Archive | May, 2011

My Little Black Dress

31 May

Let’s discuss little black dresses and how every girl should own one.

This girl does. I found my trusty Nicole Miller a few years ago, at Primitive on 17th Ave. At the time, I wondered whether I should spend so many pennies on one dress.

I’m happy I did. My LBD is fitted, to the knee, sleeveless and ruched. It’s the perfect wardrobe staple — it’s basic enough that switching accessories changes the whole look and it’s classy enough to go anywhere.

And this dress has been worn many places, including fancy dinners, Christmas parties, fundraisers, fashion shows and galas. I love that, even if an event pops up at the last minute, I feel prepared.

Take last week as an example, when I received a last-minute invite to the Premier’s Dinner in Regina, Saskatchewan. Knowing I had my Nicole Miller, I didn’t stress. In the end, though, I opted to bring some local fashion talent to SK. I wore a beautiful silk Lara Presber dress, which also resides in my small dress collection. (I’m sure a few friends are questioning my use of the word “small.”)

My LBD won’t rest for long, because I’ll be wearing it to a big dinner in Lake Louise next week.

This will not be the first time I’ve worn the Nicole Miller to an event in the mountains.

A few years back, I attended Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Waterkeeper Alliance Fundraiser in Banff. The event was lots of fun, made more fun because my friend Jen was also there. I will not bore you with pictures of us with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or Justin Trudeau. No, let’s get to the money shot.

WARNING: If you were an original Beverly Hills, 90210 fan, the following picture may blow your mind.

If there’s ever a time to be wearing a little black dress that makes you feel like a million bucks, it’s when you’re sandwiched between Luke Perry and Jason Priestley. As scruffy as they may be.

~Michelle

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Favourite Moment of the Day

30 May

Here’s something that my husband and I started long before we were married: every day, at the end of the day, he asks me my favourite moment of the day. And then I ask for his favourite.

When we have kids, we’ll ask them, too.

I’ve learned so much about Spencer and about myself since we started favourite moment of the day. Seemingly small things often make the best moment of the day. For instance, dinner is a recurring favourite — not fancy dinners out but a simple homemade dinner together. A great ski run on a sunny day. Beers on a patio. Sleep-ins. Getting home from work early. Holding nephews. Perfect sandwiches. Random compliments.

I’m pretty sure that this was a favourite moment of the day:

Try it. You’ll be glad you did.

~Chris

Things We Like Fridays

27 May

Hooray, hooray Chris’ holiday starts today! (Sorry, Michelle, I don’t mean to gloat. I just really, really, really need a vacation.)

  • Now, if Chris were staying in town, she’d be headed to dinner at Ki Modern, a popular Toronto restaurant that just opened a Calgary version. It’s bloody fantastic! A sockeye salmon-goji berry-spinach roll. Need we say more?
  • And she’d hit the new Skoah spa in Kensington for a facial the next day. Michelle is an addict.
  • Michelle is also currently addicted to Uncle Luigi’s olive oil, sold exclusively at Mercato on 4th St. S.W. It’s straight from Calabria, Italy, and it’s wonderful.
  • In emergency pre-bikini training? Check out this post we did on stability ball butt moves.
  • If you haven’t heard about this already, check this site out, called Hook Chas Up. Chas — and his amazing idea — charmed both of us and, every so often, we check back for updates. We hope he finds a great match.
  • We really like airline upgrades. Just in case anyone from Air  Canada is reading this.
  • Speaking of travel, check out these images from the Royal Geographical Society’s Travel Photographer of the Year.

Happy Memorial Day long weekend to our American readers. Have a drink for us.  And happy almost wedding to Evan and Jen! See you tonight.

~The Toque Girls

Outfit for Traveling to London

26 May

Did I tell you about my big trip coming up this week? On Friday, we’re flying west for my brother’s wedding. From there, we’re heading the other direction to London, England, for a few days of catching up with friends and showing the boy my old haunts. After that, it’s onto Cyprus for two weeks of heaven.

I can’t travel in heels, short dresses or uncomfortable pants, although I applaud Victoria Beckham for her skills (see here, here and here).

Obviously, Ms. Beckham’s travel experiences differ considerably from mine. For instance, I’m not sure she’s ever hauled her suitcase along London’s bumpy streets. I don’t even think David Beckham does that.

