Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In Stitches

Though I've not been online much of late, my hands have been far from idle. Making things and crafting has always ben a big part of what keeps me sane, and more often than not, that's channeled as knitting. Calming, meditative and easy to tote around, it's a way for my hands to fidget productively. Considering it's such a regular part of my life, it's surprising I don't write about it more often. It might have something to do with the fact that during busy times, I often find myself starting more projects than I could hope to finish, so it's always a relief when I actually reach the end of one.

I started knitting my first lace project a while ago, and had always been intimidated by the openness of the patterns – how was I supposed to pick up my stitches when one would inevitably drop? How could I follow those patterns that read like Greek? And yet somehow, I reached the end of this one.

I shouldn't have worried so much. Haruni is a wonderfully written pattern, with lots of helpful advice sprinkled throughout. The main body is worked in a simple stitch pattern, very easy to memorize, and the leafy edging is easy to read.

More than anything, this shawl required patience – my Ravelry entry tells me I started in early September, only to finish in March, a solid half a year after I had cast on. And I finally got to experience the difference that blocking your work makes – that's washing it, then pinning it into the shape you want and letting it air dry, to "set" the stitches. Though I don't know if knitting lace regularly is for me, I'm glad I did it. I BEAT you, Haruni. (You can find my project notes here.)

Lately, I've actually been crocheting more often than knitting. There's been this long-simmering feud between knitting and crocheting camps, both believing their craft to be the best, with many native knitters preferring to think of crochet hooks merely as "dropped stitch fixers". While knitting is a lot more economical (crochet uses roughly 3 times the yarn of knitting) and offers a lighter weight, smoother end product, I'm finding the speed and ease of crocheting to be a lot more instantly gratifying, and I certainly like it much better for fussy laceweight yarns.

Case in point: I started that Purl Bee two-colour cowl I had been on about for so long, and I love working on it.

I'd tried using this Malabrigo Lace in a few knitting projects, but the super soft, single-spun merino was too sticky – the yarn would felt on itself and be a terrible pain to rip back. I much prefer it in this pattern, where the multiple knots add strength to the loose spin, and the softly undulating colours of the yarn don't pool up noticeably.

The original pattern called for using two colours, but I'm going to use up all of this before I even think about buying a second colour, and with another whole skein to go, it's going to be quite unnecessary. And as you can see, I've been using the bag that came with my LL Bean flats as a project bag, which has been the perfect size. I can't wait to start wearing this tiny woolen wonder come early fall. (You can find my project notes here.)

But before then, I need a spring scarf, so I cast on the EXACT SAME PATTERN in a heavier gauge. Believe me, I know it looks vastly different.

I spotted this hand-dyed cotton on a recent pop into Romni and couldn't resist. The colours just scream spring poesy to me. And would you believe I only cast on an extra 10 stitches and it rests below my chest, as opposed to up around my neck? What a difference gauge makes. In a lot of ways, these are polar opposites – one light and airy and soft-spoken and woolly, the other bright and garish and chunky cotton (I can throw it in the washing machine even!). They are practical wardrobe stables in entirely different ways, all stemming from the same pattern – which is itself an elaboration on classic granny square crochet. (You can find my project notes here.)

I promise, I'll check in on these two projects and show you the finished results!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beauty tutorials

I love watching videos of people telling me how to do simple, everyday things that I should already know how to do. And I do this exactly for the same reason that I am an obsessive Googler, write down everything Penelope Trunk says, and save every tumblr post that lists ways to be creative, get out of a bad mood, accomplish your goals, or get the perfect wardrobe staples—because it's so much easier to follow someone else's tried and true advice and instructions than thinking it through for myself. Sound a bit pathetic? Maybe, but I like getting advice from people who are really passionate, and it in turn inspires me to live better, and sometimes to give my own advice.

Anyway, here are some of my current favourite beauty and makeup videos. If you have any that you love, please let me know!

