Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Making of a Marchioness

The Making of a Marchioness (Persephone Book No. 29) by Frances Hodgson Burnett of The Secret Garden fame is my quickest read this year: I started it Saturday afternoon and finished it around 1:30 this morning.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It's written in 2 books and my initial thought was that the happy ending of Book 1 would have sufficed perfectly, but Book 2 grew on me. I was rather impatient with it at first because of Emily's naive, almost stupid innocence but the intrigue and plots resulted in a very satisfying happily-ever-after.

From the website:

Part I, the original Marchioness, is in the Cinderella (and Miss Pettigrew) tradition, while Part II, called The Methods of Lady Walderhurst, is an absorbing melodrama; most novels end 'and they lived happily ever after' but this one develops into a realistic commentary on late-Victorian marriage. 'Delightful... A sparky sense of humour combined with lively social commentary make this a joy to read' wrote the Bookseller. Kate Saunders told Open Book listeners that she was up until two in the morning finishing this 'wildly romantic tale whose hero and heroine are totally unromantic' (Daily Telegraph); the Guardian referred to 'a touch of Edith Wharton's stern unsentimentality'; the Spectator wrote about the novel's 'singular charm'; and the Daily Mail stressed the 'sharp observations in this charming tale.'

Monday, June 29, 2009


My cousin, A, sent me this link a couple weeks ago and I've only just had the chance to give it a go and let me tell you, it will work you good! I don't think my last long run made me sweat like this 10 minute* work out did!

* My first attempt clocked in at about 27 minutes - first I had to find a clock with seconds to time the 1 minute sets and when you factor in the time to watch the demo and the minute or two in between to catch your breath, you get a work out in about 30.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Modern Lanterns

So I've been thinking of lighting off and on for a long while now, particularly in my living area where it's always been rather dim given the one table lamp I previously had in the far corner.

There's no junction box in my living area for a ceiling pendant so the only alternatives have been lamps unless I wanted to get an electrician in. I felt a little hamstrung by the height of my sofa arms - they're irregular at about 28" and I haven't seen any side tables that height, or table lamps I've liked enough.

I diverted myself with thoughts of a pendant over my dining table but while browsing yesterday came across the modern floor lantern at West Elm. I love the clean, contemporary look of them, but I especially love the space-saving base which allows me to flank the lanterns up nice and close to the sofa.

I think my living area's pretty much done now...save for the photos to fill the empty frames still sitting on the photo ledge and maybe a big house plant...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Feeling koi...

I was out for my dose of vitamin D today and happened upon this koi vase at Chatelet that I decided I had to have. So cute. :)

The Book of Negroes

I finally finished reading Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes when I was home sick again yesterday afternoon. It was soooo slow to start but I'm glad I persevered because it turned out to be such a worthwhile book to spend time with.

The novel is about a woman named Aminata Diallo who was stolen from her African village at the age of 11 and sold into slavery to work an indigo plantation in South Carolina. She eventually finds her way to a free Black settlement in Nova Scotia by registrering her name in the "book of Negroes" a British military ledger that allowed 3,000 Black Loyalists passage on ships sailing from Manhattan. Her ultimate wish however, is to return to the village of her birth and she nearly succeeds after returning to Africa with the Sierra Leone Company. She narrowly escapes enslavement a second time and spends her final days in London, England, where she finds her happy ending.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Birdcage! Lantern!

You know how I've been preoccupied with birdcages of late? Well, I found this birdcage lantern light online at Urban Outfitters today which got me all excited because among other things, I've been thinking of pendants for my dining area - I personally prefer the white one because it'll go better with the present decor but the red one photographs better:

I'm not seriously thinking that this is an option...it's a little too fussy for my space but it is oh-so-charming!

The Coral Pendant at DWR is a more likely candidate given the natural colour and the open, airy feeling it imparts:

It's presently on sale, but at $425, it's still a little more than I'd like to spend on a fixture right now....so I think the hunt continues...

Retail Therapy

I just arrived home from a couple hours of retail therapy on Queen West and the one basic item I really wanted - a black and white striped T - eluded me.

