Thursday, January 22, 2015

how to relax & fall asleep quickly


Getting my brain to turn off at bedtime can be difficult. Especially when I have a gazillion things on my mind. During the day, I feel pretty happy-go-lucky, but as I lie down at night, my mind starts spinning. Lately the tossing and turning topics include trying to have a baby (we have a BIG doctor's appointment coming up on Monday) and the logistics of a full kitchen renovation. Exciting and good things yes, but also anxiety inducing, as is my wont.

So when I recently came across this breathing technique I immediately decided to give it a try.

Here's how it works:

Step 1: Breath in silently through your nose for a count of 4.
Step 2: Hold your breath to the count of 7.
Step 3: Exhale through your mouth while making a whooshing sound to the count of 8.
Step 4: Now inhale again and repeat the cycle another three times or until you fall asleep.

I've been doing it for the past week and it honestly works! Admittedly, I felt like I was going to die the first few times I held my breath, but I got the hang of it quickly. And it's gotten easier with each passing night. Now I'm usually asleep after three rounds of 4-7-8.  Blessedly sweet sleep. It's become my go-to method to "close some tabs" when my thoughts get a little all over the place.

Are you a good sleeper? Any tips? Or are you a worrier, too? When it comes to worrying, we can really nail it sometimes (:

P.S. This brilliant website puts a single day of your life in perspective.

Print via. It's funny 'cause it's true.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

bye bye 2014. hello 2015!


Happy New Year friends! I hope you had a great holiday and celebrated the end of 2014 in a way that made you feel ready to embrace the new year ahead. I had a few too many blood orange-rosemary fizz cocktails last night. Will definitely be sharing that recipe with you! 

When it comes to 2014, I don't really know where to start. It was a challenging year with some rough spots and changes, yet it had many beautiful moments too. Highlights included this magical experience in the mountainsour 11th wedding anniversarytrip to Bosnia/Croatia, the wedding of one of my nearest & dearest, my first blogging conference in Toronto and of course, any time spent with these two. I also ate, cooked and baked a ton of delicious things.  

Over the past twelve months, I've also grown considerably. I've learned the breadth of my resilience, figured out how best to deal with my anxiety, regained my professional confidence and discovered who I can count on during tough times. I'm beyond grateful to have a wonderful husband, family and a great group of friends surrounding me with love, laughter, encouragement and support. I needed them this year especially.

And I'm grateful for you too! Thank you for sticking with me and my spotty posting. I'm flattered to have you along for the journey and am appreciative of every comment, tweet, email or share. It means a lot to me that you find your way here, especially with all the awesomeness available on the internet these days. 

Things to look forward to in 2015: turning 40 in March (holy shit!), trying to start a family (holy shit x a million! Can you tell I'm scared? But so excited if it does happen!), a kitchen/bathroom renovation, and travelling more. And just generally investing more time and energy in the people that matter and more money in experiences rather than things. That all sounds doable, right?

Cheers to a wonderful year in store, full of unexpected surprises and delights! And thanks again for reading the blog. If I could hug you through the internet, I would. xoxo

P.S. Come back soon, will ya. I'm hosting my first giveaway of twenty fifteen early next week (: 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

eat: maple rosemary spiced pretzel & nut mix


This sweet and spicy mix is ridiculously easy to make, extremely addictive and suitable for special occasion and raucous get-togethers. Cards Against Humanity, anyone?

Adding maple syrup and fresh rosemary elevates humble nuts and pretzels into something extra special and delicious. It's munchery at its best and a great hostess gift to bring to holiday parties. My friends, family and neighbours are all getting a bag of this good stuff because who doesn't love an edible gift?

Maple Rosemary Spiced Pretzel and Nut Mix
Makes about 4 cups (300 gr)
Adapted from David Lebovitz' The Sweet Life in Paris

Here's what you need to make them:
2 cups (200 gr) mixed raw nuts; any combo of cashews, whole almonds, peanuts, pecan halves, pistachios and hazelnuts.
1 tablespoon (15 gr) unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons (45 gr) dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons (45 gr) roughly chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to your spice level)
3/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt
2 cups (100 gr) small pretzel twists

Line a large cookie sheet with foil or parchment. Spread the nuts in an even layer and roast in a 350F (180C) oven for 10 minutes, stirring once for even toasting.

