Monday: Confessions of a Shopping Diva

All I need is money and the rest would be history! Am I right everyone? How many of you feel that if the latest 50 million Lotto Max were your numbers, you would be shopping it up at Yorkdale? You’d probably even get valet parking. I don’t blame you. Do your thing! I, for one, would take a trip to an exotic place and lay low until things calm down, and I have a better idea of what to do with the money.

Bringing myself back to reality though, I have a list of the 5 best places to shop in Canada, according to Reader’s Digest:

1.Yorkville, Toronto

yorkville

A quiet neighbourhood of small streets sheltered from the overall noise and hubbub of downtown Toronto, Yorkville is arguably Canada’s poshest shopping district-store rent tops $300 per square foot, and those little streets are home to some of the biggest names in fashion and design, including Burberry, Prada, Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. (not to mention dealerships for Rolls Royce and Maserati). Bring a credit card-or three.

 

2. West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton Alberta

west ed

Although the “West Ed” relinquished title of the world’s largest mall back in 2004, this place is still a must-visit spot for serious shoppers, with some 800 stores and services spread across six million square feet of commercial space. It’s also a great place for those who are serious about partying, with a full-blown amusement park that includes the world’s tallest and longest indoor roller coasters, a five-acre water park, an ice palace, mini golf and lots of other fun attractions.

3. Byward Market, Ottawa

byward

Just steps from the Parliament Buildings in our nation’s capital, ByWard is one of the oldest and largest farmers markets in Canada-but it’s much more than that. Attracting as many as 50,000 shoppers on warm summer weekends, vendors line the streets around the main market building, selling everything from flowers to jewelry to Beaver Tails, while the area is also home to Canada’s oldest tavern, Ottawa’s oldest church, more than 100 restaurants, and the National Gallery of Canada.

 

4. The Forks, Winnipeg, Manitoba

forksThis spot at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers has served as a traditional place of commerce for Aboriginal populations for more than six millennia and, in colonial times, brought together hunters, merchants and traders, so it seems rather appropriate that it now hosts millions of fashionable Winnipeggers and visitors from across the country. Home to promenades and riverwalks, theatres, galleries and several top-drawer restaurants, you may (understandably) get distracted from all the shopping available at its impressive indoor marketplace.

 

5. Pacific Mall, Markham, Ontario

pacificIf you’re looking for authentic, East Asian delicacies and wares-but want to avoid the 12-hour flight-there’s no better place to visit than the Pacific Mall, in the suburban Toronto city of Markham. The largest indoor Asian mall in North America, the Pacific houses over 450 vendors, offering everything from herbs and flowers to Asian fashion, in a giant space modeled on traditional markets of the Pacific Rim.

 

I’ve been to three out of the top five top places to shop, and needless to say, the experts are right. You can find “posh” shopping and lifestyle in Yorkville, eat the best Beavertails at the Byward, and find the best deals at Pacific mall. Being a Canadian, I could see how the shopping locations make me seem biased, but I promise to be fair and make lists of the best places to shop all over the world! Until then, you can start with this list and go crazy! Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday: At Home

homeToday is all about the house chores in my home. Anywhere from sweeping and mopping, to cooking and laundry. This is the day I both love and dread at the same time!  This is the official prep day for the week ahead and I have to say that it is the most important day for our household. The most tedious task is the laundry because there are 5-6 loads to run every Sunday, which usually takes the entire day to accomplish. I have three children ranging from 6 to 12 years old, and their laundry is usually the bulk of the loads that are done each week! Does that sound familiar to anyone?! Someone asked me why I don’t split the laundry to be done on separate days, but it just doesn’t go with the flow of my schedule. So, I make sure to bring everything down to the main area family room and start really early with my morning coffee. I separate lights, darks, and whites in their individual piles; soaking the whites in some hot bleach water until their turn is up.

I make sure the first load is in before I start breakfast, and the beat goes on. Sitting down to fold clean laundry never happens until the other chores are done. Then, and only then, am I able to sit in the family room and watch a Netflix series, while placing folded laundry into the colour coordinated baskets. Why colour coordinated you might ask? It’s simple: each member of the family owns a coloured basket, and is responsible for putting their own laundry away. If you don’t delegate, you will be doing laundry until Wednesday. Well, that is my routine in a nutshell. Anyone have a special way of doing their weekly laundry? Please share with us, and maybe we can use some of your ideas to perfect our laundry days. Happy Sunday everyone!

puffs(Italian Cream Puffs recipe I shared earlier in the week as promised! I didn’t let the custard cool the way it was supposed to, so it is kind of runny, but tastes fabulous!!! Be sure to share your pictures with us too.)

