Wednesday, May 25, 2011

{Stencils: Love 'Em!}

It's no secret that I love the hell out of wallpaper...but it's also no secret that wallpaper can cost a pretty penny (over $300/ roll at Farrow and Ball). As of late, I've seen designers doing amazing things with stencils, and I thought I'd share some of my favourites. Now, if the word "stencil" has you shuddering, with visions of Jemima Puddle Ducks and grape leaves flashing hideously in your mind, fear not! These new stencils will certainly impress.

One of the best sources for stencils has to be Royal Design Studio. I can hardly believe these are actually stencils...they look so perfect!

I am also loving the idea of using these unconventionally to inject a little more detail in unexpected places.

What an awesome way to give new life a vintage piece of furniture. This would work well on bathroom cupboards and armoires as well!

I love this Moroccan trellis pattern so much! What a perfect way to add richness and detail to the space. I think the effect would be equally effective below the chair rail in the right circumstances.

A stenciled design would freshen up any concrete floor. I think it would look right at home in a solarium, on a covered concrete patio or in a basement.

What about experimenting with a stencil design as a piece of art?

I absolutely ADORE the use of stencils here to add interest to the rise of these stairs. They look gorgeous!

As everyone knows the worst thing about wallpaper is trying to remove it after it's been up for years. The best part about these stencils? When you're sick of them, you just paint over them. Easy peasy!

On a side note, Steve and I are going to see a house in the West end tomorrow that we're VERY excited about. Wish us luck! I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

{We are officially House Hunters}

Note: Not in our budget

Well, friends it`s official. S and I are finally in the market to purchase our first home. We are fairly bursting with excitement to own our own piece of the city we love so much. We are currently looking in two very distinct 'hoods (read: the only two we can afford in Toronto...this city is NOT cheap) one is in the East and the other is in the West. We have ties in both areas, and although S and I both work East, getting from A to B is a relatively easy task. I am presently pulling for the Easterly neighborhood, but S isn't set on either in particular.

As many of you know, I am a researcher. I have been following the Toronto real estate market closely for about two years now...There are three things I know about this market for sure;
  1. There are not a lot of homes for sale
  2. There are many people who want to buy houses
  3. There is no "good time" or "bad time" to buy in's always buying season here, and you need to act fast
With these things in mind, it's easy to see why a buyer absolutely HAS to be savvy when trying to procure a piece of real estate...Basically when you see the house you want, you make an offer semi-immediately and over-asking for good measure. Think Southern California circa 2006, lite of course.

So we begin our house-buying (and hopefully renovating) adventures. We are currently in "education mode," which essentially involves going to countless open-houses until we are comfortable enough to make an offer on a house on the spot. We will definitely keep you updated in terms of progress as we navigate these waters.

In terms of what we are looking for, we have lists (yes, listS haha!) Let's begin with the "Must -Haves," shall we?

Must Have:
  • Structurally sound
  • Freehold ownership (NO condo)
  • Minimum semi-detached
  • Forced air/HVAC system
  • 2+ bedrooms
  • 2+ bath
  • Character
  • Parking
  • Yard
  • Good schools in the area
  • Not renovated
  • Fully detached
  • Garage
  • Central air
  • New windows
  • New wiring
As you can clearly see, our lists are neither extensive nor overtly specific. We know to overlook decor and furniture when house hunting...that's just good common sense.
You may think we're crazy for wanting an unrenovated home, but here in the T-Dizzle the trend appears to have been "buy a house, go to Home Depot, buy a bunch of crap for $200-$300 and put it up as quickly as possible while doing as much invisible damage as possible, then sell it for 50k more because it's RENOVATED!!!!!" Ugh! The LAST thing we want to deal with is some crazy DIY-er's hideous mess **aaaaaaand breathe, Alanna**

So, let the wild rumpus begin! Of course, we'll keep you posted!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Che Sera, Sera...

One of my favourite bloggers, Nicole from Making it Lovely has generously created this gorgeous printable art. How CUTE would it be in a playroom, or a little girl's bedroom? I love it!

Print it out on some heavy card stock and frame it up in a simple white frame for a beautiful effect. Here's how it looks in her daughter's bedroom:

Download your own here and enjoy!

You've Got Supper!

I am a religious meal planner. I openly admit that I love flipping through my recipe books on Saturday afternoon and planning my meals and grocery lists for Sunday. I fully realize this may mean that I have a problem, and that most people do not derive pleasure from activities like this...for those people may I recommend "You've Got Supper."

This fabulous, FREE service creates weekly meal plans and grocery lists for members delivered each Thursday. If you prefer to create your own meal plan, you can choose from delectable options for all meals of the day such as Seared Steaks with Balsamic Glaze, Creamy Dreamy Mac and Cheese and Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins.

