Monday, December 15, 2014

Healthy(ish), Vegan Christmas Cookie Recipes | Sugar and Gingerbread

We had some of our favourite friends over last week for a Christmas baking night, and I knew for things to go smoothly/quickly, I should have the dough pre-made. So, the day before I scoured the internet for the best recipes I could find - and because they turned out SO good, I just had to share them with you. And, sneakily, they don't contain any dairy or eggs, but you would NEVER know. My 3 baking partners as well as taste testers at work were completely fooled! And even if you don't need to avoid dairy/eggs, it sure doesn't hurt to have a slightly healthier holiday cookie recipe up your sleeve (because then you can eat more) and it also means you can eat dough as you go along, which, let's be honest, is really the best part (and the whole point of baking, right!).

This is totally how our cookies looked (not).

Okay, the sugar cookies aren't really healthy, but they were tasty and vegan, so tomato/tomahto. That said, these are probably the BEST sugar cookies I've ever tasted so I don't know why you would make another recipe ever again now that you have this one.  Not to mention super easy ingredients unlike other recipes I found that called for cornstarch (which I was out of) and cream of tartar (which I don't have). Head here for the delish recipe.

This gingerbread recipe, on the other hand, uses some much more healthful ingredients which makes indulging a lot less sinful. I used coconut oil, coconut sugar and blackstrap molasses (all organic) for an authentic and delicious (and very dark) gingerbread recipe.

And, camera is already packed so no photos of our creations (which were actually really nice less a few very naughty cookies in non-Christmas shapes).

What is your go-to holiday cookie recipe?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Designing a Home | Finding a Style

Just 16 more days until we are into the new house. Excited doesn't even begin to capture how we're feeling. But, as the move in date creeps up, as does my self-imposed timeline to figure out how to decorate this blank canvas.

This layout below is very similar to ours (just cut the island in half, take out the coffered ceilings and the beefy trim.. oh and almost everything else! But you get the idea).

What I love about this photo is that it's not pigeon holed into a style. The cabinets and mouldings and door style are all very traditional, yet the furniture is modern and simple. It's the definition of transitional design, and it's what I'm hoping to achieve with our home.

Although the style below is pretty far from my own, I'm including it as a reminder for me to inject some colour in my space. I usually gravitate towards neutrals but look how happy this space is! I just love it.

The opposite of colourful, the style below blends so many textures that it conveys warmth in a different way (let's be honest, I probably won't inject much colour and will end up with more neutrals no matter how hard I try).

 I've always loved a little art deco or hollywood regency glam. It doesn't need to be done throughout nor overwhelming to make an impact.

But, I also love the modern, clean line of this condo design. Do you see what I'm going here?

And this space is just to.die.for.

Okay, if you're still with me you've probably acknowledged that I have design ADD and I love about a million different things and styles. Hence why we are 16 days out and I'm still agonizing how to tackle the house. SO much pressure on myself to make it perfect. Right now, I'm just hoping to get our stuff in there and take it one day at a time. It's hard to know what to do with a space unless you'd lived in it, right?

If you have, how did you figure out your "style"? HELP!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Card Season

Do you have your Christmas cards yet? Or (like me) have you run out of Christmas cards as your list adds up and up with recipients you might have forgotten about? It's not too late - in fact, it might be the best time because holiday cards are majorly on sale. Score some custom holiday cards with guaranteed shipping at 40% from Tiny Prints.

I nearly opted out of doing holiday cards this year until the amazing people at Tiny Prints slapped some sense into me and brought me back to the real world, where I absolutely cannot miss the experience of sending Christmas cards. And when Tiny Prints gives you cards, you don't say no!

Because of the big move over the holidays to the new house, we aren't decorating and we aren't gift giving, so it's not feeling very festive around here. Sending Christmas cards was the least I could do to get in the holiday spirit!

No special photoshoots this year, so we opted for a non-photo custom card in a luscious pale mint and gold foil effect. The matching address labels were also a welcome opportunity to share our upcoming new address with a "New Year, New Address" message,

If we had done a photocard, I absolutely love these options below.

What are you doing for holiday cards this year? When do you send them out?

*Thanks to Tiny Prints for providing me with my holiday cards this year. Despite being gifted by Tiny Prints, I do completely love their cards, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Best (FREE!) Holiday Printables Round Up

Every year I design my own gift tags and Christmas cards around now for the upcoming holiday season. This year, things are different because we aren't going to be home for Christmas and we also have a lot going on with the new house build. So, since physical and wrapped gifts will be few and far between, spending hours designing tags seems like a waste of time, especially when there are so many amazing options out there already. I love all of these below and I'm sure you will too. And you really can't beat the price ($0). And from one label/tag maker to another, a huge thank you to all who shared these. I know the hours that go into designing, so it's so appreciated to have them available gratis.

