Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

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Image: A Beautiful Mess

When it starts getting a little frosty or you’ve come home from a long stroll in the fall I love to curl up on the couch with some good old hot chocolate. What makes this recipe even better is that it salted caramel which is my ultimate weakness …drool**.

Yield: 2 servings  

What You’ll Need:

  • 16 oz milk or cream (you can also use a combination)
  • 4 oz dark or milk chocolate chopped (I prefer dark because I never really like the bitterness taste of dark)
  • 4 oz caramel chocolate chopped  (you can use Caramilk, or Hershey’s or if your not in a rush you can make your own caramel sauce)
  • 2 pinches of salt

Start Mixing:

  • In a small sauce pan heat 8 oz of milk, 4 oz chocolate, and a pinch of salt.
  • Once melted whisk in the remaining milk and caramel chocolate.
  • Continue whisking until the entire mixture is warmed through and smooth in texture.
  • Serve with a little whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Now in order to make this moment perfect I would need a fireplace, but instead I’ll have to opt for watching some good old TV.  Enjoy!

Sweet-Smelling Hostess Gift

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Image: bhg.com

Are you attending any Holiday parties this year? I know I have quite a few lined up since most of my family’s birthdays happen in or around December, and I have a large family.  In addition to birthdays there are of course multiple Holiday events to attend and host.

If you have ever hosted a Holiday party then you know as a host you receive a lot of wine and maybe a few bottles of champagne. This year why not stand out from the wine crowd and create a unique sweet smelling gift!

Fill a linen sachet with lavender for a sweet smelling gift, or get festive and use balsam for a Christmas scent. To secure the flap so the sachet stays closed use vintage brooches or earrings and voilà you have the perfect hostess gift!

These beautified hostess gifts are really useful at keeping your clothes smelling fresh throughout the winter, so don’t forget to tell you host to stash it in her closet or drawers!

Pomegranate Spritzer

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Image: WhiteOnRiceCouple.com

When I start seeing pomegranates in the grocery store it’s a sure sign that fall is here and winter is just around the bend. I must mention that I have a love/hate relationship with pomegranates as they are so sweet and delicious but the seeds are always a bit** “excuse my language” to get out. And not to mention messy and full of juice which is hard to get out of clothes, don’t forget about that part.

Nonetheless I always buy them because the reward is always so great and they are of course perfect for your winter cocktails, and full of vitamins and antioxidants. Yay!

To make your very own pomegranate spritzer cocktail see recipe below::

What You’ll Need:

  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh or concentrate pomegranate juice
  • 6 oz sparkling wine or champagne

Start Mixing:

  • In a shaker add pomegranate juice, sugar, wine and stir it all up. Pour into a double glass filled with ice and garnish with pomegranate seeds. Enjoy!

A Reason to Drink More Wine

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I have never been one to save the corks from my wine, but that doesn’t mean the thought has not crossed my mind. I love my wine but I always throw out the cork’s to resist the temptation of hoarding craft supplies and then not knowing what to do with them. For all you crafty people out there, please don’t judge me. I live in a condo and hoarding craft supplies is usually out of the question due to limited storage. Despite lack of storage, I wanted to kick myself for thinking this way after I saw this really cool cork wreath on Pinterest.

Check out Living Savvy’s blog for amazing step-by-step instructions on how to re-create your very own cork wreath!

Now I have learned my lesson and I will hoard all my wine corks so that I may one day too re-create a cork wreath!

Inspired by Nature

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Walking along the beach this summer I collected many pieces of driftwood that had washed ashore. My intention was to create a large centerpiece. However, once I took home the gathered bundles of driftwood and began arranging them on the table, I soon realized that one long piece of driftwood looked much cleaner and simpler than grouping the sticks in a cluster. However, with just one long piece of driftwood something was missing. There was just too much empty space.

Inspired by Martha Stewart’s “Wing it” butterfly party decorations, I decided to use her butterfly template to create patterned paper butterflies which I then glued onto various parts of the driftwood. I then placed reindeer moss around the parts of the wood, which had direct contact with the table, as well as in crevices in the driftwood itself.  To complete the look, I scattered smoothed stones of different sizes around the table.

Lastly, for a pop of color I used hot orange basketweave pattern square placemats, purchased from CB2, which not only helped bring the centerpiece to life but also were small enough in size that I could fit 9 people around the table with no overlapping placemats!

 

Links

Martha Stewart “Wing It”:

 

http://www.marthastewart.com/273713/party-idea-wing-it

Crate and Barrel “Reindeer Moss”:

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/reindeer-moss/s275894

CB2 “Basketweave Placemats”:

http://www.cb2.com/basketweave-placemats/f6537

Color Block

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A good way to cool down this summer is to indulge in a mojito cupcake, a recipe I found on my ultimate favorite cupcake website, CupcakeFridayProject.com (link to recipe posted below).

