WISHING YOU A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS

Love on (and off) a Leash

20151214_130358

From the Santa Paws Fundraiser at Tisol – presented by Love on a Leash

Getting them ready for the photo

Jack & Jia Jia get ready for their photo with Santa.  Jack wants to apply to be an Elf at the North Pole so he can be closer to all the toys.  Jia Jia pretends to be Santa by listening to Jack’s wish list.

Friend Trigger

Trigger does not look so pleased to be a reindeer. He wanted to be the Grinch.

This Christmas is about donating dollars to help our furry friends find furever homes with LOVE.

Check out my Jack ‘n Jia Jia board with all my favourite photos of them on Pinterest @

https://www.pinterest.com/girlwhowould/bangkok-jack-the-sundog-jia-jia-the-wonderdog/

Things are Cooking – an End of Year Update

As host of this blog20151212_154032 - Copy - Copy

I want to inform you that my posts will take a little hiatus over the next few weeks. During the holidays I will take a little break with no set posting schedule or theme but I can assure you that you will be hearing from me again very soon after the new year, if not before. You know I can’t leave this page for too long.

   I’m working on making some changes to this website and will be introducing a brand new logo which I hope you will approve of, something more fitting for a king and the blog in general. I’m also re-structuring and beginning to pair down.?  It’s time to let go of some things that are not working out the way they used to (as life goes, things move forward) and I will embrace the things that are working, always with an eye out for the new & unexpected.  I’m looking forward to the change and starting the new year off in a slightly new direction.kitchenblog3

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My personal life has had some major ups and downs this year but knock on wood I’m healthy and getting back on track and ready for what may come. Part of the excitement is not really knowing what may come….a paradox maybe but that’s the ambiguity of the unknown. There’s something surprising around every corner.

Things I’ve learned this year:

I’ve learned that you can never be prepared for what life may throw you (both good and bad) but you deal with it the best way possible and it makes you a stronger person in the end. (yeah you know the saying…what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Well, you realize you didn’t die, so that in itself is a big plus!).  That, and not take things for granted.

I’m not taking things for granted because I know how things can change in a flash.  Some changes are good but some I still have a hard time accepting.  Sometimes you don’t want to know the dirty details so your mind draws its own conclusions so you can get through the day, sometimes you’re better off knowing everything. As it stands, I’m still torn between the two.

I’ve learned to do some critical thinking, not believe what everyone says to be true, not to expect too much, to expect more, love is fleeting, love is forever, sometimes a little push is required to make everything fall naturally into place, some people may disappoint, others bring you joy, when people show you who they are, believe them the first time.   I will never be with someone who is hurtful and does not value me enough to want to talk things over before there’s a problem or misunderstanding. Best thing of all; miracles do exist but I’ve always know that. It’s all a mystery that we may never be able to fully make sense of.  So what?  Life is good! Live it well while you can.

So I’m ready for some excitement.

On that note….

I wish you nothing but joy on your personal journey and hope life treats you well wherever you may be.  Have a healthy, happy and successful 2016!

Meet me back here for more subject matters discussing Life, Style & Substance.

If you have any comments or suggestions for upcoming posts please I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.  xo1

 

 

 

 

LifeStyle – of the PARTY

The 12 SECRETS of being a GREAT GUEST (and HOST)host1

If you want to throw a great party in New York City, you probably want to call Bronson van Wyck, who has been in the business of entertaining crowds for almost 20 years (an endeavor he undertakes with his mother, who might even have better taste than him, at Van Wyck & Van Wyck). Since he’s put on events—both intimate and lavish—and designed flowers and rooms for all of them, we asked him for all the qualities of a great guest.

HOW TO THROW A GREAT PARTYhost2

by Bronson van Wyck

Mom and I started our entertaining business in 1999, but we’d already been doing it for years—all my life, in fact—together and singly, for ourselves and for our friends. Part of this was a simple matter of geography: growing up on a farm in a remote area of Arkansas, everyone who visited us had made an extra effort to get there. This was especially true because Dad came from New York, and many of our guests were his friends from back East visiting Arkansas for the first time. We felt obliged to make the trip worthwhile by making the welcome extra-special.

The other part was a deep appreciation and enjoyment of just how wonderful graciousness, generosity, and warmth can make other people feel.

The best parties happen when a host really takes the time to think about who his guests are and what situation he can create that will make them feel good about themselves. For some this might be greeting them with a warm smile or introducing them to someone who shares their interests. For others, it might be a stiff drink.

I know more than anyone that fabulous parties aren’t going to save the world, but they can make the world a better place.