In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and maple syrup.

Add the warm nuts, stirring until coated. Then mix in the salt (if using, please see note below), pretzels and rosemary, and stir until the nuts and pretzels are completely coated.

Spread the mixture back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 12-18 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. Your house is going to smell amazing. Watch them carefully to make sure they don't burn. Remove from oven and cool completely, separating the nuts and pretzels as they cool.

Once cool, this mixture can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

Happy munching!

  • Notes:
  • I used Kirkland mixed nuts from Costco. They are already toasted, so I just warmed them up in the oven for about 5 minutes at 350F and kept a close eye on them. 
  • I melted the butter in a large bowl, so I could do all the mixing in that bowl, making one less thing for me to wash as well. 
  • I omitted the salt because the pretzels were salted. If you decide to add salt, make sure to add it in after the nuts are stirred, so it doesn’t dissolve. And be sure to use coarse salt, which has an appealing, crunchy texture and more delicate flavor than ordinary table salt.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

how to get your significant other to agree to a new sofa


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Hi guys! How've you been? We got a new sofa for our sitting room recently, our old one was starting to show signs of wear (mostly from my sweaty feet). Although it served us well over the past nine years, it was high time for a change. Here's my foolproof strategy in case you need to convince someone in your life that you need a new sofa:

1. Mention your contempt for the old sofa for about two years non-stop. At this point your main squeeze may gently remind you that there's nothing wrong with said sofa and that you once loved it dearly. In response, you let out a melodramatic sigh worthy of an Emmy.

2.  Agree to sell the old sofa, which you affectionately refer to as the brown beast, on kijiji before buying a replacement. But then procrastinate for months on end at which point your partner ends up doing it for you out of pure exasperation.

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3.  Tell your significant other, in an imploring manner, that you'd be willing to give up Starbucks chai lattes for a new sofa even though you both know darn well you don't have that kind of resolve.

4.  Ask to stop at the furniture store on a day that just happens to be your wedding anniversary
just to look around.

And finally,

5. Enjoy a chai latte while lounging (and wearing socks) on your new sofa.
_______________
Sofa: Gus Modern via Inspired Home Interiors
Throw: H&M Home
Rug, side table, lotus candle holder & printed pillow: HomeSense
Coffee table: Structube (similar)
Tray & Mongolian fur pillow: Chapters Indigo
Vase: Anthropologie
Mirrors: Superstore/Loblaws (old)
Brass bowl & lamp: Target
Wood coasters: Justine Ma: Design & Hand Lettering

P.S. Hope you're all doing well! I'll be back with a style post and front door reveal soon (because I can't call myself a blogger if I'm not blogging). Truthfully, I've been spending most of my time on Instagram and Facebook lately. Come and find me, if you haven't already!

Monday, July 28, 2014

we're heading to croatia...






Have you ever been to Croatia? We're hopping on a plane and heading there tomorrow!

We're crazy excited and cannot wait to spend a few weeks relaxing, island hopping and visiting with my extended family (it's been 5 years since we've seen them). I've been itching for this kind of vacation — the kind where you kick it all day at the beach, drink wine in the evening, and just straight chill. We may even throw in some meandering down cobblestone streets in search of bits of history or funky shops.

Our plan is to fly into Zagreb, visit my mom's side of the family in Bosnia for a few days and then head down to my birth island of Brac, where my dad's side lives, via the ferry in Split.  
We're going to spend a week on Brac (above) and then decide where else to go - maybe Dubrovnik, Hvar (below) or even Venice. We haven't entirely made up our minds, which is unusual and thrilling because I'm usually such a planner. 

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Our ten-year-old niece Raissa is coming with us for part of the trip and we're also meeting up with my parents, who left for Bosnia last week. Should be fun as we've never travelled on a plane with a kid. Thankfully Rai's pretty awesome and we're looking forward to this bonding time with her (Scott's elated to have another English speaking person around since his Croatian is, um, a tad rusty).
I'll be sharing photos of our vacation on Instagram and Facebook, if you'd like to follow along. 

Have a wonderful three weeks, and see you at the end of August!

