It's Like Christmas in a Glass: Homemade Mulled Wine

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It's Like Christmas in a Glass: Homemade Mulled Wine

The malls are madness, all a flutter of last-minute shoppers. We're all trying to wrap up work so we can officially begin celebrating with friends and family in the coming weeks. If you're hosting guests this season my advice is to KISS (keep it simple sweetie) and enjoy yourself.  Put the vintage holiday playlist on your Songza, chuck a selection of cheeses, chutneys and crackers on the prettiest platter or cutting board you own and whip up a batch of this super easy Mulled Wine recipe.  This baby makes the house smell like holiday heaven and it's like a Christmas party in your mouth. This is the trifecta of hosting success; snacks, ambiance and booze.

I used a few of my favourite Lee Valley kitchen gadgets because a) I love them b) they make life easier.  Everything is available at www.LeeValley.com

Homemade Mulled Wine

HANDY TOOLS  - A few timesavers I used here & love. Follow the links to view full details online.
Herb and Spice Infuser  $9.50, Lee Valley
Rasp & Zester Holder  $26.90, Lee Valley  
Lifetime Measuring Cups   $24.50, Lee Valley
Zestermate  $9.95, Lee Valley

INGREDIENTS - Serves 10
1 lemon
1 lime
2 clementines
1 cup castor sugar (regular sugar works in a pinch)
6 whole cloves
1  cinnamon stick
3 fresh bay leaves
1 whole nutmeg for grating
2 star anise
2 bottles chianti or chianti-style wine

DIRECTIONS -  Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Peel clementines, lemon and lime.  Put the sugar in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the pieces of peel and squeeze in the clementine juice. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves.  I used a Herb and Spice Infuser  to easily remove them after.  Then add about 10 gratings of nutmeg. I used the Lee Valley  Rasp & Zester Holder  to make it super easy. Next, stir in just enough red wine to cover the sugar. 

Let this simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved into the red wine and then bring to the boil. Keep on a rolling boil for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until you’ve got a beautiful thick syrup. Make sure you have a good syrup before adding the balance of the wine or you may burn off the alcohol.

When your syrup is ready, turn the heat down to low and add your star anise and the rest of the wine. Gently heat the wine and after around 5 minutes, spoon the warm aromatic cocktail into glasses and serve!

THE LEE VALLEY HOLIDAY CATALOGUE IS A CORNUCOPIA OF HANDY, MAKERS MOVEMENT AND DOWN RIGHT ADORABLE GIFT AND HOSTING IDEAS.

HAVE A GANDER ONLINE HERE>

 

This post was sponsored by Lee Valley Tools, however I do authentically use and love all of these products!

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Product Profile: William Morris Wallpaper

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Product Profile: William Morris Wallpaper

THE ORIGINAL - THE LUXURY OF TASTE

William Morris (1834-1896), artist, philosopher and political theorist, was one of the most outstanding and influential designers of the Arts and Crafts Movement and through his company, Morris & Co., he produced some of the most fashionable and exciting textiles and wallpapers of his era.

His legacy continues today with Morris & Co. producing authentic versions of his original designs alongside new interpretations to create up to date fabrics and wallpapers with timeless appeal.

Below is a lovely snapshot of his wallpapers. Remarkably, still today offering a combination of colour, pattern and whimsy I've not seen rivalled.

View the full collection of wallpaper, textiles and accessories online https://www.william-morris.co.uk/

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Fool Proof Holiday Gadgets

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Fool Proof Holiday Gadgets

I’m a lady who works in construction.  I could write a book on the importance of good foundation be it your home, wardrobe or beauty routine. Before attempting to layer in the decorations I like to start with great tools, gadgets and basics that will make that job easier.  As the holiday decorating begins I scurry around my client’s homes gasping at the nails they’re putting in the new front door to hold the wreath or the screws being drilled into the brick exterior to keep the string of lights in the perfect position to win best neighbourhood decorations.  I’m no Grinch and if you want to glitter every square inch I say have at, but first let’s chat best tools for the job so you won’t need to hire my handyman to fix the post-holiday damage.

Here are my top holiday gadgets that get the job done and disappear with barely a trace come January.