Perhaps my favourite of the bunch are the first in this round up. I love their simplicity yet the inclusion of typical christmas graphics like trees and reindeers. These are oh so similar to some I designed for myself last year (and similar to the cards I made), but I like these better, so I'll probably be using these this year! From the crafty Creative Index blog and can be found here.

 How cute are these? Definitely perfect for a Kate Spade lover (or anyone who loves classic black, white and gold!). Download here from Pretty Darn Cute.

Lovely pastel tags below from Best Day Ever. Download here.

Love these kraft and ice blue printables by Catch My Party. Banner and labels and more can be found right here.

These kraft and white tags are also super cute and simple. Find here from Muffin Grayson.

Love these hand drawn labels below. The come with a white background so print on any colour paper you like. Find them here from Hey Look. 

If you're going to be making some gifts this year, these are the tags for you! Hand lettered chalk art and FREE. So beautiful.  Find them here on World Label.

Lots of great kraft tags can be found over here at Shanty 2 Chic. 

What are you planning to do for gift tags this year? How often do you take advantage of free printables?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Designing a Home | Balls to the (Dry)wall

I can't believe I haven't shared more house build things on here. I guess it's just felt like such a long process and it's taken a while to really see the house take shape to a point where it feels real. Well, folks, it feels real! The drywall is in and as I was leaving the other day they were about to prime the walls - eeek!

I'm sure nothing will top finally getting to see the kitchen in -  right now bare walls don't feel so homey. But it is still incredibly exciting to see.

Below is our front hallway - Kevin is standing in the laundry/craft room and the second opening is the door to the basement. If you turned right after the right hand wall, the hall would lead you to the powder room and mudroom (garage entry). Straight ahead is the great room with the living room on the left and kitchen/dining room to the right.

Don't mind the scaffolding, but below is the living room (I should have stepped back to get a wider shot). Out the back, we have our yard, then there will be fence, then a back lane, and then some "lane style"" homes. We liked the buffer that the back land provided, and if we want, we could put a gate in the back fence for future yacht storage (yeah right).

Without the scaffolding and prior to the fireplace hole being cut.

This view is from the other angle (I'm standing in between the kitchen/dining room for this shot.) As you can see, plenty of natural light which is exactly why we chose so many windows. We will have to wait and see how that plays out with heating and cooling in the home. 

Below is the kitchen. The two small holes in the ceiling are our island pendants to give you a better idea of placement. This wall will have our stove centered on it and cabinetry on either side. To the right is the walk-through pantry (of which another blog post is to come) and on the 90 from there, is our fridge and pantry wall.

And here is the dining room. I was really really concerned about not having a window on the far right wall of the dining room or in the kitchen (since the sink is in the island, and the stove is on the wall, I wasn't sure where to put one without drastically changing the configuration). But, after seeing how much light the home gets, I'm not all that worried anymore. One day, I will do a post on things I learned while building a home and what I wish I had changed/done, but that may be a ways away.

Below is the fireplace with the beginning of the cut out for our 60 inch fireplace. Although our home came with a standard gas fireplace, we opted to omit it in favour of a modern ribbon fireplace (which will be electric). The gas version of the fireplace we wanted was atrociously expensive (many thousands) and we were more concerned about looks and ambience than the gas heat (which is expensive to run if you are looking to heat a room). How we are finishing the fireplace is still very much up in the air. We went to a tile store yesterday and there were so many options that I am beyond overwhelmed. I do still have my white stacked quartz that would be perfect BUT I don't have enough of it to cover the roughly 100 sq ft of the fireplace. Options and a request for your opinion to come in another post!

Look at how happy my hubby is. The cutest. Although this process has been stressful and exhausting at times, this man has kept me sane and his enthusiasm for this build might even surpass mine. Best of all, he loves (most) of my design choices which makes it that much easier. To help even things out a bit, he took the reigns on the exterior and fortunately we are both happy so far!

And there she is in her most recent state! We have hardiboard up to the part where it is finished, and will have acrylic stucco on the unfinished parts (and for my BC friends, stucco is THE main exterior finish of choice in Winnipeg, so although it might seem odd for us to be doing it, it makes sense regionally). And the door has yet to be painted (and because it's already freezing here, it won't be painted until, oh, next summer probably.)

Hope to post soon with our floor plan FINALLY. I really want to design the floor plan on as opposed to just scanning the plans, so that I can show furniture layout, etc, but I just haven't found the time.

Ciao lovelies!

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Who would've thought that of all the decisions we faced during our home build, that lighting would be the MOST difficult part? (Okay, maybe the marble decision was a tad harder but this is a close second).