P.S. Can't wait to read this book on the plane and finally wear this dress

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

our secret to a happy marriage (that we've learned after 11 years)

Our 11th wedding anniversary was on June 21. 11 years! It feels longer, but in a good way. It probably comes as no surprise that I'm blogging about it a month later. Procrastination takes time (;

We celebrated with a chill "Dajo & Scott day." We visited the Old Strathcona Farmer's Market and picked up Frickin' Delights Donuts (a must! see picture below), took Lucy on a long walk in the river valley and strolled down Whyte Ave. window shopping. While on Whyte Ave. we passed by Meat, a bbq joint opened by the owners of the Next Act Pub. It looked like our kind of place so we immediately cancelled our reservations at our go-to fancy restaurant and went there instead. I'm so glad we did. The drinks were strong and the garlic fries, house-made pickles and fried chicken really hit the spot. Don't get me wrong, dressing up and having a night out on the town is great, but anniversaries don't have to include that to be wonderful. Better to let go of the notion of anniversary perfection and instead live in the moment. Spontaneity has a tendency to bring its friend "fun" along for the ride. Who doesn't love fun or pickles?!

photo 1

Speaking of fun times, we visited Charleston for our anniversary last year and shared Our 10 for a Happy Marriage. It was a popular post (thanks for reading, kids!) so here's this year's marriage tip:

Scott and I have made it a habit to greet one another at the door after coming home from work (or running errands, etc). Those first few moments spent together set a positive tone for the evening. So if he's downstairs watching tv, he gets up and makes his way to the front door. And vice versa. It's one of the things I look most forward to at the end of a long day. Knowing that no matter what kind of day I've had, a friendly loving face is going to plant a big one on me and hug me as soon as I walk in the door (full disclosure: Lucy also plants big ones on me). This simple gesture also tells your partner you value them and they're more important than anything you might be doing at that moment (um, like scrolling through your IG or Facebook feed).

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Just last week, I came home ragged and annoyed from my commute. It had taken me over an hour to get home (dang summer construction!) and I took my frustration out on Scott soon after he greeted me at the door. I quickly realized I was being a brat, so I left the house and closed the door behind me. I stood there for a few minutes and then knocked a couple of times. Scott opened the door and I asked, "Hi, can we start again?" And we did.

Try it. It's goofy and your partner may think you've lost your marbles, but I can guarantee from personal experience that it'll clear the air and probably make you both laugh.

I guess that's actually two tips. Let me know if you end up trying either of them! What little secrets and tips do you have for relationships? I'd love to hear.

Hope you're having a great week!

P.S. Yup, that's the outfit from my last post.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

style: madewell from head to toe

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I dig the laid-back chic of Madewell.

I discovered the retailer, J. Crew's affiliate, a few years ago but it wasn't until this year that I ordered a pair of leopard print flats (no breaking in needed), followed by a red dress from my spring wish list and then the Transport tote quickly followed. Yep, I'm wearing all three purchases above. If you didn't know I was a nerd before reading this post, you do now.

I've had my eye on this leather tote for over a year and finally decided to purchase it after seeing pictures of it all over Instagram recently when the hashtag #totewell took over my feed.

Like these ones...

Tote 3tote 4Tote 6Tote 2

My initials are discretely stamped on it (you can almost make them out in the first pic) and it fits everything I need and more including my lunch, books & umbrella. It's simple and neutral, goes well with all of my summer pieces and will transition well into the fall. I'm glad I finally took my own advice and invested a bit of money into a well made classic piece. I finally have a chic everyday bag I love!

Hope you're having a swell week! It's hot as heck in Edmonton and I'm loving every humid minute of it. It's a great excuse to make more of these.
_____________________
Denim jacket: J.Crew Factory 
Dress, shoes & bag: Madewell
Sunglasses: Joe Fresh
Necklace: wedding gift from my family in Bosnia
Ring & earrings: So Pretty Jewelry

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

this book kept me up all night...


