Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Banana Rum Muffins

Ever buy a bunch of bananas and have every intent on eating them, but then days go by and they seem to languish on your counter? I personally believe that's why banana bread recipes were invented....to use up the over ripe bananas. Because let's face it, the texture of super ripe, mushy bananas in your mouth is not the most appealing. Mashed up on toast? Sure. Pureed in a blender with milk and honey? Of course. But eating on their own while they squish through your fingers trying to hold onto them? No thanks.

This morning I made some Banana Rum Muffins. My mom can not have a lot of nuts (potassium rich foods are on her "in moderation list" for kidney disease), so I left out the toasted walnuts. You could use other nuts such as hazelnuts or pecans. Toasting them in the oven before chopping them up really brings out their flavour.

Banana Rum Nut Muffins

1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large bananas, mashed (be sure the bananas are really ripe)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp dark rum (or 1 tbsp rum extract)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts), toasted and chopped

In a large bowl, combine the flour. baking powder, baking soda and salt. If you are going to use nuts in this recipe, add those in now and coat with dry ingredients. Form into a well and set aside.

In another bowl, stir together the mashed banana, sugar, egg, rum and melted butter. Pour the liquid mixture into the center of the dry ingredient well and mix until just combined and dry ingredients are moistened.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full with batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (12-15 minutes for mini muffins. Remove from oven when tops of muffins spring back when touched. Allow to cool in pan on wire cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

We had some of these warm with hot earl grey tea before heading out to run errands. It was especially foggy here and we were not looking forward to having to go outside. So it was nice to linger for a moment and enjoy the warmth of the muffins and the tea, which gave us a little bit of a push to start our day.

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Masquerade

Venetian masks are known world over for their elaborate designs and striking colour combinations. They are generally thought of as only being worn during Carnevale di Venezia (Carnival of Venice), but this wasn't always the case.

Originally, the masks were worn daily; and by doing so the wearer could hide his or her identity and status. A high born lady could wander the streets of the market, a common man could pass himself off as a successful merchant. The masks also allowed the wearer to act more freely without the constraints of their given social class and ignore the boundaries that would otherwise apply. This was especially true at a party, where the host would not have known whether the wearer was high born or not but could not risk offending invited guests, and so would have to have welcomed everyone wearing a mask. This is what makes the story of the Montagues sneaking into the Capulet masked ball without detection plausible (Romeo and Juliet).

However, given the possibility, the mask could be used for good as well as bad intent; one might sneak out from their manor house to speak with their lover in another part of town, opinions might be more openly voiced in conversation, or a knife might find its way into an enemy's back. Who was that masked man? Nobody knows.

Therefore, the daily use of masks was restricted - almost disappeared except for on rare occasion. Then, in 1162, a festival was held to commemorate a military victory. The festival became an annual tradition, and as it developed and became larger and more colourful each year, the Carnevale di Venezia was born. The masks became more and more elaborate and the balls, dances and parties lasted for days. That is, until 1797 when the King of Austria outlawed the Carnival and strictly forbid the wearing of masks.

Over the next 200 years, masks were usually only worn at private parties or at exhibitions as part of an artistic expression.  In 1980, a Carnival revival began in an effort to attract tourists to Venice.

There are three popular types of masks worn at Carnival. The first is the Bauta, which hides the whole face, but extends away from the lower part of the face so that the wearer can still eat. The extension also acts as a tunnel and alters the voice of the wearer, furthering the disguise. A Columbina is a half mask, which is often highly decorated with feathers and silk flowers, and is either held up to the face by a baton or tied around the head with a ribbon. Medico della Peste (the Plague Doctor) is the third type of mask, which got its ominous name from the Plague in Italy during the 17th century when it was worn as a precautionary measure against contracting the disease. It is easily recognized with its long beak and stark appearance without decoration.

Today, you can find masks pretty much everywhere you turn in Venice. Some are authentic and made in Venice. Most are not.