 

Saturday: Reflections

reflections

Saturdays are reflective days for me. A chance to take the week into account to see how I could make changes for the days ahead, but mostly for spiritual stillness. Now, I realize not everyone has a day like this in their calendar, but I believe that if you want to live your best life in this world, there should to be a day in the week dedicated to slowing down and taking time for you. I’ve decided to write with this in mind, hoping that you too, could find your day of reflections.

This week I struggled with the concept of purpose. To find meaning in every day that we live seems to be more and more of a daunting challenge at times, with how fast and repetitive our days feel. Some days, it feels like the movie “Groundhog Day,” where Bill Murray wakes up to experience the same day over and over again! The question is: Why does it always feel like the same day? I watch people pull into the same parking spot in the morning before work, order the same coffee at the corner café, and say hi to the same people before making their way up to their desks.

Making each day new and exciting requires one to carpool with co-workers, and have conversations on thought-provoking issues. Order a latte or a tea at the café to throw off the cashier’s automatic coffee charge when they see you come in. You could also say hi to someone you really don’t know well at the office, and make plans for lunch together. I believe that these are the ways we could splash some colour in our worlds, making new memories, and budding relationships that changes your life’s direction from the time you get out of bed.

While sipping my coffee in front of the computer this morning, I am thinking about taking more time to drop a little more of my sparkle behind in the days ahead, taking every opportunity to make new waves. No matter how difficult it seems to live on purpose, and with purpose, it all starts with a simple decision inside of you to begin. Happy Saturday everyone!

Friday: The Socialite

friday

Welcome to Friday! I don’t know about you but the weekend is truly welcomed in my home today. The kids have a PA day, but I don’t. However, all things considered, I will take the Friday and make it the most fabulous day of my week!

Now, the question is: What do we do with our weekend? You’ve come to the right place for answers. I’m from Toronto, and currently, despite the cold weather, things are moving and shaking in our city.

If you are up for a chance to network in the interior design field, there is the “Interior Design Show” happening all weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. There are always neat products and gadgets that catch your eye! Also, the Phantom of the Opera is currently playing at the Ed Mirvish theatre for those who love musicals! It is here from January 8th – February 2nd. I missed the opportunity to see it when I was in grade 8, so I’ve been hinting at wanting tickets in my home.

Mark this in your calendars people! Winterlicious in Toronto is coming from January 31st – February 13th (https://www.blogto.com/eat_drink/2019/12/winterlicious-restaurants-toronto-2020/). Every year, Toronto’s top restaurants participate in a prix fixe menu for lunch and dinner (ranging from $23-$53 per person), offering anything from your traditional burgers and fries, to Duck L’Orange! If you have always wanted to try a pricey restaurant, and could never be brave enough financially, this is your moment!

I have been to a few participating restaurants: Planta in Yorkville (Vegan restaurant), Sassafraz (French cuisine), and Montecito (California style), and they all get an A in my culinary books! Don’t take my word for it, book your table for one of our 200 participating restaurants today. Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday: What’s Baking?

puff pastryI usually talk about cakes when I talk about baking, because I am always making them as part of my business. However, I experienced a “EUREKA!” moment, if you will, where I thought about how wonderful it would be to explore a new area of baking. Pastries are a bit more complicated than cakes, only because they require unique preparation steps. Diving into the world of pastry making seemed like a challenge, and I believe we should all try to put our true culinary skills to the test. I have been a long-time fan of Buddy Valastro in “Cake Boss,” where he takes on the challenge of the most glorious custom cakes I have ever seen!!! Buddy is also Italian, and sees baking Italian pastries as something he could do with his eyes closed. Today, we will challenge ourselves with Buddy’s “Italian Cream Puff with Custard Filling” recipe, just to see who really holds the spatula among us! I will post pictures of my puffs on Sunday’s “Home” entry, and I would also encourage you to post some of your creations so that I can see we are truly in this together. Let the baking begin! Happy Thursday.

 

Buddy’s Italian Cream Puffs with Custard Filling

For the Italian custard cream:
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup cake flour, sifted
5 extra-large egg yolks
2 teaspoons salted butter

For the choux pastry:
1 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 extra-large eggs

Preparation
For the Italian custard cream: Put the milk and the vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
In a bowl, whip together the sugar, flour, and egg yolks with a hand mixer. Ladle a cup of the milk-vanilla mixture into the bowl and beat to temper the yolks.
Add the yolk mixture to the pot and beat over medium heat with the hand mixer until thick and creamy, about 1 minute. As you are beating, move the pot on and off the flame so that you don’t scramble the eggs. (Buddy’s Tip: The longer you cook this cream, the thicker it will become, so you can — and should — adjust the texture to suit your taste.)