Front Door Hangers
Perfect for a steel door, this gold plated magnetic knob will support up to 3 lbs so you can buy the biggest wreath your heart desires and know come spring you just pop off the magnet and the door is still show ready.  Hanger Knob $9.95, Lee Valley Tools

Brick Clips
These handy clips let you quickly attach anything to brick without in any way damaging either the bricks or the mortar bond.  These are handy for holiday décor but also work great for securing vines and trellis.  Brick Clips Pkg of 4 from $10.95, Lee Valley Tools

Tree Stand
Oh the toppled trees and dry needles that have fallen in my house. With this stand, setting up a tree couldn't be easier. Just set the tree in the base, hold it upright and pump the foot pedal until secure. The claws automatically conform to any irregularities. To top it off, an internal reservoir holds up to 2.5 gallons of water and has a water level indicator so you know when it needs topping up. Fool proof!  Krinner Christmas Tree Stand $129, Lee Valley Tools

Tree Light Controls
Finally a solution to keep us from crawling under the tree to plug in or unplug the lights. Hang this brass ornament in your Christmas tree, and with just a light tap of your finger, its touch-activated circuitry turns the tree’s lights on or off.  Touch Control For Christmas Lights $24.50, Lee Valley Tools

Loop Hooks
I know you’re still going to hang hooks along your porch so I won’t give you trouble, I’ll just offer the best tool for the job.  My advice is to install these hooks cleanly in locations that work for holiday décor but also hanging planters or feeders come spring. Leaving them in place will avoid adding more holes each season.  A quick twist is all it takes to hang items securely on these pigtail-shaped hooks. The overlapping open hook design traps cables or rings, holding them reliably but not permanently, so you can remove items anytime without a fuss.  Loop Hooks Pkg of 20 $17.50, Lee Valley Tools

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Make Your Guests Jealous: 5-Minute Individual Apple Crisp

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Make Your Guests Jealous: 5-Minute Individual Apple Crisp

I'm always having the discussion with my mister about the old saying "done is better than perfect".  The thing is I'm particular so I want perfect, but time is not always on my side.  I own my own business, I'm a mom and I'm happiest when I'm being social and getting my quota of grownup social time too.  In my wise oldish age I've discovered picking my battles wisely will allow me all my wants without compromise on my quest for perfection.

The holidays are here and there is no more challenging time of year for us social butterflies.  I've been fine-tuning my hostess skills the past few years and now happily opt for quick and delicious over laborious and boujie.  With that I give you my 5-Minute dessert that I assure you will still have your guests green with envy at your kitchen prowess.

I'm a bit of a kitchen tool snob, don't judge me, it's my job to make the world a 50/50 split between form and function.  All of the accoutrement used and pictured in this recipe are from www.LeeValley.com.  

Without further adieu, here is one of my favourite dinner party desserts.  The beautiful thing about these is that you can prep a bunch in advance (only takes about 5 minutes to prepare) and keep them in the fridge.  When you're 45 minutes out from serving them, pop them in the oven and relax as the house starts to smell delicious and you can be chatting with guests while the oven does the work.


5-Minute Individual Apple Crisps

HANDY TOOLS  - A few timesavers I used here & love. Follow the links to view full details online.
Measuring Spoons   $15.95, Lee Valley
Lee Valley Apple Peeler   $34.50, Lee Valley  - This thing blows my mind.  It peels, cores and slices the apples for you in 30 seconds flat!
Measuring Cups   $24.50, Lee Valley
Mixing Bowl   $29.50, Lee Valley

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INGREDIENTS - Per 1 Serving
1 medium apple, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon quinoa or all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter (can substitute coconut oil for a vegan option)
2 tablespoons quick-cooking oats
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS -  Prep Time: 5 Minutes  |  Baking Time: 35 Minutes
Peel and slice apples and set aside.  Grease individually-sized baking dishes and fill just shy of the top with the sliced apples. In a mixing bowl, combine flour and brown sugar.  I used quinoa flour but any type will do. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add quick oats and cinnamon. Sprinkle over apple slices. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until tender. 

The Lee Valley holiday catalogue is a cornucopia of handy, makers movement and down right adorable gift and hosting ideas.

Have a gander online here>

 

This post was sponsored by Lee Valley Tools, however I do authentically use and love all of these products!

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The science of colour: Creating the perfect palette

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The science of colour: Creating the perfect palette

Colour is arguably the most powerful element in a design scheme.  I’ve studied colour and the psychological affects in much detail.  The advertising industry, out of necessity has championed the topic and perusing any number of articles on the subject helps add a bit of science behind the selection process. Remarkably 90% of an assessment for trying out a product is made by colour alone. Imagine how that notion is translated into interior design. 

