Leslieville: The First Food Tour

We are now on month 3 of living in Leslieville, and both my boyfriend and I agree that it’s such an amazing neighbourhood. Certainly lively and full of surprises. Now that we have had a chance to try out some great food spots in the area (with, admittedly, still so many left to try), I wanted to share my Top 5 Food Spots in Leslieville (for now).

1. Lady Marmalade: I don’t need to rehash how amazing this place truly is. So worth the wait. But just in case you forgot…

Baked french toast is the cat's pyjamas...

2. Ed’s Real Scoop & Bobbette and Belle:

Both of these spots make me all sorts of happy when it comes to dessert/snacks. Grabbing ice cream at Ed’s Real Scoop has now become my favourite passtime on warm summer nights (maybe a little too much…dangerous stuff!), and Bobbette & Belle makes nothing short of incredible desserts. My recommendation? Get a macaroon from them, pair it with the cookies ‘n creme ice cream from Ed’s, and call it a day.

3. Rashers & Leslieville Pumps:

I talked about the amazingness of Rashers way before I even lived down the street from it. Their sandwiches are still delicious. A new favourite we recently learned about is the Leslieville Pumps – on its face, this spot is merely a run of the mill gas station. But inside you will find more than just candy bars and chips. They have sandwiches with smoked meat, BLTs, pulled pork, poutine, coleslaw and deep fried pickels. Yum! Perfect hangover or late night food (while Rashers closes at 8pm, The Pumps is open 24h!)

Simple grilled cheese? Not these sandwiches!

Rashers’ goodness…

4. Paulette’s Chicken and Doughnuts:

Freshly made doughnuts (like, my favourite, the s’mores doughnut) + fried chicken + your choice of sauce makes this place a fun spot to have an unhealthy but utterly delicious snack. We recently tried their deep-fried macaroni ‘n cheese balls, too…can’t say you would be wrong in doing the same. I love this spot because it’s one-of-a-kind in the area and offers a fun alternative to fast food. If you’re feeling like something bad for you, but oh-so-good, this place delivers.

5. Prohibition Gastropub & Riverside Public House:

Riverside was the first place we tried upon moving in. And Prohibition has now become the “go-to” when meeting friends for a drink. They have great beers on tap, a fantastic happy hour, prime location at Queen and Broadview plus their food is  pretty damn good. My favourite dish that I’ve  had so far is their “Pulled Pork Grilled Fromage” – exactly what it sounds like: pulled pork +grilled cheese. But the kicker is that it comes with fries and a slightly tangy raspberry flavoured dipping sauce. It shouldn’t work, but it certainly does. Definitely work a try.

We fully intend on trying more places this summer (like Ruby Watchco/Ruby Eats, “The Nose”, Swirl Wine Bar, among others), and I will be sure to get more on he list.

The new 'hood!

The new ‘hood!

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Pub Love

I sometimes have such a craving for pub food. I’m not talking about just burgers and fries, though. I mean the kind of menu items you will only find at a place with a lot of beer on tap, wooden tables and sports on TV screens. The thing I love about pub food most is its simplicity. And with that in mind, I decided to try to find some easy-to-mimic recipes for my 5 favourite pub grub meals:

pub love food

1 – Chicken Caesar Salad: The only salad I will ever have at a pub or bar. The creaminess of the dressing, crunch of the croutons and almost necessary bacon bits makes this a fantastic meal or appetizer. This recipe from Smitten Kitchen adds a certain element of cooking sophistication with a chicken brine, promising the juiciest of meat. Also, if you’re like me and can’t stand the fishy style of anchovies in the dressing, you can easily omit it without losing the flavour and creaminess.

2 – Baked Mac n’ Cheese: I’ve already professed my love for mac n’ cheese, and this Martha Stewart recipe is the right crunchy/creamy mixture. Something so great about having a bowl of this with a glass of white wine or a light beer.

3 – Loaded Potato Skins: The most difficult part about this recipe from Chow is the scooping out of the potato. The rest is super simple. I love loaded potato skins – I always ate the skin on baked potatoes (I know, kind of weird), and I love that these can be made bite sized for a party. They’re  perfect hors d’oeuvres to pass around, or snack on while hanging out in your backyard.