The grocery lists are great because they are categorized for easy shopping:

I really, really love this service and I am loving all of the delicious and healthy new recipes. It's good incentive to cook at home and save some moolah.

Check it out, you won't regret it!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adventures in Macaronage!

Did I just do a happy dance in my kitchen? Maybe...YES!!!!!
Ladies and gentlemen, I can now cross one of my major life accomplishments off my it goes! Make Perfect Macarons. How did I do it, you ask? Not without abysmal failure.
Follow along with my adventures in macaronage...who knows, you may even learn some tips along the way! (NB: "macaronage" is defined as the art of making macarons)

For the recipe, I mildly adapted this one by Chef Chuck Hughes

You will need:
  • 2 cups almond powder (500 ml)
  • 2 cups icing sugar (500 ml)
  • 4 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar (250 ml)
  • 1 cup water (250 ml)
  • pink gel food colouring
  • raspberry jam for filling
  • In the food processor, mix the almond powder and icing sugar together until it’s reduced into a very fine powder, for about 2 minutes. Add 2 egg whites and process until smooth (the texture will be similar to almond paste). Add the food coloring and continue processing until the color is all blended in. You can add a few more drops just until you get the color you want. Transfer to a large bowl and put aside.
  • In a stockpot, bring the 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes, until reduced by half and syrup is coating the back of a spoon when dropped in cold water or until a candy thermometer reads 275*.
  • Using a stand or hand mixer, beat 2 egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add the hot syrup and continue beating until firm peaks form and the meringue has cooled.

  • With a spatula, gently fold in 1/4 of the meringue into the almond mixture. Continue folding the meringue until completely incorporated. The mixture will be shiny and smooth.

  • Fit a piping bag with a 3/8-inch (1 cm) round tip. Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Let dry at room temperature for 1/2 hour to allow skins to form.
  • Bake the macarons in a 300F oven for 20 minutes ON A DOUBLE BAKING SHEET (stack them for thickness to avoid cracking). Rotate the baking sheet half way through for even baking. Remove from oven and transfer parchment to a cooling rack.
  • Pair macarons of similar size and spread approx 1/2 tsp of jam on each all the way to the edges.
  • Allow to rest for 1 day to meld flavours...YEAH, RIGHT!
My tips for perfect macarons:
  1. Do let them rest after piping for 30 minutes.
  2. Double up on the baking pans to avoid cracking.
Some recipes say these steps are unnecessary. You tell me:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bunting Love!

Admittedly this post is probably about two years late, but can I just say that I adore these little pennant buntings that seem to be popping up everywhere? As the weather warms up and S and I begin the process of shopping for our first *family* home together, I have visions of outdoor tea parties and backyard barbecues adorned with these little pretties...Not to mention nurseries, children's birthday parties, weddings...not that I'm getting ahead of myself. I'd never do a thing like that ;)

This bunting from Mon Petit Amour is just adorable on display in a little girl's room.

Buntings like this one from Joy's Hope are available all over my favourite place to shop: Etsy

This bunting from Design Sponge would be a cinch to make, and it looks perfect. What a great way to decorate a cake if you lack icing skills (as I do)!

Imagine adorning a lovely layer cake with a bunting like this one made of stamps available at d.Sharp. What a great way to reuse post marked stamps. I was basically obsessed with the process of soaking stamps off of envelopes as a child...find out how here.

This picture is one of an Alice in Wonderland-inspired series taken by Rileigh ofBlue Satin Sashes. Coincidently, it's one of my favourite blogs ;)

Find a tutorial for this bunting-adorned pendant at You Had Me at Bonjour. It's a cute way to incorporate a bunting in a different way. It's a neat idea for a "custom light fixture" on the cheap!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Les Macarons

I am, at present, obsessed with macarons. These slightly sweet, crunchy/chewy cookies are delicious but more importantly, they are simply beautiful. I think these cookies will one day eclipse the current cupcake hope.

Several bakeries in my area make delicious iterations (read more about that here), and last weekend S and I found some amazing flavours at La Bamboche bakery. I was especially excited to try the salted caramel, but alas it was sold out...I guess I'll simply have to go again :) We opted instead for the Creme de Cassis, Lavender and Amaretto So delicious!

I HAVE to learn how to make these. You know I've been researching like a mad woman, and I think next week sometime I will take my first stab at them.

This is the best video that I have found on the process (warning: it is in French...You can just watch what she's doing if you don't understand...she's just describing the process)

Ooooh! This makes me even more excited about my upcoming France trip...I anticipate LOTS of time spent at Ladurée!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, Beautiful!

Happy birthday to a lady who truly defined grace and elegance for generations of women.