Sunday, July 31, 2016

What's Your Comfort Food?

Ahhhh, comfort food!  I think that we each have a favourite comfort food.  Many times it reminds us of a special, comforting memory or it just brings us back to feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.  I remember as a child, always loving lazy Saturday mornings.  To me, there is no better comfort food than pancakes.  I love the whole process of making them, the smell of the pancake batter as it first settles on the pan, the mouth-watering smell of maple syrup.  In fact, my mouth is watering right now as I type this :)  As I grew older and started to enjoy cooking myself, I learned to take pancakes to a whole new level.  In the autumn months, it became all about the 'pumpkin spice' or 'apple fritter' pancakes.  In the summer, it was all about the blueberry, peach or lemon-poppy pancakes.  In the colder winter months, nothing is more comforting than chocolate chip and banana pancakes.  Basically, pancakes are my go-to feel good food.  That being said, I've had a love/hate relationship with comfort foods as well.  For many years I struggled with trying to eat gluten free and even eating Paleo for my health.  Giving up grains was amazing for my health and I never felt better, but denying myself some of my favourite foods was difficult.  Since spending time in Europe and particularly my most recent trip to Spain, I had to come to terms with a concept called 'moderation'.  As much as I love and still eat a diet based on the Paleo/Lower-Carb approach, there are times that you just have to allow yourself to indulge in some comfort food.  Living in North America where everything is available to us all the time, we sometimes develop an unrealistic and unhealthy approach to eating.  Treats and comfort foods in many parts of the world are only consumed once in a while or on special occasions.  When you indulge in a rich dish, you savour it and eat less the next day.  BALANCE is the key word when it comes to comfort food or any other thing in life.  It's important for us to return to these life-lessons.  In a world where many of us are entitled and have almost everything accessible to us, learning about balance, self-control, moderation and true appreciation of life's best foods and flavours is vital to our ability to appreciate good food and a good life!!!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Summer Makeup Look

I'm always creating and playing around with makeup.  I tried at one time to pursue a career as a makeup artist and actually have a makeup artistry certificate.  However, I decided instead to focus on my teaching career and do freelance makeup on the side.  That being said, I am still very passionate about colour and creating looks using colour.  One of the great things about the summer, is being able to play around with more golden, bronze and warm peach shades.  These colours really bring out a tan and they increase your natural 'happy energy'.  I really feel that colour and energy go hand in hand.  That's why it's always important to wear something that makes you feel amazing and happy, regardless of what the fashion industry is trying to sell you.  The colour of the moment is the one that makes you feel the most alive and great while you're wearing it.  Don't get me wrong, I love following style and fashion trends sometimes, but I take from them only what speaks to me.  One trend that always does seem to be consistent is 'corals' for summer.  How can it not be?  It's synonymous with the warm turquoise ocean waters and when put coral against any golden tan, you have the most beautiful combination.  Ocean blues, golden tans, sunny yellows and coral - the palette of summer :)



This is my favourite golden coral look.  I love combining warm bronzers/highlights (Anastasia Glow Kit is my current favourite) with a warm peach-coral lip.  In this photo, I'm wearing NARS Catherine lipstick.  My eyes are naturally a grey-green-blue, so to create that ocean mystique, I blended Urban Decay LSD liner with Demolition liner and applied this to the upper and lower lash-line.  I then picked a warm pink blush to compliment the whole look.  Last but not least, I always fill in my brows with a complimentary golden brown eyeshadow shade.  It adds definition to the brows, but also gives your brows a more defined, elegant natural shape.

The summer is all about sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful weather.  If you're looking for an elegant makeup look to go with a fun summer party, this is a winner.  :)

Stuffed Eggplant and Garlic Potatoes

If you were to ask me what my favourite 'Comfort Meal' is, I would definitely have to say 'Garlic-Cream Potatoes' with Stuffed Eggplant.  I don't know what the combination of these two foods do in my stomach, but they marry each other and love each other :)  I wanted to cook a meal for my family in Spain to both thank them for hosting us and also because to me there is no better way of telling someone you care, than to cook for them.  It's the highest level of 'Thanks', especially when you put your whole self into making the meal.  Growing up, people would always comment that their grandmothers food was the 'best'.  I've come to understand that this is true because it's made with 'pure love'.

My grandmother never really cooked with eggplant, but she made the best potato dishes.  She was able to roast them perfectly - crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.  It took me years to understand that the trick is to pre-boil the potatoes and then roast them with as many herbs as you have available.  The Greeks do this too, with their amazing oregano based herbed potatoes.  However, growing up Eastern European (Ukrainian), we weren't cooking unless we had at least one head of garlic nearby.  My Alioli potatoes start with my Grandmother's trick of pre-boiling the potatoes, then roasting them with salt, pepper, lots of herbs.  I like to add mushrooms too.  In a separate bowl, I add about 4 or 5 cloves of crushed garlic, a few tablespoons of mayo and some soft cheese (something that you can cream together well - goat cheese or brie are usually great options).  I also add some extra herbs to this garlic sauce.  Once the potatoes are almost ready in the oven, I take them out, pour over the garlic sauce and then continue roasting for another 10-15 minutes.

