31 August, 2011

August kaleidoscope

Some of my favorite online places/finds of the month:

Image by Beth Galton via Air We Insipre

  • Another friend of mine shared a link to POP-UP BOOKS for adults.  I really like "The Naughty Nineties" and "Neiman Marcus Pop-Up Book"
  • Test your English vocabulary with a simple QUIZZ.  Sorry, I wouldn't disclose my score.
  • Updating your home decor?  Moving?  Or maybe you are just tired of your old chairs and bookcases.  Try making FOLDED CARDBOARD FURNITURE
  • Not into paper furniture? How about a PAPER RING?
  • GERALDINE DE BECO's bowls are simply adorable.  Unfortunately, there seems to be no way of buying them at this moment
  • Hoping to make these TOFU KABOBS before the rainy season hits Montreal

29 August, 2011

August blogroll


August discoveries from the blogosphere:
    Image by KT Merry Photography
  • THE VEGAN STONER - "how to cook cheap, fast, and vegan".  What a great wait to present recipes, love it and can't wait to make vegan onion rings, they look delicious!
  • Another food blog LA TARTINE GOURMANDE - amazing airy food photography
  • NON OBVIOUS SOLUTIONS - a collection of ingenious solutions for everyday problems aka lifehacking
  • Cute, sweet, and simple graphic design at LOVING LIFE DESIGNS
  • What happens when you mix luxury and rarity?  LUXIRARE - "a weekly webzine dedicated to clothing and cuisine"
  • It's rare that a photography blog catches my eye, but there is something fresh in KT MERRY photgraphs that makes me go back and look through the pages over and over again
  • Love, love, love journals and books Alice from LIFE IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO BE makes ... and what a great name for the blog!
  • LEMONS AND LAVENDER - food, photo, recipes .... must I say more?
  • I have discovered A BEAUTIFUL MESS only a couple of days ago and I love it already: Elsie blogs about fashion, handmade, her store and other fun topics, like how to take better self-portraits
  • Last but not least, VEGGIE-WEDGIE - my new fav raw food blog

    28 August, 2011

    August happiness

    I can't believe August is almost over.  Every year I am surprised how fast this month passes, I feel like it is shorter than February.  Lots of things happened during this short month, here are some that made me happy:

    Wishing you all a happy end of August!

    25 August, 2011

    Caring for terracotta pots


    August had been a quiter gardening month.  Instead of working outside I decided to do some cleaning and organizing of pots and supplies.  I bought 4 bags of Spring bulbs (tulips, crocuses, hyacinths, and aliums) and cleaned my terracotta pots.

    Follow these instructions to clean terracotta pots using natural ingredients:
    • Remove any leftover soil and rinse pots thoroughly.  If some bits of soil are stuck to the pot, use a coarse brush.  Terracotta pots are rather fragile so don't apply too much force.

    This is how most of my pots looked by the end of July.  Since terracotta is a porous material, salt and other minerals pass through the pores, clog them and create white build-up.  This build-up is not only unattractive but is also unhealthy for plants.
    • To remove calcium build up soak terracotta pots in water for at least an hour.  I usually soak mine in the evening, change water before going to bed and let them soak overnight.  If you have a lot of pots or if some of them are very big, try soaking them in a bathtub (just put a rubber mat in the bottom of your bath to prevent scratching).  Use a  bucket for soaking smaller pots
    • Use a coarse brush to clean the pots after soaking.  Rinse well
    Your pots will already look much nicer, however you are only half way through your cleaning.  Take a look at one of my pots after I cleaned and air-dried it:

    The white residue is leftover salts and possibly mildew.  It can be easily wiped-off but it would come back, especially if the pot gets damp.
    To disinfect pots you can use either bleach or white vinegar.  I prefer the latter - since it is much more natural and green (and better for the plants)
    • Soak the pots in a mild white vinegar solution (1 part vinegar:5 parts water) for 30 minutes or more.  Rinse well or if time permits, soak in clean water 
    • To get rid of persistent white residue lines near the bottom of the pot mix baking soda and small amount of water into paste.  Spread a thin layer of paste onto the bottom of the pot and scrub with a brush.  Rinse well
    • To dry terracotta pots, simply leave them in a well-ventilated, dry area for a day or two.  This step could be omitted if you are reusing pots right away
    Once dried, your pots are ready to be stored.  It is better not to stack them but if you absolutely have to, place a thin rag or paper in-between.  This way there is less chance of them getting stack inside each other.
    Do not forget to presoak terracotta pots for 24 hours before using them - dry, porous terracotta absorbs quite a lot of water from the soil, robbing your plants during the most crucial stage, after replanting.

    22 August, 2011

    Achick-Chuck aka Uzbek summer salad


    A couple of years ago Eric, Liza and I launched PassiFlora magazine - a bimonthly online magazine filled with eco-friendly recipes, craft ideas, and articles.  Working on both content and presentation was much more demanding than we expected so after 2 issues we had to slow down and eventually close the project altogether.  Today's recipe and the image come from the 3rd issue of PassiFlora, the one that never got to be published online.

    This is my version of achick-chuck - a salad you get to taste in Uzbekistan and some other republics of former Soviet Union.  Traditionally it is made with tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions but feel free to add your favorite vegetables.
    Unlike typical North American chef - salads, achick-chuck is juicy without addition of any dressing.  The trick is in the way you slice onions and tomatoes (make sure you get the juiciest tomatoes possible). 

    What you need:

    1 medium onion
    2-3 small (Lebanese) cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
    1 red bell pepper
    2-3 big ripe tomatoes
    a small bunch of parsley, cilantro or dill
    splash of olive oil
    salt and pepper
    lemon juice

     What to do:
    • Thinly slice onions in half-moons.  Rinse them under cold water
    • Remove any excess water from the onions; there is no need to dry them or pass through a salad spinner. Generously salt the onions, mixing thoroughly with your hands.  This allows onions to give out some juice
    • Cut cucumbers either in half-circles or quarter-circles.  Your slices should be fairly thin, but not as paper-thin as onions
    • Similarly slice thinly red pepper.  Combine all the vegetables in a salad bowl
    • Time to cut your tomatoes.  Typically, in Uzbekistan we don't use a cutting board for this step, instead we hold the tomato on top of a salad bowl and using the sharpest knife possible thinly slice half circles with the circular motions.  This way sweet tomato juice will drip in the salad bowl 
    • Add chopped herbs (roughly 2-3 tablespoons) and a splash of olive oil.  You can also add a little bit of lemon juice at this point
    • Mix the salad thoroughly, taste and adjust for salt and pepper

    Tips and Suggestions: 
    If you are not a big fan of juicy salads and want to add your favorite dressing, omit salting sliced onions and cube your tomatoes instead of slicing them
    This salad does not keep well and is better eaten soon after prepared
    You can experiment with herbs and add a mixture of cilantro, dill, and parsley (or any other herb you like)
    A fast Google search told me that in some republics of the former Soviet Union, this salad is known as "shakarab"

    20 August, 2011

    17 August, 2011

    Sunflower ikebana


    For the past two weeks we've been knee-deep in renovations.  I must admit Eric is doing most of the work but I am trying contribute as much as I can.  Good thing is, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and our living room and the entry should be done by the end of this week (happy dance)!
    Renovations mean almost no cooking, no paper-crafting, barely any gardening, and definitely no place to take pictures.  I was hoping that my ikebana course will be a good creative outlet this week but it turned out that I  was quite uninspired during the whole class.
    We are preparing for the annual exposition of Koryo Shutokai school in September and, at the same time, getting ready for October exams.  This week was all about sunflowers and horsetails.

    Here are 2 traditional arrangements: 3 leaves + 3 flowers (almost like one arrangement inside the other)  by Mona and more "classical" mine with 5 leaves and 2 flowers.

