Holiday Host(ess) Guide (part II)

With Hanukkah officially under way and Christmas right around the corner, our calendars are already jam packed with holiday parties. While outfits and accessories might be the priority for big events, for those hosted by friends or family members you may want to turn your mind to how to say thanks to your host or hostess. While a bottle of wine is always easy, we prefer gifting something creative and/or personal. T’is the season after all! Last year we blogged about hostess gifts at a variety of price points (including several DIY options). We’re still pretty big fans of all those ideas, so we’ve simply added a few new items to the list. Happy party hopping!

1) Hostess gift box. Not the creative type? Let the people at Brika do your work for you and pick up one (or several) of their specially designed hostess gift boxes. Too late to order on line? Not a problem – Brika currently has a pop up shop at the Bay.

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2) 2014 Calendar. While paper calendars have lost much of their utility, I still appreciate them as a functional piece of art. Last year I picked up two beautiful art print calendars in the Distillery District (I believe they were from Blackbird Vintage) and still have a small 2012 calendar from Labour of Love hanging in my kitchen.

3) A Growler. While a bottle of wine might be readily overlooked, a spunky reusable growler like this one from West Elm is sure to stand out. Fill it with mulled wine or cider.

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4) Cocktail syrups or bitters. Help stock your host’s bar with specialty items like ginger syrup from the Drake General Store or some Woodford reserve spiced cherry bitters from BYOB Cocktail Emporium. Continue reading

Keep Warm: Homemade Wonton Soup

One of my favorite ways to spend an evening with friends is cooking together.  Last week as the temperature dropped in Toronto, a good friend and I decided to spend our planned evening of quality time and catching up by reprising what was a most successful cooking evening last year: making fresh wontons.

After reading through a few different recipes and settling on pork and shrimp as the main fillers, we doubled the recipe, wrote out a shopping list and headed out to the grocery store together. You’ll see that the ingredients are simple and lean and the recipe couldn’t be any less demanding: just throw all of the chopped ingredients into a bowl and mix.  While years ago it may have taken a trip to Chinatown to get wonton wrappers, they are available in your most basic of grocery stores around town now – just take a look in the refrigerated tofu areas, usually near the produce and fresh herbs.

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Holiday DIY essentials

Whatever holiday you’re celebrating this winter (if any), if you’re looking to add some festive decor to your home or a personal touch to gift-giving, there are a few DIY essentials you should have in your toolbox. With these ten items you’ve got everything you need to make homemade gifts, wrapping paper and labels; to decorate for holiday parties; to get cozy for the winter weather; and to turn inexpensive items into showpieces.

1) Spray Paint: My love of spray paint knows no bounds. Particularly if your holiday decor has a specific colour scheme, it’s time to make spray paint your best friend. Matte white has long been an essential in my home, but metallics are an amazing addition for the holiday season. Turn cheap dollar store or garage sale tjotkes into Anthropologie-esque ornaments, gild that ugly green tree stand, coordinate pinecones, customize serving ware (handles only please!) or even add a festive touch to furniture.

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2) Twine: A roll of twine has the power to give boring every day objects a rustic flare. Wrap around glass candle holders or mason jars to cover ugly labels or turn a plain jar into a winter vase; use in place of ribbon to wrap gifts or to hang DIY ornaments; or tie a cinnamon stick around cloth napkins for a festive place setting.

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Winter Coat Roundup

The winter season may not have officially started, but the cold certainly has.  Welcome to the Canadian dilemma: how to stay reasonably stylish while not freezing to death.  I find most fashion magazines, blogs, etc. extremely unhelpful in this regard. Canvas, leather and light weight synthetics just don’t cut it in this country and while Canada Goose parkas certainly fit the warmth bill, they’re somewhat lacking in the style category.  So Canada, here you go: a collection of coats to take you from November through to March in a variety of styles, price points and warmth factors, for both men and women.

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Top: JCrew contrast collar top coatMackage Paulina coatAsos vintage faux fur coatSoia & Kyo Alois wool & down coat
Middle: Asos patent detail parkaGloverall wool duffle coat with plaid lining
Bottom: Zara camel coat with faux leather details, Soia & Kyo Reiko forest wool coat, Club Monaco Ryan calf hair and wool coatJust Female Wool Belted coat
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Cooking with Gwyneth: It’s All Good

A couple of weeks ago I started the self-titled “Gwyneth diet”. ‘Cause you know.. if I eat like her I’ll start to look like her, right?? For a while now, I’ve been a subscriber of Gwyneth Paltrow’s weekly lifestyle newsletter called GOOP where she often publishes her own favorite and her famous chef friends’ favorite recipes. Some of these recipes are complicated and include ingredients I’ve never heard of, while some are surprisingly simple. Truth is, I had never tried to make any of them until I got my hands on Paltrow’s latest cookbook titled “It’s All Good”.

gwyneth-paltrow-its-all-good-cookbookI’d heard great things about the recipes but to be frank, I only half believed the hype. Immediately after getting the cookbook (cheaper at Costco, by the way!), I crawled into bed and read the entire book cover to cover. The photography is beautiful and hilariously features Gwynny and her kids, you know.. shopping at the market, picnic’ing on the beach and riding scooters. Just like you and I…

Ok, back to the cookbook. The single most impressive thing about it is that each recipe is simple: they require 5 or 6 ingredients, they use your basic kitchen tools and they don’t take too much time. There are a couple of less familiar ingredients used throughout the book (namely, chillies in adobo sauce and gochugaru, coarse Korean red chilli flakes), but they are used time and again and make it worth the trip to Kensington Market/Chinatown to hunt down to have on hand in your pantry. The recipes are all dairy-free, healthy and clean, and usually gluten-free with vegan substitute recommendations. Continue reading