Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fudgy Nutella Cookies

Another Pinterest success! I found a recipe for Nutella cookies that is so easy that I decided to make them for both my cookie exchanges as well as for baking gifts. Hazelnut chocolate is my absolute favourite so these cookies are especially nice. The salted tops balance the sweetness of the Nutella and while I won't claim them to be healthy, there is about 1 gram of protein per cookie.


Ingredients:
1 cup Nutella
1 egg
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp flour
sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix all of the above ingredients, except salt, in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Place bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes then roll dough in to 1" balls and place at least 2" apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 mins then remove from oven and allow to cool until they just start to set. Gently transfer to a wire cooling rack and sprinkling with sea salt. Cool completely before packaging.

This recipe only yields 12-14 cookies per batch and doesn't double easily (because of the freezer time) but making a couple of batches back-to-back was easy enough - I managed to get some laundry folded while the dough was in the freezer and opened the mail while they were in the oven.

 These cookies pair especially well with some peppermint hot chocolate.


{A note about Nutella versus "Hazelnut Chocolate Spread"}
I tried this recipe with the original Nutella and found the dough quite crumbly. The dough still rolls in to balls nicely but you really have to form them. I also used the generic brand from Walmart and it was much greasier, causing the cookies to turn out like this:
Gross. I had the best luck with the Our Compliments brand from Sobeys and it's a little cheaper too.

What are you baking for the holidays?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Hostess Gift

I discovered these sweet little ornaments on Pinterest a few months back and added them to my "I Wish I Was Craftier" board so that I could continue to admire them. When I was trying to come up with a creative idea for a hostess trinket at the beginning of the month I thought they would be perfect. The recipe is super easy and they smell wonderful - like apple pie, really.

To make them you'll need:

1 cup applesauce
1.5 cups ground cinnamon (plus some for dusting)
cookie cutter in a shape of your choosing
string

Mix the applesauce & cinnamon together in a large bowl. Abandon any attempt to use a spoon and dive in with both hands; you really need to knead the dough to incorporate all the cinnamon. Once the dough is spongy (too sticky? add cinnamon - too dry? add applesauce), roll it out on a flat surface dusted in cinnamon to about 1/4" thick. Cut out your shapes and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. The ornaments will not rise so your shapes can be close together but not touching. Poke holes through each ornament with a skewer. Bake at 200F for 1.5 hours then turn off oven and leave them to sit overnight - the point is to allow all the moisture from the applesauce to evaporate. Remove from oven and thread with string (I used Divine Twine in Cherry from Sweet Social).
I decided to customize some of the ornaments to use as gift tags so before baking them, during the skewer-step, I also pressed a rubber stamp initial in to each 'cookie'.
Note: the ornaments are not edible and should be kept out of reach of little kids and pets.
Our stars look really sweet on our tree and they smell so good as you walk by. They were really quick and cheap to make and so far each hostess we've given them to has been impressed. Thanks for that, Pinterest!

{Original source credit: katyelliot.com}

Follow me on Pinterest! Username erinnwonderland.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dining Table, Before & After

This time last year I took on the project of refinishing a china cabinet & hutch for our living room. I had no prior experience with painting furniture but I read a lot of DIY blogs and figured it should take me a week or two to do - ha ha haaaa! About a month later, this is what we had:
Although the process was time-consuming, laborious, and a tad frustrating I loved the end result. So I set my sights on a 'new' dining table. We've been using a dining set that Kevin's parents had custom made in the 80's. It was expensive and in good shape but I wanted something painted and I couldn't bring myself to tamper with it so we sold it to Kevin's uncle and brought this beauty home:
 Nice, right? I'm sure everyone's grandparents have one of these bad boys. I dismantled it, sanded it down, and painted it a pale beige colour. I then used candle wax & Vaseline around the edges and on a few strategic marks and repainted it a creamy white. When I lightly sanded the whole thing down again, the wax/Vaseline came right off to reveal the first colour underneath, giving it that well-worn look I love so much.
The white really pops out against the darker wood floor and brightens up the room, especially when the sunlight reflects off it. I opted for a semi-gloss finish and applied 6 coats as I anticipate this table getting a lot of use.
A round pedestal table feels so elegant and really opens up the room. It's much easier to move around the breakfast nook now.
We're currently using our upholstered chairs with slipcovers until I'm motivated enough to re-do the four Windsor chairs that came with the table. Another project for another blog post!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Happiness Project: Meal Planning