Tonight is the staff party for work, and the theme is Masquerade, which is a type of masked ball. Perhaps we will see if people do indeed act more freely behind the guise of a mask (there is no worry that some one with ill intent pulls a dagger out before running off into the darkness of the night). I'm sure it will be a lot of fun.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year - 2015

Today starts a brand new year! Although most of today will be spend in a state of doing nothing constructive or creative (i.e. lounging on the sofa in my pj's), I have given some thought to what I plan to accomplish in the coming year.

I have set my resolutions up as short term, mid term and year end goals. First, in the short term, I need to clean. I mean, really clean. And purge. I have too much stuff. I need to go through my storage and throw out all the old paint cans from ten years ago. I need to get rid of a lot of old stuff in there like light fixtures that don't work, old shower curtain rods ....useless stuff that once a while back I thought I would need again. Now it's ten years later and I've lived this long without them. They can go.

I need to securely wrap up and move any bolts of fabric that I am not working with into the newly created space in storage. I have too much fabric in my studio. I know, I know....there is no such thing as too much fabric. But it is not a very large studio and it is feeling very cluttered. Cluttered spaces are not productive spaces. So they will need to be relocated. Temporarily, not for ten years.

I have too many mannequins. I have six child and six adult mannequins. I can cut that number down, since I no longer do art shows where I need to display a whole bunch of dresses and such. Twelve mannequins takes up a lot of room. I will photograph them and put them up on craigslist, since they weren't cheap when I bought them and someone can definitely use them.

I will (finally) grout around my fireplace tiles. Doing this will mean I can then give all the tiling equipment and tools back to my parents. The extra grout and supplies can go away (though I will keep a small container of the grout powder for any touch ups I may need to do). This will give me an additional two feet of space along the back of the sofa, where I have been storing these tools and equipment for the past couple years.

I will recover my sectional and either sell it or keep it and sell the sofa. Yes, I have a full sofa plus a full sectional. I live on my own and can seat 12 people in my living room. It's going to be hard to determine which I want to give up, but I do need to choose one or the other. I just want the space back.

This means by April (mid-term goals), I will have my dining room area back. Which means I can host a Birthday Brunch. And diner parties. And Sangria Sundays. I also want to visit Cuba. Or Prague and Vienna. Cuba first, then Prague and Vienna.

I want to redo my kitchen. I would like new counters and will probably need a new refrigerator this year. The one I currently have has started making funny noises with increased frequency. This is not a good thing. I want to remove the dishwasher entirely. The only time I use it is .....never. It leaks, and so about two years ago I stopped using it. I have so few dishes I just do them by hand when I need to. Although, if I start hosting more people, I may reconsider this idea. But it would be nice to turn that area back into a cupboard for baking equipment. I'd keep the hose hook-up for if I ever sell my place and move.

And I need to renovate my main bathroom. Big time. Especially the shower.

So there you have it. I've committed my resolutions by writing them down and making them public.

Have you made any resolutions? Let me know big or small. Remember, start with small steps and build momentum for greater success. The biggest (apparent) reason people fail in keeping their resolutions is that they resolve too much too quickly.

Hope you are having a great start to your new year!


Monday, December 29, 2014

A Year of Pretty - December 29, 2014

Today's Pretty Post is this FANTASTIC pair of shoes. Well, one shoe really. But I'm sure it has a mate somewhere close by.

I may have posted this photo before. Doesn't matter, because I yearn for these shoes  . . . both the left and the right one. Together. As a pair. In my closet.

I'm sure that a good part of the appeal of this photo (which has no original source when I follow the link, just some ghost hosting site called fashionjot.com) is the lighting. The lighting is so important in this shot. Almost as important as the shoe. But not quite.

There is so much detail in this shoe. All those difficult swirls and scrolls to cut out, all the tiny little holes that border the edges. Of course, I would imagine that the shoe(s) were cut using a laser machine.

I really like the slim gold leather-strap-almost-cording that is threaded through the holes like a corset. As long as these cords look, I would imagine they wrap around the ankle a couple times before being tied in a leather bow at the back. Sexy.

