Happy Friday to all! It’s the last Friday of the month – and where exactly did all the days and weeks go? It slipped by…..too fast. This week has been full of action. Kayak day with Steve on Monday – my grandparents arrived Tuesday – they are new residents to Victoria! Ha – my plan is slowly working – to have all my loved ones move out here
And tonight – I’m having a very girly night – Sarah and I are in search of the city’s best thin crust pizza, then off to the late show of Sex in the City. I know, I know – it’s supposed to be the worst movie splashed across screens right now – but I’m going for the eye candy of New York and clothes I would never wear!
Anyone else plan on throwing their money away at bad cinema tonight?
Boy there’s a lot going on right now. My husband and I have made the very difficult decision to put our house on the market. Like so many other people we know, we’ve decided to downgrade. Is this a bit of a trend? Time to tighten the belts! With the uncertain economic times ahead, we thought it would be wise to opt out of the real estate market for a while- sell our house while things are still hot, and see what happens. We may rent. We may buy something small and temporary. Not an easy decision, because I really love our house. But I know I can pretty much love any house.
It’s made me think what home means to me. For the longest time, home just meant a new place to decorate. But now that I have a family, I try to think about home in the eyes of my emotional 3 year old. I distinctly remember my mother telling me when my grandmother had sold her house (the one we spent heavenly summers at.) I cried inconsolably for hours. You see, I come from a long line of compulsive house-sellers, and that was the first time I had to deal with it. I lived in one home until I was 12, (in France) and once we moved to Canada, proceeded to move every18 months or so until just recently. I never minded. But will my son mind? We’ve been in the current house since he was about 6 months old, so it’s the only home he knows. Am I using the economy as an excuse to have a little fun decorating a new house?
So we’ve been looking at a few houses here and there, and I’ve started to wonder what I really need in a home. Our fabulous editor-in-chief Maryam and I met with the larger –than-life and exquisitely charming Colin and Justin, from Home Heist, the other day. They said something that resonated. They said that people really need to think about how they live their lives when they design their homes. Seems like a basic statement, but it’s so true. Like the whole great room concept. It’s great, makes total sense in light of the way modern families live their lives, but it’s made the living room completely obsolete. Who needs it I say. And what about the dining room. Does anyone use theirs? We do, but only because I made a conscious decision when we renovated not to have an eat-in kitchen because I really like the routine and formality of us sitting down together and having a meal at the table. But shouldn’t the kitchen and dining room really merge into an eating/socializing hybrid? Then lose the living room all together and have a large gathering space that opens up onto a garden, ideally? The problem is that none of the houses in downtown Toronto are built that way. They are old Victorians, with living rooms crammed in the smallest rooms in the house, and kitchens and the back, overlooking the garden. If we do buy a house, I would want to move the kitchen to the front of the house, and have a large island that kind of turns into a dining table (we did that at our farm, and it’s fabulous!). Then I would blow out the back wall of the house and replace it with glass, and put the living room there. Maybe with a double sided fireplace looking onto a deck off the back of the house.
But wait. The point here is to save money. Seems that I am as compulsive as the rest of my family. I just can’t resist a good project. I’ll keep you all posted. In the meantime, we’ve got ten days of cleaning up, de-cluttering, and pretending to live like organized people. Gonna be a challenge!
Saturday was a day of food, wine, fun and a lot of learning too, thanks to the Island Chefs Collaborative. They hosted “Defending our Backyard” – a Feast of Fields idea that showcased local chefs, wineries and fantastic Island breweries coming together to discuss and celebrate sustainable food and agriculture systems.
The backdrop for all of this was Fort Rodd Hill – a National Historic Site of Canada – Fisgard Lighthouse – set against a beautiful blue sky and of course -the ocean – what more eye-candy could want when hosting something in the great outdoors?
Between the booths of spicy homemade grilled sausages with a rhubarb chutney (courtesy of Zambri’s – a really really good Italian resto) and the Italian Bakery’s deliciously cheesy pizza (baked fresh on site using their own hand crafted brick oven –see later) were a range of experts on hand willing to talk about how to sustain and support farming. Fresh From the Island was most impressive and I hope to learn more from them: check out http://www.islandfarmfresh.com/ and Steve is a big supporter of TLC– The Land Conservancy- a non-profit org that protects both plant and animal habitats. Through donations, they hope to secure farm lands and keep the tradition of farming alive. For more info visit: http://www.conservancy.bc.ca/index.asp?section=home
To remind you of life on the farm….these cute little grunters were at the front gate. And for a good laugh, not too far away, lost in an aromatic cloud of smoke was Smokin Bones Cookshack barbecued pork! They did the big pig roast – multiple ‘cues with whole little piggies……slow cooked for hours so they were succulent and smoky. The owner of Smokin Bones, Ken Hueston, is also the president of the ICC – and the driving force behind this event. He’s a passionate cook and one of the key players in the movement to support local producers. In his free time he’s also mentoring about 8 cooks going through their apprenticeship.
Here he is giving an opening speech – look at his necklace – actually all the volunteers wore one – it’s a carrot – love it! veggie jewelery/snack!
And speaking of supporting the locals….that’s exactly what we did – again and again and again…..all sunny afternoon long:
This is us (L to R: Ingrid, Chelsea, Chris, Steve) enjoying beer from Lighthouse Brewing Company – we visited them many times. Loved the amber ale and even liked their coffee porter.