For people that lug their own bags, I like comfortable-but-not-made-for-sports pants, a lightweight shirt with sweater and scarf, and shoes that I can sprint in — just in case, say, I drop my passport on the plane and realize that only after I’ve walked all the way to a terminal at the other end of the airport and the pilot has to hold the plane for me.

As if anyone would ever to do that.

For my London flight, I’m going with my trusty drawstring jean-things. I don’t really know what to call them but they aren’t as grandma-ish as they sound. I’d take a photo but they’re in the laundry.

Here’s a similar pair from J.Crew:

I own and love this James Perse classic T. It’s one of my standbys for traveling:

A scarf is always necessary. It functions as blanket, sweater, pillow and bad-hair cover. Here’s one from Aritzia’s fall line:

I’ve been keeping my eye out for Vkoo cardigan for a while. This brand caught my eye months ago when I saw a photo of Vanessa Hudgens wearing one of their cardigans. They’re great layering pieces. This light linen one would be ideal for a plane trip to a small Greek island, don’t you think?

For the shoes, I’m spotted these BCBG flats a few weeks ago and tested them out. They’re very comfortable. I could definitely drag luggage and my tired self around London in these:

~Chris

Great Wedding Style

25 May

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending a lovely wedding in Edmonton. Justin, a friend I’ve had since elementary school, married Andree, an all-around amazing girl.

I love this couple. My only complaint is that they live far, far away. Currently, they’re in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. My fingers are crossed that they move to Alberta sometime soon, as I’d be thrilled to see more of them.

From start to finish, their wedding was a blast. It also brought out some seriously fabulous outfits.

First, let’s have a look at some of the ladies. Here’s Suzanne, who rocked a BCBG dress, a vintage belt and Nine West shoes:

And bridesmaid Laura, who made classic black look amazing:

Next, we have Julie, Justin’s mother, and Michelle, Dree’s mother, who both opted to wear colour and looked stunning:

The guys looked pretty awesome, too. Here’s groomsman Shaun, another elementary school friend, who made suspenders sexy:

And Tayo, who wore an unapologetically bright, checkered pink shirt and a great pocket square. Thumbs up for this look:

And, of course, no man topped the groom, Justin. In the midst of the dance fun, I grabbed him for this shot:

I’ve obviously saved the best for the last — the beautiful, wonderful bride. Dree looked, in a word, perfect.

Congratulations, you two.

~Michelle

Turkey-Feta Burgers and Portobello Mushroom Buns

24 May

Do you ever watch the show Healthy Gourmet? I can’t get enough of it. Nutritionist Julie Daniluk and chef Ezra Title battle it out to come up with tasty and healthy recipes for real people.

This is kind of what happens in my house every night at dinner.

Boy: Let’s add more cheese and butter. Come on. Me: No, let’s add goji berries instead. Boy: Oh, come on. That’s ridiculous. I’m going to Peter’s Drive-In. Me: That’s fine. Just make sure you’ve left everything to me in your will.

We have conversations like this all the time.

Which is why I love this show. The recipe are generally easy-to-follow, healthy and delicious. I spotted this recipe online for turkey-feta burgers months ago and finally set out to make them over the weekend. I tweaked the recipe a bit, adding — yes — more cheese and a few other things. I predict these will be on our summer BBQ list for years to come.

Feta-Turkey Burgers with Portobello Mushroom Buns and Cherry Tomato-Olive Tapenade

(Adapted from from Healthy Gourmet,Episode 11, Season 2)

Ingredients

Serves 4
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup cooked brown rice
  • 6 brown rice crackers, crumbed
  • ¼ cup feta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 10 portobello mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cherry Tomato-Olive Tapenade:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, whole
  • 1/2 cup black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 4 sprigs of mint, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 Lemon, juiced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method

To prepare the mushrooms:

  • Snap off stems of each mushroom. Using a spoon, scrape gills off underside of each mushroom. Place on a pan, underside down. Season mushrooms with drizzles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add sea salt and black pepper, to taste. Place under an oven broiler for 5-7 minutes. (Note the original recipe said 30 minutes.)

To make the burgers:

  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Blend all ingredients using your hands. Form into patties and place on a large broiler sheet. Broil for 6 minutes until browned, then flip. Broil another 6 minutes. Remove from oven.
  • Lay out mushrooms in pairs, underside up. Place a patty on one mushroom and then cover with another mushroom, using the mushrooms as substitutes for buns.

