the beauty of wee flower arrangements

small flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidienneI believe studies that say spending only a few days around flowers, at work or at home, boosts well-being and makes us more compassionate.

These days I travel no further than my back yard to find flowers to bring inside. I love how flowers breathe life into a space. I love how they help me stay connected to beauty and nature.

Early this month peonies were plentiful. With four bushes I could easily stuff several large vases until overflowing with blooms. large vase of peonies, la vie quotidiennelarge vase of peonies, la vie quotidienneWhen I ran out of  vases, I hung them to air dry.

air drying peonies|la vie quotidiennedried peony petals | la vie quotidiennedried peony flowers | la vie quotidiennedried peony flowers | la vie quotidienneMy garden flowers in bloom right now are not the kinds that lend themselves to big bold arrangements but I’ll be bringing them inside, too. These days I’m thinking smaller scale and choosing  tinier arrangements.

Wee flower arrangements are one of the most effortless and least expensive (if you have to buy your flowers from a shop) ways of bringing flowers into your home. They require minimal flowers, leaves or grasses, and yet tiny bouquets provide equal beauty and benefits as larger ones.

First you need to find the right sized vases. If you don’t have any tiny vases, eggcups, liqueur glasses, shallow bowls or an empty vanilla bottle will do.   Next you decide what goes in them. When you take a good look around a garden it’s surprising how many choices there are.

wee flower arrangements

By chance I spied some little glass vases at our local Home Hardware this weekend.

small flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidienne

small flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidiennesmall flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidiennesmall flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidienne
Smaller arrangements can be grouped together or amongst other plants and objects, or placed individually in a small spot, on a bathroom shelf or window sill.small flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidienne
small flower arrangements, tiny vases, la vie quotidienne

large cylindrical vase and minimalist arrangement | la vie quotidienneInstead of a tiny vase I chose a large cylindrical one for this arrangement. I added an inch or two of water, a stem each of hosta flower and day lily to stand no taller than the vase, and floated two marigold flowers in the bottom. Simple!

I look forward to finding new ways to enjoy whatever else my garden provides and to soaking up all the benefits.

xo

 

Infuse your drinking water + giveaway winner

water infused with cucumbers, lemon, limes and mint| la vie quotidienne, by suzanne mccarthyDrinking enough water is one of the best things you can do for your body; it helps regulate body temperature, protects vital organs, keeps your skin looking good, energizes muscles … the benefits are numerous.

Now that the warm weather is here, I’m promising myself to drink more water. To make it more interesting and beautiful (I’m all about elevating the mundane) I’m making it my summer routine to drink infused water.

Simply put, infused water is water to which fruits, veggies, herbs and/or spices have been added.

There are loads of claims floating about the web about the benefits of drinking infused water. It flattens your belly! It’s the ultimate detox and weight loss secret! It boosts your immunity!

I think those things happen only because you choose to drink infused water INSTEAD of juices, soda and vitamin waters.

The main benefit of infused water is increased hydration. Infused water is pretty, which is important because you eat and drink with your eyes. If a beverage looks colorful and healthy, you’re more inclined to drink it, which helps keep you hydrated.

Honestly, a pitcher of infused water on a dinner party table can be like beautiful art. Plus kids seem to really like infused water, too. One time, I added cinnamon sticks to the water and my son said his friends talked about it for days.

Today, I used what was on hand and came up with an infusion of cucumbers, lemons, and limes along with a few sprigs of fresh mint for a subtle touch of sweetness.water infused with cucumbers, lemon, limes and mint| la vie quotidienne, by suzanne mccarthyDSC_2419water infused with cucumbers, lemon, limes and mint| la vie quotidienne, by suzanne mccarthyA good rule of thumb is to infuse for 1-2 hours at room temperature or in the fridge for 3-4 hours to achieve potent flavor. If you like your water strong and tangy like I do, infuse overnight or up to 12 hours.

Be careful with citrus rinds! They can create bitter flavors after just a few hours. One way to avoid this is to remove the rinds.water infused with cucumbers, lemon, limes and mint| la vie quotidienne, by suzanne mccarthy

As you drink, remember to add more water to your container when the water is half way down. That way, you mix the flavorful water with the new water. After a day or so, the flavour will be diminished and it will be time to make a new batch.water infused with cucumbers, lemon, limes and mint| la vie quotidienne, by suzanne mccarthy

Also, you can eat the leftover cucumbers for their fiber and nutritional content. I always thought cucumber didn’t pack much of a nutritional punch, however, cucumber is chock full of goodness – vitamins C, A, and K plus calcium, iron and potassium.

Over the summer I plan to post more refreshing concoctions of infused water. The options seem limitless. Fun!

