We need connection.

"We are all walking each other home." - Razz Mas

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Welcome to Monday Morning Inspiration, ANNA Magazine's free weekly online publication where we share our love of food, fashion and travel woven with heartfelt inspiration that will warm your soul and inspire you to Make Everyday Special! If you haven't signed up please do so here, SIGN UP!

My message today is bittersweet. 

On the one hand, I am so grateful for all the amazing people who showed up at our Mother’s Day Brunch Pop Up last weekend. We sat bookings together at large tables encouraging them to connect with other guests. And it worked! Beyond the delicious food, the room filled with conversation and laughter. It was lovely!

On the other hand, I am heartbroken to learn of yet another beautiful and talented person who made the decision to take her own life this past week. Interesting enough, several people had told me over the last few weeks that I needed to connect with her, thinking we had many similarities. I never got that chance. I didn’t know her that well, but I knew of her, and I wept when I heard the news. 

Both situations led me to think how badly we all need connection. We are hardwired for connection. We need a place to share with one another, to be honest with each other, to laugh with each other… And maybe to cry with each other.

With my 18 year old graduating this year, my own life is about to change dramatically. Last weekend I pulled up to the restaurant where she works, and just sat in my car watching her through the window. It was Friday night and I was by myself. At first, I actually enjoyed just sitting there… But then I thought, there must be more! And there must be more women out there feeling like this… Where are they? 

Then I remembered, when I first designed the ANNA Test Kitchen, I imagined how great it would be filled with like-minded women on a regular basis, maybe a daily basis (like a men’s club) for an espresso and a chocolate croissant, a business or leisurely lunch, a glass of wine after work or dinner… Sitting together at large tables and connecting… About work, relationships, family, friends, life. So we are thinking about ANNA’s Summer Pop Up for this exact purpose! I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments section below!

Through sadness and joy, everyday is an opportunity to be special. Today, I'm sharing a little of both... (and my fashion obsession with Clair Underwood).

Mari


What I have learned…
Today, I decided to share a heartbreaking story that someone special shared with me many years ago for our 4th issue, on the loss of her son.

When I was young I thought nothing of lifestyle or wealth or prestige. I grew with ordinary longings for family and ultimate love. I imagined myself surrounded by children and beautiful days. Then I met my husband and we fell in love. We were so happy, I knew he was the one. We had five lovely children, they are all unique. Our life took on such meaning. He became a dentist and I fell in love with design. He was a good husband. We had a good life. On a vacation in St. Martin, we got a phone call to come home, something had happened to one of my sons. He was sad, the things he was saying. We rushed him in, I was stricken with fear. Something was terribly wrong. I pleaded with the doctor but we were released a short time later. I was told perhaps he needed more independence, a place of his own. We left feeling helpless, we were in such despair. Later that day, my son took his life... Those were the years when I couldn’t breathe. The grief was beyond what one can comprehend. After 15 years I have found a special place in my heart to place the grief. And somehow, someway to reinvent myself. I see life in a whole new way. If ever I meet a person with a story to tell, for the rest of my life I will listen and I will never tell them that I’ve heard it before. If you know someone in crisis, please call them and say, "I want to spend time with you, I am taking you out". They just need you to listen, without giving advice. Over and over they need you to listen. They are not capable of telling you. Or calling you. They need you to call.


Just Sharing...
Without any further introduction, here are a few good titles I found on my iPad bookshelf... 


On a lighter note...

I just finished watching House of Cards Season Three... Although her personality leaves something to be desired, Robin Wright’s character, Clair Underwood’s fashion sense is enviable. Her wardrobe essentials are 1. Neutral colours 2. Fitted Outerwear 3. Structured button-ups 4. Strapless gowns 5. A Classic Satchel Handbag 6. Tailored Sheath Dresses 7. Boatnecks and Square Necks 8. Chic Workout Attire.

Her stylist, Kemal Harris, describes Claire's style in three words: "Timeless. Decisive. Feminine” and shares fashion lessons we can learn from.

