Archive | June, 2011

Happy Canada Day

30 Jun

Hooray! The long weekend is (almost) here.

To me, Canada Day long weekends are all about spending time at our family’s cabin.

Growing up, we spent most of our summers at Clear Lake, which is about 4 ½ hours away from Calgary and just outside of Wainwright. It’s a beautiful spot:

I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow to meet up with family and friends, to read some books (I’m finally going to start The Hunger Games) and to spend some time in the sun.

This weekend will be the kickoff to many weekends at the lake, which will be sure to involve:

  • Waterskiing. My brother and all our friends out there are fantastic wakeboarders, but I’m still into slalom skiing. Call me old fashioned.
  • Naps on the pier.
  • Running around the lake in the morning. It only takes about 35 or 40 minutes, but it has lots of hills to keep things interesting. If I’m feeling extra ambitious, I’ll tackle some pushups, lunges and squats. And then I’ll jump in the lake.
  • Floating in the bay, a calm spot where the boats congregate on a hot day. We dive, we float, we swim. It’s heaven.
  • Nighttime cruises on Troy’s boat. (He of the Macho Nacho fame.)
  • Ice cream sandwiches.

Just writing that list makes me excited for summer. I’m so happy Canada Day is here!

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend. We’ll see you Monday.

~Michelle

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Healthy High-Protein Breakfast

29 Jun

I bought a dozen organic eggs on Saturday while I was checking out the new wonderful Market 17. On Sunday, I bought TWO dozen organic eggs from Community Natural Foods. I’d completely forgotten that I bought eggs the day before.

Clearly, my subconscious was staging a revolt against carbs.

Or maybe my subconscious was hankering for these mini-frittatas which I spotted sometime ago.

I made them Sunday night and have been raving about them ever since, yet I haven’t offered to share. I’m selfish like that.

I keep them in the fridge and eat one or two every morning. It’s much easier on my early-morning brain than fussing with frying pans to make eggs. They also work well for lunch. I’m planning an afternoon picnic with a checked blanket, lemonade and mini-frittatas.

I made a few modifications from the original based on what I had in the kitchen, including some leftover quinoa. As a test, I threw a spoonful of quinoa into three of the frittatas just before I put them in the oven. Mucho fabulouso.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups vegetables of your choice (I used 1 1/2 cups of steamed green beans, cut into one-inch pieces, and 1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese
  • 10 egg whites and two whole eggs
  • 2 tsp herbs (I used fresh basil) and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Using one regular sized muffin tin (or a 6-cup jumbo muffin tray like Sarah does on The Joy of Clean Eating), spray muffin cups with olive oil.
  2. Divide your vegetables and cheese among the muffin cups.
  3. Crack egg whites and eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork.
  4. Add herbs and pepper to eggs and mix well.
  5. Pour egg mixture into muffin cups.  (Throw in leftover quinoa at this point if you want!)
  6. Top with Parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake for about 20-35 minutes or until the eggs are firm and the tops slightly brown.

(Recipe adapted from The Joy of Clean Eating. Love this site! Check it out.)

I’ve thought of plenty of variations: roasted garlic, pesto and sauteed red pepper; sundried tomatoes, olives and feta cheese; goat cheese and spinach; salmon, tomatoes and capers.

You should try some new versions and invite me if you need a taste-tester.

~Chris

5 Questions with Rachel Mielke of Hillberg & Berk

28 Jun

Rachel Mielke is a cool chick.

Celebs like Carrie Underwood and Sarah McLachlan wear her Hillberg & Berk jewelry. She’s been featured on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, convinced Calgary businessman and then-dragon, Brett Wilson, to become her business partner and has even won awards for being an outstanding entrepreneur. She’s also a fantastic contributor to a cause I’m passionate about — the Wings of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation.

As someone who loves jewelry, I can say that her jewelry is gorgeous. And as someone who volunteers on the Wings of Hope board, I can say that we really, really love having her involved in our annual fundraiser, which will be held this year on October 19 at the Hyatt. With Rachel’s jewelry raising funds for the cause — she’s making a unique necklace and bracelet just for the Wings of Hope lunch — and singer/breast cancer survivor Bif Naked as our guest speaker, the event will be fantastic. (If you’re interested in tickets, act fast! We’re almost sold out.)

Here are just a few of her designs:

Now, let’s get to the five questions!

What was the inspiration behind your summer collection?

