Friday, July 29, 2011

gardening music

Yay! I'm really gardening this year! I planted large trees and small plants and tiny seeds. It's been so great! Anyway. More on that later.

Right now, here're some songs to listen to while you're out giving your plants some love!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


You may or may not know this, but I already had a favourite tzatziki recipe. It's true. I blogged about it right here. And I was quite happily going through the motions of straining and chopping and churning out some of what I thought was pretty good tzatziki.

And then I got a little lazy. It happens. I'm not perfect.

I kept buying cucumbers and yogurt and then I kept forgetting to strain the yogurt. So we'd end up with a fridge full of yogurt and slowly decaying cucumbers. It's not that straining yogurt is hard, but since moving, we've downgraded to a smaller fridge and having a big bowl in there taking up space is kinda bothersome.

And then Superstore started selling its own Greek yogurt. I was pretty ecstatic. I thought that would put an end to all my straining and draining. Now I could actually buy thick Greek yogurt and dump everything else in, right? Wrong.

Superstore's Greek yogurt isn't as thick as it probably should be; and, as it turned out, my method really depended on yogurt that was completely drained with an almost butter-like consistency. So despite everything being exactly the same except the yogurt, we ended up with tzatziki that tasted undeliciously like plain yogurt. 

I was pretty convinced I'd have to go back to my straining and draining ways, but once the Greek parents arrived and we started making recipes together, it wasn't long until I asked to make tzatziki. Might as well see how a Greek does it while I got 'em around, right?

What we got was the most garlic-y tzatziki I've ever had. But I liked it! A lot! You can reduce the amount of garlic if you want to but, as I was told, you're not eating proper tzatziki unless you have garlic breath the morning after. Just saying.

from my Greek mother-in-law

1 750 g tub of Balkan-style yogurt (I use Astro's Original Balkan. You could use Superstore's new Greek yogurt, but it only comes in half tubs and costs the same as a big tub and that bothers me like you wouldn't believe)
1 whole english cucumber, peeled and cut in half
1 whole garlic bulb, separated and peeled (not one little clove, the whole damn thing. About 11-12 cloves)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil (she poured it in; I had the restraint to limit it to a tablespoon)

Dump the entire tub of yogurt into a medium sized bowl.

Grate the entire cucumber into a fine mesh strainer either over the sink or in another empty bowl (it's a lot less awkward to grate one half at a time rather than the whole thing at once). Once it's all grated, hold the strainer over the sink and with your free hand squeeze out as much cucumber juice as possible. Just squeeze the hell out of it. This is a good recipe to work out your frustrations on.

Add the cucumber to the yogurt. With the box grater again, grate up all of the garlic cloves directly into the yogurt and cucumbers. Be very careful not to grate any fingers or fingernails into your tzatziki. No one will like that.

Add a very generous amount of salt and pepper (to taste, but a rough teaspoon of each should do it). Add the olive oil and mix. Store the tzatziki in the fridge. It's better to make it a little ahead of time so all the flavours have a chance to mingle around with the yogurt.

{note} I like to put the tzatziki back into the yogurt container so it stores easily in the fridge. It won't all fit back into the tub, but there's just a little leftover that will fit into a small bowl that you should finish in one meal (if you're using it correctly).

{noted} The box grater was used at least once for absolutely every single Greek dish we made. I only use the grater for cheese and maybe once a year for a chocolate zucchini cake, but I don't think my box grater ever made it back to the drawer for two whole weeks. And we never once used it to grate cheese. So if I could impart one lesson about Greek cooking today it's to put away your big chopping knife, find yourself a small paring knife and a box grater, and grate the hell out of every vegetable you're using. But. No one will call you a wimp if you decide to grate the cucumber and garlic with your food processor. We can't see what you're doing in your home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

miniature roses

I set Hermes' cage down beside the roses, but I didn't think he was that close to them. We were eating dinner, and I could hear him making his, "Oh this is good!" chirps and I thought, "But I haven't given him anything today..." and looked over to see him hanging off the side of his cage, nibbling away. He seems fine. Don't worry.

I figured out how to add different gradient and texture layers in Photoshop, so I had a little fun with these pics.