 1. Claire's clothes fit her perfectly. Indeed, it is all about fit. Harris explains: "We tailor almost every piece to her fit; not everyone can afford to do that of course, but having a great tailor makes all of the difference." Buy one less pair of shoes and instead have your pants and dresses tailored.  2. Claire is not much of a pants girl. Pencil skirts. Full skirts. Fitted dresses. More feminine, and somehow more powerful.  3. Claire is even less of a prints girl. She prefers solid colors. Harris laughs: "We did one striped blouse in Season 3. That is as far as we went. Anything beyond that is too flamboyant for Claire's character. She is so classic."  4. Claire's idea of color remains muted. Deep burgundy, hunter green, violet, light gray, oatmeal. Otherwise, her color palette is black, white and charcoal.  5. Claire is not into jewelry or accessories. If she has to choose, she chooses pearls over diamonds. A single strand of pearls as a necklace, sometimes a single strand bracelet. And of course, her Cartier watch. That has been her trademark from the start.  6. Claire does not own a pair of jeans, or sweatpants. Her version of casual are pants with cuffs (when she does wear pants), and a cashmere sweater. Or a pair of black silk pajamas.  7. Claire's preferred sleeve length is three quarters. So much so that Harris often has to alter the sleeve length of the outfits to fit this rule. And oh how powerful does this look with long black leather gloves?  8. Claire only wears stilettos -- Manolos and Louboutins, specifically. You will not see her in a wedge or flats. Unless she is running of course.  9. Claire loves a statement purse. YSL Sac du Jour is her go-to, although an Hermes Kelly bag does make its appearance. As does a Ralph Lauren beaded clutch.  10. Claire likes contemporary designers. In addition to classics such as Ralph Lauren, Armani, and Burberry, she wears up and comers such as Altuzarra, Jason Wu, Derek Lam.



Simple Beautiful Food...
Dinner is easy when tucked into parchment and wrapped in foil. Parchment paper allows the natural juices to steam food during cooking, thus eliminating the amount of oil that could otherwise be added. These three simple combinations are a good idea all summer long, whether grilling outdoors or baking in the oven.

Salmon with fennel and leeks

1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced
1 small bulb fennel, sliced  
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (10-12 ounce) salmon fillet
½ lemon, thinly sliced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to season

Line a 12 x 18 sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil with parchment paper. Place leeks and fennel onto parchment. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, top with lemon and salmon, season again with salt and pepper. Place onto parchment and fold parchment over ingredients once, then fold again to seal. Tightly fold the foil across the top of the parchment package and seal both ends to prevent steam from escaping. Preheat grill to medium-high, place package on grill seam side up and cook for 20-25 minutes, until salmon is cooked to desired doneness. Serves 2.

Shrimp with corn, potatoes and Old Bay seasoning

2 ears corn, husks and silks removed, cut into 1-inch lengths 
½ pound baby potatoes, halved
1 pound jumbo shrimp,13-15 count, shell on
Extra-virgin olive oil
McCormick’s Old Bay seasoning

Line a 12 x 18 sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil with parchment paper. Lay potatoes onto parchment, then corn and shrimp. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with Old Bay seasoning. Fold parchment over ingredients once, then fold again to seal. Tightly fold the foil across the top of the parchment package and seal both ends to prevent steam from escaping. Preheat grill to medium high, place package on grill seam side up and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through and shrimp are pink. Serves 2.

Ratatouille

8 Indian eggplant, cut in halves
1 zucchini, cut in chunks
1 cup cherry tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh parsley and oregano
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to season

Line a 12 x 18 sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil with parchment paper. In bowl, toss vegetables with herbs, olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place onto parchment paper and fold parchment over ingredients once, then fold again to seal. Tightly fold the foil across the top of the parchment package and seal both ends to prevent steam from escaping. Preheat grill to medium high, place package on grill seam side up and cook for 15-20 minutes. Serves 2.

Happy Mother's Day!!

“What you seek is seeking you.”  – Rumi

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Wow!! We are over the moon happy about all of you beautiful people who have reserved your seats at our very first Brunch Pop Up, debuting this Sunday... Mother's Day! We've had bookings from boyfriends, girlfriends, sons, daughters, husbands, mothers and grandparents! It's going to be a beautiful day! We are nearly sold out with only a few open seats remaining... you can still join us! RESERVE here now.