For the past few years the question of "what should we have for dinner" has reduced me to an anxious, frustrated mess - and I'm being completely serious. When I lived on my own I didn't consider it too much: I would have beans & toast night after night or I would occasionally eat cookies for supper. I wasn't bothered by the lack of diversity - or nutritional value - in my meals, just whatever was easiest. Nowadays it's a real issue. My husband won't buy in to the idea of popcorn for supper, he's a good cook and prefers well-balanced meals, but, like me, is often uninspired. This has led to the dreaded question: 'what should we have for supper?' and the even more infuriating response, 'I dunno, whatever you want'. This would literally make me start to sweat.

Sometimes we would come up with an idea right away and I would run off to the store to grab what we needed then Kevin would cook it. Problem was I was going to the grocery store nearly everyday after work, which is very time consuming. We also ended up throwing out a lot of produce as we never used as much as I bought, which is very expensive and makes me feel guilty. The solution may seem obvious to you but I was a little slower to catch it: plan a week's worth of meals in advance and do ONE big grocery shop.

I was very pleased that this worked in to my Happiness Project goal of being more organized. Every weekend, Kevin & I sit down with our favourite cookbooks and plan what we're making for supper for the next seven days. We then comb our fridge & pantry for ingredients and fill in the gaps on our grocery list. I've started shopping for groceries at some of the Big Box stores and have found that I'm saving anywhere from $30-50 a week - that's HUGE! We're also more efficient at using the food we buy since we can see the big picture on paper.

We've been doing this for over a month now and I can report that it makes me SO HAPPY! It's unreal how something seemingly so simple can have such an impact. The saving money part is awesome too.

We've noticed a trend in the types of meals we choose and have devised a sort of formula, which has made the process even easier. It's kind of cheesy but I'm not too proud to share it with you: each night has a "theme" based on the main ingredient. There is a pasta night, a Mexican night, something with rice, a soup/stew/chili, a casserole, a sandwich-type meal (pitas & burgers fall under this category), and a flex-day. Flex days are sometimes left-overs or sometimes meals out (or ordered-in). This is just a guideline that helps us get started, we've often strayed from the formula, but it really aids in choosing a variety of meals.

I actually look forward to our meal planning and grocery shopping now. It's fun to be creative and we're much more relaxed when we're not hungry and tired. This is a resolution I don't think I'll have trouble keeping.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Candy-Coloured Nails

I am in the middle of a wild love affair with sweet pastel tinted nails - fingers & toes. In my profession we're not allowed to wear nail polish for hygienic reasons and in the early days of motherhood I steered clear of it also as my fingers were often in little W's mouth. In recent months, though, I have bounced from one tasty colour to another, all inspired by some of my favourite treats. Here are a few:

'I Pink I Can' by Sally Hansen
'lilacism' by essie
'office' by American Apparel
'tart deco' by essie


 These colours are playful & subdued, perfect for any season, and the formulas aren't too liquid-y (they go on in one or two thin coats). It's fun changing flavours every week!