Whether my clients fancy a trendy colour scheme or timeless palette, I pull it together with the same arsenal of information.  I promise finding the perfect white is not the elusive unicorn us pros claim it to be.  Here are my top tips and kernels of advice for  to help you venture to the paint wand with confidence.

1. Understanding the effects by colour

Red  (warm)-  Has a physical effect, raising blood pressure and respiration rates.
Enhances human metabolism which is why we often see it used in dining spaces.
Brighter: more energetic Darker shades: powerful and elegant.

Orange (warm)- Vibrant and energetic, friendly, inviting
Muted forms, are associated with the earth and with autumn.
Association with changing seasons: can represent change and movement in general.
Associated with the fruit: health and vitality. 

Yellow (warm)- Brightest, most energizing of the warm colors. 
Bright yellow: sense of happiness and cheerfulness. 
Light yellows: more calm feeling of happiness than bright yellows. 
Dark & gold-hued: can look antique, have sense of permanence.

Blue (cool) - Light: relaxed and calming. 
Bright: energizing and refreshing. 
Dark: strength and reliability

Green (cool) – Easiest colour for the eye to look at. Has a balancing, harmonizing effect. 
Brighter: energizing, vibrant
Dark: most stable representative of affluence.

Purple (cool) - Associated with royalty, creativity & imagination.
Attributes of both red and blue. 
Dark: sense wealth and luxury. 
Light: softer associated with spring and romance.

2. Undertones and Mass Tones
What you see at first glance is the color’s mass tone, but what is less obvious is the color’s undertone. Use undertone to skillfully emphasize or downplay elements within a home. For example a beige with a red undertone will create a harmonious palette when used with other warm and red tones, but will highlight those with cool undertones like greens and blues when used together.

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3. Palette Messaging

Historic and Neutral Palettes
Muted, rich, and muddied tones. 
Depth and strength that speak to permanence. 
Association with a history of success.
Offer a feeling of trust and comfort in consistency.  

White and Grey
Clean white or grey palettes feel orderly.
Very peaceful like that of an art gallery.
Nothing can be concealed and the space must be used efficiently to maintain and guest will relate to that message.

Pop of Colour
Obvious colour applications apply a definitive date stamp. 
In motion, change and evolve: reinforce with use of current colours.
Youth gravitate toward the most current of everything, colour is a powerful way to demonstrate that.


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Picture Perfect Holiday Outfit

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Picture Perfect Holiday Outfit

I saw snow this week. Sure it was only a few stray flakes, but there was snow in Toronto.  I've been deep in holiday mode for a few weeks already, chatting holiday trends, decorating advice and gifting ideas. There is no denying winter is coming and we need to be ready.

I'm sharing holiday decor, gadgets, easy entertaining ideas and even some fool proof gifting ideas over the next few weeks so check back in for lots of great tips.  Today, I'm easing you into the icy waters with a pretty holiday outfit.  I love feminine florals but we don't always think they can carry over into our fall and winter wardrobe.  I paired this shimmery Ted Baker blush pink floral skirt with a cream wool cable knit sweater and kept the tights and shoes black for the perfect mix.  

I'm in love with these Hillberg and Berk Sparkle Ball earrings right now too.  They come in lots of colours and at $70.00, fellas, these are a terrific holiday gift idea that will get you major brownie points without breaking the bank ;)

Click on the pictures below to learn more about the piece or purchase online now to get your holiday look in time!

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Project Profile: Mad Man Style Loft

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Project Profile: Mad Man Style Loft

In my career as a designer I’ve had an eclectic portfolio of clients from Lords to pro athletes, with spaces ranging from basement apartments to sprawling estates.  When professional hypnotist, Asad Mecci, asked me to makeover his dated bachelor pad, I knew I had a new contender for the most obscure.  

This 850 square foot loft, in Toronto’s historic converted Merchandise building although dripping with true loft details like concrete ceilings and industrial fittings, was otherwise stuck in the 1990s.  The homeowner a performer who spends 50% of his time in the Caribbean each month is as comfortable in a hotel suite as he is at home.  When approaching the design style for his own home he very much wanted to create the kind of clean uncluttered elegance you find in better hotels.  He also had me watch a few episodes of Mad Man and HBO’s series Master’s of Sex both dripping with midcentury modern distinctly masculine style.