If you've decided to set your table at home, there is nothing like homemade cinnamon buns and a lovely roast chicken dinner to make Mother's Day special! I also wanted to share a beautiful and inspiring story about a man named Ron Telpner, which brought me to tears yesterday!

If you are on our Brunch Pop Up list, I look forward to meeting you on sunday, otherwise have a wonderful Mother's Day!

Enjoy, Mari xoxo

What I Have Learned...
What you are seeking is seeking you. This beautiful quote is so comforting when you really stop to think about it. I have found throughout my life that it is so very true. Early in my creative career, well over 20 years ago, when I first fell in love with copy and branding and creative, I heard a story of an advertising agency in Toronto founded by Creative Genius, Ron Telpner. I have been a silent fan of his work all these years. This past summer I ran into him, and the friend I was with was a friend of his. His daughter is the lovely Meghan Telpner, nutritionist, author and speaker, with whom I'll have a chance to work with this month! World's collide for a reason. I hope you take the time to get to know them both and their life changing stories by clicking on the images below!


A little Something About Happiness...
Aristotle believed that virtues led to happiness. He said that knowing and choosing what was right while avoiding what was wrong, essentially being good, would bring about a joyful emotional state. The ancient Greeks had a slightly different perspective. They believed that happiness was more about activity than emotion; that it was by being all that you could be, by reaching your full potential, and by consistently striving to achieve a high standard that you would find happiness. 

If you are one of the modern-day majority who are tired, busy, and completely stressed out most of the time, happiness may be something you hardly have time to think about, never mind pursue. But for those who do have opportunity to find their bliss, or to think about what makes them smile, many would agree that joy can often be explained by a combination of both Aristotle’s and the ancient Greeks’ theories on happiness.

Specifically, as the ancient Greeks suggested, happy is something you do – choices you make, goals you achieve, or consistent acts of kindness that you extend to yourself or others, even attitudes you exhibit. At the same time, Aristotle’s idea that being happy is something you feel also applies: happiness happens when your actions suit your conscience, when you stick to your personal standards and when you do what’s right even though it’s difficult, and especially when your thoughts are of others rather than of yourself. These are most often the moments of true happiness.

And so, in your pursuit of happiness, consider the moments when you have felt the most joy, measure the impact of those moments, and then think about how you can combine action, high standards and emotion with virtue and then plan to re-create that happiness. For example, if accumulating things such as a new car or another handbag makes you happy, just imagine how good it might feel to gather things to pass along to someone who has fewer of them than you. If unexpected gifts make you happy, think how much joy could come from giving spontaneously to others. Or, if achieving your personal goals is cause for joyful celebration, make an effort to encourage others to achieve their goals and then share in their joy when they celebrate. Keeping a promise, overcoming a challenge, a few quiet moments with a hot cup of coffee, defending a friend, helping a stranger, smelling the roses, spending time with a loved one... whatever it is that brings you happiness – pursue it!



Simple Beautiful Recipes...
Here are some the comforting recipes that are perfect for Mother's Day from morning till night! Brown sugar cinnamon buns, herb roasted chicken, asparagus and goat cheese gratin and a lovely Citrus cake with cream cheese frosting and lemon glaze! See recipes below!


Mother's Day Gift Guide...
When thinking of what to get your mom on her special day... here are a few quick suggestions from us our shopping partners. From Left to Right, ANNA Cooking Class, Flower delivery from Academy Florist, an outdoor fireplace from For Space Sake, Cornelia Bean Blended Tea in a beautiful tin! 


Recipes

Brown sugar cinnamon buns
1 1⁄2  teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons water, warm
1⁄2  cup milk, warm
2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2  cup whole wheat flour
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 egg
1⁄2  cup butter
1⁄4  cup cream cheese
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Filling
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1⁄4  teaspoon ground cardamom
1⁄2  cup ground pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine yeast, water and milk and allow to activate for 2 minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flours, salt and sugar. Add yeast mixture and egg and beat to combine until a dough is formed. With mixer on low, add butter and cream cheese a little at a time. Do not over mix. Place dough in a bowl lightly oiled, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 1 hour. Combine filling ingredients and set aside. On a lightly floured surface roll dough into a 1⁄2-inch thick rectangle. Spread filling over dough and roll up lengthwise. Cut into 8 pieces and place side by side in an 8-inch baking round.
Let rise for 10 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Makes 8.