4 – Chicken Fingers (and fries): Without fail, what I order 9 times out of 10 when I’m feeling pub-y. The Black Peppercorn adds a really intriguing twist to a classic by dredging the chicken fingers into crushed Doritos…crushed Doritos, you guys! Amazing.

5 – Deep Fried Pickles: This combo should not work, but it does. So well. A Beautiful Mess has a shockingly easy-to-make recipe for this delicious treat, which uses minimal ingredients (one of which is cornmeal, aka that added crunch). They’re awesome dipped in something with dill (like their own dip recipe). These are so good!

Note: all of the above go amazing with a pint of your favourite beer, on a sunny day, hanging out in your backyard, with some good friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loving…

Usually, as soon as Friday hits, all I want to do is look forward to the little things (a book, a song, a trip to Ikea) that I will get to do over the weekend. With that in mind, welcome to the first installment of a new weekly post – Loving…(aka Friday Faves). Here you’ll find a brief list of things that are currently making me smile, or occupying my mind, or are just generally awesome.

Listening:

My “F you, winter!” jam.

Reading:

kelly oxford is my new hero

Kelly Oxford is hilarious in 140 characters on Twitter. She’s equally funny in a more free-form, unlimited book format. I got to meet her at a book signing earlier this week and she’s such a nice, funny woman that I’m an even bigger fan now. I’m almost done with Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar and can’t recommend it enough – if for no other reason than she’s a Canadian and references it proudly (you won’t get a Kids in the Hall callout from any other memoir). Totally in the vein of Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – I love books by honestly funny women.

Baking:

I haven’t made these in a while, but I’m looking forward to whipping up a batch of Zucchini Muffins this weekend for next week. A lot of people make a crinkled-nose face when I mention these muffins, but they are amazingly delicious. Perfect breakfast food, unique flavour and the bonus is that they freeze really well (so you can enjoy for a bit longer).

Love this recipe from Martha Stewart - I would modify slightly by removing the banana and replacing the flaxseed with pecans.

Love this recipe from Martha Stewart – I would modify slightly by removing the banana and replacing the flaxseed with pecans.

Planning:

To plant a springtime, apartment herb garden. I’ve promised myself I will have a green thumb once we get a house (even if it kills me), so I’m going to start practicing now. Thanks to my other-other half (Alli) I’m all set up…

Get ready, pasta!

Get ready, pasta!

Wanting:

To be here right about now…

Paris

“Paris is always a good idea” – Audrey Hepburn

Happy Friday everyone!

You learn something new everyday

The last month has been bananas. To the point where “Hollaback Girl” is constantly running through my head (this s*** is bananas…b-a-n-a-n-a-s). And while there is a lot going on in my life (moving next week, starting a new job, my boyfriend is moving back – for GOOD! – next month, he’s starting a new job, and we are getting a car) it feels good to know that things are changing for the better (hopefully).

For this Friday (the first Friday of spring), and in the spirit of constantly growing, I give you: My Top 5   3 “Learn as You Go” Lessons of the Last Month (or so).

1 – Don’t get too excited about the first apartment you see to rent:

Rookie mistake. We found a place to rent. The day I went to view it, it was a rainy Sunday night and I had a headache. I fell in love with it – or, at least, the idea of it. When my boyfriend and I went back about a week later to take some measurements, reality hit: I’m completely spatially challenged. The space is…smaller than I had remembered it being. Don’t get me wrong, it will be a great first apartment together and we will make some awesome memories there. We picked Leslieville and I’m really looking forward to exploring the area – it’s top of our list to buy in. But I certainly think I was more excited with the idea of being done with hunting for an apartment than with the actual space itself. Now, when we go to buy in a few months, I will be on total high alert. I’m playing hard to get with real estate from here on…

(I’m loving the tips on Apartment Therapy on how to make your rental feel like home and their ultimate renters guide)

The new 'hood!

The new ‘hood!

2 – There’s more to cars than colour:

Admittedly, I’m not that naive when it comes to cars. But until we started to seriously look at cars to buy, I hadn’t given anything else much thought. Now I’m deep in a world of insurance quotes, diesel vs gas engines, safety ratings, add-ons, heated seats and parking considerations. I’m enjoying looking around and learning what’s what in the car world, and educating myself on all the terminology. Plus it’s our first big purchase together, which is doubly exciting. But I still want it to look pretty.

(Some tips for buying a car once you’ve picked the colour can be found here and here)

Top car choice. And look at that colour! Source.

