Fire & Ice



The East Coast has been hit hard this past week with wind, snow, and ice. So when the sun finally started shining this afternoon, we decided to go out and enjoy it.

After putting on our light winter-wear, we packed up Katie’s new Herschel  Backpack (a Christmas gift from me) with some cocoa mix and my new Kelly Kettle (a Christmas present from Mom and Dad), and headed to the woods. This type of kettle comes from Ireland and has a chimney through the water reservoir, allowing a small fire underneath to boil water in minutes. Although it took a few tries to get the fire started, the hot cocoa made it all worthwhile!



What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?


Happy New Year! We hope you had a great New Year’s Eve and are ready to take on 2013. Mike and I spent most of our holidays apart, him visiting his family in Newfoundland and me finishing my exams, visiting my own family, and coming back early to get ready for school on the 2nd (law school is a grinch). We finally reunited on New Year’s Eve, and decided to avoid the crowds and cold of downtown Halifax to stay home, open gifts, and stuff our faces one last time in 2012. I made a little cake surprise for Mike and dressed Derwood in his finest business casual (or catual?). We had a great night listening to new and old records, playing Donkey Kong Jenga, and watching the few fireworks we could see from our apartment window. We might have been quiet ringing in the new year, but we have big plans for 2013!



DIY Christmas: Last-minute Gift Ideas


Our ideal gift combines the cheap, the useful, the thoughtful, and the fun, and this year we think we’re right on the money. Mike and I spent some time putting together these ideas so you don’t have to! Most of these can be whipped up faster than you can bake a fruitcake. They include:

Homemade lemon-sugar scrub: Just three ingredients for this simple scrub. For packaging, we reclaimed a jar of salad dressing and put together a quick label. It’s a great gift for those people who appreciate chemical-free skincare. We got the recipe here.

Knitted face cloths: Not only are these face cloths a lot softer than the terry cloth alternative, they are way faster to make than the scarves I knitted last year. I got the waffle-weave pattern from here, and picked up these cotton pastel yarns during our recent day off.

Knitted dish cloths: Same idea, different purpose. Perfect for the first-time knitter, it’s probably the easiest pattern to follow and to practice basic skills. You can find it right here. I spiced these up by using matching yarns to add stripes.

Personalized map coasters: There are a lot of homemade coaster DIYs out there, but we ended up going our own way. We used a vinyl placemat for a slip-resistant backing and thick non-corrugated cardboard for a base. For the surface we found maps of the important places in the lives of our giftees (places of birth, work, and romance), printed them, and glued them to the base. We covered the maps with clear-drying, waterproof glue to seal. We think they turned out well but next time would edit the maps to make them stand out more.



DIY Christmas: Start a Brand


What do you do when you can’t afford brand-name gifts for your friends and family? Make your own brand, of course.

OK, so you won’t find goodPRODUCTS at a store near you, but a few people we know will find them under the Christmas tree this year. After making a number of inexpensive but thoughtful gifts these past weeks (including soup and cookie mix, soap, and coasters) we were left wanting something more. The idea to package them all under the same brand came as we were making the cooking instruction cards for our soup and cookies. Playing around with imagery and titles, we decided on a new-vintage aesthetic – black and white woodcut images paired with iPod-style typesetting. Keeping these minimal and changing only the image between tags created a unified branding for our gifts which we both feel adds a sense of polish and quality.

Putting our brand together was a fun exercise and one that (clearly) doesn’t require marketing experience to impress those imporant folks in your lives!


Day Off


As Mike’s dad always says, you’re most productive at the beginning and at the end of a study session so it’s important to take lots of breaks. We recently ran with this idea by taking a whole day off.

We rarely sleep in but we rolled of bed and had a late breakfast at Athens, a Greek family restaurant on Quinpool. Halifax’s Greek restaurants serve up some of the city’s best breakfasts. Plus, Greek coffee is a real treat for the coffee lover. I ordered pancakes which were so big and fluffy I couldn’t even finish them (Mike had to help). Mike had the usual – eggs benedict – this time with smoked salmon. We both ordered the Greek coffee but unfortunately our enthusiastic waiter informed us the espresso machine was out of order. But we didn’t let that get us down! We had a side order of bacon to make up for it.

After breakfast we hit up day 2 of the Berry Merry Winter Market and were blown away by the number of amazing crafters in the city. One of our favourite vendors was a confectioner who made beer caramels – delicious! Feeling inspired, we headed over to Atlantic Fabric, Crafts & More in Dartmouth and picked up a few things for some Christmas projects (more on that later).

We ended off the day with a well-earned (at least that’s what we told ourselves) feed of some of the city’s best poutine at Cheese Curds. They had about 10 different topping combinations, including butter chicken, but for our first visit we went with the classic model. We would (and did) go again.

All in all we had a very productive day off.


DIY: “Linocut” Christmas Cards


After rejecting all the pictures from our Christmas card photo shoot (apparently we’re not that photogenic) Katie and I were still in need of cards for our friends and families. Luckily we had some nice paper and printmaking supplies on hand. Keep reading to find out how we used the above supplies and to see the final product!

I am by no means a printmaker but I do understand the basics of linoleum printing. The things you’ll need for a simple card are:

A linoleum block (OK, OK, that isn’t linoleum in the picture but it was cheaper than the lino blocks available at the time)
Cutting blades (a variety is good)
A rubber brayer (the roller above)
Paper (a textured paper may impact your prints in a good or bad way, see our finished product)
A flat inking surface (a pane of glass is great but something like a piece of styrofoam, which I had to use, can also work)

While this image may look like an ad for Speedball, any brand supplies will do. I don’t have detailed instructions for the entire process but here are some important tips:

1. Pick your image. Remember that it will print in reverse! This may not matter sometimes, but it definitely will for text.

2. Plan your cuts. You can draw your reversed image right on the block to guide carving. Alternatively, you can freestyle your design.

3. Use your cutting took to carve away the lightest parts of your image. Whatever is uncarved will come out inked. You can’t carve greys, but you can use hatching or stippling for shading. Use small gouges for cutting thin lines, and large ones for thick lines or for clearing large areas. Always be in control of your cutting tool. Note, that doesn’t mean a tight grip! Many people will recommend only cutting away from you. That isn’t always necessary but make sure that you aren’t cutting toward your fingers. You will cut yourself. I have.

4. When you’re happy with your block it’s time to start inking. Put a dab of ink on your inking surface and spread it out with the brayer. Go back and forth and change directions. The goal is to evenly coat the brayer. Add more ink if it isn’t completely covered. Too much ink will cause it to slide, not roll.

5. With the evenly coated brayer, roll over your carved block until it is evenly covered. Go back and forth in multiple directions here too. What you see is what will print. If ink is filling your carved shapes you may be using too much ink or the gouges may not be deep enough.

6. You can print either by putting the inked stamp on your paper or by carefully placing the paper on top of the stamp. Either way, rub the back of the paper or block to ensure the ink adheres to the paper.

7. Carefully pull away the paper or block to reveal your print.

This can be a messy process but luckily messy linocuts can look great. The most important thing is that the paper and block do not shift as it will smudge your image. With the rubber block I used, the sponginess also caused it to stretch and shift on some test copies. That shouldn’t happen with actual linoleum.

That came out longer than expected but once you try it you’ll see that it’s really a simple process. Try it out for some amazing personalized cards for any holiday or occasion.



Made at Home: Bacon & Eggs 3 Ways


When it comes to bacon and eggs, Mike and I are kind of like Ron Swanson. For fairly inexpensive staples they are incredibly versatile. Here are the three ways we dined on bacon and eggs this week:

1. Fettuccine alla Carbonara, a variation on an Italian classic. Hot noodles cook the sauce so you don’t have to. It’ll be ready before you can say al dente.

2. Bacon, Egg, N’ Cheese Bagel Sandwich, an easy (but not calorie-friendly) breakfast, especially delicious on a toasted poppyseed bagel.

3. Bacon Cheddar Quiche, loosely based on this recipe. We used individual tarts instead of a pie crust to make them easy to grab. These would be a hit at a breakfast (or any) potluck.

We wish we could go on but for this week three are all our waistlines can afford!

Enjoy responsibly,


November Wrap-up

To survive the end-of-term blues, tonight we’ve been reminiscing about this month’s finer points. For Katie’s birthday on the 16th we got to indulge our inner gourmet by dining at the best of Halifax, the Brooklyn Warehouse. I had the deer, Katie tried the lamb, and we both couldn’t resist ordering the Brooklyn Ale (a beer exclusive to the restaurant). A few days later we stopped in for drinks and charcuterie at another top pick, the Parisian-style resto Bistro le Coq, on the way to the Parade of Lights (see a previous post). Another night, we attempted to emulate the restaurant experience at home, but with a twist. We had an indoor picnic on the floor of our living room, complete with DIY charcuterie, fresh pasta, and candlelight. Another highlight came in the mail just two days ago – Katie’s  award-winning essay is finally in print! The Law Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador graciously sent her two copies of the journal (now in a library near you). Finally, we can’t talk about November without mentioning the biggest addition to our household, Derwood. We can’t get enough of our snaggle-toothed kitty, and with a face like that can you blame us?

Freaks & Geeks

A few weeks ago Mike and I started watching the first (and sadly, only) season of Freaks and Geeks on Netflix. Set in the 80s, it follows the lives of siblings Lindsay and Sam Weir and their friends, the freaks and the geeks respectively. For those who haven’t seen this one, it features an all-star cast including James Franco, Seth Rogan, and Jason Segel (all freaks) as well as Francis james Daley (a geek) who we now love as Dr. Sweets in Bones. We were hooked from the start and before we knew it we were rooting for Bill, empathizing with Daniel, and facing the last two episodes of the series.

To see it out with a bang we put together a Freaks and Geeks dinner fitting of the season finale. Being a little bit freak and a little bit geek ourselves, we also donned the outfits to match before settling in to wish our new friends goodbye (OK, so we may be outing ourselves as geeks here). Read on for our FnG-inspired menu:

On the Geek side,
1. Me dressed as one of my favourite characters from the show, Millie.
2. Homemade lemonade, freshly squeezed by Mike!
3. Sweet and simple apple and provolone pizza.
4. Yummy homemade caramel corn for dessert. We got the recipe here.

And on the Freak side,
1. Mike as Daniel, the baddest of the bad boys.
2. A delicious Rogue “Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout.”
3. Peanut butter cheeseburger pizza – a pizza that breaks all the rules! We got inspired to make this after eating the famous “Peanut butter burger” at Darrell’s Restaurant. There’s a reason it’s been voted Halifax’s best burger year after year. We used peanut butter for the base, local lean ground beef, some cheddar cheese, and topped it off with shredded lettuce and tomato.
4. Dangerously cheesy cheese popcorn. We made a cheese sauce using cheddar cheese powder and butter and generously heaped it on. So good (and so bad for you!)

We’d be lying if we said we weren’t bummed the show is over, but at least we gave it a proper send-off! Now all we need to do is try to find another show to obsess over and distract us from our work.

We’re open to suggestions!