We started by stripping out all of the telltale loft materials of decades past, like the maple flooring, cherry cabinets and smoked glass dividers.  A new hardwearing warm but dark wood laminate flooring grounded the space and allowed a strong base for our new palette of rich deep wood, shades of grey and warm white.  Pulling the wood onto the fireplace, wrapping all sides in ¼” sheets, stained to match the floor, then flanking both sides with floating bookshelves.  As avid reader, we needed a library of sorts, but with this open concept the negative space was as important as the shelves themselves.  With that I created book benches, installed low 18” off the floor the majority of his books run creating a lovely band of colour and texture with the bonus of being within reach of the new vintage sitting chair which rests in front.

The kitchen, in perfect condition was ideal for painting.  I had the bank of uppers raised to tidy the lines of the kitchen then sent the doors out to be sprayed medium warm grey.  New Lee Valley Tools deco cabinet pulls reminiscent of a gentleman’s’ cufflink finished them off.  The dark granite counter was swapped for a light bright white composite from Granite Transformations with under mount sink from Blanco.  Finally an almost hypnotic fluid glass backsplash was installed in an irregular pattern, dry stacked to keep it tight and contemporary.  An IKEA butcher block counter was cut and fabricated in a parsons style for the island and Husky garage storage units slip below adding a fun homage to the raw loft itself.  
Dark bronze lighting from DVI, black dining table and charcoal grey sectional sofa add a deep warmth and needed contrast to the warm white used through the space on the walls.  The north facing bank of windows was casually dressed with simple cheese cloth, providing the perfectly imperfect softness and creating the most lovely diffused light through the day.

The resulting space, is as polished as it is comfortable.  The perfect place for my busy client to take leave in his own hotel style suite at home.

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About Being a Designer

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About Being a Designer

I’m in the business of creating well-executed spaces I am a designer.   I’m going to let you in on a little secret, I’m actually just a problem solver.  My brain is not that of a lateral thinker jumping from creative possibility to creative possibility.  I’m a linear thinker. I see a problem, sequence through the possible solutions and form a plan for the most succinct and effective way to execute on that solution.  I believe in the possibility of infinite possibilities and I’m very very good at plucking out one such possible solution and committing to it.

When someone decides to hire a designer it’s an exercise in acknowledging that some aspect of how and where they live is not working.  Clients come in many forms some with binders divided by area and stuffed filled with “inspiration” ideas.  Others simple show up and say “We need more space”.  I’ve studied design and spent my youth in fine arts programs, and my college years mixing paint at the local décor shop.  I know how to create visual balance and harmony, but, good “eye” is not what makes me good at my job.  

As a designer you need to be a good listener .   I listen to my client’s words, but more than that I watch their nonverbal cues.  I gauge how they subtlety or not so subtly react to each other’s comments.  Designers need to understand how you live and I tour how my clients live now and mentally note the things they aren’t telling me.  “We need more space” may actually mean “when my husband gets up for work at 5AM he wakes me up getting clothes from the dresser by my head.  I’m tired and grumpy as a result.” So, they don’t need more space.  They just need a secondary dressing area that allows one to sleep while the other prepares.  Problem and solution.

Working with a designer means allowing someone into your lives who will listen to your wish list.  Letting in someone who knows how to solve everyday problems through the reworking and improving of your physical environment. They save ultimately time and money and they bring you a rolodex of trusted trades and suppliers who have helped them and help other homeowners like you before.  They are one part of a team that will become your team if you think they are a good fit with your life.

Your designer will become your voice during the renovation process.  
They will shelter you from the daily calls and site queries that inevitably come up.  They will work with the team seemingly silently but continuously until the renovation is complete. For every problem they will offer viable solutions, which they already taken the time to consider, allowing you opportunity to make an educated choice, not an emotional one to move forward.

You’ll laugh, the indescribable amount of drywall dust may make you cry, but in the end as you settle back into your new home, I promise it will be with a renewed peace, fewer problems at hand, and a new “creative” friend to toast your combined accomplishment with. 

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Reno Tips: When to save and when to splurge on your kitchen reno

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Reno Tips: When to save and when to splurge on your kitchen reno

Kitchens rank in the top three areas of the home for greatest return on invest.  If done correctly the return at point of resale is 80-100% of the investment value.  Kitchens also carry the biggest price tags, which can quickly escalate eating away at the potential forced equity.  
When approaching a kitchen renovation or remodel I try to salvage, work with or repurpose elements of the existing kitchen to save and allow for splurges where they count most and carefully select where to spend versus where to save.
Here are my top kitchen renovation splurges and saves to stretch your renovation budget wear it counts.

