Welcome to my blog.....

This is a place where I will share my love of flowers, cooking and baking, gardening and fashion (shoes! lots of shoes!) I would love for you to stay a while and take a look and leave a comment if something catches your interest.
(ps...photo on my background is courtesy of Union Photographers)

Monday, 30 May 2011


Four years ago my husband and sons KINDLY took me to the Dr Sun Yat Sen Gardens in Chinatown in Vancouver for Mother's Day.  It's really not their "thing" but knowing that I love it they did it all for me and that's where I found my new flower love!  TREE PEONIES!!

I was walking along this traditional Chinese Garden, did you know it was the first one built outside of China?, and I came upon a tree like structure that had, what looked to me, the biggest peony blooms I had ever seen-they were the size of my head!  When we left I asked one of the volunteers if it was a peony and she said yes and that was it for me-I was IN LOVE!

Me with my son Antonio Mother's day
I soon found out my LOVE was for good reason-The Chinese people consider the tree peony as a symbol of wealth, fortune, luck, prosperity and happiness-and really who couldn't use more of that!  and the place best known for them is Heze.  The history of tree peony cultivation in Heze is long and can be traced back to the Sui Dynasty (581A.D-618A.D.). During the Sui Dynasty lived a famous flower grower named Qi Lu Huan who first introduced the tree peony into this land, rooting it here permanently. From its introduction in the Sui Dynasty, the Heze tree peony rose in importance and popularity during in the Tang Dynasty (618A.D.-907A.D.) and flourished in the Qing Dynasty(1636A.D.-1912A.D.).  I would say this is one pretty special flower-I love it for it's great big bloom (not gonna lie here:))

I found my own tree peony at a local garden center 3 years ago and it's finally bloomed!!  I blogged about it in my YAY for Gardening Post and we've come a long way since then..

Here is the evolution of my babe....
Here she is as a "bud"

Getting bigger

I could put my whole face in that!

Beautiful sunny day and look at her!

Seriously who couldn't fall in love?
I know there is only one lonely bloom but next year there will be more until one day this entire arch way, which I used solely to frame this beautiful baby (too much?) will take over the entire space and I will be the envy of the neighbourhood.....and really isn't that part of the point?

Friday, 20 May 2011

Summer Wedding Flip Flops-YES!!

It's the first long weekend of the summer and it's gorgeous out so I'm thinking flip flops!  When I was younger flip flops were called something else, I won't mention it here but it is now considered a type of underwear (LOL), and were plastic and only good for one beachy season but now....OH NOW they've come a loooong way!

Destination & beach weddings are big business now and why on earth, as much as I LOVE them, would you wear a pair of heels.....especially when there are some fantastically cute flip flops now!

Check out these one for a bride...and for $11seriously you can't go wrong!
rocktheflops' shop, etsy

Prefer something in blue with a touch of bejeweled these are a stunner!  and the peacock feather-so pretty!
smc801's shop, etsy

I have a pair of these puppies studded with swarovsky crystals (of course I do-this isn't shocking anyone I know:)) and they are a little pricier but worth every penny!!  I've had them for three years and walked all over Italy with them-comfortably!
CrystalMeFlipFlops' Shop, etsy
Prefer more of a "real shoe" flip flop
Love the dragon fly crystal adornment on this Kate Spade shoe
And for those of you that are a true beach purist this one is for you!
Lady Bead
You can have the prettiness of a fancy shoe with the ability to run your manicured piggies through the hot sand....ahhh!

With all this inspiration go out and get yourself a pedi and a pair of pretty new thongs.....oh I mean...you know what I mean:-)

Monday, 16 May 2011

I SURVIVED a 12 year old's Birthday sleep over (PS there is a Guac recipe here too:))

Can I just say how proud of myself I am....I survived 6 x 12 year old boys (and two teenagers) for a birthday sleep over!   Here are some of the tricks, and vendors, I used to pull off this incredible feat:)

Well you can't have a party without some guests and you can't have guests if you don't have cards to invite them so I called my good friend Jessica Boffo of Kardz Kouture.  I told her a little about the party, basically pizza and video games-really what else can you do!  haha Oh and Antonio's, my son, favorite colour is sky blue and she designed these fun kardz for us to give out.....
Even the envelopes were customized with the same photo in the bottom left corner and a little taste of the info on the inside was written on the back flap~and I was the girl that said "OH boy's don't need envelopes"  she said I was wrong and, well, she was right:)

The next thing you kinda need, maybe just a thought, is food-and with all these boys you need F-O-O-D!
Kids and adults = chips so I had the old stand by's but for the grown ups I had some other options including multi-grain nachos, SO much tastier than the standard ones and I accompanied that with my home made salsa, good for you and YUMMY! and a home made guacamole which is always a big hit....here is the recipe:
2 ripe (firm but not squishy) avacodes
4-5 cloves of garlic
(do you love garlic?  add more!  can't go wrong here:))
1/3 cup of cilantro
1/4 cup of salsa
(I used some of my homemade stuff but this is a great way to use up some of the old stuff in your fridge)
1/4 cup of sour cream
1 lime juiced
salt, pepper, cumin powder to taste
I use a mini-food processor, you can mash everything together using a fork but I'm lazy:)  I start with the garlic and cilantro (so by the end it is well blended into everything) and chop it up some and then I add the avacodoes and blend a bit more add the salsa and the sour cream and lime juice as well as some of the seasoning and blend baby blend!  I then taste to make sure it doesn't need some more seasoning or lime juice or anything and blend it until it is rather smooth.  Keep it refridgerated until ready to serve and it's best to make it at least a few hours, not the day before though because avacodoes can brown, so the flavours can marry together.