I pulled inspiration from the French Riviera for this collection as it is a little softer, ocean-y and very luxurious!

How often do you come to Calgary and, when you’re here, what spots do you like to hit? 

I am in Calgary once every couple of months and my favourite spots to shop are Crabapple Clothing and Modern Country Interiors. My style is part luxury part country so I get my fix at they great stores.

What do you think of Coco Chanel’s rule that you should always take one piece of jewelry off before leaving the house?

Ha ha this is cute, one of my favourite quotes of hers is that “women should be two things: classy and fabulous.” Every woman’s definition of fabulous is different. I love to see how some women wear H&B jewellery with 6 pieces on at once and others choose that one piece they love and just wear it. We all have our own definition of fabulous and as long as that is how we feel when we get dressed, who’s to judge.

Fill in the blanks, please: My dream vacation would involve going to Bali, so I can surf and spa it up! And I would definitely pack my H&B jewels, Jessica Jensen purses and about 20 pairs of shoes!

Toques – love ‘em or hate ‘em? What about in summer?

Love toques! My grandma knits me custom ones with all kinds of beautiful yarn and I have started to decorate them with buttons and Swarovski crystal. I probably have 20 toques but I only wear them in fall and winter.

You can find Rachel’s designs in Calgary at Crabapple Clothing, Mariah’s Clothing, O’Connors and Modern Country Interiors.
~Michelle

Bug Bites and Boot Camps

27 Jun

I’m covered in mosquito bites this morning. My feet, my legs, my elbows, my back — the mosquitoes went to town on me this weekend.

I even have three on my face. I’m in my office this morning, covered in vinegar to make the itching stop. The vinegar works but I’m not convinced it’s worth the smell. Here’s my itchy, vinegary foot:

(Hmmm…I should’ve thought about that photo a little bit more before I took it. Note to self: makeup required before blog photos.)

I’m looking for tips — any recommendations for natural mosquito repellants/itch remedies that work?

I’ve yet to find a natural repellant that’s effective. I’ve read that eating a clove or two of garlic daily deters mosquitoes, and quite possibly deters husbands, friends and co-workers.

I got all these mosquito bites from new workout I tried and highly recommend, as long as you’re wearing mosquito repellant. Remember when we talked about tabata training and I thought my arms would fall off? Until now, I haven’t really been able to do a tabata workout properly without a trainer. The 20-seconds-on are too intense for me to monitor the timer properly. I end up cheating a lot.

The team at MotionTraxx came out with a new and free boot camp workout that’s based on tabata. It’s the first of three planned boot camp workouts. This one mixes squats, burpees, push-ups, planks and other forms of torture for a 45-minute workout.

It is a sponsored podcast so they do plug Gatorade G Series but that’s fine with me. It’s far cheaper than a trainer and almost as good.

The workout in itself isn’t super-intense so I kicked it off with six rounds of the stairs at Crescent Heights. That was overkill. I recommend combining the boot camp with easy to moderate cardio.

And, of course, bug spray.

~Chris

Things We Like

24 Jun

What time is it?

It’s Vegas time! Michelle flies out tonight and is excited to have nights that lead to pictures like the one above. The photo is from a girls’ trip a few years ago, when the girls spent all night dancing, watched the sun come up and then dragged themselves to the Flamingo for breakfast. If you don’t see blog posts from Michelle next week, please send a search party.

Enough Vegas talk. Here’s our hot list for the week:

  • The summer issue of Hers magazine. Chris has stories on how local Olympians train in the summer and summer health help and Michelle has stories on summer makeup and hair, spa deals and book picks from 10 fantastic Calgarians.
  • Butter bean salad from Lina’s Italian Market. Spectacular and simple. Chris experiencing major addiction. She could eat it every day.
  • Have you seen Midnight in Paris? Go. Run. Then spend the rest of the week trying on sequins and dancing around the house like you’re in a 1920s nightclub in Paris, along with Hemmingway, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and a host of others.
  • Double Zero Pizza, which we’d mentioned before but hadn’t had the pleasure of experiencing. Michelle ate lunch there this week with her friend, a girl known in the oil and gas world as JHO, and they both thought it was fantastic. The space is cool — big, open, welcoming — and the salama pizza and caprese salad they shared were delicious. Big thumbs up for this new eatery.
  • We’re super-hooked on the latest summer lip products from Canmore’s Rocky Mountain Soap Company. They’re natural, local and keep lips soft without drying them out. The hands-down favourite: lemon-lime lip butter.
  • The only downside about heading to Vegas is Michelle will miss watching her awesome personal trainer, Kevin Lim, race in the Canadian Track and Field Championships, which are on now and run through tomorrow. More than 600 athletes will be competing at Foothills Athletic Park, and the winners will head to the world championships in August. If you can make it, head down to catch some amazing athleticism. And please cheer for Kevin on Michelle’s behalf!

