Tag Archives: spring

Beyond the Pale

Spring is upon us, bringing with it the warmer weather, blooming flowers, and pastel hues. I have always loved the thought of pastels but have never incorporated them into my wardrobe. As a 40-something plus-sized woman, I picture these colours making me look too childish, too prissy, or too much like a fluffy marshmallow peep.

Pastel fashion Spring 2012

(Photo: Posh Pose Post)

However, this year the runways and fashion magazines are bursting with so many examples of the confectionary colours that I am emboldened to give them a try.

pastel nail polish

(Photo: A Girl Can Dream)

I’m going to start slowly, with nail polish. It is an inexpensive way to try out the different shades to determine which ones best suit my skintone. And even though I don’t think it is a colour I would chose for my wardrobe, I love the seafoam green on nails.

Mad Men inspired ASOS lemon handbag

(Photo: ASOS)

The success of AMC’s Mad Men has inspired a vintage vibe in spring fashion, which is perfectly suited to pastels. A lady-like bag is a great way to get both trends in one purchase.

bold pastel pink hair

(Photo: Kris Atomic)

I’m not this bold but I’m totally crushing on the cotton candy hair trend.  When paired with well-tailored clothes, it really is quite chic.

seafoam shoes

(Photo: Viva Luxury)

I really was surprised at how easy it is to tone down the girliness of pastels by adding a darker colour like navy or black. The pairing is perfect for the transition from winter-wear to warmer weather outfits.

pink peonies skirt

(Photo: The Pink Peonies)

Before this year, I never would have thought to mix pastels together but the combination provides a fresh take on another spring trend: colour blocking. Pairing pastels with a slightly more masculine piece, like a pinstripe shirt, provides a fun and unexpected contrast.

What to Wear

(Photo: What to Wear)

I’m certainly not going to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe but I think a few key pieces are in my future. What about you? Do you shy away from pastels or have you embraced this spring’s trend?

Posted in Fashion | Tagged

Cherry Blossom Centennial in DC

Cherry blossoms in DC

Image by Renee Alfonso

Here in Washington, DC Spring is always highly anticipated. Year after year tourists flock to the US Capital to see the world-famous cherry blossoms on the grounds of the National Mall surrounding the Washington Monument and the Tidal Basin.

Cherry blossoms line the tidal basin

Image by Renee Alfonso

The cherry blossoms, or Sakura, as they’re known in Japan, are native to the island country, but thrive in temperate conditions. Most of the trees in Washington that surround the Tidal Basin are of the Yoshino variety, easily the most common variety of cherry blossoms. While cherry blossoms have a relatively long lifespan, the fact that the trees in Washington have survived this long is also a remarkable event.

National Monument peeking through the Cherry Blossoms

Every year the National Park service predicts the blossoms “peak bloom,” when around 70% of the blossoms in the trees have flowered. Once the flowers open, the tourists come in waves to the US Capital for this fleeting but exhilarating display. Most years the flowers bloom at the end of March or at the beginning of April, but this year they bloomed a little early thanks to a spur of warm weather that swept the district last week.

The blossoms were a special gift from Japan to the United States, given in 1912 to symbolize friendship between the two nations. Although the blooming of the trees is somewhat of a national event every year, this year is particularly significant as it marks the centennial anniversary of the trees.

Sakura by the water

Image by Renee Alfonso

Although the blossoms were almost gone by the time, the celebrations for the centennial were right on time, and for the next month Washington, DC will be alive with cherry blossom related events and festivites. Here’s a few events of note that might be of interest if you’re visiting the district.

Blossom Kite Festival

Blossom Kite FestivalPhoto by Matt MClain, http://www.mattmcclainphoto.com/

The kite festival is an anticipated annual event. Participants bring their own kites, or make them at activity stations on site, and fly them on the National Mall near the Washington monument. There are also traditional Japanese kite flying demonstrations, as well as competitions for those more experienced flyers. This year the festival will be on Saturday, March 31, on the National Mall.

Blossom Bites by Bike Tour

Blossom Bites by BikeBlossom Bites by Bike. Photo credit: Bike and Roll.

For the entire length of the festival, the bicycle tour company Bike and Roll DC Metro are giving bicycle tours and tastings centered around the famous blossoms. The three-hour tour will take you to three eateries in three famous neighborhoods in the district, where you will get a chance to sample cherry blossom-themed bites. After you eat, you can burn the calories on the way to the next site!

Website: http://www.bikethesites.com/Tours/#blossom

Official Stone Lantern Lighting Ceremony

The Japanese Stone lantern is lit

The stone lantern at the Tidal Basin is as iconic as the trees themselves, and every year the lantern is lit in a ceremony that features traditional Japanese performances. This year the ceremony will be held on Sunday, April 8, at 2:30 PM.