Also check out that stiletto heel! Four and a half...five inches maybe. That is some serious damage for the poor man who gets his foot (or something else) caught on the wrong end of those. Never mind height adjustment. I'd go from 5'6" to 5'10 in those babies.

I wish I knew who the shoes were designed or made by. Please let me know if you can read the print inside, or if you just happen to know. Not that I would run out and buy them; they are probably at least two if not three of my pay checks. It's just nice to know these things.

Since metallics are in such style right now, these would be fantastic shoes for New Year's Eve. That is, until about 1am when you are leaving the restaurant or party and teetering down the street after too much champagne (Wait, what's too much champagne? There is never too much champagne!) and trying to hail a cab. Or maybe these would help you get a cab driver to stop.

I'd stop for these shoes. But only if there were two of them.

January 29, 2015 - update - and the shoe maker is . . .Christian Louboutin. Also available in Jet Black and Sterling Silver.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Year of Pretty - December 28, 2014

We are almost at the end of another year. Which means I am almost at the end of my A Year of Pretty for 2014. I think after 2014 is through, I am going to go back to posting under some of the headings I have used in the past - "Delicate and Pretty", "A Little Bit of Lovely", "Shoes and More Shoes".

While it has been fun to bring a daily dose of something pretty, it has also been a bit of a time grabber. Not so much in the actual posting each day, but in the researching and finding background information, chasing broken links down a dark rabbit hole to try and credit original sources; and of course.....hours spent scrolling through Pinterest and other such sites.

(For those that want to admire a whole bunch of Pretty at one time, I invite you to a collection called "oh. .  pretty!" that I have curated, both for your enjoyment and my inspiration).

There has not been any snow so far this December in Vancouver. Well, up on the mountains, yes. But not in the city itself. So for today's Pretty Post I thought I would bring the snow to you by way of this STUNNINGLY GORGEOUS suit ensemble from the Chanel Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014 / 2015 collection. I have watched (a number of times) the videos on how these pieces are hand crafted and painstakingly put together. Utterly amazing.

It would take me years...YEARS ! to complete a garment such as this. So I can understand the astronomical price tag that this jacket and pants would go for. If I had to hazard a guess, I would put this at being no less than $35,000.00. Yes, thirty five thousand dollars.

Okay, so back to the garment itself. The detailing is smart. The play between the expanse of white in the jacket and the cording effect of the beading is beautiful. The beading not only acts as a decorative detail, but serves to contour the lines of the body. Essentially, it is a tuxedo jacket with a mandarin collar that morphs into a long tunic. I'm noticing now that in one of the pictures (above), it is worn with leggings, in another (right) the model's leg is visible. In a show, these two looks would be presented one after the other. Which means the jacket combo was made twice?


No, but wait! It's a tuxedo jacket with biker shorts! Now that I have watched the video of the fashion show again, the model is clearly wearing a tuxedo-jacket-cum-tunic over a pair of long biker shorts. Only Chanel could make biker shorts this glamourous. Here is a screen shot from the youtube video (left).

But my train has left the tracks. Back to this Winter Wonderland look. The beading reminds me of Christmas tinsel and holly berries, with all the twiggy bits poking up out of the snow.

So while beaded biker shorts may not be your kind of thing (and honestly, for me I would do without them and wear plain leggings, either in the same warm winter white or in red to match the red "berries" with a cable knit pattern and red patent leather stilettos), this tunic would definitely be a show stopper at any company Christmas party or New Year's Eve gathering. But heaven forbid Carl the Clumsy from Accounting doesn't bump into you with his glass of red wine, or your Uncle Leon drop his plate of Swedish meatballs on your lap as he leans over to kiss you hello.

If you are interested in watching the whole production, the youtube video is here:




Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Year of Pretty - December 14, 2014

Today's Pretty Post is actually a super cute post....THESE PUPPIES ! ! ! !


Today being Sunday, it's a big baking day, but I wanted to share this adorable photo of Santa's little helpers. No original source given, just a random tumblr account where I couldn't locate the photo after five minutes of scrolling. Oh well, enjoy!