Rice Krispies treat "pizza" (my home made raspberry jam is the "sauce" so it's not ALL bad! LOL)

Mom made me some jam filled maid of honour tarts-BIG hit!!

Peanut butter chocolate squares (didn't have oats so I crushed shreddies instead-mmm)
Cake was a big deal!  Antonio is a HUGE Cake Boss fan and I normally make family cakes (this year's request was a red velvet with cream cheese icing) so I decided to surprise him with a cake in the shape of a calzone (one of his favorite foods).  I contacted Jennifer, from Jennifer Stafford Events.  She made my husband's birthday cake for me last year and it was so great I had to call her again
Even had the tomato sauce dipping container and a fork!

Birthday boy was so excited!
I needed a "goodie bag" so I called my friend Kassie Doucet of Bliss Designs to make me some of yummy organic sugar cookies.  Jessica, Kardz Kouture, sent Kassie the file used on the invites with the word "thank you" typed in at the bottom and Kassie printed them out on edible paper with edible inks and the kids (and parents) just loved them!! 
SERIOUSLY how could you not love these!!
A lot of fun, some work, and a happy, happy boy makes it all worth it but now it's time to sleep........

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Meat Sauce alla Nonna

You wanna know the secret to an old world tomato sauce, some of you may balk, PORK!  Yes, pork makes all the difference in the taste of your sauce (and meat balls) ask any nonna:)

Today I'm going to give you my Nonna's recipe for her famous, really everybody that ate her sauce fell in love with it-really, sauce (with a few of my mom's tricks thrown in the mix)

Get a small stock pot (I've heard that wider with lower sides makes the best sauce but I don't have one so I use a small standard stock pot)
Couple of table spoons of olive oil (you need the real stuff here people-none of that "other" oil)
Grated carrots (I used 1 to 2 horse carrots)
Grated celery (2-3 stalks)
Small chopped onion (1-2 depending on size)
Minced garlic (4-5 cloves but really to your taste)
Grated zucchini
Finally chopped peppers
Grated eggplant

Now all of these veggies are grated, or small, because most Italians don't have chunky sauce but hey, whatever floats your boat:)  I know that half the pot is veggies but they melt down into nothingness leaving all their yummy flavour and just think of how many nutrients you're getting into your kids and they don't even know!
Start the oil on med-low heat and add all your veggies with some salt and let it sweat (MMMM sweaty veggies!) Keep the lid on but not completely sealed-steam needs to vent. Let it sweat for a while (if you find it gets a little dry then add a little water at a time
When your veggies have started to "melt" and become clear you add your meat
1/3 veal, 1/3 pork, 1/3 beef do you like a meaty sauce add more meat, don't want too much meat add less, no meat add the bones (available at any decent butcher shop-I go to Columbus Meat Market on Renfew and 1st Ave-they grind their meat fresh when you order).  You can use chicken or turkey as well but I recommend keeping the pork in the mix (even if it's just the pork bones)
Cook your meat at low heat, not looking for browning in this recipe, and add parmesan cheese rinds that you have left over in the fridge (cause you grind your own cheese and save the rinds-RIGHT!:))  TONS of flavour in those little babies:)
Add some more salt, pepper, your herbs and just let it cook
Now when I make sauce, I make sauce!  So I use three cans of crushed tomatoes-ones that I canned myself but the ones from the store can be just as good!  I also add a jar of pepper sauce (1/2 roasted tomatoes and 1/2 sweet peppers blended together but if you add peppers to your sauce at the beginning it gives a similar taste) and 3/4 can of tomato paste.
Italians don't waste so we usually add a few tablespoons of water to the can to get every little bit of tomato but I now use apple juice which cleans the can but adds a little sweetness too.  1 cup of red, has to be red, wine a few tablespoons of sugar, 2-3 tablespoons chicken soup bouillon cube powder (if you use the squares add one and then to taste after), chopped up parsley and basil (do you grown your own in the summer?  clean and chop parsley and put it into a freezer bag and then an sealed container in the freezer for use all winter.  Basil-puree with olive oil and freeze in ice cube trays or baggies so you can chop pieces off as needed and use all winter long) 
Now simmer, for hours!, and every once in a while taste to make sure (Italians taste with bread-it's just what our people do MMMM) does you're sauce need more sugar (for acid) or maybe some more salt or herbs-it's very personal to you at this point so have some fun. 
Now make your al dente pasta and enjoy your hard work!!  Crusty bread and a salad-OMG you have no idea the delight!  If you did go to Columbus Meat to get your ground meat or bones get some of their fresh sausage and have a bbq too-SOOO GOOD! (voted best in the city 3 years ago by Vancouver Mag)
You'll notice this is actually very healthy!  only a little oil, use extra lean cuts of meat, all those melted veggies in the sauce, so good and healthy:)
The reason it's such a big pot?  I'm a busy girl with men to feed and do not have time to cook like this every day so I take clean sour cream containers, etc, divvy up the sauce and freeze them and have home made sauce in the fridge for a month.
Hope you try it-let me know if you have any questions or maybe you have some secret family tips to share.....