{note: all candy images were borrowed from Google Images, the polish pictures are my own}

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Favourite Magazine

Magazines used to be one of my guiltiest impulse purchases: I just love flipping through the pages of pretty people, places, and things. My need for print magazines waned, though, when I discovered blogs - which also saved me a bunch of cash. However, my one real weakness remains Cottage Style. I look forward to buying it every spring & fall and the current issue just came out in Canada a couple of weeks ago.
It's filled with beautiful American cottage-y homes showcasing that shabby chic, worn-in decor style that I so adore. Previous issues have profiled some of my favourite interior designers, like Rachel Ashwell, as well as some of my favourite home decor blogs.
They're a staple of my growing collection of decor books & magazines.
I especially like how the spines of all these books coordinate too - they brighten up the display cabinet in our living room nicely.
Cottage Style is a little pricey for a magazine (retailing around $14) but it's only twice a year so I can justify the splurge. It inspires me and feeds my daydreams so I think it's well worth the cost. I can't wait to get my hands on the the Spring/Summer 2013 issue!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happiness Project: What I Wore This Week


 Last weekend, as I folded laundry, I came to the very sad realization that my wardrobe mainly consists of sweatpants these days. This is sad to me because, while I love to be comfortable in my clothes, I am starting to look slobby and that I can't stand. I always feel so much better when I get dressed for the day, even if it's just something simple. I thought, "that's it!", my first "Happiness Project" resolution: get dressed for the day.

I needed to lay out some ground rules to ensure I would follow through with this plan. Getting dressed for the day, to me, means putting on something non-pyjama-related (ie: no sweats, no Lulus, no actual pyjamas). It also means I have to get dressed before 10 am and can't change back in to sweatpants until after dinner. Then I needed a way to hold myself accountable so that I wouldn't cheat. Inspired by all those OOTD posts on Instagram I decided to post pictures of my outfits on the blog each week. I could never realistically upload photos everyday so it's more of a OsOTW (Outfits of the Week).

{Monday} figured out how to wear a maxi skirt in winter
{Tuesday} geared-up for the election!
{Friday} knee-high socks & leggings
{Saturday} knitted headband
{Sunday} boyfriend jeans


 So you can see that I'm definitely a jeans & tee kind of girl. I also wear a lot of grey. You may also have noticed that there are two days missing in the middle of the week: I did get dressed both days as I had plans with real people from the outside world and needed to look decent but forgot to take pictures. I even got dressed up Friday night for a fancy dinner date but didn't take a picture of that either... Maybe that will be my next HP resolution but for now I need to focus on getting dressed and maybe cleaning up that front room.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Excuses For Not Blogging

When I started this little blog I had every intention of posting at least a couple times a week and have failed miserably to achieve that goal. I am constantly mentally blogging (I have so many good ideas!) but I either forget to take pictures, take pictures & forget to upload them, or get distracted. Wesley and I were both sick with colds in late October which meant that any and all free moments were spent sleeping and not on the computer. Happy to say that we are both healthy once again and with that comes a fresh wave of inspiration - time to put these thoughts to paper! (Figuratively speaking). In the meantime, here are a few random photos from the last month to tide you over.

See you again real soon!

 (thanksgiving, totem pole, blueberries, seven months, skinny jeans, halloween craftiness, cousins, skele-dog, leftovers)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happiness Project: Step 1 - Assess


Do you remember those little quizzes in the back of teen magazines? "Is he boyfriend material?", "What's your summer colour?"... God, I loved those quizzes. In Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project, she mentions a tool which highlights the fundamental dimensions of one's personality. Taking a test like this is supposed to help you gain some perspective when planning your Happiness Project resolutions. I recently took a similar test online and the results were spot on. Note: it recommends that you assess someone else at the same time to give you an 'x factor' to compare yourself to - I'm not going to disclose who that person is, but you can probably make a good assumption.

The same week I finished reading "The Happiness Project", the author, Gretchen Rubin, was featured on Katie Couric's talk show. I recorded it thinking it might be interesting (it wasn't) but Katie did offer a quiz of her own to rate your happiness. As I suspected, I am "very satisfied with my life".

So the goal is to become "extremely satisfied with my life" (Katie's words, not mine). According the The Big Five I need to:
  • Be more curious, open to new experiences, and creative.
  • Be more organized and less negligent.
  • Be more social, and
  • Be more agreeable.
This is all very consistent with the notes I marked down while reading "The Happiness Project" so I'm feeling pretty self-aware. Now to pound out some resolutions to work on. I'm getting more excited about this by the minute!