SAVE
Cabinets – Sometimes we get caught up in wanting new when what we have functionally is fine, if given a bit of a cosmetic lift. If your cabinets are in good shape and the layout works, consider updating in one of two ways. Either send your doors out to be professionally painted. This works with the style but can offer a huge refresh if painted white or a contemporary soft grey. The other option is to keep the boxes and have new doors made. This allows you to update the door profile and colour while minimizing the investment.
Sink – When it comes to sinks there are really two common styles, undermount (mounted under a solid surface counter material) and countermount (mounted on top of counters like, laminate). There was a time when investing in a highend sink offered a more streamlined look, like square corners and deep bowl but today the options are vast and pricing is very reasonable. Blanco is one of my favourties with basically any size, style and configuration you can imagine. No need to spend the budget!

SPLURG
Faucet – Akin to a piece of jewelry or lovely watch, the faucet can offer instant interest and is a great way to deliver your style message. If your kitchen is modern, selecting a slick single lever or alternatively an eye-catching brass or bronze classic beauty will be worth the investment.  
Counters – If you have the budget to update your counters it’s worth it every time. Solid surface composite like Caesar Stone and Cambria offer the natural look of stone with incredible bearability with their nonporous properties. This means the wear and staining seen on laminates or even natural marbles simply won’t show themselves which means a greater long-term investment.
Hardware – like the faucet the cabinet hardware can offer a clean and contemporary design or can add major design impact. My advice to clients looking to minimize their expenses, is to save on the cabinets opting for a basic clean style and then invest in some really special hardware. My go to source is Lee Valley Tools. With everything from solid brass ornate pieces to crystal and resin artistic creations this is a great place to express your personal style knowing you can change is with ease for a minimal investment.

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Reno Tips: Top 3 Washroom Reno Questions, Answered

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Reno Tips: Top 3 Washroom Reno Questions, Answered

I grew up in a house with one washroom. Each morning was a carefully orchestrated dance that took place to get us all bathed and brushed with dad's unspoken newspaper time mixed in. New build homes today seem to have one washroom for every family member.  My teenaged self would be in heaven! It's easy to get caught up in all the latest luxuries and wish lists born of our last hotel experience. Admittedly sometimes more is more as long as you're working within the realistic limitations of your space and budget. Washrooms are among the priciest renovations and although they're in the top 3 for best return on renovation investment, knowing when to splurge and when to be conservative can have a massive impact on the resale value in the end.
Here are the top 3 bathroom reno questions, answered

1. Changing the layout
Fixtures that require water supply and a drain like sinks, tubs and showers can all be swapped and shifted with relative ease. A shower can go where a sink was and vice versa. Toilets on the other hand require a waste stack. The diameter of that stack is too large to simply cut the floor joists to accommodate which means to move the toilet the stack needs to be able to stay within the same joist space or you will have to drop it below the floor and back up into the new joist cavity. This will leave you with a bulkhead in the ceiling below which is potentially a massive issue not to mention all of this can be quite pricey. My advice is always to make a wholehearted attempt to work with the layout whenever possible. Investing that extra money instead in more obvious upgrades like marble and nicer fixtures have a higher perceived value and with that greater ROI. 

2. Tub versus shower
Most of us opt for an efficient morning shower over a long tub soak.  That combined with the spacious hotel shower common place as of late and a lot of us are ready to ditch the old tub shower combo. Here's my advice. If you have one washroom you need to keep a tub. Resale is about appealing to the greatest potential purchasing pool and no tub means no families. Kids don't shower. If you have one washroom and enough room, do a separate shower and tub. It carries a lot of perceived value weight and positions you above the competition. If you have more than one washroom it's totally fine to leave a combined tub and shower in the family washroom and opt for a luxurious oversized shower for the master ensuite. It's the best of both and certainly few buyers will be disappointed in the healthy balance between practicalities and luxuries

3. Double sinks
I'm not sure when or how this became a thing but it's almost comical the tiny ensuites I see with two airplane sized sinks squashed in. If you have a generous space by all means double up. If you could fit two but there's not a lot if counter space as a result, I'd think twice. I'm a big fan of doing a double wide vanity with one sink pushed to one side. The reality is you're likely not synchronized teeth brushing but rather one is using the sink while the other is doing makeup or hair. Two mirrors and ample counter space is a far more valuable combination and it's a more affordable renovation. At resale simply have the realtor list it as a double vanity to keep the perceived value up.

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