The roasted-stuffed eggplant is actually quite easy to make and I love playing around with different variations of this dish.  I made a vegetarian version for my family in Spain.  However, I'm made this dish with turkey, lamb and even tuna.  It also depends on your taste preference.  Sometimes I'm in the mood for a more moroccan herb lamb eggplant and sometimes I want a more French inspired herbs de provence turkey or chicken eggplant.  Go with whatever your palette wants :)  I basically just cut the eggplants in half, hollow them out (keep the eggplant peices to use in another dish) and then roast/bake the eggplant haves for about 20 minutes until tender with a fork.  In a sauce pan, start cooking your filling.  Start with a flavour base, add some veggies, whatever sauce you're craving, add the meat if you wish too.  Once the eggplant halves are ready, stuff each half with your filling and top with whatever cheese/sauce you desire.  Sometimes I'm making a more middle eastern/mediterranean version, I'll use goat cheese or feta.  If I'm doing a traditional Italian version, I'll use mozzarella, or when I want to go crazy with the herbs de provence, I'll use brie etc etc - the variations are endless and the cheese options are endless too :)  Once your stuffed eggplant/garlic-sauce potatoes are done, pick a nice wine to compliment everything.  I personally prefer reds and I find eggplant can be quite heavy for a vegetable, so I actually like a Cabernet-Sauvignon for this dish.  However,  I try to pair the herb-flavours too.  For the French herbs de provence flavours, I like a Pinot Noir.  For the cumin, moroccan/middle eastern flavours, I sometimes will venture into a heavier white wine like a Chardonnay.  It all depends on your personal taste, as well as the flavours you choose to create :)  Hope you enjoyed this post!!!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Why I LOVE to Cook........

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One of the reasons that I really love to cook and experiment with recipies is not only because of the finished product, but the 'experience' itself.  Amazing food today can be found in many places.  In fact, it's very easy, convenient and sometimes necessary to pick something up to eat or eat out at a restaurant.  Culinary discoveries at restaurants can change your whole world and help you appreciate food.  Yet, nothing replaces the 'act of cooking' in and of itself.  I've been told by many people that my grandmother would come home from a long day of work and to distress she would 'have' to bake.  Many people would say "she's nuts, who would want extra work after working all day?".  However, to her, baking was something that helped her relax, focus, find meaning from her day.  I feel the same way about cooking.  Cooking can put me in a meditative state.  It somehow allows me to use all my senses at once and I 'forget' about the day.  It's all about consciously choosing what seasonings, herbs to add, smelling the food once it begins to reveal itself and watching all the colours and ingredients transform.  When I'm making an omelette, for example, there is something soothing about hearing the eggs crack, watching the omelette bubble on the pan, smelling all the other ingredients added to make this your own, personalized omelette.  Then, afterwards, when you sit down to eat, there is a sense of satisfaction and personal reward.  This is one of the reasons that I love to cook for myself.  I also take a lot of pride in trying an incredible meal at a restaurant and then trying to re-create it at home, sometimes giving it my own spin.  It becomes a mission for me to try and guess what flavours were used, how it was made etc.  Cooking is something I love because it requires all of me: all my attention, all my passion, all my creativity.








Thursday, July 28, 2016

Are you manifesting your best beauty look???

Every person, male or female, has their own idea/perception of what is beautiful.  In fact, I think that is beautiful in and of itself.  As someone who is a certified makeup artist, loves to travel and people watch, I've come to appreciate and now 'accept' my own version and standard of beauty.  I've spent countless hours and money, trying to look a certain way, copy a certain celebrity, wear a certain brand of makeup etc etc.  Yet, I never really felt satisfied no matter how great others thought I looked or how many compliments I got.  Every person needs to reach a point in their lives, when they realize that living in the present moment vs trying to be somewhere else or someone else is the key to true inner acceptance.  It's in this space of present-acceptance that I finally decided to ask myself - what look and style really serves me? Am I filling my life with this authentic vision of myself?

Inspiring questions often lead to inspiring manifestation.  My own reflection lead me to embrace a classic look that I've always admired - a clear, fresh. natural look with a sophisticated red lip.  I've worn this look many times, yet it wasn't until I truly validated myself as 'worthy' of owning my femininity that this look finally had meaning beyond just putting on some cosmetic products.  You see, anyone can put on a lipstick, scarf, hat, tie etc and TRY to feel great.  However, unless you validate that you are worthy of feeling amazing, the material 'thing' you put on will have no value and you will still feel empty and have a need to continue searching for the 'next' thing to make you happy (because you don't feel you bring value to it).  Yet the second you allow yourself to be and feel valuable, is when you will manifest yourself beautiful with minimal effort.  Your style/look will flow into manifestation........  Now THAT is true beauty!!!


