breaks, and a couple bar hops.

Actually, my favorite thing to do in a foreign city (other than eat, and explore the nightlife) is cruise about it’s streets in the daytime and take in the local feel.  Plus it appears I am now big time into Americano coffees, so it works out.

“Take me with you”

Amsterdam houses

The traditional housing blows me away in Amsterdam. I love the tall, narrow structures all unique in style and form, with a layer of windows at every level and each façade a different colour than the next. In Toronto, “urban” housing means shoeboxes within shiny 20-story condos while north of the city you will find identical blocks of developer-built cookie cutter homes. If I’m going to pay upwards of half a mil, give me a historic masterpiece in cobalt blue.

boatandbuildingbridge

The Red Light District is full of many treats for the weary traveller like live sex shows, “window shopping” and plenty of coffeeless cafes. I visited this part of Amsterdam during the day and noticed the occasional bored looking prostitute, but I can imagine the scenery becomes a little more lively come dark. I’m no expert on window shopping for women but I’m pretty sure clipping your toenails isn’t on the job description.

The hyped up stories of debauchery, hookers and pot are a very, very small part of Amsterdam and really only those held up by tourists. The city itself is the jewel, so you should make a point of taking it all in. On my next trip I will be renting a bicycle to get myself completely lost in this maze of streets.

The point where all tunnels align

The above was taken while on a canal tour courtesy of the Dylan Hotel.

Amsterdam canal

Thank-you Amsterdam.

Garlic and Brown Sugar BBQ Chicken

bbq chicken

Adapted from a Pinterest find, this is an easy and delicious method for chicken and fantastic when charred on the BBQ in the summer.

What you will need:

4 large skinless, boneless chicken thighs

4 cloves of garlic, minced

5-6 tbs of brown sugar

3 tbs of Olive Oil

Directions:

Remove excess fat/ cartilage from thighs

Heat oil in a skillet on med heat. Fry garlic until golden brown and remove from heat once done. Add the brown sugar and melt slightly in the garlic mix, then coat chicken thighs.

BBQ thighs on med-high heat for 12-15 mins, or until crispy and slightly blackened on the outside and juicy on the inside.

This goes great with a medley of marinated vegetables, which can also be done on the BBQ for a mess-free week night dinner.

bbqveg

What you will need:

1 green zucchini

1 yellow zucchini

1 red bell pepper

1 onion

3 carrots

1 tsp rosemary

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp chili flakes

1/4 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

3 tbs Olive Oil

Chop all vegetables according to your liking. Toss with fresh or dried herbs, salt, pepper and oil. Cover and marinate for at least half an hour in the fridge.

Combine veg loosely in a foil pack, leaving space for them to steam inside. Place wrap on the BBQ 5 minutes before the chicken.

chicken-and-veg

Serve BBQ chicken and vegetables with rice or salad and enjoy!

Garlic and Brown Sugar BBQ Chicken