Now for the winner of the kitchen towel giveaway:

Mary Lovelace

Congratulations Mary.  Send me your address and I’ll get them to you ASAP.

And thank you everyone else for participating, and for all your nice comments. Thank you.  I’ll do another giveaway soon!

xo

buckwheat brownies + a giveaway

 gluten free brownies made with buckwheat and coconut sugar, suzanne-mccarthy.com

Sometimes, I grump and stomp my feet about needing to cater to people’s food sensitivities and intolerances. Other times, I feel grateful because it inspires me to try different recipes, enjoy new flavours and increase my nutrient intake.

Case in point, for years I loved making what I think is the best brownie recipe out there. This one by renowned chef Thomas Keller. But, due to loved ones’ intolerances to wheat and sensitivities to other grains containing gluten, I almost never ever make them.

While searching for a gluten and grain-free dessert to make for a dinner party I came across a cookie recipe made with buckwheat flour. Turns out buckwheat is not a grain. In fact, it’s actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel.

A little googling on the internet reveals, not only is buckwheat gluten-free, it also boasts the second highest protein content of all cereals and is a great choice if you like to pack your goods with nutrients.

But back to the brownies/cookie recipe. I started experimenting with the cookie recipe; when I chilled the batter over night and made the cookies the next day they were nice and chewy and cookie-like, but if I was impatient, skipped the chilling time and made the cookies promptly, the cookies turned out soft and cake-like. This made me think the batter might be perfect for brownies. I was absolutely right.gluten free brownies made with buckwheat and coconut sugar, suzanne-mccarthy.com

gluten free brownies made with buckwheat and coconut sugar, suzanne-mccarthy.com

gluten free brownies made with buckwheat and coconut sugar, suzanne-mccarthy.com

You can find the original recipe here. I think the earthy flavour of buckwheat pairs beautifully with the dark chocolate. What do you think? Also, if you’re adventurous, don’t leave out the lavender and rock salt, although the recipe still works if you do.

Also, a reminder that next week I’m giving away a set of three kitchen towels. It’s simple; all you have to do is put your name in the comment section of this post. No need to comment or say anything. Just add your name, although an email would be helpful in case you win. Otherwise, you will have to check back here next week to see if you won.

xo

An apology + my first giveaway

kitchen towel giveaway-2First, let me apologize to folks who may have subscribed to this blog. If you have, chances are you haven’t received email alerts. I was having trouble with the darn plugin or wigit or whatever it is, so you may have subscribed and I don’t know about it.

Looks like it’s working properly now (fingers crossed). So subscribe again, if you haven’t already given up on me, and I will make sure you get alerted anytime there’s a new post. You should see the subscription box at the top of the page.

Now for better news: I’m having my very first giveaway friends!

It’s coming up on the one-year anniversary of this blog and I thought it would be a nice thing to do. I’m going to give a set of three kitchen towels made by me, to a lucky winner.

Here’s what to do: leave a comment on this blog post. Not anonymously, of course. A name would be helpful as would an email address, but mostly just leave your name.

The contest will be open for one week and then I will pick a winner at random: I will jot down a number on little pieces of paper, mix them up and draw a number randomly. Next, I will count down the comments and find the winner. The winner will receive a set of three towels.

I’ll announce the winner the following week. So make sure to check back to see if you won, especially if you don’t leave me your email address.

International participants are most welcome (with some sleuthing, I discovered I have readers who live far far away). I’ll ship anywhere!  Good luck.

xo

Here are examples of my handmade kitchen towels:

kitchen towel giveawaykitchen towel giveaway
 different ways to use the humble kitchen towel

My humble garden

 

humble garden. suzanne mccarthyOnce, over a long-distance phone call, I told my dearly departed Dad I had a garden. After arriving for a visit, months later, he took one look in our back yard and said, “Where’s your garden?”

For him, a garden meant not just plantings of annuals and perennials, and a few pots of herbs and flowers, but rows and rows of vegetables. Like the amazing garden my mother grew and tended to entirely on her own in the backyard of our family home.humble backyard garden. suzanne mcarthy

I love the whole idea of it, and I’m not afraid of the work involved, but I don’t grow vegetables in my garden. That would require displacing the perennials or tearing up the lawn. And then where would we put our tables and chairs for the outdoor dinner parties we like to host? Not willing to sacrifice the space. Not just yet.

But here’s a look at some of what I do have.