But! I did not return home empty-handed. I left the Gap with this pretty silk-blend ruffle camisole in "rosey blush," inspired in part by Erin's recent hot pink post over at Elements of Style.

Visits to Zara, H&M, Aldo, Urban Outfitters and American Apparel yielded zip. Tonight's shopping was all about cheap and cheerful buys, which was great because every store had sales on.

I stopped in a couple of home decor shops for a quick browse and was sad to see that Rumah was closing! I've always loved their gorgeous wood tables and have always thought that they would be perfect for my "grown-up" house. They also had lovely accessories, most of which were sourced in Asia. It was closed by the time I got there tonight and the earliest I'll be able to return for a look will be Saturday. Wonder what, if any, great buys will be left?

My last stop on the way home was at Outer Layer, a jewel of a shop where I picked up the Sula perfume oil set because
a) I couldn't decide which one I wanted
b) I've always liked the idea of layering different scents and this was an affordable way to do it
c) I will not lie: it came in pretty packaging. ,-)

White Box Condos

It's a bit slow at work today with the execs away on business through to the end of the week so I had time to catch up on my news and came across this article in the Star about "white box condos" in some US cities. The concept of buying an unfinished condo - the white box - which buyers can then outfit with paint, appliances and other finishes as they see fit is not a new idea. This is how developments are sold in Amsterdam (and possibly other European cities). I first found out about this through my cousins who both bought new condos in the last few years. D laid his own hardwood floors, picked out his own bathroom fixtures and is still undecided about his kitchen backsplash. While I love the convenience of having things edited by a designer so decisions are fairly easy to make come design time, there's a part of me - the part that watches too much HGTV - that relishes the idea of starting with a completely blank slate. Maybe this will hit Toronto when I'm ready to move onto my next home...and if that new home happens to be a condo, well, fun fun fun!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Adorable cuteness

Catching up on my blogs and just came across this video of eight baby pandas via Disgrasian. So adorable...

...but still not quite as adorable as our own little Piglet, who was here for a week and left this past Sunday. I miss her morning giggles which served as my wake up call over the long weekend that I stayed at my mother's.

Dessert Party

I'm home today recovering from what must be the flu given the aches that wracked my body yesterday. The headaches are gone and so are the 80 year old knees and what remains is general fatigue. The day hasn't been a waste though: I've spent most of it on my balcony (in fact I'm blogging from my sectional), resting up in the sun, drinking lots of water and catching up on the last 3-4 issues of Style at Home, Canadian House and Home and Elle Decor (I've been very behind in my design porn).

I was inspired by the story about Rosie Daykin, a Vancouver-based designer-turned-baker and owner of Butter Baked Goods in the May issue of House and Home. She likes to throw dessert parties which I found rather girly and sweet. I used to bake all the time but haven't on a regular basis for a long time partly because of time constraints and also because I don't want to get fat eating all the treats. But a party is a perfect way for me to satisfy the yen to bake and share the finished products...so now I'm plotting, thinking about a dessert menu...maybe cute little mixed berry tartlets like the recipe I came across in the May issue of Style at Home...or lemony raspberry tarts from a back issue of Food and Drink...mini brownie cupcakes...good ol' chocolate chip cookies...? Mmmmmm......

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Birdcages and resistance

I've been inspired by the idea of using birdcages for display ever since coming across these images online:

I can't recall now where I came across the 2 above, but this one below is from a March 2008 house tour over at Apartment Therapy:

So when I stopped at the HomeSense in Etobicoke today, I was super-excited to see these over-sized birdcages:

Too bad there's not enough room in my condo for them.

I do have this small one below, which is also from HomeSense. I found it in March and added the clip-on butterflies which I picked up at the Ideal Home Show in London a couple months ago.

But the hardest thing for me to resist tonight was this pair of Oriental garden stools:

Even though I already have one for my balcony, and I'm not sure I really need two of them, I just could not help myself. Plus the price was so right! Yes. I am weak.

