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Archive for the ‘Makings’ Category

Thank You (Cards)

In Makings on November 3, 2012 at 8:03 AM

The latest batch of cards, for my colleagues at the Vancouver Writers Fest.
My contract may have come to an end, but I’m making sure our relationships don’t.

Gratitude is an investment in others. It is a sentiment which, when expressed, bolsters the relationships that enrich our lives.

And if good communication is all about crafting a clear, concise and compelling message to establish or maintain a connection, then thank-you cards are an perfect medium for showing gratitude!

There are many reasons to send thank-you cards:

  • You attended a fantastic dinner party (and you want the host to know they’re fantastic, too)
  • You were interviewed for a job (and you want to highlight the meeting in the hiring manager’s mind)
  • You received a business referral (and you want to articulate how much you value your network connection)
  • You received a thoughtful gift (and you want to return the thought)
  • You were given good advice (and want to stay connected with this clever person)
  • You were granted a spontaneous favour (and you want to recognize the good will)

For the business development geeks (like me), a thank-you card delivers the biggest return on investment when two key elements are included:

  1. Personalization
  2. Time

It’s one thing to write “Dear Miss Awesome — thank you!” in a factory card with the words “Merci!” printed on the front. But you can take your underlying message up a whole notch by writing a specific reason why you’re thanking that person.

People love anecdotes! So sit down and take a few extra minutes to consider your history with this person: Why are you grateful for them? What feelings did their actions conjure up inside you? What impact or change did they make in your life?

It’s the little things you can draw upon, so don’t worry about creating tear-jerking prose. A genuine thought written in your own voice will do the trick.

And then there’s a whole other level you can take your medium of gratitude: Handmade thank-you cards. Again, this takes time and personalization but it’s where you’ll really blow the recipient’s mind.

And it doesn’t need to be fancy! I keep a stock of envelopes and coloured card paper in my office, along with a selection of images I’ve gathered from magazines, newspapers and old books.

When you’re done reading a magazine, why not recover the printed graphics for another use?
This origami dress was repurposed from an issue of Vancouver-based GEIST magazine.

With bit of a glue and a quality ballpoint pen, you’ve got the tools to make a completely personalized thank-you card.

Note: If you’re the crafty type, I recommend keeping a few other card-making tools on hand: Glue stick, utility knife, a personalized stamp or seal, ink pad or sealing wax, coloured pens, pencil sharpener.

With the proliferation of cast-off materials to be found in our consumable world, there’s no need to spend several dollars on a factory note card. Of course, not every situation warrants a handmade card. But if it suits your personality, and will resonate with the recipient, I say craft it up.

And since email hasn’t completely eradicated the postal service, take advantage of the system and create joy! Receiving something beautiful and personal in one’s (physical) mailbox beats bills and flyers any day.

For the cost of a stamp and the 20 minutes you spend crafting your message, a thank-you card will help to ensure a lifetime of valued relationships. A worthy investment indeed.

oh hey, neighbour, savour these biscuits

In Doings, Learnings, Makings on October 4, 2010 at 11:09 PM

Volunteering can be a bit daunting. Especially volunteering solo. Not knowing anyone upon arrival at a new site or a new event, though interesting as it is to you, sure can be an obstacle in following through on your commitment.

In fact, this makes any solo venture daunting.

But sometimes the best experiences come from putting ourselves out there, alone.

Last year’s solo act: a trans-Canada train trip.

Today’s solo act: a last-minute volunteer gig at a community potluck.

And what success! Though the event wasn’t exactly what I expected (it had more families and less pulling of homemade beer than I built it up in my mind), I still managed to have some great conversations with the volunteer coordinator, Jason, and his partner, Laurel, who in fact are my neighbours! In exchange for sharing my experiences of SFU’s Sustainable Community Development certificate program, I was informed of a schwack of possibilities for the future of Main Street’s Village Vancouver. I walked away an hour later from the potluck with opportunities dangling within my arm’s reach, new ideas to be researched, and people to email for coffee!

Oh, but you wanted to know about the biscuits. Yeah, those were my potluck contribution. Want to try?

Leek-Jalapeno Buttermilk Biscuits

The easiest, peasiest drop biscuits ever. I basically take the following recipe and add/substitute whatever I have on hand. Today’s handy ingredients included leek, jalapeno pepper, mozzarella cheese and buttermilk. (That litre of buttermilk I picked up last week for cinnamon buns is sure getting some mileage!)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter (room temperature or slightly melted by Mr. Convenient, the microwave)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk

  1. Mix together the flour, powder and butter.
  2. Mix in your finely chopped leek, jalapeno and cheese.
  3. Next, pour in the buttermilk and get in there with your hands because a wooden spoon just won’t do [well, it will, it’s just far more fun to get messy].
  4. It’s totally ok if your batter is sticky; just mold into somewhat of a ball and plop it on a baking tray (grease if it’s not a non-stick).
  5. Bake for 15 or so minutes at 450*F, or until they get beautifully golden.
  6. Serve and consume to get the best out of their buttery goodness!

the Great Pumpkin Cookie

In I like, Makings on October 2, 2010 at 5:47 PM

Along with Christmas, Hallowe’en is my favourite opportunity to get all nostalgic-like for my childhood.

I grew up in the small city of Vernon, British Columbia where the valley hills were filled with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees.  A canvas for some spectacular autumn sunsets.

On my eager walks to a new year of school, I would try to linger longer on the tree-lined boulevards just to take in the smatterings of colours above my head and below my feet. Even at 25, I still go tearing into a pile of gutter-accumulated yellow leaves. The sound of their brushing and crunching, the smell of their earthy wood and grass, the astonishment of my fellow walkers at a grown woman sprinting and yelping — I just can’t help myself.

The other thing I love about autumn is PUMPKIN. And I don’t mean pie, darn it, give me cookies!

My mom loved making these moist and spicy creatures as soon as the Okanagan Valley air turned cool. And I had my hand in the cookie jar the moment I got home from school. I’ve never asked if the name was inspired by Linus’ late-night belief in a field god but this recipe definitely deserves a title of greatness. “I’ll gobble you up!” was my mantra to the Great Pumpkin, and they’ve become a staple in my own abode since I moved out.

Now, I like mine more pumpkin than sweet and buttery but if you prefer a standard cookie with just some pumpkin, put in a whole cup of butter, a cup each of the sugars, and just a cup of pumpkin. But note that where I cut sugar I make up with an ample amount of chocolate chips (obviously).

Also, this recipe makes about 4 dozen so don’t be afraid to put half of the mixed batter in the freezer (in an air-tight container). Sometimes it’s nice to have some in reserve.

The Great Pumpkin Cookie

1/4 cup butter (or margarine, as my mother would)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
healthy dash of vanilla extract
14 ounce can of pumpkin
2 cups flour
1 cup oats
1 teaspoon (and then some) cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Cream the butter with the sugars and beat with a wooden spoon until creamy.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until it’s a beautiful creamy, brown.
  3. Throw in the can of pumpkin; combine.
  4. Then what you really should do is in a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients. But because I work in a one-bowl kinda kitchen, I just measure the flour, oats, spices, soda and salt on top of the wet mixture before stirring it all in! So it’s your call.
  5. Mix in the chocolate chips and use a small teaspoon to make heaping dollops of batter on a baking sheet (slightly greased or not, depending on your sheet; I don’t grease).
  6. Bake for 20 minutes in a 350*F oven.

And from my experience, it’s best to retain your excitement and let those cookies cool slightly before gobbling up four or five. Otherwise your scorched tongue, though thinking it happy to taste pumpkin, won’t get the full, blissful autumn effect. Ok? Now tell me what you think.

give me blueberries!

In Eatings, Makings on August 4, 2010 at 9:00 AM

This weekend I visited my hometown, Vernon, British Columbia, and stayed with the family of my travel companion and best friend, Jennifer.

[What a stellar weekend. Really. Those few days in the Okanagan were exactly what I ordered after the last three/four weeks of long work hours. Oh, and my new iPhone sure was a handy toy for the occasion. But that’s another post.]

The morning after we arrived, Jen’s mom (and my former volleyball coach), Barb, sourced a muffin mix from Vernon’s Nature’s Fare in efforts to accommodate Jen’s gluten intolerance. Barb also made a batch of gluten-full lemon blueberry muffins — the same recipe I stole from her after I sampled their brilliance one teenage day before our daily walk to school.

Barb's gluten-free lemon blueberry muffins. Dunked in butter and sugar!

Though I drool over the wheat flour version, I have to say, Jen’s muffins appealed to me more. The texture of the brown rice–arrowroot–tapioca flour combo was delicious when smothered with butter. I apologized to Jen for gobbling a handful of her batch. But they were just so amazing!

Every morning we ate our full of those teeth-staining delights. Yet when I returned home Monday afternoon, I only craved more! So I stocked up on blueberries from the grocer and checked my cupboards for cornmeal — the most texture-adding ingredient I could think of that wouldn’t require a trip to an unknown health food store or the cost of my arm. (It’s ain’t cheap being a celiac.)

For this Martha Stewart recipe, I substituted the ‘expired’ milk in my fridge for the called buttermilk. I also used regular granulated sugar instead of the coarse ‘sanding’ sugar. I would recommend baking them a little less or perhaps turn the oven down a bit to 375 instead of 400. However, any smidgen of dryness can be countered with a good dollop of butter!

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

Makes 12

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk, plus about 2 tablespoons for tops
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries (about 1/2 pound), picked over and rinsed
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse sanding sugar (optional)
  • Nonstick cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in center. Lightly coat a standard muffin tin with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and orange zest, if using.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg yolks, and butter. Stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until just blended. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until just stiff. Gently fold whites and blueberries into the batter until just combined.
  3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each cup three-quarters full. Bake 12 minutes. Remove from oven; gently brush tops with buttermilk, and sprinkle with sanding sugar, if desired. Continue baking until tops are golden and a cake tester inserted in a muffin center comes out clean, 6 to 8 minutes more. Let muffins cool slightly, about 10 minutes, before turning out of tin.

eh, Canada, I think I love you

In Makings, Thinkings on July 1, 2010 at 11:28 AM

So I’ve been doing my anti-rain dance today. My scissors are crossed too, and I’ve got my glue stick ready to adhere the sun to the Vancouver sky. Why? It’s Canada’s 143rd birthday and we want to party!

But as great as nice weather would be, it’s the company I’m looking forward to. It takes great people to make great ideas happen and I’m excited to have two handfuls of dear friends gung-ho for a park potluck and minor league baseball game — and fireworks — on this July 1 holiday.

If I could, though, I would teleport all my Canadian friends to Queen Elizabeth Park this afternoon. That’s the trouble with our country: it’s just so darn wide. But it’s a bittersweet kinda thing because when we do cross the long distances to finally see each other, it makes the meeting so worthwhile, so genuinely satisfying, so heartwarming to know that time and space can’t fade some friendships.

This is exactly how I felt when I finally met up with Jess and Jon last weekend after two years! Though we’ve only been the Straight of Georgia away from each other, life took our courses far and wide — her to law school, marriage and international wheelchair basketball, and me, well, you know that story. We had a great evening together, dining on Glo‘s patio and filling in the gaps. If growing up means reconnecting with great people, I’ll be ok with this aging business.

Lobster anyone?

And then there’s my dearest Caroline and Rob who are currently en route heading west across the country. After finishing university and enjoying five years on the East Coast, my pen pal and her partner are at last making their big move from Halifax to Victoria. I last saw C&R in December, spending a restful and reflective week in their Halifax home. They were conduits to a turning point (literally and figuratively) in my post-university turmoil and I cannot articulate how happy I am that these two wonderful people will be relocating back to BC.  Maybe we can finally get that book club we’ve been talking about up and running at last!

Bundled for the Nova Scotian winter and chatting up a storm.

Ah, and Ashley, my former soccer teammate who is now my teammate in “life uncertainty”. Thanks to BC Ferries, we were able to play soccer together again, watch some World Cup, eat pancakes at her parents’ retirement condo on the Gorge, and hash out our ideas for the future. With an urge to do something different, she will head to Shanghai in August to teach English. I think I will just have to go visit her again there.

There are so many more people I’d like to bring together. I find myself reflecting on my trip across the country last winter and grateful I kept a travel blog along the way. If there’s one thing I don’t regret doing ever, it’s taking the time to document.

Anyway, now that it’s a new month, it’s time to turn the calendar page. Or rather, re-draw the calendar!

Out with the old...

...and in with the new!

And here’s a flashback I Stumbled upon of our national goofy uncle.  Alrighty then.

hoppy birthday

In Makings on June 23, 2010 at 9:00 AM

I’m really into using stencils lately. I’m making my own or borrowing from my copy of Handmade Hellos by Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle.

I hope Christina liked these floral hop-alongs! These bunnies were nudging me to be useful, so I lent them some scrolls.

Envelopes are fun to make as well, and pretty simple so long as you use the right measurements around the card! For this envelope I used one side of a paper bag, some fruit from the grocer flyer, and played with my India ink a bit. For now I’m sealing envelopes with glue and my duck, but wouldn’t a wax seal be fun!

Dad Day

In Makings on June 22, 2010 at 12:30 PM

The other day I mentioned I was looking for a bicycle for my Father’s Day card. Well I changed my mind. My adopted pad of manilla sketch paper was screaming at me, with its clean and coarse surface, that I had to sketch something in ink.

This photo of my dad and I was an obvious subject.

It’s May 1986. My dad is 26, dressed in his forestry-school attire. That little pooch is our first dog, Sprocket, so named after my parents’ favourite Fraggle Rock muppet. You may think this dusk shot was taken on the ocean. But it’s actually Lake Superior! (Ontario is serious about lakes.) I’m just over a year old and Sam is on her way, hanging out in the photographer’s tummy.

I wanted to maintain the 1980s photo album feel, so I rounded the corners of my sketch by tracing the spout of a glass bottle.

I then cut out an oval from a piece of wood veneer Tina picked up from Urban Source (you like recycled materials for crafts? you must make a pilgrammage to this store). A gentle cut with the X-Acto knife a couple times avoided snapping the veneer. A duck to the back, some gold corners to mount the sketch, and an ink inscription completed the card.

What made this Father’s Day even better was being able to see my dad’s reaction to the card. Most years it’s Canada Post who hand delivers my gift but this year, a wedding and a bike race brought us together for a visit!

After I drove us back from Peachland, and once Dad had diagnosed my Bush Pilot and I cooked up a shrimp stirfy for dinner, I presented him with the card.

He took his time opening it (the envelope I had made from a magazine ad about the 2009 Brompton Folding Bike Race) — very gratifying. I pulled out the original photo and it soon led to nostalgia for childhood and Ontario, and stories about the family move out to BC.

Yes, a pretty special Father’s Day indeed.

sunshine weekend

In Eatings, Makings, Sightings on June 13, 2010 at 11:05 PM

Mother Nature reminded Vancouverites this weekend why we love our city — sunshine. Joined by my best companions, I felt like I had boarded the chill train to holiday town. Complete with…

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the first beer-on-balcony evening of the summer,

a cover of “Oleander” by Steph Macpherson and Zachary Lucky at Cafe Deux Soleil,

happy faces at the Trout Lake farmers market,

mimosas, prime rib hash and World Cup footy at The Hub,

Kiera and her conch at English Bay,

making our chili cook-off contribution (while Kiera monitored),

fresh laundry smell,

mini samosas from the Granville Island food market,

grass conversation with my sister (and wishes that our other sister could join us),

new recommendations from my personal loan library (Lisa),

and the smell of sunscreen on sun-kissed skin.

an easy thank-you

In Makings on June 1, 2010 at 8:00 AM

I love having reasons to make things out of paper and pen. Last week I stayed with a friend’s parents in Vernon and, seeing as they can buy everything they’ll need except a one-off JW product, I knew how best to thank them.

This card was very simple. I used:

  • a sheet of watercolour paper folded in half,
  • a lovely illustration I cut out from last year’s Pacific Rim magazine (published by the students of Langara College’s publishing diploma program), and
  • my new Speedball calligraphy set and ink to hand-write a personal message.

surprise: you’re published!

In Makings on May 19, 2010 at 6:36 PM

vegan fudge brownies

A couple weeks ago, I made some brownies based on a recipe from the cookbook of my favourite Victoria-BC restaurant, Rebar. Then I used good ol’ Facebook to share it with my online community. I got some comments, some thumbs-up “Likes” but most surprising, I got an offer from my friend, Joni, to submit the recipe to her blog, The Three Cheeses.

I’d been following the development of this delicious blog and was proud to know the three women (also SFU graduates) behind it. It’s a special feeling – flattery – to be recognized by your peers for something you did. Even something as small as a yummy piece of cake. I have fun snapping shots of my makings but never expect them to go farther than that.

So thank you, Joni, for acknowleding these chocolate babies and continuing to submit it to places like foodgawker. Three cheers to collaborative blogging!