The basil I planted is doing really well and it’s only mid June. Is it because of the eggshells? I have three varieties: Italian, sweet, and Thai. Not quite enough to make pesto but plenty to pinch and pluck and place on an open face goat cheese sandwich with tomato slices and drizzled with olive oil, or to flavour a coconut milk curry.

la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthy DSC_1666la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthy

I planted two kinds of parsley: Italian or flat leaf (my favourite) and curly leaf. Good for making tabouleh or adding to chimichuri.la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthyla vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthyI’ve got plenty of mint; three kinds of peppermint and a pot of spearmint.la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthy

la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthyla vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthyAnd I almost forgot, lemon balm! It’s from the mint family, too. I love the smell and, although I didn’t harvest it last year, I intend to make good use of it this fall. Many believe lemon balm has calming effects so they take it for anxiety, sleep problems, and restlessness. It’s also used for digestive problems. I’ll use the flavorful leaves to brew tea, flavour fruit or green salad, and season fish, or maybe include its stems in a summer bouquet.

As you know, mint is a spreader so I’ll have to keep an eye on the stuff not contained in pots. But I’m hoping the mint I planted around our compost will spread like crazy and conceal the not-so-attractive yet very useful bin. There should be lots to add to salads, and to make mojitos and tea. We drink lots of mint tea. Which reminds me of a funny story…

la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthy

We were out of mint tea, and Simon noticed me going out into the garden and cutting fresh mint leaves whenever we wanted to brew a pot. One night I was out and, wanting mint tea, he decided to do the same. When I came home I found him enjoying a pot of tea he brewed and he offered me a cup. One sip and realized it was not mint tea at all, but had been made with basil. He had harvested the wrong herb! Moral of the story: we really need to get a back porch light.  The poor man was snipping leaves in the dark.la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthy

I’ve added a small pot of lavender to the mix. It’s honestly one of my favourite scents. No blooms yet but still early days. And that yellow pot you see, it’s a clay pot I spray painted years ago. I love the patina.

What would a garden be without flowers? Too late to show you the solomon’s seal or bleeding heart, but a perfect time to show you peonies and marigolds. la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthyla vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthy

My love of the humble marigold persists. la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthyla vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthy

The ones in this window box from last year reseeded themselves. Hooray! I wonder what shade of orange or yellow they will be?

la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthyAnd geraniums! Not yet abundant with blooms, but soon. I will forever have geraniums because they remind me of my mom.

The day lilies haven’t bloomed yet nor has the phlox. They come later. But did I tell you what I did with some of my hosta? Instead of buying new plants for the front porch, I thinned my hosta and put them in pots. potted hosta, la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthy potted hosta, la vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthyla vie quotidienne by suzanne mccarthy

Last but not least, my constant gardening companion. Somehow the garden wouldn’t be the same without his peaceful loving presence.

How does your garden grow?

xo

 

Waste not, want not; using eggshells in the garden

I feel good when I get the most out of something before I throw it away.

Once, when I was in a (manic?) phase about not wasting, I would carefully open every piece of mail received so as to not rip the envelope. Then I would turn the envelope inside out and, using a glue stick, put it back together. Then I would have a perfectly nice stack of envelopes ready to reuse.

I don’t do that anymore, and although I’m the best at recycling in our family (even better than the kids) I discard things still useful.

For example, eggshells.saving eggshells to use in the garden

Like most people, I typically drop them into the food waste bin (we have a green bin system here in Ottawa whereby all food scraps get recycled) or in the compost. But lately I’ve been inspired to use eggshells more intentionally.

This spring I started using them in the garden.

I’ve been saving the shells from all the eggs we eat. First I rinse them (so they don’t get stinky) and keep them in a bowl next to the sink to dry out. You can also dry them in an oven, at a temperature no higher than 175 degrees Fahrenheit, for about 10 minutes or until completely dry. If you don’t want to turn your oven on, dry them in the hot sun. They are easier to crush when they are dry.drying eggshells in the oven for use in the garden

Which leads me to the next point – eggshells decompose faster and the nutrients are made more readily available if you pulverize them first. You could use a coffee grinder, food processor or a mortar and pestle.crushing eggshells for use in the gardencrushing eggshells with a mortar and pestlecrushed eggshells for use in the garden

Add crushed eggshells to the soil, either in your planting hole or sprinkle them directly in the soil around the base of the plant.

Eggshells are rich in calcium (95 percent calcium carbonate) and other minerals that help your garden thrive. They act as a sort of slow-release fertilizer, reduce the acidity of the soil and help aerate it, too.adding crushed eggshellls to garden soil

Many gardening experts, including well-known Canadian gardener Marjorie Harris, say crushed eggshells also work as a slug and snail repellent. Sprinkling crushed eggshells around the plants where slimy little pests like to dine is believed to discourage them; the abrasive sharp edges of the eggshells keep soft-bellied land molluscs from crossing the shells to get to the plants.

Even after the growing season is over, you can still save your eggshells. Store them in a container and they will keep all winter. When spring rolls around again, you’ve got a great supply!

xo