Archive | April, 2011

Things We Like Fridays

29 Apr

Photo by f8 photography

What a difference a year makes! One year ago this weekend, Chris’ sister Nicole and then boyfriend Martin married. Congrats N&M on your first anniversary.

On the list this week:

  • Hungry? Head over to Holt Renfrew Calgary where Crave has a pop-up shop today from 12:00-4:00. Whoopie pies and cupcakes!
  • We loved this article in the NY Times on What’s the best exercise? Turns out this horrible workout is good for us.
  • Holy smokes, Calgary has changed! Check out this photo of the downtown skyline in 1943.
  • Looking for recipe ideas? put together a great list of food blogs.
  • The Victoria’s Secret Grand Opening in Calgary will be May 5, with supermodels Candice Swanepoel and Doutzen Kroes representing the angels.
  • Wine Wednesdays at Sociale. How can you go wrong with $5 glasses of wine? That’s right. You can’t.
  • Friends who offer to make scones and PVR the royal wedding — and invite us over to share in the fun.
  • Have you checked out this great piece in Elle on international street styles? Let’s hear it for Vancouver girls.

Have a great weekend of royal wedding watching and whatever else you get up to!

~The Toque Girls

PS – I had to add some funny wedding highlights that you might not have seen. Have you seen the vicar who did cartwheels in the abbey after the ceremony? Check it out here. And the grimacing flower girl?


Recommended Reads

28 Apr

I’m coming home from Seattle today. This week kicked off a two-month travel binge for me. Between now and June 20, I’ll be in Seattle, Chicago, Victoria, Vancouver, England, Cyprus and Florida. I’m very excited for my trips, especially Cyprus — which is both a homecoming and a honeymoon of sorts.

I’m a very nerdy traveler (surprise, surprise). I board airplanes with a backpack full of magazines and books, and still grab all the newspapers from the front of the plane. A man once said to me as we waited to get to our seats, “You look like you just came from the library.”

Yep. That’s me.

For fellow nerdy travelers out there, my favourite reads of the last six months:

1. Little Bee by Chris Cleave

I’m not going to tell you what this book is about. The book jacket says not to. Broadly speaking, it’s about how one bizarre episode on a Nigerian beach changes lives. It’s a story of colourful characters, a little boy you’ll fall in love with and an event that will make you wake your husband up in the middle of the night to tell him what just happened in your book. (Although, if your husband is like mine, he will scowl and tell you that he doesn’t really like you and you should go away.)

2. Incendiary, by Chris Cleave

Again, you’ll want to wake your husband up in the middle of the night. Only read it on weeks you can afford to be sleep-deprived because you won’t be able to put it down. It’s an incredible story, a beguiling lead character, a story that mixes raw grief and true humor.

3. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

I’m a big history geek — two degrees to prove it. But I think even non-history nerds will be stunned with this true story. Louie Zamperini was an Olympic runner and one of the people pegged to be the first to break the four-minute mile when WWII turned everything upside down. During a routine mission over the Pacific, his plane crashed into the ocean, leading to an unbelievable series of events over the next five years. Here’s how good this book is: even at 500 pages, the husband and I read it both read it within the first week it was in the house.

4. One Day, by David Nicholls

It’s a funny and sad story about two confused friends who fall in love. Sort of. And they don’t. Then they do. Sort of. You will laugh and cry.

5. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

You fall in love. You’re head-over-heels. Your friends say that your relationship is what they aspire to, it’s so incredible. And, then, for some reason, you’re not.

Ernest Hemingway and his first wife had one of those relationships. This novel recreates their relationship, told from the point of view of his wife, Hadley Richardson.


Please Don’t Call Me Mitch

27 Apr

Let’s have a random discussion about names.

With my family in town last weekend, I was reminded that, to them, I have a few names:

  • Shell
  • Shelly Welly
  • Michelle Michelle Comes From Hell

That last rhyme — it’s not really a name, I know– came as a joke from my brother, Brent. He came up with it years ago, along with a more flattering one for himself, which goes like this: Brent Brent Heaven Sent. Lately, though, he just calls me “Boo.” I get the feeling that he uses that one widely. At least Michelle Michelle Comes From Hell has a personal touch.