Tapas Alicante


Just a few days ago I returned from an absolutely amazing and life-changing trip to the South-East of Spain.  It was in this magical place, where I tasted some of the BEST food in my life.  One of the restaurants that I visited was 'Tapas Alicante', where the food and wine were so good that I literally had a surreal experience.  I had to pinch myself to remind myself that what I was tasting was 'real' and actually happening in the present moment.    The fact that I felt 'transported' to another level of culinary experience says something about the quality, flavour and freshness of this food.  I've tasted calamari multiple times, but having grilled calamari in Alicante is an 'experience' in and of itself.  It was 'tender' and just melted in your mouth.  Some of the other dishes that I experienced were: Patatas Bravas topped with a fried egg and sausage, sliced potatoes with sautéed onions and beef cooked to 'perfection' and perhaps my absolute favourite was the croquettas.  I don't think I can even begin to explain in words how amazing the cheese croquettas were at 'Tapas Alicante'.  It was like eating the most rich and flavourful 'cheese bomb'.  They served the croquettas with honey and it was the perfect accompaniment with this dish.

The wine :) Wow, there something to be said about enjoying amazing food with wine.  It just brings all the flavours to a whole new level.  Finding the right wine to go with multiple dishes and tapas is essential to having a mouth-watering experience.  Since it was my dad's birthday this day, he chose a medium bodied red.  It went perfectly with all the food.  I personally prefer red wine, but sometimes with a lot of seafood dishes, I like venturing towards a white.  Needless to say, wine just 'completes' the food-tasting experience.




Although I'm just highlighting one of my many food experiences in Spain, the food at 'Tapas Alicante' was quite possibly my absolute favourite.  If you ever get the chance to travel to Alicante or the surrounding area, definitely check out this restaurant.  You will have the most amazing food experience!!! :)

A moment in time............

One of the most transformative experiences of my life was traveling to Paris a few years ago.  It was the ideal trip for me because I was 'open' to a new experience and ready to transform my life.  I fell in love in Paris almost instantly because of it's charm, the amazing food and treats and also because I felt the most comfortable in my own skin.  It didn't take me long to want to be and channel everything 'Parisian'.  I visited the 'House of Chanel', where I purchased one of my favourite red lipsticks 'Gabrielle'.  I got a hair cut in Paris (something I've always wanted to do) - the great Coco Chanel said that "a woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life".  I was definitely ready for that.  Today, I'm back to my long locks, but at that time, getting the short gamine cut and wearing a classic red lip was exactly what my soul needed.


One of the great things about traveling (no matter to what destination) is that you unlock a part of yourself that you always 'knew' was there, but you needed to be 'away from home' in order to realize it.  My most recent trip was to Spain and it was life transforming as well (and deserves it's own post). Yet, there was something about being in Paris at a certain 'moment of time' in my life that was necessary for my own personal growth.  It was sort of a 'Hero's Journey' milestone for me.  I think I truly started to understand just how 'transformative' this trip was when my cousin took this photo of me (on the right) while sitting in a cafe.  I had just purchased my new 'French Summer Hat' and was enjoying people watching.  I decided that during that moment in time, I wanted to lean my hand up against my cheek for the photo.  A few nights after that, we went to a restaurant that had photos of many actresses from the 40's and 50's, old Hollywood Glam era.  I was mesmerized by the photo of this woman (the left of the side by side photo).  To this day, I don't know who she is, but I couldn't help notice the similarity in our pose.  I often think - what was running through her mind in that photo?  Was she in a place of inner-transformation?  



I think that one of the reasons that I created a side by side photo of us is to remind myself of how I loved the person I was becoming in Paris.  It brought out a certain energy in me that was 'timeless'.  Seeing this woman in the photo made me realize that her moment in time (in Paris) was just as 'timeless'.  There is something very reassuring knowing that we're all on a journey and at some level, our stories are all connected, even if they happen in different eras and times.  The human experience is just another 'moment in time' for each person, yet the lessons are often the same.

Since my trip to Paris 3 years ago, I've had many new experiences, some great and some not so great, but the person I discovered in Paris (that inner 'true self' of everything I am and ever could be) has remained with me and I look forward to reconnecting her with each new day :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Welcome

Welcome to my NEW blog!  I am excited for this new venture in my life.  I have no many different interests and I wanted to find a way to reflect and express all the things that I'm passionate about.  I decided to name this blog 'Herbs, Wine and Lipstick'.  First, I love to cook and as many people know, it's simple ingredients and a blend of various herbs/spices that create the best flavour.  I absolutely love using herbs in dishes :)  Secondly, I had to highlight wine.  I really love wine!  There is nothing better than discovering a new glass of vino that brings a dish or mood to life.  It's passion in a glass!!!  Finally, I can't have a blog without sometimes wanting to write about lipstick.  I have a healthy obsession with red lipstick :)

I am really excited to create a new 'blog space' where I can share with you some recipes, musings on life and makeup looks.  This is not just another 'lifestyle blog' idea.  For me, this is the next step in a new journey towards authenticity, embracing my self and bringing validation to this life-journey.

I really am excited about all the new adventures that await: the recipes, the discoveries of new wines/foods and perhaps some new insights into what's really important in life :)

Renata
Blogger, Teacher, Foodie and Makeup Artist