I've always loved miniature roses. They're so pretty and delicate and this particular pot has four different colours in one. I've since planted them outside. I hope they survive the winter. (The internet tells me they should.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

friday fixations

{garden centres} Shop for plants instead of pants, that's what I always say (actually, I never say that, I just thought it would be funny. Cuz pant shopping sucks so hard, right?) Slowly, slowly everything is starting to go on sale or clearance and going to all the garden centres is at the top of my mind. This week, I found various shades of pink and white peonies, pink tiger lilies (I've been looking for pink all summer), coral bells (the foliage on these is an amazing shade of pink), delphiniums (I don't know what colour these will be -- probably blue -- I was just excited to find some for only a buck each), pink oriental poppies (excited!), a pink day lily, and lambs ears (I love their silver colour but really. Who doesn't love a plant that's stroke-ably soft?). I'm planting up a storm in the front yard and in case you couldn't tell, I want a lot of pink out there.

embarrassing fact: this is our favourite dance song (and has become a fixation of its own)
{kinect dancing} We waited a long time to get the Kinect. We thought about how many times we used the Wii to excercise or play tennis or how often we actually set up the Dance Dance Revolution mat and played that game. And when it came right down to it, we just didn't think the Kinect was worth it. Enter the Greek parents. Wouldn't it be fun to get the Kinect and make them dance with it?! Duh! So we got it and had a lot of fun with it, but I didn't really properly try it until after they left. Now that I've played Dance Central a few times, I'm totally hooked. It's awesome! I couldn't coordinate my leg movements to the arrows and watch the screen for instructions on Dance Dance Revolution, so I really couldn't manage to get through one song without becoming frustrated. I kinda thought my dancing skills on this would be the same, but I'm managing the routines really well. They run through the moves with you for each skill level (and you can slow it down if you need to), then you mirror the lead dancer (which I find a little easier on the brain). And since this game incorporates arm movements and actually takes note of whether you bent your knees for a move (cheaters beware!), it's turned out to be a really great workout. A workout that's so much fun, I really don't notice I've been dancing for an hour (aside from the fact that I'm a lot sweatier by the end). I could do without the freestyle addition because it makes me feel even dumber than I already do, but I guess that's the whole point to most of these games, isn't it? That and finally destroying your husband at a video game! (See previous cheater note.)

Source: via Idle on Pinterest
{neon colours} I've never been all that attracted to neons before, but lately, I'm really liking how they look when paired with muted greys or muted shades of the same neon tone. Nothing really says summer quite like neon, right? Although, I am thinking I need to find some neon felt to make a spectacularly bright flower to pin on my winter jacket this year. And I really liked the little every day touches of neon in this post at decor8, too. That's what I'm talking about. (Also pictured: my insane friendship bracelet fixation rearing its ugly head again.)

{strawberries} And using the tip of my vegetable peeler to core them. Why didn't I think of doing that before? Duh.

{patterned walls} I don't know if I want to tackle a wallpaper job, tape up some stripes, or make my own stencil, but I'm really thinking about patterned walls lately. Plain paint just isn't inspiring me anymore.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

DIY: envelopes

I don't like using plain envelopes unless I'm sending bills.

1 plain or used envelope of a size and shape you particularly like
any kind of paper you like (I've used an old poster, kraft paper, neon paper, a page from a Japanese kid's book, magazine pages, newspaper, scraps of wallpaper, maps, and wrapping paper)
glue or double-sided tape (or any tape -- Japanese washi tape would be pretty!)
ruler (optional for folding)

Take the old boring envelope and unfold it by lifting the glued corners apart. Be very careful not to rip any of the edges. This now becomes your pattern.

Place the unfolded envelope pattern flat down on your paper and carefully trace around it.

Cut out the shape by following your trace lines. I like to cut just inside the pencil mark. The flaps tend to match up a little better that way. You can either use the ruler to match up the edges for a straight and sharp fold, eyeball it, or use the unfolded envelope to help fold the paper back into an envelope shape.

Use the envelope template as a guide to where you should glue or tape the new pretty envelope closed and you're done!

{examples and ideas}

On simple kraft paper like this, you can add interest by closing it up with masking tape. I cut mine with scalloped scissors and I used the same tape for an address box on the front.

You can also get creative with how you cut the edges. I used the scalloped scissors again on the flap of this pink envelope just to give it a little more interest. 

You can also glue/tape your envelope shut any way you'd like to once you've cut it out. These two are from the same envelope pattern. The Hokusai wave envelope is how the original envelope looked. I just turned the silver one (old Christmas wrapping paper) on its side and glued the bottom three flaps together instead. Make sure to remember to address and stamp this envelope the long way around so it keeps its neat elongated look on both sides.

