Archive | March, 2011

An Outfit for The Braids

31 Mar

Have you heard of The Braids? If not, you will soon enough. This originally-from-Calgary, now-from Montreal band won my heart (and Michelle’s) last night. They’re officially my new favourite.

I’m not the first to fall under their spell. In December, the UK’s Guardian said it’s “time to welcome Braids to the pantheon of new Very Important Bands.” In January, The Globe and Mail wrote, “the band’s debut album is what the early adopters of Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene are going to be listening to and talking about this year.”

I could write more but my ears are ringing and it’s late. Michelle and I saw The Braids tonight (Wednesday night) at the Grand Theatre, my favourite local venue for bands. It’s time for me to go to bed.

Earlier, I threw together a fun concert outfit that works great at a venue like the Grand.

These 4-pocket trouser jeans in Bleecker Vintage from 7 For All Mankind (which just opened at Chinook if you’re looking for a pair.)

My new favourite top, this swingy electric blue Thayer tank:

This printed kimono from Zara. I’m addicted to the new kimonos/”bed jackets” everywhere this spring. They do the job of a cardigan without being too Grandma-ish.

I can’t get enough of these Barberis boots from Aldo. They’re comfy and offer suitable protection for nights when your shoes are likely to get hit snow, rain and/or beer.

Throw on some long gold necklaces and grab one of the small purses seeing everywhere this spring. I own this one from BCBG.

Have a great day, lovelies! Now, I’m off to bed.


PS – A sad note, Velvet — one of my favourite restaurants in the town and the mainstay of the Grand’s lobby — closed March 27.


Three Ways to Enjoy Wine

30 Mar

I just heard about The Wine Summit Lake Louise 2011, which takes place at the Post Hotel & Spa from May 26 to 29.

Wine is one of my favourite things. And the Post Hotel is one of my favourite hotels. Hence, I’m thinking this would be a cool shindig to attend.

My first visit to the Post was two Novembers ago, when I went with my friend, Jen, as the “date” to her company Christmas party. What a weekend. From the dinner we had in the wine cellar to the body wraps we had in their cozy spa, everything was top-notch. We even made some friends in the lobby:

We then made some human friends at a bar in Lake Louise, who kept handing us glasses of champagne. When we’d had enough — but they insisted we have more — we came up with creative ways to dispose of the bubbly:

Those friends ended up inviting us to Edmonton last summer to watch the Indy, as they own a racing team. Things went awry in Edmonton, though, and we never made it to the race. Jen and I changed our BlackBerry statuses to read, “On the outs with Tagliani and the crew of 75,” which made us laugh the whole drive back to Calgary.

But, back to the Post.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit the hotel a few times since that first visit. Every time, the service has blown me away. For example, during a recent stay, we called the front desk to for a wine-opener. The time it took to arrive? Three minutes. On a silver platter.

They don’t mess around at the Post. Which is why, if I were the happy owner of a money tree, I would head to the Wine Summit.

Seeing as a money tree is not in my possession, I will check out Shelley Boettcher’s blog, Uncorked in Calgary, which we link to in our blogroll and has the lowdown on all kinds of great events in and around town. Maybe I can hit a tasting sometime soon.

And, as a third, last and economical choice, I will buy a bottle of wine and enjoy it with friends. I’m looking for a new white to enjoy. What have you been loving lately?


Motion Traxx

29 Mar

Oof. I’m still smarting from a spinning workout on the weekend. When I sit down, I’m never quite sure that I’m going to stand up again. I’m glowing, too, the way you do after a great workout.

I had no photographer to record it for posterity so here’s me on a completely unrelated, much easier cruise through Berlin.

Because the post-workout pain/glow came from a solo workout rather than a class, you can experience it, too.

It’s from Motion Traxx, a fitness music podcast from Deekron, The Fitness DJ. Let me rephrase, that’s a free fitness music podcast.


Based on plenty of glowing reviews, I decided to check out a coached cycling podcast from Gregg Cook, a popular spin instructor at NYC’s Equinox. I’ve heard he’s amazing so on Sunday, my iPod, Gregg and I hit the gym.

