31 October 2008

Happy Hallowe'en!

Caramel-Marshmallow Apples

Makes 6

14 oz caramels
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 tbs water
6 med-small apples
chopped peanuts or other nuts (optional)
2 oz chocolate, melted (optional)

Line baking sheet with buttered waxed paper; set aside.

Combine caramels, marshmallows and water in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until caramels melt. Cool slightly while preparing apples.

Rinse and thoroughly dry apples. Insert flat sticks in stem ends of apples.

Dip each apple in caramel mixture, coating apples. Remove excess caramel mixture by scraping apple bottoms across rim of saucepan. Place on prepared baking sheet; refrigerate until firm.

Caramel-Nut Apples: Roll coated apples in chopped nuts before refrigerating.

Caramel-Chocolate Apples: Drizzle melted chocolate over coated apples before refrigerating.

The ultimate: Roll in nuts and then drizzle with chocolate.

15 October 2008

Mixed Metaphors

I live in an interesting neighbourhood. Should you go for a walk in it, you'll eventually come across examples of just about every kind of architecture. There's also a fair bit of construction going on as old (thankfully, not usually the good kind of old) houses are torn down and replaced with new, bigger houses. The new homes are usually attractive, if not particularly unique. Occasionally, however, you find something that renews your faith in contemporary architecture and design.

I actually noticed the house above about five or six years ago and had to stop and take a picture. It remains one of my favourite new houses ever. Notice the gothic arch windows, the copper details, and the offset entrance (which takes focus away from the garage). If it ever went up for sale, well, I'd have to drool at it from a distance as I lament my lack of funds. (I would also have to sneak in during the open house so I could check out the interior!)

The house below is one I stumbled across on the weekend. It's another new one, built last year (according to the date on the new curb in front). Done in the Arts and Crafts style, attention was really paid to detail. The windows, porch, front door, porch light, and even the house numbers all adhere to the style.

You can see some of the details here, despite my not-great photo (I was afraid the owners would show up and chase me off). If you ever have the opportunity to design a house, I think this place offers a lesson in why it's best to stick with one cohesive look. It's fine to mix different styles and eras on the inside, but outside it would just be a confusing mess. Sticking with one look makes shopping easier too (it does if you're me, anyway!)

The photos below show a good example of messy design. Currently under construction, it's part of a new development of similar homes. You can see Tudor elements, as well as Victorian, and what I can only describe as barn-style shutters. I hope the interior makes more sense.

Now this last house (also discovered on the weekend) has to be my favourite new house of all time. The effort that has gone into the details of this place left me insisting for about half a minute that it had to be an old house. The shingles, the inset carvings, even the bricks (a much more interesting colour in reality)--beautiful. It's true there is a mixing of designs here as well--Queen Anne and Gothic, in particular--but they're all aspects of Victorian, so it works. I would love to see what they've done on the inside (note to self: make friends with the owners).

The moral of this post, if you insist on one? If you're going to build a house, do it with style.

03 October 2008

Bulbs and Basil

(Jan Reus, left)
I'm getting the garden ready for winter. My bulbs finally arrived! I ordered some tulips ('Jan Reus' and 'Gavota') for the back (to go with the yellow tulips that were already there when we moved in), and a crocus-tulip mix for the front. Planting bulbs is a pain, but it's so worth it when spring comes around.

Yesterday I harvested the basil. Not that it needed to be harvested just yet, but I needed the pot it was in. I transplanted the French lavender into the pretty glazed ceramic pot and moved it inside. French lavender can't survive the winter outside here, but it smells divine, and I've been dreaming of growing it indoors. Hopefully it'll survive in my south-facing living room window. (Gavota, below)

I also re-potted my smaller hibiscus. I've been noticing for a long time that the soil was pulling away from the sides of the container and always looked dry. If I'd known how bad it really was, I would have taken care of it sooner. It turned out there was hardly any soil in there at all, the pot being much shallower that I realized due to the water reservoir at the bottom. The roots at the bottom had grown into the shape of the reservoir, and the soil was just a hard lump. Poor plant. I got rid of as much of the old soil as I could without destroying roots, then I gave it fresh soil and
plenty of it, followed by water. It already seems much happier.

Speaking of potting soil, I learned by accident that you really get what you pay for. I used to buy my potting soil at a store that shall remain unnamed (they don't just sell tires) because it was convenient. I never thought there was anything wrong with it, despite it being full of wood chips and rocks. Fortunately, when I moved I ended up in a neighbourhood with a proper nursery. I started buying my potting soil there since it was convenient, although more expensive. What a difference! The nursery potting soil is light, clean, and free of rocks and wood. The way potting soil should be. My plants are better off and I'm not breaking my back moving them. Completely worth a few extra dollars.

Cats and Bats

Happy October :)

I've been thinking about how much I compromise my style for my cats' sakes. Windowsills are left clear for their lounging pleasure. Their treehouse gets the prime spot in front of the window in my office. An ugly (but comfy) kitty bed mars the look of the upstairs hallway, but it stays because they like it there. Toys and candy wrappers (Wraith loves them) litter the floor. The prime "under the stairs" space has been turned over to litter boxes rather than used for anything more interesting (is anyone else thinking "cupboard"?) And there is far more hair around the house than I would ever want (no matter how often I clean, it finds a way to live--much like a sentient robot in the face of human opposition). But despite all that, I don't mind. Pets are good for the soul, if not the decor.
(Photo from the old house. Isn't it horrible? But aren't they adorable?)