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?!

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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...

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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 (:

Friday, June 6, 2014

etsy: lovely day fleur hand lettering

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How lovely is this hand lettered quote? It's the work of Minnesota-based photographer and illustrator Rachael Johnson of Lovely Day Fleur on Etsy. I came across Rachael's Instagram account serendipitously and was instantly smitten with her beautiful script and choice of quotes (her photography is stunning, too).

This William James quote (it's okay, I had no clue who the dude was either) caught my eye because it speaks to the notion that we are all connected in this life -- more deeply than we may even know. I find such comfort in that sentiment. Loved it so much that it's now on its way home to me.

You can see more of Rachael's work here.

P.S. I also dig these two hand lettering ladies, Chelsea and Justine, and have a piece from each of them in my home.

Monday, May 12, 2014

eat: roasted tomato caprese salad



I thought I knew everything there was to know about making a caprese salad until I came across this recipe for Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad from Ina Garten (the woman can do no wrong). Boy, was I out to lunch.

I've never really liked cooked-in-the-oven tomatoes because they're mushy and bland. This recipe is different. Plum tomatoes are slow roasted with balsamic vinegar and a touch of sugar until they're sweet, rich in flavour and caramelized.

Scott and I both wanted to lick the plate. That's how good it was.

It's the perfect recipe for when you're unable to find fresh picked in season tomatoes -- which in Alberta is about ten months out of the year. And if you happen to have leftovers, make yourself a roasted tomato grilled cheese sandwich the next day. Out. of. this. world.

Happy eating!

P.S. Your house is going to smell amazing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

style: spring wishlist

Yes, I am alive! And truly thankful for your wonderful comments and happy thoughts sent my way during my last "Guess what? I left my job and have been a Lady of Leisure for the past few months" post. After said post, I celebrated my 39th birthday and was hired for a freelance writing gig and a full time communications gig. It's interesting how the universe responds when you put yourself out there. It's been a thrilling few weeks, to say the least, and I'm happy to begin a new professional adventure during a fresh new season.

Speaking of which, happy Spring! In celebration of my employment (and extra pocket money), here are some lovely pieces for warmer weather...

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1, 2. Pretty pretty from Madewell. The red number is almost entirely sold out. Dangnabbit.
3, 4. Sigh worthy sandals & fun flats (the kind of shoes I live in during the summer). These are the 'wish' part of my wishlist. Plus, how is it that I found out about Loeffler Randal only recently?
5. Florals always catch my eye. I'm especially digging this Zara bomber, but this blazer is fun, too.
6. Distressed denim. I'm kinda obsessed but have yet to pull the trigger. This pair has been sitting in my shopping bag for much too long.
7. Animal print is my jam. Plus, it's always in style no matter the season.
8, 9. Modern updates to the ubiquitous tshirt from J.Crew and Zara.
10. I have no effing clue where I'd even wear this gorgeous caftan (on a yacht?), but I love it.

Thoughts? What's on your wish list?

Spring can be a challenging time for Alberta ladies. For example, it snowed today (the irony of the timing of this 'spring' post is not lost on me). One minute we're prepping our feet for toe exposing sandals and the next we're cursing ourselves for putting away our snow boots. Here's to ditching our socks and tights once and for all!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

hello! i'm back with a nutella mini donut recipe.




Hello! I'm back from a three month blogging break. And with a mini donut recipe of all things.

A few of you've asked where I've been and how I'm doing. If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter you know I'm alive and eating well. What you may not know is that I've spent the last two months doing a lot of soul searching after leaving my job of almost five years. You see, the position didn't quite fit me anymore and so I've spent most of this new year trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. It's been a time of introspection, coupled with many long chats with Scott, my family and my ladyfriends (often over macarons at Duchess). I toyed with the idea of remaining a Lady of Leisure, but that just isn't cutting it anymore. Neither is Lays Dill Pickle Chip Eater, Judge Judy Watcher or Professional Dog Walker. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed my time at home immensely, but I need (and want) to be working -- writing, editing, creating, storytelling, helping and connecting with people. It's time to make way for the new and for the first time since leaving, I'm ready to start looking for opportunities which provide me exactly that. If you know of any such positions in the Edmonton area, let me know! And if you don't, I'd appreciate any positive job search vibes sent my way. Thanks, friends.

Anyway, I've missed you! And I have so much to share now after being off the blogging train for months, holy smokes (including posts on spring fashion, relationship tips, our house refresh and one I'm working on gaining the courage to share). It was great to take a break, but I'm happy to be back. And I'm glad to have you back here, too.

Moving on to the donuts.

I'm a Nutella addict and have been since I was a toddler. In Croatia and Bosnia, we ate Nutella slathered on palačinke (crêpes) for breakfast, on bread at lunch, and as a late night snack. There have been too many sticky chocolatey fingers in my life to mention. These days, our house is never without a jar and I've spread it on just about everything. On any given day you can probably find me in the kitchen eating it with a spoon straight out of the jar. You do that too, right? Well then, this recipe should help us all switch it up a little.

These donuts are ridiculously delicious and have Nutella in the batter and frosting. I made them for a Bachelor Finale party I attended which, by the way, was the most awkward and bananas finale I've ever seen. I'm still trying to make sense of what happened, but that's a whole other blog post. Yikes.

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

Nutella Mini Donut
Yields 30 mini donuts

For donuts:
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Nutella
1 large egg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For frosting:
1 tablespoon whole milk
2 tablespoons Nutella
1/2 cup powdered sugar

If using an electric donut maker, preheat according to manufacture’s instructions (I have this one & love it). If using donut pans, preheat oven to 350°F and grease donut pans.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together Nutella and sugar. Carefully add egg, milk, and oil; mixing until throughly combined. Then, alternating the flour mixture and milk, combine all ingredients until there are no lumps.

If using mini donut pans: Carefully fill each donut indention 3/4 full. Bake for 7-9 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the donut comes out clean. Transfer donuts to a cooling rack and cool completely.

If using an electric mini donut maker: Carefully fill each donut indention 3/4 full. Bake according to manufactures instructions, or until a toothpick inserted in the donut comes out clean. Remove from appliance, transfer to a cooling rack, and let cool completely.

Place wax paper under a wire rack to collect any drippings for an easy clean up. Then, in a small bowl whisk together Nutella and powdered sugar., Slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until you get a smooth frosting.

Dip the top of each donut into the frosting and transfer to a wire rack and let set for 5 minutes. Donuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days, but are best served fresh.

If you can clear a wee bit of time this week, you should give them a whirl! You'll be thankful you did - and so will everyone else who eats them!

Recipe from Mini Donuts.

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