And you can fold patterned paper backwards so the pattern is a pretty surprise on the inside once it's opened again. I used antique wallpaper here but you can find a lot of one-sided patterned papers at craft stores these days.


There are a lot of places on the internet where you can find envelope patterns, too. I've done that, but I always find that the envelope is either too small or I didn't like how it looked folded up. Since then, I haven't really bothered to take the time to search better patterns out so I can print them and then cut them out and then go through the steps above. At least with this method, I know exactly what I'm getting and it's simple and quick.

Try it out the next time you have to send something via snail mail. Speaking from experience, it's super exciting and cool to get something unusual and different in the mail!

for more DIYs check out this post

Monday, July 18, 2011

early morning storm

I was chasing storm clouds this morning.

And then the storm clouds chased me.

I was totally soaked.

Friday, July 15, 2011

lucky charms

I spotted a four-leaf clover yesterday, and it reminded me of my tiniest hidden collection.

I get to add one more.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

pop rocks ice cream sandwiches

Hello, pop rocks...

Hello, plain vanilla ice cream sandwich....

Meet your new best friend!

It's pretty and messy and all you can hear is crackling!

I think these would be a really great party dessert. I was by myself and giggling like a maniacal fool. So I imagine that with more people, the crazed giggling would multiply.

Pop rocks are just plain fun (and they taste pretty great with ice cream, too).

a little how-to

1 ice cream sandwich (you could make your own if you're so inclined)
1 package of Pop Rocks candy

Pour the candy out onto a plate or other suitable surface. Roll the edges of the ice cream sandwich around in the pop rocks; use your fingers to squish it on to any ice cream that remains uncovered.


{note} I'm sure you can find Pop Rocks just about anywhere. They're pretty common these days. I found these at Save-On Foods in the bulk candy aisle. On this particular day, they happened to be two packages for a dollar.

{noted} I think it would look really pretty if you bought a few different colours of Pop Rocks and mixed them together to make a popping rainbow covering. Just saying.

Monday, July 11, 2011

greek eats

Want to know what I've been doing the last couple of weeks? Eating. That's what. The Greeks are responsible for some friggin' good cuisine. And let me tell you, it's made up of a lot of olive oil. And sugar. And meat. And some more olive oil -- for luck, you know. And while everything was so delicious, I've never wanted to participate in a cleanse or detox so much in my life!

Do you know those sesame snacks? The thin sesame crackers that are held together with honey? These look like those only they're thicker. We also haven't eaten them yet. We've been too full.

Caprice cookie sticks are a thin chocolate wafer cookie with chocolate filling. You can buy these at Hellas Foods, actually. They're really good. They were eaten in a flash.

Greek orange cookies. They're not very sweet, but you can taste a very slight hint of orange and they're very bread-y, but I like that.

These are the orange cookies before baking. The above were brought from Greece and then we made them again here. Truth: I think I single-handedly ate all of these by myself.

These are the best burgers I've ever had ever. I'm sad I didn't take a picture of one finished, but they were too delicious to set down! This recipe was also made again and formed into meatballs, half of which are currently frozen and awaiting one of those "I don't know what to cook" days.

greek pancakes
Greek pancakes have no sugar so you don't have to feel guilty about slathering them with jam or Nutella. But they're also fried in olive oil so... maybe there's no winning here.

Jam cookies. I was lead to believe that this recipe would make "diet jam candies" which I was really excited about until I saw that they were actually cookies with a tiny bit of jam in the center, extra on the olive oil, bake-fried, and then doused in syrup. I can't tell you how bummed I was when I saw flour being added. I really honestly thought we'd be using a jar of jam and they'd be like gummies or turkish delights. They are pretty good, though.

I would definitely find room for more of these chewy coconut candies. They're so good. I have to find them somewhere!

Not pictured: Stuffed tomatoes (these are my favourite), stuffed eggplants (little shoes), avgolemono rice meatballs (youvarlakia), pork souvlaki, spaghetti and meatballs, Turkish eggplants and tomatoes, extra garlic-y tzatziki, mushroom pie (this is so easy and will seriously knock your socks off), and sweet dumplings (the box kind again, but rounder and prettier)

Once I have some of the recipes nailed down a little better (a drinking glass was used for most of the measurements and the rest were eyeballed), I'll be sure to post some of the best ones here for you!