To make the Cherry Tomato-Olive Tapenade:

  • Place cherry tomatoes in a large pan and drizzle extra virgin olive oil over top. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Place under an oven broiler for 10 minutes or until caramelized. Place in a large bowl and add olives. Toss with mint, shallot, and lemon juice.

We had a lot of tapenade left over and I served on top of grilled salmon the following night. Awesome.

~Chris

PS – I should add that Spencer refused to eat mushroom “buns” instead of traditional burger buns. Figures. I made him go out and buy his own.

Things We Like

20 May

Hello, May long weekend. We’re happy to see you, because we have many happy plans.

Michelle is heading to a friend’s wedding in Edmonton and then meeting up with her family to open the cabin for the summer. If she’s as hungover as she expects to be, her contribution to putting in the pier will be summed up as, “A little to the left.”

Chris will be asleep the whole weekend, recovering from this week’s trip and bracing for next week.

As for today’s hot list, here goes:

  • This Calgary Herald story about fashion blogs, written by Theresa Tayler, made us oh so happy. We were thrilled to be included in the list of great sites.
  • Jelly Modern Doughnuts, the new shop on 14th Ave and 8th St. S.W., is adorable. It also produces fine-tasting doughnuts that come in a range of amazing flavours, like lemon curd and peanut butter and jam. Michelle opted for the “seasonal doughnut,” which had a delicious raspberry filling. Her only regret was opting for the mini size, as she could’ve polished off the big one, no problem.
  • William Fitzsimmon’s latest album, Gold In The Shadow. Michelle has been listening to it loudly all week, according to her former roomie/now-neighbour, Jen, who can hear the tunes wafting out of her balcony doors. Good thing Jen loves the album, too.
  • Mark July 1 in your calendars. It’s a holiday, yes, but it’s also the day a cool new food stop, called Koob, will open its doors on 4th St. S.W. Think kabobs and tasty sauce wrapped in pita. Michelle sampled a Koob kabob (that’s fun to say) at a fundraiser last week and was impressed.
  • Chris thanks everyone for their restaurant recommendations for her travel adventures. She’s had many a good meal over the last weeks. If Seattle figures in your travel plans, check out Matt’s in the Market, Staple and Fancy, Walrus and Carpenter and Homegrown. (Thank you, Natasha! So glad you were on my flight.) If you’re headed to Chicago, Chris recommends MK, Girl and The Goat and RL — as in Ralph Lauren. And for Vancouver, Guu Garden, the patio at the Sandbar and a sunset meal at The Boat House on Kits Beach.
  • After all that food talk, some ab work is in order. May we suggest Jillian Michaels’ six-pack DVD? It’s quite awesome.

We’ll be back on Tuesday, friends. Have a fantastic long weekend.

~The Toque Girls

A History of Drinks

19 May

I stayed at The Drake Hotel in Chicago last week. It’s a grand old hotel with spacious rooms, a great fitness center and wonderful views overlooking Lake Michigan.

My favourite part, though, was the bar. The Coq d’Or is red-themed old piano bar that opened one day after Prohibition was repealed. Some say it was actually serving alcohol in the days of Prohibition. My waiter told he wasn’t around back then and couldn’t confirm or deny.

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio drank here, as did Winston Churchill, and scores of other famous types who have stayed in the hotel.

Photo from Chicagonow.com

The food is good, the martinis fantastic. Having said that, it’s the cocktail menu that I really ate up. It’s a historical review of popular drinks in America over the last 80 years.

A few things I learned:

(*) The Bloody Mary got its start at the famed Harry’s New York Bar in Paris when a French bartender blended vodka with tomato juice and spices. After the repeal of Prohibition in the US, the bartender moved to New York and brought the Bloody Mary with him. Since vodka was hard to find in the US, he began to make the drink with gin and called it the Red Snapper.

(*) According to legend, bartender ‘Trader Vic’ Bergeron — yes, that Trader Vic — then of Hinky Dinks bar in Oakland, California, invented the Mai Tai. One afternoon, he was blending up cocktails for friends who were visiting from Tahiti. He blended rum with lime, almond syrup, curacao, “added a mint spring and handed the drink over.” When one of the friends tasted the drink, she exclaimed, “Maita’i roa ae!” — “Out of this World! The Best!” — and the Mai Tai was born.