Behold, the angel (you also saw him in Monday’s post) and the devil child:

I always thought it would be cool to have a name that could be shortened to a guy’s name, like Sam for Samantha. I blame Alyssa Milano. *Lame alert* I thought her character on Who’s the Boss?, Samantha Micelli, was ultra cool.

The thing is, whenever someone calls me “Mitch” for short, I cringe. Mitch just does not sound good. It rhymes with a bad word and it seems so, I don’t know, butch. (I’m just putting two and two together and realizing that the worst nickname I can imagine might be Butchy Mitch. Or Bitchy Butch.)

I am, however, fond of some of the nicknames my friends have come up with, including but not limited to:

  • M&M
  • M Squared
  • Filet

That last one comes from my friend Sarah. One of the first times we hung out, I attempted to explain how to pronounce my last name.

“It’s like how you’d say ‘filet mignon’ but with a’s.”

The ‘mignon’ part was too much, so she went with ‘filet.’ I dig it.

And that concludes my portion of this random discussion. Do you have a nickname you love or hate and would like to share? I’m all ears.

~Michelle “Filet” Magnan

Seattle! And Outfits for Travel

26 Apr

Hello duckies!

I’m in Seattle, hanging out with my dearest long-time friend, Birdling (Nichola to everyone else). We met in high school and have been incredible friends ever since. Other than a few wild summers spent together, we’ve always had a long-distance friendship. Almost a decade ago, when we realized we were unlikely to live in the same city anytime soon, we made a pact:  every year, we’d take a trip together, just the two of us.  Over the last 10 years, those trips have ranged from crazy 10-day drinking-dancing-carousing adventures across Cuba (my head hurts just thinking of it!) to quick weekend yoga retreats on Galiano Island in Birdlings’ first year of motherhood.

Our adventures — which we call Tulalip — have several key elements: great meals, spa treatments, bookstores, some element of athletics and enough shopping to make American Express question my credit card spending. Most importantly, Tulalip is about building onto an amazing friendship.

Here’s a pic from an Oregon Tulalip a few years ago:

To kick off Tulalip 2011, I’ve picked out a few favourite travel pieces from Vancouver’s Obakki. (I wrote about it for the Herald here.) The collection is flowy, comfortable and classic. The pieces work just as well for dinner out on the town as they do on an airplane. That’s exactly what a girl needs for a three-day trip.

For sunny days, I want this:

For dinners, this:

And for evenings out and travel days, this:

I’m envious of the model’s braid in the first two photos. Why won’t my hair do that?

~ Chris

PS – Do send any Seattle suggestions my way. I’m always looking for great meals and unusual boutiques!

Adventures at the new Calgary Farmers’ Market

25 Apr

On Saturday, my brother and I ventured to the new Calgary Farmers’ Market. As predicted, the market’s opening weekend was busy and fun.

We taste-tested our way through the aisles and found lots to love. Well, Brent was on tasting duty. I was still full from a big breakfast, so I ate only one sample that I couldn’t pass up: chocolate peanut butter fudge from Sweets by Nancy. Incredible. Nancy, you deserve a pat on the back.

I also grabbed some strawberry rhubarb jam from MacFarlane’s. I’d tell you how it tastes, but I’m not sure — I gave the jar to my parents to take back to Edmonton. (My dad loves jam on toast.) I’ll head back to the market next weekend to grab another.

The mix of vendors — familiar faces from the old location and a bunch of new faces, too — was great. My only complaint was the parking situation. The one-way traffic flow in front of the building made for slow parking and an even slower exit. I’m not sure if that will change, but fingers are crossed it improves.

All in all, I’m impressed and can’t wait to go back, because there are many more things I need to eat. Which is why I’ll make sure to go with an empty stomach.


Happy, Happy Easter

21 Apr

When was the last time you painted Easter eggs? (If you heard the kerfuffle last week about taking “Easter” out of the egg-painting tradition, rest assured, I will not be calling them “spring spheres.” )

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d painted eggs, so when that was a surprise activity at a recent all-girls’ get-together, I was thrilled.

Easter eggs evoke all the wonderful family memories I have of this holiday. My parents always set up an Easter egg hunt for me and my brother. (Mini Eggs, usually.) My brother’s self-control always amazed me. He would eat 12 calories-worth of eggs and set his basket aside. Not me. I would be in a sugar coma by 10 a.m.

One Easter, I took a bus, all by my little self, to Wainwright, to spend the weekend with my grandparents. They set up a great hunt for 12 big eggs hidden around the house. So great, in fact, that my grandpa couldn’t remember where the 12th egg was. We eventually gave up and sat down for breakfast. I can still hear his laugh — sudden and strong, from his belly — when he spotted the rogue egg. (He had set it on top of the phone, which hung on their kitchen wall.) I’ve thought of that morning every Easter since.

So, back to painting Easter eggs. It was so much fun.

Here are the lovely girls, along with the essential ingredients for a successful Easter egg experience. Wine is not essential to painting eggs. It’s just something we like.

A lot of blood, sweat and wine went into my egg. There’s a reason I’m a writer, not a painter.

I wish you a happy Easter, as does Christina. We’re taking tomorrow off, so we’ll see you Monday!


Easter Bread Baskets

20 Apr

One of the best things about living in Calgary is cooking with my mom. I spent years living provinces away and, at times, countries away. Now, whenever I get the chance, I tie on an apron to join my Mom, my favourite chef and baker extraordinaire, in the kitchen.

Yesterday, I met up with my mom for an afternoon of Greek Easter baking. She baked. I typed, ate and took photos. I’m an awesome daughter.


We made flaounas (flah-OOOOH-nas), little cheese cakes. They’re perfect for breakfast or with an afternoon tea.

My mom also made her beautiful Easter bread baskets. I’ve never seen these anywhere else in the world. As kids, we loved to watch her roll and wind the dough into these little baskets. Wouldn’t you love to wake up to a table topped with these Easter morning?

Here’s how it works: each basket is made from two ropes of flaounas dough. Roll each piece out into a long rope.

Then, lightly dip into water. (My mom was key on this — wet the dough, not the sesame seeds or you’ll have a disaster with sesame seeds stuck everywhere around your kitchen except the dough, she says.)

Next, roll it in sesame seeds.

Spiral the first rope into a circle onto a lightly greased pan.

Place a hard-boiled egg onto the top half of the circle.

Flip the lower part up to create a basket.

Cut the second rope of dough in half. Twist it to form a rope.

Loop it around the top of the egg like a handle. Voila!

This flaounas recipe on Epicurious is quite similar to my mom’s.


White Bean Salad with Tuna and Haricots Verts

19 Apr

Lately, I’ve been trying to eat more fish. No big reason, but I realized that eating steak for dinner three nights in a row — something I did a few weeks ago, thanks to business dinners and outings with friends — is a tad excessive.

So, I’ve been looking for interesting fish recipes. Flipping through my cookbooks, I settled on this one from Jillian Michaels’ book, Making the Cut.

The White Bean Salad with Tuna and Haricots Verts was great, minus one thing: the radicchio. I’d forgotten that radicchio has such a bitter taste when it’s raw. Next time, I’d swap the 2 cups of it out for something like arugula or Romaine lettuce.

Aside from that, I loved this salad and will be making it again.