When displaying your delicious desserts this summer try using color blocking to create a fun and whimsical feel that will tempt your guests to eat your delicious treats!

As seen in the photo above, I used CB2’s hot orange placemats and their pool Jamaica appetizer plates together to create a huge contrast in color. The difference in complimenting colors is very pleasing to the eye and the mojito cupcake is definitely pleasing to the taste!

 

Links

Mojito Cupcakes Recipe

http://www.cupcakefridayproject.com/category/cupcakes/

 

CB2 “Basketweave placemats”:

http://www.cb2.com/basketweave-placemats/f6537

 

CB2 “Jamaica appetizer plates”:

http://www.cb2.com/jamaica-pool-appetizer-plate/f7893

Trickle

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These tumblers will surely give your next dinner party a solid bump in the “wow factor” department. However, don’t go overboard with the amount of guests you invite, since at 58 bucks each, these things don’t come cheap.

These unique drink containers can be found at one of my favorite stores, Anthropology. It is hard to keep your eyes off of these “Vetrario Tumblers” and having them on the table will surely spike up some conversation.

Each tumbler is handcrafted in Italy by Imperio Rossi. Using an intricate millefiori glass making technique, multicolored beads are heated into the glass to create sumptuous patterns, while the rim of the glass is dipped into a vivid coloured glass, which then trickles down the sides.

For more on these tumblers, click on the link down below.

Vetrario Tumbler

http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/product/home-tabletop-glassware/25071630.jsp

Meet Me at the Bar

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Photo Taken by Corporate Films Canada

The next time you host a party try decorating the drink’s table/ bar with colorful pompom’s to help direct your guests to the drinks!

If you don’t have a bar then segregate a small area or table to use as a bar, and display all your glasses, punches, ice bucket, and liquor right on the table.

The pompom decorations are surprisingly inexpensive to make, or if you don’t feel like doing that, they can be had for the princely sum of $10 (each!) at any party store. I opted to go the DIY route by purchasing coloured tissue paper and wire at the dollar store.  You can visit Martha Stewarts website to find out how you can create your own pompom decorations http://www.marthastewart.com/how-to/tissue-paper-pom-poms-how-to. Take note, that after creating the first two pompoms the last step of the crafting process became very tiresome and frustrating, so try making these with a friend to split that part up evenly.  Splitting the last step makes a lot of sense when you are making more than a couple of pompoms!

The instructions do not give you any ideas on hanging the pompoms from the ceiling, so I had to experiment a bit. At first, I purchased a double-sided plastic hook which proved completely useless as it fell off the moment I let go of it.  Next I used tape which seemed to be the perfect choice because it worked, but when I took down the pompom’s the tape left a sticky residue and even peeled off some of the ceiling paint, yikes! What I have yet to try is to pinning them to the ceiling using a thumbtack, which I was told could be a good idea. If anyone has any ideas on putting these decorations up with minimal damage to your ceiling please let me know by posting your comments down below!

Links

Punch Bowl

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/10-piece-punch-bowl-set/s293458

Champagne Flutes

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/verve-flute/s578940

More Pompom Inspiration and Colors

http://www.google.ca/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=pom+poms&oe=UTF-8&redir_esc=&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=y-vyT-_XB8L10gGVw_3hCQ&biw=1382&bih=712&sei=zOvyT-7kK4r10gGcq9XoCQ#um=1&hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=pom+pom+decorations&oq=pom+pom+decorations&gs_l=img.3..0l3j0i5l6j0i24.1650.4251.0.4378.13.13.0.0.0.0.97.1069.13.13.0…0.0.WVqJJr_e1Ck&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=b6f75622b99093e2&biw=1382&bih=712

White Out

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Photo taken by Corporate Films Canada

This year both my sisters and mothers birthdays were missed at they were both out of the country at the time. Since their birthday dates are very close to one another, my family and I decided to throw them a belated birthday dinner with just the immediate family. Even with just immediate family members, we had 10 adults and two kids on the guestlist.  The large number of invitees meant that there was no way dinner would be at my place, getting everyone into my condo would be a bit too cramped.  My sister offered to host it a her place, more space for everyone to sit comfortably.

As for the dinner theme, I wanted it to be a classic intimate setting, nothing that screamed Happy Birthday, as it was already belated. The table was entirely decorated using an all white color scheme, which included a white tablecloth, white plates, white napkins, white placemats, and white flowers creating a clean and simple table setting.

A few key pieces, all purchased at Crate & Barrel, that really stood out on the table are showcased on the left hand side of the photo above.  The first item I’d like to talk about are the white capizshell round placemats.  Each placemat is exquisitely crafted out of capiz shell and has natural iridescence. Although this item is a little pricey at $20 per, it is a unique design that will surely engage a conversation amongst your guests!