Gregg — we’re on a first name basis  although he’s never heard of me —  tells you to imagine you’re out for an afternoon road ride with a group of 16 cyclist friends. Everyone’s fit and competitive. There’s no March snow in this dreamed-up world.

He leads you over three tough hills as you take on challenges from other riders. At one point, I was pushing my way the top of a steep, steep hill, standing out of my seat, breathing like a horse on the last stretch of the Kentucky Derby, struggling desperately to stay ahead of another rider.

Then, I suddenly remembered I was at the gym, the other rider was imaginary and I looked crazy.

All in all, a great workout, notwithstanding my pride.

Everything is timed to music, so when Gregg tells you —  shouts at you — to push, push, push at 110 RPM, you have an appropriately motivating soundtrack to get there.

The workout is as good as everything you’ll get in a spin class, but you can do it on your own schedule. Until it stops snowing, it’s a good way to pretend you’re actually out on your bike.


PS – The workout I tried was Get Cyc’d, Part II. I enjoyed it enough that I’m going to try this coached running podcast tonight.

Coconut and Chili Pan-Fried Halibut

28 Mar

Ever since visiting Calgary’s Mango Shiva for a delicious dinner a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been craving more Indian food. Which is how I came to try this Coconut and Chili Pan-Fried Halibut recipe from a cookbook called Indian Food Made Easy.

And friends, it did not disappoint.

I’m actually writing this blog post minutes after finishing dinner. Yes, I’m a bad host to my guest. But this is how excited I am to share the recipe with you.

You could serve this dish with a salad, as the author, Anjum Anand, recommends, or with a pile of veggies. My side dish was a concoction that was all my own — loads of veggies cooked in coconut milk, garlic and red curry paste, with lentils stirred in at the very end.

Whatever you serve it with, the fish will make your tastebuds happy. I promise.

Coconut and Chili Pan-Fried Halibut
  • 2 halibut steaks or other firm white fish
  • 2 heaped tbsp shredded coconut
  • 2 heaped tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 lemon, to serve


  • 3/4 to 1 large fat red chili, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/4 in. fresh ginger, roughly chopped *I just threw in a spoonful of grated ginger from the jar
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 8 fenugreek seeds *I didn’t know what these were, let alone where to find them, so my fish was, sadly, sans fenugreek seeds
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

Pound or blend together the marinade ingredients to make a fine puree. Over-season the mixture slightly, as it will be absorbed by the fish. Place the fish in the marinade in a nonmetallic bowl, and leave for at least 30 minutes.

Mix together the coconut and the flour. Maintaining a generous coating of the puree, coat both sides of the fish steaks well in the dry mixture. *I should note here that I bought fillets instead of steaks — because they looked more fresh — and I chopped them into big chunks. I tossed the chunks in the coconut and flour mixture, and it worked just fine.*

Heat the oil in a large nonstick saucepan and, when hot, add the fish. Cook on a low heat without moving the fish for 4 minutes, then turn over and cook on the other side for another 3 to 4 minutes or until done. Squeeze some lemon juice over the fish and serve with a hot salad.

Serves 2.



Things We Like

25 Mar

Here we go — Things We Like Fridays, part II!

  • This cat, who Chris met on an island off the coast of Portugal. He lives at a beach bar. He looks like he has a very good philosophy on life, no?

  • For anyone gearing up for a big race this spring, check out these running tips from legendary running coach Jack Daniels.
  • Need plans for Saturday night? May we suggest a group of friends and a game of Cranium?
  • This makeup brush from Bobbi Brown. The. Softest. Ever.
  • Come, Thou Tortoise, an outstanding read by Canadian writer Jessica Grant. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll want to buy a pet tortoise.
  • We like that H&M will be opening its flagship store at the Core shopping centre on April 14.
  • On the shopping front, Chris is taking a day off next week to shop with her mom. They’re shopping for her Mother-of-The-Groom dress. Any local shop suggestions?
  • Also on the shopping front, Gravity Pope has extended their penny sale until Monday. Buy one, get the second sale pair for a penny. Consider yourself warned.
  • Charming nephew Lukas. Check out how cute he is here. And the Calgary-based husband-wife photographers, f8, are also pretty fantastic.
  • On the topic of photographers, we also dig Bryan Helm. Michelle works with his mom — a woman Michelle considers to be her “at work mom” — so, not so technically speaking, Bryan is somewhat related. His photography is stunning. Check out his Motorcyle Culture collection, which is in the running for a Focus Project 2011 award. (You can vote for him there, too!)

