California, 1982

California, 1982 | Sophster-Toaster

I’m finding, more and more, that my personal style is evolving into a fairly specific aesthetic that I’ve been internally referring to as California, 1982. I love anything with this vibe and snap up everything that possesses it, even when it doesn’t exactly jive with my earlier mid century obsession.

California, 1982 | Sophster-Toaster

Living, as I do, in Canada, 2019, I don’t get many opportunities to explore this new fascination. It’s made for an even murkier transition from vintage pin-up to retro boardwalk babe. It’s hard to find effortlessly aloof clothes with that sunny, summertime feel that can stand up to a Canadian winter, so summer is when I really get to shine. I feel most myself when I’m skating – on my quads or on my little banana board – to the 7-11 for a Popsicle in tube socks and a ringer tee.

California, 1982 | Sophster-Toaster California, 1982 | Sophster-Toaster California, 1982 | Sophster-Toaster California, 1982 | Sophster-Toaster California, 1982 | Sophster-Toaster California, 1982 | Sophster-Toaster

Bodysuit Camp Collection
Skirt Sophster-Toaster
Necklace Emery & Opal

California, 1982 | Sophster-Toaster California, 1982 | Sophster-Toaster

All photos by me.

Lime & Ginger Macarons

Lime & Ginger Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

This month’s macarons were inspired by the flavours I’ve been craving throughout this unseasonably cool spring with intermittent  days of summer-like heat. Like the weather, these Lime & Ginger macarons flip between hot and cold. I went really subtle on these strong flavours to give the cookies a mysterious and exotic flavour.

Lime & Ginger Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Lime & Ginger Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Lime & Ginger Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Lime & Ginger Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Lime & Ginger Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Lime & Ginger Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Lime & Ginger Macarons | Sophster-Toaster Lime & Ginger Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

Ingredients

for the macaron shells

(dryer version for the humid months)

  • ¾ cup ground almonds (as finely ground as you can find)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
  • green gel food colouring

for the filling

  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3½ tbsp milk
  • ½ tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar

Method

for the macaron shells

  1. Prepare your parchment sheets by drawing 1″ circles, ½” apart across the entire sheet (or using silicon baking mats with the circles already printed on them) and placing them on a large flat surface suitable for drying your batter, like a dining table. You will need 2-3 half sheet pan size pieces.
  2. Sift ground almond and icing sugar together, twice. Set aside.
  3. Add lime zest.
  4. In a large stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a hand or stand mixer on high speed until you have a foam with no liquid remaining.
  5. Slowly add the sugar while continuing to beat the egg whites. Beat on high speed until the egg whites reach stiff peaks. You’ve made meringue!
  6. Add your food colouring now and gently beat in.
  7. Fold your almond, icing sugar and lime zest mixture into the meringue in two parts.
  8. Here’s the part that takes practice: it’s time for the macaronnage! With a spatula, spread the batter, with some force, against the side of the bowl. Then scoop it up by running the spatula along the side of the bowl again and try to flip it all over and sort-of lightly smack it back into the bottom of the bowl. Gather the batter up again and repeat 15 times. It takes some time to figure out the best way to do this, don’t be afraid to play around with it. When doing the macaronnage correctly, repeating more than 20 times can result in oily, blotchy macarons, but I’ve found that doing it incorrectly doesn’t count towards this limit. If you are doing it right, the batter will take on a noticeable and somewhat sudden change in consistency, this means you are about half-way to that limit. When finished, the batter should be thickened and drip slowly from the spatula. You will have to pipe it onto your baking sheets/mats and it won’t work if the batter is too runny. This is the technique that defines macarons, this is what makes mastery of them impressive.
  9. For perfectly round macarons, use a large, 0.4″ plain tip with a pastry bag, or do it the lazy way and cut a corner off a zip top bag for mostly round macarons. Twist (or don’t yet cut) the bag at the tip and place it, tip side down, in a tall glass. Fill with your batter and twist, close or clip the other end to help keep the messy batter moving in the right direction. Pipe the batter into the centre of the circles on your sheets/mats and stop before reaching the edges as the batter will spread out a bit.
  10. Once finished piping, carefully pick the sheets/mats up and drop them back on to the table from a height of a couple of inches. The theory is that this helps the cookies keep their round shape and form the little bubbles around the bottom (the pied) when you put them in the oven.
  11. Leave the cookies on the table, uncovered, for 15-30 minutes to dry (or more on a humid day). This is a good time to preheat your oven to 350°F. You will know the macarons are dry when they look smooth and are no longer sticky to the touch.
  12. Place an oven rack in the centre of your oven. Place a sheet of macarons on two stacked sheet pans (this will stop the bottoms from getting too hot, resulting in cracked macarons) and bake for about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan half way through baking. It can be hard to tell when the macaron are done. I pull them out when the kitchen smells sweet and the cookies look crisp, have just started to brown, and don’t look blotchy in the middle.
  13. As soon as the parchment sheet/baking mat is cool enough to handle, take it out of the pan with all the cookies on top and place it on a cooling rack. The macarons will be too sticky to remove from the sheet/mat now; once cooled, they should peel off easily. I usually wait a few minutes for the pans to cool a bit and for the oven to come back to a steady temperature before moving the next sheet to the pans and baking the next round.

