Thursday, January 31, 2013


Let's face it. For all the talk of coquettish snow bunnies and cuddling up by roaring fireplaces, January is a pretty unsexy month. Normally I'd say it's just as bad as November, except I was told that November is the biggest baby-making month of the year so it's got something going for it. So, January. Wedged in between NYE and Valentine's Day, it's full of buttoned-up-to-there layers, clunky footwear and staticky hat hairBo-ring!

I'm not usually one for overtly sexy looks but I felt like channelling my inner Dolce and Gabbana with a black corset when I B and I went out to dinner last weekend. I had to add a cardigan and pashmina to my pencil skirt and heels because there's only so much you can do when it's -30C. But celebrating over steak in a plush velvet banquette seat in a beautiful carved-wood dining room with, yes, a roaring fire nearby and my hubby-to-be by my side, I felt just right. I'd love to know - have you ever tried peekaboo lingerie?


Corset - La Vie en Rose
Cardigan - Tommy Hilfiger via outlets
Pashmina - Gift
Skirt - Zara (most recently here)
Belt - The Limited
Hosiery - Costco
Shoes - Aldo (DIY colourblocking) (also here and here)
Clutch - Gift
Necklace and earrings - Gift

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mod black and yellow

Thanks for the positive feedback on my new Island of Misfit Clothes feature. My 'photographers' have been away/working but I'm hoping to get another piece up soon! 

Five years ago, I would never have risked wearing a pair of colours that remind me of bumblebees. Or done the 90s sweater-over-a-turtleneck look. Or worn sheer black tights under a bright yellow skirt. NO WAY JOSE. And yet here I am, cramming all three into one single outfit. (Good thing my younger self isn't here to judge.) My present-day self thinks it turned out modern and a little bit mod. And what will my future self have to say about all this??...



Jacket - Lole
Skirt - Thrifted (Caroll) (most recently here)
Turtleneck - Mexx (also here)
Sweater - Thrifted (Tristan) (also here)
Belt - The Limited
Tights - Winners
Shoes - Born via Winners
Earrings - Gift

Monday, January 28, 2013

Island of misfit clothes #1: the cream cable-knit sweater

Watching Rudolph over Christmas, with its Island of Misfit Toys, I got to thinking about my closet and what I call my Island of Misfit Clothes. I really do try to wear everything I own. Nonetheless, I have a few pieces that aren't winning any popularity contests in my closet, but that I haven't compelled myself to get rid of. I decided to make an inventory of everything that I've never shown on the blog (loungewear/sportswear excluded) and build posts around each one. Other bloggers have done similar challenges; see for example H&K Style Journey's Stay or Go Feature.

I ended up with 16 pieces, which is fewer than I expected (I've been a busy blogger over the past 21 months!). I may have a few more when I unpack some of my summer clothes in storage. I hope you'll enjoy the new feature! 



The first item up is a wool cable-knit sweater from the Gap that I mostly wear for skiing nowadays. I think it's about 8 years old.


Pros: The wool fabric is warm. The beautiful cable knitting is on the back as well as the front of the sweater. It comes with built-in belt loops.
Cons: The wool fabric is itchy and I don't have long-sleeved tees with the right neckline to wear underneath. When I do wear something underneath, I feel bulky around the middle.
Solution: Go for a look straight out of prep school by wearing a collared shirt underneath (to counter itchiness) and a heavy-duty blazer over top (to smooth out bulk).

Blazer: Thrifted (Danier Leather)
Sweater: Gap
Button-down: Thrifted (Ralph Lauren)
Pants: Consigned (BCBG)
Booties: Old Navy
Bracelet and ring - Le Chateau
Earrings - Gift 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bison burgers with caramelized onions, pears, wild blueberry reduction and goat cheese

This recipe is my own but was very loosely inspired by one I came across in a newspaper years ago. The gamey flavour of bison goes nicely with the sweetness of cooked fruit and the tart creaminess of goat cheese. In making the patties, I combined ground bison and ground pork, mainly because bison is expensive and my butcher suggested pork for its relatively neutral taste. Also, bison is a lean meat and with burgers you need some fat. That being said, feel free to use all bison. This recipe makes 8-12 burgers, depending on the size you prefer.

To make onions:
Follow these directions to prepare caramelized onions using two Spanish onions. I added a generous splash of fruity red wine during cooking. While onions are cooking, prepare pears and patties.

To prepare pears: 
Peel and core 4 ripe Bosc pears, then slice each half lengthwise into four pieces. If you're cooking your burgers in the oven, set the pears aside to bake at the same time as the patties. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes at 400F, turning once. I found the pears baked fine without olive oil.

To make burger patties:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 500 g of ground bison and 500 g ground pork with 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1T Dijon, 1T Worcester and freshly cracked black pepper. Shape into about 8-12 patties, then bake at 400F for about 18 minutes, turning once. Adjust the cooking time based on the size of the patties. Finish the patties by broiling for an extra two minutes. If you use a grill, reduce the heat by about 50 degree F compared to beef patties. 
 Add sliced whole wheat hamburger buns to the oven for the last 3-4 minutes to toast.

To make reduction:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 125 mL wild blueberry jam, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 1tsp fresh or dried thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until slightly syrupy, then cool. Note: the mixture will continue to thicken while cooking.

To assemble:
Spread top half of bun with a smear of goat cheese. The the bottom bun with a patty, a smear of blueberry reduction, caramelized onion and the pears.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stripes and animal print

I'm a recent convert to the beauty of prints so I don't have a ton of options for mixing prints in my closet. That's why I'm surprised I didn't come up with this stripe-and-animal print combo earlier. The silk blouse is one of my absolute favourite thrift finds and a go-to for work or a night out (as in this post from the fall). But it was nice to find a way to dress it down too, with jeans, boots and a preppy cardigan.