And this is the famous brick oven from The Italian Bakery (same family as Ottavio). It was a hot day to stand in front of a blazing oven – and what a stroke of design genius – the portable oven is an upturned bathtub surrounded by bricks……amazing!
Here we are stuffing ourselves on Zambri’s grilled sausages. The tangy rhubarb chutney cut through the deliciously fatty bits and hit all the right seasonal notes.
The Empress teamed up with local fisheries to produce a beautiful seafood soup – light broth with lots of fennel, shrimp, chunks of fish (a mix ????), clams and delicate stock. Chefs were on hand filleting fresh catch.
Other highlights ……heirloom tomatoes from SunWing Tomatoes – bright coloured, lumpy bumpy ones that just sang of summer – and tasted like it too! They were diced and seasoned with just a little salt atop grilled sourdough slices smeared with pesto – heavenly! And I love mead! Tugwell Creek (up in Sooke) has converted me with their Kickass Currant Family Reserve 2006 – it’s full bodied wine with an undertone of cassis and of course, honey. It’s my new replacement for sherry before dinner when I’m feeling fancy. Also liked Averill Creek Pinot Noir 2006 – if pinot has a light summery version -this is it. These are fairly young vines, but the light black cherry shone through with a hit of tobacco too.
And lastly….Steve finishes one last beer in the sun. The great finisher is “Surly Blond” (hee hee – lots of jokes on that one!) from Phillips Brewing…. a Belgian tripel style (9.1%) beer that’s bottle-conditioned (small batches too). Fruity, super clean and a wonderful dry finish. The ultimate summer beer!
Scooting around town today I popped into Plenty Epicurean Pantry – on Fort Street.
While I didn’t buy anything, I certainly poked around. It’s one of those feel-good shops where you can touch, sniff, read and generally spend a lot of time looking around and wishing you had more cash in your pocket. As you know, my pocket is now empty. But there is a red scooter waiting outside!
Anyways….Plenty is an eclectic mix of books, local artisanal fare (jams, jellies, organic chocolate), teas, a mind-blowing selection of dried peppers (stuff I couldn’t easily find in Toronto!), wide array of dried mushrooms, funky herbs and spices and even a small cheese counter too – dreamy! They only offer local – so I didn’t stumble across any new cheeses – just familiar goodies: Fairburn Farm Buffalo Mozzarella, the David Wood’s collection, a few from Moonstruck and Hilliary’s of course.
Plenty’s mandate is organic, fair trade and artisan. You’d think that’s the standard out here – but I’ve discovered it’s not always that easy to find….easy being the key word. A good handful of the restos have been singing that tune – but for the regular shopping joe it takes a lot of running around to source local and organic. Luckily Plenty takes away some of that searching.
Check out http://www.epicureanpantry.ca to see what the store looks like and browse some of the goodies.
I totally jumped ship on the blog last week. So sorry. Things have a way of getting crazy in the days leading up to a vacation.
So I know my blog is all about Real Design, not high-brow fancy schmantzy design, but I have been unfaithful. You see, my husband had to go down to Boca Raton, Florida (just south of Palm Beach) for a work conference. We decided to tack on a few extra days of vacation so that my son and I could come down and have a little R&R. It was at a VERY FANCY resort called the Boca Club www.bocaclub.com, and definitely not part of the real world. I’ll just say one thing about the life of the rich and idle- it’s FABULOUS to pretend to be a part of for five days. Everything is just so easy. And beautiful. Perfectly manicured gardens, someone to do everything for you, stunning décor, well, let’s just say one would get quite bored with all that perfection.
Here are a few shots:
This is the suite that we had- note the lovely cream linen sectional. How I wish I could have a cream linen sofa, but I have a dog and a three year old! Love the subtle panel detail in the walls though. I think I may do a story on how to achieve this look. Very simple, espcecially if you have a handy partner!
And finally, there’s no design reason to include this photo, it’s just dreamy!
Monday, my son and I headed home while my husband stayed behind for work. And, at the risk of being a total cliché, I was struck by the grey-ness of Toronto. After five days surrounded by the bluest sky, the greenest lawns and pink buildings, it was a shock to come back to the Toronto airport, where no colour registers out of the grey-scale. Why is that? When I first moved here from the south of France, about 20 years ago, I was struck by how grey everything is in Southern Ontario. I think it has to do with the pallor of the sky. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think pink and turquoise houses would be appropriate in Canada, but there is a definite lack of contrast in the way people apply colour that drives me crazy. I’ve seen pictures of Stockholm, Sweden (which has a similar climate to our own), and they use lots of beautiful warm ochres and deep brownish reds- similar to the colours of Northern Italy. Strange how different that is from our own approach to colour. Maybe it’s the British influence. I love a soothing palette of grey-blues and soft greens as much as the next, but I think colours need a little contrast to come alive. Think of it like pepper on macaroni and cheese. Or ketchup. Sure, mac ‘n cheese is delicious on its own, but with a little seasoning, it really comes alive.
So here is my recipe for bringing out the zing in common colour combinations:
- Beige and brown décor: try adding some pure white, or little bits of matte black.
- Yellow or ochre “Mediterranean” colours: try adding some navy blue or dark green accents.
- Sage décor: try some hits of ochre.
- All white: sky’s the limit! Pink, yellow, turquoise….go crazy!
Let’s hear it for bold decorating!!