The Persian Babe:

Hey Kayli:



Cut by Fred:

The Take Home Series:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sweaters, brunch foods, and tiny apartments

A couple things I'm serious about lately:

Those Jonathan Saunders waffley knit sweaters 
I got a sweater similar to these from Amanda's castoffs, though it's in a much more neutral brown and greige. These pastel hues are making me dream of walks on cool-ish days with a coffee and a pair of big sunglasses.

via Susie Bubble

This baked French Toast recipe
I love everything that comes from the Sweet Potato Chronicles blog, and a pre-made, challah-bread, berry-topped French Toast is no exception. I would make a slight change to the recipe, though, and would include some super crispy bacon on top.
via Sweet Potato Chronicles

This blog feature about living in small spaces
Reading my Tea Leaves talks about life in a tiny apartment, and I follow her advice religiously (since I can't think of anything more useful myself). This post—which you should totally check out yourselves—is about changing up the artwork on your walls or having a little gallery wall, showcasing the art that inspires you the most. I also love the post about hiding your clutter, buying beautiful cleaning supplies, and store thoughtfully.
via Reading My Tea Leaves

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Around These Parts

Just a few snaps from life lately.

I brought this little aloe vera plant home unexpectedly on a neighbourhood walk with my mutt, Charlie. I don't have the best luck at keeping plants alive, but surely hanging out in my sunny bay window is a better fate than languishing inside a crammed convenience store. Any green thumbs out there have any tips for me?

I had a really nice Saturday – brunch at the Marche with friends from out of town, an afternoon trying on makeup at Sephora with Laura, a sunny walk to a dumpling joint, a relaxing evening watching Freaks and Geeks. All in all, pretty much perfect. And I picked up my ideal watch while I was at it – an ol' reliable Timex, with a stretchy gold band and big, plain face (plus it's got Indiglo! A practical delight since 1992!) I've needed a watch replacement ever since the numbers on my old rose-gold fave flaked off and this one, with its 10-year battery and old-man seal of approval, is sure to last me a while.

The pan-fried dumplings from Dumpling House, my new favourite Chinese place in the city. These were crazy good – the fillings are deliciously savoury, the outsides the right amount of chewy, and the lace-like pan crispiness adds a nice textural difference. Dipped in soy sauce with a dab of Chinese mustard? Consider my mind blown. I went on Friday at lunch, and couldn't stop myself from bringing Laura the next day. Their noodles are those amazing, thick Shanghai-style ones, so don't miss those either. Plus it's super cheap – an order of noodles and a pan of dumplings is enough to generously feed two, and comes in well under $20 with tip.

Perhaps my favourite mani to date. Both colours are American Apparel – the grey is Echo Park, the yellow is Neon Yellow – with a coat of Seche Vite on top. I just did two coats of the base colour then thickly dabbed the yellow along the edge (I find you need to go really thick with neon colours, or have a white base underneath).

Monday, April 16, 2012

HBO's Girls

via pakistantvdekho

I haven't even watched it yet, (I checked to make sure the link was for real and then had to blog about it first) but I don't have to tell you that the buzz around this show has been enormous. And if you are reading our blog, then it's also safe to say that this show is being marketed towards you. Wunderkind Lena Dunham's HBO show is going to be difficult to access for most of us (a bit ironic, no?) but just to hook everyone, HBO has made the first episode of the series widely available. Enjoy it, and let us know what you think!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pop Tarts

So a few nights ago Amanda and I sat around and watched Youtube videos and did our nails while nursing a magnum bottle of wine—a perfectly good activity for a cold weekday night. We thought we'd share an approximated version of our conversation with you readers—just coz we like to think of you as one of us, and you might find this as entertaining as we did.

LK: OMG have you seen the two latest Madonna videos? They're incredible.
A: No! Let's watch them.

LK: "Gimmie all your lovin, gimmie your love!"
A: I feel like her hair is doing a lot of work here.
LK: I mean she's got to bathe in the blood of virgins, right? She looks better than she ever has.
A: But she's not doing anything new. She's known for reinventing herself, but now she's doing what she's already done. Like you could take her out of the video and put in Avril Lavigne and there would be no major difference.
LK: Yeah, I guess, but... Let's watch the next one.

