Friday, January 27, 2012

It Just Takes a Little Inspiration

To get you going, doesn't it, boys and girls?

I've long been at sixes and sevens about the word "inspiration", and variants therein, that seem to be a permanent part of the blogger's lexicon.  It always struck me as something a little cheesy.  Kind of like how "awesome" should be something that inspires (there it is again) great awe.  But instead it just means cool or alright or sounds good.  (And I'm totally guilty of using it in those ways, btw.)  I feel like Michaelangelo was inspired, whereas me liking other blog lady's outfits and wanting to wear my own version of them doesn't quite cut it for the gravitas that "inspire" should engender.

I say all this, but then I see this outfit on one of my all-time favourite blogs and I leap to post something I've been putting off for a while now.  So I guess I am "inspired" by other bloggers.  And I should just get used to being a little less guarded and a little more enthusiastic about jumping into blogland and its lexicon.

All this to say, I don't normally wear t-shirts.  Or jeans.  Or high-waisted jeans for that matter.  But gosh darnit, if Emily at Ruby Slipper Journeys can wear jeans and a t-shirt in real life and blog life then I can too!

I wore this to have coffee with one of my best friends in the whole entire world before she went back to New York for her last semester.  I probably wouldn't feel comfortable wearing this out out, but for a long, languid afternoon buried deep in a neighbourhood coffeeshop with people I love and who have seen me much more dressed down, it fit the bill:

T-Shirt - Victoire
Cardigan - Primark
Belt - Forever 21
Jeans - American Apparel
Necklace - Forever 21
Shoes - Who needs shoes?!

Victoire has to be my favourite store.  Not only is every piece in their two stores expertly curated (they're the vintage of tomorrow they say of themselves, and I can't help but agree!), but I want to live in the shops as well.  They've got the perfect amalgam of retro Canadiana (including this old Ottawa crest on this t), cozy grandma's den, and rustic farmhouse going on.  Their Wellington West location is - very dangerously - right across the street from where I work so it's not that hard to head over during my break and spend what I've just earned!

This necklace has a special place in my wardrobe as well, despite being from a big conglomerate rather than a local endeavour.  At my cottage we have a whistle just like this one to call people up to the cottage whenever we're scattered around the island.  The week after I bought it I was seeing my cousin off to Wales, so I got her one as well (the cottage is shared by that entire side of the family).  Now not only is it a little memento for my favourite place on the earth, but also a BFF necklace for me and my cousin.  And a little reminder to her (I hope) that wherever we may find ourselves on this great green earth, one blast on the whistle and we'll all be together :)


Your friend Lina

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Dutchman

Blogland is a wonderful land, boys and girls.

I stumbled across this marvelous little corner of the internet last night, and have been doing little else but reading The Styling Dutchman's back catalogue since then.  A few of her outfits put me in mind of something I would like to throw together, so here you go!

This outfit also does some heavy duty in the "recently acquired" section as well.  The dress is new from my trip to Montreal last week, the boots from the week before, and my ring is a Christmas gift from my cousin who's now in Wales!  She knows me like no other :)

Dress - Forever 21
Tights - My mom's 
Scarf - Forever 21
Socks - Who knows?
Boots - H&M
Ring - Gift from my cousin

I couldn't call this post  "The Dutchman" without including this little memory.  On one of my favourite trips when I lived abroad was to the Cliffs of Moher in western Ireland.  It was literally the most beautiful natural sight I've ever been to.  And since my friends and I were so in love with it, we tried our hardest to take jumping pictures.  But my camera was not quite up to snuff, so mostly there are just crouching pictures (one of which my friend Clara had framed as a gift for me!).  This one though, the closest we got to capturing airborne-inity, my friend Ariana dubbed "The Flying Dutchman Emerging Out of the Sea":

I've got the day off today, so I'm off to run errands and get my day started (at one p.m. . . . ).  Have a good one, boys and girls!


Your friend Lina

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Living Vicariously

Last night my cousin crossed the Atlantic, boys and girls.

She's off for a semester abroad in Wales and I COULD NOT be more excited for her.  Not only is she my cousin, but my best friend as well.  And soulmate?  What I'm trying to say is she's arguably my favourite lady on this whole planet and I am feeling nothing but anxiety and joy and excitement for her right now.