Dinner Tonight

Since I made chili-mango salsa last night with the extra ingredients I had left over, I decided to have the salmon again, but since there wasn't really time to make lemon risotto (to be honest, I was too hungry to wait) I opted for steamed rice seasoned with fresh parsley and lemon juice. Ooh! And I also savoured a glass of the Hoegaarden Rosee I brought back from Amsterdam. Mmmm...

In hindsight, the salmon steak I got was WAY too big. Oh well.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Weekend Update

I had a few friends over last night for dinner and served salmon with chili-mango salsa and lemon risotto - 2 recipes that are super simple and definite keepers. The sangria was also a hit, although there was a mishap out on the balcony that led to a note slid under my neighbour downstair's door with apologies and the request to call or email at their convenience for the return of my wooden spoon and pitcher lid.

We watched as dusk settled into night and enjoyed the LED light show that was the CN Tower. If you click on the photo below, you can see the moon playing hide and seek in the clouds:

As has been my usual habit, I was up before 9am today and decided to make the most of the morning and headed out for a run down by the lake. I hadn't mapped a route and just ran. My strategy in working up to the 10 Mile run in 5 weeks is to start with the walk-run intervals again...though not very strict in timing. I've just been running and stopping for walks at random-ish milestones. I play mind games with myself and think, I'll stop and walk at that next big tree up there...when I hit that gate, I'll start running again...I'll walk the length of this parking lot and start running again when I reach those stairs and take them up...silly things like that. Despite being silly, it's working. I ran just over 13K today in about 96 minutes which is the farthest distance I've run. The weather was perfect too - just cool enough with a good breeze coming off the water and I felt pretty strong out there because I probably could have gone further.

Since getting home I've caught up on So You Think You Can Dance which I'd PVR'd during the week, done a couple loads of laundry and changed the sheets on my bed for the graphic trellis design I picked up last month. I'm rather looking forward to slipping between my new linens tonight!

But before that...work beckons... :(

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Ta da!

Here's what my balcony looks like now:

I planted ranunculus bulbs I brought back from Amsterdam in the 2 pots this afternoon and according to one of my online sources, they should flower late summer...fingers crossed!!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Soft Skills 101

I had a meeting this morning with my SVP that I was worried about because while I'm pretty good at the technical stuff, I'm fairly weak at packaging it up for consumption. But thanks to the coaching from J, the VP I've been working with on my current project, it went really well and I wanted to blog about it so as not to forget the lessons learned:

1. Pre-meeting, set the expectations: Send ahead an agenda via email outlining why you want to meet and what you want to cover in the meeting, along with any pre-read materials.

2. In the meeting, set the scene: Re-cap why you're meeting, what you'd like to cover and how you'd like to do it - I typically dive right into the subject at hand without setting up the context, mistakenly assuming that everyone else is on the same page as me. The truth though, is that everyone else has at least a dozen other things on the go, senior executives even moreso, so it's really important to make sure the people present all understand the purpose of the meeting and what you want to accomplish. If possible, bring along a summary to guide the discussion - this could be the pre-read material, but not necessarily.

3. Ask for clarification: If you don't understand something, don't be afraid to put your hand up and say so.

4. You don't have to have all the answers: If something comes up that you don't have an answer to, it's OK to say, "Let me look into that and get back to you."

5. Review the next steps: At the end of the meeting, play-back the next steps and the decisions made to make sure everyone's in agreement as to what's been decided and what's left to-do.

Apple Blossom Amaryllis

While in Amsterdam I visited Keukenhof, a 35 acre park of heavenly bulbs in bloom. It will come as no surprise to you that there were shops on the grounds that sold bulbs including a dizzying array of tulips in every colour imaginable, and a wide assortment of amaryllis bulbs. Among my European haul was this amaryllis bulb, which I thought I'd killed because it took me almost a month to plant it and I hadn't refrigerated it or anything. Thankfully it was hardier than that and has begun to bloom!

Yesterday, it showed the promise of 5 flowers....

...and when I came home from work today, I was surprised by this lovely in flower:

I wish now that I'd bought more! :)

I've assorted ranunculus to plant this weekend but I'm also thinking of tackling an orchid next...
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