Has anyone else started a Happiness Project?


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Well Read: The Happiness Project

I was first introduced to this book when my cousin, Alicia, started blogging about it several months ago. In July, I noticed a stack of them for sale at Anthropologie and considered buying it, opting for a stripey tank instead. Recently, I received an email from amazon.com with a list of book titles I might like to read and there it was again. Ok, Universe, you've captured my interest!

I really enjoyed the book, which is part memoir/part self-help. Gretchen Rubin states that, while she considers herself a pretty happy person in general, she knows that she could be happier. She decides to try an experiment (called The Happiness Project) where, over the course of a year, she works on resolutions to make herself the happiest she could be. I really loved the format of breaking her resolutions in to 12 parts - one for each month of the year - and then further dividing each month's "goals" in to subcategories. Not only did this make it easy to follow, it also allows you to refer back to certain sections again and again.

Gretchen tackles some obvious issues such as health, relationships, & money but she also includes more lofty items like spirituality & attitude. I'll tell ya, it's a very comprehensive list. This book isn't just one person's perspective on what defines happiness though. Rubin cites countless "experts" including Homer, Aristotle, Oprah, psychologists, and even a hypnotherapist. She references literature and scripture. She surveys her friends and acquaintances. She admits to becoming obsessed with the idea of happiness. The tone and anecdotes are pretty funny which just makes her all the more relatable.

This book gave me a lot to chew on. While I, too, consider myself to be a happy person, I found myself making notes in the margins of things I could do to be happier &/or to eliminate some areas of unhappiness in my life. Rubin offers online tools to start your own Happiness Project and I think I will, keeping you updated with progress, of course.

I would encourage everyone to read Gretchen Rubin's "Happiness Project" and if you feel inspired, purchase a copy for later reference. Then maybe start a project of your own? I would love to hear about it!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Andrea & Mike's Wedding

It's been two weeks since Andrea & Mike's wedding and I'm still gushing about how beautiful the whole day was. The weather was perfect, sunny but not too warm, as if made to order. The ceremony was the best mix of humor & a strong message of "putting your partner first" which made me reflect on my own wedding vows. And ohmygoodness the bride's dress was gorgeous! Naturally, every detail, large or small, was representative of the couple.
We had a great time catching up with friends (who make us feel like family) and celebrating with the bride & groom. I just loved the way Mike was smiling all day!

Now I want Kevin & I to have another wedding so I can have all the cool things Andrea & Mike did!
I'm just so excited that the whole day was so wonderful & full of love.

Congratulations Dr. & Mrs. Kolinsky!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Well Read: Kris Jenner and All Things Kardashian


Sigh. The cat is out of the bag. I am an avid fan of the Kardashian franchise. I started watching "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" back in 2009 and now have all the spin-off shows recorded on my PVR. That family is captivating! What, or rather whom, I find most interesting, though, is the force that is Kris Jenner. The woman astounds me! Before I read her memoir I knew a little about her history: one time married to Robert Kardashian, friends with OJ Simpson, currently married to Olympian Bruce Jenner... I wanted to know more about how she built this empire based on her family (who are really not that special on their own).

The book reads the way you would expect it to: a little disorganized and a lot of name-dropping. If you can get past that you can get really hooked. The first half of the book briefly describes her childhood and leads in to the early years of her relationship with Robert Kardashian. About halfway through she details the affair that ended her first marriage and her family's involvement in the OJ Simpson murder trial. THAT was gripping. She rounds the book out with the series of events that led to acquiring her reality show on the E! Network and how she parlayed that in to the multimillion dollar empire that is The Kardashians. Honestly, it's pretty impressive.

This book is definitely not for serious literary scholars. It is pure entertainment and while there isn't a lot of content that I didn't already know, it really made me respect what this woman has achieved so far.