The second image displayed on the left hand side is called the Teeny candleholder, and was on sale for $0.50. I purchased a total of 12 candleholders to scatter across the table and, as a bonus, they happened to match the Kent hurricane shown in the last image. For the table I just got the large Kent Hurricane for $59 and used it as a centerpiece vase. The only drawback to the Hurricane is that since it is so large you need to purchase a lot of flowers to fill it. In total, I spent $70 on flowers, a mix of white hydrangeas and white peonies, to fill the entire vase, however the overall look was worth every penny!

Next time I host a larger gathering, or maybe even a smaller one, I would like to incorporate shells, starfish, ropes, and driftwood to create a beachy themed table setting!

Links 

Capiz Shell Placemat

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/capiz-shell-round-placemat/s552839

Teeny Candleholder

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/teeny-candleholder/s552693

Kent Hurricanes 

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/kent-hurricanes/f46445

Stone Age

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This year I spent Father’s day at my in-laws since my parents were out of town. My mother-in-law decided this would be the perfect occasion to show me her marble stone slab she uses for hot stone cooking. Needless to say, I was very excited to try it out!

Hot stone cooking in an age-old European custom, which makes cooking fun and interactive for all your guests. Each person is able to cook whatever they wish and eat at their own pace. As an added bonus, the host only needs to prepare platters of raw ingredients such as beef, poultry, fish, lamb and vegetables, which means they don’t have to spend all day cooking in the kitchen. The hot stone is also very simple to use: just preheat it in the oven for 30-45 minutes and place on the stand above the burners, which run on a special clear burning alcohol.

For our Father’s day dinner, my mother-in-law served a variety of raw meats to choose from; beef, chicken, pork, both sweet and spicy sausages, bacon, and venison. In addition to all that meat, there were a variety of vegetables such as peppers, onions, and mushrooms, making the combination of food possibilities nearly endless!

Since the Father’s day dinner party consisted of eight people, and the stone slab is really only big enough for four, my in-laws used a large griddle on their end of the table. The griddle is shown in the right-hand photo above and it makes a pretty good stone slab replacement, except it’s not as unique. Having both the slab and the griddle made it easier to cook food as each person got a decent sized area to cook his or her food, which means less confusion over who’s food is who and fighting over space. As far as performance goes, the griddle gets the job done just as well as the slab. It is nice to know that you can purchase a large griddle if you can’t get your hands on a slab.

While researching hot stones for this post, I came across a variety of stone slabs that can be used in different ways, for example; lava rocks and soapstone slabs can be used directly in a barbeque, marble can be used in the oven to cook a pizza or mix ice cream, and granite can be heated directly in the oven.

Dot. Dot. Dot!

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While shopping at West Elm, I could not help but notice these distinctive yet beautiful appetizer plates…which of course I had to purchase!

The appetizer plates original beauty also comes with a great story that can be used as a talking point with your guests. To produce such an exclusive design West Elm collaborated with Potter’s Workshop located in Cape Town, to turn their signature bead-like patterns into hand painted dinnerware designs.

This collection can either be purchased as a set, which includes the plate, a bowl, and a mug, or on its own. I purchased just the appetizer plate to use as a dessert plate for a dinner party I had. However, I will definitely find an endless amount of uses for these plates in the future!

To find out more about Potter’s Workshop visit this link below:

http://www.westelm.com/shop/new/potters-workshop/?cm_type=lnav

Modern Fiesta

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While flipping through the pages of my new July Canadian House and Home magazine, I came across a delicious Tex-Mex dinner menu in their cooking section. What first drew my attention about this menu was the tableware used in the photos, as it was very different and unique in relation to what you would typically see in terms of a traditional colorful Mexican fiesta. So last Thursday, since my parents and in-laws were already coming over for dinner, I used the opportunity to recreate the dinner I saw in the magazine.

In order to create the look I needed, I first had to buy the appropriate dinnerware and platter to match those displayed in Canadian House and Home. I was happy to find all the items I was searching for at one store, West Elm, at affordable prices. The dark grey plates shown in the images above were $8 each, while the slate platter shown in the photos below was $25, which was the best price I found while comparison shopping. A fun feature about the slate platter is that you may use chalk to describe what is being served. I also purchased a blue woven tortilla warmer shown in the image above for the great price of only $8!  Keep in mind that the basket can only hold 6 inch tortillas and nothing larger.  You’ll have to get a bigger basket for 8”, or monster 12” tortillas.