Here are a few essential ingredients:

1.      Great guests.

Oscar Wilde always said he liked men with a future and women with a past. This is a very good place to start. And because most people are either talkers or listeners (only the rarest individual is both, and they get invited everywhere), it’s good to think about that ratio as well.

2.      A crowded room.

One of my first projects was for a gentleman who was a legend in his own mind, but not in anyone else’s. He wasn’t as popular as he thought he was. On the day of the party, I found out that only a 100 people were coming for a room that had been chosen to hold four times that. I went to a nursery and loaded a flatbed truck with dozens of trees—palms, bamboo, birds of paradise, and orange trees—and used them to fill a ballroom in Beverly Hills. Good plants can’t entirely replace good guests, but no one has fun in an empty room.

3.      Plenty of alcohol.

No great story begins with a cup of tea. *(I’m adding to make sure you have some extra sodas & sparkly non-alcoholic ciders on hand for those who cannot drink alcohol.

4.      A bar.

Aside from the functional aspects, guests who you like will use it to escape from conversations that they don’t.

5.      A surprise or two along the way.

We had lots of animals on the farm, from peacocks to miniature goats to a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named Jacqueline Root Onassis van Asch van Wyck. Mom trained a cat named Benedict to sit perfectly still inside a basket that she sometimes put in the middle of the table. No one at the table would realize that Benedict was there, until at some point during the meal, he would always stand up to stretch. He would then settle back down in his basket, but after that the guests never would.

6.      A token of thanks.

The greatest gift you can give a host is to arrive 15 minutes late (but never more than 30 minutes). Earlier than this, and you’re not giving your host any margin for error, and trust me, even the best host finds that grace period beyond priceless.

7.      Don’t show up empty-handed either.

Avoid gifts like flowers which require the host to stop what she is doing and fuss with *finding a vase. I like to think about the future and the dreaded hangover that is sure to arrive the next day and give my Hellfire Bloody Mary Mix. This time of year, the only way to survive is to keep the party going. *(I’m adding that flowers are okay as long as you bring them in a vase that the host can keep – that’s why throughout the year I collect different size vases from places like thrift shops and yard sales and keep them in my garage.  Just an idea).

8.      The plus-one conundrum.

Always find out if the party is seated before you invite a guest to join you. The search for another dining chair at the eleventh hour is a challenge no host should have to face (not to mention that it makes the plus-one uncomfortable). *(I’m adding that unless you ask the host beforehand it’s rude to all of a sudden show up with an unexpected person – especially if it’s a planned menu).

9.      Be present.

With respect to your host and her guests, mentally and physically silence, store, and ignore your phone. Parties are meant to be an escape so resist the urge to check it.  *(I guess this also includes instagramming – as much as you might desire to do so.  Or if you take a few photos, instagram them later on from home).

10.  Make introductions.

There are always a few guests who don’t know the rest of group as well as the others do. A good host (and guest!) will take time to ensure that these people meet the other guests. Take it upon yourself to assume some of this responsibility. In the process, you may meet someone outside your own circle, and you may even make a new friend.

11.  Designate an outgoing guest as the house photographer and walk around to everyone.

Make them pose and get close. It is also a great way to introduce guests to each other. After the party, share the photos with the host so they have a keepsake from the big night. Save the sharing on social media for the next day. Remember you have to be present.

12.  A happy host.

The most important element of a good party is a host who’s enjoying himself/herself. Your friends are there to see you having fun. If you’re not, it shows. If you are, everything else can be forgiven.

Keep his advice in mind when throwing and attending parties not only during the holidays, but all year long.  Have fun!

Source: Goop.com

Stay tuned for more from Bronson: He and his team designed the dinner last week to celebrate the opening of goop market and their Valentino x goop collaboration. Job well done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food: the Portly Chef

 As they say; NEVER trust a skinny chef! 

Sakura Farms Frenched Pork Loin, creamy goat cheese & apple cinnamon compound butter, demi-glace, braised leek.

Sakura Farms Frenched Pork Loin, creamy goat cheese & apple cinnamon compound butter, demi-glace, braised leek – the BEST!