Safe and reliable. And look at that colour! Source.

3 – Dessert is meant to be shared, and only shared (apparently):

My friend and I went to dinner the other night. I had a pasta dish, she had a seafood and rice dish. And wine. We had wine. Then came time for dessert – we got the menus, discussed, and decided that we had each had rough enough weeks and were hungry enough that we could safely get our own rather than share. The waitress came back to take our order. “The giant cookie, please.” She started walking away and said “great choice, I’ll bring you two spoons.” Then we had to awkwardly break it to her – the cookie was just for me. My friend ordered her own apple pie. After my friend and I both looked at each other in shame and horror, we burst out laughing – then proceeded to finish our desserts, because That’s. What. You. Do!

(If you don’t want to share, try this easy cheesecake-in-a-mug recipe for one)   

Two spoons? Naw. Source.

Two spoons? Source.

Decorate: Canadiana

via IDS 2012

via IDS 2012

One of my favourite decorating styles is what I like to call “rustic chic”. Lots of raw wood shapes, warm colours and touches of modern (like the above halogen lettering) together make my heart just skip a beat. There’s something a little romantic and winter-cabin-like about this style.

Coincidentally, it also reminds me of Canada – rugged, unique and timeless. So in the vein of my country and a little decor inspiration, here  are my top 5 favourite “Canadiana” decor ideas:

1) HBC all the way

How much more iconic Canadian can you get than this?

HSBC-style blanket

The classic HBC stripes just scream Canada. Incorporating this somewhere in your house (like as a blanket or throw, via Apartment Therapy) is a fabulous way to give a nod to the Great White North’s most famous and historic retailer.

2) Antlers

We have deer and moose all over the place up here! Ok, maybe not all over the place (I didn’t see one until I was in my teens) but if you drive far enough into a national park or away from major cities, you’re bound to see at least one antler-ed animal. Or, at the very least, a sign warning you about them potentially crossing (hint: they don’t tend to look both ways before they cross the street). I like the idea of incorporating antlers as an accent in a dining room or den.

Awesome wall decor idea, via West Elm

Awesome wall decor idea, via West Elm

An antler chandelier with a more modern vibe. Great for a dining room. Via Universal Lighting.

An antler chandelier with a more modern vibe. Great for a dining room. Via Universal Lighting.

This decorative pillow fits nicely with the Canadian animal vibe. Via Sparrow Avenue.

This decorative pillow fits nicely with the Canadian animal vibe. Via Sparrow Avenue.

3) Wood, wood everywhere

Whether it’s a table, exposed wood beams or hardwood floors, incorporating wood accents throughout the house is one of my favourite ways to get that rustic edge. I’m a huge fan of pairing modern clean white lines (walls, furniture, bedding) with raw, un-polished wood.

The exposed beams alone would do it for me. But that hardwood just adds to it. Via Apartment Therapy.

The exposed beams alone would do it for me. But that hardwood just adds to it. Via Apartment Therapy.

Gorgeous wooden candle holders, via Even and Odd.

Gorgeous wooden candle holders, via Even and Odd.

4) Red and White

No Canadiana home decor would be complete without red and white accents. I mean, they are our flag colours after all! I am a big fan of colour accents to begin with, and red is a colour that really makes a statement. Some say red is  aggressive, but when it comes to home decor, I find it to bring a class and uniqueness to the home. Against a white wall, couch or chair, a red piece really stands out and draws anyone into the room.

One red accent wall can add a sense of drama to a room. Via Apartment Therapy.

One red accent wall can add a sense of drama to a room. Via Apartment Therapy.

I love the subtlety of these striped pillows - the colours are a bit more dull, but they fit perfectly. Via House Beautiful.

I love the subtlety of these striped pillows – the colours are a bit more dull, but they fit perfectly. Via House Beautiful.

Red and white clawfoot tub? Say no more. Via Houzz.

Red and white clawfoot tub? Say no more. Via Houzz.

5) Caesar

Ok, so this has nothing to do with decor, but if you’re going to be hanging out in your striped blanket, hardwood floor, red and white and antler accented home, might as well have a quintessential Canadian drink. The Caesar was invented in Calgary, Alberta in 1969 and has become a staple of every Canadian’s drinking palate ever since. Cookin’ Canuck has a great make-at-home Caesar recipe – make it as spicy or mild as you wish!