Last week I took a little day trip to Montreal to see her off.  Here's a few shots from that lovely day.

The evening's entertainment of trying to throw a grape into Emma's mouth
Which just turned into whipping grapes at Emma's face

So close and yet so far

Prettiest girl I know

My cousin Kyle also got in on the action

I'm pretty sure she's all settled in Wales by now, so all that's left is to wait 'till she gets the internet so I can hear her stories and impressions.

Love (vicariously),

Your friend Lina

Monday, January 23, 2012

Historical Precedent

I love stumbling across historical precedents, boys and girls.

One of my favourite things about studying history is finding the similarities and contrasts between our modern selves and our antecedents. . . and how there are far more of the former than the latter.

Well this video that came up on my YouTube homepage really hits home as applied to the blogging world!  I like to read (though I rarely put into practice) the DIY's that I see on blogs like Delightfully Tacky or A Beautiful Mess.  And I think it's fun to see that resourceful ladies have been putting out the same ideas for almost a hundred years!

Have I got any crafty ladies out there who would try such a thing? Promise me that if you do, you'll put on a similar backing track!


Your friend Lina

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Twice Cooked

These little puppies were the talk of the season 'round these parts, boys and girls.

I decided that my contribution to the Christmas baking was going to be some biscotti, and I was going to do one savory and one sweet.  I expected to like the savory black pepper and parmesan biscotti much more than these chocolate orange pecan ones, but the opposite was true.  Where the parmesan ones never had quite the crispness that I wanted, these sweet concoctions were perfect every time.  They're just the right amount of hard, without being the pieces of shrapnel that will tear apart your mouth, they melt perfectly in coffee or hot chocolate, they keep well, and they're pretty easy to make.  I would seriously recommend trying them next time you've got a few hours free and want something to impress.  Either yourself, or guests.  If you must.

I just adore my mom's Kenwood "Chef", from the fifties.  With only a few mild tune-ups from over the years it's still the best mixer we own.  I've told my parents that this exact piece of hearty machinery is what I want my wedding present to be from them!

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (I used Tripe Sec)
1 tablespoon grated orange peel (basically just the rind of a whole orange)
1 cup pecans, lightly toasted, coarsely chopped
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped

I didn't actually end up using this Suisse chocolate, but I'm sure they'd be equally good with a bit of nougatty goodness too.

Stir your flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using your electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter in large bowl to blend.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the orange liqueur and orange peel. Add the flour mixture and beat until blended. Stir in your chopped toasted pecans (I dry-fried mine cause I don't know how else to toast a pecan) and chopped chocolate. Divide your dough in half, wrapping each in plastic.  Freeze your little packages for twenty minutes to firm. Now you can preheat your oven to 350°F.

Orange-y goodness going in.
The addition of chopped chocolate and toasted chopped pecans.
Just a few turns of the mixer and there you have it!
All snug as some bugs in some rugs.
Using floured hands, form each package of dough into 14-inch-long, 2 1/2-inch-wide log on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them two inches apart. Bake until light golden, about thirty minutes. Transfer parchment with logs to a cooling rack and let them cool for twenty minutes. Turn the oven down to 300°F. 

Ball-parking it should do it, there's no need for them to be too pretty or too uniform.
When your logs are cool, transfer them to a big cutting board and using serrated knife, cut the log on the diagonal into half-inch-thick slices. Stand slices upright back on the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining log. 

Slice and slice and slice.  It is your privilege to eat the ends and any pieces that don't maintain their structural  integrity.
Arrange nicely and then cram in whatever's left.
Bake again (biscotti means twice cooked, your fun fact for the day!) for about thirty minutes. Cool completely on rack.  While they're cooling, make a pot of coffee.  Devour whilst dipping into said coffee.  

To be consumed preferably three-at-a-time.
 There you have it boys and girls!  Simple, delicious, and arguably acceptable as part of this complete breakfast.  Enjoy!  And let me know how they turn out for you if you try them.  Variations too!


Your friend Lina

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Canada is for Parkas

If Paris is for lovers, then Ottawa is for Parka-wearers, boys and girls.

I mean, I'm sure there are lots of romantics in Ottawa too.  But it's hard to express those feelings when it's -20 and colder outside, you know what I'm saying?  Doesn't matter if you're in Paris, Ottawa, or the blend-of-the-two, Quebec City, that I'm in in these pictures.

So this, boys and girls, is my parka.  It's like wearing a sleeping bag.  Which is more necessary and less cumbersome than you would imagine.

I had a red one a few years back that had mange on the hood, the stuffing all fell to the bottom, and the zipper was broken.  Which meant I had to step in and out of it.  And can I tell you, that's pretty hard to do in a giant lecture hall.

Through the grace of good friends who bought fancier coats, I inherited this beauty to replace ol' red.  The hood is still in furry glory, the stuffing is where it's supposed to be, and the zipper does as I tell it.  It's a very good little parka, and in exchange for my fondness, it keeps me warm when mother nature is telling you not to go outside.

So warm that you don't even need a scarf or hat!  Now that's a COAT.

Take that, mother nature.  I don't listen to nobody, not no how.

Homage to my friend Clara
Hooray for fur-lined hoods!
I love cannons.  And matching the relief on my parka.
I also love Winston Spencer Churchill.

Because we look the same.
Parka - Hand-me-down from a friend
Mittens - Church rummage sale
Tights - two pairs, American Apparel
Boots - foolish of me, should have brought my Sorels, Chinese Laundry

So don't go outside without one, boys and girls.  Together, we can enjoy winter!


Your friend Lina

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Years and Some Sentimentality

(Crazy Belated)Happiest of New Years, boys and girls!

Each year, one hopes that THIS New Year will be the one to out-do the rest.  And I have to admit, mine have been slowly but surely besting themselves as far back as I can remember.  Back in high-school we had quiet-but-well-attended evenings round a fire and a piano with mulled wine simmering on the stove.  Then we moved onwards and upwards to more and more raucous-y parties.  I took a year out in Barcelona during the year that a lot of things changed for our group of friends (in a good way!).  And upon my return we started our destination New Year's Eve parties.

Granted, it was only to Montreal and we still basically just had a house party in my friend's apartment, but at least it wasn't lil' ol' Ottawa and that was excitement enough for us.

This year, however, we took a bigger leap and got our act together enough to make a real trip out of it.  Thanks to months of planning on facebook, we booked a hostel in Quebec City for three days for eleven of us.  A few of us had nightmares about the organizational snafu that was sure to arise, but most everything went off with a hitch.  Not only off with a hitch, but off with a bang!  It was definitely our best New Year's yet!

After coming back from Toronto for the holidays, I had one day of work and then we were heading to Quebec the next day.  At the last minute we had organized rides (thus saving TONNES of money and time on buses), and as soon as my chariot picked me up we bought a bunch of coffees and treats from my work for the ride down.  We took my friend's van so we were a cramped and cozy bunch.  The ride was punctuated with much bickering over shoulder-and-hip space (poor planning saw the three tallest of our bunch crammed in the back seat), car games that not everyone knew they were taking part in, drawing on the frosted windows, and laughing till the cows came home (stayed in their homes as we drove past them?).  We had had a bit of a late start, but the amount of fun we had in the car definitely boded well for the rest of the trip.

Foggy Canvas


Getting sneaky. . . .

Everyone is. . .

Ian and Irene brought us all Kinder Surprises!

And then we made garbage battlements for the driver
 When we arrived at the hostel in Quebec city, the other carload of our friends had already scoped out our rooms.  Because there were so many of us, we got two bedrooms of six to ourselves.  Which I'm sure was the best not only for our shenanigans but also for whatever poor soul would have had to take the extra bed.  Our bedroom had exposed brick up one wall and floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of the old town up the other.  I should also mention how nice it was to be in a room with people you know and not strangers.  I adored all my hostelry in Europe of course, but not having to worry about making noise, locking up your belongings, or keeping a tight grip on camera, phone, wallet, and passport while you sleep was another added luxury to this already formidable arrangement.

Window into the past
After a few rounds of kings to catch up with early-arrivers, it was swiftly agreed upon that we would go have an "historical snowball reinvisionment" of the Plains of Abraham on the actual Plains of Abraham.  We drew lots, making our friends Ian and Lilly Wolfe and Montcalm respectively.  We all bundled up and trekked up the super icy pathways behind the citadel to our respective fort spaces - we, the French, had the gazebo and the English got the field and tree.  With varying levels of intensity we entered into the throws of war.  Or capture the stick (the historically accurate version of capture the flag).  The snow wasn't great for snowballs, so really we just threw chunks of ice at each other.  But, after years and years of cultural and linguistic oppression, the French finally won!