A: [halfway through] See, it's the same, there's nothing new happening.
LK: Jill said that if you don't like MDNA then you never liked Madonna to begin with.
A: But she is known for always moving forward and changing her look! This totally falters.
LK: But it's goooooood. So good.
[we silently agree to disagree]

LK: What about the new Drake, have you seen that yet?
A: The one with Rihanna?
LK: No, but we'll watch both.

LK: God, this is so good. I love the jewish bros in the beginning.
A: Have you seen The New Girl yet? I really didn't want to like it, but I like it. I binge-watched the whole season in two nights. Schmidt is such a jewish bro.
LK: I haven't... I don't want to like it either. Oh I love this part: "Keep some bad bitches in my circle."

LK: Is that a blue jay!? Representing Toronto, I love it! He is hot, I'm only noticing that now.
A: He's like the good guy who always gets looked over. Chris Brown's the bad boy, and everyone's like "God Rihanna, just pick Drake already! He'll treat you like a queen!"

A: Ooh, this one's been in my head all day.

A: Doesn't her green hair look incredible?
LK: I know, why does it work?
A: The song's a bit repetitive though. [further towards the end] The leopard print suit! So good. I showed some coworkers of mine Wally World this week.
LK: I wish. I could move. my butt like that.
A: Me too! It's so... wobbily.
LK: I think it just takes practice.

A: Here's one I hear in the office all the time. It's such happy music.

A: And this video that Molls posted makes me feel less guilty for totally liking it, because at least I'm not alone.
LK: Don't feel guilty! It's bad, you know, but it's like... good bad.
A: We all have our vices.

A: Here's another.
LK: A Holga? Oh god. It's too precious.
A: But catchy.

LK: I could do without this little rapper guy...
A: He was on the X Factor. Apparently when a judge gave him a bad review he was like "Yeah, well fuck you, you're just a hater."
LK: Geez... Ohhhh I get it now. She's British!

LK: Do you like Weird Al?!
A: No... not anymore?
LK: Okay, well there's this hilarious newish song he's got. At least just sit through it. I'm obsessed.

A: [silence until halfway through] Let's watch the original.

A: Much better. This is a classic.
LK: What a bod! She was always more developed than the other tweeny pop stars.
A: Have you seen her new haircut? It's a shorter bob.
LK: I saw her in Us Weekly in a feature called "Miley's wearing mom jeans!" They were making fun of her for wearing high-waisted pants but she looked awesome. I was like "Good for you, Miley."
A: High-waisted jeans are a godsend. Stretchy ones, that is.

A: Oh no. I know what we have to listen to next.

LK: Oh god! Remember this song! It's one of those ones that's awesome to play at karaoke because everyone knows the words and is completely embarrassed that they do.
A: I remember bonding with a guy friend over this song. Our shames unite us.
LK: Totally.

LK: Speaking of celebrities outside their comfort zone...

LK: Ahh! Remember useless scarves?
A: And look at how low her pants are cut! Oh god, what an ugly period of time the early aughts were. How did we even get trapped in this spiral?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


If I've seen you sometime in the past week, I've probably talked your ear off about the new Vietnamese sub-inspired shop I've been to five times in the past two weeks, Banh Mi Boys. What is a banh mi, you ask?
Well, this.
A crusty baguette topped with sandwich meat, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber, mayo and cilantro, among other things. Traditionally, they're very cheap, but Banh Mi Boys goes a little more upscale, offering panko tofu, kalbi beef, squid and duck confit options, as well as taco or bao (steamed bun) versions. My favourite is the five spice pork belly, which is slightly crispy on the outside and so, so ridiculously tender inside. Well, that, and a split order of the kimchi fries, which is basically a Vietnamese poutine with kimchi, pulled pork, mayo and fresh green onions over crispy fries. Oh god, just thinking about it has my mouth watering. If you're in the Queen/Spadina area of Toronto, this is must try.

ed note: Oh look! Laura loves this place too! She wrote a review about it here.