Remove the pot from the heat, add the butter, and whip for 2 minutes to thicken the cream. Transfer to a bowl. Let cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to 1 week.
(To make chocolate custard cream, add 1½ ounces melted, cooled unsweetened chocolate along with the butter. For a richer chocolate flavor, add a little more.)
For the choux pastry: Put the water, butter, and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients come together in a smooth, uniform dough, about 2 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (You may also use a hand mixer.) Start paddling on low speed, then add the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly absorbed, mixing for 1 minute between eggs, and stopping the motor periodically to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Finish with the final egg and mix for an additional two minutes. (Buddy’s Tip: Use the dough immediately. It does not refrigerate well.)
For the cream puffs: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450F.
Transfer the dough into a pastry bag fitted with the #6 plain tip. Pipe rounds onto two non-stick baking trays, about 2 inches in diameter by about ½ inch high, leaving 2 inches between puffs. (You should be able to make 24 puffs.)
Bake the cream puff shells in the oven, in batches if necessary, until they are golden brown and they have set enough that you can pick them up (test by gently pinching one with your thumb and forefinger to see if it can be lifted), 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and let the shells cool on the tray for 20 minutes. (The cream puff shells can be frozen in a plastic freezer bag for up to 1 month; let come to room temperature before cutting and filling.)

Fill the puffs by either cutting them in half horizontally with a serrated knife and piping them full of Italian Custard Cream, or by using your pinkie to hollow out the puffs from the bottom and piping the cream into them through the hole.

 

 

Wednesday: Do it Yourself Challenge!

CHALLENGE: THE LAUNDRY ROOM VISION (Part 1)

my laundry 4

 

Welcome to “Do it Yourself” Wednesday! Today, and for a series of weeks, I will be tackling my laundry room! It is usually the most uninspiring room in our homes, but one of the most important rooms to the families that live there. I think that the dedication I take to making the laundry room beautiful again, will prove that it could have both style and function all at the same time!

What is the vision?

Keeping with my navy blue theme throughout the house, I will buy cabinets and paint them to my desired shade. Painting the cabinets as opposed to purchasing them in a custom colour, will save you tons of money, and will also bring drama to the look you’re going for. Finish them off with some handsome hardware and we will have “Design at it’s prime!”

The cabinet structure in the center photo inspires me to put together a storage solution that will give my  garage door enough space to swing open, while incorporating a much needed utility sink. Grey tiled flooring will be my go-to, and I will complete this look with a nice black and white wallpaper design, which will add glam to the room’s overall look.

Tune in next week for step two of my glamorous laundry room makeover!

Tuesday: What’s for Dinner?

quiche

Sometimes you may need a simple meal that you can whip up in the evening after a hectic day. You may have hungry kids around the table with forks and knives in hand, demanding food, or maybe it’s just a fast meal for you after work before you curl up to watch your favourite show.

Whatever the need may be, why not try this “classic quiche” recipe that is guaranteed to save you from the uncertainty of dinner?  Make sure you toss your preferred salad, or prepare a nice bowl of soup to compliment this tasty dish. This one is an oldie, but a goody:

Spinach and Cheddar Quiche

Ingredients:

8-9 large eggs

1 cup of heavy cream

1 teaspoon of salt

dash of black pepper

1 cup chopped spinach

1 cup of grated cheddar cheese

sprinkle of nutmeg

1 box frozen puff pastry

 

Directions:

Set oven on 375 degrees. Let puff pastry defrost before rolling two  pieces out to set into the greased pie pan. Be sure to pinch the corners and overlap two pieces to make a whole piece (depending on how big your pan is). In a bowl, beat eggs, salt, black pepper, nutmeg, cream together. Add in 3/4 cup of the cheese and spinach. Pour into the pan and sprinkle the remainder of cheese on top. Bake for 35-40 mins, or until golden brown. Feeds a family of five, or makes leftovers for a single person. Easy peasy. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions

new years

Whether it be to lose weight or to save money, a new year’s resolution should reflect the long-term goals that you want to achieve. For me, I firmly believe in resolutions because they push us to discover more about ourselves, and what we are capable of doing. Realizing your potential is important, but you must also be realistic with your goals. So often, people seek to take drastic measures to achieve their goals, but fall apart early on in the journey. The climb is steady, one foot in front of the other, never to look back. It is a pressing forward, in spite of how steep the odds, making consistent progress to the top.

Face it, it took a very long time to gain all of that weight, or develop that smoking habit. You should expect that these goals take time to conquer, leaving space to fall and get right back up again. If you don’t plan to fall, then you are truly setting yourself up for failure. Part of the reason why we develop these habits is because of the consistency of our mistakes. You can bet that the possibility of making mistakes will always be there, but always plan for quick clean-ups! The faster you move through them and get back on track, the quicker you will reach your goals.

Like you, I have a few goals of my own this year. It will be exciting to see the progress, but I also realize it will take time. Let’s remember to have patience and accept that beautiful gardens take time to bloom. Steady work also ensures quality results. Therefore, let us work every day, plugging away at the steps, making our way to this year’s resolutions.