Posted in Culture, News | Tagged , ,

Sweet Treats for Easter and Passover

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

The holidays are only a few weeks away, so now is the perfect time to start planning what sweets you will use to fill your Easter baskets or what decadent dessert will finish your Passover dinner.

Modjeska Egg by Dundee Candy Shop(Dundee Candy Shop Modjeska Egg, Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

I never gave much thought to Easter chocolate until I moved to Louisville but the holiday is widely celebrated here and the local chocolate shops go all out with exotically-flavoured cream eggs and chocolate molded into bunnies, chicks, and lambs. My favourite treat is a Modjeska egg, a variation of local confection made from gooey marshmallow and rich caramel with an added dark chocolate shell to form the egg shape.

Chocolate bunny by SOMA Chocolatemaker(Photo: SOMA Chocolatemaker via Facebook)

If I was in Toronto, I would be heading straight to SOMA for a few of their adorable bunnies made with luscious artisanal chocolate. But what can you do if your town doesn’t have such wonderful shops? Why not make your own?

Marbeled Egg featured on BBC Good Food(Photo: BBC Good Food)

The chocolate eggs featured on BBC Good Food look like they came from an expensive boutique but they really are simple to make; you only need good-quality chocolate and some egg-shaped molds, which you can purchase at craft or baking supply stores. These would also look great with white chocolate coloured with different pastel shades.

Bright Rainbow Jelly Egg(Photo: Choose to Thrive)

If you are looking to brighten up your Easter table, you might want to try these rainbow jelly eggs. Choose to Thrive provides a step-by-step tutorial to achieve this effect using a Jello Jigglers egg mold (available from the Kraft Corner Store).

Bunny cupcake toppers by Sweet Sugar Belle(Photo: Sweet Sugar Belle)

As if Easter doesn’t bring enough of a sugar-high, Sweet Sugar Belle has created a cute bunny treat that combines cupcakes AND cookies. Yum!

Candy Centerpiece by 24/7 Moms(Photo: 24/7 Moms)

If you can restrain yourself from eating it all, use extra candy to create a playful centerpiece for your holiday dinner table. But make sure to use two vases, as per the instructions on 24/7 Moms, or you will have a sticky mess on your hands as the candy dissolves in the flowers’ water.

Flourless Chocolate Cake perfect for Passover(Photo: The Cooking Channel)

Passover is a holiday that brings family and friends to the table for the Seder meal. Of course you want to serve a spectacular dessert but the Pesach restrictions on ingredients such as flour and yeast-based leavening agents can be a challenge for home cooks. Fortunately, the days of rock-hard sponge cakes and overly sweet macaroons are over and dozens of tasty recipes are available on the Internet.  The Cooking Channel’s take on the traditional flourless chocolate cake is as beautiful as it is delicious and is completely dairy-free for those who keep their meal strictly kosher.

Pates de Fruits by Serious Eats(Photo: Serious Eats)

For a lighter treat, Serious Eats has created a variation of the French pâte de fruits with Manischewitz wine and seedless jam. While you will need to find kosher gelatin, available in many grocery stores this time of year, this recipe does not require a lot of preparation and will allow you to concentrate on other parts of your meal. For more great ideas, check out Smitten Kitchen’s 20 Flourless Dessert Ideas but check with your guests about any ingredients they might be avoiding on Passover, as some of the recipes contain peanuts, which are legumes, and dairy.

One of Smitten Kitchen's  Flourless Desserts(Photo: Smitten Kitchen)

No matter which holiday you celebrate, I hope that you get to spend some quality time with your family and friends and are able to share some of these sweet treats with them!

Posted in Culture, Food | Tagged , , ,

Sakura means Spring!

Sakura filled treeImage by Renee Alfonso

Ever since my college days in Japan, spring to me has always been marked by the arrival of the delicate pink flowers of the cherry blossoms. The blossoms, or sakura, as they are known in the japanese language, are a Japanese national symbol that is ubiquitous and almost equivalent to the nation’s identity.

The trees themselves are mostly native to Japan and are cultivated mainly for their flowers, which bloom for two weeks in the beginning of spring. While the trees themselves do not produce any fruit, the flowers are sometimes used in Japanese cuisine.

It comes as no surprise then that sakura are also a favorite design motif for a lot of Japanese and non-japanese designers. There are an infinite amount of cherry blossom inspired designs out there, and I put together a collection of some particularly unique interpretations.

Sakura Cafe by Klein Dytham Architecture

Sakura Cafe, the public installationImage from Klein Dytham Architecture

Sakura cafe was a public space installation devised in 2008 by Klein Dytham Architects in the Tokyo Midtown development in the Ropponggi district of the Japanese Capital. Part outdoor cafe and part art installation, the concept featured large plastic sakura sculptures that were functional seating and table-like elements. Each of the blossoms varied in dimensions to adapt to several types of use. The large synthetic blossoms against the pure pink of the natural flowers makes an interesting picture!