Speaking of food, if you've ever asked the question, "Is this still good?" about some jar you've stumbled across in your fridge, your new best friend is a site called Still Tasty.
Touting itself as the ultimate shelf life guide, it gives you recommendations on how best to store various foods and when to know when to fold 'em and toss away. It seems very based in common sense, offering tips on how to tell if an item's still okay, as best before dates are usually just when a food's quality is at its aesthetic peak, not when it's actually still edible.

The AV Club's been hitting my sweet spot lately and this week, it's with a walkthrough of the stories behind cultural gem Freaks and Geeks with creator Paul Feig.


It's one of those cancelled-after-one-season, never-given-the-chance-it-deserved, voice-of-a-generation type shows that transcends the hype and feels real in a way so few series are able to articulate: it's equal parts innocent, awkward, miserable and ecstatic. In short, it feels like puberty. And, as the interviews reveal, it's an interesting case of art-imitating-life, as Feig admits much of the show was based on his personal experiences and those of the other writers. It's been a great way to revisit one of my favoruite series, and it's totally got me in the mood to watch it all over again. See interview parts one / two / three / four / five here.

I use my Baggu every day, but I may have to retire my current fave in neon poppy to make way for a few new prints, including this moon one, labelled with all the phases of the lunar cycle. Now I'll never have to guess what a waning gibbous looks like again!

Some faves 'round these parts have been at it again – Fieldguided has a released a new collection called Light as a Feather, a set of four gorgeous huge silk scarves printed with photos taken in the late 1800s. The dream team of Anja from Clever Nettle and Megan of Summerland photographed and styled them into mystical perfection. I'm trying to convince myself that a $120 silk scarf of an ice cave is a good investment, oui?

To see more beautiful images, check Clever Nettle and the Fieldguided blog, shop and Flickr!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Leftovers

That's a brisket pizza, folks!

I had a bunch of leftover brisket from my Easter dinner on Sunday night, so I decided to do something creative. After reading a super-simple looking pizza dough recipe from the latest issue of Lucky Peach (taken from Wolfgang Puck), I was itching to make it myself. It was easy, and possibly the best dough I've ever tasted. I topped the dough with barbecue sauce (Caioti-style), grated parmesan, and thinly sliced brisket pieces. It was heaven, and completely un-Kosher.

The final product.

Here's an even more simplified version of the dough that you should try, like tomorrow. I also have a lot of extra dough (this recipe makes 4 good-sized balls of dough), so if you're local you can swing by and I'll give you some of mine.

Lucky Peach's All-purpose Pizza Dough:
Makes 4 dough balls

1 packet active dry yeast
1.5 cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons EVOO
3–4 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt

1. Let yeast dissolve in the water, then add honey and EVOO and stir.
2. Mix together flour and salt, and add to the water.
3. Now things are going to get messy. Mix the dough together with your hands. It's going to be really goopy and stick to your hands. If it's unworkable just add more flour, little by little. Eventually it'll stop sticking to your hands, and then you'll know you're ready to move on to the next step.
4. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with Saran wrap. Leave it alone to rise for about half an hour.
5. Divide the dough into four parts and follow the next steps for each piece. Shape each ball by pulling the sides of the dough outwards and tucking it underneath the bottom. After a few minutes, roll the dough into a ball between your palm and a clean surface.
6. Put the dough balls onto a platter and cover with lightly oil Saran. Leave them for another half an hour.
7. Time to stretch out the dough! I like to hold it near the end, let it stretch down, and keep moving it around in a circle—let gravity help you with this one.

If you're going to use a baking sheet, make sure that you lightly oil it. Bake for 15 minutes or so at about 400, but keep an eye on it. You want it to look nice and toasty before you take it out.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Like us! Love us!