We slipped and slid our way back to the hostel, warmed our feet (in turn making the room reek for the following forty-eight hours), and then headed out for the evening.  A smaller group of us went out for nachos and pints, and then met up with everyone at this super-dive bar.  There was NO ONE in there save for our formidable group.  But there was a tiny little dance floor complete with lasers, mirrors, and one redundant burst of a fog machine.  I wouldn't have guessed it, but absolutely everyone was down to cut a rug!  Even the boys who I've known practically my whole life and who I wouldn't have ever expected to be into dancing were tearing it up.  We stayed all night and had a hell of a time.  I can always tell, because my knees hurt the next day.

The next morning, a select few of us got up for the last dregs and crumbs of the hostel breakfast, and then headed out for the morning to catch the sights and sounds of the old town and play with our cameras (more on that later!).  The Chateau, waterfront, and historical feel of the older town in Quebec City never fail to charm me.  And man, was it ever cold boys and girls!  Nothing makes you feel quite so Canadian as braving that sort of nonsense to marvel at the wonders of snow-capped nature.  Suffice to say we duly rewarded ourselves with savory waffles, hot chocolate, and a mid-afternoon nap.

My favourite lady tourists!

My dream house - seafoam green and nineteenth century

Cross-generational poses


Afternoon of Champions

After resting up, our room started the party pretty early.  And this was the sort of party that involved G&T's and stolen hard-boiled eggs from the hostel breakfast.  At four p.m.  The ladies then clubbed all our knowledge of outfits, hair, and make-up together to get ready pretty early (with the added boost of protein provided by the eggs).  We were never the sort of girls who would do such a thing in high school, so we figured that we are just going through this stage of life a little later on.  And the boys even noticed!  We were super impressed.  And we probably lost all paint and hairspray we had so duly applied by the time we left the hostel.  But we had put it on for ourselves and that's all that matters.

We spent the evening of the New Years at an Irish pub around the corner from the hostel.  Almost as soon as everyone got settled we took over the little dance pit that had formed around the house band of fiddlers, strummers, and drummers.  Everyone was dosedoing, clapping their hands, and having a knees up in no time.  At one point one of our friends mentioned that Emilie, my best gal, went to Julliard, so the fiddler handed her his instrument and she played for the whole bar.  I was just a few sheets windward, and just little bit proud, so I may have cried all the way through.  But not without dancing the whole time too!  We weren't expecting to have had such a good time in this last-minute little venue, but it ended up being just perfect.

That was, until about ten minutes before midnight.  Someone decided, and I guess the majority was with them, that we should run to try and catch the fireworks.  From the walls of the old city.  And so with just a few minutes to spare, we all booked it through the streets and up the steep climbs of snow-covered stairs to the top of the walls to watch the fireworks and revel in the good cheer of it all.  More than a few of us got kind of hurt in so doing, but I'm sure it was all worth it.  I spoke to my brother just after midnight (my family always calls each other to wish a Happy New Year because we never spend it together), and he was pretty impressed with our rather flamboyant way of ringing it all in.  And I admit I was pleased as punch as well.

The next morning we awoke to clear out of the hostel and to track down some food.  With none of us really knowing where to go we ended up wandering the streets for quite a while, eventually settling on a hotel buffet.  Which was exactly what we needed to recover, satiate, and fuel us for the long drive ahead.  Our car had a marvelous time bonding all the way back over shared experiences, old and new.

It really was the best New Year's I've ever had.

Which really helped a few days after when my man and I broke up.  I was bummed cause I really liked and still do like the dude, but one of my first thoughts after the fact was that I truly have the best group of friends a girl could ask for so I know I'll be ok.  That weekend many of the same folk rallied around me with lots of support.  And after my protestations that everything was fine, the conversation always tended towards how marvellous our trip had been.  And how unconditional our friendships are.  And how we're going to have to do this for ever and ever, because this kind of long-lasting and absolute-understanding friendship doesn't happen very often.

We have incredible fun, and I have incredible friends.

Best of in the New Year, boys and girls!


Your friend Lina