for the buttercream

  1. Warm the butter in a double boiler or in the microwave until it is soft but not melted. Beat until creamy.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the ginger. Cover and steep for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk lightly. Add the sugar and beat with a whisk until they are a pale yellow.
  4. Slowly pour the steeped milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
  5. Strain this mixture back into the saucepan and discard the ginger.
  6. Simmer over low heat until the mixture has thickened.
  7. Now pour the mixture into a clean bowl and beat with a whisk until it has cooled and become thick and custard-like.
  8. Add the butter in three parts and whisk until smooth with each addition. (If the buttercream bubbles and splits, keep beating until it becomes thick again.)

Once everything has cooled, place your buttercream in a piping (or zip-top) bag and pipe onto half of your shells. Then place another similarly sized shell on top and gently press them together. You’ve made macarons!

Lime & Ginger Macarons | Sophster-Toaster

All photos by me.

Party Planner Skirt

Party Planner Skirt | Sophster-Toaster

I am so in love with this new skirt from my new summer collection. Of all the new pieces I have planned, this one held the weakest picture in my mind. Once all the components arrived and I sat down to work on a sample, I had to go dog through my stack of notes to find my written plans because I couldn’t remember what it was supposed to look like. Even while making it, my vision of the final product was blurry. The organic cotton felt so soft and the colours popped so beautifully, but it wasn’t until I stood up from my sewing machine, after having just sewn the full and fluffy voile lining in, and pulled everything around to sew the back seams together that I knew I was onto something. I had the weakest vision of this skirt, other than I knew I wanted to work with the subtle diagonal lines of the print, and it turned out to be one of my favourites: love at first sight.

Party Planner Skirt | Sophster-Toaster Party Planner Skirt | Sophster-Toaster Party Planner Skirt | Sophster-Toaster Party Planner Skirt | Sophster-Toaster Party Planner Skirt | Sophster-Toaster Party Planner Skirt | Sophster-Toaster Party Planner Skirt | Sophster-Toaster

Skirt Sophster-Toaster
Glasses Warby Parker
Necklace Emery & Opal

All photos by me.

The Cottage

The Cottage | Sophster-Toaster

I feel extremely lucky to be a part of the our family cottage’s story, especially as I’m a newcomer. The cottage was built, by hand, by my husband’s great grandparents in the 1950’s. The lake didn’t have electrical service yet, so they built everything to run on propane. The stove was replaced with a newer gas range around the early 80’s, the fridge was swapped out for an electric model in the 90’s and, although the original gas lamps still remain strategically placed in the main rooms, we use the regular lights now. The water heater also arrived with the electricity, and completion of a mudroom/shower room, so there’s no more boiling water for bathing or washing dishes. The mini water tower system has been replaced with a water pump and filter in my husband’s lifetime. There was never a telephone or any other modern way to communicate with people outside the cottage but that has changed very recently with the placement of a nearby cell tower. However, even with all these upgrades, the materials used to build the cottage and the items furnishing it have remained largely unchanged as the cottage was left, in trust, to my mother-in-law until my husband’s generation of the family was able to take it over and become the next caretaker(s).

The Cottage | Sophster-Toaster

This means the floors, windows, cupboards, hutches, board games, and much of the cookware and utensils and the like are straight out of the 50’s. Some things even date back to the 30’s since my husband’s great grandparents didn’t furnish their rustic hobby cottage with new things, but brought their older items from home. Now that my husband has decided he would like to be the one to take up the torch of maintaining the cottage for his generation, we’ve spent our last few summer vacations up there cleaning and making sure the thing doesn’t fall down before we can complete the process of ending the trust and negotiating the price of purchase from any parties who want out. It seems every time I’m up there, I find some new, amazing relic that was tossed into a drawer, cupboard or shed that unlocks another piece of the cottage’s unique history.

The Cottage | Sophster-Toaster

As we make plans to rebuild and restore the cottage, we always make sure to come back to the original designs and intentions of past generations to ensure we are doing things correctly and with respect. We intend to preserve as much as possible while making necessary upgrades (hello insulation and bathroom with a toilet). Ironically, it’s looking like me might actually roll back on some of the progress, like the electrical upgrade – that may come and go in my husband’s lifetime – with a switch to solar in an effort to be more eco-friendly. Any changes we need to make will be done with mid-century styles and ideals in mind to preserve the history of the place both sentimentally for the family and visually for friends, renters and other newcomers. It feels like we’re the right people for the job.

The Cottage | Sophster-Toaster The Cottage | Sophster-Toaster The Cottage | Sophster-Toaster The Cottage | Sophster-Toaster The Cottage | Sophster-Toaster The Cottage | Sophster-Toaster The Cottage | Sophster-Toaster

Shirt H&M
Bikini Top Aerie (same cut, different colour)
Shorts ModCloth
Sunglasses ModCloth

All photos by me.