A week of brown bags

My enviro-friendly "brown bag", c/o CB2

My enviro-friendly “brown bag”, c/o CB2

I’ve issued myself a challenge this year: try to break (or at least diminish) one of my worst habits of buying lunch every day. In and of itself, it’s not such a bad thing – we have lots of healthy options at work and a ton of variety. But when I did the math, I was spending way too much money on something I could easily do myself at home for a fraction of the cost. With all the expenses coming his year (i.e. a house!), it may be prudent to start saving a little bit more.

So, I’ve started working towards bringing my own lunch to work at least 3 days a week and, so far, I’m succeeding! I don’t want to pat myself on the back quite yet because it’s still only February. But I’m cautiously optimistic.

The one thing I’ve found most exciting about this, is the cooking possibilities – gone are the days of stale PB&J sandwiches and mushy bananas! I’ve found a few recipes that make for a week of exciting (and delicious) lunchtimes…

1) Chicken/Veggie Fried Rice:

Easily delicious veggie fried rice!

Easily delicious veggie fried rice!

The recipe itself is super simple – you take cooked (and cooled) rice, your choice of veggies, add chopped up boiled or grilled chicken breast, crack an egg over it, sautee everything in sesame oil with a splash of teriyaki and…you’re done. What I love about this recipe for lunch is that it gives you a different flavour and also allows for easy portability.

2) Arugula, Apple & Chickpea Salad Wraps

This recipe comes from The Kitchn, and it’s one of my favourite wrap recipes. I like to use a tart apple (like Granny Smith) and add some cheddar cheese to the mix, too. This wrap packs great protein and nutrients, and tastes awesome. It’s also super easy to make during groggy early mornings.

3) Turkey Caesar Sandwich

Martha Stewart's take on a classic

Martha Stewart’s take on a classic

I’m a sucker for caesar salad (even though it’s traditionally got anchovies in the dressing…ugh). I’m also a sucker for sandwiches that involve lettuce and cherry tomatoes, and bread. I do love bread. So this sandwich is kind of the perfect mix. It takes a bit more time to assemble (read: do it when you have some time in the morning), but tastes great and, if stacked properly (i.e. ensure there is a moisture barrier between your bread and lettuce) it really keeps well during the day. I like to also bring the dressing with some baby carrots and celery or cauliflower for a little deli snack.

4) Quinoa Salad

I’ve already sung my praises for quinoa, and provided a quick recipe there. I’ve recently discovered another recipe c/o Martha Stewart that includes more veggies and silvered almonds. It’s a bit more time-intensive (i.e. requires actual cooking), so I make this on nights i have free time, but it’s well worth the effort. I prefer these salads cold the next day, but they also heat up nicely.

5) Good Ol’ Fashioned Egg Salad Sandwich

It's a classic for a reason

It’s a classic for a reason

There is something very comforting about egg salad sandwiches. Again, I am a fan of anything that has lettuce and tomatoes involves, but I also love the creaminess of this particular lunch. Making egg salad takes almost no time (or skill, as I am a testament to) and you can put just about anything you like in there. The basis is simple: mix hard-boiled eggs (smashed up) + mayo + mustard. To that base, I like to add chives and scallions/shallots. I also am a big fan of adding cucumber to the sandwich assembly. I have egg salad about once a week, usually on days I’m feeling particularly stressed (remember how much I love comfort food).

Do you have any favourite brown-bag recipes or snacks?

Beer

That got your attention, didn’t it? Since Groundhog Willie didn’t see his shadow this year, and we can expect an early spring (even if the weather today indicates otherwise), I figured it would be a good time to call out some of the best places in the city to get beer – especially when patio season rolls around.

Toronto (and the surrounding area) is actually great for microbrews – Steamwhistle, Flying Monkeys, Spearhead, Creemore, Amsterdam, Great Lakes…there’s a ton to choose from at local restaurants and the LCBO. If you haven’t, I recommend giving any of these a try. Not only are you getting a refreshing beverage, but you’re supporting local businesses that are truly creating great products.