Have a wonderful first weekend of spring, lovelies!

~The Toque Girls

Floral Dresses for Every Budget

24 Mar

It’s getting to be that time of year when the weather makes me act crazy. At shopping malls, that is.

When I see a beautiful dress, I fall in love not just with the piece, but with the idea of where and how I can wear said dress.

Lately, I’ve been ogling floral dresses and picturing the sunny days that will inspire me to wear them. And I’ve found amazing options at all kinds of price points.

Here’s a Gap dress that, at $29.50, is a thrifty find.

A note on the Gap dress. I agree with you — it’s crazy short. I would wear it one of two ways:

  1. With leggings.
  2. Carefully. Very carefully.

Check out this FCUK dress. It’s flirty, flattering and a not-too-too-pricey $148. I’d wear it to work with a cardigan or white blazer and then lose the topper to wear it out at night:

And then, there’s this incredible Derek Lam dress. Sigh. It’s not cheap. By that, I mean it’s so far out of my budget — $2,890 — that I will simply enjoy its beauty from afar. Next, I will buy some lottery tickets.

Here’s hoping dress weather arrives soon, and that I win the lottery. When I do, I’m coming for you, Derek Lam dress.


Stability Ball Butt Series

23 Mar

Here’s a great series for workout days when you don’t feel like weights. It’s great and horrible at the same time. Great because it’s effective; horrible because it hurts.

Now, I lack proper photos for this piece.

One, I’m home by myself with no photographer and, two, even if I did have a photographer, I’d never let photos of me doing these poses be put on the internet. This is certainly not the prettiest angle ever and I worry about drawing pervs to the blog. I’d like to maintain some dignity, please. Do understand.

Here’s my stability ball:

And here’s Jillian Michaels. She looks great and comfortable with a stability ball:

For this series, you need: one stability ball, two butt cheeks.

There, you’re sorted.

Move #1

Balance with your stomach on ball, hands on ground in front of you. Legs up, knees pointed out, heels touching, like frog legs. You with me?


Pulse. Fifty times. The movement is slow and small.

I know,50 is horrible. It also works. Just think, you only have to do one set.

Move #2

Lie face-up on ground with your arms out to the sides, knees bent, calves resting on the ball. Lift your hips off the ground and bend your knees, drawing the ball towards you. Straighten legs to return to start. Do 30, followed by 30 pelvic pulses.

Move #3

Hah. That was a teaser because now your hamstrings feel horrid and you forgot how much your butt hurt after the first move. So, now onto the step three. Return to balancing your stomach on the ball, hands touching the ground. Similar to Move #1, raise your legs with knees bent but this time with your heels apart the distance of the ball. Then, arc your feet up to meet in the air, higher than your butt. Do 50.

Lie there and wonder how you’re going to walk to the fridge.


Healthy Pancake Recipe

22 Mar

While studying business at the University of Alberta, there was a period of time when I ate pancakes for breakfast each and every morning. I used Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix and I topped the stack of goodness with lots of syrup.

Not so coincidentally, I was not my slimmest during this period of time.

Since then, I’ve pretty much avoided eating pancakes on any kind of regular basis.

But thanks to Tim Ferriss and my brother, I’ve been eating more pancakes as of late. When Tim tweeted about this healthy pancake recipe a while ago, my bro gave it a try and loved it. He then passed it on to me.

Now, let’s be clear about this right from the start: the ingredients are weird. If you’re like me, you’ll look at them and think, “Whoa. As if these pancakes taste good. Where oh where is my dear Aunt Jemima?”

But, do not let that stop you. In the words of my brother, “It honestly took one minute to make, and you would be surprised at how much they look and feel like normal pancakes.”