Blouse - Thrifted (Liz Claiborne) (also here)
Cardigan - Gap
Jeans - Seven via Winners (also here and here)
Belt - Buckle via Pac Sun
Boots - Thrifted (Etienne Aigner)
Socks - Gift
Bracelets - Hand-me-downs and Joe Fresh

Monday, January 21, 2013

Turtleneck and handmade jewellery

I wanted my jewellery to stand out in this post, so I kept the rest of the look clean and streamlined.  My cousin R drew my name for our Secret Santa gift exchange this year and made me this beautiful necklace and drop earring set. The beads remind me of Christmas baubles so wearing it feels like I'm keeping the spirit of the holidays alive year-round. I also love that the earrings are deliberately mismatched. I used to make jewellery in my teens so I know how long something this intricate it must have taken. Thank you so much R! On another note, R and her little sister O agreed to stand in my wedding as part of the bridal party - yay!! 

I found these wool-blend Theory pants in Florida at Neiman Marcus Last Call for almost 80% off. It was my first time in the store and I was in heaven. *Sigh* I added tights and strappy heels but I'm not really feeling it now based on how these pictures turned out. Let's chalk it up to creative destruction and hopefully I'll make way for something better next time! This another post where I couldn't decide between belt/no belt. If you have an opinion, feel free to weigh in in the comment section.


Turtleneck - Banana Republic
Pants - Theory via outlet
Shoes - Guess via Winners
Tights - Gap
Necklace/earrings - Handmade
Belt - Mexx

Saturday, January 19, 2013

With or without a belt?

I want to kick off this post by pointing out a couple of recent tweaks to the blog. I've reverted back to Blogger's default comment system from Disqus. I've added email and Pinterest buttons at right so we can stay even more connected. I've also refreshed the other pages, including flagging my personal favourites in the Recipe Index page.

My outfit photographer N has been away from work and I've been too busy to cook anything fun and new, hence the sparse posting of late. We're getting back into the swing of things though! Ottawa is getting hit with an Arctic blast (It felt like -31C/-24F yesterday...brrr) so I'll be piling on more warm layers. I don't mind, as long it means that the Winterlude festival next month manages to entice another annual visit from our out-of-town friends.

It was after taking this set of photos that I remembered I meant to wear my pearl tassel belt with the skirt. So I took a couple of extra shots after the fact. Now I'm not sure about the belt. What do you think - is it better with or without? 


Tunic - Jacob (most recently here)
Cardigan - Banana Republic 
Skirt - Jus d'orange (most recently here)
Scarf - Winners (also here)
Hosiery - Costco
Shoes - Thrifted (Aerosoles)
Ring - Le Chateau
Earrings - Thailand markets

Monday, January 14, 2013

Shepherd's pie with tomato jam

I love Shepherd's pie (known as pâté chinois in French Canadian cuisine) for its hearty, down-home layers of ground beef, corn, mashed potatoes and cheese. It's like a lasagna for the meat-and-potatoes type. If you have the freezer space, you can save time by making several in one batch. The eye-popping quantity below makes enough to fill three casserole dishes - one 10 x 13", one 9 x 12" and one 9" round dish. If you're a small household, stick to smaller sizes. Use disposable aluminum tins from the grocery store if you lack ovenware.

To make the potato layer:
Boil 5 lbs potatoes until fork-soft, then mash with 1 cup of milk and 1/4 cup margarine heated in the microwave. You can either peel the potatoes before mashing, or just leave the skins on, if you don't mind the texture, for extra nutrients. Season with pepper.
To make the beef layer:
Finely dice 1 large sweet onion and 2T chopped garlic. In a large saucepan, heat 2T vegetable oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until the onion is soft and translucent. Remove and set aside. In batches, cook 2 1/2 kg lean ground beef, breaking it up as you go, until no longer pink. Drain off fat, then combine with the reserved onion and garlic. Add 2T each of Worcestershire and steak seasoning. 

To assemble:
Divide the ground beef amongst the casserole dishes. Top with a layer of frozen corn. Then add a layer of mashed potatoes. I find it easiest to drop spoonfuls of potatoes into the dish, then gently spread with a spatula. Add a layer of cheese and/or breadcrumbs. 

To cook:
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until heated through, broiling for a few minutes at the end to brown the top. If you freeze it, defrost before cooking.


Replace some of the ground beef with crumbled sausage (more flavourful), ground veal (more elegant) or ground turkey (leaner).

{Layer 1: ground beef with onions}

 {Layer 2: corn}  

  {Layer 3: mashed potatoes}  

 {Layer 4: breadcrumbs}  

   {Layer 5: grated cheese}  

 Tomato jam

I still eat shepherd's pie with ketchup, just like when I was a kid. That means with enough ketchup to make the potatoes pink, which never failed to gross my mom out. One night I decided to try making a more grown-up version of the condiment - tomato jam. It doesn't have the same nostalgic powers of ketchup but it's pretty darn good. Leftovers could be used for anything from a cheese board to tarts to hamburgers. This recipe is my own.

Finely dice one sweet onion. In a wide saucepan, heat 2T olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and 1/4 cup agave nectar (can substitute equal quantity of white or brown sugar). Cook until onion is caramelizing, stirring regularly, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 200g cherry tomatoes cut in half and 1-14 oz can tomatoes with their juice. Add 4 slices pineapple, finely chopped finely (I used canned), the juice of 1/2 lime, 2T red wine vinegar, 2T ground ginger and 1 finely chopped deseeded red chili. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Pour jam into blender and pulse a few times to smooth the texture slightly. Adjust seasonings to taste. I didn't measure the quantity of jam at the end, but I think I ended up with about 2-1/2 cups.