Preparing the food was pretty labour intensive as all the food was homemade, but in the end, it was worth all the effort as the food was healthier and more delicious than store bought. The menu was as follows:

Watermelon Mojitos

Watercress, Orange And Radish Salad

Pulled Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa And Pickled Onion (Below left)

Mushroom Tacos With Corn Salsa And Chipotle Crema (Below Middle)

Grilled Tuna Tacos With Guacamole And Red Cabbage (Below Right)

Salted Peanut Chocolate Pudding (See my BlogDot. Dot. Dot! for photos)

 

Links:

Canadian House and Home Magazine July Issue:

http://magazinescanada.zinio.com/reader.jsp?issue=416224363&o=int&prev=si

 

West Elm

Terrain Dinnerware: 

http://www.westelm.com/products/terrain-dinnerware-c532/?pkey=cdinnerware

Slate Placemat:

http://www.westelm.com/products/slate-placematc523/?catalogId=52&cm_src=AutoRel

Woven Tortilla Warmer:

http://www.westelm.com/products/woven-tortilla-warmer-c972/?pkey=e%7Ctortilla%2Bwarmer%7C0%7Cbest%7C0%7C1%7C24%7C%7C1&cm_src=NLASEARCH||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-Summer%202012%20D1%2B2%20Billboards-_-

Keeping it Classy while Camping

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To celebrate my one-year wedding anniversary, my husband and I decided to get out of the city and spend a little time with nature. We spent the weekend camping in Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania, about four hours away from home. Although the weather was wet and cold, we made the most of our time there by going on hikes when the weather cleared and doing a little shopping when the weather was not so cooperative.

On Saturday night the rain had cleared and we were finally able to sit by a fire and roast some marshmallows. Since we were celebrating a special occasion and plastic cups would not be sufficient I purchased two acrylic wine glasses from Loblaw’s, President’s Choice product line, for $2.99 each. The wine glasses were perfect for camping as they were inexpensive, scratch and shatter resistant while still giving you a sense that you are drinking wine from a nice glass.

On the negative side, these acrylic wine glasses were unable to fit the average cup holder on a fold out camping chair. Since we needed both hands to roast and eat the ginormous marshmallows we individually stuffed with caramel treats, my husband brought over a tree stump to use as a side table as shown in the photo above. The idea was brilliant and I have always secretly wanted a tree stump table of my own thus I was able to enjoy the company of one in its natural environment!

Aged to Perfection

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While planning my husband’s birthday this year I came across this numbered birthday cake on Martha Stewart’s online website. I instantaneously fell in love with this cake idea and had to make it for the party, especially because I had already made a number themed photo collage to be used as a party decoration shown in my blog “A Trip Down Memory Lane”.

As excited as I was to make this cake I became equally depressed when I could not find any one color or shade of m&m’s in Canada, as they only sell the standard assortment of m&m colors in a package. After browsing and calling many different specialty candy stores without success, I decided that it was time to take my m&m search online.

I was relieved to find that both Amazon and eBay had a wide variety of m&m colors and shades to choose from, with practical and affordable prices. However, what I did not anticipate was the extremely high costs of shipping the product to Canada. Three pounds of m&m’s plus shipping would end up costing me a total of $100, which is ridiculously high for some candy to be used as cake decoration. I decided that it was time to find a new birthday cake idea and recipe as the cake shown above would be far too costly to create.

With that being said I definitely want to attempt to make this cake again as it has that “wow factor” that I always look for at events. If anyone has any great substitutions or ideas on what decorations to put on this cake give me a shout, I would love to hear them!

 

Martha Stewart’s “Whose Counting?” Number Cake:

http://www.marthastewart.com/286890/a-number-themed-birthday-party-or-annive?center=0&gallery=287204&slide=286852

A Trip Down Memory Lane

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The month of May is usually a busy one for me as I have many birthdays and events to plan and coordinate. The last event of the month is my husband’s birthday, and what better way to celebrate a man’s birthday then by having a Thai style barbeque on the roof top patio of my building!

Since my roof top patio gets pretty busy during the evenings, my biggest priority was putting up the party decorations. I hoped that by putting up party decorations, I could deter people from sitting at a certain table or section, thus “reserving” a space for the party guests, and my strategy proved successful!

Using inspiration from Martha Stewart’s online website I created a collage using black and white photos of the birthday boy in the shape of his age “31” as shown in the picture above. Although I think, this idea would be even more festive for a full number birthday such as 30, 40, and 50 extra… I just could not wait 9 years to do it!  Overall, the party was a success and people really enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane and seeing all the fun photos of the birthday boy growing up.

I suggest that when creating a number photo collage that you use different photo sizes having larger photos be the funniest or life milestones. And don’t forget to put up some embarrassing photos because those are what make the party decorations especially amusing!

 

Martha Stewart’s Picture Perfect Birthday Party:

http://www.marthastewart.com/287204/birthday-party-themes-for-adults#/286860