Last night I went to a pre-Christmas celebration with my family at a restaurant called “the Portly Chef” where everything is cooked using fresh local ingredients.  The generously plated and incredible tasting food made up for what may have been a bit lacking in ambience (but not the company, mind you). We all said it was one of the best restaurant meals we’ve had in a long time.  A few photos:

mussels & fries with truffle butter

mussels in white wine, capers & flat-leaf parsley and fries with truffle butter – for starters

Ahi Tuna

Ahi Tuna Tower

Mac 'n Cheese appetizer

Mac ‘n Cheese appetizer

Filet Oscar, certified AAA beef tenderloin, prawns, house béarnaise, pomme purée

Filet Oscar, certified AAA beef tenderloin, prawns, house béarnaise, pomme purée

Lemon Curd Cheesecake

Lemon Curd Cheesecake – soooo good!

I may have overdressed

A bit over dressed (and a bit under dressed)

And that was just my portion!

No; we really ended up sampling and sharing everything.

 

 

The best selfie of the 3 of us from the evening - which is pretty sad

Selfie Siblings – a sad looking bunch

Address: 1211 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver

Located: 1211 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver

It’s a fairly casual place with exceptional food, friendly service and mid-range pricing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FUN – the INstagraMan

Have you seen this YouTube Video?  Is it Familiar?  I thought so!  Although some husbands are only part-timers!instagram-husband_garance-dore-770x428

Check it out HERE:

Instagram Hair Moments (no husband in sight).  Sometimes you’re left to your own device.

Two is better than One

Two is better than One

Whatever it takes

Whatever it takes

Almost Done?

Almost Done?

Ready for my Close-Up

Ready for my Close-Up & a little Top-Up

Follow along @ https://www.instagram.com/girlwhowouldbeking/

 

Feel-good Friday: Pirelli Calendar 2016 by Annie Leibovitz

It’s about feeling good as you are and embracing beauty in all its glory by sidestepping overt sexiness and replacing it with beautiful women of various shapes, sizes, age, background and ethnicity.

Actress Yao Chen, the first Chinese UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Pirelli Calendar

Actress Yao Chen, the first Chinese UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Pirelli Calendar

Photographer Annie Leibovitz took a simple and natural approach to the portraits this year.  Famous women “as themselves with no touchups.”  The women who were photographed (including Yoko Ono) and many others find it to be quite empowering especially for a calendar normally famous for it’s sleek sexy look.

Showing Strength. Tennis player Serena Williams. Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Pirelli Calendar

Showing Strength. Tennis player Serena Williams. Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Pirelli Calendar

If these images give you a *Vanity Fair vibe (see my comment below), there’s a few reasons why. Not only is Leibovitz a frequent contributor to the magazine (she photographed Caitlyn Jenner’s cover this year, for example), but the calendar was styled by the magazine’s fashion and style director, Jessica Diehl, and Senior Photo Producer Kathryn Macleod served as creative consultant.

Singer Patti Smith. Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Pirelli Calendar

Singer Patti Smith. Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Pirelli Calendar

About time!

To see the whole Pirelli Calendar shot by Annie Leibowitz please visit:

http://pirellicalendar.pirelli.com/en/the-cal-2016/home

 *I was lucky to be given a private tour of the Vanity Fair offices at Condé Nast in New York for a research project once.  The magazine is so creative in not only covering fashion and movie people but also popular culture and current affairs in an interesting and evocative way.  The artistically shot covers never fail to capture my attention.

 

 

beauty – apothecary appeal

Ever since the time I set foot in the original Kiehl’s homeopathic pharmacy in NYC

people are starting to go for a more natural approach - not tested on animals is a good start

people are starting to go for a more natural approach – not tested on animals is a good start

I was in heaven; hooked on the clean simplicity of the packaging and their natural old-fashioned appeal. Plus I actually loved a lot of the product line and it was a special treat to not be able to find it everywhere. As in “I went to New York and brought you back this special “ultra-facial” moisturizing cream, blah, blah.” But that was before it was purchased by L’Oreal and started to become mainstream and now sold in independant retail and high-end department stores including select airport locations world wide. You can’t blame them for selling out but it was more of a unique shopping destination at the time.apoc1

Several hundred years ago, you’d go to an apothecary to pick up medicine or to seek medical attention. Those jobs belonged to pharmacists and general practitioners, but now apothecaries are popping up again,  just in a slightly different capacity. Back in the day, an apothecary treated all different ailments, now the term encompasses beauty products, home goods, natural stuff and the like.  What’s old is new again?apoc3

But in line with the apothecaries of old, a lot of  beauty products are medicinally focused.  Things to help with thinning hair, dry skin and scalp, eczema and the like.  It’s all need-based and since the products are packaged fairly simply, the prices are usually lower – but not always.apoc2australia

A lot of these products are made with herbs and essential oils – but there are herbs that are good for your skin and there are others that are not depending on your problem area. You should do a little bit of homework beforehand even though sales people should be aware of what will work for you.  Don’t always count on it.