Some local goodies: Steamwhistle, Flying Monkeys, and Spearhead

Some local goodies: Steamwhistle, Flying Monkeys, and Spearhead

With that, I have my top 5 spots to get tasty and unique microbrews:

1) C’est What

Definitely love this bar. It’s in a great area (St. Lawrence Market), with lots to see and do. This place has a ton of great beers on tap and they create their own in-house brews to boot. They have ales (like the hilariously-coined “Big Butt Smoked Dark Ale”), wheat beers (“Mother Pucker’s Ginger Wheat”), and other unique concoctions like a Caraway beer and a Cask ale. A good place to go on rainy days (they don’t have a patio), or if you’re looking for pre/post-dinner drinks when you’re in that area.

2) Bar Volo

Table 7 at Bar Volo has a drawer. People can leave things/notes in it. It's fun.

Table 7 at Bar Volo has a drawer. People can leave things/notes in it. It’s fun.

Bar Volo is hands down my go-to for a no-frills pint of beer. They have an ever-changing and amazing selection of beers you’ve likely never heard of, their servers really know their beer (i.e. they can give me beers that match my description of “something a little hoppy, but not too hoppy and that tastes good but isn’t fruity, and I don’t like Hoegaarden”) and they have awesome charcuterie and cheese platters to go along with your brews. Their patio is open during the spring and summer, and offers a nice little oasis in the heart of the city.

3) Bellwoods Brewery

I already sung its praises here, but it warrants repeating – great location, good beer and a fun front-facing patio!

4) Granite Brewery

Patio: check. In-house brew selection: check. Good location: check (for now). The Granite Brewery is one of my favourite places in midtown to grab a drink (along with the Rose and Crown, which has shockingly good pad thai!). The patio is awesome in the summer, and their beer selection has something for everyone. As a bonus, you’re getting beer you can’t get anywhere else so it really has that “Cheers” feel to it.

5) Millstreet Brewpub

Mmmmill street...

Mmmmill street…

Mill Street is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Goes down smooth, it’s kind of like the quintessential Toronto drink. The Mill Street Brewpub is located in the Distillery District – a fantastic place with exposed brick walls, quirky little stores, and some great restaurants. It’s a wonderful spot to spend a Saturday during the summer, topping it off with a drink on the Mill Street patio at dusk.

Tetris skills are required for small apartments

Most urban cities have sprawled as much as they can and  there’s nowhere to go but up. Condo and apartment living is now an almost guarantee for anyone moving out of their parents’ houses or even when starting a family. There have been a lot of articles recently in the news about micro-lofts (like a space  in Vancouver that is just 290 sq feet!), and it seems like the latest hot commodity is literally having a place to hang your hat.

I currently have the luxury of living in a 730 sq foot condo with an open layout. But even with all that space, it’s surprising how quickly clutter can build up. Having my boyfriend there just adds to it. In my attempts to organize my life, I have my developed a few rules of thumb for any small space I may inhabit:

1) Use the walls to their full advantage:

I’m a big proponent of mirrors (make any space look larger!) and art on walls. For apartments, I’ve found that two things work best to decorate: wall decals and photos. Wall decals are great because they don’t take up any space, and they let you change your mind (you can peel them off without a trace).

Got the whole world on a wall

Got the whole world on a wall

Photos, on the other hand, add a real personal touch to any space. For the condo, we took a few photos a family friend snapped in Paris, blew them up and plaque mounted them. It’s a modern way to perma-frame photos without the actual frame.

Where possible, you can also use your walls for storage. If you have a bike, this neat bike rack shaped like a deer or bull skull would be a great art/storage piece. Additionally, shelves (like this Umbra floating bookshelf) are a great way to keep trinkets out of the way but still on display, and they can be mounted anywhere in the house where there is space.

2) Don’t be afraid of bins:

Storage bins, file organizers, jars, magazine racks…they are all your friends. I’m still mastering this art, but the more organizers I have the more I find my apartment seems to become more spacious. There are a lot of options out there: West Elm has some great basket organizers, CB2 has an awesome hanging file organizer, and this Ikea magazine file is an inexpensive way to get a hold of those bills or magazines that pile up. Most importantly, however, those storage systems can easily and neatly fit into bookselve, under beds/couches, or off in corners so that they don’t end up taking more of the precious space.

Stylish storage bins

Stylish storage bins

3) Don’t fall in love (with stuff):

I’m really guilty of this and I’ve been working hard to become more ruthless in throwing things away or donating them. Keeping loose-leaf paper or cards around “for posterity’s sake” just adds to anxiety inducing clutter, not to mention making cleaning the apartment a much larger chore. Any trinkets or papers or books or clothes that you haven’t used in years or that don’t have true sentimental value (read: baby photos, for example) should be promptly done away with. Whether you store them in a locker, donate them or just throw them away, get rid of those space hogs.