White Bean Salad with Tuna and Haricots Verts

  • 2 cups haricots verts *regular, thin green beans do the trick
  • 1 8-ounce tuna steak
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups radicchio *you know my thoughts on this
  • 1 19-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 nitrate-free turkey bacon slices
  • 1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
1. Steam haricots verts, covered, 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
2. Sprinkle tuna with 1/8 tsp pepper. Heat olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tuna; cook 3 minutes on each side until desired degree of doneness.
3. Remove from pan; cut into bite-size pieces; place in a large bowl.
4. Add haricots verts, radicchio and beans to tuna; toss well.
5. Add bacon to pan. Cook over medium heat until crisp. Remove ban from pan; crumble. Add onion and garlic; cook 3 minutes or until soft, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add remaining pepper, bacon, broth and the remaining ingredients. Drizzle dressing over salad; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

On a fitness note, Making the Cut is an awesome book for anyone looking to mix up their routine. Jillian outlines 30 days of intense circuit-style workouts, with moves like Rock Star Jumps and Half-Crow Pushups. I like her workouts and always end up a sweaty mess, which is how I know I’ve been working hard.

Back to the salad. I hope you enjoy it and, should you opt to include the radicchio, know that you’ve been warned.


Rainboots Galore

18 Apr

It’s raining, it’s pouring and when it’s not, it’s snowing. We drove down to Fernie this watery weekend to meet our new nephew (handsome as anything, pics to come). On the way, we drove through rain, sleet and snow. When we arrived, we found a soggy, sloppy mess. Water dripped off my nose as I carried my bags into the house.

That said,  I think it’s perfectly acceptable to go on a boots buying binge. Clearly it’s what Mother Nature wants. I see that.

These short ones from Sorel are among my faves. I saw a girl last week wearing these, a trench coat and a cocktail dress. So cute!

Then, of course, there’s always classic Hunters, which I’m craving in red. Imagine these worn with something gray:

Check out this fun pair from Missoni:

Ralph Lauren came up with this stylish pair, which make me crave a trip to England and a day of wandering around the grounds of Windsor Castle (Anyone else want to join?):

Gucci had a similarly shiny take on rainwear:

While Valentino chose to go romantic — as romantic as rubber boots can get — with a lace motif:

If you find the old pull-on style tiresome, check out cute lace-ups from Loeffler Randall:

Finally, if you are looking for something fun, check out Chooka rain boots. They have cheetah prints, crazy stripes, polka dots, even houndstooth. I love the tiny whales, which are perfect for Vancouverites:

Now, doesn’t that make the rain more tolerable?


Things We Like

15 Apr

We don’t know about you, but this week felt a bit tiresome. Specifically, the mounds of snow we received that made us question life choices that lead us to Calgary.

Good thing we have these things to make us happy:

  • Fresh flowers. Here’s a lovely bunch, taking a breather at Michelle’s front door on the way into the house:

  • Cruffs, the tasty, little pieces of cream puff goodness we recently inhaled at a friend’s dinner party. We tried the coconut-filled cream puff — delectable — and will be heading back to The House of Cream Puffs soon to try the lemon.
  • Check out these Balenciaga Western-style collar tips (with a how-to tutorial). Now, that’s one way to add some class to Stampede.
  • Instead of sitting around in your pj’s Sunday morning, why not try something a bit more glamourous? Head to Hotel Arts for a cool fashion event called Church, myStyle. There will be a runway show, brunch and more. Did we mention mimosas?
  • Nephews. Christina acquired another one this week. Her sister-in-law in Fernie had a baby, Noel James. Isn’t that a wonderful name for a little boy born in a Christmas-perfect ski town? She’s going to Fernie to meet him this weekend.
  • We’re thinking that little hot yoga is in order to escape from the wintery conditions. Did you know Yoga Santosha has installed a new radiant heating system, the first of its kind in Calgary? If you’ve never been, you can sign up for their two weeks of yoga for $29 deal.
  • Scott Feschuk’s creative Essential Budget Terms, from his fantastic Maclean’s blog, Feschuk on the Famous. He posted the list a while ago, but it’s still making us laugh. A sample definition:

Canada Foundation for Innovation Frankly, I’m not sure what this is, but I’m pretty confident we can rule out Stephen Harper’s barber as a member.

With that laugh, we bid you adieu. Here’s to a wonderful weekend.

~The Toque Girls

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