Asparagus and goat cheese gratin
1 bunch asparagus, washed and stems peeled
1⁄2  cup breadcrumbs
1⁄2  cup Parmesan cheese
8 ounces goat cheese
Coarse salt and cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Boil asparagus briefly for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately place in ice bath to stop cooking and retain color. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Place asparagus in a buttered casserole dish, top with goat cheese and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serves 4.

Herb roasted chicken
1 whole fresh chicken
1 cup butter
2 cups fresh herbs, chopped (rosemary, sage, basil, parsley, oregano)
Coarse salt and cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Rinse chicken, pat dry and place in roasting pan. Melt butter and add herbs, salt and pepper. Stuff 1⁄2 of the butter mixture under the skin and inside the cavity of the chicken and pour remaining herb butter over the entire outer side. Bake for 40 minutes. Turn heat down to 350° and bake another 25 minutes or until thermometer inserted into breast reads 165°F. Serves 4.

Citrus cake with cream cheese frosting and lemon glaze
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon orange zest
3 eggs
1 3⁄4  cups all-purpose flour
1 1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2  teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup milk
1⁄4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)

Cream cheese frosting
3⁄4 cup butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla

Citrus Glaze
2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 12 baking square with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add juice, vanilla, zest and eggs and continue beating. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl combine milk and yogurt. Add milk mixture and flour mixture alternately to butter mixture and beat well to combine. Fold in poppy seeds. Pour batter evenly onto pan and bake for 35 minutes. Remove and cool. Cut into rounds using 4-inch cookie cutter. Set aside.

For frosting, in a medium bowl cream butter and cream cheese by hand, then add lemon juice and vanilla and incorporate. Sift icing sugar into butter mixture a cup at a time. Mix until smooth. To frost the cake, place one cake round on serving plate, top with 1⁄3  cup frosting and layer each round, leaving the top without frosting. Mix all glaze ingredients until smooth, pour over top of cake. Serves up to 4.

My week in Sicily.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  – Albert Enstein

What an honour it was to join a group of journalists in Siciliy for Sicilia en Primeur 2015! A week-long tour of the incredible wineries throughout Sicily. This being my first press trip, I had no idea of the beautiful journey I was about to experience. When my flight descended over Sicily, I knew that a miracle had happened! I am grasping at words to describe this fertile land, these generous people, the love of their country and passion for their food and wine! Edgy, glamourous, world-class, breathtaking, welcoming and delicious are a few words that come to mind. We were treated like royalty as we were bused from vineyard to vineyard tasting their finest vintages and enjoying their outstanding hospitality. Paired with the magnificent god-gifted countryside and simple beautiful food, I would give Sicily my recommendation as a top travel destination! And if you wish to join a guided culinary tour, our friends at Canada One travel are hosting just such a trip! See sidebar for details.

Over the next few weeks and months I will share more of it with you… Here, my Free Press column and in my cooking classes, which if you can, please join us this Tuesday and Wednesday, we are almost sold out but  few seats remain!! Register at everything-anna.com.

Here's a sneak peek of Sicily...

 Enjoy… Mari

Passion for wine and food…
We toured well over 15 wineries throughout Eastern Sicily, and everywhere we went we felt the passion of the people for their soil that produces their beloved grapes. I have forever fallen in love with the winemakers, their families and their country. I will write more specific and personal stories, however here is sneak peek of a few that really stood out for me… Wine tastings and winery tours. From top row to bottom row. Winemaker, Dario from Castellare Winery; A beautiful lunch at Cristo de Campobello; An overnight stay at Tasca d’Almerita and field tour with CEO Alberto Tasca; a late night tour and dinner with Mariangela of Cottanera Winery.