Most of the apothecary products selling now are very good, clean products and they have a lot of heart behind them. If you look closely you’ll find that the bottles all look the same or very similar – it’s the label that sets them apart (of course, what’s inside is what really counts). The focus being that a certain care and quality is infused (and expected) in products which are made in small batches.skin7

If the recent shift in the beauty market towards transparency and awareness is any indication, this is the kind of shopping experience consumers are starting to be attracted to again.  Customers now are more educated and come in with the right questions and they know what they’re looking for.  You have to because there’s much more to choose from but isn’t that a lot better than not having any choices?

WANT Apothecary has launched its first West Coast boutique in Vancouver's South Granville neighbourhood.

WANT Apothecary has launched its first West Coast boutique in Vancouver’s South Granville neighbourhood.

Montreal-born clothing and lifestyle boutique WANT Apothecary has opened its first West Coast outpost in Vancouver. Nestled among the art galleries and shops on South Granville, WANT Apothecary (2956 Granville Street) fits right into the neighbourhood with its charming boutique storefront and European flair.

What kind of skincare products are you using?  Do you stick to the same line, mix it up or go for something totally different each time?

Style – the SKINNY on Jeans

I’m definitely a SKINNY girl when it comes to wearing jeans.  skinny2Believe me I have all kinds and all lengths from faded and distressed to torn up and dressed-up dark denim and I love them all but 9 times out of 10 I will go to grab my skinnys.  It seems to be the most flattering for my body type and like a legging (which I also tend to live in ) the most versatile for layering and wearing a blouse or sweater over top.    You can dress the skinny up or down as they look equally good with heels or plain white runners (not the ones for actual running). Even though I secretly long to wear my super soft Hudson bell bottoms with hippie boots…I just never get around to doing so.

Kate Moss - google images

Kate Moss – google images

skinny4

My favourite skinny jeans are ones that have a little bit of stretch but don’t lose their shape when washed.  And just like another simple staple (the White T-shirt),  it’s not so easy to find the perfect fit.  They’re everywhere but all are not created equal.

Which brings me to a recent article in Vogue talking about the Superfine labelHave you heard of it?

Long before the skinny jean had reached its zenith of popularity,  Superfine was pioneering the shape. Launched more than a decade ago, the label rose to prominence on the gams of cool-girl stalwarts like Kate Moss and Sienna Miller, in many ways becoming synonymous with a particular brand of lean, London rock chic. Says the brand’s founder, former stylist Lucy Pinter: “At that time there were a ton of denim brands that came out of L.A. Everything was blue and distressed and bootleg. Back then I started because we wanted to make a skinny jean and no one did one. Obviously that silhouette—with no branding—other people ran with that and did very well with [it].” With the designer denim boom that followed not long after, the line remained something of a cultish entity, never fully taking hold in the United States.

Photo: Courtesy of Superfine

Photo: Courtesy of Superfine

All that will surely soon change, though; Pinter and co. are doubling down their efforts stateside, having launched in the U.S. for fall with an array of stockists (Saks Fifth Avenue, Shopbop, and Nordstrom). Strong retail hopes aren’t the only thing Superfine is banking on; the designer herself has relocated to Los Angeles, where production of a brand-new secondary range, Fine By Superfine, will be based. As Pinter tells Vogue.com, “The problem with our denim in the past was it was all being made with Italian fabrics, in Italy, with these incredibly high-end wash developments and zippers and hardware. It became really expensive, so we sort of out-priced ourselves from that really lucrative denim market.” Per Pinter, the aim was to isolate Superfine’s more typically “contemporary” elements (jersey, sweats, and yes, plenty of denim) and give them room to breathe under the Fine By label.

That’s just  super fine by me.  I’ll be on the lookout for the label.

 I’m curious to find out which jeans are your go-to favourites?

Food – Sweet & Savoury

I find INSPIRATION everywhere – sometimes in the strangest places

cutting up the ginger & getting ready to make cake

chopping ginger & getting ready to make the cake with all ingredients in the background

These delicious recipes came to me just last week when I was lying in my dentist’s chair with headphones on looking up at the TV on the ceiling (anything to divert my attention away from the work at hand) watching the Food Network channel.  Can you think of a better way to spend an hour while having your teeth cleaned? The two recipes that I saw looked so appealing that I made them both on the same day to rave reviews.