4) Use the perfectly hidden backs of doors:

In a small space, you can use hidden areas to store things you need to access from time to time, but don’t want to be tripping over every day. For example, the back of your pantry door can have a rack for those pesky pot lids that take up more space than they need to.

Out of the way but right where you want them, via The Kitchn.

Out of the way but right where you want them, via The Kitchn.

In your closet, use your door to hang necklaces, scarves or ties (even shoes with this over-the-door shoe rack). In your washroom, a hook on the back of a cabinet door can work as a hair dryer or flat ironer holder.

5) Get a big ol’ bookcase:

One of the saving graces at my condo is the big, plain Ikea cubby bookshelf. It not only holds my books (duh!), but also adds a space-saving storage area – I use it to store my purses on the bottom shelves, photos of friends and family, and mementos from my travels.

Storage bookshelf idea. Classy AND practical.

Storage bookshelf idea. Classy AND practical.

Decorating/organizing apartments and condos offers unique challenges. But spending a bit of time (and getting a bit creative with what you have available) definitely rewards you in the long run with a fabulous urban living space.

UPDATE: Apartment Therapy has an article today about my very bookcase!

Ode to the Mason Jar

The mason jar in all its greatness

The mason jar in all its greatness

If you know me, this post should come as no surprise. I have a strange and unwavering love of mason jars. I don’t know what it is about them, but I just think they’re the bee’s knees (mason jars make me want to speak like a prohibition-era flapper). If you’re on Pinterest, you’ll see a lot (and I mean a LOT) of posts on the various uses for mason jars – they’ve become staples of crafty women, wedding centerpieces and summer-time al fresco dining. But I wanted to take this opportunity to share my favourite uses of the glorious mason jar and show just how versatile these simple contraptions can be.

A little background: before the mason jar was used artistically by modern women in their 20s and 30s, it was  used solely for preserving food. Invented in 1858 by  John Landis Mason (hence the name), the design was meant to help with the canning of food. It revolutionized home food preservation, and interestingly, the design has remained more or less the same for the past 150+ years. In fact, my own earliest memories of mason jars are as a container for my grandmother’s homemade jam. But gone are those days – now the mason jar can be just about anything to anyone…

1) Flowers and Plants:

Tall mason jars can act as cheap and cheerful flower vases. Simply get short-stemmed flowers and you’ve got a cute easy-to-maintain piece for your home.

Mixed bouquet in a mason jar

Mixed bouquet in a mason jar

For an indoor springtime planter, I like the idea of painting mason jars bright colours, fill them with dirt, plant some seeds and water. You can have some gorgeous indoor plants in no time. Plus, if you’re into cooking, you can plant your own indoor herb garden so you can use fresh cilantro or rosemary or chives any time you want. The Huffington Post has this as a Craft of the Day – great inspiration.

A little paint and a little dirt goes a long way

A little paint and a little dirt goes a long way

2) Dessert:

There are so many variations of desserts you can make in mason jars! You can make individual pies or cakes for parties, or use larger mason jars to provide all the ingredients for your favourite baked good (like this for Chocolate Chunk Cookies) as a gift. There are tons of ideas on this Pinterest board, but my favourite has to be this S’mores Dessert in a Jar. S’mores + mason jars? I’m in love!

Two of my favourite things!

Two of my favourite things!

3) Indoor or outdoor lighting:

I’ve seen some pretty unique ways to use mason jars as decor, but my favourite has to be as a candle-holder. If you place a tea light in a mason jar and hang them up, they can provide a nice ambient light outdoors (during summer) or indoors.

Mason jars with candles light up the night

Mason jars with candles light up the night

Alternately, you can buy a ready-made mason jar chandelier (like the one below) to add a unique touch to a more rustic-themed home.

Mason Jar Chandelier

Mason Jar Chandelier

4) Storage:

You can use mason jars to store just about anything tiny and easily-lost: pins and needles for sewing, buttons, screws/nuts/bolts, loose ribbon for wrapping presents…the nik-nak possibilities are endless! My favourite use case for storage, though, is in the kitchen.