This is just a quick post to say that we have now joined the online world for real. So Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! Love you all, and have a great long weekend!

xo, the BGs

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Midweek Pick-Me-Up

Just a few things giving me a bit of reprieve from the daily grind.

This song's been rocking my socks off lately, but you should put headphones before you listen. Everyone will be looking at you all side-eyed, being like, "why's that girl silently wiggling in her chair?" and the answer is, "because it's one of THOSE beats," but it's pretty NSFW so you know, judge your sitch.

You guys are watching the new season of Game of Thrones, right? If not, just tune out for this paragraph (but do yourself a solid and start watching soon!) This season was off to a bang with last week's opener, and seeing as I'm in the thick of the third book in the series, I know we're going to have a good time. The creators have done a great job of adapting the book to a TV show format, keeping the episodes packed with action and giving smaller characters screen time to explore their motivations. I'm also happy to return to my habit of reading The AV Club's excellent reviews after each episode, although now I've graduated to the expert versions, for those who've read the books. (There are newbie versions for those who haven't read along as well.)


The new spring lookbook from Summerland is so, so, so good. I've made my love of this shop and photographer Anja no secret, but this collection just seems too perfect as spring inspiration. Cute bobs, collared shirts and pretty prints? Sign me up for an afternoon of lounging that looks this good, please.

You can check out more pictures on Clever Nettle and Summerland.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Swap Scores

Amanda hosted a swap on Saturday and it was so much fun! I drank too many mimosas and forgot to document the actual swapping activity (also, I was too busy secretly burrowing away pieces that I wanted so only I'd know where to find them. All's fair in love and swap!!). Instead, I made some of the girls pose with their favourite piece that they took home. Here are the lovely ladies and the stuff they scored.

Name: Jamie
Item: Black handbag
I love it because: It has a long shoulder strap and I love the gold and black colour combo. 

Name: Sarah
Item: Black lace babydoll
I love it because: It's black and it's free. What's not to like?

Name: Jessica
Item: Denim vest
I love it because: I feel like Springsteen

Name: Caitlin
Item: Plaid shirt
I love it because: I have a love affair with plaid. Also, it's a good colour and super cozy.

Name: Stephanie
Item: Houndstooth sweater
I love it because: It's classy but cozy!

Name: Katie
Item: Black skull and crossbones cardigan
I love it because: It fits and it's fun.

Name: Karen
Item: Striped tee and blue ceramic necklace
I love it because: Stripes are perfect to dress up a tee for spring!

Name: Laura Kathleen
Item: White denim shorts
I love it because: I can never have enough pairs of shorts... I wear them all year round.

Name: Amanda
Item: Suede bomber jacket
I love it because: it's the perfect neutral colour, plus I feel a bit like a lady greaser

All in all it was a perfect day, and I think we all went home happy (and with more room in our closets). Thanks girls!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Our Seven Deadly Sins of Beauty

We had a really fun weekend around these parts! There was a big swap at my house, complete with brunch foods and baked goods and mimosas and heaps of clothing – plus the best company ever to comb through it all. Everyone got new-old items they love (which you'll see tomorrow!) and Laura and I got some chill hangout time, which was pretty wonderful and never seems to happen enough.

Plus, we got mimosa-saucy and made a video! It's the Seven Deadly Sins Beauty Tag that's been going around Youtube, a series of questions based on the deadly sins, but about your favourite beauty products instead. So if you've ever wondered what it was like to hang out and talk beauty products with us, here's a taste.

– The perfume Laura couldn't remember the name of is Bottega Veneta, which is a "leathery floral chypre" that sounds amazing. (Remind me to sniff you the next time we hang out, Laura!)
– I didn't really go into the details of Amaze Gel, but it's a gritless exfoliating gel that works magic on very sensitive skin. Seriously – you rub it in, and dry skin just beads off and your skin is instantly more supple. I can't recommend it highly enough – it's definitely worth the price, plus it's Canadian! You can find out more and order it online here.