I devoured Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn in one day (it kept me up until 3:35 a.m.). It was a bit dark and disturbing, but it was so engrossing I literally could not put it down. The suspenseful thriller tells the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, a pair of New Yorkers who relocate to his Midwest hometown after they both lose their writing jobs. On their 5th wedding anniversary, Amy mysteriously disappears and... cue the clever twists and turns! That morning, I couldn't stop telling Scott about it. Can't remember the last time I gushed that much about a book to him. Highly recommend! It's the perfect beach/plane/summer read. It was also number one on the NYTimes bestsellers list for eight weeks, so I might be the last person in the world to read it (have you?). 

Next, I'd like to read The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, Wild by Cheryl Strayed and I’ve also heard great things about The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - described as a "beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph." Sounds intriguing!

Have you read anything good lately? Any recommendations? I'd love to hear...

P.S. Happily, I just stumbled upon these two websites, The Book Seer and What Should I Read Next?  You type in a book you like, and the site gives you recommendations for similar books.

(Photo of Audrey Hepburn via Awesome People Reading.)

Monday, June 16, 2014

i made an impulsive purchase and bought this dress...

Impulse control. I thought I had it and then I saw one of my favourite bloggers sporting this beautiful lace number - the perfect summer dress. I fell in love instantly.

Suddenly, all of the sense in the world left my brain. I pounced on my credit card like a crazy honey badger and in mere seconds it was a done deal.


Other than my wedding dress, this is the most I've ever spent on a dress (even this gorgeous maxi was on sale when I bought it). In theory, I believe you should opt for fewer high-quality items than many inferior goods. I just haven’t been very good about putting that into practice. I’m good at mixing high and low in my home, but not as much in my closet. I see a purse that’s $350 and shy away, but I’ll end up with five $70 purses without thinking twice (most of which I either tire of after a while). Being in my late thirties, you'd think I'd have this figured out by now.

Have you ever made an impulsive purchase? And what's the most you've ever spent on a piece of clothing? I can't be the only one, can I?

I'm hoping this dress fits well and is worth the splurge. Will keep you posted!

Have a great week!

Pictures via.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

eat: raspberry sea salt brownies & buttered popcorn cookies


Sweet-and-salty desserts are definitely my jam and these two recipes have quickly become faves in our house.

First up, raspberry sea salt brownies. Because sea salt makes every dessert mouthwateringly delicious, don't you think?

These are especially gooey and chewy with a wonderful thin crackly crust on top, a burst of tangy raspberry with every bite, and a slight salty finish. You're going to find yourself sneaking into the kitchen for *just* one more piece.

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Raspberry Sea Salt Brownies
Makes 24 brownies
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, March & April 2010 issue

Here's what you need to make them...

1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (I used Hershey's)
1½ teaspoons instant espresso (optional)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2½ cups sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into ½-inch pieces (I used semi-sweet choco chips)
1 pint of fresh raspberries
Large flake sea salt for dressing

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving about a one-inch overhang on all sides. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces and half of the raspberries.

Scrape batter into prepared pan, sprinkle with remaining berries and sea salt. Bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.

Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days but I prefer them chilled and like to store them in the refrigerator (brownies will keep for up to 5 days refrigerated in an airtight container).

P.S. A friend told me she made these using a box mix & just added in the raspberries and sea salt. Her family loved them. No judgement here. In fact, I might even try it myself.

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Buttered Popcorn Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies
From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman

Here's what you need to make them...

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels

1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

To make the popcorn: Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan until hot. Add the kernels, and cover, shaking the pan to make sure all the kernels are in contact with the bottom of the pan.  As soon as you hear the first few kernels pop, shimmy the pan until all of the kernels pop (5 minutes or so).  Remove from heat, add melted butter and salt, and transfer to bowl.

Dough: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugars, egg and vanilla until smooth. Whisk flour and baking soda together.  Stir flour mixture into butter-sugar mixture, until combined.  Fold in popcorn, making sure to get dough well distributed.  It’s okay if the popcorn breaks as you’re mixing, and don’t worry if it seems like there's too much popcorn for the amount of dough. It all works out in the end.

Bake: Roll dough into mounds the size of a golf ball or slightly bigger.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure to leave a 2 inch gap between cookies.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.  Let cool for a minute or so on the baking sheet before transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Enjoy!

You might want to try these with a glass of chocolate almond milk while watching Orange is the New Black.  Just an idea (:
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