    And this one is a gorgeous modern arrangement by Caroline.  Since she is planning on making something similar for the exposition, I am hoping to get better shots of her work. 

    13 August, 2011

    Weekend colours

    Image by Kali @ Poppy Lane
    The inspirational image for today's palette comes from Kali's purple EMBELLISHMENT KIT.  You can buy Kali's handmade accessories and embellishments at her ITTY BITTY PRETTY SHOP

    11 August, 2011


    I can't believe it has been over a month since the last Make It Thursday feature!  Time flies by SO fast!!!
    Since I have been contemplating an idea of starting some sewing projects I decided that it would be appropriate to dedicate today's MIT to

    cute sewn stuff

    Dana Willard from MADE is my ultimate sewing/blogging inspiration.  She makes adorable clothes for her children and herself and shares sewing patterns and tutorials with her readers.  HOBO SACK is one of her cute creations and she has STEP-BY-STEP instructions on how to transform it into a girl-y version:
    Image by Dana

    Although this pattern is not new I found it recently on one of Pinterest boards.  Suzanne from JUST ANOTHER HANG UP came up with the idea of making bird-shaped rice-filled cooling pads for little kids AKA CHICK-SICLE.  I am no longer a child and rarely hurt/bruise/cut myself, but I wouldn't mind having a couple of these cuties!
    Image by Suzanne

    My third favorite sewing project is the BIRD MOBILE from SPOOL.  The .PDF BIRD PATTERN could be found on the first page and even if you can not attend any of Spool's workshops, you should have no troubles figuring out how to sew a flock of colourful birds.
    Image via Spool
    For more fun sewing projects and inspirational ideas take a look at my SEW BOARD on Pinterest.  
    Happy sewing!!!

    08 August, 2011

    Sneak peek

    Just poping up to share a preview of projects I am finishing this week.

    Time to get back to the craftroom!  Have a wonderful day ;)

    04 August, 2011

    Olivie aka Russian salad


    Ask any Russian what dish is ALWAYS served at any festive occasion and chances are he/she will say: "Olivie".  Together with red caviar, pierogies, and salted herring, this yummy salad with a French name is a Soviet/Russian culinary staple.  BTW this salad is especially successful with small children and picky eaters!
    Just like any other folk recipe, Olivie salad has several versions.  I am giving my favorite basic recipe, but feel free to adjust the quantities.

    What you need:

    4-5 medium potatoes
    2 medium carrots
    2-3 hard-boiled eggs
    1 small onion
    2 pickles
    1 can of green peas (you can use an equivalent amount of steamed/boiled frozen peas)
    2-3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
    2-3 tbsp mayonnaise OR mix equal amounts of mayo and sour cream
    salt and pepper

     What to do:
    • Boil carrots and potatoes until soft, but not over-cooked.  Let them cool and then cube finely (~1/4 inch)
    • Finely cube the eggs.  Alternatively you can mash them roughly with a fork.
    • Finely dice pickles and onions.  If onions are very strong, rinse under cold water and pat dry.
    • Mix all the vegetables and add mayonnaise.  The preferred amount of mayo varies from person to person.  In general, Russians add a lot of it to their salads.  I usually start with  a couple of spoons and then adjust after tasting. 
    • Add salt and pepper.

    Tips and Suggestions: 

    For a fancier dressing add a splash of lemon juice, a pinch of sugar, and a little bit of cucumber brine.
    Originally, Olivie is not a vegetarian dish: diced ham or roasted chicken meat is added to the vegetable mix.
    Some cooks add diced apples or even green grapes in the salad - although it sounds quite unusual, I encourage you to give it a try.

    03 August, 2011

    July snapshots

    What made me happy in July?

    ... yummy food ...

    ... unexpected beautiful guests ...

    ... lazy afternoons ...

    ... pretty girls ...

    ... and handsome boys ...

    ... posing...

    ... daydreaming ...

    ... curiosity ...

    ... our garden ...

    ... craft projects ...

    ... first crop ...

    ... sleep ...

    ... love ...