See you Monday!

~The Toque Girls

Salt Water Hair Saver

23 Jun

Fact # 1: I love to swim in the sea. Give me a pair of goggles and some open salty sea water and I’m off, my inner geeky little Mermaid laughing all the way.

Fact #2: My hair stylist does not love my geeky little Mermaid side. My inner Ariel is a major threat to highlighted curly dry hair, which is exactly how said stylist and I, in secret, describe my hair. Publicly, the correct term is “bouncy sun-kissed curls.”

Fact #3: After a shameless number of beach vacations, I’ve found a tried-and-true hair protector from salt water, at a cost of about $6 or about the same price as one iced coffee on the beach, by the way, and available at cheap drug stores throughout Calgary.

Meet the long-time Frangou family fave, Coconut Hair Oil. Cue trumpets here, please.

Directions: Go to beach. Jump in water. Play mermaid. Return to towel. Take few globs* and comb through hair. Leave in until showering. Highlights saved. Curls dry into perfect beachy curls. Go home weeks later, highlights and hair strands intact.

Some caveats:

(*) People who do not have dry-ish or curly-ish hair will probably hate this product.

(*) I don’t know why this works so well. A hair stylist once told me that the oil probably gives the salt water something to gnaw on instead of my curls.

If you want to take me with you on your beach vacation, I’ll bring the coconut oil.

~Chris

*Some of you may question my use of “few globs.” Is it not equally descriptive to the “dime-sized” portion that most shampoo bottles suggest? My shampoo never comes out like a dime.

Packing for Las Vegas

22 Jun

I’m heading to Las Vegas this weekend for a girls’ trip and to say that I’m looking forward to it would be a severe understatement.

Anna and I have spent some time discussing what to pack for a weekend in which the primary activities will be lounging by the pool, eating great dinners out and dancing all night long.

Here’s what I’ve come up with.

First, I’m packing this DV by Dolce Vita Audrina Romper, which I found at Kim Stern’s awesome boutique, Apt 22. With it, I’ll wear my new, sky-high black Modern Vintage heels, which are actually comfortable enough for an all-night dancing shift. This romper is on the short side, for sure — I held it up to a couple of tank tops and found the entire piece to be shorter than the tops. If I drop something while wearing this, I’m kissing it goodbye — ain’t no bendin’ over in this thing:

I’ll also bring these BCBG shoes, to be worn with an army green dress from FCUK:

And this L Space Eye Katcher bikini. I found it a few weeks ago at She Apparel. It’s sexy without trying too hard.:

Some people have said that going to Vegas so close to Stampede seems like a bad idea. They think we’ll have burned through our party reserves.

I beg to differ. I can think of no better training for Stampede than a trip to Vegas. By the time July 8 rolls around, we’ll be finely tuned party machines.

Just give me a day or two to recover from this weekend and I’ll be good to go.

~Michelle

Recipe for Simple Baked Whole Seabass

21 Jun

Hi! Chris here. Remember me? I blog here but disappear for long stretches to swim in the Mediterranean Sea.

Yep, that’s me with the boy, on an airplane somewhere over France.

Our vacation was perfect. The days went, more or less, like this: wake, eat breakfast on balcony overlooking sea, make sandwiches, go for hike, follow with swim and beach time, force boy join me on pre-dinner run and then we eat dinner at home, again on balcony overlooking the sea.

The restaurants on Cyprus are very good. But the grocery stores and markets are incredible. Almost all the produce is grown locally, the fish caught in the waters right not far from our house. As soon as you enter the shops, you’re hit by the smell of fresh tomatoes, parsley and garlic.

If the smells weren’t enough, there’s nothing quite like buying fruits from an old town market.

And this is the view from our house, just after sunset:

When ingredients are this fresh, you really don’t need much to make a fantastic meal. Here I am making dinner in our wee kitchen:

Because I’m bossy in the kitchen, the boy usually set the table and sat outside, drinking one of these local beers and recovering from our run.

One of my favourite Cyprus meals is fresh seabass, covered with lemon and stuffed with parsley, then BBQ’ed (if available) or baked in the oven.