Accommodations…
After a week of touring wineries, we arrived at Sicilia en Primeur in stunning Taormina! And were put up in the beautiful Grand Hotel Atlantis Bay... Indescribable views (exceptional towels and linens!!) and first class service! www.atlantisbay.it

My City By See Bus Tour…
If I could pack my bags this minute and move anywhere, it would be Taormina! One of the loveliest experiences I had was taking a City By See open top bus tour around this lovely little gem of a city, sprinkled up a mountainside, overlooking the Mount Etna Volcano, in the heart of Sicily. There were headphones on the backs of the seats to tune in to your very own guided tour, over beautiful Italian music, winding its way all the way to its breathtaking top... For only E20. citybysee.com

Italian Street Style… 
A few must-have fashion essentials we kept seeing around town. Sneakers, blue jeans, a button-down shirt, a tailored jacket, a button-up sweater and a scarf will keep you in style through the day. Add fabulous heels and statement earrings and take it into night… Get the look… From left to right, merino wool tippee cardigan, neon pop statement earrings, slim broken-in boyfriend jeans: jcrew.com. Cashmere Gastown scarf: kitandace.com. Endless shirt in stripe, mirror metallic high heeled shoes, regent blazer in linen, New Balance 620 sneakers: jcrew.com.

Simple Beautiful food...
Dreaming of Italy, here are a few of our tried and true Italian-inspired pasta recipes… a good san marzano tomato sauce, some good store bought dry pasta and a few fresh ingredients will bring the aroma of Italy right into your kitchen…

Penne with Tomato Cream
1 can (28 fl oz) diced San Marzano tomatoes 
1 cup 35% whipping cream 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 package penne pasta 

Heat olive oil in large stock pot over medium heat and sauté garlic for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for about 20 minutes. Add basil and reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Add cream, increase heat to bring to slow rolling boil for 5–10 minutes. Meanwhile in another large pot, prepare pasta according to package. Drain pasta and stir in sauce. Serve immediately fresh basil leaves and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 6.


Spaghetti with Pesto
1⁄2 cup fresh basil leaves
1⁄4 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
1⁄3 cup well-aged Parmesan, grated
Pinch of coarse salt and cracked black pepper
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 package spaghetti (preferable thick, available at specialty food stores)

Combine first five ingredients in food processor on low speed until well ground. With processor running, slowly add olive oil until creamy sauce forms. Prepare pasta according to package directions, drain and stir in pesto. Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 6.


Chicken Parmesan
4 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless 
1 cup bread crumbs 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water 
Salt & pepper to taste 
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 can (28 fl. oz.) diced San Marzano tomatoes
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
1⁄2 red onion, finely chopped 
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Fresh basil leaves, torn apart 
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated 
Parmesan cheese shavings (use a well-aged Parmesan like Reggiano)
Vegetable oil for frying chicken

For sauce, heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat, add onions and saute about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and basil leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

To prepare chicken, place each breast separately into plastic bag and pound with meat hammer until slightly flattened. Place flour in dinner plate; eggs in second plate, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in a third. Dredge each piece of chicken first in flour, then egg and then bread crumbs. Heat vegetable oil in deep skillet over medium heat and fry each breast for 3 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper towel, set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°. Place fried chicken into large glass baking dish, top with cooked tomato sauce, top with mozzerella. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve with shavings of Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.


Linguine with Italian Sausage and Peppers
1 can (28 fl. oz.) diced tomatoes
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon coarse salt or more to taste
2 hot Italian sausages
1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
1 large yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1 package linguini pasta

Preheat oven to 400°. Place sausage on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in large stock pot, place olive oil and tomatoes and cook on medium heat for  20 minutes. Tear basil leaves and add to sauce. Add salt and reduce heat to simmer for another 20 minutes. Remove from heat and purée in food processor, set aside. Prepare pasta according to package directions and remove sausage from oven. In heavy saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and sauté peppers on medium heat for about 2 minutes, then add to puréed sauce. Slice sausage and add to sauce. Drain pasta and toss with sauce, peppers and sausage. Serve immediately. Serves 6–8.