Chalkboard paint on the lids can help label and organize

Chalkboard paint on the lids can help label and organize

Storing baking/cooking supplies in mason jars can reduce clutter (not to mention spillage from flimsy packaging), and adds a uniform storage look to your kitchen. The photo above has the lids painted with chalkboard paint for easy (and erasable) labeling. Once you open a bag of nuts or chocolate chips or oats, storing them in a mason jar helps retain their freshness (these were invented for food preservation, after all!), and gives you a good way to actually see what you have and how much of it, for shopping purposes.

5) Drinking:

This one is getting a little controversial. If you’ve eaten at any west-end restaurant in Toronto lately, you will have noticed that your drinks are likely coming to you in wide-mouthed mason jars rather than the traditional cup. Much to a lot of people’s chagrin, wine is sometimes served in these jars, too!

But I will defend the practice of drinking from mason jars because 1) they are great for summer/rustic/southern/backyard BBQ themed parties or weddings and 2) you can actually buy mason jar-inspired drinking mugs (like these from Pottery Barn) that give you more of a traditional drinking experience (if that’s what you’re into).

With the straw and lemonade, how can you not picture this at a wedding or a backyard summertime BBQ?

With the straw and lemonade, how can you not picture this at a wedding or a backyard summertime BBQ?

Luckily for me, mason jars are widely available these days. So if inspiration ever strikes, Canadian Tire is the place to go for tall, short, wide-mouthed or regular mason jars. Long live the mason jar!

Musical Feelings

Given my love of creating playlists (the new age version of mix CDs) for almost any event from roadtrips to spring cleaning, I thought a music post would be warranted.

For as long as I can remember, music has been a huge part of my life. One of the earliest stories about me involves trying to sing along to a Sting song (“Sooner or Later”). One of the first things I remember seeing on TV is Prince’s “Kiss” music video. Boy bands, classic rock, punk, acid jazz, top 40, old school hip hop, alternative, indie – I’ve gone through a roster of phases and likes. I’m almost confident in saying the only thing I’ve never really been able to listen to is country (though I will admit to humming along to Taylor Swift songs sometimes, if that counts).

With that, here are…

My Top 5 Tunes of Right Now:

Passion Pit – Little Secrets

This song always brings a smile to my face – maybe because of the bouncy, child-voiced chorus. There’s something about this band that screams “summertime” to me, and seeing them live at Osheaga last August solidified that (the day had been largely rainy until they took the stage and the sun came out). Other songs I love by Passion Pit: “Take a Walk” and “Sleepyhead“.

The Lumineers – Ho Hey

I’m loving this indie-folk trend (i.e. Mumford and Sons, Of Monsters and Men…). No question, The Lumineers are one of my favourite new bands, and “Ho Hey” is such a great song. You can’t help but sing along (maybe because it’s on commercials and TV shows galore, already). But “Ho Hey” is just the tip of the iceberg – their self-titled album has been on constant repeat for the past month. Favourite tracks: “Dead Sea”, “Submarine”, and “Slow it Down”.

The Roots – Make My

I absolutely love The Roots (maybe even more so since they became Jimmy Fallon’s house band). “Make My” is the latest single from them, and its classic – great arrangement with lyrics about making something out of yourself. The thing I love about The Roots is how they aren’t just a hip hop act – they take influences from all over and infuse them into their tracks. They also have a fantastic sense of humour (see this Jimmy Fallon sketch with Christina Aguilera).

Regina Spektor – Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)

Again, a feel good song. I’ve liked Regina Spektor for years, and “Don’t Leave Me” is definitely one of my favourites of hers. I love the bouncy beat, cute lyrics and French (the Canadian that I am). She’s a great artist with a totally unique sound.

No Doubt – Push and Shove

“Tragic Kindgom” was the first CD I ever owned. The new No Doubt album (their last one in 11 years) is pure, vintage No Doubt – mixing 80s with modern pop with reggae and dancehall. Certainly an awesome comeback that brings me back to my early teens. Other than “Push and Shove”, I love “Undercover” and “Looking Hot“.

If you’re ever in the mood to discover new music, I highly recommend trying Aweditorium (available as a free app for the iPad – I’ve actually spent entire Sunday afternoons just browsing music), Spotify (if you’re in the US or Europe…hopefully it comes to Canada soon!), or Stereomood (my friend Kaili turned me onto this – pick your mood and it generates a free streaming playlist for you!).