(*) In the years following Prohibition, aged whiskey was hard to come by in the US. Makers and drinkers had to find ways to “stretch” the remaining supply. They blended aged whiskey with neutral spirits, creating American blended whiskey. To stretch it a bit further, they added club soda or ginger and poured it into a tall glass — which became known as a highball.

(*) The Pina Colada was invented in a hotel I’ve actually stayed at — the Hilton Caribe in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which has one of my favourite restaurants of all time, the Lemongrass (Ah, lobster roll topped with foie gras). The drink was invented in the 1950s but didn’t become popular in the US until the 1980s.

(*) The tale of the “Harvey Wallbanger” is my favourite. Legend has it that the original Harvey was a surfer in Newport Beach who lost a big surfing competition. Naturally, he hit the bar post-competition and drank himself silly, banging into walls and people as he left the bar.

A note: This is all based on the menu at the Coq d’Or. I can’t confirm the historical accuracy but it’s good conversational fodder for parties.

Now, go out and start your May long weekend a bit early!

~Chris

Motivation to Exercise

18 May

Most days, I can’t wait to hit the gym. For the days when I’m feeling the urge to bail on my workout — and need extra motivation to exercise — I employ one of the following tactics. Don’t judge.

  • I think about how I’ll hit less traffic if I head to the gym after work. My drive home is a nightmare.
  • I make plans to meet a friend — I love meeting up with my co-Toque, Chris — at the gym. Even if we do our own workouts, it’s fun to be there together.
  • I load my iPod shuffle with new tunes.
  • I remind myself of the facts. My odds of running into cute, fit men while at the gym: high. My odds of running into them while sitting on my couch with a bag of peanut M&M’s: low. (If I belonged to a girls’-only gym, my attendance would plummet.)
  • I come up with little challenges for myself, like seeing if I can pound out more consecutive pushups than the last time or can run faster intervals on the treadmill.
  • I use a workout from iTunes, complete with a coach to talk me through the routine and music to keep me motivated. (I have an old OK Go Nike Treadmill Workout on high rotation.)
  • I think of how I’ll feel when I’m done my workout — happier than when I arrived, like in the picture below. As a rule, I don’t walk around giving random thumbs up, but, hey, I needed a picture for this blog post.
In extreme cases of “I don’t feel like going to the gym,” which strike a couple of times a year, I rely on a tried and true strategy: I buy new workout clothes. With new gear in my gym bag, it’s a guarantee that I’ll drag my butt there. Chris employs this tactic, as well, but she takes it one step further. She says that, when wearing her new workout gear for the first time, she exercises extra hard. Why? To infuse the clothes with an awesome “workout spirit.” That’s serious workout karma.

And, when all else fails in my quest to hit the gym, I do something drastic: I book a trip to Las Vegas. Thoughts of wearing little dresses and bikinis are all the motivation this girl needs.

Seeing as I recently booked a trip to Sin City, I’m highly motivated and will not be employing many of the aforementioned strategies soon. Except for the cute, fit guys thing. That’s pretty standard.

~Michelle

An Outfit for a Cocktail Reception for Your Bro and His Lovely Fiancee

17 May

My little bro — he of Evan’s Salmon — is getting married next week in Victoria. He’s marrying a girl my family adores. She’s stylish, smart, beautiful. I could not have found someone better for my brother if I’d designed her myself.

To kick off the nuptial festivities, there’s a small family cocktail reception at a restaurant the evening before the wedding. It’s a chance for our Greek-Newfie family to meet her Irish family. Things could get crazy.

In any case, a classic outfit and great shoes are in order.

This Lilly Pulitzer “Shauna” Organza Inset Dress would do the trick:

I’m a huge fan of the gold sandals the model is wearing. Alas, I’m shorter than most of my family by a good six inches — ergo, heels are necessary. Otherwise, my bro has a tendency to pat me on the head.

Obviously, it’s perfect time to splurge on these Tory Burch Wedge Espadrilles that I spotted in Chicago? I love the black-brown combo and suspect I’ll wear them a lot. (Help me justify, please.)

~Chris (currently in Vancouver)

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