My recommendation? Borrow it from the library or from a friend and don't read it in public. It's definitely a guilty pleasure.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Seeing Stripes

One of the topics I wanted to blog about is clothing. I have always had a love for fashion & styling and as my tastes evolve it's fun to document through photos. When I look at my closet it's easy to pick out "trends" (or phases...): when I like something I tend to buy multiples and that's all I'll wear for the season. There was a period when all I would wear were maxi dresses, another when I would layer 3 or 4 scarves at a time.
Lately I've been loving stripes. It's not a conscious choice but recently every item of clothing I've bought has been stripey. Is that something that's happening in the fashion world right now? Am I the only one with this inclination? I just can't help myself!
dress from Anthropologie

top from Anthropologie

cardigan from Gap
These aren't even all the pieces! I don't know what it is about them, but my appetite for stripes is insatiable. It's even carried over in to the baby's wardrobe:
sleeper from Babies R Us
I think I'll stay out of the shops until this obsession passes, just to keep some variety in my wardrobe and cash in my wallet!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Mother's Garden

Every year around this time my mother calls to ask for help with her garden. Not any real work, I don't need to dig or weed or anything, I just need to take some inventory off her hands. Her house is built on a big pie lot with raised borders, a tree-lined keyhole, custom built planters, and a LARGE vegetable garden. It reminds me of the garden from the Peter Rabbit books.



Tidy rows of peas, carrots, zucchini, beets, potatoes, & tomatoes are mixed with sweet peas & lilies. The ultra-plush lawn feels more like carpet than grass and the trees are all neatly pruned. It's enviable, really. The kind of yard we long to have once Shiva learns to use a toilet.
my beautiful niece picking apples
Mom keeps trying to convince us to build a small vegetable garden in our yard but I find this arrangement to be much more convenient.
the haul

help yourself, Shiva
 Noticeably missing were the peas & apples. When I asked my mom about this she told me they would be arriving in the form of jarred baby food. Yep! We're pretty lucky!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Sweet Surprise

It's no secret that I have a bit of a sweet tooth. I. Love. Candy. As a self-proclaimed "candy connoisseur" it irks me that some of the best treats are only available south of the border. When we were in Vegas a couple of years ago I fell in love with coconut M&Ms, I probably ate my weight in them over the weekend. Last year, in Hawaii, we were reunited and I was able to smuggle a stash back with me. I recently heard a little rumour that they were available in the city at certain convenience stores but hadn't had the chance to find them & stock up. Then this morning we found this on our doorstep:
well, hello there...

That was unexpected! I thought maybe it was an accident until I saw the card was addressed to me. I greedily opened it up to discover:
!!!!

My beautiful girlfriend, Tanis, had dropped off TEN bags of coconut M&Ms for me this morning before work. I could barely contain my excitement! Needless to say, I ate a bag for breakfast & half a bag for lunch. I wrapped the rest up & tossed them in the back of the pantry (I have to make them last this time). I'm so lucky to have such a thoughtful friend.

Thanks Tanis! Yum!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lauren's Wedding

Saturday we were invited to share a very special day with one of my best friends. Lauren & I have known each other for over 20 years: danced together, went to school together, lived together... She & her (now) husband are wonderful, caring people who deserve so much happiness & love. We were really excited to be a part of their celebration.
the beautiful bride & groom
The ceremony was short & sweet (especially nice since it was 30 degrees & the ceremony was outside!) and the bride & groom even wrote their own vows. I sobbed through the whole thing!
Auntie Sarah kept W entertained

with my handsome date




Lauren & Andy met when they both worked at a golf course so the entire wedding was a golf theme. Personalized golf balls & chocolate golf balls were the favours and each table had to putt for their turn at the buffet - fortunately Kevin has a pretty tight short-game!
fore!
Now the newlyweds are in Maui, hopefully relaxing before they return home to finish renos & unpacking their new condo!

Congratulations Mr & Mrs Canniff!