I'm not sure exactly what it is. The fact that lighting can be trendy and go out of style quickly? That it can get really expensive and I'm incredibly indecisive? All of the above. I'm also not looovving any lighting out there. Nothing knocks my socks off and makes me think "I gotta have it". Not having that feeling, and needing to spend mucho denaro anyways, is a bummer.

I'm also completely confused about which metals I can use in an open space without looking clashy. I have never been a matchy-matchy decorator, but can I pull off black for the entry light, chrome and glass for the island pendants, and brushed gold for the dining room? In our great room, you will be able to see our pendants, dining room fixture, stairwell pendant, and a peek of the entry if you stand in the middle of the room. So what's a girl who doesn't want to match but doesn't want to clash to do?

Despite my lack of passionate love for lighting at the moment, I have compiled some that I like enough to consider.

This brushed gold chandy from Capitol Lighting (initially spotted on Joss and Main) is my top contender for the dining room. It's the only one I actually really kinda like. But does it play nice with the other options? Black/ORB in the entry and chrome glass pendants over the island? AND I just checked and it's now on sale at just $299 and it was over $450 the last time I checked. I think I have to order it! At that price, I will happily replace it if we ever go to sell and the lighting is too specific to my tastes and not the general public.

I also really love the lines of this one from Lamps Plus, but not loving the colour, so a major spray paint job would be involved. The lines also play well with my top dining room contender, so this could work in the stairwell in the great room (we have 18 ft vaulted ceilings and we need a large pendant that will be halfway up the stairs that will be visible from both living room/kitchen/dining room). It's only $299 so maybe not a big deal to spray it?

While not my favourite light in the existence of all lighting, this Capitol lighting could work because it's from the same family as the dining room, and it substantial enough to go in such a large space. What are your thoughts? And it's $410 which is pretty good compared to the $1K plus options I've been looking at.

This is what I'm loving for the island. It's from Shades of Light. Simple, clean, classic. But again, can I do chrome (actually this is polished nickel) and brushed gold in the same space? Or do I need to match them? Help! We are doing two pendants over the island instead of three so I cna't go for the mini pendants out there or they won't be to scale.

Have you ever had to pick out a bunch of lighting at one time, and do have any insight for me? I consider myself fairly well versed in what works and what doesn't for home decor, but I'm really stumped on this one!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Perfect Home to Renovate

Every once in a while, on a lazy Saturday morning over a soy latte, I start thinking about where we would be had we not moved to Winnipeg and weren't building a new home. We had already started thinking about moving before we got transferred here, so it's likely we would have been on our way to a new-to-us home anyways. And so, I look around on MLS. I look and see what's out there. What might we have bought? Would we have stayed in our preferred area (where we lived before) in a new, smaller home, or would we have moved out further and to an older, larger home?

While going through our imaginary house-searching, I came across this gem. It needs A LOT of work, but it doesn't take much imagination to see what potential it has. I can't even venture to say how much a total renovation would cost, but I feel like $200K would improve this home significantly. I would paint the exterior grey and white, practically gut the interior, paint out all the wood white, replace the kitchen, bathrooms, railings, and flooring - and I think it could be a pretty spectacular place.

This property checks off so many boxes for me:

  • Interesting and unique exterior
  • Large, private, treed in lot
  • Open floor plan
  • Vaulted ceilings
  • Walk-out finished basement
  • 4 bedrooms
  • Priced low enough to allow for substantial renos (under $550K)
Of course, there's no knowing what condition the house is in, what other things might need attention. Who knows if that fireplace is up to code or if the roof needs to be replaced. But, from a purely superficial standpoint for the purpose of dreaming, this baby is a winner. 

I really love the way this house/garage is laid out. Although it's not huge, it definitely seems a tad more impressive laid out in such a way.

Just imagine white painted walls, a new fireplace and reclaimed wood floors. 

There isn't a ton of kitchen space to work with, but starting from scratch I would extend the kitchen all the way to the door frame, omit the half wall, and add an island facing the living room.

The open concept and vaulted ceilings are what really do it for me. This is actually a very similar layout to the house we are building. My husband has already remarked that he doesn't know how easy it will be to go from a living space with vaulted ceilings to one without when we ever leave, so this type of layout would solve the problem.

It's really hard to tell how this master loft suite could be used based on the current situation, but there seems to be enough space to work with to do something amazing. I am not sure, but it looks like it could be missing an ensuite, which would be a very expensive addition. There are apparently two bedrooms on the main level, which I would consider joining to create a master suite, and then separating the loft into two bedrooms. One thing is for sure, those dark beams would really pop if the panelled walls were painted white.

The backyard is full of potential with a great expansive space enclosed by shrubs and trees. Pool, anyone?