What’s awesome about this recipe is the pancake batter has virtually no taste, which means you can add whatever you like to give them flavour. Add cinnamon and vanilla to the mix and you have a sweet, healthy pancake. Or add herbs and spices, and top them with cottage cheese and vegetables — this is Tim’s preferred method — and you have a savoury, healthy pancake.

So, keep an open mind as you peruse this Healthy Pancake Recipe:

  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 to 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup lentils *I used cooked lentils from the can
  • 2 small carrots

Blend those ingredients, thoroughly, and cook like regular pancakes.

They’re easy, fast to make and a healthy alternative to “normal” pancakes.

Happy healthy pancake flipping.


Natalie Gerber Wedding Clutches

21 Mar

We completely forgot our six-month wedding anniversary. One recent Friday night, the boy and I were drinking a glass of wine at the Main Dish while our pizzas baked at nearby Roma’s Pizzeria. We were tired and grumpy, after our original dinner plans were scuttled by long lines at Brasserie Kensington.

We sat there, in curmudgeonly silence, when suddenly he burst out with, “hey, it’s our six-month anniversary!”

So much for girls always remembering these things.

To honour of our 6.5-month wedding anniversary, let’s talk about weddings today.

Natalie Gerber is an wonderful Calgary designer who specializes in beautiful clutches made from vintage fabrics. I first saw her work at a local arts market. A blue-and-white bag made with vintage fabric from Paris market caught my eye. After much debate, I passed on it. I was on a pre-wedding budget and lovely French-inspired clutches simply were not in the finances.

Two days later, I ordered my wedding dress — a  vintage-styled ivory lace dress that, really, quite screamed for lovely French-inspired clutch. I hunted Natalie down on etsy and the clutch was mine. I use this bag often — and I can’t say that about anything else I wore that day.

Natalie has created a few new clutches designed specifically for brides. Can’t you see this bag resting on a mountain-top patio while the bride and guests drink champagne?

Or this on a city bride who likes yellow taxis and elegant black finishings?

Have a great Monday, duckies!


Things We Like

18 Mar

Friends, we’re trying something new.

Today we’re writing about Things We Like, a random assortment of things we’ve come across recently that we — no surprise here — like. We plan on doing this every Friday.

There are two reasons we’re giving this a go:

  1. During the week, we often come across cool little things and share them with each other. They include things such as an amazing new lip gloss, a well-written series in the New York Times, news of an upcoming concert and must-have concealer. Now, we’ll share those with you, too.
  2. These blog posts don’t write themselves, you know. Compiling a fun list for our Friday posts will ease the writing load and give us a joint writing opportunity, which we enjoy. Behind the Toque Girls scenes, some of the most fun we’ve had has been when we write together and laugh, laugh, laugh. And eat ice cream sandwiches.

So, please let us know what you think of the new idea. As it says on the About page, we don’t bite.

Without further ado, here are some Things We Like:

  • Lip glaze from FACE Atelier. Like the site says, it’s “impossibly shiny and smooth.” It also has vibrant colour, which is awesome. In our opinion, too many lip glosses have weak pigment that doesn’t last. We’re hooked on the Shiraz and Primrose colours.
  • Saturday afternoon trips to the Italian Supermarket. Load up on buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and crusty buns for sandwiches. While browsing, order a pizza to go. A secret: they now serve their pizzas Thursday – Sunday. But they still often sell out by 3. (This photo from their website looks so calm and elegant; in reality, the space is in a wonderful Italian frenzy all the time.)

  • Do read this beautifully written series in the New York Times. Dr. Peter Bach writes about his wife’s experiences with cancer.
  • Almond Hazelnut Butter. We swear, toast has never tasted so good. Find this nut butter, by Nuts to You Butter Inc., at Safeway and other grocery stores.
  • Calgary’s Bow Cycle has their annual Blue Light special sale next weekend, with some killer bike deals. Check it out here.
  • Double Fudge Irish Cream Cookies. Everyone should know about these.
  • Chanel nail polish in Particuliere. The taupe/grey shade isn’t new, but it’s perfect to balance out the bright colours we’ll be wearing this spring.

Have a wonderful weekend.

~The Toque Girls

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