The first recipe is sweet and perfect for guests coming over around or on Christmas day, and the second reminded me that I had not made lasagna in ages.  Both were excellent and I was told that the lasagna was the best ever.  I’ve never followed a recipe for lasagna before but this one looked too good not to follow…with a slight diversion as usual.

Gingerbread Jars with Cranberry Curd

You can use different sized jars - fun way to serve

You can use different sized jars – my version

Nancy's original

Nancy’s original – you can decorate as you like

Ingredients
Gingerbread:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra butter at room temperature for greasing the pan
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup molasses
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup crystallized ginger
Cranberry Curd:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pats
Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Directions
Make the gingerbread: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-by-8-inch cake pan with a little softened butter and line with parchment paper, letting any excess hang over the edges of the pan.

Place the orange juice and raisins in a measuring cup and set aside to soak. In a mixing bowl add the melted butter, molasses and sour cream, whisking until well combined. Add 1 2/3 cups of flour, the ginger, baking soday, cinnamon, cloves and salt and whisk together until combined. Drain the raisins, then add them to the batter along with the remaining 1 cup of flour and the crystallized ginger. Combine with a silicone spatula, then pour into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool completely before cutting the cake into 1-inch cubes.

While the cake bakes, make the cranberry curd: Into a saucepan set over medium heat, add the sugar, cranberry juice and salt and whisk until smooth. Once the sugar is dissolved, whisk in the egg yolks, then add the butter. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the cranberry curd thickens and reaches 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the heat and transfer the curd to a bowl to cool.

To assemble: Place a few pieces of the gingerbread cubes in a small jar, add 2 tablespoons of the cranberry curd on top of the gingerbread and top with *whipped cream.

*TIP: I added a little pure peppermint extract to the whipping cream. You can also make it a lot easier and just slice or cut the cake & drizzle the curd over it.

This Recipe courtesy of Nancy Fuller – Farmhouse Rules (the Food Network)

 Lasagna alla Besciamella20151211_195854Ingredients
Meat Ragu:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pushed through a press
1 pound ground beef
2 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
Three 26.5-ounce boxes strained tomatoes, such as Pomi
1 cup dry red wine

Besciamella:
3 cups whole milk
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

Lasagna:
1 pound no-cook lasagna noodles, such as Barilla
2 1/4 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
One 8-ounce package part-skim low-moisture shredded mozzarella

Directions
To make the meat ragu: Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add the ground beef, sausage, salt, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano and pepper to taste and increase the heat to high. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned all over. Add the tomatoes. Pour some of the wine into the empty tomato boxes to rinse out the last bits of tomatoes and add to the pot, along with the remaining wine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the sauce thickens and the flavors come together, about 1 hour. Add a healthy amount of black pepper.

To make the besciamella: Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering, then turn off the heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour to the butter and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and then loosens again, about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, whisking almost constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and use immediately.

To make the lasagna: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread an even layer of the meat ragu over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce lengthwise across the short side of the pan. Avoid overlapping or allowing them to touch the sides of the pan because they will expand as they cook. Press down slightly to let the sauce spread around them. Cover with one-quarter of the besciamella and sprinkle with one-third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add another layer of ragu. Add 3 more noodles, arranging them in the opposite direction from the first layer and breaking 1 of the noodles in half if necessary to fit. Add one-quarter of the besciamella and half of the mozzarella. Make a third layer of ragu, noodles (alternating directions again), besciamella and one-third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add another layer of ragu, then the remaining mozzarella, noodles (alternating the noodles again), besciamella and ragu.

Cover the pan with foil and bake until heated through, about 35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is brown and bubbling, about 20 minutes more. During the last 10 minutes of baking, scatter the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano all over. Let the lasagna stand for 10 minutes before serving.

*TIP – instead of the besciamella (Béchamel) sauce I used old-fashioned Ricotta cheese which Valerie’s mother makes and prefers and I did not use any wine for this (surprised,are you?).

Adapted from “One Dish at a Time” by Valerie Bertinelli

Recipe courtesy of Valerie Bertinelli
SHOW: Valerie’s Home Cooking
EPISODE: Ho! Ho! Ho! Company’s Comin

p.s. I have a thing for wearing aprons while cooking and have a little collection going on.  The one I’m wearing in the photo was a gift from my sister & it came with matching pot holders from a little boutique in Vancouver called “Wishlist”.  I have a vintage “Kenzo” with daisies & pockets that a friend picked up in Japan, animal prints from Africa, original white chef aprons and one that says “Living in Zin” that was a gift from friends I visited Napa with.  They all have a story, they’re all very useful and I feel like I’m getting down to business when I put them on.

Do you wear aprons?