Even the entry is inviting, bordered by trees.

And now for some inspiration:

I really like this modern/industrial take on painted wood panels.

Probably the easiest and most effective way of transforming the house in question - paint everything white.

And more dreamy white lofted spaces.

Love this weathered grey look for the ceiling as an alternative to all white.

This is a great kitchen layout that could work for the house (scaled down in size).

Voa Houzz

Although different in style, I feel like grey paint with white trim and wood accents would really complement this house.

So what do you think? Would you ever tackle a big reno like the above, or would you rather move into a completely finished home? Unfortunately for me, my husband have completely different ideas of what we want in a home (he wants new new new, I want old and in need of some love!).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Designing a Home | Kitchen Selections

When it comes to finishes, it's probably no surprise that we've gone for a very white and neutral scheme. Here's a breakdown of our kitchen choices and some of our inspiration.

After many sleepless nights and countless naysayers, we pulled the trigger on a Venatino marble surface for our 9 ft island. Not only am I over the moon about this decision, but hubby is more than on board! Once he saw the samples and the depth and life that marble has over other surfaces, he was sold. It is such a beautiful stone and I know it will be my favourite part of this house. Hubby keeps seeing marble surfaces on TV and in restos/cafes and is almost as excited as I am. The perimeter counters that flank the cooktop are a snow white quartz that will be durable and also a nice break between the marble island and the marble backsplash. 

We chose maple wood cabinet doors painted in Alabaster (similar to the style above but a tad different and little bit creamier than this white) and charcoal vinyl plank floors. We chose a luxury vinyl plank (looks like laminate or wood planks but is made out of very durable man made material) because we have lived with both laminate and hardwood and wanted a more durable option. Our laminate floors were horrible, all three sets that we've had. Any amount of water made the seams swell, which means cleaning without water is a tedious task. Hardwood isn't great for our dogs (unless it's really rustic and grooved) because it's slippery for them and with the back issues we just didn't want to risk it. This vinyl plank is perfect - it's durable, waterproof, and if there ever were damage the individual planks can be replaced fairly easily. But best of all, there's a grippy texture that will help loads when our pups want to run around and play. It's about the same cost as laminate and some entry hardwoods at an upgrade cost to us of about $6500 from the standard lino sheet flooring that is included in the base price.

Our lighting is still in the works, but I'm hoping to go for this style of pendants over the island (This kitchen layout is VERY similar to ours) with 6 pot lights overhead and under cabinet lighting.

We also plan on having a built-in hood fan constructed after we move in (DIY project via father-in-law) but until then we have a sleek stainless steel hood fan that isn't bulky or obtrusive.

Hardware will be classic with small shiny chrome knobs on the doors and a classic chrome pulls on the drawers.

Backsplash will be done immediately after we move in because I am far too indecisive to make that decision now (because obviously I will change my mind). We are going to go for a marble tile (likely a 3 by 8), I just haven't decided whether I want subway or herringbone ala this dreamy kitchen.

We are very excited about the fridge, going with an all fridge, all freezer option. I'm sure it seems excessive as we are just two people, but if you saw our fridge/freezer you would understand. We spend well over $200 a week on produce alone, so you can only imagine how full our crispers must be. I also freeze loads of meals and ingredients since my vegan dishes are often far too large for one person. Freezer storage is my saviour and allows me to make healthy meal and snack choices when I don't have a lot of time. If there is one appliance we need to be above and beyond the everyday, it's the fridge.

We thought long and hard about our stove top. In our rental house here we got to experience gas for the first time (a really nice GE profile gas range). I love the look of a gas range, I love the feeling of the flame...but, after a year with it I just didn't love the maintenance (funny, considering I'm willing to take on the maintenance of marble countertops!). I just found that under the grills got dirty every single day, and it wasn't an easy clean up. The little black disks where the burners are also got splattered/stained easily.  It looks pretty from afar, but far from pretty up close. I also didn't see any difference in cooking time from any of the other stove tops I've used in the past. So we are going with a modern looking Samsung glass cooktop and I'm happy about the choice.

Our facet looks similar to this style, with an oversized, undermount rectangular sink.

Micro will be built in under the counter in the island along with the dishwasher. 

And what about a pantry you ask? Being the pantry freak that I am, I have THREE pantries. We selected two wall pantries to flank either side of the fridge, and then we have a walk-through pantry connecting the kitchen to the mudroom (think butlers pantry style, although smaller and without cabinetry and a sink). I can't wait to replace the wire shelving in the walk-through with solid wood shelving, and to organize and label all of my jars. It might take me a week, but it will probably be one of my favourite things!

I will try and get a floor plan up so you can see everything in context - and will post about the other finishes sometime soon too! If you're building or re-decorating, how's it going?