Doesn’t this make your mouth water? (The boy is standing here, saying that the fish head grosses him out.)

And if you laugh at my poor hacked-at lemons, go away and read a different blog. I was working with dull knives that I bought eons ago when I was a university student.

We had seabass twice, paired with salad and squeaky fried halloumi cheese (more on squeaky fried cheese another time, I promise).

I used to make this for my sister when she and I lived out in Cyprus together. I know it’s one of her faves. She’s heading back to the island with her husband later this year. So, Nic, here you go!

Recipe for Baked Whole Seabass

(Serves 2)

1 whole white fish, cleaned and gutted

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 large bunch parsley, coarsely chopped

2 lemons, 1 thinly sliced (or as best as you can get with your knives)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white wine

Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the fish in a  baking pan or ceramic baker. Season them with salt and pepper.

Stuff with parsley and garlic. The more parsley, the better, I figure.

Combine oil, lemon juice and wine and pour over fish. Cover fish with slices of lemon.

Bake the fillets uncovered for 45 -50 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

-Chris

Wurst: The Best Idea

20 Jun

Meet my new home away from home, Wurst Restaurant and Beer Hall. It’s gorgeous, has great beer and, perhaps best of all, has something called a lamb confit crepe that is destined to become its own food group in my diet.

The Bavarian-inspired spot opened last week, in the old Wildwood space on 24th Ave and 4th St. SW. The interior has been reworked extensively and features massive, beautiful trees between the tables on the main floor, which is the restaurant level, and rows of long wooden tables in the basement, the beer hall level.

Opening night was fantastic. Despite happening on the same night as Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, the place was packed from start to finish. Drinks were consumed, oysters were slurped and bratwurst was devoured. Here are a few party pics:

From left to right in the shot above, we have my friend Anna and three of my Calgary Herald friends and writers — Gwendolyn Richards, Valerie Berenyi and Lisa Kadane — and yours truly. (Note the navy blazer. I wasn’t kidding around when I said I’d shop for one.)

Two or seven drinks later — it’s hard to keep count when the servers are so on top of handing you another — we ran into Pierre Lamielle, chef and author of the Kitchen Scraps cookbook (which I’ve written about before, here):

And Kevin Kent, founder and owner of Knifewear, the coolest knife boutique in town:

Anyone looking for German-inspired eats or just a cool new drinking spot will appreciate Wurst. I have a feeling that includes lots and lots of YYC people. So, if the beer hall is full, please scooch over and make room for me. If I’m there first, I’ll do the same.

~Michelle

Things We Love: Dads

17 Jun

Father’s Day is Sunday, and we really love our dads. We don’t know what we’d do without these fine men in our lives.

Here’s papa Frangou with Christina and her little sister, Nicole:

And here’s Michelle and her dad:

We love our dads for so many reasons. Here are just a few:

  • They’re strong, smart and generous.
  • They give the best big hugs, make the best popcorn and can dive to the bottom of the sea to bring up sand, even when it’s too deep for ordinary humans.
  • They figure out how to get the Internet set up ASAP on the other side of the world so that Chris’ husband can watch the playoffs.
  • They taught us how to play ping pong and tennis and how to fake a basketball shot and drive to the net.
  • They used to let us sneak stray cats into our bedrooms.
  • They taught us to read, by reading Green Eggs and Ham ten thousand times.  Eventually, we learned to read “anywhere.” Now, Chris’ dad carries her heavy books in his suitcase on family trips because her bags are over the weight limit.
  • They didn’t get too mad the times we dropped his new leather shoe into the septic tank at the lake (Michelle), or got caught playing hooky from camp (Chris), or told him we were studying at the university but really took his van to West Edmonton Mall to go bowling with a boy and then lost the keys (Michelle), or “yucked up” his favourite book (Chris). Thanks, dads.
  • They make us feel loved, looked after and protected, no matter where we are in the world.
Happy Father’s Day to you both. We’re so lucky you’re ours.
Love,
Michelle and Chris
xoxo
p.s. Thinking of taking dad for a Father’s Day brunch? Check out Wurst Restaurant and Beer Hall, which opens for brekky at 10 a.m. If you haven’t heard the buzz, Wurst is a Bavarian-inspired beer hall and resto, and the newest hotspot on 4th St. S.W. Michelle attended the opening on Wednesday night and fell in love. A complete blog post is coming Monday. Till then, she says this: check it out.
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