Sakura table at the Sakura InstallationWide shot of Sakura installationImages from Klein Dytham Architecture

Sakulight by Chihiro Tanaka

Sakulight Pendant by Chihiro Tanaka

Sakulight by Chihiro Tanaka - detailed Images from www.dezeen.com

Sakulight by Chihiro Tanaka is a pendant light fixture inspired by the petal shapes of the cherry blossoms. The plastic fixtures are hand-sculpted into delicate folds that form the flowers, illuminated from a central light source. The design also evokes paper lanterns and traditional origami techniques.

Sakura Screen by Mount Fuji Architects Studio

Sakura inspired screenRyota AtarashiCherry blossom patterned facade of a home officeImages by Ryota Atarashi via ArchDaily

Developed as part of a facade for a home office in the Meguro ward of Tokyo, the screen consists of two metal panels cut with a traditional pattern depicting cherry blossoms. When light sifts through the screens, the patterns are projected into the space, creating an abstracted, urban forest.

Meltdown by Tom Price

Installation by Tom PriceImages from Dezeen.com

Last year a few of my friends had the opportunity to assist in the installation of this piece by Tom Price, a British designer who had a show at Industry Gallery here in Washington DC. This installation, which consisted of a forest of cherry trees completely comprised of reused plastic tubing, filled an entire room of the gallery, alongside pieces from his Meltdown collection.

Tom Price's MeltdownAn Homage to Washington DC's Sakura by Tom PriceImages from Dezeen.com

The installation was an homage to DC’s iconic cherry trees. The show at Industry Gallery was Price’s first solo show in the United States, and the installation was a site-specific, immersive component of the exhibition.

This year, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the blossoms here in Washington, and a month-long celebration in honor of the gift of the trees and the friendship between the United States and Japan is already underway. Here’s to a festive and flowery start to the spring season!

Posted in Culture | Tagged ,

Make Room for Spring

Tomorrow is the first day of spring but it already feels like summer here in Louisville, where the temperature has been in the 80’s almost every day for the last week. Homeowners in my neighbourhood have been scrambling to start their backyard gardens, while apartment dwellers like me look on in envy.

Pretty spring flowers in this container garden

(Photo: Krizza Homes)

However, no matter how limited your space is, you have room for a container garden. I’m already eyeing my shared balcony to figure out how many pots of vegetables, herbs, and flowers I can have and still be able to get up and down our stairs.

wash basin planter with legs on castors (Photo: Houzz via Pinterest)

One of the best things about this type of gardening is that you can really think outside the box when it comes to what you put your plants in. Just about anything can be repurposed as a planter, so you can use them to emphasize your home’s style, or inject your own style into a less-than-great space. Brian Patrick Flynn has an excellent tutorial on his website to design a tub planter that work with either vintage or modern décor and can be wheeled inside when the weather gets too cold for the plants.

By grouping these square planters you up the visual interest(Photo: Apartment Therapy)

If you are using more ordinary materials, consider grouping them to have greater visual impact, like this large-scale planter of cinder blocks.  The key to this planter is the variations in height and depth, as well as the different coloured plants, which is something to take into consideration when planning your containers.

This planter doubles as a water feature(Photo: Silive)

You don’t have to limit yourself to standard garden plants; container gardens make excellent water features as well. These plants look exotic but are actually easy to maintain, if you follow Fine Gardening’s instructions on plant choice, placement, and care.

mounted eavestroughs are perfect planters for herb gardens(Photo: Tree Hugger)

If outdoor space really is at a premium, consider using a wall for planting. The small eavestroughs above are perfect for lettuces and herbs but would work equally well with small flowering plants. Lightweight planters can also be hung on the wall, or anything else that can hold enough dirt for the plant’s root system.

Planters for the railing(Photo: Greenbo)

Even if your balcony has no floor or wall space for planters, you can always use the railing. Greenbo’s ingenious design ensures that your planters won’t fall over the side and they come in a dozen fresh colours to help you personalize your space.

Repurposing colourful buckets as indoor planters(Photo: Urban Garden Casual)

Don’t despair if you have no outdoor space: small containers can work indoors too.  I’m considering borrowing this idea from Urban Garden Casual for my kitchen window. Small containers can work even if you don’t have the window space to spare; just make sure to consult your local garden specialist for plants that will thrive in shade.

vintage Twinning tea  containers make excellent planters(Photo: American Girl in Canada)

If you, like me, are a bit of a hoarder collector you can use this to your advantage. Vintage tins, pretty tea cups, and mismatched glasses make excellent herb pots which will perk up both your kitchen decor and your cooking.

Consider container gardening(Photo: Container Gardening For You)

You might want to wait a few weeks to begin planting but now is a great time to start figuring out what you will use for planters. While I’m spring-cleaning I will have my eye out for that special container to house my spring veggies and pretty posies. What have you been inspired to use?

Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged , , ,